This fantastic action-RPG uses branching paths to help you hunt down victory in an intriguing way, but is slightly marred by repeated content.
Stories: The Path of Destinies Review (PS4) Stories: The Path of Destiny, is, perhaps unsurprisingly, driven by its stories. Countless choices are presented to the player throughout their exploits, and at the end of all of them, the player is met with the same fate: they’re sent back to the beginning, where they must apply the Truths that they’ve learned to avoid meeting the same pitfalls, and gradually figure out how to find success. This means you’ll be restarting the game about every hour or so, retaining your level and upgrades (and the difficulty continues to ramp up as you go).
Stories: The Path of Destinies runs the distance with the content that it has: you’ll revisit each locale several times in your attempts to discover the true ending. Enemy and chest placement don’t change, though you will be taking different routes (the first few times). The makeup of each combat encounter does, at least, greatly evolve as you play. New enemy variants gradually reveal themselves as you make your way towards the next Truth, changing the way you play. Suicide bombers require care, and ravens that buff and heal their allies require prioritization. These encounters also change as you level Reynaldo: I began to forgo the grapple-hook in combat when a high combo meant I would blink instantly to my foes, and, eventually, begin killing them in one strike. I didn’t find the different weapon variants (of which there are four, and each has unique effects- the ice one freezes enemies, and the wind one causes you to move and attack faster) to be too particularly useful, outside of opening doors, which is a shame, considering how much time you’ll spend breaking boxes and hunting down chests to upgrade them.
It takes four to five runs of the story to unlock the “Hero Path,” if you’re in a rush, but there are 25 endings altogether (counting the Hero Path). After completing the Hero Path (and five other endings), I had maxed out every single weapon. There were still plenty of levels to gain for Reynaldo, though I feel like I had already unlocked all the ones that really impacted combat. Extra Health, dealing damage when countering, and things of that nature I had forgone, opting instead for combo-based extra power and time-slowing bonuses to perfectly timed counters.
The combat is the game’s highlight, and only grows more fun as Reynaldo grows stronger. When your weapons are maxed and you’ve unlocked all the neat powers, it becomes a spectacle of beautiful particle effects, and satisfaction is hard to surmount once you run up a combo in the hundreds. Bouts are quick, and your tools varied: you can grapple enemies to you, throw them into each other, throw them off of cliffs, freeze them, burn them, dash through them- it’s when you have a handle on all of it that Stories’ fights come together, not unlike other action games. Unfortunately, there are no boss battles, only larger mobs of more varied enemies at climactic moments, but those provide challenge enough in applying what you’ve practiced.
The game’s narrative is enjoyable, delivered via the narration of one easy voice. He reads all the lines, gives proper quips following combat or chest opening, and ensures you’re kept abreast of all the choices you’ve made in the past. The story follows fox Reynaldo as he helps a rebellion to defeat a corrupted frog emperor, though the means with which he seeks to aide them rarely are so simple. The cast of characters is small, but focused, and you’ll learn plenty about them (and their history together) as you begin again the game.
It helps that the game is so aesthetically pleasing: let alone the particle effects of crumbled crystals and magic dust, the vibrant colors of Stories are a treat, and the locales stun even on subsequent playthroughs. The music matches well, and together they make for an easy pull on the senses.
The reused content barely has time to run thin- I got to the end of the Hero Path in around five hours. Those immersed enough in the combat, curious enough about the other story bits, and patient enough to run the length of the same airships again will undoubtedly be able to triple that time as they fill in the other blanks.
Stories: Paths of Destiny is an enjoyable action RPG, albeit very short and very economical. The story has enough grip to get you through the groundhog day set-up, and wherever it falls a little flat, the combat is more than prepared to give you that extra hand. If you’re in for a short, colorful, and often entertaining title, then Stories: Paths of Destiny might just be what you’re looking for.