Monday, February 10, 2014

Why I found Broken Age so Disappointing

This is something I need to write about, mainly because I backed this game and I feel I got a bad deal out of it. Yes, if I went back in time right now I would not throw ten dollars at this game. Not necessarily because of how bad it turned out to be but more because the direction it took from the very beginning was not what was sold to me.

Now, I've already used the word bad and maybe that's going to be a charged word for some people. I say it's bad because the sections I played didn't have what I look for in an adventure game. It didn't have any witty dialogue and it didn't have any interesting puzzles, so it's uninteresting and therefore bad to me. I'm sure a lot of people might have got some enjoyment out of it and I say power to those people but it doesn't diminish my ire in the slightest.

Again, it's the misleading part that really got to me. I think the best way to illustrate where I believe it went wrong by comparing it to another successful adventure game kickstart, that of Broken Sword. Broken Sword 5 was a similar case to Broken Age, successful kickstarter driven by nostalgia for an old adventure game series which also ran out of money and decided to deliver the first half of the game only for the time being. Those are the similarities, nearly every other aspect of the two differed.

Let's tackle my subjectivity, did I love Lucas Arts adventure games? The answer is yes, Monkey Island 1 is one of my all time favorite games and is joined in that pantheon by day of the tentacle, the monkey Island sequels and of course Grim Fandango. I did enjoy later Lucasarts games a little less however, The Dig for example didn't do it for me in the slightest. Broken Sword is a little different as there was only really one Broken Sword game that did it for me, that being the first one. The rest left me a little cold, however the characters the writing and the puzzles of the original stuck with me to this day and I feel it even influenced me as a writer. I loved them both.

Turning our sights on the latest iterations we have Broken Age which discarded the complex puzzles, interesting characters and irreverent witty humour for cutesy graphics and kid friendly themes thus betraying what I feel typifies the classic Lucasarts adventure game archetype. Broken Sword 5 instead did exactly what every true blooded fan wanted and went right back to how things were in the original, back to realistic artifact hunting with slight hints to the supernatural, back to brilliant hilarious characters. Back to a less vacuous and more relatable Nico and beautiful painted backdrops of real world land marks. I'm gushing, Broken Sword 5 is a master class in how to improve and evolve a brilliant game perhaps only failing when it came to the puzzles which despite often being really interesting were a little too straight forward.

The point is I feel that Broken Sword 5, while being indisputably new and modern was true to its roots and thereby to its fans. It didn't hide from trying something new but it successfully identified what made the original great and so much loved and incorporated those elements. Broken Age instead took those fan loved elements and incinerated them, leaving behind an empty student art project. Indeed Broken Age might be what you'd expect from a companies first Adventure Game if it was built in an absolute vacuum, with no lessons learned or inspiration to draw from. You could argue that's exactly what it was as Double Fine haven't really produced one before, well, Schafer kind of made me feel like I was getting something else and for that I am more than a little peeved.

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