Broken Age

Broken Age? More like Broken Promise.

By PKKHaseo, Posted 31 Jan 2014

Broken Age is the latest title released by Double Fine Productions, an American video game developer founded by Tim Schafer back in 2000 and mostly known for their critically acclaimed title Psychonauts. It was one of the first games to have been successfully kickstarted. The Kickstarter campaign was highly successful and the developer managed to raise $3.3 million which was way more than their initial goal of $400,000 ($300,000 reserved for the game, $100,000 for the making-of documentary). Fast-forward almost two years later and, with the release of the game’s first act of two, it’s time to see if the wait was worth the time.

The game tells its story from the perspective of two characters Vella Tartine and Shay Volta. At the start of a new game, Broken Age will have you pick which story you wish to experience first. Vella’s story starts with her being picked as one of the participants in the Maiden’s Feast, a barbaric ritual where a village sacrifices young maidens every 14 years to a creature called Mog Chothra to ensure the safety of the rest of that particular village. Her family organizes a farewell secret party and this is where Vella starts having her doubts towards the ritual and thinks that maybe fighting the monster would be a better option. This of course is met with laughter from her family, with the exception of her grandpa, who despises the fact that the town, once filled with badass warriors, had turned into a town of bakers.

Broken Age Review, Double Fine, Tim Schafer, Kickstarter

Being part of Project Dandelion, the last chance at survival for a space faring race, Shay dreams that one day he will break out of his monotonous daily routine on the ship and find some true adventure. The ship was designed to find other planets suitable for colonization, since its creators’ planet was slowly dying. The brain of the spaceship is a computer that seems to have a split personality, Mom and Dad (though it prefers using the Mom personality more). While the Dad part seems quite ok and well balanced, its counterpart, Mom, is a bit on the psycho side acting like an overly attached “helicopter” mom that would do anything to keep her Shay away from anything she feels might prove dangerous to him. Under this pretenses Shay gets in contact with Marek, a mysterious guy dressed in a wolf outfit; but is he friend or foe?

The first thing you’ll notice when starting to play is the distinct 2D art style of the game. All the scenes in the game are beautifully hand painted and nicely animated giving away a strong vibe of old school. Broken Age makes great use of the parallax effect, making it easy to discern between stuff in the foreground and the background and this way, despite it being rendered in two dimensions, the world still feels like it’s a well fleshed 3D world.  Every place you visit has a different theme to it; for instance, the first village in Vella’s story, Sugar Bunting, is filled with bakers so everything looks like cake and sweet stuff. Even the offering stands design for Mog Chothra look like cakes with the maidens being the cherry on top. The voice overs are top notch but that’s to be expected with people like Elijah Wood, Jack Black and Masasa Moyo on board the project.

So far everything sounds nice and dandy but we’ve been ignoring the elephant in the room pretending to be a porcelain figure. And by that I mean the length of the game; Act 1 of Broken Age took me 3-4 hours to get through and if this is anything to go by, once Act 2 releases, the entire game will clock somewhere between 6 and 7 hours of gameplay. This is mostly due to the fact that, unlike old-school point and click adventure games that had quite a lot of puzzles with some of them requiring a lot of thought from your part, Broken Age’s puzzles are more than casual. It feels like they were made to appeal to a wider audience. This beats the initial aim of the project which was to create a classic old-school adventure game. It also doesn’t help that the game’s story is very short and, while being a really great tale to tell, it offers little to no replay value.

Broken Age Review, Double Fine, Tim Schafer, Kickstarter

The shortage of content came as a huge surprise considering the immense success the Kickstarter campaign was, with Double Fine managing to raise 10 times more than they were originally expecting. This begs the question, what would have happened if Tim Schafer’s campaign was less successful and had only just managed to reach the initial goal. Would we have had a game that was 30 minutes long with one puzzle?  In the light of these events, it feels like Broken Age isn’t just a flagrant case of funds misuse, but also a case of taking advantage of the project’s backers that invested both financially and emotionally in the game.

Now, I know a lot of people will argue that, hey, developing games is expensive so this is all that they could have done with this budget and I beg to differ. Firstly, how could a studio, made out of such heavy names that have been developing games for 20 years or more, underestimate the developing costs so harshly that even raising 10 times more than their estimate wasn’t enough to bring us a complete story more than two years after being successfully crowd funded? Secondly, let’s take the example of another successfully crowd funded game. The Banner Saga got successfully kickstarted about one month after Broken Age and raised a bit over $700,000, releasing this year around the same time as Broken Age. How did Stoic’s game manage to not only bring you an art style, story, voice overs and music on par with Tim Schafer’s game (if not better), but also have way more in-depth mechanics, tons of replay-value and around 18+ hours of gameplay with 5 times less funds? I’ll let you answer that one.

The biggest nail in Broken Age’s coffin though isn’t even the lack of content. It’s the huge competition when it comes to point and click adventure games. Contrary to Tim Schafer’s belief that the point and click genre was dead, reality says a different thing. There are plenty of great point and clicks available on the market right now for the same price, if not less, as Broken Age such as Daedalic’s Memoria, Chains of Satinav, Deponia or The Night of the Rabbit, Frogwares’ The Testament of Sherlock Holmes and that’s without mentioning any of Telltale’s games.  So, no, the genre isn’t dead but rather quite lively and there are plenty of alternatives that will provide the fans of the genre with more bang for their buck.

Broken Age Review, Double Fine, Tim Schafer, Kickstarter

In the end, while Broken Age does provide a lot of polish and quality, the lack of actual content makes it a huge disappointment, even more so coming from someone that has been in the industry longer than I’ve lived. So I have to ask. What happened to the idea of creating a classic old-school point and click adventure game? At what point did such a promising title turn into such a mess? Well, whether you’ll agree with this review or not, Broken Age is still available right now on Steam for $24.99, £18.99 or €22.99.

Cirstoiu Alexandru Constantin, NoobFeed

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General Information

Broken Age


Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Double Fine Productions
Developer(s): Double Fine Productions
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Adventure
Release Date: 2014-01-28

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