We are all familiar with the concept of choose your own destiny type stories, in our younger days these were interesting books that ultimately had us choose our own fate. Would we escape the monster chasing us by having our character use an ingenious plan, or would we fall to our death after being dropped by a giant bird. These adventures were great and truly put us in control of the narrative, and while this works in a book concept, does it really work in a videogame? This acts as the burning question, despite being a big part of the modern game industry very few choice driven games rarely diverge off a linear path, and this is where Stories comes in.
Stories: The Path of Destinies takes the concept of the classic 'choose your own adventure' style and runs with it, the narrative is heavily influenced by the players input as we are forced to make a choice and see how a certain string will play out. Unlike the book form, once a choice is made you are stuck, so Stories will often make you weigh up your choices to find the path best for you that might lead to the best possible ending, however, how things will go is always the burning question as you are never aware of how a choice will affect things.
This game follows Reynardo a fox with a heroic self-image as he sets out to take on the empire whose army is of raven soldiers. During the opening moments he comes into possession of a mystical book that presents him with the ability to restart his journey and see how things will play out with the decisions he has made, while also allowing Reynardo to develop his skills and knowledge across multiple runs.
Multiple choices are made across each run and you will see how each one plays out doing more than changing dialogue in the narrative. Early on in the narrative you are presented with two burning choices, choose to save an old friend, or go after a powerful weapon which could help the rebellion, these choices offer you the chance to head to two different levels, but it also falls to the personal choice in terms of narrative.
Despite what may seem like an obvious choice, things are not always as they seem, what may seem like a great idea at one point can quickly turn into a catastrophe. In following each path we can see multiple events unfold which change based on our decisions, and the key goal is to learn several truths which will help to conclude the final narrative. Decisions that may seem right at first quickly turn and we see the aftermath of such events, ultimately being able to uncover one of the games twenty four different endings with each revealing more information to assist in the next playthrough.
This is actually where the game falls apart, Reynardo’s adventure is interesting but this is really only the case on the first couple of times through. In order to find the game’s final conclusion you are forced to play through the entirety of the story several times over trying to uncover the next piece of information to learn all the truths. Despite being able to choose our own path Stories has us constantly replaying the same arcs with little change or reward, all of this ends up becoming monotonous and it leads to an uninteresting mix.
Stories urges you to keep playing with the promise of a final ending, while also doing well to capture our investment in seeing how the story could end next. Yet at the same time, the game does not evolve or ever really improve to give players a true incentive to continue, just wanting to see the conclusion across the twenty four endings just doesn’t really push you forward, and because of this, many likely will never finish the game. It can take over six runs of almost the same story to finally find the games ending, and by this point the urge to continue is only ever really drawn by the players own personal investment.
It is lucky that the game is short at least, each run only covers five levels which you will likely do multiple times over, and this does make it easier to jump back into the game with the knowledge that you can quickly conclude the story again. Though Stories still falls to its own premise, what seems great at first becomes tedious, even despite its short length, the narratives barely evolve and we are left dealing with the same story with only a handful of points thrown in due to truths which do little until the game’s final run.
Despite this weakness in the story there is still some great ideas in this game, and playing through the levels is initially enjoyable and improves slightly on subsequent runs. Across the games different levels, you are given as much freedom to explore as the narrative presents in choice, there are multiple paths available with some leading to treasure and others leading to shortcuts, and you can choose how you wish to proceed.
Much of this comes down to what items we have available at the time with multiple doors blocking paths which can be opened by crafting a specific weapon. Many doors appear in each level with an element that corresponds to a specific sword, during the initial run many of these are locked, but by collecting crafting materials soon you can freely explore new sections of the level making these older levels more enjoyable. This gives us the opportunity to explore further parts of the story, but mostly it just helps keep things bearable as the game begins to stumble under its own ideas.
Stories combat is a frequent part of the game which often has you fighting multiple ravens in order to progress, yet what seemed like simplistic combat initially develops into a nice flowing system that proves challenging. The combat is like a perfect dance that has you fighting one enemy then quickly turning to counter another then dashing across the field all to pull away the shield from a defending foe, it all works forcing you to be careful about where each enemy is and what they are doing.
What lets combat down though is the lack of diversity, Stories only features five enemy types the standard Raven, shielded raven, explosive raven, as well as warlocks which offer fire attacks or support to the standard enemies. Despite a great system that remains enjoyable across multiple runs, the lack of diversity affects the game and this all makes it easy to fall too comfortably into the games rhythm removing most of the challenge.
Unfortunately, Stories: The Path of Destinies falls short of offering a completely enjoyable experience, all the pieces that could have made this game great are here, yet they crumble under the weight of the games own concept. The main element of the story grows tiresome over multiple playthroughs and little is done to ever try to improve this, Stories could have been something game changing but never manages to quite accomplish its own goal.