broken pieces review: strong setup that's lacking details

PC Review Code Provided by Freedom Games

Bringing a new map-wide puzzle experience with a mixture of action in the midst of puzzle solving are developers Elsewhere Experience and publisher Freedom Games. They just released a psychological thriller title called Broken Pieces that takes place in a French village. Given a strange premise that leads you down a steady flow of issues to solve, this game has quite an amazing setup to it. However, the further I played into the game, the more complaints I found myself having.

Story

After a mysterious attack on the small French village that Elise and her fiance moved to, Elise would find herself alone within all of Saint-Exil. Now that she’s surrounded by strange phenomena in a dark, post-Cold War climate, Elise will have to investigate and unravel the mysteries surrounding the region of Saint-Exil, its ritualistic cult, and its lighthouse overlooking the coast. It’s her only hope to find out what exactly happened and maybe even set things back to normal.

Gameplay

Starting out the game, you can explore your house and get used to the controls from all the interactions needed to retrieve your weapon from the shed. This will prompt you to head to a shooting range below where you can try out your first combat mechanics. What you aren’t directly told here is that your basic ammo in the game will be infinite, but you can find or craft better ammo later. There are no melee options, so short of your few powers, so get used to the weapon.

Another thing you aren’t properly told in the tutorial is that when you are shooting, you will have a low accuracy rating. The only way to fix this and improve your chance to land the shot is to hold the aim on your target for a few seconds. You will be able to visibly see the target shrink and turn red. The smaller it is and the redder the target, the better your aim will be for that shot.

Once in combat, another useful thing to know is your ability to push enemies away from you. By pressing the dedicated button for that ability, enemies that are close enough to get hit by the force that leaves you in a full circle around your body will be pushed back. Enemies only have melee attacks so if you push them away, they can’t hit you. However, you also have the dodge option if you don’t want to use the force power or you run out of energy to use it.

Enemies typically are defeated when they take a certain amount of damage or deliver a certain amount of damage. It wasn’t clear if it hurts them when they hit you or why hitting you makes them leave, but it is an interesting design choice for the game. There is only one type of enemy and no boss fights in the game, so take that as you will.

broken pieces review: strong setup that's lacking details

Throughout the game, you will be running through various parts of the village trying to complete the objectives on your list. The objectives page can be pulled up at any time to check and this is the same screen where you will find all of your notes, guides, and such that you have collected. Other than your notes area, you can find hints in tapes you find by playing them on your portable tape player.

The first few objectives will have you solve a few puzzles that wind up reoccurring. The deeper into the game you go, the more unique the puzzles start to become. You can expect to have to run all over the village to solve many of these puzzles as you have limited inventory – there is a chest in your house to store things – and you will have to find what you need. Unfortunately, they don’t give you a map so it will be mostly on you to remember the map. There are at least signs all over the place that you can read with directions and when you are going to go through a door that will take you to a different area, it says where it will take you and how long the travel time will be.

Another thing you will have to keep in mind is whether it should be spring or winter weather. You will eventually gain the ability to change the world between these two options and it changes a lot of different aspects, such as the height of the water in the area and if doors are blocked off or not.

As you make your way around the village, be mindful of the time. Once it hits 8pm, or 2000, the streets go dark and it has legitimately hard to see where you are going. Not only that, but enemies tend to pop up more often at night. You can always check your watch for the time. Your safe place is back home, so when you get there make sure you put all your crafting goods in the chest so when you wake up it will then be turned into high-quality ammo for you. Every time you rest, it will save the game, but you can also save out in the village simply by sitting on any bench you find.

Audio and Visual

I like that they keep this game silent and leave the player with just the sound effects of the world around them. They give the option for music with the portable tape player and allow players to turn on songs from their track list in the menu, but for someone like me to likes background noise or silence when solving problems, it is a nice atmosphere.

Aesthetically, this game gives off a modernized PlayStation 2-era art style to it. While they don’t go all out to make the game look phenomenal, it looks just like the top-of-the-line titles from the early 2000s. I even found plenty of plant life stuck inside objects, just like the good ole days.

Replayability

From what I could tell, this game doesn’t have different endings. Everything was pretty straightforward, so other than wanting to do some of the optional tasks, there isn’t much reason to replay this game.

What It Could Have Done Better

broken pieces review: strong setup that's lacking details

When a game is based on traveling around the whole map to find things, the least they could do is give you a location or two with a proper map to look over. Sometimes, it is easier to visualize your path with an idea of what the place looks like. I wound up spending a lot of time just traveling to different places thinking I was heading somewhere else. On the same hand, I wound up finding places I hadn’t gone yet that I had thought I already checked out because I had no indication to remind me to circle back to this particular section of this particular area.

Why is there only one type of enemy? This game is prime for so many different enemies to show up and yet we only get the one type. I save my high-quality ammo through the entire game expecting a boss fight or some nasty enemy to really threaten me, but it just kept being those ghosts. It’s honestly pretty weak and felt like an excuse of an enemy just so you could have action in your game in some way.

At least they did great work with the puzzles themselves, but if they aren’t going to properly set up the enemies then just don’t have them. Same with the story – I felt like the lore was a good premise, but the execution of delivering details were lacking. After reading a bunch of notes and listening to a bunch of tapes, I could still only vaguely give you a description of what is going on…

Verdict

Broken Pieces is a solid puzzle game that lacks in its story delivery and action quality. While I really enjoy playing through the whole game just because I wanted to solve the puzzles and get to the bottom of the story, I felt a bit let down when I never came across new enemies and the ending was just so simplistic. So, there is a sense of completion in the fact that I got through some convoluted puzzles, but then there is the letdown sense from a game that didn’t give a final ‘wow’ factor.

Broken Pieces is now available on PC via Steam and Epic Games, and coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S on October 31st.

broken pieces review: strong setup that's lacking details

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