I wasn’t expecting a great deal going into Stories. It’s an isometric slash ’em up, it looks a bit cutesy – we’ve seen many of those games before. I played it for a bit. It was ok. Then it suddenly grabbed me – the story, the gameplay, the art style, and the narration… the more you play and get involved in Stories, the better it becomes. I spent all day today thinking about it and waiting to see tonight’s story. Let me explain.
The key concept here is that you can choose your own path. You have 4 key choices and the game ends; it will take roughly 3-4 hours to play through. I started and put it off for a bit, heard some really good things, finished it and then realised why it’s so clever. You see, the game direction changes based on your choices, as each one is a branching path. Once you finish, that’s one of the possible ‘destinies’ (linked to the title) for Reynardo (which is you). Of course, not every choice ends well, so there must be one that does… so you replay. Each time with a bit more knowledge, each time choosing a different path.
On my first playthrough I made a few choices that perhaps a hero wouldn’t normally make. It sort of paid off, nearly. Then I died in the hands of a loved one. What?! Wow. I felt a bit stunned. Surprised. Shocked. The game goes back to the start and knowing what I know now, a few other starting areas have opened up. Should I go for one of those or back to make the same choice I did the first time around, but make different subsequent choices. I did go for a different choice and met different characters as well as some of the same ones I’d met earlier – but in different circumstances.
It’s really clever. The stories you play through are detailed and interesting. There’s a sci-fi element to it, in my second playthrough the hero of the rebellion, Reynardo seeks to discover a mystical weapon that could end the war. But it might also end the universe. So should I seek the help of a friend or continue building the weapon? Should I test it or go to some scientists for checking the installation? Should I use it… or just threaten its use? I wondered where my other choices would have taken me.
Thankfully the game keeps track of this – once you finish you get the option to start over and uncover a number of ‘truths’ required to understand the end game. I won’t spoil these but it’s interesting to see the big picture of this universe build. In all there are 24 possible stories to see through – areas are repeated of course but from different angles, your character progression continues in a new game plus sort of way with different enemies introduced (in my third playthrough I was still encountering new enemies). I don’t know if you need to see them all to see the final endgame (I’m assuming there is one as the ‘truths’ are uncovered) but it will be fun seeing how the different stories unravel.
Stories is fun to play – controls are really limited to one combat button, a grappling hook and a few different sword types generating different effects and abilities as you upgrade them. Combat is best described as similar to Batman’s Arkham series, quickly dashing between enemies but you can get upgrades such as ability to stop time when you counter and plan your next move. What I’d dismissed as a mash ’em up brawler became something of a tactical fighting game. Sure, it could be a bit deeper but it was more than I thought.
Visually it’s nice, sort of cartoony with a sci-fi element, all the characters are animals that is good fun. The best bit for me though was the narration. Similar to Bastion you get a voiceover which will say things like ‘Reynardo was just checking his sword was still working’ as you smash up boxes – and much more which is wittier than this. But the narrator also explains the story and plot developments, including, brilliantly – doing all of the voices of the characters. Each one is distinct and read as though a parent is reading a book to a child and playing out each role. It’s really, really well done, I’m thoroughly enjoying listening to every voiceover and voice impersonation – but it also manages to avoid clichés and be funny with it. I’ve had a few laugh out loud moments and it’s just a pleasure to play.
I could do with a bit more depth in combat if I’m honest, and at times for what isn’t a massively technically challenging game it’s a bit of a shame that the frame rate can take a dip, usually if there’s lots of breakables on screen but not so much if there are many baddies. Still, I’m enjoying it and am looking forward to finish off my remaining stories to complete.
Reviewed on PS4