Broken Realm Review – A Missed Opportunity
By John Shadle (Sephorus), OnRPG Journalist
Broken Realm is a browser-based 2D isometric-style MMORPG published by R2Games. Set in the kingdom of Vidalia, Broken Realm places you in the role of one of many heroes tasked with bringing stability to the lands and helping to restore order following a recent shift in the political landscape. It's a grand quest – at least, in theory. Sadly, what I found during my time there was less Broken Realm and more Broken Mess.
Things begin simple enough. You pick one of four classes – Barbarian, Paladin, Archer, or Mage – and choose your gender before embarking on your journey. While the classes look fairly impressive on their own, there's zero customization available during character creation – not a huge loss, but worth noting. From there, you're brought to a training area for new recruits and given a series of quests to introduce you to both the world and the mechanics of Broken Realm. Showing players the ropes under the guise of being freshly enlisted in the military is normally a good plot hook to draw players in; however, between some extremely poor localization and the fact that you're still receiving tutorials on new systems after thirty levels (with more game systems still unrevealed by that time), these missions come across as not being able to decide if you're an amazing warrior or a complete scrub. Additionally, while some of the more basic tutorials are easy enough (click to move, numbers use your skills, etc.), some of the systems specific to Broken Realm, like Spirit Stones, Item Synthesis, and Enchanting, have tutorials that boil down to “click this button, click that button, click this other thing, congrats!” without a proper explanation of just what was going on. I'll wager that plenty of players can figure it out due to experience from other titles (or just by paying more attention), but there's potential for frustration otherwise.
Graphics and sounds, too, were a bit of a letdown. While a lot of the static art looks fairly impressive, many of the animations felt extremely choppy, almost like there were a few frames missing here and there. Music consisted of extremely short (~30 second) clips that would loop after a few seconds of silence, and while it was never downright terrible quality, the overall repetitiveness drew my attention away from the experience. Similarly, sound effects were way off, both by feeling missed when they should be present and completely inaccurate when they were actually present; most noteworthy from my gaming sessions was fighting with a two-handed axe and having it sound like I was beating enemies to death with several stalks of wheat. A close runner-up would be utilizing a Rage skill – an extremely potent area attack you can charge by defeating enemies – and having it be completely soundless when the ground around you would explode with rocky spikes. All in all, the artistic presentation left a lot to be desired.
Fiddling with a lot of the aforementioned game systems, once they opened up, was a bit fun – at first. Spirit Stones let you increase stats of your choice over time as they level up and unlock more choices for boosts. Enchantment lets you spend in-game gold to increase the power of an item. Pets can be summoned to fight alongside you and can be leveled independently of yourself. Wisdom lets you boost your stats by using items gleaned from specific enemies. There's plenty of activities you can pursue to become more powerful, which is a good thing. However, this ended up being where my biggest gripe with Broken Realm came into play – the cash shop implementation.
Most of the systems either had a chance of failure or could take incredible amounts of time during normal play – problems that can be negated with a bit of real-world coin. Spirit Stones randomly gain boosts each time you level them, with an extra boost each time if you choose to spend crystals (Broken Realm's cash shop currency) when you temper the stone. Enchantment has a chance to fail and decrease the enchantment level if that happens, with store-bought Safety Stones preventing this loss. Higher-strength pets unlock with Pet Loyalty – a resource that increases slowly through pet levels, but can be increased in chunks with Pet Essences. Wisdom requires multiple uses of a rare drop from certain enemies, which is easier to obtain through, say, botting – or the in-game AFK Mode, which lets you fight enemies automatically and can have additional usage time added via the cash shop. There are even items called Time Scrolls, which will let you automatically complete certain repeatable quests. In essence, Time Scrolls amount to purchasing the experience and gold rewards with cash. None of the cash shop purchases are outright required to play Broken Realms, as you're not locked out of any content and it's possible to eventually earn everything in-game, but I imagine it's similar to being told that you don't need a shot of Novocaine prior to having a root canal.
All in all, I found Broken Realm to have a lot of excellent ideas that ended up being very poorly executed. With better localization, a major pass on the art and sound, and a far less intrusive cash shop, this would be a game I'd gladly spend some free time on. With where it is at the moment, though, Broken Realm is a game where spending money means far more than spending time. Sadly for the developers, I recommend both spent elsewhere.