Stories: The Path of Destinies is an isometric action-RPG set in a stunning, vibrant fantasy world where anthromorphic animals reign supreme. Developer Spearhead Games have crafted a deliciously enticing world that isn’t only a pleasure to behold, but also an absolute treat to play, with a vast and wondrous mythos just waiting to be unravelled one short, gripping story at a time. It’s a stylish and awe-inspiring world coupled with an intriguing and playful narrative that gives the player something quite unique: choices and consequences for their actions. It’s also all wrapped up neatly in a terrific ARPG.
You are a plucky skypirate fox called Reynardo who is tasked with rescuing his bunny friend Lapino from the evil clutches of an oppressive, evil empire. A mad toad king and a legion of vicious, murderous ravens are eating up the kingdom of Boreas, but luckily there is still a remnant of hope: the rebellion. These rebels, who have been at war with the evil ravens for many years, have sadly had their spirits and resources slowly whittled away. Suffice to say, Reynardo’s fate becomes inextricably tied to the destiny of Boreas as a whole, as our plucky hero turns out to be one of the essential ingredients to saving the kingdom of Boreas and putting an end to the relentlessly encroaching darkness of the empire.
Ok, so it may not be the most original narrative sure, and it does echo Luke, Leia and Han’s well-known struggle against their own heinous empire, but it is told with a healthy dash of style, confidence and humour that helps the player buy into this furry-filled universe. It’s also an unremittingly charming, self-aware take on the formula, that is bolstered by a very strong narrator a ‘la Bastion. Every time Reynardo opens a chest, picks up some fruit or finishes off a roomful of nasty ravens the narrator chips in with a short vignette that helps flesh out Reynardo’s inner thoughts, past encounters and overall character. Much like in Bastion, this works marvellously well, and really helps to enamour our dashing skypirate with the player.
Now, one of the coolest aspects of the game is the fact that you are given choices at the end of every chapter that dramatically change the outcome of the story that is being told. Essentially, there are junctures at the end of chapters where the game asks you to make an important choice. I don’t want to spoil too much, but an example from an early part of the game would be something like: either, choosing to go and find a piece of a powerful sword or meeting with a close friend of the empire in a bid to change her mind about her impending decision. These choices gives the game a choose-your-own-adventure-book vibe and serves the game well in giving the player ownership of his/her own story. It really adds replayability and there are also some really cool twists and turns that are well delivered and impactful to boot.
As you may expect from an ARPG, the gameplay within Stories: The Path of Destinies very much focuses on its tight combat system, which fuses the immediate and satisfying punch of games like Diablo or Bastion, with the freeflow defensive counter-attack system found within Rocksteady’s modern Batman games. It’s slickly designed, feels meaty and rewards players who use their brains as well as their brawn. There are some straightforward environmental puzzles and some light RPG mechanics sprinkled in that really helps to add a little more meat to Stories: The Path of Destinies’ strong gameplay bones. The game’s pacing is on point too, as new, more challenging enemies are also pleasingly drip-fed nicely.
The hero Reynardo begins the game with just a basic attack, but slowly builds up a repertoire of moves that really opens up the combat. These new moves range from nimble dashes, to a hook that brings your enemies within striking distance, to a defensive counter-attack that slows down time. New elemental-based swords can be constructed, upgraded and switched on the fly and the usual raft of upgrades such as HP boosts and swifter movement can be purchased as the player levels up. Higher combos grant a bonus to XP and its nice to see the game reward exploration with new augmentations and gems for your weapons.
On the whole, Stories: The Path of Destinies is a beautifully realised world, that is both beguiling and charismatic, thanks in-part to its strong writing, gorgeous visuals, its welcome player choice and slick gameplay. It’s a game that excels at not only being a great action-RPG, but a memorable pulp-narrative experience and because of this, it’s very hard not to recommend Stories: The Path of Destinies to anyone but the most curmudgeonly and cantankerous.
It’s also got a swashbuckling skypirate fox with an eye-patch. What’s not to love?
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