Welcome to I’m Still Talking About… My 2015 end of the year feature where I find fifteen games that defined the indie game scene for me this year.  These aren’t the best games of 2015, they’re not the must-plays, they are the games that have refused to leave my thoughts, the games that got under my skin.  For better or worse, these are the games I’m still talking about.

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Let’s say five years from now an alien lands from outer space in your backyard.  He’s friendly and can communicate in a common tongue.  He says that he has spent the last five years floating above Earth, trying to learn all about our culture, and he wants you to show him your Steam Library.  He’s an alien, so you oblige him, and while scanning through your titles he sees the point-and-click adventure, Broken Age.

“Tell me about this game,” the alien says.

Where do you begin?  How do you try and communicate everything that needs to be said about the game which seemed to dominate the video game hive-mind for years but ultimately became nothing more than a decent return to the point-and-click era that satisfied a small pocket of hardcore fans and left the majority of players a little disappointed.  The story of Broken Age’s development  is far more interesting than the product that we all received.

Broken Age brought legitimacy to Kickstarter with it’s (at the time) record-breaking campaign.  After Double Fine’s success with the crowdsourcing venture it seemed like everyone had a Kickstarter, whether it was your roommate’s theatre company or your friend’s indie TV project.  Suddenly Kickstarter campaigns were a dime-a-dozen.  With no set of rules in place to hold project creators to any sort of standard, Kickstarter was eventually confronted with an inevitable backlash.  Suddenly Kickstarter wasn’t a place to donate to a project which sounded cool, it was a place for the biggest names to secure years-in-advance pre-orders in order to bolster additional funding from private investors.

You might have thought Double Fine’s part in this tale was over, but then the founder of the developer, Tim Schaffer, helped found a company called Fig.  An alternative to Kickstarter which allowed for fans to no longer make donations, but to actually invest in projects which they felt passionate about.

Oh, that’s right, I’m supposed to be talking about Broken Age.

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Is it really THAT good?

As the guinea pig for the crowdfunding model, Broken Age hit every famous snag along the way.  It took much longer to develop than Double Fine anticipated; it cost far more than the Kickstarter had allotted for.  The game went from a small experiment to one of those most hotly anticipated games, dominating news cycles with every bit of information it put out.  Broken Age never got to be a small indie game developed without expectation.  Instead it was the second coming of Tim Schaffer, one of the greatest adventure game designers ever.

When we finally got the first act of the game back in 2014, it seemed like the wait had been worth it.  Schaffer’s tale of two lost souls, whose lives are more entwined than we could have initially imagined, grabbed the attention of many critic and fan alike.  The kooky humor was only matched by the surprising amount of heart that came bursting through the game.  It was so well received that it would make a few end-of-the-year lists with the caveat that the game wasn’t complete.

Then came Act Two.  It seemed almost inconceivable that with all of the things Broken Age had been through (the surprise success of the Kickstarter campaign, the scrutiny of the delays, and the joy of it’s first act) that the final result would be something unremarkable,  but it was so unremarkable.

 

So why are you talking about it?

Full disclosure, I almost didn’t.  I got about halfway through writing this and thought to myself, “Why am I talking about Broken Age?”

The answer is that when you follow video games day in and day out, sometimes (more than I like to admit) the stories you write follow development more than criticism.  Every year we love talking about the best games that came out, but during the year we tend to obsess over what happens behind the scenes while we eagerly await the efforts yielded.  For years Broken Age was easily one of the most anticipated and most talked about indie games.

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Okay, that sounds alright.  But what is the real reason I should play this game?

The first act was good.  Even with it’s uneven second act, the solid first act of the game can’t be ignored, but the first handful of hours will remind you what was so great about adventure games.  Even when you’re infuriatingly stuck and you finally head to an online resource for some assistance with the difficult puzzles you’re still going to love the story Schaffer weaves through weird locales and loveable characters.

 

So you’d recommend it to anyone?

Woah-ho-ho-ho…yeah, I wouldn’t recommend this game to just anyone.  I wouldn’t recommend it to most people.  Broken Age is one of those artistic works where the story of how it was made is far more interesting than the final product.  For those who are looking to capture a piece of video game history (and let’s face it, Broken Age changed video games forever with its Kickstarter campaign) Broken Age is something you have to play.  Also, those who love the adventure game genre are bound to find plenty to enjoy.

About The Author

The Glorious Predecessor

As I write this, I am listening to Striking Matches and eating a blueberry muffin. The music is good, the muffin is even better. I dance when I drink and have been known to occasionally free-style rap, none of which benefits society.

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