Created by Darril Arts, developed by Stormind Games, and published by Modus Games, Remothered: Broken Porcelain is a fractured and flawed sequel to the 2017 title, Remothered: Tortmented Fathers. Over the course of my time with the game, I was left frustrated and angry. The game has many problems, including the presentation of the narrative, the questionable design choices, and the overall execution of all these elements.
The story of Remothered: Broken Porcelain is an interwoven web of characters and events, but the whole narrative centers on Jennifer, a young girl who works at the Ashmann Inn. After some peculiar tick-tocking of a metronome rings out over the speakers, Jennifer finds herself thrust into a nightmare where the caretaker, owner, and her friends are all trying to kill her.
At certain pivotal moments in the story, things return to normal, offering Jennifer a short reprieve from being hunted, but it’s never for long. During all of this, Jennifer struggles to work out what is going on in the Ashmann Inn while also trying to escape and figure out who she really is.
Some of the first problems with the narrative arise when the story jumps backwards and forwards in time to different events. Within what felt like the first hour of the game, several cutscenes started with “Some Years Earlier”, “A Few Years Later” and “A Few Months Before”. Now, I’m all for time travel and complex storylines (I love Dark and can’t seem to find anyone else to talk to about it), but the presentation of the story in Broken Porcelain is disjointed.
Part of this stems from how the actual scenes are built. The positioning of characters within scenes, the movements of the camera, and even the cuts in and out of the scenes ultimately fail to give the player a sense of spacing or flow.
An early example is when Jennifer is called into Ashmann’s office. Ashmann, the owner of Ashmann’s Inn, reprimands Jennifer about a series of events we’re not privy to. The scene abruptly ends and players are returned control of Jennifer. In this instant, it’s not clear where Jennifer is, what she needs to be doing, or whether the cutscene had actually finished. If 2018’s God of War is the gold standard of camera angles and setting up the player to know exactly where they are, Broken Porcelain is the opposite. It would be forgivable if this happened only once, but nearly every cutscene-to-gameplay transition is confusing in its structure.
To make things more problematic, the delivery of the story leaves much to be desired. It’s often spewed out in rapid-fire exposition. The player is given no time to digest this information and think on it before the next narrative-attack begins. Then, there were also problems where other characters would be saying their contextual dialogue over the top of a scene’s dialogue.
This is merely the structure and delivery. When it comes to the actual story, it’s quite a mess. The aforementioned flashbacks and flashforwards make it hard to follow, and that's before the game starts revealing characters are actually someone else from the story. While these are interesting moments and there is probably a good story here somewhere, these revelations are never given the time to breathe. Complex stories can exist and do exist in the video game medium, they just need to be told well.
If the messy narrative of Remothered: Broken Porcelain is the creepy setting, the gameplay is the monster. When it comes down to it, there are several core gameplay design decisions and implementations that are perplexing at best. None of the systems work well and most feel clunky to use.
Broken Porcelain feels confused about what it wants to be. It’s as if too many features were added to the game, as if the scope was not reined in enough for the development timeframe. There is the survival horror system where you must evade and hide, a crafting system to create distractions, an ability that lets the player control a moth, and even a skill tree that is upgraded using skill points. There's too much going on here and they all feel underdeveloped.
Let’s start with the survival horror elements. Hiding from a monster in a horror game requires good AI that is somewhat predictable in its searching patterns. In Remothered, the AI of the stalkers (the game’s “monsters”) rarely functions in a way that makes running and hiding a tension-filled experience.
At several points, I alerted a stalker, only to run and hide in a box that Jennifer leaves ajar by a few inches to watch. The stalker comes up and stands nearby the box, initiating a mini-game (a simple moving reticle that must be kept inside a circle) the results of which make the stalker leave or find you. After beating the mini-game, the stalker would just stand at the box, refusing to leave. At other points the stalker would leave, only to stand in an adjacent hallway staring at the wall.
Speaking to other horror elements, the game is full of fake tension. There are moments where Jennifer finds herself needing to sneak past a sleeping stalker. The problem is, it’s impossible to actually wake the stalker as nearly all the controls are removed from the player. You can’t sprint, you can’t crouch, you can’t shout, and you can’t use your throwable items – all things that would alert the stalker. Instead, the game locks you to a slow walk until you reach the object or do the thing in the room. The game presents autonomy and agency and then fails to give real stakes and risks.
In one particularly egregious moment, Jennifer must sneak into Ashmann’s room where he is sleeping on the bed. Much like before, the game removes some abilities, only letting you slow-walk in. You can bump right up against the bed and the man won’t awaken. To test whether or not you could actually fail this moment, I stood in the doorframe (which is where the game would let you sprint and use your items) and threw a wine bottle at the sleeping Ashmann. He didn’t react.
It’s these false moments of tension that entirely break the immersion. Even if there was an actual risk of failing, the game never really manages to be actually scary. Most of the “scares” are jump-scares, which any seasoned horror player will see coming from a mile away. Most of these moments are also dated horror tropes: a face slamming against a window coupled with a high-pitched violin chord, a previously sleeping character waking up as the camera cuts away from them, a character stabbing a dog to death.
The gameplay problems seep into the looting and crafting systems in Remothered: Broken Porcelain. Simply put, the looting mechanic is unwieldy to the point of not being worth the effort to use. Jennifer takes too long to open any cupboards and that’s if you can even get the button prompt in the exact right spot to hit it. Even if you do open one of the five interaction points on a cupboard, you then have to try and get the correct angle to pick up whatever is in the cupboard.
All these items you’re picking up can be used to craft “diversions” but there is no crafting list. You’ll pick up some ammonia, a rope, and a baby doll and you’ll check the crafting menu to see if you can make anything. If you can’t, you’ll need to put one of these things down using the “throw” option in the menu, which actually just places the item on the ground.
So, you choose to put down the ammonia and then pick up the wine bottle. You’ll check the crafting menu again and see you can’t craft anything yet. So maybe a different combination of goods will let you craft something?
It’s a clunky crafting system made worse by the fact you can only carry three items at once. These items can be cycled through using a button when playing, but if you try to pick something else up Remothered will pick a random item to drop on the ground.
At one pivotal point in the story, Jennifer is strung up on a meat hook in a cold room and discovers she can control a moth. This was one of the most frustrating moments in the game.
The moth controls like a bouncy ball with acceleration set to max. The camera wobbles and swims all over the place, making it impossible to control the creature. If you collide with an object, you’ll either phase through it and become stuck or bounce off of it and fly in another direction.
The only direction players are given in this cold room is to “escape”. Unfortunately, Jennifer can only control the moth for 15 seconds before the ability cancels and it goes on cooldown for 10 seconds. To make matters worse, if you’re playing using inverted controls, the moth controls are switched back to default. This is true of any change to the camera. Jennifer’s hiding in a closet in first person? The camera is switched back to default. The same holds true for inspecting an object.
It was so difficult to control with a controller, I had to shift to using keyboard and mouse, and even then it was difficult. Players on console will not get this luxury.
As far as a game mechanic goes, the moth is also rarely useful outside of very specific points in the narrative. It does not feel like a useful tool in dealing with the stalkers.
Then, out of nowhere, there’s a skill tree system with nine different skills to upgrade through five different levels. These are upgraded using moth keys which have been strewn about the inn. The skills on offer are things like improvements to your stamina consumption when sprinting, making the hiding mini-game easier, and reducing how much noise Jennifer makes while moving.
This is the first time it’s made clear that this is what the moth keys are used for. The game doesn’t let you check how many of them you’re carrying unless you’re using this skill tree box. It’s the same for a number of other items that aren’t used in crafting. There are a handful of items I pocketed, never to see again or know what they’re for.
Despite the fact crafting makes items to distract the stalkers, and even though the main horror element is to run and hide, Broken Porcelain has combat. Jennifer is able to use sharp items to stab a stalker in the back. Unfortunately, this button prompt is on top of the stalker’s head, which means for Jennifer to reach it she must stand up, but walking upright instead of crouch-walking makes the stalker hear you.
To make matters worse, if you do manage to crouch-walk up to an unsuspecting stalker, they might pivot on the spot a fraction and catch you. Alternatively, the button prompt above their head might change from the “stab them” context to the “push them” context (as seen in the double-image above), making Jennifer push past them, spoiling the moment. These combat sequences (which exist as the game’s boss fights) are further broken with the aforementioned AI problems.
Beyond design choices and poor implementation of mechanics, Remothered: Broken Porcelain is riddled with technical problems, bugs, and glitches. There are UI problems, broken animations, tutorials playing out of order, poor audio, and clunky controls.
Animations in the game are choppy and broken. At one point, Jennifer simply stopped being able to turn. Even though she could move across all the cardinal planes, her orientation was locked to one direction. This had the hilarious appearance of Jennifer sprinting while sliding backwards along the ground.
Then there are times where Jennifer just stops being able to move, like when getting out of a hiding spot. Sometimes, if there’s a stalker in front of the hiding spot, Jennifer will get out through the lid and stand in the box while the lid shuts on her.
Even the cutscenes aren’t safe from the animation woes. There were frequent glitches and fragments of characters flickering across the screen. The lip-syncing is also inaccurate, which is made worse by the delivery of various lines and the audio mixing. Some lines are too loud, others are too quiet, some sound like they’re being recorded in a big empty room, while others have no directional quality.
As for the audio, it leaves a lot to be desired. Whether it’s the music, foley, or voice acting, it’s over the top. Operatic music plays whenever you’re being chased, non-descript “spooky” music plays when someone is nearby, and the aforementioned sharp tones blast whenever a jump-scare occurs. None of it manages to lift the experience.
Even the UI in Remothered: Broken Porcelain is a challenge to use. It’s almost impossible to tell what save slot you have highlighted in the menu. The game wouldn’t let me scroll down the options when the display was set to Windowed Fullscreen. To get out of one menu you need to press Y, another requires you to press B, and you can only get out of the pause screen by pressing A (or the PlayStation controller/keyboard equivalent). The option to place an item on the ground is labelled as “throw” which is confusing considering you can actually throw these objects.
There are also so many loading screens. They flank almost every major scene shift, which becomes a problem when a scene might last a minute or two. It’s jarring and slows down the already slow pace of the gameplay.
Though Remothered: Broken Porcelain might stumble in just about every other aspect, I can say that the visuals are decent. There is a consistency to the design of the characters and the Ashmann Inn that would make for a spooky location if all the other elements worked. In saying this, some of the character designs look to be ripped straight from popular horror movies. Andrea, the inn’s caretaker, resembles Annie from Misery and the reporter Reed looks exactly like Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs to name a few.
Simply put, Remothered: Broken Porcelain was released in an unfinished state. Over the past week, the developers have released a patch nearly every day. Though this is commendable, it begs the questions of why it was released in the first place with so many problems.
But it’s not just the bugs and glitches that make Remothered: Broken Porcelain a bad game. It’s the core designs. It’s how these systems function, or rather fail to function. It’s how the story is blasted out in chunks of exposition. There’s a lack of finesse to the entire experience. No number of patches can fix these problems. Overall, even fans of the previous title may find it difficult to get through what's on offer here.
This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Remothered: Broken Porcelain is available now on PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.
Remothered: Broken Porcelain
- A nugget of a good story in here somewhere
- Character and environment designs are decent
- A messy and convoluted story
- Awful controls
- Clunky looting and crafting systems
- Confusing and buggy UI
- Frustrating enemy AI
- Graphical and audio problems
Sam Chandler posted a new article, Remothered: Broken Porcelain review: Dust and shards