Set in the 1990’s, Broken Pieces is a third person narrative adventure/thriller that follows the story of Elise. The lead character is terrorized by nightmares that resemble the current world she lives in, the village of Saint Exil, a take on Brittany, France. Because of some kind of paranormal anomaly, Elise is completely alone, isolated and without answers. She needs to investigate not only the disappearance of her fiancé Pierre, but the disappearance of her whole village.
The park looks a day away from festivities, work trucks are still as if they are in the working day and the town almost looks as if it’s the early morning. However, this is not the case at all. One not so fine day, everyone but Elise disappeared. Leaving the seaside town with an electrifying cyclone in the middle of the sea, Ghost-like creatures haunt the town now, killing anything in its wake if you succumb to their power leaving Elise with barely any clue to what has happened. The town is only safe between the hours of 8am to 8pm as at night they will come in their droves to kill you. Needless to say, it is important to keep an eye on the time.
It’s not perhaps completely true to say Elise is alone. Not that you meet any of these other characters, but around the town, shrines are celebrating the event from a group of cultists eager to find out more and kill anyone to ‘sacrifice’ for information and acceptance from the event that occurred days prior.
A Touch of Mauvaise
There are certainly some big inspirations to this adventure thriller of Broken Pieces. Immediately I see notes from Control, with heavy inspiration from the Resident Evil franchise down to the look of the inventory, and the ‘crafting element’. You can see the love the developers had for these types of genres.
The movement is a slow jaunt around the town. Interacting with items appear in a range of colours depending on their importance and what kind of information they may provide you with. The majority of story and information will come in the form of tapes. Elise can collect these tapes, or even make them when she spends her time at night, detailing her findings from the events of the day. Books, or pieces of paper she’s collected that shine more light on the events of the village will also be of use.
It isn’t a coincidence that Elise survived the attack on her village either. She holds a bracelet which allowed her protection that fateful day, but unbeknownst to her, this bracelet contains more power than she could have imagined. The bracelet allows Elise to create storms. This is a cool feature, and lasts a few seconds. I do feel however this was not utilised to its full potential during the game. The most you will do with this storm brewing is make an electrical box open, or jimmy a drawbridge. Eventually you will be able to change the weather between snow and day to manipulate environments. This at first feels quite unique and a great addition to the storm, but in reality this actually added more frustration to the puzzles.
The game sometimes suggests that its environment needs to change, such as ‘there’s too much snow behind the door’. However, there are some where I think I deserved an actual medal to go back to a location to then change the weather and access somewhere. There’s so little sign posting at times.
The main aim of Broken Pieces is to visit areas and complete the puzzles. By the endgame it does feel like a lot of circling and walking around to do very little. In Broken Pieces, everything is quite a giant effort to work out and then do. It almost goes into thankless tasking. If you are unfortunate enough to not completely understand what your next task is, the game isn’t all that intuitive to help you along the way. This can then lead to roaming around scouring areas like a point-and-click adventure game, hoping that something is triggered to guide you. All whilst you need to keep an eye on the time to make sure you get home safe enough.
At one point the game didn’t register that I had picked up a key. I went to a whole different location to use said key to unlock something before realising I didn’t have it. My journal had not crossed out the task, and I almost wanted to not bother going back because it would have been a pain. With not very quick fast travel and no map, it can feel like going around in circles and wasting valuable time.
The audio is a highlight to Broken Pieces. Not only do you have the sweet subtle tones of Mr Bryan Dechart, but the soundtrack is amazing. Dechart plays a spy who provides you with much of the information that will help you along the way, but I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot. It’s a shame that a pivotal character is not utilised more to tie the story together with more gusto. Along the way Elise will pick up collectables left by Pierre. These are primarily Love letters and tapes in ode to the love of his fiancé, but they’re complemented by songs that are so reminiscent of those of Life Is Strange. These manage to create an atmosphere that contrasts the danger Elise faces in her current circumstances.
It’s strange because there is a sense of a decent story in here, and some elements of that tale covered in detail. Then there are other instances where it feels surface-deep and one note. Like, this is a great premise for a prime time streaming show, one I would gladly watch. The narrative feels strong in the beginning, but this unfortunately wains the further you play. This probably adds to feeling of being quite lost around 6 hours in. I lost track of what I was doing and why I was really doing it. The game focused on the immediate task at hand and didn’t bring in context, or any background to this, or if it did, it was extremely rare.
Ghost Punch to The Face
One complete low note for me, was the combat. Broken Pieces will give you the option to play either in a reduced combat mode, or the original mode. You’d imagine that the latter was the way the developers wanted the game to be experienced. I obviously opted for the original and I was disappointed with the combat. The inventory and the combat just do not mix well. I was picking up things left, right and centre that constantly told me it was for making ammunition or upgrades for a weapon – to then never have to use them throughout my gameplay. At the beginning you get quite powerful ammunition, but she never crafted this again for me and I wasn’t able to craft it myself. I would end up holding things throughout the whole game and chucking it away because I needed space and had not used it up until then.
I also never needed to actually use it – I was never at a disadvantage by not having this feature that had been created. All enemies take around 3 shots of your gun to disperse. Enemies will approach in certain locations where you will be surrounded by a wall of smoke and two or three will apparate in front of you. The game then moves you into this weird cowboy like walk where both you and enemy will approach or circle around one another. You can only dodge when the time is right, and you can’t move any faster than this slow cowboy dance you decide to do with them. It’s so irritating, and doesn’t actually develop into anything fruitful or fun.
Visually, the village of Saint Exil is very lovely and quaint, and looks quite realistic. There are lovely locations to explore, such as a lighthouse, a beach, a village town, a church and Elise’s house. Each has its own distinct tone and atmosphere to draw some attention back to the story and locations. Broken Pieces is a very pretty game, and the effects of the snow and the storms are believable. Each area is different in size so at times it can feel like you know exactly where to be and go, and at others you can be travelling back and forth for a while. It feels like Elise moves quite slowly too so this can be a bit of a frustration.
I ran into minor bugs too; occasionally I would get caught on the environment. The camera has an unusual perspective where you can see different angles of the village via changing Elise’s perspective. As well as seeing directly from her eyes without moving. Regardless of which perspective I was in, there were a few times I would get caught in the environment and not be able to get out of it. Luckily, a quick load up would sort this, but if I hadn’t saved in a while, this might set me back a few in game hours. This game was initially released on PC, and therefore this may have something to do with the porting of controls.
Additionally, I met a peculiar glitch – there was a time where intractable items did not appear to be interactive and I couldn’t progress in my mission. Again, the old ‘turn it off and on again’ worked a treat, making the object interactive once again, but this could have been more frustrating if I had stayed there any longer wasting valuable day time.
Broken Pieces can be completed in around 6-8 hours, and mopping up any optional side quests may add an hour or so on. Overall, this game gave me a sharp taste in my mouth and I walked away feeling like my positive initial impressions were gone. This game has a great foundation in its story, premise, the visuals and the soundtrack. The execution is a ‘bit rough around the edges’ though. I hoped the ending would match those high first impressions. If anything, it ripped them off like a band-aid that was not ready to come off.
Set in a picturesque village inspired by real world French Brittany, Broken Pieces is an adventure thriller game with a great foundation. The premise, visuals and soundtrack are all interesting and make a great first impression. The execution of everything else however is a bit rough around the edges. With questionable combat elements, convoluted puzzle mechanics and a story that feels incomplete, Broken Pieces feels a little too much like its title.
Broken Pieces is available on Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, and Playstation 4 and PS5 (review platform).
Developer: Elseware Experience
Publisher: Elseware Experience / Benoit Dereau
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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