Review – Stories: The Path of Destinies

Stories game screenshot, stone
Review – Stories: The Path of Destinies

Platforms: Windows PC, Steam

Game Name: Stories: The Path of Destinies

Publisher: Spearhead Games

Developer: Spearhead Games

Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG

Release Date: April 12th, 2016

Stories: The Path of Destinies – What We Think:

Stories: The Path of Destinies from Spearhead Games is an isometric game similar to Torchlight – sans the plentiful loot. There is loot in this game, but it comes in the form of ore and combat-modifying gems.

Stories game screenshot, stone

Let Me Tell You a Tale

Stories: The Path of Destinies, is an action-focused game that emphasizes one button for your main attack. It’s similar to the combat found in modern third person action games (or a schoolyard fight): enemies will surround you in a circle, and you’ll stay vigilant and counter at the correct time using the same button. Every hit you land raises your multiplier and gives more experience points at the end of the fight.

The game also has a skill tree and swords you can craft with elemental effects. These elements of the combat add some variety and make your character progression feel rewarding, but unfortunately, the game doesn’t take full advantage of the fun combat system it boasts; there are only a few enemy types, and combat sequences are relegated to short instances within the game. I was hoping for more enemy encounters and more enemies to fight since what combat there was, was so enjoyable.

You also have a grappling hook, a dash move and the ability to throw enemies, to help add some variety. Enemy encounters have a nice rhythm to them, especially since it’s easy to transition from one enemy to another. The combat felt fluid and satisfying as more and more skills were unlocked.

Stories game screenshot, choice

Bold Decisions

When approaching new games I search for a hook, some unique element that separates them from everything else. In recent years, I’ve seen developers include multiple choice in their narrative, allowing the players to dictate how the story ultimately unfolds. Stories: The Path of Destinies uses that element of narrative choice and weaves it into a core game mechanic.

In the past, narrative choices would determine how a story would unfold. You’d make choices and hopefully not regret them when you saw the game’s ending. It’s a direct way in which the player can change the outcome of a story based on their moral judgments. After each level, you choose between two or three options about where to take the story next.

After a handful of decisions, you eventually finish the short narrative. Finishing the game shows a particular ending, then you start the game all over again, carrying over your character stats. There are 24 different endings to unlock, and certain ones unlock “truths” about particular characters.

As you change your decisions throughout the game you gain more knowledge. You learn the true motives of your old friend Lapino, see firsthand what the Iblis Stone is capable of, and find out where Zenobia stands when it comes to her power-hungry father. These aspects of the narrative are slowly uncovered until you can finally able to make the correct choices.

Stories game screenshot, ending

A Checkered Past

Unfortunately, the multiple choice mechanic isn’t as enjoyable as it could have been: characters in the game aren’t as developed as I would have liked, leaving the overarching narrative feeling a tad vapid. Narrative choices lose their weight, and endings don’t feel as satisfying. The developers could have at least included some endings without a bad outcome, but most of them are unhappy endings.

On top of that, the levels aren’t much fun to play through over and over again. A play-through of the game can take around two hours, but it still gets stale. Revisiting levels starts to feel very repetitive even when they offer side paths, which typically just lead to chests with loot to collect. The levels lack vision, and when the combat shows up sparingly during levels, it loses more enjoyment.

I’d have preferred if the levels had something within them to help flesh out the narrative in an interesting way; this repetitious nature leads me to believe that others won’t stick around and play through the game enough times to uncover the true ending.

Stories game screenshot, combat

A Lovely Affair

The presentation values of the game are great. The game’s fairy tale art-style is consistent and well-executed. The actor that voices everyone in the game does a great job making the story book cut-scenes entertaining, and while you’re playing, he’ll make comments similar to the narrator in Bastion, which helps add some whimsy to situations.

The music is also well done and deserves recognition–a mixture of harps, flutes, and violins help sell the game’s fairy tale aesthetic even further.

Stories: The Path of Destinies is full of great ideas, but I feel that it leans on its narrative choice mechanic too much. The multiple choice narrative it presents is mechanically sound, but lacked the real “oomph” to create a more enjoyable fairy tale. If the narrative and level design were as fun and refined as its combat, then this game could have been something truly special.

Stories: The Path of Destinies is available on Steam.

Watch the trailer for Stories: The Path of Destinies below: