So, a lot of people aren't happy with December's PlayStation Plus line up, which is fair enough - you can't win 'em all. However, I think it's reasonable to say that many subscribers are quick to completely disregard titles that they don't actually know anything about. This isn't me calling people stupid because they don't keep up with every game that's ever been released - I'm just saying that sometimes, you need to take a step back and look at the situation before you dive onto Twitter to distil your rage into 140 characters.
One of the games up for grabs this month is called Stories: The Path of Destinies. Now, if I didn't know what this game was and I read its name, I'd probably think that it was a pile of crap, too - there's just no escaping the fact that its title is bloody awful. But to judge a game on its name alone obviously isn't the best idea, otherwise we'd have to discredit a gigantic amount of other releases - especially those Japanese ones that feel the need to stick a semicolon into the equation.
Anyway, I reviewed Stories: The Path of Destinies when it launched on PlayStation 4 back in April, and you can give that a read by clicking through here. Looking at Metacritic right now, the PS4 version has 41 different critic reviews, and a 73 Metascore. I gave it a 6/10, so Push Square is actually one of the lower scoring reviews on that page, and with that in mind, you may be wondering why the heck I'm writing this article to begin with. Well, even though Stories had clear issues when it first released, I still think it's more than worthy of the free Plus download.
You see, Stories is simply something a bit different. It's an action role-playing game that stars a fox pirate, and it takes a lot of interesting ideas and blends them all into one relatively accessible, fun adventure. Well, I say one adventure, but really, Stories is as its name suggests. Instead of progressing through a single journey, you actually jump between different realities thanks to a neat branching narrative mechanic.
One story may see our anthropomorphic hero die at the end of it - killed off by one of the big baddies. But rather than have that be a traditionally bad ending, followed up by credits and sad music, you're thrown back to the very start of the adventure - only this time, our foxy lead retains the knowledge that he gathered during his last ill-fated foray. This allows both you, as the player, and Reynardo, as the main character, to be aware of potentially fatal outcomes as you progress through a new run. In turn, this opens up loads of new options to consider as you play, and it isn't long until you're following a completely different path.
Stories' branching narrative - told in storybook format - is very cleverly done, and I think it's something that should definitely be experienced by those who appreciate tough choices and decisions in their games. Working your way to a whole new ending - even if it's another not-so-good one - always feels rewarding, and it helps that each run only takes you a couple of hours or so at most.
Okay, so Stories is a clever little game, but I still slapped a 6/10 on the end of my review - it can't be that special, right? Well, yeah, I certainly don't think that it's anything truly amazing, but it's worth pointing out that I was left thoroughly disappointed by the game's technical performance more than anything. The review's conclusion reads: "We have to assume that Stories: The Path of Destinies just isn't optimised nearly as well as it should be on the PS4 – and that's an absolutely massive shame, because this is otherwise one of the most charming, original, and enjoyable indie titles available on the system."
The good news here, though, is that as far as I'm aware, said technical issues have since been fixed - or at least improved to a large degree - through updates. In other words, if you decide to give Stories a download next week, you should be prepared to experience "one of the most charming, original, and enjoyable indie titles available on the system". Honestly, if my backlog wasn't so ridiculous, I'd be tempted to go back and play it again myself.
So, that's why I think you should at least give Stories: The Path of Destinies a try. Again, if I hadn't already played it, I'd be sitting here thinking "yeah, that Plus offering is pretty weak", but as mentioned, I just don't think that's the right mindset to have. By all means, call the selection worse than dirt if you're not a fan, but I think we could all benefit from allowing ourselves to approach things with an open mind - especially when we don't even know what it is that we're dealing with.
Have you played Stories before? What do you think of it? If not, are you willing to give it a shot? Become a furry in the comments section below.