Time to check out the Outback Wasteland
While people were lining up for the first PAX since 2019, eager to get in and see the games and tech on offer, I myself was a short distance away, in a conference room of a hotel where I had been lucky enough to have the opportunity to go hands-on with a demo of the highly anticipated CRPG Broken Roads from the team at Drop Bear Bytes.
To say that I was excited as I sat down to start the demo is an understatement. I first saw Broken Roads at PAX 2019 and it has been on my radar ever since so I was very thankful to have the opportunity to sit down and play the demo build and experience the Moral Compass for myself.
While the full game will have four selectable classes to choose from, for the demo I was only able to play as a Gunslinger, however, before I could enter the world of Broken Roads I first needed to find out a bit more about my – or rather, my characters’ – worldview. One of the big things the team at Drop Bear Bytes set out to do was to create a world where there is more to your choices than just black and white/Paragon and Renegade/Jedi and Sith. The real world is filled with grey areas and sometimes people take actions that they normally wouldn’t, whether those are actions of violence, cruelty, indifference or even compassion.
The questions were simple enough, and the varied responses were each marked so I knew which part of the Moral Compass they corresponded to. Soon enough I had my Humanist/Utilitarian gunslinger and was ready to jump into the Australian Outback and see just what Broken Roads had in store for me.
After a short narrated introduction my party comes upon a wagon. Lying dead on the ground is a man, a bereaved woman kneeling over his lifeless body. While one of my group thinks that it is not our problem I engage with the woman, discovering that the dead man is the woman’s husband, shot in the chest by their son, Will. Will, is standing just a few feet away, the gun still smoking as he waves it through the air.
Here is the first instance where your standing on the Moral Compass and thus, your dialogue options, can influence and affect the characters that inhabit the world of Broken Roads. Since my character sat on the Humanist/Utilitarian end of the spectrum, the dialogue I could use was geared towards those morality traits, but I was still presented with multiple options to choose from. Interestingly, I could see the options that I would have been able to take if my character was at different points on the Moral Compass spectrum, even though I was not able to utilise them in this playthrough. Fortunately, the Humanist side of me got Will to open up and after a few more dialogue options he confessed that his father had asked him to kill him. His father knew that he was not strong enough to finish their journey. This is information I would never have learned if I didn’t have the Humanist dialogue options available to me.
In what could be construed as the best possible outcome I convinced Will to hand over the gun to my party, and he rejoined his mother. As noted by one of my party members they will be almost as good as dead without the gun, but the party holds on to it and moves on to their destination of Kokeby Station where we are tasked by Tina to deal with Ian, a mercenary that was causing problems in the town.
The thing about Ian is he is not very good at his job and has been a bit of a nuisance to the residents of Kokeby Station, therefore, Tina wants him gone. The problem is, Ian knows he’s on to a sweet gig and does not want to lose out on the cash. It would have been easy to just pay him off and finish the quest that way, but the attitude of the guy rubbed me the wrong way. He was not willing to leave Kokeby Station and my character wasn’t in the mood to sweet-talk someone who had no business playing at being a mercenary. Unfortunately, I was nowhere near the Machiavellian section that would allow me to open fire, but I was able to lambast him through Nihilism dialogue options. I essentially belittled the man into giving up his contract and not causing trouble for Kokeby Station.
While this felt personally satisfying, it did mean that I had missed my opportunity to experience combat within Broken Roads, at least for now. After a few more conversations the demo was over, and the narrator set up the next part of my journey. One thing I did notice during the narration was a picture of the merc Ian standing in the bar of Kokeby Station. Could this be foreshadowing that how I have interacted with him then will have repercussions down the track? I will just have to wait and see.
If you enjoyed the moral quandaries in Disco Elysium then Broken Roads will be right in your wheelhouse. While the demo was short, what I saw has me craving more. I want to experience this post-apocalyptic Outback and see what a lawless Australia looks like.