REVIEW / Stories: The Path of Destinies (PS4)

 

Have you ever had something happen that you wish you could go back and redo?  I mean, to actually return to that point in time and space and re-live those fateful events so that the outcome would be totally different. Theorists say that this is impossible because there are an infinite amount of different outcomes that could happen so zeroing in on one specific outcome would be an exercise in futility. You could end up making things better, but there is enough of a statistical chance that you could also make things even worse than the outcome that you are trying to change. A loved one could be hurt or you could end up becoming the villain even though your actions are of pure intent.

 

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The Book of Destinies is where your travels will be recorded as well as the place where you will get to decide where your journey will head to next.

 

Reynardo the Fox must face this same dilemma in Stories: The Path of Destinies as he tries to save his world from being destroyed from his own actions.  Reynardo is a rogue who attempts to use his wits to outsmart the mad Emperor and save the kingdom by joining a Rebellion, however what ends up happening is far from what he was expecting.  Upon finding the book of Destinies, Reynardo soon discovers that if he fails, he gets another chance to go back to the beginning and try again.  He needs to make new choices each time; does he save an old friend or woo the Emperors daughter; create a weapon made from the eye of a god or discover an ancient weapon of unimaginable power?  There are many paths to take but only one of those paths leads to victory.

 

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Reynardo is equipped with standard hack-and-slash attacks as well as a few special attacks to even the playing field against strong opponents.

 

Spearhead Games has created a game that is hack-and-slash to its very core while adding in a soupcon of RPG elements to keep players hooked while they try to find the perfect path to peace.  Reynardo starts the game off with his trusty Hero Sword which can be upgraded to make it even more powerful against the deadly enemies that he will face.  There are three more swords that the player can find during the quest that can also be upgraded.  Each sword also has the double-role of being the key to open certain other gates that you will come upon in the different stories.  Needless to say, some gates you wont be able to open until you find the right sword, however, being that you will probably have to play that particular level over again, it’s only a matter of time before you will be able to collect what is behind that gate.

 

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All four swords can be leveled up so that you have the most powerful weapons available.

 

As you make you way through the different stories, you will have to face off with the mad Emperor’s henchmen and as you dispatch of these vile creatures, you will be gaining much needed Experience Points.  These points will level up Reynardo so that he is able to open up increasingly better abilities and skills.  You are awarded one skill point for every level that you gain and you can use these skill points to equip Reynardo with tools and special combat abilities.  The Hook, which will allow you to cross gaps in the terrain, as well as abilities like the Dash, which can be used to stun enemies or allow you to just quickly move out of the way of an oncoming attack, are just two examples.  Many more will open up as you make your way to the final confrontation with the mad Emperor.

 

You will need to spend the skill points that you earn from leveling up Reynardo in order to gain access to the more powerful abilities and skills.

 

One of the coolest aspects of Stories: The Path of Destinies is that the stories are narrated while you are playing the game.  For instance, if you attempt to unlock a gate that you don’t have the correct sword for, the narrator will mention that Reynardo needs to find that particular key in order to open that particular gate.  In addition, if you get stuck for too long in one place, the narrator will make a comment that will help to lead you in the right direction short of telling you exactly what you need to do.  The use of a narrator to guide the player through the different areas of the game isn’t a new video game trope (re: Bastion) but it adds a level of sophistication to the game that raises it from a simple hack-and-slash to a game that has heart.  The narrator keeps the game moving along at a good pace allowing the player to stay engaged as you make your way through the many layers of the story on your journey to the final ending.

 

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Once you have ended your first play-through, you will reset back to the beginning where you will have the choice of several different routes to take on your journey to find the truth.

 

The visuals in this game is another aspect that kept me playing as I pondered my past decisions while trying to plot a course that didn’t lead to my destroying the entire world.  Environments are crafted in a cool brightly-colored, cartoon-ish style that is fun and a breath of fresh air in a landscape of video games that is littered with dark browns and greys to express the world that you are playing in.  There is a certain stylized quality to the environments and characters that the game presents to you that immediately stands out.  The look of the game is definitely unique and will keep you focused as you replay many of the levels in your attempt to find the true ending.

 

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Environments range from farmland, icy mountain tops and dank, dark dungeons to the decks of flying ships and the bowels of long forgotten tombs.

 

Stories: The Path of Destinies has more than twenty possible endings but the question remaining is can you find the true ending without having to play through all of the possible variations of Reynardo’s quest?  That I will leave up to you to try and figure out.  Individual stories take about an hour to complete (give or take) depending on the decisions that you make.  The repetition of having to play many of the levels several times over may be an unattractive proposition for some, but if you can get past that, you wont be disappointed.  In a video game world where developers are often bashed for creating games that are outside of the norm, Spearhead has created something really special here.  If you are looking for an out of the ordinary gaming experience that will keep you engaged, give this one a try or two or three.

 

 

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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