Developer PortaPlay found out about our little website here and sent over the Broken Lines preview build to see what we thought. We’re moving on up!

After the harrowing experience of This War of Mine that put some awful decisions on our laps, I was happy to leave crushingly grim games behind. Then I got round to playing Spec Ops: The Line and once again decided to leave this dark world behind. Then, somehow, I ended up with Broken Lines. An alternate history World War 2 inspired by Darkest Dungeon. Let the bad times roll…

Broken Lines Preview build showing a soldier taking cover and firing at nearby enemies.
From what’s been revealed so far, the enemies might not be Nazis!?

What is it?

Broken Lines is ostensibly, a turn based strategy game in which you guide eight soldiers stranded behind enemy lines in a strange and awful country. Along the way you’ll manage your soldiers’ relationships, stress, supplies, as well as the usual RPG fare. Dialogue heavy events will press you into difficult decisions over whether to support one soldier or another, whether to heal an injured civilian or save the medicine for yourselves, and whether or not to pet a stray dog. Broken Lines, much like its Darkest Dungeon, leans into the gruelling nature of combat. Characters that fall in battle are dead for good while those that survive are slowly more burdened by the emotional weight of their actions.

Squad select screen showing the available characters.
Like Valkyria Chronicles, who a soldier gets on with is important for squad composition.

In missions you command your small band of troops using the WEGO system – a turn-based planning, real time execution system. At the start of the round, you plan all of your soldiers’ moves and once you’re ready, you and the enemy move at the same time. This can be an absolute pain when just trying to travel across large sections of the map as the game pauses every 10 seconds or so for you to issue orders. In direct combat however, it’s actually really interesting.

In-game view of the Broken Lines Preview showing the player squad getting flanked.
Positioning is key. As Hailey and Morgan have learned.

In turn based games, you have full control to move your entire team and make the best move you can. The enemy isn’t going to move (excluding a few special ones) so you can plan around that. While in real time with pause games you have the opportunity to react on the fly, allowing you to back out of bad moves with limited repercussions. In the WEGO system, with enemies prepping their own moves behind the scenes, you actually have to consider what they’re going to do. Be aware of the cover they might use, how best to flank, and when/where to use powers.

Is It Any Good?

The Broken Lines preview build we got sent is quite limited (two tutorial missions then a selection of three from the middle of the game) but it shows promise. As I said above, travelling is a nightmare but the smaller scale levels and direct combat work very well. There were the occasional pathfinding issues which caused vital support to not arrive. So hopefully by the time it drops the last few kinks will be ironed out.

The characters, while not expanded on much in the press build, seem alright and there’s at least an attempt at diversity with three out of eight characters not being white guys. I am a little biased but bonus points for having a character from Glasgow. It’s nice to have some representation.

The preview build doesn’t have much in the way of story beyond the introductory missions. The jarring jump to midway through the game (for the purposes of showing it off) really pulled me out of it so I can’t say much for it. From what’s shown in the trailers though, it looks like a terrific slog through some WW2 action-horror.

A random event about a dog being spotted near the camp.
Like I’m going to trust a random dog. Pfft, what do you take me for?

Verdict

From what little of it is available in the preview build, I’m hopeful. The WEGO system isn’t something I’ve seen before in a squad combat game and it works well. If developer PortaPlay are able to capture that Darkest Dungeon feel, then this is definitely one to try.

Oh, and there’s an option to replay missions (at the cost of squad composure) for a better go. Which is great if, like me, you sorta suck at strategy even though it’s your favourite genre.

Wood comments on a pile of corpses left by the game's enemies.
If this doesn’t turn out to be Lovecraftian nightmares, I’m going to give it a medal.

Broken Lines releases on Steam in Q1 2020.

You can wishlist/buy it on Steam HERE.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *