Stories: The Path of Destinies is a game about a dashing skypirate fox who rescues his lapine friend from the clutches of an evil, oppressive empire. It's also a game about how the same fox betrays and kills his old comrade in order to save his own hide. At the same time, it's a game where the fox stands alone as he faces down overwhelming odds, no rabbit chum in sight.
The small Canadian team of Spearhead Games may be making a game that sounds like a choose your own adventure, but the emphasis here is on "adventure." Reynardo, our lone wolf… er, fox hero, can collect loot, level up to gain new abilities and spells, and engage in fast-paced combat.
In this sense, The Path of Destinies is an action RPG in the vein of Diablo. The camera hangs overhead in isometric perspective, giving a bird’s-eye view of the gorgeous, stylized environments and animation. Combat has a quick, immediate, and strategic feeling as Reynardo leaps and dodges effortlessly between multiple types of foes, prioritizing his next target on the fly.
His magical sword cleaves through them with a tangible sense of weight and heft. Stunning enemies leaves them open for a particularly brutal overhead smash that leaves nothing but a puddle of blood behind - in other words, this may be rendered like a Saturday morning cartoon, but its content reveals the game to be anything but child-friendly.
As Reynardo fights and moves through the world, an omniscient narrator will describe his actions. Open a treasure chest and the narrator will relate Reynardo's thoughts about how strange it was for the enemy to just leave treasure lying around. Whack a patrolling sentry and the voice might say "'Good night, Gracie,' Reynardo said, as he wondered who 'Gracie' was." It doesn't happen every time; just often enough to remind you this is a story being told through the medium of video games and provide a feeling of cohesion.
All characters are similarly presented through the narrator, who gives different inflections and effects for each, including the smooth-talking Reynardo, his nervous rabbit friend, a croaking toad and a flirty feline. It's impressive and downright riveting to hear The Path of Destinies's narrator switch between voices so quickly and smoothly, and it reinforces the feeling of listening to someone read you a story. The main difference being that here, you get to choose what story will be told.
The Path of Destinies' deviations aren't minor. Depending on which choices you make, characters can live, die, or never be seen in the first place. Levels are uniquely constructed and hold different enemy compositions. The tone of the narration switches. Rescue your rabbit friend and the tale feels almost like Star Wars, with Reynardo playing the part of Han Solo – in this story, there's even a princess to rescue. Decide to fight the ravenous empire with forbidden magic however, and you'll engage on a much darker quest as you search for the fabled Demon Sword.
The build Spearhead showed at PAX had 32 endings, and the team is working to craft more content. I was told the final game will have approximately 22 hours' worth of story content, with each playthrough lasting roughly 6 to 8 hours. Those who optimize their time will be able to see everything with only a handful of completions, while those who take a more unplanned and scattershot route will get far more time out of the game (though depending on the route taken, they may see the same or similar scenes).
I consider myself a fan of narrative-driven games. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying a good dungeon crawl and baddie beatdown, too. Stories: The Path of Destinies looks like it'll offer players both, and I can't wait to see more.