Broken Age

June 21, 2014 by Lucian Mogosanu

Meta: While this is a post standing on its own, it also happens to be, by some strange twist of fate, the sequel to one of my previous writings, more specifically the one where I describe the beauty of Grim Fandango. Unlike other posts in the gaming category, however, this one has no motto. We will see why in the following paragraphs.

So, once upon a time, there was this guy called Tim Schafer. While working as a producer for LucasArts, he made some of the greatest adventures ever created, of which I won't remind any right now, but I'm sure you know them all, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this. Anyway, as I was previously hinting, Schafer went along with the whole downfall-of-the-adventure-genre thing and gave birth to some really ugly gaming experiences, of which we shall once again remind Grim Fandango. My, those were dark times indeed.

But here we are in our Lord's year 2014, a year of so-called "indie" games: back two years ago, Schafer started a crowdfunding campaign that gathered well over three million bucks and resulted in hype, heaps of hope and many promises. That's when the idea of "Double Fine Adventure" came to be, mostly from the name of Schafer's new studio, Double Fine Productions, or something like that.

So Double Fine get funded beyond their wildest expectations, then they start working on this adventure game, and well, at some point find out they're out of the shitloads of money invested by their backers. About two years later, that is, in our Lord's year 2014, they manage to release the first act of this game, which they now name Broken Age. And here we are.

Broken Age tells the story of two people, or children, living in what appear to be two entirely different worlds. One of them, Vella, is part of some kind of fantasy world populated with monsters and sacrificed maidens, while the other, Shay, is a lonely, bored kid, living on a spaceship for as long as he's known. As an aside, the two characters (and not only them) are played by what most people would consider to be top-notch voice actors, namely Masasa Moyo and Elijah Wood.

Thus, the player embarks in what appears to be two entirely different adventures, each with its own story; and what boring stories the two seemed to be, and how utterly disappointed I was at about halfway through the game -- luckily, the game is really, really, really, really short. Remember the old LucasArts adventures? Remember Grim Fandango? Hell, remember Day of the fucking Tentacle? Well, I'll tell you, Broken Age is none of these. The humour is bland, the scenes make no sense -- and that's okay for a comedy, except, y'know, the humour is bland --, the characters are ephemeral despite being played by such good actors, but wait, that's not all.

All things considered, the game's atmosphere is not bad at all. The orchestral soundtrack is a lovely piece of art, while on the other hand, the graphics are great: both seem to have been conceived with much attention to detail, and this shows, like it should in any good movie1. On top of it, the game's interface blends with the story so well: the inventory is there only when it's supposed to be, all the important objects and characters are obvious, while the mechanics are definitely no-nonsense, which really brings out the fun in point-and-click.

So you know, this really isn't such a bad game, except it's too damn short and the story/stories are way too forgettable; with the notable exception of the first act's ending2, which is a really good cliffhanger and, honestly, it's pretty much the best thing in the whole game. Seriously, I loved it and can't wait to see what happens next3.

I shall conclude my short post by answering the question posed at its beginning. So, why no motto? Unfortunately I have failed to find any memorable quotes within the first act of Broken Age. Does this mean that it can't live up to its predecessors? I don't know, maybe not; or maybe. Time will tell.

  1. Only I've always thought that, in terms of narrative, games are much closer to books than to movies. Maybe that's why Broken Age is so short after all, while old LucasArts games are so long. This, however, has nothing to do with the games' actual quality, I've played short adventure games that have stuck with me forever. 

  2. At the time of writing, Broken Age has only one act released. Out of two, I suppose. 

  3. I bought the "season pass" as they call it now when they sell an entire game to you. If there's one thing that makes Broken Age less of an adventure than the old ones, it's this whole dubious marketing tactic. Seriously, Tim, this looks like nothing more than a cheap scam to us old farts. 

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One Response to “Broken Age”

  1. [...] point and click adventures. Surely, I'm a nostalgic prick and an old fart, but newer titles such as Broken Age and The Walking Dead don't fit the bill; they're certainly not what I'm personally expecting from a [...]

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