Perhaps an easily overlooked title, Stories: Path of Destinies is exactly a well-crafted and ingenious action-RPG made by Spearhead Games in early 2016, released on Steam and PS4. The release of Stories may have gone under the radar and hardly enjoyed any big time publicity, but PS Plus members have the chance to enjoy the experience for free this month.
In Stories, you take control of colorful rogue Fox Reynardo, who is helping out the rebel side in a vicious civil war that tears Reynardo’s world apart. While you start out with no real ties to either side, events quickly steer Reynardo on a course that puts him directly opposed to the Emperor and royalist forces that are steadily quelling all resistance. The intro level is quick and short, spending only a little time on the necessary tutorials and the story’s setup before diving into what makes the game so unique en enjoyable: it is an action-packed ‘Choose your own story’.
After each gameplay segment, you are treated with a short story segment that ends with two or three different choices that lead to new paths and new levels. Every time you make a choice that leads to new choices afterward and creates an entirely new storyline. However, almost all of these end badly and don’t actually get you to the real ending of the game: they just teach you who you can trust or what the dangers of certain weapons are, and then transport you back to the beginning of the game, allowing you to make new choices with new information. During these new adventures, you retain all the experience, health upgrades and abilities you have acquired in previous storylines and even get access to new ones as a reward. Also, levels get harder with more enemies in more challenging compositions, even though you choose to take the same path. Even more so, the game’s narration (which is a delight to listen to in and by itself) changes a little bit every time, keeping each new playthrough fresh and entertaining.
Playing through Stories: Path of Destinies a single time can be done in as little as 1 or 2 hours, but you are far from done when you do so. Each new playthrough isn’t so much a new playthrough, but rather a ‘new chapter’ in the grand story that you need to go through to get to the real ending. There are 25 different endings to discover before you can reach the true, ultimate ending, and while getting there won’t take a really long time, it is time well spent.
The game is a tad monotonous in terms of gameplay, but more than makes up for it with its pretty visual style and amazing narration. Even if it’s just one voice the whole time, they couldn’t have found a better one. Stories are definitely worth checking out if you have the time.
Invisible, Inc. is a game made by Canadian studio Klei Entertainment (known from Don’t Starve and Mark of the Ninja) that combines the gameplay of turn-based strategy games with roguelike elements. The game is clearly heavily inspired by X-COM in terms of gameplay and is also reminiscent of games like Deus Ex or Syndicate when it comes to story and setting.
You take control of a covert agent handler and you have to guide these agents through various missions as you try to ensure the survival of the private security agency Invisible, Inc. The intelligence that this agency collects and provides is stored in a Super AI named Incognita, and the system is at risk of being compromised which results in the AI being transported from the original headquarters. However, Incognita can only survive for three days outside of a computer system and requires a particularly strong system to remain intact.
The idea of the game is that it takes place in three days, as you try to locate a supercomputer powerful enough to house Incognita. To prepare for this final mission you need to complete many other missions to collect information, assets and fulfill other requirements so your ultimate goal can be reached. Each of these missions can be done relatively freely, taking in mind the total time it takes to complete them each and every time and making sure you don’t take more than three days total.
The layouts of the maps on which these missions take place, as well as enemy and trap composition, numbers and difficulty are procedurally generated, making each playthrough different each and every time. You start out a mission with only two agents, but you can free and recruit additional agents as you complete missions. If an agent dies during a mission, they are permanently lost, and once all agents die, the game is over. During the game you also unlock agents and abilities to use in later playthroughs, making every run potentially worth the effort, even if you don’t make it to the end.
The game is very well designed and provides a nice challenge, focusing on the management of resources, manpower and time without becoming a boring ordeal, and that is a very fresh experience. While difficult and sometimes frustrating, it is a fair game and cleverly designed to keep you trying even if you fail. It also succeeds in keeping you invested the whole way through.
Invisible Inc. is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a more tactical experience on PS4, and if you were a fan of games like X-COM, Fallout Tactics or Commandos.
Next to these two games,Hyper Void (PS3, PS4 and Vita), Tiny Troopers Join Ops (PS4. PS3, Vita), Color Guardians (PS4, Vita) and VVVVVV (Vita) are included in December 2016’s PS Plus games. If you have no yet downloaded these games, be sure to give them a go. If you have already done so and are wondering if they are worth your time: December offers two games that are much more enjoyable than you’d perhaps give them credit for.