I get surprised by a game every now and again. Admittedly, I knew very little of Spearheads Games new title, Stories: The Path of Destinies. When researching the game before I started playing, I did see the vibrancy of a couple of the worlds they created, and that gave me to push I needed to play it. I thought at the very least, Stories would be a pretty game to look at, but what it actually proved to me was that it may be one of the best action RPG’s this year.
The story gravitates around a rogue warrior, Reynaldo the Fox (yes the characters are animals), as he is part of a rebellion against a mad emperor bent on bringing back Gods of Darkness. Between each chapter, you have to make a choice on what you want to do to further the narrative. Initially you have three choices; rescue you friend, wield a Gem that has been cursed, or resurrect a lost weapon that could tear a hole in the universe. Those options are not as cut and dry as you may think at first as it branches out as every option leads to a particular ending for better or for worse.
When you get to the last chapter in a scenario, depending on your outcome, you will unlock a truth. There are four truths you have to unlock that will help you end to game, but the way Stories is set up is that you have the ability to go to the beginning and make different choices along the way that will have you going to new areas. This in itself gives the game a high replay value, and even if you do get the actual end on the game, you can still go back and play through different scenarios and to continue upgrading yourself and your weapons.
The beauty of the game is in its simplicity. There is a pretty standard fighting system that allows you to attack and parry when needed, but as you level up Reynaldo, you can upgrade certain attributes like time slowing down when you land a successful hit, up your HP, upgrade your whip to pull enemy shields away from them, and so on.
Another aspect it the crafting of the four swords. Each sword uses a particular element, but more than that, certain swords open certain doors along the way. When you first start off in the game, you are given a standard sword, but you will notice different colored doors that correspond with a certain sword that you can open with later when you acquire said swords.
From the secret doors you find, you will find treasure boxes that contain gems that go onto your armor that boosts attributes like your attack speed, damage you can inflict, and the ability to gain more loot to name a few of them. One of the downfalls is that there is no much to upgrade in the weapons department as you can only gain/craft a total of four swords and then you can only upgrade each sword one more time.
The writing for the game is where it gets tricky. The overall plot and scenarios that you can play through are excellent as they tick off all the right boxes; friendship, evil, love, and betrayal. When I first started playing the game, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the game, Bastion. The colorful nature of the game mixed with a narrator brought me back to that particular title, but not in a bad way. The narrator tells the story effectively as he changes his voice during the dialogue for each character; like a parent might during a bedtime story.
The dialogue between the characters is what could take someone out of the game a bit. While that in itself could be an issue, it nothing compared to the off handed comments that refer to our pop culture; for example, “Welcome to Earth!” …he heard that in a play.” The real issue is that the story had me overall and putting in those references took me out of the seriousness of what was going on. Stories is a fantasy game and there was no need to try to connect with the audience with quips that have no business in the overall storytelling for a game like this.
Stories is a delightful game overall, in spite of some writing choices. As I played the game and looked at my surroundings; like the flying air ships, the purple gems of a mystical area, and green grass on a vacated town, and it reminded me of something that the animator, Don Bluth, could have created for one of his animated spectacles. Each playthrough doesn’t take long and you will immediately want to go to the next possible story line and then again after that. Stories is not a hard game to be sure, but its simplicity and setup is what will make people come back for more.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is as addictive as it is vibrant. The set-up of being able to go back to the beginning of the storybook, and being able to try multiple paths will have you coming back the fantasy story, even if you will be playing through the same areas again. Spearhead Games has a lot going for this title and I hope they find even more uses for the Unreal 4 engine. Stories is one of the best independent games to come out so far this year, and players of the action RPG games owe it to themselves to check it out, but even more than that…it’s fun, and isn’t that why we play games?
Here are some screen shots below and view the gameplay above!
*a copy of Stories: The Path of Destinies was provided by the publisher