[Review] Broken Lines – Nintendo Switch

Written by Thomas Haroldsen
  • Developer: Porta Play
  • Publisher: Super.com
  • Release Date: 23/04/2020
  • Price: $24.99
  • Review code provided by Super.com

Introducing: Broken Lines Nintendo Switch Review

One of the biggest perks of physical game media over digital is that the buyer has more control over what happens to their acquisition. It’s tangible and has substance. One of the risks of an all-digital market is that games can vanish without a trace. There’s no second hand store to rummage through in hopes of finding missing software. No auction to enter bidding wars against other collectors. A game can simply fade away without so much as a thought, email or tweet.

I’ve seen it happen with a few eShop titles. The most recent of which was Broken Lines. Just as mysteriously as it disappeared for weeks, it has suddenly emerged in the upcoming release section on the Nintendo eShop as though nothing is amiss. Join me as I examine Broken Lines and find out if the perplexing wait was worth it.

We’re Going Down!

The opening sequence finds a squad of soldiers being transported for a top-secret mission during World War II. Entering an area that the team believes to be a safe zone proves to be anything but. The airplanes are fired upon and shot down. The troops are scattered about as they parachute to the ground, left wondering what their mission truly was. Unfortunately, the commanding officers – the only ones who knew the objective – were in a different plane. Now that the team has crash-landed in enemy territory, they have difficult decisions to make. The choices made will alter the outcome and often have unexpected results.

The story in Broken Lines sucked me in. The narration and ambiance screamed to turn away but I couldn’t help but plod along, wondering what would happen next. The atmosphere presented paints a disturbing image of the horrors of war. Constantly stepping into the unknown pressed on my anxiety and made this a unique experience. The fact that it’s not linear meant that I couldn’t blindly follow the game. I had to pay attention and I had to choose what to do to help the beleaguered soldiers survive.

Brace for Impact!

Broken Lines is a tactical RPG with a heavy emphasis on strategy. You won’t go guns blazing in this military campaign. The unique approach to the gameplay was rather ingenious. Instead of following a turn-based approach, every action is timed within eight second intervals. During the preparation phase, you take your time to set the stage. You’ll select each member of the squad and map out their movement. Fighting is automated once they are within range of an enemy soldier so you really just plan where each fighter will go, noting any cover in the area. Once you issue the command to each troop, you start the next phase. As I said, the action phase will resolve in eight seconds and then you make adjustments to your position and occasionally add special skills like throwing a grenade, reviving a teammate, or providing cover fire in a set direction. Rinse and repeat until each mission is done. Once you get to the end of a mission, your troops will have spent two to three total minutes in action.

I really enjoyed the fresh take on the tactical combat, using a timed mechanic to watch everything play out. One of the downsides is that your troops will hone in on the nearest enemy, sometimes leaving a near-dead combatant to continue attacking you. As much as I enjoyed the new take on the gameplay, it did grow stale about halfway through. I felt too limited in my control over the troops. I started to feel more like my son’s football coach. I would shout orders from the sidelines in hope that the players would respond how I wanted them to, then watch helplessly as the action unfolded before my eyes with control relinquished to the individual players. It became more cinematic and less engaging.

The second aspect of gameplay finds the downtrodden troopers at camp. You have to carefully balance their morale and supplies in order to survive the next assault. Interactions between each member of the squad come into play on the battlefield, and your choices at camp determine everyone’s disposition. Do you make the larger lad skimp on his meal so others get a bigger share? Do you gang up on the new recruit so others can slack a little? In between each skirmish are little moral quandaries that seldom have a right answer. Often picking between the lesser of two evils points your soldiers on their next path for better or worse. If not managed properly, some would succumb to death or abandon the group altogether. 

Form Up!

When it comes to the graphics in Broken Lines, I have divided opinions. On the one side, I really liked the comic book approach to the narrative was delivered in. The hand-drawn avatars were colorfully crafted, full of personality. On the other side was the gameplay graphics. The camera angles were often frustrating, and most of the fighting took place where I couldn’t see what was happening. Even when zooming in, it was a messy ordeal. As much of the action was cinematic by nature, it was too bad I couldn’t enjoy the show. More than once, I would lose enemies on screen or mistake them for my team. War is chaos, and so is Broken Lines.

The audio fared much better. The sound effects built a credible mood of despair which fit nicely with the overall tone of the hopelessness the squad found themselves in. The soundtrack likewise mirrored the gloomy atmosphere leading to a crescendo of darkness and mystery crashing down on the lost souls. The dialogue was cleverly written and expertly delivered.

Take Aim!

From a technical standpoint, I wouldn’t say Broken Lines was broken. At least, not in my experience. From my understanding, when seeking clarification on why this military media went MIA, it was because of bugs and glitches. Supposedly severe enough to warrant vanishing in the remnants of a smoke grenade. That’s not to say I didn’t experience any problems. I did. The game froze and crashed a number of times, but the most severe was when trying to use certain skills. There was one mission where I would select an option, and the game would jump to the end of the mission, then crash. This happened a few times before I decided to alter my approach. The only downside, every time was counted as a fail. Failing missions in Broken Lines results in poor morale, and can hinder your overall progress. Other than this issue and some instances of framerate drops and the occasional crash, I was able to play through the campaign. 

In terms of utilizing the main function of Nintendo’s home console and “switching” to handheld, I found that the game and writing was too small to justify long jaunts while portable. I mentioned issues with the graphics above, and playing on-the-go only maximized those problems. This made gaming on the big screen the only suitable option, so if you like to shed the dock, you’ll have trouble keeping tabs of your troops.

Final Wrap

There are a lot of great elements to Broken Lines. Though the gameplay gets repetitive, it was a fresh look at tactical role-playing games, which I think if explored further could really shine. The story and setting are well put together and amplify eeriness in every action. It’s a shame that the whole experience was hampered by poorly-rendered graphics and bad camera angles. The lack of control in combat left me feeling like a cowardly commander watching through blurry binoculars. Though bugs were present, they didn’t break the game entirely for me, but were significant enough to alter my stats for the worse.

Pros

  • Gripping Story
  • Interesting Gameplay
  • Surreal Setting

Cons

  • Repetitive Combat
  • Troublesome Camera Angles
  • Confounding Crashes
  • Poorly-Rendered Graphics and Environments

Verdict
Broken Lines has a unique concept which gets bogged down in a murky jungle of technical problems.
2/5

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