Have you ever woken up in the morning haunted by your past? Broken Pieces begins its tale with such a setting, with the protagonist trying to find answers. It’s a tale whose start intrigues players and makes them want to piece together what happened. Unfortunately, Broken Pieces suffers from an identity crisis that saps away at its biggest strengths.
The game calls itself a psychological thriller, but it plays like survival horror. You have puzzles, side objectives, and relentless enemies that are hard to take down. The ingredients for a psychological thriller are missing, failing to generate any feeling of suspense. Relating to the only in-game character is difficult, and you don’t fully understand their struggles.
The story has a rough start, never gets clearer, and the ending doesn’t lead to a proper conclusion. There’s a lot of potential in the game, but it isn’t utilized effectively. The result is a game that delivers a mediocre experience, never drawing on its strengths to provide anything better.
Broken Pieces is currently available on PC for USD 24.99.
Story – Investigating Clues On Your Own
Broken Pieces tells the story of Elise, the only resident in the town of Saint Exil. Everyone else has mysteriously disappeared, including Elise’s partner Pierre. Living on her own has unsettled Elise, but she is determined to find out what happened to the town. Or at least, that’s what the story tries to tell.
It’s never made clear why Elise is in the situation that she finds herself in. You don’t know why she needs to embark on a mission, or why the town has no residents. Her objectives give you something to do, but there’s no logical connection. You can learn more about the history of the town through side content such as tapes or memories. Unfortunately, the side content doesn’t serve to make anything clearer, other than a cult’s plans and something unusual in the water.
Even side objectives fail to illuminate anything significant, making you wonder why Elise is pursuing her mission. It doesn’t help that Elise never goes over her motivations much, or seems to develop as a character. Her plight is significant, but it’s never mentioned why. You never learn more about Elise that would help you understand her, only getting bits and pieces. The story is easily summed up as moving Elise to Point A to Point B because the game needs you to do so.
Mysteries are present throughout the story, but the clues never lead to anything substantial. Something significant was discovered, and everyone had their theories, but that’s all the detail you get. Broken Pieces has a story to tell, but it doesn’t use one advantage it has, which is potential length.
Length – Not Utilized Effectively
Spending more time on story exposition and fleshing out the narrative would help, but the game doesn’t have a long run time. It’s possible to finish within 3-4 hours of gameplay if you pursue the story and nothing else. Even reaching the end of the story doesn’t provide you with any new information, leaving you as confused as when you started. Providing more details and taking the time to flesh story beats out would have made the game more thrilling and engaging. Instead, you end up wondering about the purpose of the journey, unsure why Elise went on an adventure. A great story doesn’t have to be long, but it feels like important narrative elements were not included.
While the gameplay has some solid foundations, a psychological thriller does need a powerful story. Without it, the narrative will struggle and you are just solving tasks in survival horror fashion.
Gameplay – Moving From Area to Area
Broken Pieces has good gameplay mechanics that would not be out of place in a survival horror game. You will investigate containers and cupboards to find supplies and craft ammunition. Puzzles need to be solved in creative ways that will test your thinking, with nearby clues if you get stuck. Day and night cycles matter, since more enemies show up at night time. Certain items will help you bypass obstacles, and backtracking is necessary. You can also manipulate the weather to get past obstacles, using storms or snow to affect the environment.
Elise is not alone during her journey in Saint Exil. Enemies will appear as Elise gets closer to the truth, appearing as soldiers surrounded by TV static. Infinite handgun rounds allow Elise to defend herself with a gun, though it is weak. Crafting high quality ammunition helps bring down enemies faster, but materials are limited.
These gameplay elements make the game feel like a survival horror instead of a psychological thriller. Most of the suspense will come from fighting enemies (that you can’t run from), while you run around trying to solve puzzles. Benches are the game’s checkpoint and save system, allowing you to reload your game immediately if you die (similar to BioShock Infinite). Thankfully, healing is always present; you can rest at benches or sleep at home to recover.
While the puzzles may not have much bearing on the story, they are still challenging to solve. You revisit areas to unlock new areas of exploration, finding tools that let you progress. It’s similar to games such as Silent Hill, providing you with joy and hope when you unlock a new area to explore. You are unable to separate the story from the gameplay, which is a shame. The gameplay has mechanics that are fun to use, but you will never fully understand the purpose of your actions.
Audio & Visuals – Soothing Tunes Amid the Chaos
One key strength of Broken Pieces is its audio soundtrack. Elise can find several music tapes she can play with her tape recorder at any time. It cuts through the serene sounds of nature to provide another human interaction. Hearing another voice in an otherwise lonely adventure is comforting, and it really makes a difference as you explore.
While there’s no obligation to play the musical tracks, you can hear a variety of tunes that contrast Elise’s surroundings. It helps that Elise will acknowledge times where she goes without music. This reinforces Elise’s mental state, and how music isn’t just a tune to listen to, but how she hangs on to sanity.
Unfortunately, the game’s voice acting doesn’t match up to the musical numbers. Lines are spoken as if they are read from a script without emotion. Elise never gets emotional, and neither do the voices on the tapes that you hear (especially the story-relevant tapes). The deadpan delivery doesn’t do the script justice, because it could have helped shine light on Elise’s mental state. Without the spoken lines, all you have are Elise’s desire to hear any human voice.
Visually, the game hits all the survival horror beats. There are plenty of dark spaces, but the outdoor locations look great as well. You often spend your time indoors, with beautiful locations and scenery wherever you go. Elise’s 3D model can appear wonky at times, with her elbow joints looking out of place at some moments. But it’s a small blemish on an otherwise dark setting, which never fails to show how unusual Elise’s situation is.
Broken Pieces was reviewed on Steam with a code provided by Elsewhere Experiences.