Going back to my childhood, I recall reading books that allowed me to bend the narrative. I’d read them, I’d get to a certain section, and would then be met with a choice. Said choice would tell me to turn to a specific page to continue the branch of my story from that point onward. It was a neat gimmick that stuck with me for some time. Why are we talking about this? Because Stories: The Path of Destinies houses a very similar structure, and to its credit, it works quite well. It’s far from perfect and it has annoyances, but overall, it’s pretty solid.
The game serves itself as an action-RPG, one that throws its players into the role of ex-pirate and unlikely hero, Reynardo. Reynardo finds himself up against a mad Emperor and his army of evil and nefarious ravens. That’s the baseline foundation as far as the plot is concerned, and I cant really go any further than that due to the way the storytelling works. It’s up to you to guide Reynardo’s story in new directions, which is dished up via a collection of branching choices throughout play – not too dissimilar to how Shadow the Hedgehog worked.
Each and every choice that you make, including that of your very first choice, will ultimately alter the course of the story. The campaign takes little more than an hour to complete, but given that there’s over twenty different combinations of storytelling, it’s fair to say that there’s some replay value to be found here. One run-through is broken down into five sections, in which, as aforementioned, you’re given a choice at a section’s beginning to determine where the plot will be driven next. It’s a simple but very effective mechanic.
The choices tend to consist of meaningful beats. I say that lightly because I’m specifically referring to Reynardo’s outlook here. Personally, as an outsider looking in, I cant really say that the game does a tremendous job at making you feel connected to its cast. The choices are often quite hefty, which would have worked wonders if I gave a rat’s behind about those that these choices impact. Instead, it all feels a bit heavy handed. Nevertheless, with that to the side, it’s certainly interesting enough to maintain traction for a few good completions.
The choices that you face may revolve around the likes of saving a specific character, or, heading to an entirely different location to uncover a powerful artifact. The kicker here is that if you choose the latter, you’ll be dooming that character for the duration of your current run. You’ll also be locking off any further story beats that come tied to that character, meaning that you may lose out on something that will aid you later on. That, by and large, is how the game works throughout its entirety. Though, there’s a cool twist running through this.
You see, Reynardo has the capability of retaining the memories from each and every run. This means that you’ll constantly be privy to uncovered plot-twists; such as characters that have betrayed you and so forth. This is apparent through how the narrator adapts his dialogue through taking your previous choices into consideration. For instance, in one run you may find out that one character has ill intentions later in, allowing you to bend the narrative on your consecutive run in an attempt to put a stop to them before they even begin.
These character-specific intentions are referred to as “truths” in the game, and there’s a total of four to uncover along the way. Essentially, you’ll need to play the game through at least four times (making wildly different choices each run) to find out the motivations of each character. Once you’ve done that, you’ll then be able to make a final run. This final run is where you’ll get the correct ending, but in order to achieve that, you’ll need to make sure that all of your choices are smart, and feed into the intentions of each character that you’ll meet.
Unlike Reynardo, these characters do not know that they’re in a Groundhog Day-like loop, which makes for some very entertaining moments. The game does a good job at keeping you in the loop as far as previous choices are concerned. Between chapters, you’ll be able to browse your previous outcomes, and then make an educated decision based on what you’ve learned from following prior pathways. It’s all well put together, but again, there’s very little meaning to any of it because you rarely feel all that invested, which is a huge shame.
Regardless, that’s how the game works. You’ll play it through several times over, gradually becoming wiser to the plot and its characters, before closing the story with its true ending based on making the correct decisions on your final run. This, unfortunately, is where things start falling apart. You see, by the time you’ve run the game through a few times, its environments begin to feel quite stale and repetitive. Some more variation would not have gone amiss. I started feeling a bit drowsy after my third run, tired of visiting the same locations over and over.
There’s a few locations that are choice-specific, meaning that you’ll only go to a certain place if you make the choice that leads to said location, but even so, there’s not much depth on offer as far as its diversity is concerned. So, how does the gameplay shape up? Well, it’s actually quite gratifying, but again, not very deep. Much of your time here will consist of following its linear level design, with just a few branching pathways present that lead you to loot and treasure. These pathways are typically gated off, and require a specific type of sword to unlock.
The treasures that sit within these confined areas tend to give out rewards such as health, energy, materials, and gems. You can indeed find the former three on your natural path via smaller chests and breakable objects. Health items will replenish your health bar. Energy items, on the other hand, will replenish your energy bar; allowing you to utilize special attacks. Materials, however, are needed to craft and upgrade your weaponry. Reynardo carries a collection of swords with him, but many of them are inaccessible until you’ve got the goods to craft them.
Materials arrive in just a few forms. The game does a pretty good job at telling you exactly what you need to craft the items that you’re after. It’s all fairly straight forward. The different swords not only allow you to open different doors, but they have their own special attacks that gradually eats up your energy bar. Gems are hidden throughout the game, and once obtained, will gift Reynardo with unique traits and abilities. You can only equip three at any given time, and they can indeed be upgraded by finding more of the same gem.
On the topic of skills and goodies, Reynardo also enjoys a limited skill tree. Killing enemies will net you a collection of XP – most of which is weighed up based on how well you kill a foe. Once you level up, you’ll earn a skill point that can be spent in the skill tree. The skill tree allows you to bulk Reynardo up; more health, more energy, more strength, and some useful commands for use in combat. Combat is your straightforward affair, and if anything, amounts to little more than button mashing your opposition until they inevitably fall down.
Most of the combat is based on swift reaction-time; attacking, countering, dodging, rinse and repeat. There’s a nice variation of enemies to take to, all of which house their own attack and movement patterns. That said, the game tends to struggle with its framerate when a lot of action is on screen at the same time, breaking immersion quite frequently as a result. Nevertheless, and overall, it’s a decent system that, although repetitive in the long-run, is quite satisfying when things are fluid. That’s the general crux of play ladies and gents.
You’ll make a choice, battle through a level and nab loot, make another choice, and so on and so forth. The game’s visual and audio design is well set. There’s a nice degree of detail on show across all of its distinct locations, but nothing really stands out in the grand scheme of things. The voice acting and audio cues are on point too, but again, it’s hardly award winning stuff. It’s a serviceable adventure that’s only interesting until the novelty wears off and repetition sinks in. I would certainly recommend a visit if this is your go-to genre, but don’t expect proverbial fireworks.
The game’s greatest drawback is that of its structural imbalance. Whilst its Groundhog Day-esque choice-driven narrative remains deep and engaging, its lack of content variety and depth ultimately paves the way for repetition. The combat, on the other hand, remains satisfying throughout, which is further upheld by the game’s entertaining RPG elements. Overall, it’s a fairly decent adventure that’s only fun until the novelty wears off.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.