Groundhog Day is one of my favourite Bill Murray movies. The classic dry Murray whit coupled with the premise of repeating the same day over and over again is hilarious throughout as he learns to manipulate the days’ events in his favour whilst also learning to become a better person and/or go insane.
Stories The Path of Destinies feels very much like Groundhog Day with a healthy dose of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox thrown in to the mix for good measure, but thankfully without the “going insane” part!
“Told through the wonderful narration of Julian Casey in true fairytale fashion, the framework for each chapter of the game follows that of a storybook.”
Stories kicks off with our hero, Reynardo the Fox, dashing rogue with whip-smart charm and more than a few cunning moves up his sleeve, being reluctantly drawn in to a battle to save the rebellion from annihilation at the hands of a mad emperor. Reynardo must fight off ever increasingly harder enemies from the emperor’s Raven army whilst also having to make some tough decisions along the way!
Told through the wonderful narration of Julian Casey in true fairytale fashion, the framework for each chapter of the game follows that of a storybook. Each chapter of the book being brought to life as playable levels. Our hero’s destiny has already been written, his fate and those of his allies predetermined, so there can be only one outcome. Or is there?
“The choices are many and most can give you real paws for thought as to which one to choose.”
This is where the narrative craftsmanship of Spearhead Games really excels to a level I wasn’t expecting. You see at the end of every level, the next chapter of the story is yet to be written. Reynardo is faced with an important decision to make. Should he rescue his old friend Lupino from the clutches of the Ravens? Should he abandon his friend in favour of following a trail that might lead to an ancient super weapon? The choices are many and most can give you real paws for thought as to which one to choose. Once you do make your choice, the following chapter can play out completely different to that of anothers’. The ramifications of which won’t be fully realised until the stories end.
By the time that story is concluded, based on the decisions you have made, could result in the rebels loosing, another character usurping the emperor or even the total annihilation of everyone and everything! At which point the narrater flips the pages of the book back to the beginning and off we go again. Groundhog Day. But this time an important Truth will have been learned. These Truths are the definitive facts that are always constant and do not ever change, there are 4 to uncover and must be learned in order for Reynardo to fulfil his true destiny.
Now this going back to the start every time because you’ve “failed” sounds like it could be a right blimmin’ nuisance that can lead to frustration, but that just isn’t the case at all. You see with each failure comes more and more knowledge, with each decision unfolding a new story path. After 5 playthoughs I only uncovered 2 Truths, but with each playthough playing out differently and 25 unique stories to unlock in total, there is a lot of game here.
Stories the Path of Destinies is comprised of short-medium sized levels that have a labyrinthian feel to them with lots of twisting pathways and secrets to find. As you progress and level-up you will unlock new moves and powers for Reynardo and can even craft up to 4 mystical swords, each with their own unique powers of Fire, Ice, Void and Healing. but they are not just flashy ways to carve up those pesky Ravens in your path of destiny, oh no, in a lovely nod to classic adventure games they also function as the keys to various colour-coded doors. This then opens up previously unexplored areas of the map.
There are also power gems to find that Reynardo can slot in to his gauntlet, giving some sweet passive bonuses to critical hits, loot drops or movement speed. All this added up to make me feel like I was strutting around with my very own Infinity Gauntlet!
Combat is fluid, fun and surprisingly quite challenging at times and Reynardo can easily be overwhelmed by numbers if your not on the ball. Thankfully the Sword Fu school teaches it’s students to be badasses of the battlefield with dashes, counters, grabs and throws all part of their repertoire.
The combat system borrows from games such as the Batman: Arkham series with attacking, countering and evading, there is even a nifty grapple hook too! Unlike those titles however, the developers here have gone to great pains to keep the controls as simple as possible, by keeping your counter and attack buttons mapped to the same key. For example as you press square to slash at your foes, if another enemy begins their attack on you, just flip the left-thumbstick in their direction and press square again and you automatically counter. Better yet is that if you press and hold square you will grab hold of them. From here you can either use them as a human shield or simply launch them off cliff. It all feels extremely fluid and flexible which in turn always keeps it fun. never feeling like a slog. This is especially important when you inevitably replay the same levels over and over again.
As more Truths are unlocked and different stories are told, Reynardo’s skills and experience carry over for the next run. To stop from becoming too overpowered, enemy variety switches up a notch by introducing more powerful foes with abilities all of their own. My favourite move quickly became the grapple hook to pull enemies toward me then instantly thrusting my blade in to them as I threw them in to their pals, knocking them all over like skittles.
Stories the Path of Destinies was such a surprise of a game, that I really didn’t know what to expect from it going in. I hadn’t heard a peep about it before but I’m glad I took the chance on it. From the gorgeous cel-shaded art style that channels the Nintendo classic The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, to the tight controls and brilliant writing, this quickly became one of my most enjoyable games so far this year.
Stories The Path of Destinies is available now on Playstation Store for £8.99
For more on Stories The Path of Destinies check out our gameplay videos below: