Right off the bat we should put something on the table: if you don’t enjoy the first person experience games, this is probably not something you’ll be into. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy what developer Sassybot has created with Fragments of Him, because of course you can, but with that barrier of entry, most hear that term or “walking simulator” or some other phrase to describe these kinds of games and immediately get turned off. I can dig that. If you can get over that hump or just generally enjoy the FPX-style of game, there’s a good chance you’ll walk away from this satisfied.
Because these FPX games are so reliant on story to the point where the entire thing is just one big story dump, I won’t get too deep into what the overall story entails. I’ll try to be brief, but concise with the ins and outs so you can at least get a taste of what to expect.
The story focuses on Will, an English man just going through life, trying to decide what’s most important. Within that, we also move between 3 other people in Will’s life: his grandmother Mary, his girlfriend Sarah, and his best friend Harry. We start in present day, but bounce around through each character’s experiences with Will throughout their lifetime. It starts off on mundane day, Will working through his thoughts on life, his and otherwise, but transitions through the others once certain events transpire.
I’m almost too afraid that synopsis gives too much away, but honestly, I was able to work out the major story beat almost immediately once you take control of the game. There’s just too many hints to it everywhere, and hell, the developers may have even explained that fact as a selling point (I try to stay as spoiler-free as possible these days, especially with story-based games). Either way, once the story takes off from a clichéd story beat, where it goes from there to tell the story it intends is mostly a success.
As far as how you play the game goes, it’s fairly simple. You move around the scene, listening to the dialogue and exploring the designated area. Once the speaking has stopped, you’re tasked with finding the objects in the room to progress. All objects are highlighted in certain colors to indicate what you’re able to interact with and at what point in the scene you can do so. It all works really well. You don’t actually control anyone directly. We’re more a floating camera into their mostly stop motion-like lives. There are a couple points within the story where we can influence what one of the characters says to another, but overall, they pretty much lead to the same outcome. A minor missed opportunity, but nothing that detracts enough to be upset about it.
As the “floating camera” we move relatively slowly, but thankfully, we get a “run” button. We don’t move 100 MPH using it, but even within the limited spaces each scene sets us up in, it does feel god knowing that we have that extra speed to move around should we want to use it. We’re also never able to accidentally move the story forward. Meaning you can’t access an object until the previous one has finished doing whatever it is it’s supposed to do. A great service in a game such as this.
While Fragments of Him doesn’t have a million things going on every scene, that doesn’t mean it’s not a game that will impress visually. I rather enjoyed the simplistic look of everything going on, especially because it allowed the lighting and shadow work to be well implemented, and I rarely had any frame rate issues (I’ll explain the time I did in a bit) throughout the experience. There were a few times I was put off the way some character models interacted with one another, or objects in the scene, but overall, it didn’t negatively affect the mood more than just in a nit-picky way. The gray-scale color scheme works very well with the dabs of color used for storytelling purposes, and I never tired of it. It helped make the whole experience feel clean and interesting, in almost a clinical way – a good clinical way – that allowed the emotion of everything and everyone to shine through that much more without being distracted by something else you could be looking at.
Sound-wise, the voice acting is top notch. You feel for the quartet immediately and with each passing interaction, they get across all their feelings wonderfully, through the interactions with one another as well as the monologues recalling their past experiences. Musically, there isn’t a major focus with quantity, however, the main song that plays throughout is appropriately thematic with the tiny variations of how it plays through in any given scene. It’s a beautiful little piece that gets the cast and you where we’re all supposed to be.
As far as some of the negatives go, there are a few to mention seriously. The first one is the frame rate issue I mentioned earlier. If you have your Xbox in Instant On mode and come back to the game without properly closing out, the game crawls horribly. It’s nearly unplayable unless you love torturing yourself. I tested this a few times, each with the same result at various points of the game. This is a major feature of the Xbox, so it sucks the game isn’t optimized for it. The gameplay itself could be a test for some. It’s very repetitious, and while you could argue (and likely win) that every game is that way, in an experience like this, where there aren’t any dynamic things going on, it can sink in much quicker. This is where I think a few more sections like the dialogue choice scenes could have helped with that feeling. Adding more of those or even a different way to play every now and then would have been a benefit. With that said, because of the repetition, this next point may be a positive for some. The game is short, coming in about 2 hours long. If you go into the whole thing expecting an interactive movie, you’ll likely be fine with everything. I knew what to expect, but even with the proper expectations, I was itching for more. It’s a negative and a positive, honestly, because yes, it’s not as long as I would have liked (these kinds of games typically aren’t), it also speaks to how well everything around it was put together to make me want to have more given to me. A double edged sword, really.
If you’re looking for another easy completion, this is something to jump on. Getting all 10 Achievements shouldn’t take you more than a couple hours. The majority of them coming from stuff you have to do to progress to begin with. I’m conflicted in a game like this. I love games that give you more incentive to come back, but with something like this, I also feel like the feelings you get the first time around may make you want to have it be a “one and done” affair, but for all the right reasons.
Fragments of Him is definitely an emotional ride. The “interactive movie” nature of it all helps the story along nicely, while helping to get you more invested than if you were just sitting back watching the whole time. Depending on your circumstances in life, it may very well have you putting it all into perspective, dropping you and your loved ones in and out as necessary, as all the good narratives tend to do. Yeah, this FPX may be a short one, but it has enough gas in the tank to be a worthwhile ride.
Fragments of Him is available now for Xbox One and PC (Steam or DRM free on their site) for $9.99. A code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.