Groundhog Day: Furry Fantasy Edition
Stories: Path of Destinies is an Action-RPG and Visual Novel mash-up developed by Spearhead Games for PC and Playstaiton 4 released back in 2016.
The game follows Reynaldo, a sword-wielding sky pirate Fox who has to find a way to help the rebellion defeat The Emperor Insegrim III who has gone mad with Power.
To do so, The Player has to make a choice and said choice will take them to a different map where you have to reach the end of, which then takes you to the next choice. This is all narrated in the style of a Story Book.
After five levels, you reach the end of the story and you are given one of 24 possible endings, almost all of them sad and you are then taken back to the first choice to begin again.
This is were the game becomes more interesting: You are not actually starting the game all over again, you are sent with the specific mission of unlocking a series of “truths” that will allow Reynaldo to reach the true Ending.
This is explained in-game with a magical book that shows Reynaldo different possible futures with only one ending were he actually succeeds, but he needs to discover the way to reach it. Thus the game changes from a simple “choose your own adventure“-like game to an actual story about defying destiny that combines both linearity with player choice.
A lot of problems with games that claim to give the player choice usually end with said choices not really having that big an impact by the end of the game. Likewise, games whose story is all about “defying Destiny” more often than not are linear, meaning that the idea that the character can actually challenge fate falls apart because turns out that no, they don’t really have a choice, it’s just that fate dictates they get a happy ending.
This doesn’t happen with Path of Destinies because each choice does lead to wildly different endings even though the final level is always the same. For example, one of the endings has Reynaldo fall into the corruption of an old, evil power that leads to the destruction of the world while another has him become a hippie… I am not kidding, that ending is literally called “Return of the Hippie”.
That means that each choice does have a lot more value than in other games because each one will drastically change how the story develops. Even though you will repeat the same maps over and over, the story and reasons why you are there will most likely be different and, if you have certain Truths revealed, plenty of the dialogue will change to acknowledge said Truth.
At the same time, it avoids the problem of linearity because you are at no point forced to go for the Golden Ending. There is no point in which the game gives you no choice but to do so. It is always in the Players hands to decide to do it.
Now, while I praise the game for the way it gives Player Choice a lot of weight, I have to admit that the story is actually very simple and, aside from Reynaldo, the very few characters in the game are barely developed with them not appearing at all in some paths (altough the two most recurring characters make up for by being full of personality). There is also a problem this game has that there is important information that Reynaldo simply knows all of the sudden that is not even hinted at in other paths. Sure, the narrator often explains where he learned said information but, honestly, it fill like he is trying to cover a plot hole.
That being said, while the actual plot is more than a little bit thin and weak, the game makes up for it by having the main character being very entertaining to watch and the games wonderful sense of humor. The fully voiced narrator has a lot of personality and his lines are full of witty humor, puns, fourth wall jokes and even some dark humor in the darker paths.
That goes for the story, what about the gameplay?
As I said, each path consists of five levels that you repeat over and over. Depending of your choices you can get a different map in levels 1, 2 and 4 but levels 3 and 5 are the same map. They are also pretty linear. the maps do extend after you finish the first path, but not by much.
Aside from a couple of simple puzzles, you also have to battle a group of ravens every so often so you can advance. The fight system is pretty simple but effective. Your character automatically locks on to the enemy he is looking at and. As you keep on hitting them, your combo meter increase, which can give you an XP bonus at the end of the fight.
It aslo has a pretty effective block system: Enemies trying to attack you have an exclamation point over their heads. If you try to attack them, they are taken as priority and blocked.
Fights become a little more complicated as you get new abilities and new enemies start to appear, but this two elements are the essence of the battle system. The fights, even the more chaotic ones, become pretty short once you get the general idea and you unlock the strongest abilities.
I want to mention controls because, while they are pretty simple with a controller, they are a little annoying with Mouse and Keyboard. Rather than having the classic WASD configuration, you move your character by holding the right click at all times to tell them where to go. Not simply right click and they will go there, you have to hold it. It’s not too bad, but I really preffer using the WASD. The Shift, Alt and Control keys are programmed to be used for the secondary abilities and they cannot be changed.
I mentioned before that the maps are very linear and at some points the way you came from will be closed so you will have no choice but to move forward. However, there are some paths that will lead you to chests that will give you Ore and Essences. This are necessary to craft the different swords in the game (The Ice Sword, the Fire Sword and the Void Sword) and upgrade them.
As you craft new swords, they will also ocme with a new magic ability you can use in combat. They will also allow you to unlock a series of doors that will lead you to different Gems, which you will be able to equip for different bonuses. Some gems are extremely useful (Shield Breaker is a must have) while others I never really had the need to use (never equipped Treasure Hunter). If you keep on doing this, you will also be able to upgrade your gems up to level 3. This helps to break the monotony of each map since it is always fun to see what kind of gem you get, altough once you have collected all the gems the chests will only give you health and energy.
As i mentioned before, defeating enemies will give you XP that will allow your character to level up. Leveling up gives you a skill point that you can use at altars to unlock new abilities or increase your stats. The game follows a Skill Tree format with four tiers in total. At the start of the game, you are only able to unlock the first tier of abilities and discovering the truths will also unlock the three other tiers for you to use.
Graphics are okay. They are not great and there were moments in which i could see my character was walking on the air, but they look nice. The narration portions of the game have a hand-drown style that looks really good and the character portraits are nicely done. The music is good too.
Now for replay value (or, depending of how you choose to approach this game, how long before you decide to simply go for the golden ending), there is little to do once you have unlocked the different swords ans gems. The only thing to do would be to try and unlock all the different endings but other than that, there is nothing to do once you got the true ending. Even though the maps are pretty short and the fights can go by pretty quick, it did become repetitive for me even before I got the true ending.
On a final note, I think this is a fine game that has a very creative way of approaching it’s story and with plenty of fun moments that will not leave you unfulfilled once you get to the credits.
Stories: Path of Destinies was developed by Spearhead Games using the Unreal Engine.
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