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Broken Roads Review

Broken Roads

Developer: Drop Bear Bytes
Publisher: Versus Evil, tinyBuild
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S (Reviewed)
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $39.99 USD – Available Here


When one thinks of the post-apocalypse, it almost always involves some form of nuclear destruction, plague, or even zombie threat as the survivors struggle to continue living in a world that wants them dead. Usually these are set in a North American city or greater region, sometimes in Europe, but what about a place where the wildlife wants to kill its residents even on a normal day? Few games take advantage of Australia and the unique aspects the continent provides, even less in a post-apocalyptic Australia. So when indie developer Drop Bear Bytes worked hard to put out a CRPG called Broken Roads, where players have a moral compass, choices to make, and a world to survive in all while exploring Western Australia, it seemed like a perfect chance for something new. If only the game’s name didn’t end up having a double-meaning in the end.


Players begin Broken Roads by selecting from one of four origin stories that dictates their starting location and how they will spend their first hour or so with the game as each origin story features a different starting circumstance and can provide extra dialogue checks, unique services, or interactions with characters down the line, as well as a personality test. This personality test is rather important as it plays a key role in one of Broken Roads’ more interesting features, the Moral Compass. Rather than things being good or evil, or even shades of gray, they are broken down into four different philosophical branches: Humanism, Nihilism, Utilitarianism, and finally Machiavellianism. Depending on the player’s answers to the quiz they’ll end up with a “golden arc” that highlights their character’s worldview and often provides dialogue choices related to it. For example, the humanist might want to invite the devastated survivors of a group into their town even if it means the survivors end up being turned into basically slaves or tell them to take their chances out in the wild rather than fall so low as to deal with that. Along those same lines, the nihilist option might be crossed out entirely, with the game giving players the option to hide unselectable dialogue prompts if they so choose. There are occasionally dialogue choices that bridge the gap a bit and let player’s swing their viewpoint a bit in different directions or even narrow theirs even further, though these are rare and don’t seem to make significant swings outside of a couple specific choices.

Regardless of the player’s moral compass and origin story, they’ll eventually find themselves saddled with a group of survivors on the run from a terribly powerful force and seeking refuge in one of the safest and well-supplied locations close-by only to find themselves embroiled in a bit of a dispute between who the next mayor should be. Things come to a head during a debate that sees a massive reveal about the grander world of Broken Roads, before opening players up to the world and allowing full exploration to find out who attacked them and far more than that along the way, including a number of solid twists in the latter half. If only the road there weren’t as broken as the name suggests, littered with bugs, glitched quests, and progress stopping bugs that required not one, but two complete restarts of the game from the beginning to get through. 

Broken Roads’ storyline is an interesting one and seems to do a fairly good job exploring an untouched location such as Australia. Not only is there a “slang” encyclopedia during conversations with characters, but the interactions can have some rather surprising results. Certain dialogue options might have dire consequences without the player’s knowledge, only coming into play an hour later into the game or changing how a character sees the player. Even combat interactions can be avoided in nearly every case, with players able to flee random encounters and even scripted ones if they so choose. 

Unfortunately, despite having a moral compass mechanic and so many variations on the ways various events and quests can play out, including multiple endings with these variations, Broken Roads’ characters and companions can be incredibly lacking. That being said, the few larger locations that feature NPCs with their own stories that actually play out and don’t bug out are quite interesting, ranging from spiritualism, dictatorship, militarism, and more. Seeing these locations all try to survive under different types of rules is interesting, especially when players can have a role in things. It is clear that Drop Bear Bytes has done their best to write many of these characters as interesting as possible as some of the best parts of the game come from having debates or unique interactions with the residents of these towns, especially one that involves solving some quiz questions to enter. There are plenty of characters to interact with in the devastated land of Western Australia and the writing certainly lives up to the task to make these characters feel unique, at least when they don’t bug out.

It is rather unfortunate though that, beyond the initial introduction to many of the companions in the game, there is very little opportunity to actually interact with them in any meaningful way or learn about them. A few are given some extra writing here and there, or chime in if they are in the player’s party, but otherwise the companions are incredibly forgettable, something that is a disappointment in a CRPG like this. In fact, one of my companions seemed perpetually pissed at my character despite literally saving their family and completing a quest for them while another couldn’t be happier to see me despite doing nothing for the man. Perhaps it plays into the moral compass, but this isn’t indicated plainly.

Along these same lines, while many CRPGs feature various skill checks that require a player to have a certain attribute to “succeed” an action, rather than giving players a potential percentage Broken Roads appears to make use of a pass/fail system. This means if a skill check says that an action is going to be “Normal”, if the player doesn’t have enough points attributed to said skill, then it’ll fail. Every single time, even given reloads. Perhaps this was done to avoid save-scumming, but considering once the game opens up fully they are given access to an NPC that will allow them to reset their character’s stat point distribution free of cost, this is a strange choice to make. It is worth noting that the game does feature something called a “punt” system that is stated to allow players to have some extra advantage during skill checks if they invest enough points into their punt ability, however outside of combat these seem to have no effect in actual skill checks, with players better spent investing points in skills directly rather than punt.

Now, onto the bugs that make Broken Roads feel broken. As mentioned before, these can range from making side-quests completely uncompletable or complete on their own, with players seemingly giving objects to characters that they do not have or finding NPCs stuck in dialogue loops and non-intractable as a result or even finding NPCs in random locations, talking to characters that aren’t anywhere near them or even in the same town. On more than one occasion an NPC would ask for items, then vanish from the game entirely without any hint in the incredibly non-player friendly journal about their location or if the quest just bugged out. Similarly, while many quests have different outcomes and ways to tackle them, completing a quest can entirely remove the option to talk to or use an item with certain characters as a result. On the more severe side of things, progression bugs can be quite dire and throughout my time with the game, required two entire starts from scratch. This involved a bug that completely disabled any form of user interface and movement after a certain date in the game, even reloading far earlier into the game and making it to that same point resulted in a complete lockdown no matter where my character traveled to. Another saw my characters being locked entirely within a location, unable to interact or talk with any character but able to at least use the menu though this still needed a complete restart from the beginning to resolve. 


The bulk of what Broken Roads has to offer comes in the form of its story content and, as mentioned before, the moral compass and how it plays a role in the choices available to players, how some party members react to them, and of course if they can sway their worldview or tighten it even further. Despite being a full blown CRPG, the game is at its best when exploring towns, talking to people and seeing how the world is still continuing despite the destruction, maybe seeing the local emu wander the streets without a care that people are wandering around or a kangaroo hopping through a devastated gas station that has been set up as a fortified position. This can involve taking on quests, as mentioned before, from these NPCs and completing them in a variety of ways, with most quests featuring at least two or three different ways to properly solve them. In fact there are even ways to purposefully fail missions if the reward for doing so is better in the player’s eyes. This level of choice is a nice one, though considering how heavily bugged many quests can be, the actual progression can be quite difficult. 

For example, one such quest could see me freeing an NPC from indentured servitude, giving me many ways to do so. My character could smuggle them out with the help of a companion that needs convincing, pay someone else to smuggle them out, do a favor for the mayor to get their debt cleared, or sneak in and steal the contract myself. First, trying to find the most peaceful option for everyone involved, my character tried to be sneaky only for the safe to be locked and the only way to access the code being unselectable. Another option to try and talk to the NPC involved was met with repeated dialogue that wouldn’t even enter an actual conversation, locking out two approaches with bugs. Finally, deciding to see if my player could backstab the mayor a bit by taking advantage of their task to earn a favor, the prerequisite option vanished entirely once the character was smuggled out as a final choice. Broken Roads may have players fight some bugs at times in random encounters but the game itself is just riddled with them and the longer players delve into the content, the more pronounced they become and nowhere is this more prominent than the quest progression system.

When not talking to people or doing quests, players can travel around and search locations, though consoles unfortunately lack the PC option that highlights lootable containers and points of interest. Eventually players can even travel the open world via a map screen to specific locations that they either find by wandering aimlessly or have marked down as part of a quest. While traveling time will pass, though this only plays a role in a few timed quests and events, and they may meet with bandits or hostile wildlife along the way. Considering there is an achievement for never killing a single thing throughout the game, the Broken Roads allows players to flee open world encounters at the click of a button without repercussions and even the rare times that the story forces players into combat, there also the option to flee though this can and will usually result in a different outcome compared to simply standing and fighting. 

Combat in Broken Roads is… basic at its best and frustrating at its worst. Combat is turn-based with every character in a fight having Action Points and Movement Points. Players can move a certain distance to either run up and stab/smack an enemy or position themselves for the best shot with a gun, though swapping between melee and ranged takes an action point. Players are given percentages to hit and shown how much damage they’ll do, but rarely does it ever feel more involved than that. Yes, players do get a few special skills that we will keep secret here that involve the expanding world of Broken Roads but rarely does combat ever feel like it evolves. In fact, the game can warn players that they might encounter difficult fights but doesn’t actually show enemy risk or level. Nevermind the fact that targeting enemies in fights can be an absolute disaster in certain locations, especially if they are in melee range of an ally. While it is possible to try and target an enemy by hovering over their HP bar, this doesn’t always work and in more than one fight an encounter lingered on far longer than it should have simply because I needed to lure the enemy away from a tree or move an ally away from them (taken the game’s version of an attack of opportunity as a result) in order to actually shoot them. Of course, considering allies that lose all their health get right back up after a fight is over, it isn’t really of much consequence as long as the player wins. Combine this with simplistic equipment where character’s can wear a different type of shirt and hat to gain some stats and some tools like grenades, molotovs, and of course different kinds of beer to chug for bonus stats, and that’s all Broken Roads’ combat has to offer, often making it feel like something tacked on at times rather than an initially planned part of development.

Audio & Visuals

Broken Roads has a lovely art style that gives everything a feeling as if it was hand-drawn. This includes the numerous character portraits that players meet even if the actual player customization is a bit limited as a result. The areas that players can explore feel satisfying, though it is worth noting that, unlike the PC version, players on console cannot currently highlight interactable objects which can be a pain given the main hidden loot caches in most locations. It is also nice to note that the game is filled with both authentic Australian wildlife, including hostile ones players can eliminate, as well as landmarks. While I myself may not be from Australia, a few of our writers are and can confirm some standout jokes and landmarks that survived the apocalypse. Players can and will encounter everything from kangaroos and dingos to drop-bears (koala) and even mutated wombats ready to take a chunk out of their team.

The soundtrack is fittingly atmospheric for a post-apocalyptic game. The background music is well enough for exploration of towns and fitting for combat even if it could use a bit more variety doesn’t really stand out in any unusual way while the sound effects often feel delayed compared to the action players make. It is also worth noting that the game does have a partial English voice track, though this is incredibly hit and miss to the point that there is seemingly no rhyme or reason why some characters are voiced and others are not. In fact, one character can have an initial voiced line, be silent the next two lines, and speak the fourth. The quality of the voice work is also a mixed bag, as, consulting with members that live in Australia, shows that many of the characters at least sound authentically Australian, a few sound quite odd, especially whenever the narrator chimes up with an incredibly dramatic take on things.


As someone from a place with eternal road construction, seeing broken roads get patched is a common occurrence and often one that makes for smooth sailing after a while, but in the case of Drop Bear Bytes’ Broken Roads, some of these issues run deeper than the bug riddled experience, what with its lackluster combat, boring companions, and lacking quality of life features. Playing through the game the multiple times I needed to to actually see it through, it is evident that there is a lot of passion here and the writing does show it. The morality compass, the numerous ways things can develop and progress, and the unique Australian flavoring seeping from every crack in this broken road makes it an interesting game that we hope can get fixed in the future, even if some of its issues are far deeper than some patches can fix.

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.


A lot of love has gone into Broken Roads and making its Australian setting unique but lackluster combat, companions, and nonstop bugs make this one difficult to approach until further down the road.
Travis Bruno
Travis Bruno
After playing games since a young age and getting into anime a bit later on its been time to write about a little bit of everything.
A lot of love has gone into <i>Broken Roads</i> and making its Australian setting unique but lackluster combat, companions, and nonstop bugs make this one difficult to approach until further down the road.Broken Roads Review