[Update: Read our Broke Age review!]
Welcome to our regular gameplay impressions and video post where we record our first 10-30 minutes with a new game, and provide some general impressions on that early playthrough. Today’s game is: Broken Age from developer Double Fine Studios.
One of the first breakout success stories to come from Kickstarter, Broken Age‘s existence is proof that with the right audience any project can get made. Double Fine Studios, a developer that found success in the adventure game genre, set out to head back to their roots, but what they ended up with was a cultural phenomenon.
Where most games have a certain level of expectation, Broken Age pushes that to the umpteenth degree. Here, Double Fine isn’t just making a game that satisfies their creative needs, after pulling in more than $1 million in funding they are making a game that would hopefully satisfy a devoted fan base’s needs.
Almost immediately, Broken Age establishes itself as an adventure game in the purest sense, albeit with a Double Fine twist. Players will experience the stories of Shay (whose campaign is featured in the video above) and Vella (whose campaign is covered below), and they can switch between each character at-will.
There are some similarities in theme and tone between Shay and Vella’s stories, but, for the most part, they are starkly different. Both characters feel unfilled in their current roles and seek to escape, but how they do so and in what context is completely unique to their world. Shay, for example, lives in the distant future, where space exploration is an afterthought. Whereas Vella lives in a fantastical, yet old-timey, land where sacrifice is tradition.
But the story is only one part of the Broken Age equation. Where the game truly shines, aside from its stunning and endlessly charming art design, is in its puzzles and exploration. Like the point-and-click adventure games of yesteryear, Broken Age gives players plenty of choices that, while not entirely pertinent to the story, help give life to Shay or Vella’s world. Furthermore, the every set of dialogue options help add back-story to characters, and they provide opportunities to hear the game’s excellent voice acting work.
Similarly, the game’s puzzles are of a very simplistic nature — click this or use this on that — but they hearken back to a time when puzzles didn’t need to be elaborate sequences, but were still plenty challenging. In a lot of cases, the palyer is well aware what they need to do, but it’s not always clear how to execute that action. Several times throughout both videos I knew exactly what to do, but I had to go through a few steps to figure out how to get the desired result.
What’s nice about Broken Age‘s design, though, is that the player always has another character waiting in the wings. So instead of beating their head against a difficult puzzle, players can switch to the other character and still feel like they are progressing the story, and then after some distance maybe that puzzle’s solution will be more evident with fresh eyes.
It does take some time to get acclimated to Broken Age‘s style of play, but that’s because the game fits a need and belongs to a genre that isn’t often explored anymore. The game does what any great adventure game does: it delivers an experience where the storytelling walks hand-in-hand with the gameplay. I’m eager to see more of each story, and to see how they intersect/connect, but mostly I love being in Double Fine’s handcrafted world.
Based on the first hour of the game, what do you think of Broken Age? Will you be picking up the game later this month?
Broken Age: Part 1 will be available January 28, 2014 for $29.99 on Steam.
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