Stories: The Path of Destinies Review
Fantastic combat centered around a mediocre story, set in a gorgeous world.
Stories: The Path of Destinies, the latest project from Spearhead Games, is centered around Reynardo the Fox, who has reluctantly joined forces with the Rebellion to win a war against the Emperor and his evil armies. Stories has some of the best combat I’ve played this year, and is only enhanced by its rewarding skill tree and upgradeable weapons. All of this is made even more enjoyable by its beautiful world and vibrant artwork. Players will navigate through a choose-your-own-adventure book filled with many branching paths. Unfortunately, the narrative is often mediocre and quite frankly, cheesy.
Nearly seven years ago, Rocksteady Games released Batman: Arkham Asylum, a game that was critically acclaimed for not only its story, but its streamlined combat system. Arkham’s strike-and-counter combo system was a refreshing change of pace; and has since been implemented and built upon by countless developers. Stories: The Path of Destinies capitalizes on the beloved combat system and is a better game because of it. Controlling Reynardo is fluid and tight. Players are able to build their combo chain with ease by experimenting with the various tools at their disposal. While typically used for navigating the map, I found disarming enemy shields with the Hook Shot to be very useful. When I wasn’t bouncing back and forth between enemies with one of Reynardo’s four elemental swords, I often found myself using his dash to evade harmful area-of-effects. Players can switch between different swords mid-combat by utilizing the D-Pad, which allows for a plethora of different slice-and-dice strategies. I cycled between all four swords, but mostly swung the Hero and Fire swords, which allowed me to spread fire damage amongst my enemies while still maintaining the ability to heal myself on the fly. Reynardo became stronger with each new acquired skill and weapon upgrade; and as my evenings progressed, I found myself often saying, “just one more fight.”
The aforementioned elemental swords — as well as gems that improve Reynardo’s stats — are crafted by using collectable ores and essence, which are gained by completing story arcs and discovering hidden chests throughout the world. Honestly, half the fun of Stories’ crafting system was navigating the colorful world as I hunted down more and more treasure chests. XP is awarded for every successful enemy encounter. When Reynardo levels up, players receive a skill point to be allocated in the skill tree. Upgrading his skills and stats actually made a noticeable difference in the way I played. As the game progressed, Stories’ combat mechanics seemed to grow better and better. I never felt overwhelmed by the RPG elements of Spearhead’s game, and was frequently rewarded for my hard work.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is wrapped up in a charming storybook aesthetic that is complimented by fantastic art direction. The game’s protagonist is Reynardo the Fox, a once-retired swashbuckler who has now reluctantly decided to join a rebellion against the evil Emperor and his armies. Along his journey, Reynardo is often accompanied by old friends, which is great, except for the fact that their interactions are awkward and super cheesy. The characters’ motivations are often confusing and just leave me with more questions. In a Bastion-like fashion, Reynardo’s on-screen actions are narrated by a charismatic story-teller. Have a habit of breaking boxes or over-using your frost sword? The narrator will tease you with some sort of cheeky remark. Within the first ten minutes of Stories, I was excited to hear a quip relating to the infamous Kessel Run from Star Wars. Regrettably, the sheen wore off and the game’s pop culture references soon became hackneyed. Each chapter of the story is book-ended by a batch of narrative decisions that the player must choose between. Every decision matters and ultimately helps build up to one of many different endings, which is then retained by the player as a collectible. The story often ends poorly for Reynardo, and players are encouraged to navigate through the game several times over until a successful ending is unlocked. Upon completion of each story, the player receives a revelation that will somehow help them in their next play-through. Luckily, Stories: TPoD takes players to new and interesting locations throughout the game, which really helps mitigate the feeling of repetition. Again, let it be said that these locales are absolutely gorgeous.
While Stories’ visuals and controls are quite polished, I wish more attention had been given to the game’s technical problems. The loading times are grueling, sometimes taking upwards of a minute. I fell through the floor on multiple occasions, even once during a fight, which resulted in me having to restart to my last checkpoint. Frame rates stuttered throughout the game, but it was most noticeable during big fights or cluttered environments.
Stories: The Path of Destinies has some of the best-feeling combat I’ve played this year, which is only made better by the game’s skill tree and weapon crafting system. It is an absolute delight to explore the vibrant world that Reynardo’s adventure takes us to. Ultimately, Stories’ mediocre narrative and technical issues keep it from being a truly great game. [rwp-review-recap id=”0″] Stories: The Path of Destinies is out now on PS4 and PC. For more information, visit the game’s website.