Broken Roads Torture You With Personality-Changing Moral Choices (And That’s Awesome)
Your journey in Broken road, a classy RPG set in the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Western Australia, begins with a quiz. Similar to Blade Runner’s Voight-Kampff, it poses a series of hypothetical scenarios and asks how you would react. What would you do if you found out that a man who was taken to be executed was probably innocent? How will you deal with scavengers looting from a place you find first? How would you treat a captured robber who raided your home? Each of your answers is drawn on a literal moral compass, an enduring and enduring mechanic that will shape your character’s worldview for the next 25 hours.
That compass is divided into four segments – humanistic, pragmatic, nihilistic, and Machiavellian – and your position on that spectrum determines what dialogues and actions your protagonist can take. For example, a humanist would be forbidden to give the most horrible answers simply because they never considered speaking out. But experiences shape us, and your character’s worldview can change over time. A pragmatist can slowly find their heart and become a humanist, or slide down the slopes of manipulation and end up a Machiavellian. Sometimes, your worldview expands to include more perspectives, opening up more dialogue options. Other times, it will narrow, locking in options but also granting you special abilities in return for your dedication to a particular worldview.
That’s the promise from Australian developer Drop Bear Bytes. When I first played the 30-minute demo of Broken Roads at Gamescom earlier this year, which contained only two short missions, there wasn’t enough time to see how the compass changed with each new decision. Naturally, I won’t be able to see the impact of my mount decisions until Broken Roads comes out in full force. But I’ve played this demo over three other times, using protagonists created around very different worldviews, and watched with fascination as those two demo missions changed and transformed one another. appropriate way.
It all started on a dusty street, where a woman lay sobbing next to her dead husband’s body. At the side of the road, her son, Will, held a smoking gun. This simple scenario branches like a tree in full bloom. Will you talk Will down, carefully persuading him to drop the gun? How about catching him off guard and taking the pistol from him? Or will you shoot him, ending the situation in a single flash of the muzzle? For my human build, that last option is completely impossible. The most violent option I have, available only after going through many branches of the dialogue tree, is to shoot Will in the foot. On the other hand, my character, with its more sly morals, can get the kid hooked. But such an action requires a justification that better defines their philosophy. The Machiavellian plan considers the boy “too many threats”, while the nihilistic version is the disruptor “this family must perish anyway”. Both require the same physically activated traction, but they are clearly separate options.
The roadside tragedy technically plays out like any talkative CRPG I’ve played, but it reminds me more of the moral choice scenarios in games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead. It feels incredibly overwhelming, with each new dialogue option requiring care and composure, especially if your aim is to save Will from his own gun. Despite knowing this boy for only a few minutes, the feeling of relief when he put down the gun was immense.
Whatever choice you make, it will immediately reflect on you through your team members. Ella, a hardened sniper, approves of you getting Will out of his misery, while Dreamer – a more hopeful crewman – will be furious if you shoot him and excited if you save him. Drop Bear Bytes promises that companions will learn to love or hate you, and can even be manipulated to share your own worldview in time. Other decisions will also bless or haunt you hours later; For example, the boy will return if he survives.
Then in the small town of Kokeby Waystation, community leader Tina gives you a second demo mission. She recently hired a mercenary, Ian, to protect Kokeby, but he became a problem and refused to leave town. As with the previous situation, there are many methods to accomplish this task. You can simply repay him, an option available to everyone regardless of your moral stance, or convince him to relinquish his post through pragmatic reasoning if your character you can. Choose aggressive, however, and things get messier than they were in the previous encounter, in many ways.
Ian, like any good mercenary, has a gun, and so any attempt to kill him will be rewarded in kind. That activates Broken Roads’ turn-based combat, which – at least as far as the demo shows – is the weakest element of the project. The current interface is rather clumsy and lacks any options other than ‘move’ and ‘fire’ making it seem tactically thin. It also feels at odds with the previous scenario, where using a gun is a more intentional, dramatic choice than just triggering for battle in a video game. It echoes how the Disco Elysium is so violent; On the rare occasions you can throw a punch or fire a pistol in Ravachol, it feels like a hugely important choice, rather than a memorized fact of life.
The demo’s menus reveal that characters will eventually unlock other combat skills, and hopefully continued development will make turn-based encounters even more engaging. But I hope that fighting is a rarity rather than a standard practice. Killing someone in a game like this should be a choice, not a mechanic.
Broken Roads – Gamescom 2022 screenshots
Despite my reservations about battle, I left the Kokeby Waystation with nothing but anticipation. Broken Roads, already full of texts and layers of intentional dialogue, could potentially become the next game in the Planescape: Torment series of deeply introspective RPGs. That’s no coincidence; Broken Roads’ creative lead is Colin McComb, who helped create Planescape and its successor, Torment: Tides of Numenera. He promises that, like all projects he’s been involved in, the story will get more and more bizarre as it progresses, although it will be limited to the exact field of astrophysics. science rather than anything out of the ordinary. It will also explore locations in profound detail, only this time they are based on cultures of both Western and Aboriginal Australians (the latter researched and created with the assistance of difficult consultants). understand) instead of the Dungeons and Dragons multiverse.
But McComb also wanted to point out that Broken Roads wasn’t just his creation; he directed game director Craig Ritchie and narrative director Leanne Taylor-Giles as the guiding lights for the project. A former McComb’s contributor on Numenera, I hope Taylor-Giles brings a fresh look at the Torment writing values that Broken Roads has so clearly built. It was the secret sauce behind Disco Elysium, and now developer ZA/UM has secured a spot in the RPG ensemble (at least, now). If Broken Roads lives up to its demo promise, Drop Bear Bytes could follow suit.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s News and Features Editor in the UK.