Despite the fact our sunburnt home is teeming with tantalising danger, Australia doesn’t feature too heavily as a setting in video games. Drop Bear Bytes wants to rectify this issue, channelling some love for a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic setting in its debut title Broken Roads. With gameplay mechanics akin to the classic CPRGs of yore like Fallout and Wasteland, Broken Roads places you in the Australian outback and then insists you make your own way. Broken Roads promises to be a character-driven CRPG, where the legacy you leave as you traipse the dusty landscape is yours to carve out. We got a chance to have a gameplay run through hosted by one of the developers Craig Ritchie at this year’s PAX, playing through the origin story of one of the characters and introducing ourselves to Australia’s bleak new future.
Prior to getting my hands on the game, I had a chinwag with Craig about the nature of choice in video games. We agreed that even in some of the best role-playing games (the Mass Effect trilogy and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic came up), the nature of your choices often boils down to a basic binary that can lack nuance. One of the most intriguing aspects of Broken Roads is its philosophical approach to decision making, in which choices you make will align you with one of four schools of philosophy: Humanity (life is precious, protect it at all costs), Utilitarian (the most amount of good for the most amount of people), Machiavellian (the benefit of your group justifies any means necessary to achieve that end) and Nihilism (nothing is true, everything is permitted). Much like real human beings, the lines between the schools of thought that appeal to you are blurry, and can shift depending on what you think the situation demands. As you make decisions in Broken Roads, your alignment will decide what options are available to you, and different dialogue choices will only be available depending on your previous actions. As your world view changes, so too will the tools you have to deal with its trials and tribulations.
Broken Roads very much wants you to engage with its characters and sink your teeth in the world, and although it is fairly dialogue heavy, the writing is finely tuned and the characters quite entertaining. Everything is extremely Australian, with more references to mates, sheilas, drongos and derros than you can poke a flamin’ galah at. I was also chuffed when I looted a fridge and managed to purloin a can of Foster’s (or a lawsuit-avoiding artist’s depiction thereof). While the bulk of the dialogue is presented as text, a few key lines are voice acted with heavy Australian accents, which I for one love hearing in a video game (especially considering the voice actors appear to be actually Australian). The narrator in particular has a voice so deep and gravelly you could pave a road across the Nullarbor with it, punctuated by whistles at the end of each phrase that are sheer delight.
I got to dabble a little bit in combat, and this appears to be a fairly standard turn-based affair typical of CRPGs, where movement points and action points will get you around the battle and allow you to perform attacks. You can build a character more geared towards melee or ranged depending on preferences, putting points into stats that will increase your proficiency and available skills with your weapon of choice. Closing in on the optimum range will increase your likelihood of hitting your target, and there is also cover that will reduce your chance of being hit. You can also flank your targets or shoot them in the back (dog act) to inflict more damage. It’s hard to say at this point how much combat will expand in the final game, but Ritchie assured me the team were working on balancing shot probabilities and the frequency with which they land. I almost bit the bullet in the tutorial because I missed consecutive shots despite a decent percentage assuring me they were more likely than not to find their target.
Let your moral compass guide you
Broken Roads absolutely looks the part too, with some wonderfully detailed environments that much like the accents of the characters are quintessentially Australian. It’s very much Fallout in the outback, and that is a winning combination.
We’ve been following Broken Roads closely at WellPlayed since we first saw a rough preview build at PAX a few years, and the progress it has made is clear. If you want to get a taste of the game, there is a demo currently available on Steam, which will allow you to play through the origin stories of the four characters and have a red hot gander at their various skills. The full release is slated for November 14 on PC and Xbox, so stay tuned for our review closer to the date.