[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]im Schafer made a huge splash in the crowdfunding scene in early 2012 and put Kickstarter on the map. He pretty much set the scene for every game (adventure or otherwise) that would eventually seek funding by the fans. Asking for less than half a million but getting over three million for a game with no information was unheard of (before or since). The second half of Broken Age finally got released earlier this week and I’ve been playing hard to get to the finale hoping to see an improvement over the first half released some time ago.
And I’m happy to say that I’m not disappointed. After playing through the first half before I felt underwhelmed by what I saw. The artwork was great, and I kinda liked the characters, but there really wasn’t much in the way of the story. The wait for the final half, though, was well worth it and showed that Schafer and his company Double Fine still have what it takes to make a compelling adventure game.
In order to prepare for the full release of Broken Age, I had played through the first act a second time so that I could bring myself back up to speed. With the exception of the cliffhanger it still felt too slow of an experience. But the “action” ramped up considerably towards the end of the game.
Broken Age is, essentially, a story of two young kids trying to find themselves…and eventually each other. Both want out of the situations they find themselves in. Vella’s set to be sacrificed to the great Mog Chothra in her hometown of Sugar Bunting so that they can have another fourteen years of peace from the monster. And Shay is bored with the everyday doldrums of his existence and wants to find some adventure to spice up his life. Basically what we have here is a “coming of age” tale.
The first half has both protagonists on their own in their own worlds, Vella in her fantasy themed setting and Shay in his science-fiction spaceship. It’s hard to believe that their stories could be intertwined in any way and almost feels disjointed when one has to switch between them to continue their stories. The good thing, though, is that they can each be played fully before moving on to the other. The second half not so much.
As Vella escapes from being eaten by the monster Mog Chothra, she finds herself on an adventure to lands (somewhat) distant. And quite different from each other. While Sugar Bunting is a baker’s village, Meriloft floats up on the clouds and Shellmound is little more than a beach resort. But all three have the same problem. They all have to put up girls as “sacrifices” to the Mogs every fourteen years. In the end, Vella finds herself face-to-face with the beast and manages to take it down.
Shay’s story in Broken Age is one of monotony. He goes through the same routine day in and day out. He wakes up, eats breakfast, has some fun, and continues the cycle. He’s bored of this life and wants true adventure and true danger. It’s when he decides it’s finally time to break this routine does he find it. A wolf-man-thingie is found in the bowels of the ship and tasks our young hero with saving endangered creatures. And he does until he tries to save one too many and manages to get the ship damaged by an attack and crash lands on a planet.
The first act closes on a cliffhanger that had me wanting to see the rest of the game. We find that Shay’s ship and the legendary Mog Chothra are one and the same. And Shay ends up stranded in Shellmound and Vella finds herself trapped on the ship. Which is where the first act ends and the second one picks up.
Without giving too much away on the second half of Broken Age, I’ll try to keep my critique on it more brief and spoiler-free since it was just released to the public. Shay and his father are trapped in Vella’s world and work with Alex, another member of the same “expedition” stranded on the planet 300 years previously, in order to get his own ship up and working again. And all Vella wants is to get back to Sugar Bunting and be with her family. She works with Shay’s mother to try to return home.
This is where the narrative really gets interesting and finally got me invested in the plot. Marek, the so-called Wolf, has an ulterior motive in trying to save the “creatures” and we quickly discover why. We also find out one of the major links between Shay and Vella, which I won’t divulge to try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. Suffice it to say, both “worlds” have a lot more in common than one would think coming from only playing the first half of Broken Age. And I enjoyed every moment of piecing together this puzzle.
And speaking of puzzles, it’s a mixed bag. The first half is very light on them and those that do exist are insanely easy to figure out. So, it’s a bit jarring to see that the second act is full of them and quite a few take a good deal of deductive reasoning and require a lot of swapping back-and-forth between the two characters.
That said, the overall experience of playing Broken Age was worth the wait. Despite setbacks and other controversies, particularly in regards to the spending of backers’ funds, in the end what really matters is if the game is worth playing. And I wholeheartedly believe it to be so. The graphics and humour are truly reminiscent of a Double Fine game and the voice acting is top notch as one would come to expect. And, while slow to start, as the story really ramps up we feel more invested in the plight of not only the main characters but the secondary people we meet along the way.