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Broken Age

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It looks like Double-Fine has rescinded the review embargo stating that it is obviously "very exciting" for people and controlling that would be difficult. They've graciously allowed all reviews and let's play videos of the game asking only to keep yourself from spoiling the ending (which is GOOD, definitely keeps you wanting more). I highly recommend pre-ordering on Steam for those who haven't backed or bought it yet. For those interested, here's my review of the game I put on Steam:

 

 

 

As a backer of the Kickstarter for this game, I was given early access to Act I. So I won't spoil any of the story, but I will say that this is a very good adventure game experience, on par with the classics of the Golden Era (80s & 90s). I've been waiting for these games to come back and what better way to re-usher them in than with a brand new game from Tim Schafer himself, an adventure star who designed the likes of Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, and Day of the Tentacle. He also had a hand in designing the first two Monkey Island games by Ron Gilbert. These are adventure gaming classics. I've only played half the game so far, but the other half is coming in a few months as of this writing. That said here are my thoughts:


The Good

  • Story: Very intriguing. I was very invested in both the girl and boy's characters and was quite interested to see where their stories would take them and how they'd eventually intertwine. The experience was not unrewarding and definitely wasn't a disappointment!
  • Writing: Tim's humour is expectedly very present in the game. His trademark sarcasm and wit are strewn throughout the dialogue and even into some of the look of the locations. It's a very bizarre and funny world Tim has created, but not too bizarre. Just recognizable enough to not seem too far out and unrelatable.
  • Art style: The 2D painted artwork style is fantastic. I was initially skeptical in the beginning of Bagel's art style, once I'd seen some of his work in one of the hidden backer forum threads on the Double Fine forums. But I have to say that my skepticism was misplaced. This game has a lovely quality and very pleasing aesthetic. The artwork truly does resemble a beautiful painting come to life. And despite this it is absolutely brimming with detail in every scene. It's beautiful to just sit and watch, but it also works very well for the gaming experience and story. Some of the girl's locations actually reminded me of Curse of Monkey Island, even though the styles are wildly different. While the boy's space ship is unlike anything I've ever seen for a space ship. It's all very unique and with just a dash of familiarity in it as well.
  • Animation: Truly charming and natural. Everything seemed so alive. Not like puppets on strings, but real characters that were moving on their own. Special care was given to these animations. Every one showed amazing attention to detail and added a great deal of character to everything that moved. Every character in the game had their own unique persona that spoke volumes about their motivations and intentions. One of my favourite aspects of the design of the game!
  • Voice acting: Top notch. Every voice puts a life and an identity into their characters in a way that binds them to their personas where I could not justify turning voices off and just reading subtitles. The voices are truly special and unique and are really part of the experience in a huge way. So don't mute them.
  • Soundtrack: Peter McConnell did a fantastic job with the soundtrack. The themes are very fitting and atmospheric, yet the themes for the boy and girl and their locales are separate and distinct from eachother, as should be expected. Peter doesn't disappoint. As a backer, I also received the soundtrack to the game which I immediately put straight on my player for my long drives to work. And it's played by a live orchestra. Can't beat that. Truly effective work. Bravo, Peter.


The "Wish-It-Was-Better":

  • Puzzles: The heart of the adventure game experience (combined with story). There are some great puzzles in this game, but as a veteran adventure gamer I was expecting a bit more of a challenge. Especially in the beginning, the puzzles were fairly simple. I assume to ease in new or rusty players. Luckily these simple "tutorial" puzzles didn't last long at all end began to become more complex soon enough, to my relief. As long as I was thorough, however, I never missed anything. Years of adventure gaming has taught me to leave no stone unturned and to keep a mental map image in my head of where certain characters, objects, and puzzles were located. This made it easier to deduce when and where I'd be needing certain objects or what objects I might need in certain areas. I ended up acquiring all of the objects I needed ahead of time before I needed to use them, which sped up the gameplay a bit. But that's due to my obsessive style of exploration. Other gamers might not share this and thus wouldn't run into the same problem, which would probably extend the experience for them. There was no so-called "moon logic" in this game, which many classic adventure games were infamous for. Personally, I never had a problem with extremely hard puzzles and enjoyed them, but many others (especially nowadays) don't share this feeling. Luckily, they won't be disappointed with this game as a result.
  • Length: Keeping in mind that I have only played Act I, I still have to say it was somewhat shorter than I expected. If Act I is truly an exact halfway point in the game, then I can only hope that the puzzles in Act II are much more difficult. I wish it was longer. I'll have to put it away for a year or two after completing Act II and come back to it to see just how long the game actually is with a fresh perspective from beginning to end.


Overall

 

The world of Broken Age is an immensely pleasing and fun one to live in and explore. The story is gripping and mysterious. By the end of Act I you are left wondering just WHAT in the world is going on! It left me wanting more, but in a good way. Luckily we will be getting more! I encountered no bugs whatsoever. The game played extremely smoothly and there were no unexpected quirks. I was finding myself missing the skip dialogue function from the older LucasArts SCUMM engine games by pressing '.'. Instead it only lets you skip entire "cutscenes" of dialogue. Not a huge issue, as there never really was anything that I needed to skip specifically to get at something new from a repeated conversation. I would like a "retro" filter shortcut for the game to make it seem all pixelated and 90s looking if only for the novelty. ;)

I highly recommend this game to those who enjoy a good story in gaming and those who appreciate a work of art. Newcomers to the adventure genre who are mildly curious but fearful of ominously difficult puzzles needn't worry as everything is intuitive and logical, but still challenging enough I feel to give you a great experience without seeming too easy or too short. Adventure veterans may find the challenge a little lackluster, but what little it may lack in puzzle challenge it makes up for in pretty much everything else. It won't be the next puzzle masterpiece adventure game, but it is surely a very good start to the great Adventure Resurgence! It appeals to old and new fans alike and, I feel, is the perfect bridge to link the two together. Take us onward, Double-Fine! Here's hoping for more adventures after Broken Age!

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Broken Age managed to succeed my expectations, the quality of the game is nothing short of astonishing and as it is, the gameplay reminded me a lot of Lucasfilm adventures, espcially those with simplified UI's. Personally I felt like the UI and gameplay were direct evolution from those simpler UI's which Lucasfilm abandoned in order to favour the clunkier UI's in Grim Fandango and MI4.

 

Aestehtically the game is stunning. The graphics are stylish and vibrant and even the smallest side characters have quite a bit of personality. The voice acting is among the best I've heard in any game and if none of these areas aren't rewarded in at least in some game industry awards it'll be a travesty.

 

While the first act is about 3-4 hours long, I expect the final to be around 8, it could be even longer if Schafer really keeps his word and amps up the difficulty for the final chapter.  But even how the game is now, it is among the best games Schafer has done. It's well written, witty and it flows in the way that would make games 10 times more expensive jelaous. If the second act surpasses what was shown here, Broken Age might just become Schafers best game.

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I would like a "retro" filter shortcut for the game to make it seem all pixelated and 90s looking if only for the novelty. ;)

 

You seem to have overlooked the pixelated graphics feature, which Oliver Franzke mentioned in one of the backer video episodes. I think instructions for turning it on are here:

http://www.joystiq.com/2014/01/16/heres-how-you-activate-broken-ages-pixelated-retro-mode/

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I did miss it, but discovered it later on.

 

Also, I should note that my opinion of the game is not as glowing anymore. After the rush of excitement of seeing a new "adventure" game by Tim Schafer wore off, there were no lasting feelings of fondness. I wasn't that impressed. The story is great as all of Tim's stories are, but the gameplay is extremely lacking. The puzzles are extremely easy. EXTREMELY easy. I now realize Tim doesn't believe in extreme puzzle difficulty anymore (if he ever did) and that makes me very sad. Please, Two Guys, please please please don't go the popular route and make SpaceVenture an easy story game about atmosphere and characters more than multi-tiered and complex puzzles. Story is important, but so are the puzzles. The two most important aspects of any true adventure game must be balanced evenly. Give me reasons to explore and stick around areas. Make me stop and really think. Make me stuck! Yes, stuck! I'm not going to find that experience at Double Fine or Telltale Games.

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I second your plea for hard puzzles! One of the reasons I'm so fond of the Space Quest games, especially the early ones, is that I spent days, sometimes weeks, stuck in certain areas. (Give me a break...I was young!) I will never forget the feeling of instant elation in SQ1 (EGA) when I finally found the broken glass outside the crashed escape pod on Kerona and knew I could finally pass those frickin' lasers! Also, all that time spent in "what-did-I-miss" mode helped me to find, and to really appreciate, the myriad little details and descriptions that went into each game.

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Not enough "game" there. Not enough challenge. Almost felt like an animated series episode with some interactivity thrown in. Felt short, small, lacked ability to explore.

 

Great atmosphere and engaging story, though. A few of those characters reminded me of the creepy "Paranoia Agent" (animated series) dog character Maromi that encourages the main character to avoid facing life's hardships and taking responsibility and to instead run and hide in an escapist world.

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Double Fine not able to plan, again...

Not entirely Broken Age related, or even adventure game related, but I was quite looking forward to the ongoing development of SpaceBase DF-9. There was quite a lot of potential to "Dwarf Fortress in space", where you can get quite attached to the rich world and personal relationships between your dwarves/crewmen.

Now, there's a game there. It's OK. Probably worth the £12 (or so) I paid for it. But given that it was sold on the premise that it would keep improving, this is a bit of a kick to the groin.

Makes me wonder, given the way in which Broken Age ended up being developed and the money management issues - as well as the criticisms here about a lack of depth (precisely the current issue with DF9) - whether this might be a company to think twice about in the future? Not sure.  :huh:

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Oh, I'm never funding anything by them again. Just from the fact that what I thought I'd be getting from them I didn't. This was my error I guess, not DF's, though. I thought I knew what kind of a game they were capable of making. The Broken Age outcome coupled with this news...no. Not again.

 

I should add that I don't really care about the money "issues". Developing games is not an exact science. I don't care how it's funded as long as we get the game. The problem is how the game is developed.

 

Of course, in this case it DOES have something to do with money I suppose.

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I agree entirely. There's a lot of entitled arses complaining, effectively, that they bought an early access game and got one. There is, however, a trust issue. I'm not sure I trust these guys to deliver what they initially plan to. That's not wrong, or dishonest on their part. This is the nature of prefunding. Just don't expect people to keep trusting you if you consistently fail to deliver.   

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I can't defend Double Fine's developing practices either. I still do like the first part of Broken Age they did manage to get out, but the developement of the second half has taken already far too long. Despite my foudess I've noticed that my interest towards the game is fading away due to the time gap between.

I really wouldn't fund anything by them either, if they'd come back in the KS. I've liked the documentary and the game, but being that they were the first project I backed and they still haven't finished the game while many others have, I can't help but to feel disappointed.

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SpaceVenture hasn't finished anything yet, let alone a first half or part of a game. This doesn't bother me. Development times and money issues...I just don't care. If the game comes out and it's good then I consider it time and money well spent, both for myself and the developers. With DF, I had faith in them...faith that was misplaced. I don't like the game they ended up making. Of course, the second half could still be better, but I can't comment on it right now. All I know is that Act 1 is not what I wanted. If Act 2 is better then I'll change my tune.....I can't imagine that, though, because I just don't believe that Tim's vision of an adventure game is something I have in common with him.

 

As for the Two Guys, I still believe we share that common ground. At least mostly. I will continue to believe this until the game is out. I'm still all for giving people a chance.

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I still do like the first part of Broken Age they did manage to get out, but the developement of the second half has taken already far too long. Despite my foudess I've noticed that my interest towards the game is fading away due to the time gap between.

I have noticed that with the current practice of TV seasons lasting only about a month that even shows I have been very drawn to I have started to lose interest before the next season begins.

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I love Tim and I think he's hilarious. Double Fine games always have that spark.

 

However, Double Fine is a poorly run company. They don't know how to manage anything at all, and they're too nice to find real business people to work for them.

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I have noticed that with the current practice of TV seasons lasting only about a month that even shows I have been very drawn to I have started to lose interest before the next season begins.

This is also an issue for me, especially after I got Netflix from where I have the bad habit of watchin multiple episodes in a row.

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Yeah, if you're going to do a joke like that (and it was quite funny), you're going to regret it if you don't deliver.

To be fair, though, there's an instagram account of Mark Crowe and Chris Pope shoving twenties into strippers' underwear at a club in Des Moins.

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It really does annoy me how Schafer is always in the spotlight, as if he's some sort of adventure game design guru. He made some great stuff, but now I feel he's stealing a lot of attention from more talented, but less interwebz-famous, designers just by throwing crap at the wall till something sticks.

 

I don't have anything personal against the man at all, but judging from what I've heard about Broken Age, his talent is massively overrated.

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his talent is massively overrated.

Most people tend to be. especially if they've worked a long time within their fields. Just like many other long time devs, or pretty much any other creative worker be them directors or writers, Schafer is merely competent in his work and there's no shame in that. But that doesn't mean that he wouldn't be able to strike something really great with the complete Broken Age, as I do think the final part of the game will be the defining factor which either makes it or breaks it.

 

A lot of things many people remember him of rose also from the culture and environment he worked at Lucasfilm. While he always did try to move the UI and gameplay forward, he also gained a lot from those surroundings and culture. Now that he is running DF he's just letting the culture of his own company to effect the end result the same way.

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Scott Manley backs quite a lot of Kickstarters and Early Access titles, mostly to do with sci-fi.

 

Anyway, one of the good points he makes here is that Double Fine spent far more and got far less productivity out of their project than comparable games. Rimworld, FTL, Maia, Kerbal Space Program. Despite having a bigger, more-established studio, they were pumping out less material than one guy in his house in Canada (Rimworld). Pretty pathetic, really.

 

I know a lot of Kickstarters - the Two Guys Included - have realised that maybe having a developer forcing you to keep deadlines isn't always a terrible thing. But they were, for the most part, 1-5 people in a virtual office. Double Fine has the infrastructure. Just needs a man with a whip...

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I think I got spoilt with Kerbal Space Program and Prison Architect, both of which are perfect examples of how to do Early Access (i.e., have a good base game before you start, and allow the extra money and alpha feedback to help you make the game even better).

 

Back to Dwarf Fortress for a while...

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I'm rather wary of this whole early access system. Even if the developers choose not to abandon their game halfway through, I'm deeply opposed to the whole idea of "Hey, let's not only make our customers betatest our game for free, let's make them fucking PAY for it!" But like you said, there's devs out there that at least try to not abuse their customers with it.

 

Then there's Double Fine... The only decent thing they could have done is to pull the game, apologise and have the common courtesy to offer refunds to customers who bought the thing hoping that it might become a finished game some day. Instead, they still bloody try to ENTICE you to buy it!

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But on the plus side, they did an awesome job of completely overhauling Grim Fandango for the remaster...

New character models and animation, beautiful redrawn/rendered backgrounds, can switch between control systems,

surround sound mix of the music, 16:9 aspect ratio...

 

Joking... they just did new lighting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mi_uHSTbL6g

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