Broken Age, video game, Shay, Vella, worlds, space, countryside, asleep

Preview: Broken Age

Earlier this week, Kim received her Steam key for the first act of Broken Age for being a backer – and she has been hooked since.

Title overview

Name: Broken Age
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Release date: January 2014 to April 2015, two episodes
PEGI rating: 12
Platforms: Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, OUYA, PC, PlayStation 4, PS Vita
More information: Official website

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Kim says…

Double Fine Productions kicked off the video game crowd-funding craze back in March 2012 when it managed to raise $3,336,371 from 87,142 Kickstarter backers in just one month to make a new title, previously known as Double Fine Adventure. Unfortunately for me, this happened way before was formed so I sadly missed the chance to become one of these originals. But when the developer announced its Humble Bundle promotion in May 2013 I jumped at the chance; not only would I get some amazing games like Costume Quest and Pyschonauts, but paying over the average would mean I could become a ‘slacker-backer’.

Earlier this week I received a Steam key in the email along with a message from the team. They said: “It’s been a complete honour to get to make this game in this way. In true game development fashion, it’s been a long and difficult process, but your relentless faith and enthusiasm has made every moment a real pleasure. All of us at Double Fine know it’s only because of you that this game exists, but your relentless faith and enthusiasm has made every moment a real pleasure.”

The email continued: “For almost two years we’ve been working really hard on Broken Age, and you are the reason why… we’re grateful for the many months of support, feedback, concern and excitement we’ve gotten from our amazing backer community. Everyone here at Double Fine can’t wait to hear what you think!” So let’s get on and do just that huh?

Because this release only contains the first act of Broken Age, with a date for the release of the second not yet being announced, I don’t feel entirely comfortable writing a review of the game at the present time. But we couldn’t not bring our dear readers any details so here’s a preview for you instead! At the time of writing this post I’ve only played the title for a couple of hours but I can already say that I’m falling in love with Tim Schafer’s latest offering of point-and-click goodness.

Broken Age’s plot centres on two teenagers, one who’s trying to escape the ‘honour’ of her duties and the other who wants to break the bonds of the protective force watching over him. Feisty Vella is preparing to be sacrificed to the gigantic Mog Chothra, a monstrous creature of tentacles and many eyes. The ritual of feeding the beast on young maidens every fourteen years keeps him at bay, or so the Sugar Bunting village elders say; but our heroine can’t accept this and wants to know why they can’t just kill the damn thing. Ah, a girl after my own heart.

Meanwhile, Shay is the sole inhabitant of the spaceship Bassa Nostra but rather than being a high-tech craft, it looks more like a nursery. The play ‘missions’ he’s sent out on, such as saving villagers trapped in an avalanche of ice-cream by eating through the obstacle, no longer hold any entertainment value and he’s thoroughly bored. Overprotective AIs serve as parents for the teenager and as they search for a new home for him, Shay begins to wonder if there isn’t something a little more exciting outside the confines of his ship.

The ability to leave the more traditional fantasy setting of Vella’s world for Shay’s high-tech, isolated one (and vice versa) is a welcome addition.

Neither Vella nor Shay can accept the cards they’ve been dealt and both are looking for a way to escape their fate. They find themselves embarking on two very different adventures, although they’re related in ways you may not necessarily expect. Players are given the option to switch between their stories at will; this serves no real purpose in terms of the plot and you could potentially complete the section for one character before starting on the other. But the ability to leave the more traditional fantasy setting of Vella’s world for Shay’s high-tech, isolated one (and vice versa) is a welcome addition.

Broken Age plays the same as many classic point-and-clicks: you click on characters to talk to them, click on items to interact with them, and drag objects from your inventory to use them in your environment. None of the puzzles I’ve encountered so far have been particularly challenging (except one, where I missed the correct conversation topic because it was hidden under my task bar!) and for the most part the game is pretty straight-forward. The plot is linear and the only real decisions for players to make is the order in which they tackle the puzzles.

One of the high points of Broken Age so far has to be the absolutely glorious visuals. There are plenty of differences between Vella and Shay’s worlds, the former being magical and almost cuddly while the latter is a little colder; and although they’re relatively small, both are beautifully realised. The understated, painted style stands out against some of the other gaudy and deliberately attention-grabbing titles out there, and it’s almost like a child’s storybook brought to life.

Broken Age, video game, Mog Chothra, Vella, Maiden's Feast, ballgowns

Another highlight is the sound: totally gorgeous and full of melodic strings and violins. At first the soundtrack kind of reminded me of that from Fable but the comparison isn’t quite right; Broken Age manages to be softer yet somehow fuller, whilst being completely unobtrusive. There’s some lovely voice-acting from stars such as Elijah Woods, Jack Black and Wil Wheaton, and their performances combine to create a cast you can’t help but fall in love with.

I may not have gotten my hands on the second act just yet or even completed the first all the way through, but so far I don’t have any regrets about becoming a slacker-backer for Broken Age. This tale of self-discovery and rebellion is a beautiful mix of traditional point-and-click and modern innovation. Double Fine have managed to create two unique worlds filled with charm and silliness and, if like me you grew up in the company of Ben, Manny and the rest of the crew, it’ll feel just like you’re coming home.

Broken Age can be pre-purchased from Steam right now £18.99 (there’s currently a ten percent discount off of that price so hurry). The game will unlock on 28 January 2014 and the second act will be released as a free update later this year. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long…

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