First Impressions

Broken Roads

DeveloperDrop Bear Bytes

Release Date11 April, 2024 

Platform: Windows, Linux, MacOS, PS 4/5, Xbox One/S/X, Switch

Genre: RPG

By Chris Picone, 06 July 2024


As an Australian and an avid lover of post apocalyptic roleplaying games and someone who grew up with Mad Max and Fallout, Broken Roads sounded like the absolute game of my dreams.  I fired it up the day it released, and... I won't go into detail because I think it's common knowledge by now but the game's initial release was a bit of a tragedy.  But to their credit, Drop Bear Bytes absolutely owned it.  They acknowledged the state of the game for what it was, made a point of drawing on player feedback, and quickly came up with a roadmap promising major updates in both May and June.  So, to honour Drop Bytes' integrity and as a show of good will, I postponed my review and set the game aside until after the big June update.  And here we are.

Broken Roads has seen some huge improvements over the last couple of months, but... well, I'll cut to the chase and say it still isn't where it needs to be.  Which is frustrating because everything about this game is so damn promising! The combat, for example, features the usual range of weapons (rifle, shotgun, pistol, melee), which should immediately make positioning important, particularly when the game has cover mechanics and plenty of obstacles. Unfortunately, the balancing is so poor the I've found I've been able to gun down all of my opponents from the starting position without ever moving or using any items or equipment. After each battle you collect tons of loot - mostly enemy weapons - but rarely any armour or other items, so opportunities to upgrade your gear is surprisingly limited. There are shops that sell gear but I found I spent all my money collecting the random assortment of quest items (radio parts, old magazines, philosophy books) that appear constantly and long before you discover their relevance. Luckily, it's unnecessary to upgrade equipment anyway, because the enemy AI seems to only run at and attack you with no tactics, so combat difficulty never seems to ramp up and the starting equipment is all you need.  The "quest object appearing before relevance" is an ongoing theme through Broken roads, unfortunately.  The May and June updates saw some massive improvements but Broken Roads dialogue chains are still riddled with sequencing and interplay issues. Drop Bear have recently hired two new narrative consultants, so I'm really hoping they can get it sorted because the dialogue's obviously a core component of any RPG.  Quests have similar design issues - the quests individually aren't too bad and attempts have clearly been made so that multiple quest lines occur concurrently but the quests themselves are frequently either over-extensive and grindy or lack connection to the running plot line (and so are hard to become invested in), or both. At one point I actually blew up a town just to make the game progress because the alternative was to slog through a stack of uninteresting side quests that would have seen me waltzing from one end of the map to the other and back again ad nauseum, fighting through an endless slew of grindy chump fights every few minutes. The game's other features follow a similar vein: Broken Road's calling card, the Moral Compass, is interesting but falls apart in execution.  I would have loved to have seen the philosophical choices play out more heavily through quest and dialogue decisions but they typically have the subtlety of a slap in the face.  And without a functioning combat system, the bonuses gained through the compass are irrelevant anyway.  Similarly, Broken Roads features an unusual and exciting list of skills, but their actual relevance in the game seems to be limited to gatekeeping progress. What makes this so frustrating is that Broken Roads is so full of unusual and great ideas that you can see its potential every step of the way, it just doesn't deliver - yet.

The verdict?  Broken Roads has come leaps and bounds from the absolute shambles it released in but it still needs more time in the oven.  Thankfully, Drop Bear are on the same page; they're still working on the game so I have hope that the title will eventually become the absolute masterpiece I know it can be.  For now, my suggestion is:  Don't give up on Broken Roads, keep an eye on the updates.  I plan to return to it in December, as a bit of a Christmas present to myself.  That's another 6 months of updates, so hopefully it'll be up to scratch by then.