Stories: The Path of Destinies is a clever little mixture of Groundhog Day, Bastion (the indie game, not the annoying robot in Overwatch), and a choose your own adventure book. Now if only it had a name that could be said out loud without sounding like a syntax error. Seriously, I want this to be a teachable moment for developers – make a name that fits your game, but is also actually easy to say. Hell, William just reviewed a game called Rise & Shine. That’s an incredibly easy name to say and it sticks with you. Stories: The Path of Destinies rolls off the tongue about as easily as BOMB: Who Let the Dogfight, and great now I’m remembering that that game exists.
Where was I? Oh yes, Stories: The Path of Destinies is a neat game about a cunning pirate fox-man named Reynaldo who comes into possession of a magical book that lets him relive the next few weeks of his life, trying to help him sort out a rebellion and stop a tyrannical king. He starts out as a brash, self-interested cad, but all the time-travel slowly leads him to a new point of view. Along the way he might reignite an old flame or violently snuff them out in a bid for power. Perhaps he becomes a warrior-monk who foolishly meditates in battle or hideously transforms into an evil abomination. Maybe he even creates a weapon worse than the Deathstar. These are just SOME of the ways you can horribly mess things up. The irony is, that’s part of the selling point here. Stories is a game about learning from trial and error; slowly acquiring the skills, knowledge, and abilities to ensure you win the day and get the cat-girl.
One of the more charming aspects to Stories is that it’s all conveyed via a single, wonderfully charming narrator. He brings the entire world to life and makes even some lamer lines feel relentlessly hilarious, and as such deserves top marks.The amount of lines they give him for even basic actions is surreal, and helps decrease the chagrin of repeatedly playing the exact same game upwards of eight times. I mean, you’ll clear each playthrough in like an hour, and it takes about seven or so playthroughs to see the majority of the game’s unique content. The thing is though… there’s like thirty different possible stories you can get depending on your choices, and while each of them is different, the gameplay remains the same.
The difficulty curve, the enemy types (who are all ravens for some reason) – it all remains the same after a while. It gets more than a little tedious, and while the game features mechanics for those who aren’t great at action games to help them past such hurdles, there comes a point when you just want a fast forward button. I mean, yes, I could beat up this flock of ravens here, but I just did an hour ago in my last storyline and the thrill’s kind of gone at this point. In theory you’d think the game might tone down the battles after a while, but instead, it keeps the exact same number even when they become incredibly copy-paste and drain any interest you have in the game like the world’s hungriest vampire bat.
This sucks because the writing is great and the initial goal of discovering four unknown truths about the world is exciting. Finding the different paths and unlocking new choices gets you totally hooked, and then… the combat completely drains your interest. I mean, you’ve got grapples, dodges, different elemental attacks with your sword, plus a fair number of enemies, but the amount of replaying you need to do demands so much more variety than what is on offer. The story has enough content to match the number of playthroughs, but the combat that occurs at every twist and turn just can’t keep up.
You can avoid this if you just stick to figuring out the different truths and unlock the game’s true ending, which is a satisfying one that I won’t spoil. But then there’s whole swaths of hilarious writing and well-intentioned plans going sideways that you never experience then. It’s a Catch-22, and just like the game’s terrible name, completely unnecessary. Were there a few simple tweaks, some more combat variation, or the ability to skip it, I could give this game a solid thumbs up. Beautiful art, great score, solid narration, and hilarious writing. It’s just that whole “game” part that grows long in the tooth.
I like Stories: The Path of Destinies. It’s a fun game, but it gets stale in your mouth way faster than it aims to thanks to quickly tepid combat. My advice? If you get it, then play it slowly and don’t try to push through the content too quickly. There will be some gamers who stick it out to unlock the achievement for all the game’s endings, but like Reynaldo, you would do best to learn from the mistakes of others.
$14.99; Eight hours of fun, then your mileage may vary.
A review copy of Stories: The Path of Destines was supplied in this review.
Elijah Beahm has awarded Stories: The Path of Destines the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.
Elijah’s destiny lies down a different path, one of the damned and forgotten, which can be found on YouTube at Unabridged Gamer and on Tumblr at Inkblots and Madness. Check out his thoughts on Halo 4 or read his review of Shutter Volumes 1-3. Also, he’d like to point out that he got through this review and only made one furry joke, a feat that amazes even himself.