In February of 2012, Double Fine Productions kicked off the Kickstarter boom with the promise of an old-school point-and-click adventure game. The untitled game was a huge success, attracting more than 87,000 backers who pledged more than $3.3 million to the project. Today, their promise has finally been fulfilled… kind of.
Broken Age follows two main characters, Vella and Shay. Vella is a young girl from a world under constant assault by a horrible monster called Mog Chothra. Mog Chothra is fed sacrifices of young maidens by every village to appease it and prevent its wrath. Shay Is a young man trapped on a spaceship, taken care of by the ship’s computers, and unable to enjoy any real freedom or choice. Vella and Shay are played separately, and it’s up to the player to unwind the mystery of how their stories connect.
Each main character has a novel story, with different, interesting characters and unique personalities. Double Fine’s trademark humor is prevalent, and fans of classic Schafer games will feel right at home. On the downside, as only the first half of the game, the story ends on a pretty bad cliffhanger (though certainly an interesting revelation). Regardless, the narrative was engaging enough to keep me entertained throughout, and I never felt bored or unmotivated by the events.
Enhancing the narrative is a beautiful soundtrack, artwork, and outstanding voice acting. Masasa Moyo as Vella and Elijah Wood as Shay are emotive and interesting, and the rest of the game’s nerdy, star-studded cast (featuring the likes of Jack Black, Wil Wheaton, and Jennifer Hale) are equally impressive. The game’s vibrant 2D art makes every scene look like a painting you could hang on your wall.
If you’re looking for an action game, or any sort of action elements, you will have to look elsewhere. Double Fine promised a pure point-and-click adventure game and that’s what they have created. Broken Age takes very few liberties with the formula, sticking to dialog trees, item collection, and item interaction to progress the game. Adventure game veterans will not find Broken Age very challenging, but the interactions are interesting, clever, and rewarding.
Unfortunately, Broken Age does make one fairly major stumble, and that’s with sheer volume of content. The game costs a fairly standard adventure game price of $25. This is in line with what Telltale Games charges for their successful The Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us seasons, but Broken Age appears to be half the size of those games. Part 1 was completed in just about 3 hours, which makes this otherwise excellent offering considerably expensive compared to its competitors.
Broken Age is both a huge success and a cautionary tale for Kickstarter backers. While the game absolutely delivers on great gameplay, story, and production value rarely seen in the genre, its short length and the fact that you’ll have to wait months for the second half of the game are worrying. Shortcomings aside, Broken Age is a great adventure game, and one any fan will want to own.