I’m a fox named Reynardo. I chose this evil, blood thirsty sword over saving my friends from danger. The sword told me it needs blood to earn both of us immense power. Then I got this sweet glass armor and murdered the ghosts of my friends. Next time I won’t murder the ghosts of my friends; ghosts don’t have blood.
That was gist of my story in Stories: The Path of Destinies, a game about, well, stories. As I played the demo, one of the developers at Spearhead Games explained the game’s structure. That is, a art-driven, top-down action game, like Bastion, with floating levels separated by story decisions, like whether or not to let your friends turn into ghosts. You choose a goal, neglecting others, and accomplish it.
Everything about playing the game is fine. The combat is a little Batman: Arkham-like, rhythmic and impactful. You can grab onto enemies, fling them into each other, stun them, cast magic projectiles, and roll. It’s simple in practice, with just enough malleability to give you some ownership to how each battle plays out. There’s even some light stealth elements, where you dodge out of vision cones and stun patrolling guards. None of the enemies I fought in the demo, which was running on the PlayStation 4, were difficult to destroy or out-manuever, nor were they given any context.
Context is my leading question for Stories: The Path of Destinies. I was told the demo I played would not appear in any way in the final version, that it was simply representative of the format of the game. So, knowing that it’s hard to really pull anything meaningful from what I saw, I’m left skeptical of how successful it will be at making you invested in its world and characters. Because my story, while short and ridiculously mean-spirited, doesn’t hold a lot of deeper meaning. It’s a series of events that would benefit from a better understanding of Reynardo the fox, his friends, the sword, and what’s going on in the world. Without those, you can only attach to these broad, hollow concepts.
Combined with the developer’s emphasis on multiple playthroughs to grow your knowledge of the events to fuel different decisions and to see different endings, I’m curious as to how they will motivate you enough to play through what I was told would be a short, one to two hour game. Maybe some of that investment will come through those successive playthroughs, adding dread and excitement where it wouldn’t be if you don’t know what happens next. None of that was in my demo, though. It’s all potential that’s impossible to predict.
The potential continues. I was told there would be a narrator and items that would talk to each other, with their own personalities. I was also told the stats on the items would help you in your fight against these unknown creatures and that sometimes those stats would become secondary to the item’s characterization. You’ll want to bring them on missions like teammates in Mass Effect, the developer said. While I did interact a bit with the talking, evil sword that wanted blood, the demo had no other opportunities to see this seemingly big component of the game. Again, another thing that’s impossible to predict its importance in the final game.
From what I played, Stories: The Path of Destinies — which has no release date — has pieces of a story and characters for you to care about, but lacks a narrative thrust to keep you moving through its baseline satisfying action segments and choices. It’s probably a hard game to demo, especially when that demo is disconnected from most of what the game will actually be. I can’t really say what Stories: The Path of Destinies will be. All I can say, as someone who appreciates the complex construction of narrative, is that I’m interested in seeing if these disparate, storytelling tools come together into something worth more than a funny paragraph.