“Like Groundhog Day with Swords”: Stories: The Path of Destinies Review
Stories: The Path of Destinies turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Released earlier this year, the game was well-received, if not enormously popular. With the big releases of the year behind us, Sony decided to include this game in the December PlayStation Plus lineup, and I frankly only booted the game up because I had nothing better to do. Shockingly, in spite of its generic title, Stories: The Path of Destinies is actually a fun and unique game that has an intriguing central hook and solid gameplay.
The game follows the adventures of Reynardo, an anthropomorphic fox with a passion for swashbuckling adventure. Shortly after the game begins, Reynardo comes into the possession of a magical book of unknown purpose. A time skip ensues, and the player guides Reynardo through a series of choices and roughly an hour of isometric hacking and slashing in the name of freeing a relatively standard fantasy world from the rule of an evil tyrant.
And then, Reynardo dies. But not really.
The aforementioned book allows Reynardo to start again, this time making decisions informed by information he learned on his previous attempt. This mechanic is in service of learning the “four truths” that can guide players to the true ending of the game, the one in which Reynardo does not meet a grisly fate and things work out more or less alright. Items and XP carry over between runs, so essentially Stories: The Path of Destinies has the most expansive new game plus mode you have ever seen.
While this cycle is certainly a novel concept, it can become quite repetitive in practice. Playing through the game the minimum of five times to achieve the true ending takes about six hours, and feels satisfying enough. Environments are revisited throughout, but the story and dialogue are altered in interesting ways that keep the experience fresh. Seeing all 25 (yes, 25!) endings, however, begins to seem meaningless unless you are a perfectionist who absolutely needs to complete 100% of the game.
While repetition may be a theme of the story, it, unfortunately, creeps into the gameplay after a while, as well. Combat is straightforward and fun, consisting of basic attacks and parries, and the game is only partial to slight framerate drops during large battles. After four or five runs, however, Reynardo is almost laughably overpowered, and the player is given ways to circumvent certain enemies’ unique defenses, causing combat to devolve into nothing more than mashing the single attack button repeatedly. Loot drops in chests give the player special gems to buff their stats and materials to craft more swords with (which can be used to unlock optional side paths), but these additions only save the game from repetition for so long.
The one aspect of the game that never grows repetitive is the visuals. The game has some fantastic art direction, even if the graphics are decidedly good, but not great. A lush jungle, an ancient tomb, and a crystalline void may lose their impact the more times a player charges through them, but their colorful and inventive designs are always pleasant to look at.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is the rare good game that I actually wanted less of. Playing through the game enough times in order to reach the true ending is probably the best way to enjoy this tale, as subsequent run-throughs feel like artificial bloat. However, the combat is solid, the writing is occasionally hilarious, and the art direction is simple but worth seeing. Stories: The Path of Destinies can be too much of a good thing, depending on how dedicated you are to seeing every single ending to Reynardo’s journey, but it is a trip worth taking at least a few times.