PAX Aus 2023 Highlight – Broken Roads

Posted on October 21, 2023

Broken Roads is a title that Checkpointers have had their eyes on since at least 2020. It was, and still is, not hard to get excited about what developers Drop Bear Bytes have created; a post-apocalyptic RPG taking place in the year 2130 set in the Australian outback that gives off big Fallout and Wasteland vibes. Just weeks before its intended release, I spoke to Drop Bear Bytes and played the game’s latest demo at PAX Australia 2023.

The demo activates right at the beginning of the Broken Roads journey and therefore, includes character appearance, origin, morality and statistics. When I enter the “appearance” setup, there are only a few character profiles to choose from but I’m happy to see that these profiles include both genders and people of colour. I express this to Dean Baron, a programmer with Drop Bear, who tells me that the team researched the demographics of the people who live in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia, where the game is set, and created profiles that mirror these statistics. It’s these little details that make me so excited about playing the game in its entirety.

The statistics options both impress and overwhelm me as you are given 40 points to put into both attributes and skills for your character build, such as strength, agility, resolve, awareness, intelligence and charisma. However, the gameplay element that sets Broken Roads apart is its intricate 360-degree chart morality system. This will see the choices players make throughout the game fall into one of four distinct moral philosophical camps of thought – Utilitarianism, Nihilism, Machiavellianism and Humanism.

Leanne Taylor-Giles, the game’s narrative director, explains that the team really want players to feel the weight of the choices they have made and therefore different narrative options will open or close to you based on these moralistic choices. Taylor-Giles states, “We don’t want players to make a Nihilistic choice and then be able to make a Humanist choice straight after”. The demo asked players a bunch of text-based questions to choose where their moral philosophy lies at the beginning of the game. Next to each answer is the moral philosophy that the choice connects with. This, Baron states, will not be included in the final game, to deter players from using these titles to make their choices rather than picking what answer they agree with.

The difference between the PAX demo and the one that is currently on Steam is that all classes are available to play, whereas the Steam demo only lets you play as a Hired Gun. The other classes include Surveyor (an expert on tracking and exploring), Jackaroo (jack of all trades) or Barter Crew (very good at haggling and talking themselves out of sticky situations). By picking the Jackaroo, I find myself in a completely different starting location than I did when playing as a Hired Gun. As I’m on a new farm, the characters around me are different, but as with the Steam demo, I am tasked with a number of odd jobs before getting into a turn-based shootout with two bandits.

Even though I have only run around and given animals water and dislodged a sheep’s head from a barbed wire fence, I love the distinct Aussie vibes I feel and experience whilst playing. Broken Roads distinctive use of colloquial language, the “sunburnt” country visuals and the way that player choices are monitored via the moral compass system make me super excited to play the game in its completed state. I won’t have long to wait as Broken Roads releases on PC and consoles on the 14th of November 2023. You can also play the demo on Steam now.