Stiff And Uninspired

HIGH Compelling investigative storylines.

LOW Minimal challenge in battles.

WTF Elise can cause literal storms!

Imagine leaving busy city life and moving permanently to the south of France. Sounds like heaven to most, what with the lack of traffic, picturesque views and sunny weather for nine out of twelve months during the year. Unfortunately for our protagonist in Broken Pieces, this quaint setting is ripe for something that feels pulled from the dark mind of Fabrice Du Welz, making Broken Pieces one of those titles whose content stands in stark contrast to the setting.

In Broken Pieces I played as Elise, a young woman who moves to the French coast with her fiancé, but it’s tough to tell from the disjointed manner in which the narrative initially presents itself. Essentially things start with Elise walking down a strange hallway and then she wakes up from a nightmare — and then boom! the game has begun. I didn’t even get to see my fiancé, all I have is their name. Not long after, Elise finds herself in the middle of a village teeming with mysterious happenings including cults making human sacrifices to top-secret military conspiracies — and oh yeah, Elise can cause literal storms.

3D thriller/horror games with fixed cameras were all the rage after the Resident Evil franchise clawed its way into the spotlight as the de facto standard for videogame horror. So, it only makes sense that a title like Broken pieces would emerge now given the recent success of the Resident Evil remakes and re-releases. Unfortunately, Broken Pieces doesn’t share the same level of quality.

To start, the incessant inner monologue of the protagonist makes for an annoying experience. I got the feeling that Broken Pieces was possibly pulled from some novel, but the devs made minimal effort to differentiate the two mediums — this often feels more like an audiobook than a videogame. Along the same lines, Elise’s perpetual inner monologue drops too many hints during cutscenes and in general play, turning puzzles that could have been thought-provoking into busywork that require a discerning ear rather than an agile mind. That said, the puzzles boil down to grabbing keys in obscure locations to open doors, or moving a battery to a door and connecting the wires in order to progress.

Elise’s voice actress is good at communicating shock, fear, curiosity and a full emotional range with her performance, but the sound quality doesn’t help her. It’s as if a low-quality microphone was used, giving her an artificially raspy, almost scratchy feel to her voice when the volume is turned up.

Combat was an afterthought that honestly should have been ignored by the developers. It boils down to being a forgiving auto-aim mechanic with a pistol that makes targeting enemies too easy. There’s a dodge mechanic if enemies get too close, but the button prompt never seemed to work in time.

The background setup of how Elaine became a detective/shooter/adventurer comes across as half-baked. Besides her almost non-existent background, her motivation for going to France is paper-thin and seems like something left thin in the hopes of being supported by a robust gameplay loop, but that loop doesn’t materialize. In another game this might have led to the script being the strong, supporting aspect, but that didn’t happen either.

Broken Pieces has hints of solid ideas, but rarely follows through on any of them. The gameplay is equally lukewarm, and this combination left me with a sense of apathy, not only for the character and her plight, but also for everything surrounding her. I feel like there’s a hint of something good here, but the project simply lacks the focus and follow-through needed to turn it into a gem.

Rating: 4 out of 10

— Patricio do Rosario

Disclosures: This game is published by Freedom Games and developed by Elseware Experience, Benoit Dereau and Mael Vignaux. It is available on Xbox One, XSX/S, PS4/5 and PC. This game copy was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed.

Parents: The ESRB has rated this title T and contains Violence. I’d also call out mild language and thriller elements including suggested violence and horror.

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Broken Pieces offers no options for audio accessibility other than subtitles (see example above) but these do not cover environmental sounds that assist with some puzzles. The game is playable without sound but a lot more trial and error is required without audio. Broken Pieces is not fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable. The left stick and d-pad control the character and item movement. The right stick is useless as the camera is fixed, the left bumper and the X button are also not utilized in Broken Pieces. The Right bumper is for changing camera views. The left trigger is used to toggle auto-aim, the right trigger is for firing shots at enemies. The A button is the main button for selecting options like opening doors, selecting items or picking tools and items up from the floor or wherever they are rested. The Y button is for changing the whether temporarily, I’m still in denial about how Elise can do that. The B button is mainly used to back out of menu screens, i.e. – the pause menu or the items menu. 

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