Stories: The Path of Destinies Reviews

AuthorReview
Titanium Dragon
103,637
Titanium Dragon
TSA Score for this game: 475
Posted on 14 May 18 at 03:33
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Stories: The Path of Destinies is a surprising little gem of a game. You play as Reynaldo, a roguish fox who has come into the possession of a magic book that shows him the potential choices he has laid out before him. As an isometric action game, this isn’t anything special – there’s fairly limited enemy variety, and the combat is quite simple.

But as a choose your own adventure game, I haven’t seen anything quite like it.

The game is, at least ostensibly, quite short – after the introductory/tutorial level, you are thrust into the main plot. There are five chapters to the main story, and before chapters 1-4, you make a choice, with the final chapter always being the climactic showdown with the emperor’s fleet. You are presented with 2 choices at each junction point, save at one, where you are presented with three – but unlike most games, these choices are iterative. If you make a choice, in the second chapter, the game’s choices and narrative will be altered because of that choice. But what’s really crazy is that this continues on throughout the game – this is an actual branching-paths narrative, so there are, in total, 3 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 24 paths through the game, each of which ultimately has a unique storyline and ending.

The reason for the game’s seeming brevity – a run through the game takes an hour, maybe less – quickly becomes apparent. This is not just a game with multiple endings, this is a game where you are hunting for the correct ending, based on the knowledge you’ve gained from previous runs. And not just player knowledge – the narrative changes as well as you discover various “truths” about the world, with additional knowledge being supplied to the player via the narrative. You realize that a certain approach won’t work, so you try another, until you have figured out the games four “truths”.

The narrative is well-delivered to the audience – the reading of the story is quite whimsical, and the narrator seems overly amused by some of his own terrible puns, just like someone who was really reading a story to you might be. The game does make use of some referential humor, but it has a lot of other humor besides, and the actual core plot is surprisingly charming. The great sense of agency you get while playing the story really sells it to you, and the game calling the player out on seemingly nonsensical choices and lampshading the tendency to go wandering off the obvious path never ceases to be amusing. And yet simultaneously, the game has a certain sort of internal logic to it, and your choices actually feel like they do carry weight and actually do make sense. Of *course* you went off to visit the girl you definitely totally don’t have a crush on instead of completing the weapon of doom – you don’t think these things through, you act based on your heart, not your head! Whereas of course if you make the other choice, the logical one, you regret passing up on the opportunity, and maybe wonder if things could have turned out differently, and perhaps better.

Each of the paths fall apart in their own unique way as you make your way through the game, showing some fatal flaw that leads to your downfall – but these flaws all arise naturally through the narrative and are hinted at beforehand, meaning that rather than simply feeling like something arbitrary has destroyed your plan, instead it feels like the failure is a natural (if oftentimes amusing, and sometimes tragic) consequence of the choices you and other characters have made.

The game itself has a very small cast – only four characters of actual consequence – but it gets a lot of mileage out of them, and we see them interact in often-amusing ways. The characters are a bit silly – Reynaldo in particular is a lovable doof – but there’s also a somewhat serious core to the game, as while it is silly, there’s also the underlying fact that there is a war going on, and while it can be funny, it also manages to pull off some darker moments pretty well. The fact that your choices are indeed your own invests you in the story in a way you wouldn’t be otherwise, and while each of the stories is simple enough on its own, they flow together pretty well.

This game’s greatest weakness, sadly, is the lack of level variety. The game has 10 levels, but by your third playthrough, you’re likely to have seen all of them. And while the levels are visually pretty distinctive, and their narrative changes from playthrough to playthrough, gameplay-wise they’re all pretty similar, without a huge amount of variety between them. The combat becomes a bit perfunctory later on in the game, as you gain more skills and better weapons while the enemies stop really improving after the second run or so, and while encounters do get a bit tougher, the game is never actually all that challenging.

This is a fun little title, and it makes very clever use of its mechanics and narration to deliver a memorable experience. None of it would probably hold up on its own, but as a unit, this game is something pretty special.
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