Broken Lines, £19.99, is a story-driven turn-based tactical RPG set in an alternate-history version of World War II. It’s a game about a group of eight soldiers who crash-land behind enemy lines. It’s up to you to lead them home while fending off the enemy and helping them deal with the horrors of war. DEVELOPER: PortaPlay PUBLISHER: Super.com VIDEO: Watch here
It has been available for the PC/Steam since February this year. I received it in good time for an earlier review than this but for some reason I had a problem with it after installation, all I could get was a black blank screen. I have the following in my PC: AMD Radeon R9 380; ACPI x 64; SSD 850 EVO 500GB all about 18 months old in a PC built by Novatech. I eventually got the game to run by reinstalling it and updating the drivers on the PC where possible and rebooting (off/on not Restart) the machine. I am saying this not to complain about the game but to inform that if you do have a similar problem to that which I had in the beginning then there is a fairly easy fix.
This is a game of escape, fighting your way back to your own lines against all odds. The movement and control of this unit is similar to that of most Wartime strategy games which aren't First Person Singular play but instead allow you to give orders to each member under your command. Once ready you can start the Action Phase and the soldiers will obey your orders. When previously unknown enemy units are encountered the game will automatically pause to allow you to give new orders. You can charge forward, set up an ambush, run away, hide etc. Attempting to sneak past enemy units hasn't been successful for me so far, but hiding and waiting patiently have been. Running away generally has meant that I have been suspending the inevitable, the enemy either catch up with you or they find you again when you try another route.
Combat is part of War that is a given. Combat is part of Broken Lines, that is also a given. Unlike many strategy wargames the longer you fight on, the results of each combat, the surprise enemy attacks, all take account in your individual soldier's mindsets. None of your unit is a coward, but neither are they 'John Wayne' style over-the-top heroes. They want/need to survive and they depend on you leading them. This isn't a game you can win with gung-ho tactics (ie continually running ahead despite the hail of bullets coming towards you) the Charge of the Light Brigade is not in your Playbook.
BROKEN LINES is intense gaming where your focus can mean life or death for those under your command. This is not a game where the enemy units stay put and allow you to pick them off with ease. They fight back with strategy and tactics most wargame AIs can only dream of. There are various levels of experience to choose your game from but even the 'easy' isn't a walk in the park. Replaying is good because the game resets so that you aren't walking through it each time knowing what or who is around every corner.
The game is somewhat story-driven using a 'what if?' scenario for its account of World War II, though the story remains mostly in your mind, just as a background for you to understand why you and the eight men under your command are there.
If one or more of your unit is killed in action you don't immediately lose. You can go back to the start of the mission - although there is a basic task of getting to safety the game is run in chapters or Checkpoints (aka missions) - or you can leave them where they fall and carry on without them, obviously making the completion of the game for you more difficult. Accepting a 'do-over' is not without its consequences as your squad retain fragments of their dying memory and as such are not as focussed; in fact several 'do-overs' will make your game just as tough as if you had left them on the ground in the first place and carried on without them.
As you may have noticed from the screenshots I have added to this page (some from the internet, most by me pressing [PrtScr] during play), the game isn't played in any form of clear-vision daylight, every scene, every action is in a dusk-dusty-dark lightscape. Even when the sun comes up the terrain you are surmounting is more of a sepia coloured landscape than the expected blue-white daylight. Moving the cursor does highlight enemies and friends but that only goes to make the visuals more eerie and create an atmosphere you might truly experience should you ever be in the same or similar situation as your unit. Imagine yourself now in a situation where you have to walk along a darkened street. There has been an electric power cut and apart from the partial changes between black and dark grey as what moonlight there is creates shadows amongst the buildings. Luckily you have a small torch with you, one of those needed to find your car keys at night. The battery in it is low and instead of a homely beam all you see is it flickering indiscreetly in the darkness.
Does this feel welcoming to you, does it comfort you, or do the hairs on the nape of your neck raise a little and your senses make you more aware of your situation? This is the atmosphere your command meets each time you lead them through the darkness with enemies highlighted as they move or your cursor briefly locates them. The pause effect that allows you to give your orders works really well but for me it is the non-stupidity of the soldiers in your unit and more so the enemy. They move into positions, they snipe and fire, they do not blandly stand out in the centre of the path and wait for you to shoot them, they have a self-preservation AI built into them, though obviously this is more fiercely indented the tougher the level of play chosen.
So what we have here is a strategy game that plays at the speed you choose as far as the pause effect allows. Remember that when you give your unit orders the enemy aren't likely to remain in the positions you last saw them. They are just as likely to retreat and reform/rally having seen you as they are to blindly charge forward into your waiting guns. This AI is better at playing a human opponent than any AI in this type of game I have ever played.
You cannot just use your troops as cannon fodder and expect the others to follow you without question. There is the necessity for a higher level of thought than in most games in this Command & Conquer style genre.
Being slightly older than the average player my eyesight and hearing are not of the same quality as they were 20-30 years ago, neither are my reflexes. This is why I am absolutely poor at first-person shooters, even though I enjoy playing them, and why I like a game where I can give my onscreen command their orders then watch (and hope) them obey them. Even with strong spectacles specifically designed for computer use I still struggle to play games which are set in such gloomy places; but this only makes me more determined.
As you play you will realise there is a strong learning curve, especially after playing the basic easy game. The enemy are clever and you have to out-think them as well as outshoot them. The game may be edged towards being on your side - the enemy generally cannot one-shot kill you - but it is never a forgone conclusion that you will win the battle just because you are the human and the enemy are under computer control.
Dark and delightfully deadly.
MINIMUM PC REQUIREMENTS:
Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
OS: Windows 7
Processor: i5-5700 2Ghz
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: Graphics: GeForce GT 750M 2GB or similar (1500 3DMark score)
DirectX: Version 10
Storage: 6 GB available space