Some Words for Broken Age
Double Fine is one of the most influential independent gaming studios in the industry. They created memorable games like Psychonauts, Costume Quest, The Cave, and Brütal Legend. Some stepped around the perimeter of “indie”, but they all demonstrated Double Fine’s creativity. On March 12, 2012, Double Fine succeeded at one of the most successful crowdfunding endeavors to date: Double Fine Adventure, also known as Broken Age, was overwhelmingly funded on Kickstarter.
With Tim Schafer at the helm, the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter campaign was no small deal. Gaming enthusiasts were screaming with joy since Double Fine debuted the campaign, with consumers throwing money at their computer screens. With nearly 100,000 backers, over 3.5 million USD (and a paltry $400,000 requested), the demand was clearly for more than a small-scale game. More than a “win” for Double Fine, this was a big and necessary step in gaming industry that showed independent developers a window to getting their games funded - without the need for a publisher.
Skip two years ahead and Broken Age (Act 1) released on January 18, 2014. As promised in their Kickstarter campaign, Broken Age is essentially a modern point and click adventure game that is, well, adventurous. Beyond just pointing and clicking on areas and objects to make progress throughout the game, there are a good amount of puzzles for the adventure genre. Broken Age’s Act 1 received critical acclaim from both game journalists and the gaming community thanks to its interesting and humorous writing, good mechanics, and pleasing art style. Broken Age had so many things that many people liked from Double Fine - the game is just brilliant and a great change of pace from your regular dose of games.
The hook in Broken Age’s premise that there is more than one playable protagonist. Putting you in the shoes of Vella Tartine, the girl who doesn’t accept her sacrificial fate, or alternately, Shay Volta, the boy who is alone with a motherly artificial intelligence that puts him on “missions” that are far too childish for his tastes. Both are confronted with unexpected adventures and mysteriously intertwined fates.
As I played in Vella’s shoes, I was apparently just a young woman sleeping under the protective shadow of a tree as my sister called out my name. I woke up and stood to approach my sister. She was excited for something, that’s for sure, alongside with other villagers and families for the “special celebration”. I went with her to our house so we could celebrate for the day. The thing is that I, Vella, didn’t want to celebrate. I didn’t accept my fate to be sacrificed for some creature - and wanted to kill it - but all but one family member laughed at my belief. After finding the required item to continue on, the feast began.
Villagers are apparently excited and eager for Mog Chothra, the giant creature that feasts on sacrificial girls, to appear in their village, including my family. I was just wearing an awkward cake-shaped dress and not even wanting to be sacrificed. I tried talking to fellow sacrifices but apparently they welcome their forced fates and they even encourage the creature to feast on them. I was trying to find items that would help me avoid being eaten upon and escape from the village. As the creature appeared, girls were giving away their useful items to me so I could escape from my demise (and the village that was about to be destroyed) when I escaped with a giant bird.
Vella’s adventure truly began after that. Vella’s adventure relies on the theme that she doesn’t passively accept her destiny and is willing to fight it one way or another. From the beginning of her escape she is trying to find people to support her on her quest to kill Mog Chothra. Most were laughing at her, with few to understand her. Fate was heavily used throughout Vella’s perspective of the game, and while the areas she visited were fascinating the puzzles were odd when compared to those of her playable counterpart, Shay.
As Shay, I was innocently sleeping in a bed with digitalized bed sheet covering my body. My “father” tried to wake me up so I could join missions but failed as I kept snoring. “Mother” managed to do that and force me on repetitive, childish tasks that are apparently her idea of “missions”: from saving a couple of knitted creatures from an “avalanche” of desserts by eating them, trying to save them from “hug attacks”, saving lives from an impending train wreck that just requires waking up a mountain, and getting a gift from some kind of a plant outside of the airlock.
I had to force myself to keep on as I ate the same breakfast, nutrition pastes, and brushed my teeth everyday without having fun in the monotony of repetitive child plays. Still, I kept doing those annoying “missions” until figuring screw it, let’s do something dangerous for a change. That’s where Shay’s true adventure starts.
Shay’s adventure is full of loneliness in his air ship in space with only a mother that is an artificial intelligence - and that doesn’t really understand his desires. The introduction isn’t exactly strong since it has you doing childish and repetitive tasks that are indeed childish and repetitive for the players too. This does an excellent job of drawing the player into Shay’s boredom and experiencing it for themselves while encouraging you to do something different, or possibly dangerous. Consistent with the sterile “AI” of the ship, the puzzles were sensical and quite logical compared to Vella’s adventure.
At certain areas both of those perspectives, most notably Shay’s, gave hints of how each of these characters’ stories were intertwined in a fantastic way. The dialogue was also humorous and interesting, and you will meet interesting characters along the way such as a talking tree cursing humans for their murderous instincts, and a lumberjack who started to feel guilty from cutting trees because of their death screams. Both Shay and Vella had interesting dialogue options while interacting with NPCs. Whether they ask for something or joke about something, the options were nice and the voice acting was engaging from both the protagonists and the supporting cast.
The music also did a good job at showing whether the scene is peaceful and calming as the protagonists are enjoying their conversation or watching something pleasant, or it is tense and dangerous as they try to escape or to fight the danger that would result to their demise if failed. They weren’t anything special and noteworthy unfortunately, but they served their purpose and they served well.
I've been reluctant to go into more detail; Broken Age is one of those games that should be experienced by you, not from reading or watching someone else who played it. I wholeheartedly recommend you playing the first act of Broken Age and then discuss and theorize with each other the events that could occur in the second act - which is hopefully coming soon.
Thank you for reading, and happy indie month ladies and gentlemen!
Day 19 | Double Fine Productions