I hate trying to write introductory sentences sometimes. It’s difficult to encapsulate something in a few sentences for me. I tend towards the verbose, as I am sure you all can tell.
Today I have the privilege, nay, the PLEASURE, of discussing an absolute gem of a game. A game that took me by surprise and makes me yearn for more. A game that is the result of taking an action RPG like Bastion and smashing it together with a Choose Your Own Adventure Novel. A game that is full of humor, life, and personality.
I present to you Stories: The Path of Destinies, by Spearhead Games. Let’s get right into my Pillars and talk about what makes this game such a special and wondrous treat.
Mother of god do I love the art style of this game. Both the storybook presentation of the cutscenes to the actual environments, everything is a wonder to behold.
The areas you visit are visually distinct, from forests to desert temples to crystalline mountains and even an airship battlefield. Each area has its own unique personality, and thankfully they are pretty enough that even with repeat visits (And you will have repeat visits) you will get enough variance to not mind too much.
The character models are also full of character, from Reynardo to Zenobia, each one is varied and again, unique. The Enemy types however not so much. You have the standard Ravens, then Shield wielding ravens, and then two creepy ghost like monsters that are basically palette swaps of each other, and then some exploding ravens. That’s about it. You will be killing the same enemies quite often, and thankfully you can tell which one is which, but there is a distinct lack of variety.
Other than the palette swapped enemies the visual effects and the presentation of the games are an absolute treat and I loved every minute of wandering the world, even if I saw the same areas with slight variations several times.
Of all the topics I can discuss about this game, this is the least interesting of the bunch. The music, when I noticed it, was nice and set the mood well, and the sound effects were solid. The voice acting was an absolute treat however. Hearing the narrator talk about how I was destroying too many barrels or having anger management issues made me laugh frequently. Overall, the audio does its job well, but its not really anything standout here.
I can’t really go too deep here without spoiling things. The general premise is as follows: You are Reynardo, a former sky pirate fox turned hero who is assisting a rebellion with taking down the mad Frog Emperor, who has started trying to gain immortality through the use of dark and evil ritual magic and mass sacrifice.
What makes this game so amazing is the variance in the storylines. You see, there are 25 total endings to get in this game, and every one of them is unique. Your choices during the story dictate what changes, and some choices open up new ones for later playthroughs. You have to complete one Story in each of the four main Paths, which will unlock a truth. Then you unlock the Final Path which is the true ending. It’s a wonderful mechanic and each story is a blast to go through. Thankfully you can go back through any path you missed after you get the True Ending as well.
The basic gameplay style is that of an action RPG. You run around in a top down isometric viewpoint, hacking and slashing your way to victory. There is a very basic level up mechanic where you unlock skills with skillpoints, and these upgrades do things like granting you a dash and a hookshot, and eventually extra health and time slowing abilities.
To get these upgrades you need to perform well in combat. You get XP for both killing the enemies as well as mixing up your style in combat and avoiding damage.
During combat you will build up your combo, which factors into your grade, along with using your dash and counter moves to deal with enemies. It’s very simple at the start with basic Ravens, but eventually you end up facing Red Ravens who can shoot fireballs, exploding Ravens, Shield Ravens, and Blue Buffing Ravens who increase enemy power. To face these enemies you have your sword, your dash, your hookshot, and a grab attack. You can also counter basic attacks. For example, to beat Shield Ravens you either need the upgrade to the Hookshot that lets you yank their shield away, or the gem that lets you break their shields, or you have to grab another enemy and hurl it into them to knock the shield away. The Red and Blue ravens will teleport after you hit them, requiring you to either hookshot, dash, or just plain run after them. The exploding Ravens can hurt friends as well as you, and will start to explode the instant you hit them.
In addition to upgrading your skills, you have four unique swords you can use. You start with the Hero Sword, and can unlock and Ice, Fire, and Void swords. Each sword has one upgrade to them as well, which requires ore and for the Non-Hero swords, a unique elemental orb. These swords each have a unique magic power as well, which I personally rarely used. Fire and Ice can do elemental damage, Void speeds up your movement and attack speed, and the Hero Sword can heal you. You have a magic meter (it can be upgraded in length with skill points) that powers these special powers. Personally, beyond the heal from the Hero Sword and the Void Swords speed boosts I barely used the magic. In fact, due to the lack of healing fruit from chests and vases I had to use the Hero Sword’s magic frequently.
In fact my one major complaint of the game is the lack of healing options. The only way to heal is the Hero Sword, or finding Healing Fruit from smashing breakables or chests. That’s it. If you die, you start at a checkpoint but with the same amount of magic and health you had previously, which makes it very difficult at times. Enemies don’t drop healing orbs or anything either, so once you are in a fight, there is no reasonable way to get your health back up.
The swords also serve one other major usage: as Keys. You see, each sword can open a specific sort of door. In levels, these doors can lead to special lore pickups, treasure chests, and shortcuts. Further, the levels are not randomized it seems, so you can usually know what’s coming based on previous playthroughs. The final level, for example, has a very handy shortcut early on that needs the Void Sword. I use it every time now.
The general flow of the game works as follows: You choose one of three paths at the start of your run, either helping your rabbit friend Lapino, going after an item called the Skyripper, and a 3rd path you must unlock. From there, you do a level and maybe have a choice mid level that changes your path. After each level you get a bit of story, and then 2 to 3 more choices depending on what occurred. You make a total of 4 choices start to finish, and go though 4 levels to reach an ending. You get storybook cutscenes in between each level as well. As a note, there are NO BOSS BATTLES in this game, at least in the traditional sense. The final level does have a large battle sometimes at the end, and during the true ending this battle got so large and so intense I died about four times during it.
One other complaint I have has to do with controls. I started playing this game using Mouse and Keyboard, and while this is doable, there are issues here. The commands get delayed, targeting is wonky, and movement is a chore. I hooked up my 360 controller however and everything went smooth as silk from then on. If you play this, for the love of all that’s holy, use a controller. It’s designed with that in mind first and foremost.
As usual, to close out this section here is some gameplay footage of one of the paths, start to finish. Each path takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how fast you are and your upgrades. As a note, there are some spoilers in this video so be aware of that, as I had already done all the truth unlocks and the final path prior to this run.
So this is going to be the first game where I enact my Two Hour Rule. For those of you who missed my article on my personal site, about the “It Gets Better” argument which is where I laid out this rule, just click that link.
Basically, Steam allows a person to refund a game if their total play time is 2 hours or less, for any reason. I agree with the idea that within those first 2 hours you can determine if you are going to enjoy a game or not. And so, the Two Hour Rule is as follows: If in the first 2 hours of played time, I would refund the game, I will stop there and do my review. And here in the Overall Section I will post a very simple statement, just like this!
TWO HOUR RULE: PASS!
And this game passes with flying colors. Or a flying Farfarer. Take your pick. Reynardo won’t really care, being a fox and all.
This is a game that, if you love either Choose Your Own Adventure novels OR Action RPGs in the same vein as Bastion, you need to play. It’s well worth the purchase price, and being available on both PC (Steam and GoG) and PS4 there is no reason to miss out on this. The visuals, the humor, the story, everything about this game is wonderful and I cannot wait to see more like this by Spearhead Studios. Give me more, please Spearhead. Maybe something Superhero themed? Maybe?