We left for Saint-Exil to discover all the mysteries of the plot of Broken Pieces, the adventure inspired by Resident Evil and Silent Hill.
While historical sagas like Alone in the Dark are about to return with completely new graphics and gameplay (here our proof of the prequel demo of Alone in the Dark), there are small development teams that look back with pleasure and aim to re-propose mechanics now considered anachronistic in modern productions. The example of the horror Infogrames is not accidental, since Broken Pieces, the game we are about to tell you about, takes the fixed camera that we also find in other glories of the past such as Resident Evil and combines it with atmospheres that closely resemble those of Silent Hill. The result of this mix, which caught our attention last April (here the preview of Broken Pieces), was only half successful and now we can tell you why.
The mystery of Saint-Exil
We are in the early 90s and the newly married couple formed by Elise And Pierre has decided to get away from the frenetic pace of the big French cities to carve out a small space in the much more relaxing coastal area of Saint-Exil, where everything is calmer and it is possible to lead a completely different life. However, the couple’s dream is shattered by a mysterious event that involves the small town: from one day to the next Elise finds herself the only survivor in Saint-Exil and must discover not only what happened to her sweet half, but also why they are occurring strange atmospheric phenomena and what one is up to dangerous sect acting in the alleys of the village.
The narrative plot, which is based on these three strands, seems to start off on the right foot but unfortunately loses its bite during the adventure, ending with a disappointing ending and completely devoid of memorable moments or twists. The small development team has not been able to realize the good starting ideas and, reaching the end credits, it seems clear that it has not been able to find a worthy conclusion to the story of Elise.
The plot issues are unfortunately not the only ones in production Elseware Experience and in fact they are not lacking even in the recreational field. The structure of Broken Pieces is different than most 3D adventures and involves the presence of a central hub consisting of the protagonist’s house and a series of settings that can be freely explored, which connect to the heart of the map through providential shortcuts. Although it is an interesting idea due to the obligation of having to return home before sunset in order to avoid bad encounters, a similar management of the map turns out to be imperfect due to theabsence of small precautions related to the navigation of the environments.
In the more advanced stages of the game you have to move frequently from one place to another and the slow and clumsy movements of the protagonist, who cannot run, frustrate some situations in which you have to go home from the opposite side of Saint-Exil or you forget a key item in the repository. In some cases, an on-screen option would have been enough to immediately go back under the covers at the end of a puzzle or implement some sort of rapid travel with an impact on the passage of time, in order to avoid the user from abusing it.
It’s a shame, since the basic structure of Broken Pieces is very interesting and with a little more attention it would have offered a smoother and more downtime-free gaming experience. The environments themselves are pleasant to navigate, because the fixed camera works well and does not prevent the player from enjoying the various views of the French village.
After all, each room has a double interchangeable view that allows you to observe every corner of the area, not to mention the addition of the first person camera, which can be recalled by pressing a key at any time. In short, this specific aspect of the game has never bothered us or prevented us from correctly understanding the positioning of objects and places in space.
A city to be explored
The exploration of Saint-Exil is accompanied by numerous puzzles that help Elise put the pieces together to understand what is happening around her. None of the puzzles proposed in Broken Pieces are particularly innovative or gifted with great creativity, since the adventure of the small French team does not want to be a challenge: in this regard, the notebook of the protagonist it is updated with new information useful for progression as the woman interacts with the elements of the scenario or when she listens to the audio cassettes found around, which are certainly the main source of information on the narrative context. Only in the final sequence does the game become more intricate and requires a greater number of movements to find some artifacts and, suddenly, we find ourselves wandering around the map looking for a way to continue without too many indications.
In this sense, the positioning of some objects for the map, one above all the ax, does not help, an element that underlines some too much naivety on the part of the development team, especially in offering ideas on how to continue through small visual clues. The situation is raised by the possibility of altering the weather conditions of the scenario at any time (a factor that allows you to observe two different versions of Saint-Exil) and the numerous secondary areas that often require the completion of somewhat more complex puzzles and pleasant to solve, like finding a code by listening to an audio cassette. In some cases we have engaged in activities without any particular usefulness for the purposes of the game and in others we have had access to dream sequences designed to reveal additional details about Elise’s past.
Also for these you find, in short, the longevity of Broken Pieces stands at five or six hours for the completion of the plot, to which we must add two more to discover all that the adventure has to offer. Unfortunately for us, however, Broken Pieces also includes action sequences that we would have bypassed with great pleasure.
On more than one occasion, the protagonist is surrounded by humanoid creatures composed of a substance similar to smoke, capable of attacking her with their limbs that deform and change color (with sometimes annoying screen effects). In these sections it is therefore necessary to resort to bad combat system designed by the developers, which is based on the ability to dodge and to shoot the gun through an automatic target lock mechanism. From the beginning to the end of the game, these moments offer very little variation and have proved anything but interesting or scenically sound. The only real power-up is about introducing a skill that allows Elise to call up a storm and wipe out all the enemies, so as to end the fight immediately and continue. The girl’s power is also used to solve a couple of puzzlesbut in any case we are faced with situations that are too similar to each other and we would have appreciated some more peculiar found that could really enhance the talents of the protagonist.
Even under the technical profileBroken Pieces does not excel and alternates well-made backdrops rich in details, also thanks to the tools made available byUnreal Engine 4 (among which we find Quixel Megascans), to a model of the protagonist that leaves a lot to be desired, especially in her winter outfit: in this case the developers did not opt for a hairstyle that avoided polygonal interpenetrations and instead preferred to give the hair a very unusual and unpleasant to see fold. Even the animations they do not enjoy particular care and in some cases they have proved frankly unwatchable: to give an example, in relation to climbing a ladder, we will see Elise begin the action and then find her at the top in the blink of an eye.
On the other hand, the audio sector convinced us, both as regards the music composed by the development team and for the dubbing of the protagonist. Regarding theoptimization of the PC version, the only one tested in the review, we found no obvious problems, although the combat phases are characterized by more than some uncertainty regarding frame rates. The fullness of the experience contributes to the smoothness of the experience DLSS supportwhich allows you to take advantage of Nvidia RTX video cards to improve visual rendering without affecting the frame rate.