8.5
Our overall verdict "silver"

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Reynardo is a fox with a mission. Actually, he’s a fox with many missions, some super sword skills and a tendency to break stuff. Stories: The Path of Destinies is an action RPG with a difference. Remember those choose your own adventure story books? Well, this exactly like that but in video game form with some bright and beautiful graphics and enough plot lines to satisfy George R. R. Martin. Fate has steered Reynardo into the arms of the rebellion, but the evil empire is on the cusp of breaking them. Can you save them? Are you committed to the cause or just set on chasing tail? Stories: The Path of Destinies asks what sort of hero you are and your choices will determine that and give you a literal answer. But that’s not the end of it. Reynardo is a clever fox, and if on your path you uncover a truth, some vital information, you will remember it on your next playthrough. New choices will present. New destinies will lure you in. Prepare to live Reynardo’s life over and over before you find your true path.

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Games that allow us to make choices that influence and personalise our experiences are hotter than a pig on a glowing red poker. The moral choices offered by games such as The Walking Dead, Until Dawn and Life is Strange have been keeping us up at night worrying if we’ve made the right decisions and then crying into our duck-downs when we definitely make a bad one. There’s no doubt the future of these choice-laden games is both a bright and wonderfully distraught one. Stories: The Path of Destinies has chosen not to go down this dark alley. While it presents many morally ambiguous and downright naughty choices, everything is light-hearted, tongue in cheek, whoops-you-killed-everyone comedy gold. You’ll be given big choices that will swing your adventure in completely different directions and smaller more personal choices that allow you question the characters around you and the choices you have already made. Once a playthrough is completed you may find you’ve learned something about the path you took, which is a good job because I’ll bet good money you’re dead. Luckily, when you start again, you’ll remember what you’ve learned and not only will this open up different choices but you can use your new information to twist your destiny in another direction.

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We found the True Ending on the fifth playthrough, but there are countless other endings which feature Reynardo in a broad selection of nasty deaths, betrayal and idiocy. Even after you’ve found the true ending, it’s likely you’ll want to keep playing. There’s plenty more to see and certainly much more to hear. Reynardo’s stories are told via a narrator in story-book style. While this narration gets off to a bumpy start with the repeated and irritating use of ‘the kid’ during the prologue, it soon gets significantly better and becomes an absolute pleasure to listen to. The narration is continuous throughout the game, including during action and exploration sequences. You’ll likely get sarcastic comments about smashing jars, opening chests and failing miserably in a battle. During one tired moment I tried in vain several times to smash open a crate and the narrator kindly pointed out that ‘sometimes Reynaldo just liked to wave his sword around for hours’. What you won’t get, however, is hours and hours of repetition. During my six hours of playthroughs I never heard the same quip twice, and as you’ve likely made different choices along your journey, the story will twist and you’ll hear new parts of the tale. It’s beautifully done.

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I think it’s important to get straight what this game isn’t. It isn’t a hardcore RPG with pages and pages of stats, five character-build gauges and a multitude of battle techniques. It’s more what I would call a Baby RPG. Fighting enemies will level you up to earn skill points. These can be spent on extra health and other character benefits such as combat upgrades. There are chests to find and open and these will contain a variety of crafting materials that you use to build and upgrade a limited number of swords, each of which have a special function. You’ll also find gems that fit in your glove to give you an edge in battle. It’s all very easy to pick up and it’s about as deep as a puddle. Now, listen, that’s not a criticism. If this game was just an RPG and not much else it could very well disappoint. But Stories: The Path of Destinies is a fox in a rabbit’s tighty whities. The RPG elements are easy and highly enjoyable, but this game is all about the story and the choices. Stories is meant to be fun and upbeat, and the relaxed RPG components ensure the action parts of the game are in keeping with the tone. Your upgrades will carry over into each new playthrough so as you progress and perhaps begin to visit the same areas, the playthroughs will get quicker, easier and more fun.

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Making repeat playthroughs even more interesting are your weapons. As you explore, you’ll find materials that, once you have enough, will allow you to make new swords. Each sword type can be used to open particular gateways that lead to new areas, new materials and new gems. Finally opening a gate you’ve previously walked past four times is actually rather exciting and it keeps your exploits feeling fresh and interesting.

Combat is simple and the mechanics are spot on with elements that can all be upgraded as you play. Some enemies are reasonably standard, some turn others into supers, some explode when they’re hit, some explode you if you get caught in their spell circle, and some have annoying shields. Dashing, counterattacks, grappling, slowing down time and improving speed can all be accessed as you level up and then upgraded. As the game progresses combat mutates from standard hack and slash to some pretty zippy and fun tactical fighting.

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Graphics are bright and attractive with beautiful and varied environments. Everything has a cartoonish look to it which fits in nicely with the idea that you’re reading/playing a storybook. Even the combat sequences, once you’re topped up with upgrades, are an explosion of colour and light. This is a handsome game with some substantial spit and polish. In fact, I’m struggling to find anything not to like. Even the trophy list is extensive with thirty eight blings including an attainable Platinum which, quite frankly, is the shiny icing on a very tasty cake.

Conclusion

Excellent story and narration has been combined with the mechanics of a simple action RPG, and the result sparkles with fun, colour and originality. Stories: The Path of Destinies is a fabulous choose your own adventure video game and you’d be a foolish fox not to buy it immediately.

S J Hollis Rating – 8.5/10

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S J Hollis

S J Hollis has been a keen gamer since the Atari 2600. She freely admits she thought E.T. was a good game but would like to stress her tastes have since dramatically improved. She is also an author, a morning person and thinks Elf ears are sexy. Follow her on twitter @SJHollis_