Broken Age: Act 2 (PC) Review

By Adam Riley 03.05.2015 15

Review for Broken Age: Act 2 on PC

Millions spent on crafting a gorgeous world and enlisting an A-rated cast of actors/actresses to voice key characters, with a legend at the helm, meant that hype levels were through the roof for Broken Age: Act 1 and when it finally arrived there was a buzz in the air. It managed to hit many people's expectations, but ended all too abruptly, leaving a wait of well over a year until the concluding part finally landed. A great cliffhanger, but waiting a week for TV shows can be frustrating enough, or even a month or so when it comes to other episodic game releases, but about 15 months between Act 1 and its continuation left fragments of memory and nothing more. What at the time was being compared to the first part of Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse, now has no other major Kickstarter-funded adventure to measure up against. Still, under the microscope it firmly goes as Cubed3 closely inspects the conclusion to Broken Age.

Shay and Vella were last seen swapping places at the end of Broken Age: Act 1, after it had transpired Shay had not in fact been rescuing girls and Vella was not in fact fighting against an evil beast in the sky that ate innocent victims. It brought together two separate story threads smartly, leaving the adventure at a juncture that made the mind boggle. The possibilities for expanding the tale in the concluding Act 2 were endless, and the second part of the Kickstarter-funded project from Double Fine could not come soon enough. Fast-forward a year and a bit to April 2015 and the long wait is finally over, but with it comes a massive amount of disappointment on numerous levels.

As before, there is a choice to commence adventuring as Shay or Vella, who have now switched places - Vella being trapped aboard Shay's previous spacecraft confines, and the male lead being left to wander around a small village area that is completely foreign to him since he has been raised by a computer pretending to be his parents in 'outer space' (or so he was led to believe). Neither Shay, nor Vella, seem overwhelmed by the prospect of being in completely alien surroundings, both in terms of their personal narrative and interactions with those around them. The writing throughout feels like it is merely going through the motions, never drawing those in control deeper into the pit of emotional turmoil that should be present. Trapped in a spaceship believing the mission was of the utmost importance, only to find out that terror was being caused to others, or living life in fear that a huge monster was gobbling up dear friends and family, only to realise it was all human-controlled with no explanation as to why. Surely in either circumstance some over-the-top reactions are called for? Nope, this is just like any other day.

Screenshot for Broken Age: Act 2 on PC

Then there are the liberties taken with puzzle solving, relying on switching between both characters to figure out the solutions at times, making no real sense at all as it implies some mental bond between the two, with Shay suddenly realising how to crack something after switching to Vella to uncover a random drawing or piece of childhood memorabilia, and vice versa, with Vella overcoming hurdles by using intelligence that only Shay has to hand. There is not even a loose connection, say, for instance, a walkie-talkie that works long distance. It's all brushed over for the sake of just getting on with it. Overlooking that is actually somewhat acceptable since, after all, it is an extremely solid adventure with smart tasks to overcome, right? Ah, not quite…

Knowing what does and does not work in the age-old point-and-click adventure genre is imperative to any newcomers aiming to dip their toes into the much-loved style of gaming. For veterans, like those at Double Fine, however, it should be a given that timing-based solutions that require pinpoint accuracy are somewhat of a no-no due to their frustrating nature, as are lengthy sequences of events that reset after just the smallest of missteps - again, inciting rage after the umpteenth attempt. As for puzzles that are so obtuse that they result in that horrendous situation of having to work through every single permutation until reaching the desired result for the game to allow progression, these are the worst offenders and not only should they be stricken from any half-decent adventure, they certainly should not be featured several times within one game, as is the case here.

Unfortunately, Broken Age: Act 2 falls foul of many issues that plagued older examples of this genre, but issues that others have ironed out over the years following user feedback. Here, the game is rife with areas that will cause most to call it a day and not even bother suffering through to the end credits. Trekking back and forth over long distances to do menial tasks is another bugbear feature, with there being one specific point where it is obvious what to do, but the required items cannot be held in the inventory at the same time, meaning a long hike must be made to move things one at a time.

With a disjointed story that introduces elements not even hinted at in Act 1, lack of emotional attachment to either lead character, no strong emotions felt from any of the cast, puzzles that will either make no sense or become overly laborious to the point of wanting to give up, and **spoiler alert** no proper conclusion to bring all plot points together satisfactorily, nor any impressive ending sequence,**end spoiler** Broken Age: Act 2 would be one to miss if sold separately, but as it happens, turns out to merely be a highly disappointing end to something that started with such strong promise.

Screenshot for Broken Age: Act 2 on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Mired by poorly thought-out puzzles, mundane trekking back-and-forth action, and a convoluted story that ruins any premise set out in Act 1 and ultimately delivers no real conclusion or satisfying ending, Broken Age: Act 2 seems like it was made by a completely different team to the one that managed to make Act 1 so appealing - one that has no experience in the rights and wrongs of adventure titles, and a team that was given nothing more than a specification sheet and not even a the merest glance at the previous release. Beautiful in its aesthetics, smart in its user-interface, yet ultimately lacking in almost every other key area, Broken Age: Act 2 is mightily disappointing on its own. Since it comes as a free update to those that already laid money down for Act 1, thankfully no money will feel like it has been wasted. Anyone picking up the full package on a non-PC format, though, might feel a touch more down and bitter, since the second half is not a patch on the first part and the cost outlay will be fresher in their minds.

Developer

Double Fine

Publisher

Double Fine

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Ouch! I didn't want to read the review, since I didn't want to spoil it, but wow, that score. I absolutely LOVED Act 1 and it was one of my GOTY's last year.

Are there any bad points you can mention that won't spoil the story? I really hope I can enjoy it at least half as much as Act 1.

- Terrible puzzles
- Awful story twist
- No real ending

There aren't really any spoilers in the review, other than the twist at the end of Act 1 being mentioned.

I thoroughly enjoyed Act 1, as you can see from my 8/10 review linked to in this review, but this was shocking. Numerous times I just wanted the pain to stop.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

3.3 million dollars...
for this.

honestly- are you really surprised that Tim let you down?

let me put this into perspective-
Dragons Crown cost 1.1 million dollars and it is Vanillaware's most expensive production.

It's very sad because Act 1 was really enjoyable. Whereas Dead Synchronicity started poor but got so much better, Act 2 started bad and just got progressively more annoying...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Hmm, well I'll see how it goes for me. Hopefully I'm able to enjoy it more than others have, since I had really high hopes for the conclusion! Thanks for explaining the negative points about the game! Smilie

I've seen some other reviews that don't quite make sense, with similarly negative comments yet a higher score, almost like they were afraid to mark it down. Odd.

Drew will have a review of the full game on PS4 soon, so that will shed more light on how well it does when played in one full sitting.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Need your help, Adam.

How do you get the bomb to the garbage dispenser? I've tried everything, but I can't make it in time, even when I'm right next to the little robot cleaner guy. >_<

( Edited 11.05.2015 17:21 by Marzy )

This is another annoying one... You need to move an object into the little guy's path to slow him down before you go through the teleporters.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Thank you, Adam!

Going back and forth was incredibly boring every time I failed.

Won't be the last time you hit something as frustrating as that! I was annoyed with the bit where Vela rotated around and needed to get the boot, etc. Kept getting the timing JUST wrong.

Have you read Drew's review of the full adventure? He's a bit more lenient than me because he played the superior first part alongside Act 2.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

I got to a part with Vella where I was stuck in the control room with Hope and there was nothing I could do. I thought it was some sort of bug, but I looked it up and it turns out I have to play through Shay's part now. Thanks for the heads up Double Fine, like how am I supposed to know that with no indication? Lol. Crazy stuff. I was sitting in the room for about 30 minutes waiting for something to happen, since Hope kept saying we have to wait for Marekai to stop looking for errors in the ships navagation system.

I've not read through Drew's review yet. I think I would have rated it more highly if I had played the entire game right through.

( Edited 11.05.2015 20:50 by Marzy )

Yeah, there are too many instances where the dev team clearly understands what to do next, but there is a failure to understand that players don't always jump to the same conclusion. There are lots of character swapping parts towards the end that don't really make much sense either, since the characters themselves have no way of sharing the information they gather.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Adam Riley said:
Yeah, there are too many instances where the dev team clearly understands what to do next, but there is a failure to understand that players don't always jump to the same conclusion. There are lots of character swapping parts towards the end that don't really make much sense either, since the characters themselves have no way of sharing the information they gather.
this sounds horrible

Some may overlook it, but the lack of connection between Shay and Vela really got  me down. How could Vela looking at something on a ship suddenly help Shay on the island figure out the solution to a puzzle? A lot of liberties are taken with the way puzzles are solved.

I'm going to try Grim Fandango out of sheer intrigue...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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