Gamers who only purchase physical releases are really missing out. Downloading stuff online is great, as it spares you the inconvenience of going outside to buy entertainment. The PSN store also contains some brilliant indie titles, which are not sold in retail outlets – case in point Stories: The Path of Destinies from Montreal based developer Spearhead Games. This swashbuckling adventure stars an anthropomorphic fox named Reynardo who, aside from having the moniker one would associate with a Brazilian soccer player, is a former sky pirate. Players control the bushy tailed hero in his battle versus a crazed amphibian emperor and his army of humanoid ravens.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is an isometric action RPG, which has the aesthetics of a Diablo game and the combat system of a Rocksteady Caped Crusader title. Each level sees Reynardo swing over pitfalls, sneak past mechanical eyeballs and solve the occasional lever themed puzzle. At various points during each stage Reynardo will be confronted by the emperor’s feathery minions, which he must dispatch using an assortment of magical blades and his trusty hook shot. Stories’ combat isn’t too difficult, even if Reynardo is usually outnumbered, as enemy attacks are preceded by an exclamation mark appearing over their noggins. Press square when said punctuation mark materializes and Reynardo will perform a flashy counter attack faster than you can say “I’m Batman.”
How much experience one earns from battle is determined by how many unanswered sword swipes Reynardo dishes out. In general, lengthier combos equal more exp. Once enough experience has been accumulated Reynardo will be rewarded with a skill point, which can be invested into unlocking new abilities (more health, faster running speed, enhanced hook shot versatility, smellier farts… okay I made that last one up.) Bonuses can also be bestowed upon the one eyed fox by equipping enchanted gems. Additionally, Reynardo can use the ore he collects during his travels to fabricate magic swords. Each weapon possesses a unique trait (can restore health or set opponents ablaze for example) and act as keys that unlock doors leading to secret areas.
My rating for Stories: The Path of Destinies is four stars. I wasn’t expecting much from this game, given the generic title and my natural aversion to furries, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun it was to play. Only a few technical hiccups impede me from rewarding Spearhead’s work with a higher score. The bugs in question include a few instances were the frame rate stutters more than Hugh Grant and two occasions were I had to restart a level, after suffering a glitch that caused Reynardo to get stuck on a piece of scenery. Luckily I didn’t have to backtrack much, as the game uses an auto-save feature and each stage is relatively short (in total a five chapter run only takes around an hour to finish.)
The aspects I enjoyed most about Path of Destinies would have to be the voice work and the multiple endings on offer. One sole actor is responsible for masterfully delivering all of the script’s dialogue. He narrates the cut scenes, voices every character and even chimes in with witty quips during gameplay. His performance never got stale, which is saying a lot given that viewing the twenty plus endings will require numerous playthroughs. What finale you get is determined by the “choose your own adventure” like decisions made in-between levels. Hmmm, that plot-altering mechanic may explain why I enjoyed Stories: The Path of Destinies so much. In a way, playing this reminded me a little of the excellent Lone Wolf novels… only that in this tale you control a Lone Fox.