An upcoming video-game set in the WA Wheatbelt is finally answering the question gamers have asked for years: What if Fallout was very Australian?
Broken Roads is an upcoming isometric RPG that aims to explore that exact question, bringing the post-apocalypse to the Wheatbelt with all of the moral complexity and twisting narratives of classic role-playing games like Pillars of Eternity, Baldur's Gate and most overtly, the first two Fallout games.
Game director Craig Ritchie explained that the setting was inspired by films like Mad Max and A Boy and His Dog - beginning as a much wider narrative set across all Australia before it was condensed to just the Wheatbelt.
"It started as a post-apocalyptic road trip ... at some point, I just said 'Why shouldn't this be in Australia' and then as we developed that, we thought 'We can't do all of those different biomes'. It's a cool idea but it would take us 100 years to create."
Tonally, the game is aiming for a blend of serious and comic with all the complex narrative and ethical dilemmas players would expect from an RPG - with plenty of humour mixed in.
"We're not shying away from complexity. It's quite serious, harsh and unforgiving but there are plenty of moments of levity," Mr Ritchie said.
Many of those comic moments lean into classic Australian pop culture - drawing lines from Qantas advertisements and one memorable joke involving sheep manure and the classic 'slip, slop, slap' line (although Mr Ritchie didn't answer if there'd be a Rhonda and Ketut easter egg hiding somewhere.)
Comedy aside, choices are the bread and butter of RPG's, and Broken Roads prides itself on the wide range of options on how players can approach situations.
While moral choices are far from a new feature in games, the 'morality compass' in Broken Roads aims to bring a level of nuance and complexity far apart from traditional good and evil choices.
Mr Ritchie explained that the morality compass would guide your possible actions based on your character's worldview and whether they can even conceive of more extreme actions.
"What we've got is narrow-mindedness and broad-mindedness ... if you make a lot of decisions in the same quadrant, your worldview becomes narrower but the outer limit reaches to the edge of the compass," he explained.
"If you make a lot of decisions all over the compass, you'll have a wider range but your limits don't get to the edge. You'll have more choices but you won't get to try out those higher level ones."
Mr Ritchie added that the studio had even tossed around the idea of a spherical morality compass - but with 100 points on each axis, 36,000 possible positions seemed like it was a bit much.
Those compass isn't all that will determine outcomes and options, with the world and NPC's also playing a role determining how players can and will approach situations, whether they prefer to go in guns blazing, or seek out the peaceful route.
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"It's sometimes more difficult but we want it to feel like if you are really thinking about it, if you think about your response - there will be a non-violent solution ... but be thoughtful about it. Don't go and take on a job in town to go and kill someone, and then expect that we've always designed a peaceful resolution to it."
Mr Ritchie said he hoped players would explore the Wheatbelt a few times as different characters, playing within the space to see how many different paths they can take.
"I hope that people play through some different origins and see how it's an entirely different story," Mr Ritchie said.
The team at Drop Bear Bytes are already looking at their next project, but promised players that they would be focusing on post-launch support and expansions for Broken Roads in the immediate future.
"We've already started designing our next project. It will probably be quite a departure from Broken Roads after all this time ... I think it will be time for a tonal shift, at least," he said.
Broken Roads will be available in early 2024 after the planned release on November 14 was delayed.
Developer Drop Bear Bytes said they decided to delay the release to "allow for additional polish time".
"This was not an easy decision," they said.