It wasn’t until the last generation that games took more than one path from the beginning to the end. Sure, we had open world games, but then you look at games like Fallout, Mass Effect, Bioshock, and others suddenly told us we had control. In some cases more than others, but suddenly we had decisions to make. We could change the outcome.
More and more games on the PS4 have been making this promise. Some are more successful than others. Luckily for me, Stories: The Path of Destinies wasn’t lost in the rush of indie game releases, because this title does something new and exciting. Is it worth your time and choices? Time to find out!
Not One Story...Not Two...Try 25!
When you first start playing Stories, it feels like most other action RPGs you’ve played over the years. Think Diablo III, but with a more colorful style and combat akin to the Batman: Arkham series.
It makes a good first impression with funny writing and well-written narration, but right off the bat there’s nothing particularly special about it. I had bought it based on a unique story feature and I was anxious to see how it would play out.
The story is delivered by a charismatic narrator and cut scenes are mostly done between levels by showing you the pages of an ancient book. Given that this is an indie game, it’s a stylish way to tell the story with a smaller budget. It didn’t take long for me to get settled into the style and it honestly had a charm to it that I enjoyed.
Once you finish the opening area, you’ll be given a choice. The choices in this game are what make it so unique. Your choices will set you upon different paths which lead to different levels and further choices. Eventually, and rather quickly, you’ll reach what seems to be an ending, but it won’t feel complete.
Suddenly you’ll be told that your story isn’t over. What you just finished was one of 25 total outcomes. There are 24 “stories” and one true ending. You are taken back to the beginning with all of your skills and crafted items intact and told to try again.
For some of you, this may sound tedious, but the fact that everything carries over makes a huge difference. You’ll pass doors that you can’t open in one playthrough, only to have what you need on the second or third.
In addition, the knowledge you learn about dangers, traitors, and possible outcomes goes with you as well. When it comes time to make decisions again, the narrator will remind you of what you learned as if you somehow managed to go back in time or perhaps see a vision of the future.
The truth of how such things are possible is something you’ll have to see for yourself. Suffice to say, each “playthrough” of the game will reveal more about the world, its characters, and ultimately you will have to find four “truths” that unlock the true ending and the game’s final battle.
It’s a brilliant way to tell a story, and I found myself constantly jumping right back in as soon as I revealed yet another dead end or a juicy tidbit about characters I thought I knew. It’s like nothing I’ve played before, and the tightly-paced combat keeps me coming back for more.
It may not be for everyone, but this style of storytelling deserves a major commendation for trying something unique. It combines the fun of an action RPG with the thrill of a classic “choose your own adventure.”
My only complaint with the story in, well, Stories, is that everything is very surface level. There are some great themes here like betrayal, ancient rituals, unrequited love, and plenty of others, but they're never fully explored.
The game has a kind of lighthearted approach, so I can understand that, but when the game teases a real world scientific concept like String Theory and then dismisses it, I can't help but wonder what it would have been like if these individual stories had been given more detail.
Fast and Fun Gameplay
The heart of Stories is a basic action role playing game where you view the action from above, also known as an isometric point of view. People who play games like Diablo will recognize it immediately. The combat is simple and fast-paced.
It feels almost identical to the combat in the Batman: Arkham games where you dash between enemies and interrupt their attacks with simple countermoves. You’ll gain experience and level up as you fight. When you come across altars you’ll be able to purchase skills from several skill trees.
Everything from extra health, to new combat moves, to navigation abilities are on offer. You’ll also find crafting materials like elemental essence and ore in the various chests scattered throughout the world. The truly crafty will even discover additional story scrolls to flesh out some of the backstory.
Workshops allow you to upgrade and create new swords that can be switch out on the fly. A standard hero sword is joined by a fire, ice, and void sword as you progress. Each one also adds an ability you can trigger which drains your energy meter.
While the combat isn’t incredibly difficult, I did die several times and I’m happy to say the checkpoint system is very forgiving, so don’t expect to go all the way back when you’re downed in battle.
Some would say the difficulty isn’t high enough here, but with a game that requires you to play it through multiple times, I would rather not be bogged down with Dark Souls level combat personally.
Sleek and Colorful Graphics
The presentation in Stories is colorful and the graphics, while not incredibly detailed, are complemented by exciting effects like bursts of magical blasts and a trail of particles as you dash and leap across the battlefield. There’s a strong sense of scope as well. As you travel through the environments, you’ll see down to the ground below.
Mysterious structures or sprawling mountains cover the distance between your immediate location and the world around you. It all feels big and real, which adds to the mysterious nature of the world you’re in and the war you’re helping to fight.
It’s nothing to write home about, and the storybook pages, while cool, aren’t very detailed either. One must keep in mind that this is an indie game, and we can’t expect it to look like the new Ratchet & Clank, but it still looks nice and it runs at a consistent 60 frames per second.
The music is also stellar. The orchestral sounds add a huge amount of epic atmosphere to the events in the game. Had the graphics been up to par with the quality of the music, this game could really send chills down the spine.
As it stands, though, Stories is a colorful and good looking indie game with music that sounds like it was made for Peter Jackson’s next film.
The True End, Or Just the Beginning?
Overall, Stories is one of the most unique games I’ve played in a while. The combination of choose your own adventure storytelling with the action RPG combat creates an entirely new sub genre I didn’t know I wanted.
The combat could stand to be a little more complex as it can get repetitive, and the graphics, while pretty, are nothing amazing. Perhaps even a little more detail to the story would have helped, but as it stands, this is one hidden gem I’m extremely happy I uncovered.
Final Score - 8.5/10