Hands-On Preview: Broken Roads Is The Post-Apocalyptic Aussie RPG You’ve Been Waiting For

Hands-On Preview: Broken Roads Is The Post-Apocalyptic Aussie RPG You’ve Been Waiting For

Classic Fallout meets Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic Aussie desert in locally-made RPG Broken Roads, with turn-based tactical combat, a Moral Compass system and a whole lot of choices to make in an unforgiving environment. In a demo at PAX Aus 2023’s Indie Showcase, I got hands-on with the upcoming title that pays homage to traditional role-playing games, with all the bells and whistles to bring it into the modern era.

Broken Roads has been in development for some time now. Studio Drop Bear Bytes has spent years slowly building hype for its uniquely Australian take on the post-apocalyptic genre. The demo itself drops you straight into the middle of a harsh climate and world teeming with life (and death) as hardened survivors and wily scavengers struggle to make a living and thrive. 

Broken Roads immediately situates the player in the unforgiving landscape of the Aussie outback, resplendent with rusting sheep stations, sparse scrub, and weatherbeaten pubs. Given how bloated the post-apocalyptic genre is with American and even European settings, it’s a breath of fresh air to see something different and, at least for local players, familiar.

A Moral Quandary

Image: Drop Bear Bytes

The demo offers a number of background choices (not all of which were available to me in the demo) that offer different perks and boons that can assist during your adventure through Broken Roads. While this is a staple of RPGs and a welcome addition, perhaps the most impressive part of the demo overall, and clearly a key point of the game’s design, is the Moral Compass system. I was presented with a number of moral quandaries and solutions, with each choice sinking my character comfortably into one of the four philosophical outlooks – utilitarianism, humanism, nihilism, and Machiavellianism. I ended up sitting somewhere between utilitarian and humanist on the free-form wheel.

Interestingly, your alignment in Broken Roads shifts depending on each choice made, ultimately impacting choices further down the line. Become too narrow-minded and risk losing options. Respond too erratically and watch your personal philosophies shift. For the purposes of this demo, I chose to play what I felt was ‘nice’ – or at least nice enough for a survivor on the edges of humanity. Despite this, there is no moral black and white, no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ per se. An option that could potentially impact others negatively can’t be immediately followed up with an obviously ‘noble’ choice to counteract it. The system doesn’t work like that. This is that promised “roleplay realism” the game sets out to provide.

My particular choices saw me go on a quest to rescue stolen livestock, and while a more brazen playthrough might’ve led to bloodshed, my blend of utilitarian and humanist choices allowed me to return the stolen animals without any fatalities. The Drop Bear Bytes dev observing my playthrough said that, among other PAX Aus punter playthroughs, this was not a common outcome. Clearly, the convention floor preferred the guns-blazing option. Perhaps a more nihilistic or machiavellian player might’ve been able to hold onto their Akubra by the end of the demo (I forfeited mine in a trade for information and thought about it for the whole time after), and that’s perhaps the beauty of an RPG like Broken Roads; everyone’s story and playthroughs will be a little different.

Broken Roads
Image: Drop Bear Bytes

My pacifist playthrough of the Broken Roads demo did involve some combat in the earlier stages, a satisfying turn-based affair typical of classic RPGs. Weapon reloading became vitally important, and different weapons offered different damage output, range, and accuracy, creating more strategic options beyond hacking and slashing my way to victory. Despite being locked into the turn-based system, the combat doesn’t feel restrictive or stilted, and as an added bonus looting your fallen enemies is always an option. While I didn’t see much combat beyond that one encounter, it was enough to get a taste of what’s to come, and it’s shaping up well.

It’s clear the demo is just the tip of the Broken Roads iceberg and there’s plenty more to explore, have moral crises over, and fight, but the demo displays a game with a lot of promise so far. Between the authentically Aussie stylings, beautifully rendered settings, and faithful RPG systems brought into the modern age, this is one I’ll be keeping my eye out for come release on 14 November.

If you’re itching to get a taste of Drop Bear Bytes’ upcoming title before launch, there’s a demo available now on Steam – let me know how you go with the stolen sheep, survivors.

Lead Image Credit: Drop Bear Bytes

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