Today I am doing something new for this site: a Kickstarter preview! I have never done one before, but I am very pleased to present Unbroken, a solo dungeon adventure designed by Artem Safarov and published by Altema Games. To see the campaign page, click here.
Artem kindly provided me with a print and play version of Unbroken so that I could test out the game and write this preview.
What is Unbroken about?
In Unbroken, you are a hero who boldly ventured into a dungeon with the rest of your party... only to have things end very badly. Now, you're the sole survivor, and you've woken up in the depths of the dungeon with only your wits to aid you in your quest for vengeance and escape. If you ever want to see the light of day again—as well as give the monsters who killed your friends a taste of their own medicine—you'll need to gather resources, conserve your energy, and conquer four terrifying dungeon bosses.
The trick to Unbroken is the careful management of resources. You only have so much effort to expend on fighting or preparing to fight. On each level, you have a limited amount of time to spend before you confront each monster, and you need to use it as wisely as possible. During each turn, you complete an explore phase in which you gather the materials you need to progress. Will you scout ahead to see what monster you're facing, or will you boldly face the unknown? Will you hunt for metal and wood so that you can build weapons? Will you rest and conserve energy? The choices are yours, and while there is some luck involved when it comes to which cards you draw while exploring, your decisions have a significant impact on the outcome of your game.
When the time you have to complete each level dwindles, it's time to face the boss. Once again, you have choices: Will you push your luck and risk being ambushed by a monster? Or will you call time early and go on the offensive? If the latter, will you fight the boss and hopefully reap rewards for doing so? Or will you pay a smaller up front cost to sneak by and progress to the next level without taking too much damage? (The fourth and final boss will be tough and can only be defeated by fighting, so you need to prepare!)
All of these factors combine to create a highly engaging solo game that offers a challenge without taking too long to play. If you enjoy solo games, fantasy themes, and doing your best to come up with a plan of attack against a monster, you are going to like Unbroken.
What I like about Unbroken
I think Unbroken has a lot to offer solo gamers. The base game already has a lot of replayability, and I think it will keep me interested for a long time. The monsters you fight on each level are chosen at random via a die roll, so your game will play out differently every time. Each monster has different attacks, strengths, and weaknesses, so it's crucial to adjust your strategy for each upcoming fight. It's not just about getting the most powerful weapon upgrade, either—it's about making sure you've acquired the best possible configuration of resources and skills. If there are expansions for this game, then the replayability will become even greater—and I think this game has the potential to get some really good expansions.
I also like that there is more of an element of choice than you'd find in your typical dice chucker. Although you draw cards during the explore phase, which means you may not find the things you really want, you still have a lot of say when it comes to how your character develops. This especially becomes the case when you draw skill cards after a battle—the way you choose to customize your character plays a large role in the strategies you choose as you prepare for the final confrontation.
The theme of Unbroken also amuses me. I love that as you try to escape the dungeon, you encounter this entire society of creatures who live there and have their own economy and ecosystem. Sure, there are terrifying boss monsters, but there are also mushrooms to harvest and creatures to trade with. I find that very appealing, and would actually like to see that aspect of the game get more attention. (And it looks like it will, since several boss monster backstories have been unlocked since the start of the campaign!)
Possible Concerns about Unbroken
My main concern about Unbroken is that, at some points, it can be finicky. During my test plays, my biggest challenge came from remembering to do things in just the right order. You can only use your skills at certain times, and you have to remember to reset the number of available skill uses at the beginning of each level. Before a boss fight, you need to remember to adjust the time tracker before you start, even though you haven't technically progressed to the next level yet.
These are small points, but they can really break your immersion. I am hoping to see clear, bulleted player aids in the rulebook when the final version is made, because I think it would really help.
Should I back it?
I think that Unbroken is definitely worth backing. In fact, I am backing it myself. It offers a unique twist on a dungeon crawl, both thematically and in terms of gameplay mechanics. It's also just good fun, and a game that keeps me engaged for the entire time I'm playing it. I look forward to writing a full review when the final version of Unbroken is published. Unless something really weird happens, it's going to be a positive one.
If you'd like to see more, check out my playthough of Unbroken on YouTube. It should give you a good sense of how the game flows: