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While I try to stay detached from the games I’m to review, one or two slip by this self-imposed rule. I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Drop Bear Bytes’ post-apocalyptic CRPG Broken Roads ever since I interviewed the game director nearly 4 years ago. After a last-minute delay in 2023 and a sudden publisher change, Broken Roads is finally coming out today. As someone who’s been playing the game in its multiple stages of development, this review has been a long time coming. I’ll be answering two major questions in this review — did the game live up to my hype, and would I recommend it to the average CRPG enjoyer?

Broken Roads
Broken Roads

Moral Dilemmas

You can already deduce the answer to the first question from the title of this review. From the outset, Broken Roads had all the right ingredients in stock — the ever-selling post-apocalyptic template, an unsaturated locale, 30 years’ worth of inspiration, and industry veterans as consultants. But what I experienced was a run-of-the-mill, and at times buggy CRPG that fails to capture some of the most crucial elements of a CRPG. Broken Roads is not a bad game by any means, as it shows signs of brilliance occasionally. But there are a dozen modern CRPGs that do what Broken Roads does better and the bugs don’t help either.

Broken Roads

Credit where it’s due, Broken Roads has an excellent first hour. Taking cues from Dragon Age: Origins, the game gives you a choice of four origin stories to choose from — Hired Gun, Jackaroo, Surveyor, and Barter Crew, with each having their starting quests. While these short segments all culminate similarly, the way each of them introduces the player to the game’s main cast of characters, a rag-tag squad of enforcers and protectors, is splendid. Each origin story shows a different angle into the squad’s interpersonal dynamics and philosophies, forming another major component of the game — the moral compass.

Broken Roads

Broken Roads tackles the classic good vs bad, light vs dark systems and gives it a bit more fluid and organic progression by introducing the moral compass. The compass is divided into four quadrants- Utilitarian, Humanist, Nihilist, and Machiavellian. At the start of character creation, you will be asked a series of questions that dictate your starting position on the Moral Compass. As you make decisions in the game, your philosophical leaning as well as your worldview shift around the compass. In theory, this replaces the traditional morality system in favor of an organic one that provides ample role-playing opportunities and allows the player to acquire unique moral traits. For example, a Humanist gains additional bonuses when using support skills but won’t be able to make risky AoE attacks that might harm their companions while a Nihilist gains bonus initiative when no companions are adjacent to them — something which is akin to the Convictions system from Rogue Trader.

At the same time, I feel that the moral compass is severely underutilized in the game. While the game’s definitions of Utilitarianism, Humanism, Nihilism, and Machoavellianism are streamlined layman’s versions, they are well-implemented in the main quests. But I feel that the majority of the side quests do not make full use of it. Mundane fetch quests make up a large portion of Broken Roads’ side content. While there are some fun side quests like dealing with a former bandit cum serial killer with dementia and making the perfect cuppa for the elder of a native Australian tribe, most of them involve performing mundane tasks like collecting “20 bear asses“. There are also a handful of quests that are seemingly bugged or that do not work as intended. That being said, I like that the game requires the player to pay attention to dialogues and journal entries to solve quests. It’s refreshing to see a game that doesn’t fill the HUD with glowing yellow quest markers and insult the critical thinking ability of the player.

Shooty McFight

Another underwhelming aspect of Broken Roads is its turn-based combat. This being a narrative-driven game, there are only a handful of handcrafted combat encounters in Broken Roads (unless I missed some across my three playthroughs). All my combat encounters were boring, slow affairs filled accompanied by a janky cover system. Between melee and ranged combat, Broken Roads gives the player plenty of combat abilities including some low-fantasy magic skills. But what’s the point if there are no interesting and varied enemies to take on? There is also a striking lack of varied combat music. There are mainly two tracks that loop endlessly, forcing me to turn the music all the way down in subsequent playthroughs.

Another point of frustration is that for a party-based RPG, the player does not have any control over the progression of their party members. They level up automatically and their stat distribution is less than ideal. Furthermore, the loot is extremely generic and the weapon variety of the game is limited to uninspiring pistol +1, rifle +2, and shotgun +3 variants (excluding a handful of custom weapons). Even the final boss fight (more on that later) is underwhelming to the point of being one of the worst CRPG bosses in recent memory. With all these issues present, the combat system seems like an afterthought more than anything else. Thankfully, you can avoid combat altogether or even run away from encounters as you wish, which I highly recommend.

Ruined World

But let’s set it all aside for a moment. My biggest gripe with Broken Roads is how half-baked the second half of its narrative is. Without spoiling anything, the main story (which starts interesting) devolves into a series of tedious checklist tasks with a big bad who’s barely there. The narrative expects you to immerse yourself in the possibility of an imminent threat and form budding relationships with your brothers-in-arms, similar to the Walking Dead media. However, it just never feels that way due to how static the world is. Reactivity is one aspect of Broken Roads that spectacularly fails. Whatever you do, the world does not seem to react to or in some cases, acknowledge your actions. For example, during the last act of the game, the player can cause noticeable chaos in a well-fortified city like openly executing one of the top brass and no one will bat an eye. You are still free to move around the populated city as if nothing had happened. Citizens act indifferent to all the mayhem you cause and all the town leaders seem to be affected by short-term memory loss.

For me, this is one of the most important aspects of a CRPG and Broken Roads does such a bad job of creating a reactive world. After the prologue, there is very little party banter and opportunities to interact with your companions are severely limited. On the plus side of the narrative, the dialogues are cleverly written and filled with references and callbacks only an Aussie would understand. But hey, it’s got enough Cricket references and that is enough for me. The world is populated by interesting NPCs and witty flavor texts that you wish they had done more with it.

Beautiful Desolation

Broken Roads is a beautiful game and the best-looking CRPG after PoE 2 in my eyes. The game world is packed with minute details and brushed over with an oil-painting-like aesthetic that’s ever-pleasing to the eyes. While the character animations are not up to par with the rest of the visuals, they do the job just fine. Who said wastelands all have to be dull-looking, eh? I just wish the unique locations were bigger and more in number.

Broken Roads also run as good as it looks. The game runs flawlessly on my RTX 3070 and 4060 PCs as well as on the Steam Deck. Do note that the onboard controls of the Steam Deck may not fully work with the game at launch. Drop Bear Bytes plans to make the game Steam Deck verified soon after launch. The team has also been feverous in patching out reported bugs and deploying patches even pre-launch. So, it’s a fair assumption that the bugs I mentioned will be ironed out sooner rather than later.

Broken Roads

Real Talk

I won’t deny that my anticipation for Broken Roads has affected my opinion of the finished product in one way or another. The idea of Broken Roads propagated by the mainstream press is a far cry from the game I played to completion. The game’s witty Aussie charm and gorgeous visuals are let down by its underwhelming narrative, static game world, and barebones combat mechanics. But, if you’re a newcomer to CRPGs, then Broken Roads may satiate your urge. Even then, my suggestion is to wait for the developers to clean up the remaining bugs.


Broken Roads Review

Broken Roads Review
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Broken Roads is a story-rich, party-based RPG set in a decaying, post-apocalyptic version of the vast Australian Outback, featuring a genre-redefining morality system. Survive, form bonds, and make tough choices that will shape your dangerous yet mesmerizing journey across the wilds.
Broken Roads is a story-rich, party-based RPG set in a decaying, post-apocalyptic version of the vast Australian Outback, featuring a genre-redefining morality system. Survive, form bonds, and make tough choices that will shape your dangerous yet mesmerizing journey across the wilds.
Total Score

The Good

  • Interesting world and lore
  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Witty dialogues
  • The moral compass is a neat addition

The Bad

  • A static, non-reactive world
  • Barebones combat system
  • Tedious fetch quests
  • Bugs
Broken Roads

Gameffine's resident CRPG aficionado Jay takes a critical look at Broken Roads, the much-anticipated RPG from Australian Studios Drop Bear Byes

Product Brand: Drop Bear Bytes

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: $34.99

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
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