A story whose choice-based gameplay and multiple endings tie right into its core narrative make this a page-turner you won't want to put down.
- Format: PS4, PC
- Price $14.99 / £$8.99
- Release date: Out now
Choice is a really big deal in video games; in fact, it's perhaps The Thing that separates them from nearly every other form of media. You, as the player, get to decide how the story plays out, whether you're merely choosing what attacks to use in a given situation, or making sweeping decisions that directly affect which direction the narrative takes.
Even with this added layer of interactivity, though, most games are still linear affairs. While certain details may change based on your choices, you start at the beginning and it's over when you get to the end. Stories: The Path of Destinies does things quite a bit differently, taking the very concept of the repetition and branching storylines found in choose-your-own-adventure books and turning it into its core gameplay hook - and it's fascinating, like a storybook adaptation of Groundhog Day starring cartoon animals.
The story of Stories goes like this: you play as Reynardo, a puckish rogue fox who finds himself in possession of a mysterious book, as well as being inexplicably embroiled in the middle of a war between an evil empire and less-than-scrupulous rebellion. Each time you finish one of the first four stages, Reynardo will make a choice that determines where the story goes. Maybe you'll meet with a bunny thief who can come up with the perfect harebrained scheme, or perhaps you'll run into the princess of the Empire - who happens to be an old feline friend - and try to convince her to help you. Or you might ignore both of them and pursue arcane power at all cost. Whatever you end up choosing, a delightfully droll narrator expands on the grave context of your actions with tongue firmly in cheek, as if he were reading from a Roald Dahl story book that made the occasional video game or Sandman reference. At the end of the fifth and final chapter, Reynardo ends up dead, though the circumstances surrounding his demise are different based on how you got to that point.
The book, however, has other plans for Reynardo, who picks him up and plops him right back at the beginning of his adventure. The key difference now is that Reynardo remembers the results of his previous path, and can use that information to better inform his future decisions. Maybe that ancient device he picked up is more dangerous than it looks? Or maybe that friend you met up with along the way is actually a traitor? Each time you learn something groundbreaking, you discover one of the tale's four individual Truths, which unlock additional skills to upgrade, as well as providing you with new information when you replay familiar segments of the story. While there are four main story threads to follow (which culminate in one, true ending to find), there are dozens of different ways the story can wind up based on your individual choices, and almost all of them end comically bad for our hero.
What makes Stories so interesting, though, is that each run through the book will take you about 45 minutes to an hour - so rather than watching your many choices slowly take shape over the course of a larger 20-30 hour-long game, you get to see the results of your actions immediately. And because individual runs are so short, usually rewarding you in the form of a new outlook on the plot or crafting items and experience points, the prospect of hopping right back in to see how different choices shape your story is far more palatable than it would be in larger, choice-driven games.
Stories: The Path of Destinies may be smaller than something like Mass Effect, or even less flashy than Telltale's games, but it's found a novel way to give you the ability to shape your own story, then let you dive right back in and do it all over again. And that's pretty cool in my book.