Isle of Alright: Masters of the Broken World

By Alec Meer on September 20th, 2011 at 2:40 pm.

A non-broken sub-world

“Fantasy non-linear turn-based strategy” is the official description. I can’t think of a better way to put it, but it hardly begins to describe the scope and scale of Snowberry’s vast game of space-island conquest.

You may recognise Masters of the Broken World from John pretending he isn’t afraid of strategy games in this post. Since then, I’ve seen this remake of what was formerly a one-man project myself, and have if not total then at least partial understanding of what’s going on in the deep’n’clever build or bash opus.

You’re cast in the role of an immortal demigod, competing with assorted fantasy ruler types for control of a kingdom scattered across the titular and literally broken world. You can achieve this via brutalism or canniness, and an in-game karma system means you’re going to see different results dependant on how you go about your land-seizing business. Killing everyone in a province is obviously one way to grab control, but a little conversation could go a long way. Maybe they’d sign up if you found ‘em some food. Or maybe it’s a residence of villanous hobgoblins who’ll join your ranks if you’d only go and inflict some sort of immeasurable horror on a neighbouring hobbit settlement.

There’ll be seven different endings, depending on what you’ve been up to. As well as actions, this includes who you hang about with. Recruit a bunch of hobbits and you’ll stay firmly in the nice guy camp. Lean towards Orcs and you’ll find yourself painted in a rather different light. Darker units are more powerful and cheap, especially in the early stages of the game, but hang fire through hard times and stick to the light and you’ll find you eventualy have access to the game’s most effective soldiers, such as paladins and Elven commanders.

Fascinatingly, there won’t be some manner of brazen meter or guage telling you how far you’ve wandered into darkness – instead you need to ascertain it yourself, based on how your holdings’ appearances start to change. I’ve written down something about rainbows appearing around ponies here, but I’m a bit worried I was just delirious at that point. Anyway!

As well as the good/bad choice, the very act of expansion has a rather abstract pair of options. Rather than expanding externally – seeking out and gaining new provices by actions fair or foul – you can expand internally. Which sounds incredibly painful, but actually refers to exploring within and developing what you already own. You might turn up artifacts or secret places, or simply go towards maximising an area’s output and income. The devs reckoned that in some cases it’s better to concentrate on just a few provinces instead of trying to grab everything. Especially as you need to have one of your few heroes inside a province to explore it, instead of out and about fighting, so there’ll be plenty of tough strategic calls to be made in that regard.

Still: you will need to be grabbing hold of new land somehow, as conquering a world is the only way to control the special technology it holds. Lose that world to someone else and there’ll be the only ones with its technology. Your goal on each shard-world is not to conquer every promise, but simply to seize the enemy capital. Similarly, you have only one capital city yourself, which can be upgraded and expanded in assorted ways to your economic or military benefit.

The game’s split between a Civ/Total War-esque meta-map, on which you might be waging wars on multiple fronts (so a diplomatic approach of sorts will be required to keep this manageable) and turn-based battles in the vein of Heroes of Might and Magic but with a greater emphasis on stuff like terrain type and stamina. You’ll need to think tactically to win, whether it’s hiding your healers in forests and putting archers on hills or just resisting the urge to spam the enemy with your stronger units, else you’ll wear them out.

Heroes are in the mix too – in fact, you can’t move an army unless one is attached. You can only have up to four at a time, and they’re incredibly expensive as well as powerful. They’re not all combat-orientated either, so you’ll be picking different types dependent on your intentions – for instance, the Rogue excels at diplomacy and exploration, while the Commander can’t look after himself in a fight but does enable you to have a bigger army and range of support powers. On the battlefield, these guys are incredibly handy, but all too mortal. Come their death, you’ll have the option to expensively resurrect them later or recruit someone new.

I fear I have only fractional understanding of Masters of the Broken World, and its many, many decisions. It appears to be a hugely elaborate strategy game with a headful of ideas and a heartful of confidence, and will likely only become entirely comphrensible after extensive play. That’s exactly why I’m intruiged by it – something to lose myself in, to teach myself and with a freeform structure that isn’t trying to send me anywhere specific or cleave too closely to genre convention. It has elements of grand strategy titles such as Hearts of Iron, but the fantastical wildness and variance that a flighty-minded soul such as I requires. More on this soon, I think. Meantime, here’s Gametrailers’ recording of a Gamescom demo session, which should cast some more light on what’s going on in MOTBW:

Masters of the Broken World will hopefully launch at some point next year, but the devs say it’s ready when it’s ready.

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50 Comments »

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  1. Jim Rossignol says:

    Gosh, this looks lovely.

  2. Dawngreeter says:

    So, the turns aren’t linear?

  3. CMaster says:

    That sounds like there’s really a lot going on.

    Here’s hoping that it’s clearly presented well, and the options really are viable options, rather than there being one highly optimal path and several less so.

  4. Vexing Vision says:

    When?

    Have my money. Now.

  5. Atic Atac says:

    This looks like the best game of all time.

  6. lunarplasma says:

    One thing about ‘good-vs-evil’ games that has always bothered me is: what’s in it for someone who likes to tread the middle road?

    • Vexing Vision says:

      Orc-on-Elf slashfic.
      Think about it.

    • somini says:

      A truly vexing vison, that’s you just gave me…

    • Grygus says:

      Not pretty. The book is called “Grunts” and it is by Mary Gentle and you should probably read it if you consume fantasy stories that are written down in non-screenplay form.

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      Lambchops says:

      @ Grygus

      I second the recommendation of “Grunts”. Gloriously dark and funny.

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      Daiv says:

      @ Grygus

      Thirded. Vote Dark Lord!

    • Vexing Vision says:

      I was underwhelmed with Grunts. Really disliked the shooty-stuff.

      On the other hand, “Grunts” makes a PERFECT title for said slashfic. I’ll be right back. *heads off to write disturbing things*

    • Felixader says:

      “Grunts” was a interesting book.
      Would have been great if it weren’t for the “rape child to death” scene.
      So it’s just an asshole of an book with the potential that it could have been good.

    • Archonsod says:

      Do you regularly mark art down for inspiring emotions?

      Ever get the feeling you might have missed the point a tad?

    • Zenicetus says:

      “One thing about ‘good-vs-evil’ games that has always bothered me is: what’s in it for someone who likes to tread the middle road?”

      Games set up that way usually do screw the middle-of-the-road player, because there are usually so many benefits to going to the extremes. It will be interesting to see how this game handles that. One approach, used by games like Civ and GalCiv is to offer other paths to a win, like cultural assimilation or tech wins. But it sounds like this one is pretty focused on the good-evil axis.

      It sounds very promising, anyway. I hope they can avoid Elemental’s “let’s throw a bunch of cool ideas in a salad bowl, mix it up, and see if it works!” approach, in favor of a solid underlying design.

    • bill says:

      The one game I liked for this, which was incidentally the first I remember that did it, was Jedi Knight.

      You could walk the middle ground in that game, and mix and match the benefits of good and evil – up to a point. And that point was COOL and dramatic, and then you got to re-assign your points and be fully on one side. So you weren’t penalized at all.

      Grunts was a great idea, but a pretty terrible book. The “rape to death” scene wasn’t very fitting in what was basically a comedy book. Not recommended.

  7. Coins says:

    This looks utterly amazing.

  8. karry says:

    I really hope the “insane bloom” setting can be toggled off.

  9. RogB says:

    tickling me in all the right (nerdy) places

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    Tunips says:

    The mix of very generic fantasy and odd sci-fi-shaped world seems a bit strange, but there was not a single word in this post I do not approve of.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Floating islands in space seem more fantasy than sci-fi to me.

  11. Kaira- says:

    Why yes, I am interested. I am just afraid I won’t find time to play it once this comes out, looking at my backlog…

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    sonofsanta says:

    Oh my. That does look rather time- and mind-consuming.

    Oh my indeed.

    • Auspex says:

      It really does look pretty neat. I can see me pouring 60 hours into this in one week like I did when I first played King’s Bounty.

  13. rasputinsownbear says:

    Played the hell out of the pre-remake version. Gets a little grindy on the bigger maps, eats a lot of time, but otherwise it’s absolutely gorgeous. I liked random events most of all – every turn, something happens in your kingdom, for example a troll starts bothering one of the villages, and you can either send an army to deal with it, hire a hunter, or hire the troll himself – for a regular shipment of human babies. Lots and lots of different stuff – dragons, druids, rebellions, caravans from distant lands, inquisitors intending to burn some of your loyal subjects, all of the events having several possible outcomes and impact on karma. If you’re evil enough, the devil sends a present from time to time, if you’re good, it rains gold (quite literally).

  14. Martin Carpenter says:

    Looks a bit like a cousin to age of wonders, which certainly isn’t a bad thing!

    • crazydane says:

      I was just thinking that, and Age of Wonders 2 could do with a graphically beefed up sequel.

    • MrXswift says:

      AoE 2 should be beefed up too AoE 3 & AoE online are not worthy sequels

  15. Ian says:

    I’m not normally one to be grabbed by strategy game previews but that looks rather good.

  16. Pardoz says:

    Hmmm…the bastard child of Civ/Master of Magic and King’s Bounty, with Age of Wonders for a nanny?

    Want. Very very very want.

  17. DrazharLn says:

    I’m not generally a fan of a good/evil dichotomy, but the rest of the game sounds interesting. I’d definitely play a demo if they release one.

    Any news on possible multiplayer?

  18. bwion says:

    Please be as awesome as it sounds
    Please be as awesome as it sounds
    Please be as awesome as it sounds

    (Repeated ad absurdum until sometime next year.)

    • CMaster says:

      Seconded.

      I’m not a big fan of fantasy stuff in general, but I love the genuinely fantastical parts of the setting (the shattered world and all) and what they’re aiming to do sounds brilliant. But then, Elemental sounded pretty good on paper as well.

  19. Khemm says:

    Looks great!
    Quite a few turn based games to look forward to: this, Warlock:Master of the arcane, Elemental:Fallen Enchantress…

    • pakoito says:

      Fuck Elemental and fuck Stardock.

    • Khemm says:

      I take it you didn’t like Elemental?… Don’t blame you, but Fallen Enchantress might be a chance for Stardock to redeem themselves.

    • karry says:

      “Fallen Enchantress might be a chance for Stardock to redeem themselves.”

      They still didnt redeem themselves for the manure cart that was GalCiv2.

    • pakoito says:

      Long story short, I paid 50$ for Demigod based off promises later unfulfilled.

    • Zenicetus says:

      What was wrong with GalCiv2? The earlier versions were shaky, but I thought it was a pretty solid game by the time the last expansion was released.

      That was before Wardell went over to the dark side on DRM, and also decided he was a terrific fantasy book author and fantasy gameworld builder. He should have stuck to writing AI for sci-fi games and gone straight to GalCiv3.

    • karry says:

      What was right about it ? Obtuse GUI which gives you either no information you need or several variations of the same value (plus its horrible at sorting lists); completely untransparent mechanics (economics most of all); horrible manual written by that Hack…oh, i’m sorry, it was Chick; only global spending sliders; completely linear tech tree (and those mysterious bonuses…hmm, +10 to speed, what does that mean…) with blurbs that dont actually tell you anything about the tech itself; competely worthless ship editor; “humor”…what IS right in that game ? It’s like Stardock people never played a proper 4x game.

  20. Pijama says:

    Looks promising!

  21. Brian Rubin says:

    I can has? *throws money at screen, watches it bounce off* Sigh, I can’t has. :(

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    shoptroll says:

    Ooo shiny.

    *makes grabby hand motions*

  23. goodgimp says:

    Multiplayer support, yes/no?

    • Forseti says:

      Definitely hotseat mode, LAN/Internet multiplayer modes are still TBC.

  24. bill says:

    King’s Bounty style combat where tactics, positioning and terrain actually MATTER??? Do want!

    I hope attacking from the side and rear gets a bonus. And we can choose facing.

    Only being able to move 4 armies at a time (max) sounds a little limiting though…

    • Mystic says:

      Any player can control up to 8 heroes and their armies at a time. Belive me, it will be enough)

  25. Schiraman says:

    This sounds fantastic – right up until the bit about Might and Magic style combat :(

    Personally I think the open battlefields in Master of Magic remain the absolute gold standard for 4X fantasy battles, and I wish more games would try that style, rather than always copying the vastly inferior board-game style battles of M&M.

  26. pipman3000 says:

    Can I recruit orcs and still be a good guy? (death to fantasy stereotypes, etc, etc)

    • Mystic says:

      Orcs don’t ally with good lords. But if you’ll meet a mercenary orc in a tavern, you’ll be able to hire him. But he won’t be happy in your army)