Released in February of this year on PC, Broken Lines was a compelling, albeit short, indie turn-based strategy game from unsung developers PortalPlay and publisher Super.com. Unfortunately, strategy games are a dime a dozen on Steam—quite literally during some sales—and it can be difficult for games deserving of more acclaim to be recognized amidst the absolute torrent of top-down, tile-based tactical titles.
However, its recent jump to the Nintendo Switch eShop made us sit up and take note. Sure, there’s no shortage of indie titles on the platform, but, when it comes to strategy, Broken Lines is a standout, particularly considering the lack of support for the genre on Nintendo’s hybrid hardware.
Strategy games have never exactly been at home on any console; controllers, while great for things like third-person shooters or racing games, don’t translate well to large-scale battlefield management. As this was the case for games like Syndicate (2008), XCOM: The Bureau, and Final Fantasy: XIII, hardcore RPG and strategy mechanics tend to be either watered down or stripped entirely when new experiences are developed with consoles in mind. Broken Lines makes similar concessions in that it felt like a simplified version of modern genre heavy-hitters to begin with, but the smaller mission sizes and relative brevity of the campaign feel tailor-made for the pick-up-and-play mentality of the Switch.
This isn’t intended to be a knock-on PortalPlay’s hard work, but Broken Lines’ combat system isn’t particularly deep, it certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and, though things feel decidedly bite-sized, the game offers up a surprising amount of replayability via alternate missions and pathways, as well as several different endings. Beyond that, the relatively simple control scheme, small party sizes, and easily-surveyable terrain make for a package that plays well on a system that probably wouldn’t be all that well suited to host anything more robust. The developers likely didn’t intend players to spend several afternoons managing bases, tuning up characters, and planning long-winded assaults, and that’s fine by us.
The message we’d like to impart here is that Broken Lines feels like a blueprint for strategy game development on Switch. The genre is so underrepresented on the console that fans could probably list every worthwhile non-re-release/remaster on one hand, and, while titles like Wargroove, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and Phantom Doctrine have proven to be opposites to the rule, we see no reason why Switch-ified renditions of games like XCOM 2 or Shadowrun Returns wouldn’t be successful. We aren’t insinuating that we’d one day like to see grand strategy franchises like Total War or Company of Heroes make the transition to Nintendo’s current-gen console, we only mean to say that we could absolutely do with a few more well-structured, sufficiently pared-down variants of games which, in their current states, aren’t likely to leave the PC.
All in all, Broken Lines feels a bit like the Final Fantasy Tactics Advance of the Nintendo Switch; it’s watered-down and smaller than its peers in a lot of ways, but, given the restrictions of the system on which it plays, it’s been made all the better for it. We might be coming off as just a bit insane, but we’d love to see more strategy titles like this make their way to the Switch in the near future.
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