What man or woman wouldn’t wish to control their own destiny? The ability to control all the chaotic aspects of their turbulent lives would no doubt tempt even the most carefree souls. Unfortunately, reality prefers to throw the curveball of chaos into our lives, meaning despite all our tremendous efforts none of us can unequivocally control our futures. However, in Stories: Path of Destinies you have the power to choose a define your fortunes, as you guide the lovable wisecracking fox Reynardo through the tempestuous winds of time, in order to save the kingdom from certain destruction at the hands of the evil toad emperor and his host of ravenous ravens. Stories is a lovingly crafted fairytale adventure oozing with humorous personality, where only a lack of ambition and complexity hold it back from becoming a true modern classic for the ages.
Upon firing up the game for the first time, your pupils will be bombarded with a dazzling array of wondrous colours and voluptuous vistas. The whole world reverberates with a sense of magical artistry, as if the very tapestry of the game itself was alive with creative magnificence. From the green fields of a mountain village, to the decaying ruins of a once great city, everything you cast your gaze upon radiates beauty straight from the pages of a fairytale. It is a wonderful place to be, and the team over at Spearhead Games have done a fantastic job. However, the fairytale magic doesn’t just stop at the richly realised world.
Where Stories: Path of Destinies truly shines is with the humour and personality interwoven throughout the game. Leading man Reynardo is awash with all the charm and wit you’d expect from a swashbuckling red-tailed fox. He has an eyepatch, for goodness’ sake. If that doesn’t shout witty protagonist, I don’t know what does. His vast repertoire of remarks constantly had me chuckling to myself, and remarkably no two witty retorts where reused throughout the entirety of my five hour playthrough. The rest of the small cast are equally as charismatic; the highlight among them being your bumbling rabbit companion Lepito. The writing and voice-acting are top-notch, and add an additional level of personality and charm to an already captivating tale.
All of this intersects perfectly with the principal selling point of the game, the ability to choose your own path through the story. While the overarching narrative itself is nothing spectacularly new, the whole thing is wonderfully written, and I genuinely felt myself swept up in the action like a Kansas farm girl in a twirling tornado. There are four main paths to follow, and within each one there are five or six different ways the story can play out. Upon completing each narrative avenue a new truth is revealed, allowing you to use your foxy cunning to influence events in your favour the next time you play. The only issue is that your ending will not be much different from anyone else’s, though this pitfall is somewhat covered up by the multitude of possible conclusions to be discovered. The conclusion to the fairytale will always be the same, but the path you take towards it will be yours and yours alone, and for that Stories should be commended.
Over the course of your adventure you’ll find yourself retracing your steps through levels already conquered. While this might scream laziness, Spearhead Games have managed to keep things minty fresh by adding a spoonful of Metroidvania. Stories: Path of Destinies arms you with a variety of magical swords, ranging from the standard steel to the seriously cool ice blade. Each weapon must be crafted by gathering resources, and upon forging these beastly blades you’ll gain not only a flashy new ability, but also the means to open up brand new pathways throughout the levels. It helps keeps the game from growing stale, while also injecting it with a rewarding sense of progression which encourages exploration, something I certainly appreciated given the gorgeous environments.
Regrettably, not everything in the game survives the constant shifting sands of time. The combat as an entity is instantly satisfying, and slicing and dicing your way through the hordes of enemies is an effortless and rewarding endeavour as fluid as flowing water. Yet there is an ultimate lack of complexity to the whole affair, brought about by a minuscule pool of abilities and a lack of challenging progression. Due to the combat system’s streamlined design, you’ll soon master everything at your disposal, and later levels become an effortless jaunt in the park thanks to the absence of stimulating opponents. As a result the late game can become a chore, which becomes troublesome when you’re constantly backtracking through familiar environments. I can’t help but feel that the game could have been vastly improved by ramping up the difficulty level, especially post-story completion. As it is, Stories only induces additional challenge via the introduction of barely a handful of new enemy types. It is enough to keep you guessing a first, but once the muscle memory sets in there will be little left to test your blossoming talents.
Fortunately, the lack of late-game challenge does little to detract from the wondrous world created by Spearhead Games. Stories: Path of Destinies is a magical tale of adventure, one that will capture your attention and paste a foxy grim upon your face. The branching narrative keeps things exciting, and using the acquired knowledge ushers forth a genuine sense of progression and accomplishment. However, just like the fairytale world it creates, the game strives to entertain children, and thus the level of complexity falls short. Yet the rest of the tale is fantastic and well worth delving into, even for the most hard-hearted of hardcore gamers. We all need to embrace our childhood once in a while.