Tucked off into a quaint corner I happened upon Atul Mehra of Spearhead Games and Stories: Path of Destinies. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful and fluid everything looked. Many titles on the PAX South show floor were obviously works in progress but Stories looked far along in its development. I had no knowledge of the game previous to that and inquired about an interview for the following day. I return the next morning eager to learn what this title had to offer. Turns out there’s quite a bit.
Atul noted that the art design was certainly a focus, lending to why it caught so many eyes as they passed. “You can [see] the hints of Bastion,” he said. “Our art director, he’s insanely in love with Japanese manga. Mix the two up together to make a royal mush out of it and there you go.”
The art and character design weren’t the only parts that leave an impression visually. The melees of this isometric action/adventure are intense and gratifying as well. “The combat? It was my partner and co-founder Malik’s brainchild. He was really inspired by Arkham and Shadow of Mordor,” explains Atul. There are subtle changes to the flow, such as parrying being tied to attack timing and not a button press, but the dashing, pulling, and pushing are clearly inspired by those two games. One unique feature allows for a bit of strategic planning mid melee. If you stop your input mid combo, the motion slows to a crawl as you decide which assailant to prioritize and how to defend. It’s a simple addition but something that Arkham, Mordor, and future titles emulating this combat style may want to take note of.
Considering the title of the game, one would hope the narrative wouldn’t take a back seat to all the aesthetics and it doesn’t seem like Spearhead will disappoint. I witnessed branching paths based on decisions you make in cutscenes. Stories isn’t just letting you shape the story with those choices, though. There’s a tale to be told and not every path will get you to the ending. “We have over 25 stories in there. When you play and make decisions, [on most of those paths] you die. There’s only one where you live,” he says. Atul made a comparison to the film Edge of Tomorrow in which Tom Cruise’s character continued to die and reset, working toward surviving his ordeal. These happenings also shaped his perception of the events as he continues to relive them. “Each time you die you learn something about the universe, the environment, the person, or a thing.”
Atul, who’s the co-founder of Spearhead, says the game started development in February of 2015 and production closed in October. They’re polishing it for a release on PS4 and it won’t be short of content. When it launches, it’ll drop as a full project with roughly 25 hours of gameplay if you explore every narrative thread. My hands on time was solid and Stories is something that should be on your radar. Stay tuned for more information in the near future.