Stories: The Path of Destinies from Spearhead Games doesn’t beat around the bush when it starts, instead opting to drop players in the thick of things. There’s a rebellion going on. You’re playing a snarky fox and former pirate named Reynardo, and you might just be the only hope the rebellion has of toppling the emperor. Or, as the developer described it to me, you’re Han Solo as a fox.
Maybe that isn’t an immediate sell for everyone, though. Even so, my brief demo of the game on the PAX South floor left me rather impressed. As a professed lover of games like Torchlight, the way the various levels were constructed and played out - though not random - struck a chord, and the fact that I found a secondary path through the first level thanks to a suspicious well won me over immediately.
The big selling point for Stories is that it features a branching narrative with several different paths - that never converge. Many similar games include what are considered tentpole points where, no matter how branching the story gets, everything folds back to a single node only to then branch out again. If you were to try and look at this style of game as a line, it would more closely resemble a braid.
So, for example, my very first choice in the game was whether to go and save a somewhat eccentric acquaintance of Reynardo’s - who had been captured, of course - or to try and track down a legendary weapon that would surely aid me in my fight. I chose friends over weapons, and after I had saved the rabbit, I was offered a new choice - but my decision to go after him meant that it was a set of new choices. There was no going back to that same mission to find that piece of the weapon - it was simply gone, and I had to work with what was in front of me.
But that doesn’t mean there’s gone forever. When you die at the end of the game, and the developer assures me that everyone will die a couple times before getting to the critical path, Reynardo’s magic book allows him to go back and make different choices. Essentially, you can pick a different path in order to avoid the terrible, terrible fate that awaits you - and, I am told, there are several different terrible fates out there.
But perhaps the most intriguing - and fun - thing about Stories is actually its combat. While there are different swords for Reynardo to use, and ways to vary his skills and loadout, the actual fighting itself is neat. While several different enemies might crop up, there’s a way to combo, parry, and even slow down time to better do the first two. Think Batman: Arkham Asylum or Shadow of Mordor-style combat with a side of Bastion and you’ll have a pretty good grasp of what’s happening.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is scheduled to release in the next couple months for PC and PlayStation 4 as a digital title.