Branching narratives are hard to get right. Telltale have their branching games which are supposed to react to your choices, but you can’t help feel that they just carry on regardless. Stories: The Path of Destinies is different, it actually matters which story path you choose.
You play as Reynardo, a plucky fox hero who just happens to be kicked back into action as part of a rebellion against an evil king, for reasons that will be made clear within the story. The king’s raven army will attempt to stop you but it’s the choices you make along the way that will most likely see you killed.
From the start two things are clear; this seems like a pretty standard action RPG and it’s also pretty, well, pretty. A lot of work seems to have gone into the environment and backgrounds, from the floating mountains to the motorway-like cascades of flying wooden boats that sail beneath you as you jump from ship to ship. Moving platforms sail over whole layers of game world as they ascend, with lower layers gradually fading out of view. Particle effects glitter and shine throughout the game world as you fight the evil ravens.
Fighting is what you’ll do pretty much all the time. This is less RPG lite and more RPG very lite, it’s primarily a hack and slash game with some levelling up and a little lever pulling to open gates. Enemies range from large raven guards to security drones, though none of them really pose much of a threat until you reach further sections of the story.
Throughout the game an ever-present narrator will spin out the story of the rebels’ fight, referencing Star Wars and other pop culture references along the way. In fact, Star Wars seems like a pretty heavy influence on the story, it’s as if Spearhead Games had just come back from watching A New Hope when they wrote this. Like Bastion, the narrator in Stories adds some humour to the proceedings, making mention of your penchant for box smashing or the fact that you need to swing between areas in a particular level. Unlike that game, though, it does miss the mark almost as much as it hits it and the writing falls down in places where the game really needs to get the player on their side, usually caused by a mis-timed or inappropriate joke.
At the end of a level you’re asked to make a decision; trust someone or save someone else? Create a sword or meet with someone? Like a choose-your-own-adventure book, these lead to different scenarios and then branch off into different end points, only one of which will result in success. Incorrect decisions will still help you to unlock the truth, leading you on the right path to unlock the final piece of the story in the process. It’s almost like the story is a maze that sits on another level to the gameplay, it’s a clever idea that works really well, though it does mean replaying most of the game multiple times.
Stories: The Path of Destinies feels pretty original and has a solid Action RPG underpinning the story. It falters in its writing a little but the solid gameplay and interesting take on storytelling outweigh this.