Fragments of Him tells a powerful story of love and loss but suffers from limited interactivity and repetition. The FingerGuns Review;
“Fragments” is the operative word in the title of this game. Chunks. Pieces. Bits. “Fragments of Him” is a story told in tiny intervals separated by button presses and very little else. While playing I wondered why this was made into a game at all; the prime mechanic, which is little more than finding the blue trimmed object in a room and pointing at it, is the worst aspect of this game and it feels like the truly heart wrenching/warming tale it tells could have been better served as a short VFX film rather than as a semi-interactive piece of fiction.
The story itself is a raw and powerful tale about the death of Will, the “Him” from the title, and how that affects 3 people whose lives were intertwined with his. The story is predominantly told from the perspective of others – Will’s grandmother Mary, his ex-girlfriend Sarah and his boyfriend at the time of his death, Harry – but these sections are reflected on by Will himself via flashbacks. The game deals with its themes in a mature and deep way while maintaining a eulogic feeling. Will is a complex and very human character, as is everyone else in the game, and via the memories of those that loved him, Fragments of Him explores his strengths, weaknesses, coming to terms with his sexuality and how he will be remembered.
The script is masterfully written and gives the cast of characters vivid and fully realised personalities. There’s a very “real” feel to everything that is said in the game from the awkward descriptions of first dates and that feeling of wanting more from a relationship to the mourning of someone close to you and trying desperately to dull the pain of a loss. There’s very few wasted lines of dialogue and even those sentences that feel like padding serve to give the characters more intensity in the end. There’s one chunk of repetition that stands out as entirely unnecessary and there are characters which exist in the story that aren’t explored in any meaningful way which feels like an utter waste. Aside from those issues, Fragments of Him contains a wonderful narrative.
One thing that was surprising is how typically British this game feels, especially since it was coming from Dutch studio Sassybot. There’s mentions of a transgender character in Coronation Street and a description of pubs before the smoking ban and these are real world aspects I remember that bring a real legitimacy to the whole piece. Whether this will add anything for players under 30 or outside of the UK, I couldn’t comment.
It’s also worth mentioning that the voice cast really sell this script in their delivery. Jay Britton and James Alper bring top draw performances to the table but it’s Katie Lyons and Joan Blackham that bring most of the emotional impact to their lines. It’s a well chosen cast that sound very much like you’d expect those character too.
It’s a crying shame then that the game itself is so lacklustre. The story and script are broken down into small snippets. Fragments, if you will. These play as you walk around the environments that you find yourself in and press X while looking at objects or people that are highlighted with a blue outline. Maybe there’s some kind of implied symbolism with this but if there is, it bypassed me entirely. Instead, it feels like padding that often destroys the emotional impact that the story tries to build up. There are moments that, to put it bluntly, are boring. Clicking on a chair, then a table, then a picture, then another chair and another table and so on and so forth for a few moments while it’s just building up the environment before anything actually happens just drags out the whole experience.
There are a handful of sections of the game where you can make choices. These are as basic and as inconsequential as you could possibly get. They involve little more than pressing the button which represents one of the options and while this adds to the dialogue, it makes absolutely no difference to the game itself.
Visually, Fragments of Him opts for a predominantly washed out, drab and beige art style with some low poly modeling in places. It’s an apt style, given the subject matter, but there are a few moments when the game adds a few other colours to the spectrum to great effect. The soundtrack on the other hand, is largely forgettable.
Fragments of Him would have made for a moving and likely award winning short film. It’s narrative and voice performance are both of top quality but they’re contained within a cage of boring and poorly implimented mechanics which restrain their impact. There’s a powerful and painful tale being told in this game. It’s just a shame that it’s equally as painful to get through.
Frgaments of Him is available now on Xbox One, PS4 (review version) and PC.
Disclaimer: We purchased a copy of Fragments of Him in order to complete this review. Please see our review policy for more information.