Broken Roads review: rolling dice and spending points in the Outback

Drop Bear Bytes brings its love for Australia and character-building together in a modern, indie CRPG.


CRPGs have been having a bit of a moment lately, thanks of course to the meteoric success of Baldur’s Gate 3. Recent titles like The Thaumaturge have done cool genre blends, or found distinct angles to make a hardcore genre more accessible. Broken Roads doesn’t come with any major swerves, but instead aims for a lovingly-presented Australian setting from an Australian studio. It also wants to expand what building characters can be in a CRPG in general, with a cone-shaped morality system and classless progression. It’s also kind of a slog to play.

It's like Mad Max, but without all the sex leather

At first, Broken Roads has some cool vibes. I don’t know anything about Australia geographically or culturally, but I can appreciate how hard this game leans into its setting. The environment, the voiceover work, the cadence of the writing, pretty much everything in the game has a distinct energy and while I can’t speak to authenticity I can speak to commitment. There’s even a slang translator in the dialogue, which highlights certain phrases in yellow and gives you a “here’s what this means” pop-up. Sometimes that backfires; like so:

The slang translator in Broken Roads doing something incredibly silly.
Source: tinyBuild

Moments like that, and a narrator who does her best but never quite matches the tone of her voice with the tone of the scenario, make Broken Roads’ plot hard to take seriously. The protagonist is also a blank slate, but still presented in a way that careens between wooden and weirdly aggressive, depending on the options available to you. It’s hard to buy into the world of the story itself, when it tries to juggle with things like post-apocalyptic politics, wobbly sci-fi and fantasy elements, or things like the usual wanton murder and suffering of the genre. It’s hard to explain, but it almost has the bad end of a tabletop gaming style, like when you have players who aren’t interested in role-playing despite the DM’s best efforts and just want to crack jokes about banging NPCs and pick fights for no reason. Then story progress has to happen and it's like the characters are suddenly different people entirely.

Getting lost in the Moral Compass

A high level look at the Moral Compass in Broken Roads
Source: tinyBuild

The Moral Compass, which is one of Broken Roads’ marquee features, seems to accidentally feed into that. In practice, your character is basically working with one of those Political Compass charts rattling around in their brain. You start off answering a series of questions to set the table, then from there your world view changes based on choices you pick. And the pool of choices can really shrink over time if you stick to a philosophical wheelhouse. Your choices certainly alter the path the story takes, but dialogue is so modular it doesn’t feel written for a character, but rather for the system itself, if that tracks. There are plenty of non-aligned options too (alongside stuff brought in by your chosen background), so conversations get very cluttered and feel awkward to navigate instead of exciting or intriguing.

It can be cool to see outcomes go in ways you don’t expect, especially since the story is set up in ways that can make your path change simply based on which direction you move in. My first couple or chapters went by entirely without combat, which was both fascinating from a gameplay perspective and surprising in terms of how I thought the story was going. Ultimately I still struggled to be on board with where things went and how they paid off, once again due to wooden, awkward writing and aloof-sounding narration. Skipping combat also turned out to benefit my experience at first, despite my initial confusion.

Coloring inside all the combat lines

A combat scene in Broken Roads
Source: tinyBuild

Combat in Broken Roads is as dry as the desert encapsulating the Australian wasteland. It’s slow, it doesn’t pull any interesting tricks or offer compelling gimmicks. It’s very by the book CRPG combat, in which you click to tell your people what to do or where to go, watch the math play out, watch your enemies do their thing, then loot bodies and move on once the math goes in your favor. Even with the variety of character backgrounds and skills you eventually add on to the starting options, combat still felt like something I had to deal with rather than engage with.

Ultimately my time with Broken Roads didn’t light up any of the parts of my brain that video games typically do on some level or another. There’s some promise at first with its distinct, all-encompassing cultural flavor. But the scenario holding up the setting only struggled to capture my interest. Combat was a similar vibe, feeling like doing chores in the middle of reading a middle of the road novel in a crowded genre. While cool on paper the morality system did more harm than good, overloading the dialogue and getting in the way of character and personality. Nothing in Broken Roads felt bad or, well, broken. But whenever I played it, unless I was chuckling at the slang translator doing something weird I was always thinking of other things I would rather be doing.

Broken Roads is available for the PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, and Xbox One and Series X|S on April 10, 2024. A Nintendo Switch version is to follow at a later date. A code for the PC version was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Contributing Editor

Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favorites include Dragon Quest, SaGa, and Mystery Dungeon. He's far too rattled with ADHD to care about world-building lore but will get lost for days in essays about themes and characters. Holds a journalism degree, which makes conversations about Oxford Commas awkward to say the least. Not a trophy hunter but platinumed Sifu out of sheer spite and got 100 percent in Rondo of Blood because it rules. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas being curmudgeonly about Square Enix discourse and occasionally saying positive things about Konami.

Review for
Broken Roads
  • Commits to the Australian setting in myriad ways
  • Impressive, hand-drawn visuals that bring variety to desert environments
  • Writing that suffers from wooden dialogue, a middling plot, and a narrator that disrupts the tone
  • Moral Compass is a neat idea with a clumsy landing
  • Combat is incredibly boring, albeit functional
From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola