Broken Roads, Fallout inspired CRPG, official artwork and logo

Set in the post-apocalyptic version of Western Australia, Broken Roads is a narrative driven CRPG following various groups of people desperately trying to survive in a land that not only contains mutated Australian wildlife, but also one that hasn't seen a single shred of rain in many years! With that in mind, I'm sure it'll come as a massive shock to hear that Broken Roads takes a lot of inspiration from the classic Fallout games, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the number of unique options you have when attempting to resolve some of the major conflicts.

So if you're curious about what exactly Broken Roads does well, as well as where it falls flat on its face, allow me to share with you my thoughts after spending the last week thoroughly exploring its first chapter.

Video version of this preview (~13 minutes)

Before I begin, it's important to note that Broken Roads is still in development. As such, not only are some of the mechanics currently a bit underbaked, but a lot of the things I'm about to talk about can, and likely will, be changed by the time it actually launches in early 2024. So consider this more as an opportunity to gauge whether Broken Roads is something you'd be interested in or not, rather than as a way to figure how good of a game it's going to be since that's too early to judge.

The world that remains

With that little disclaimer out of the way, the first thing that really caught my eye in Broken Roads is the simple fact that the world feels lived in. Despite the story taking place in a post-apocalyptic desert, the various settlements I ran across all had small touches of humanity that gave them a lot of personality. Even something as simple as two chairs pointed towards the sunset with a couple of beer cans strewn around can say a lot about the people that live there, and Broken Roads is full of such tiny background details.

While this may be something only weirdos like me care about, I also appreciate Broken Roads taking the time and effort to answer the classic trio of city-based questions: what do the people eat?; what do they drink?; and what do they do for fun? Every single village or outpost I visited had very clear solutions to all three problems, and the ones that didn't heavily revolved around trying to solve them. All of this represents a very tiny part of the greater whole, and something that most people won't even notice or care about, but even so tidbits like these go a long way towards immersing the player in the world and its characters - something that I consider crucial for a CRPG.

Broken Roads Fallout inspired CRPG screenshot of highly detailed backgrounds

It only takes a few small touches to make a house a home

When it comes to the atmosphere, Broken Roads is unsurprisingly bleak, though with a couple of brief flashes of hope here and there. Most people are living in abject poverty, surviving by either scavenging the last remnants of old world technology, attempting to grow crops during a drought in the middle of the desert or simply by stealing from others. Yet despite the hardships, life goes on. Most people are striving for something more than just mere survival, which again helps ground the setting and its characters.

All of that extends to the various storylines as well. I won't go into any details in order to avoid spoiling things, but what I will say is that Broken Roads starts off as a fairly generic tale about a post-apocalyptic wanderer, only to become more and more bizarre as new factions and events enter the picture. While I sadly didn't get to see the resolution of many of these plot points, they were definitely interesting enough to make me want to.

Fallout inspired CRPG Broken Roads screenshot of a Lake Deborah

How is there a paradise in the middle of the desert?

Another reason I'd love to give the full version a try is to see just how much of an impact I can have on the world. Throughout my playthrough I had to make a lot of really tough choices, make of which seemed to have far-reaching consequences. For example I'm pretty sure it's possible to change, forcibly or otherwise, the leadership of the majority of the big settlements, and even obliterate one by using their own defenses against them!

How much will decisions like these impact the main story, I have no clue, but I do like the idea of the player being allowed to improve of the world or simply ruin it for their own benefits, all on a large scale. Similarly, there are NPCs whose existence or even knowledge of certain events promises major consequences down the line, so I'm also curious to see just how many lives a simple sentence can change.

Broken Roads, Fallout inspired RPG, screenshot of tough decisions in dialogue

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, things just don't end up working out

Your moral compass

All of these decisions and their consequences tie into Broken Roads' morality system. Instead of going with the fairly standard good boy vs bad boy points you might see in games like Mass Effect, your choices in Broken Roads affect your Moral Compass which is divided between four ideologies: humanitarian, utilitarian, Machiavelian and nihilist - or in simplistic terms: everyone's life is equally important; the greater good is what matters the most; the ends justify the means; and 'me, me, me, and only me'.

While this Moral Compass sounds like a massively complex system that'll dictate everything about the story, in my experience it's basically irrelevant. This isn't to say that the dialogue options aren't interesting or that the choices don't match these above mentioned ideologies, but rather that the actual writing itself is what carries the conversations. After all, a tough moral dilemma would be just as interesting with or without something like the [Utilitarian] tag stapled to it.

From what I can tell, these options only seem to shift your alignment which has small effects on your gameplay. That's pretty much it. The dialogue has to stand on its own, and for the most part it does, so the changes in your character's alignment feel like they're there purely for flavor reasons. I don't particularly mind that as I hate being forced to choose a certain option because I'd lose my bonuses otherwise, but it's a bit strange to see so much focus on it during character creation when its actual impact is seemingly small.

Broken Roads, Fallout inspired CRPG, screenshot of the moral compass system

It's an interesting idea, that's for sure

The different flavors of quests

When it comes to the moment-to-moment the gameplay, Broken Roads is about as standard as it gets for a CRPG. Once you're done with the prologue you're able to roam the world map looking for interesting places to explore, people to annoy with a barrage of personal questions, bandits and other baddies to smash in turn-based combat, and naturally, quests to solve for that sweet, sweet experience. Unless things drastically change after Chapter 1, that's pretty much it.

I don't particularly mind as I consider CRPGs vessels for interactive storytelling, but even so, I would've liked it if Broken Roads leaned harder into its Mad Max themes and made you scrounge or trade for fuel in order to explore some of the distant locations. Just something to add a little bit of extra pressure and make it so finding safe havens throughout the wasteland is a more exciting experience.

Speaking of which, one of the main reasons you'll be leaving your base town is to complete numerous quests for all sorts of characters, both good and bad. This is where my opinion on Broken Roads is the most divided as some of the quests are genuinely compelling and do a great job of enriching the world and its atmosphere, and then there's a big batch of them that are just tedious busywork that only left me frustrated upon completion.

Broken Roads, Classic Fallout inspired CRPG, screenshot of a compelling quest

With a solid premise, a quest doesn't even need action to be captivating

For example, a quest can explore a rather curious question like whether it's right it to kill an old man for crimes he committed during his younger years, fully knowing that killing him won't fix anything. There's a lot of interesting routes to take throughout this quest, including being a complete bastard and double-crossing everyone in order to squeeze as much money out of people as possible. And then you take the next quest in line which is to find three infinitesimally small possums hidden somewhere in a massive city - something that took me over twenty minutes, made me loose my bloody mind, and eventually rewarded me with essentially nothing!

That said, Broken Roads is still unfinished so it's entirely possible that some of these quests were placeholders or just didn't get that final bit of polish. Either way, I can only hope that the rest of Broken Roads will focus more on the story and character focused quests as those were far more interesting and memorable than just scouring the entire map looking for random bits and bobs.

Broken Roads, Fallout inspired CRPG, screenshot of a very annoying quest

Even zoomed in they are basically invisible!

Combat and its woes

As for the combat that represents the other major portion of Broken Roads' gameplay, that one is hard to discuss as it's by far the most unfinished part. In the build I was playing a good chunk of the animations were still missing and the abilities I had access to mostly boiled down to "shoot" and "shoot harder", so it's a bit like trying to critique a pizza while staring a bag of flour.

What I will say is that combat seems to be fairly frequent, even if you decide to play a charismatic character like I did. While I was able to avoid fights throughout most of the main quest, there were a fair few situations where I would just walk into a new area and instantly get jumped by a bunch of bandits. Thankfully, even 'supportive' stats like Charisma can help you out in combat, so any type of character should in theory work just fine as long as you build your team around them.

My biggest concern with combat, and something I hope won't end up being the case in the launch version, is that it's a bit too simplistic. Even if the animations were perfect and everything polished to a mirror sheen, I just don't know how long a gunslinging character would remain entertaining when all they're seemingly able to do is move and shoot from beginning to end.

Broken Roads, Fallout inspired CRPG, screenshot of the rather simple turn-based combat

The combat needs a bit more complexity to be truly engaging

It's all about the details

In terms of visuals, Broken Roads isn't exactly high fidelity, but it does have a nice style to it. Everything is mostly brown and gray, as you would expect from a post-apocalyptic desert, but there's just enough splotches of color to break up the monotony and make the whole place a bit more lively.

There's also a lot of environmental details scattered everywhere, even in the most irrelevant of locations. Buildings are covered in layers of grime and patchwork repair jobs, areas that people frequent are generally cleaner and feature a couple of places to rest, while ruined locations have enough rocks, shrubs and other assorted doodads to really sell the idea that nobody has been around here for decades. It's obvious that a lot of time and effort has went into Broken Roads' presentation, so even though it might not be the most technologically advanced game around, it's very easy on the eyes and, when everything lines up just right, even quite beautiful.

And finally, the music. There's not much to talk about here as it's mostly background, atmospheric stuff that keeps you company as you trek across the wasteland. If I didn't have the footage on hand I wouldn't even be able to tell you what the music is like, though despite all of that, I don't actually think it's bad. It's just that it's very subdued and mostly here to help you get immersed in the world, which I suppose is exactly what you want from a CRPG.

Broken Roads, Fallout inspired CRPG, screenshot of the highly detailed scenery

Even irrelevant locations have been decorated with heaps of tiny details

Closing thoughts

Broken Roads has a lot of potential, and I must admit I greatly enjoyed my time with it over the past week, the various bugs notwithstanding. However, in order to fulfill that potential Broken Roads is going to need a fair bit of polish as the actual gameplay is still a bit on janky side.

Fixing all of that up is not going to be an easy task though, especially when the release date is only a few months away. So while I'm definitely cheering for Broken Roads to succeed, I won't be too surprised if it launches with some of the aforementioned issues still intact.

Even so, I'm looking forward to taking the full version for a spin as I found the story and world itself to be quite engaging, and I'm very eager to see where it all leads.