Broken Lines for the Nintendo Switch Review- Saving Private Fry
Tactical role-playing games can always be a mixed bag for people. The balance that needs to be met is one of both excitement and strategy. How can games like Fire Emblem Three Houses and X-COM do so well to make this slow, methodical type gameplay fun and engaging? And is it easy to do? When I popped Broken Lines into my Switch, I sought out for the answers of those questions.
Broken Lines is a story-driven tactical role-playing game developed by PortaPlay and published by Super.com. While it doesn’t list any influences, you can tell it has them from games like X-COM, specifically.
The premise is of an alternate history WWII: A group of Allied soldiers are flying over what they thought was neutral territory when they are shot down. Only 8 of them survive, finding themselves in the midst of a strange invasion by an enemy they do not know. All of this is narrated by a woman who seems to be trying to sound vague and mysterious, but just comes off as disinterested.
The characters and their writing are fine. They are exactly what you’d expect from a group of soldiers in WWII. You’ve got the scared one, the jokey one, the rash one; the basic stereotypes. What was nice was that they were all distinctive with their different looks, abilities, and weapon choices, as well as a trait unique to each of them.
In opposition to that, the enemies weren’t so distinctive. In fact, I would call their design downright lazy. They are literally just dudes in masks, and they aren’t even cool masks, just regular gas masks that you’d expect any generic alternate history Nazi to wear. They also have differing weapons and abilities, but the latter would only go to the special enemies… who aren’t different in design at all, they could just throw grenades now.
And to be honest, the gameplay isn’t all that great either, even if it sounds nice on paper. It all starts at the camp. Everything that can prep you for the next mission can be at the camp, where your characters are lined around the campfire. At the campfire, you can prepare your soldiers for the journey ahead by arming them. Weapons come in types, and each type has a different ability linked to it, like suppressing an area in fire or knocking down a target. Utilities are smaller pieces of equipment like bandages or grenades that will help keep your soldiers alive and make fights easier.
From here, you can go to the map, where you can go to the traveling vendor that unlocks after the prologue. The vendor will provide you with new weapons, utilities, and supplies, the latter of which you’ll need to keep your soldiers from losing their composure.
Struggles of War
On the map, there will also be small scenarios that will provide you with a problem, in which you’ll need to make a decision that can help or hinder the group, for example a wounded woman lies on the road with corpses, and you have to decide whether to help her or kill her. If you help her, she points you to supplies, and if you don’t, that will change how the locals will think of you, which will affect later game.
Finally, the other thing you can do on your map is choose how to go about your next mission, like sneaking into a plane crash site at night, or going in during the day. These are cool ideas, and they would definitely be interesting in a game with tactical gameplay. The problem with this game is it’s gameplay, though.
Fire On Sight
So, in combat, you start out in the planning phase. In this phase, you are to decide what the five soldiers you chose will do within the next eight seconds. Once their commands are given, you start the action phase, where they execute their given orders. This isn’t technically turn-based, which this game was advertised as. Instead it’s more time-based, where nobody waits for any turn, but time will stop to let you choose what your soldiers will do next. Once they start moving, the enemy will still be shooting them.
When you set them someplace to move, you are given a few choices as to how your character will move, whether it be sneaking, jogging, or sprinting, each of which will attract enemies differently, but only the middle option will allow them to fire while moving, as the soldier will begin to fire automatically once within range of the enemy.
Who Shot First?
If your soldier will even be able to hit the enemy is another factor. Things like height difference and cover are taken into hit chance’s account by the UI. Cover in Broken Lines won’t outright protect you, but instead lower the hit chance the enemy has on you, however, specific cover like fences can be destroyed if shot up enough.
What isn’t taken into account but still affects your hit chance are things like stress and movement. Stress is a meter just below everyone’s health that raises as the situation gets more tense, such as them being hit by suppression fire. Once stress fills up entirely, the soldier will stop moving and start panicking, leaving them open to fire. Enemies are also prone to stress.
But once a soldier gets downed, things change. While they can be revived, they will be given the Wounded trait, which means that if they get downed again, they die permanently. The only way to remove this trait is to have them rest or survive a whole mission.
War Changes, Not For The Better
Now this all sounds pretty tense. Like I said, it all sounds good on paper, but in execution, it’s a mess. There’s friendly fire so your own soldiers can get killed pretty easily if you make one accident or if their pathing decides to screw up, which it has, a problem that can get your soldiers killed if they get stuck on a piece of geometry on the way to cover.
So, all of this together, and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that it gets tedious. Stopping every eight seconds to set something new up gets irritating after multiple times of doing it. There aren’t any save states, so you can’t go back on a screw up, and if you try to restart the mission, it lowers your soldiers’ composure. It’s punishing, but it isn’t even fun or engaging. It’s annoying.
The characters themselves aren’t much to talk about either. Like I said, they are stereotypes, and the conversations they have don’t get all that interesting, as their writing is just a garble of British, Scottish, and Irish vocabulary. There isn’t anything in the beginning that keeps you interested enough to want to keep going, so the whole thing feels like a slog, which is exacerbated by the non-intuitive feel to the controls and the poor performance on Switch in docked mode.
Overall, Broken Lines is what you get when you try too hard to set yourselves apart from the games it’s influenced from. By trying to make it feel different, they made it feel boring and tedious. If you see it on a good sale, and what I’ve talked about interests you, go ahead, but otherwise, I’d say avoid this game.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 for the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by Super.com.