Calum Petrie reviews Fragment of Him…
When playing Fragments of Him, I found this to be less of a conventional computer game and more a lesson of storytelling. The game is based around the character of Will and the events that lead to the tragic accident that claims his life. The events mainly affect 3 people who were strongly linked to Will, these people are used as the storytelling devices that give you an insight into the man Will was and what impact he had on others.
The game plays more like a walking simulator rather than taking direct control of characters within the game. This coupled with a few other details made this game stand out when it came to review, as it does not look like a computer game either. Fragments of Him looks more like the project of a university student in a 3D animation course. I am in no way meaning this is a bad thing, rather it gives the game a certain look and feel that makes it stand out in my mind over other games that saturate the world with too much unimportant details.
This is the work of an indie developer who has set out with a project of passion and vision; they had a clear idea of what the story was they wished to deliver and what they could produce.
The story is the main aspect in this game, when playing the game you start as Will and play through the normal daily routine until the car accident that claims your life. Though on playing through his day again you find the thoughts and feelings but also what his plans for the future were hoping to be.
I said at the start about the other players narrating their thoughts and how Will affected their lives but the reverse is also true. The player gathers and insight into how Will was also affected by his grandmother Mary, his first love Sarah and his current love Harry.
Mary’s story is one of the young Will and how she tried to make him into the man she wanted him to be, though his free spirited upbringing was not in tow with the values of the older generation. The youth he had become was a result of his father’s punk rock life style coupled with the ownership of pubs and his mother American heritage. The character of Mary was possibly easy to dislike as he viewpoints were stuck in an older generations way of thinking, when older people lived in a time when homosexuality was a crime and punishable by law.
In a modern world where these issues are no longer considered “disgusting” or “unnatural” but rather accepted by culture and no longer (or should not be considered) shocking. To the point when playing as Will you discover his internal conflict of proposing the Harry, also mirrors the way that LGBT rights are more on the rise than ever before.
The game acts also as a social commentary of how other people came to accept other sexuality rather than from the standpoint of the people in the relationship. Mary also shuns and distances herself from her beloved grandson when she learns of his sexuality; she does feel shame within her actions, but also realises that Will is still the young boy she raised and possibly a better man than she ever imagined.
Sarah’s Story is a little more complicated; her relationship with Will stared when they bother lived independently for the first time. Their journey to adulthood is guided under the guise of young love and how they not only found each other but discovered themselves.
Sarah tells a far more accepting side of Will discovering his sexuality, she is an incredibly supportive figure in the story and even nice to the point where she hurts her herself to help Will. She is the character who helps Harry and Will find each other, then steps back when she realises that being with someone who is unsure about their sexuality is only going to cause far more confusion and heartbreak down the line.
Her story also tells of her own growth and relationships with her mum and step dad, she talks briefly about her biological dad. I am not sure though if that is incredibly relevant to the story at hand or if the game developers are trying to add in incredible amount of detail to show that all characters have a back story of their own and trying to humanise everyone.
Harry’s Story to be honest was the one I was expecting to have the longest running dialogue, but it is actually the shortest. Harry is a character you barely get to find out anything about. You do not learn about any conflict in coming to terms about Will and himself, or if Harry was openly gay from the beginning. Instead Harry is used as the device to tie off the story and bring together all the major players in Will’s life to grieve.
Harry has no story to tell about the past or his side of the story about meeting Will (that is all told through Sarah), or about how he felt about the grandmothers distance after the discovery of Will’s sexuality. Rather you get a rather brief run through of someone dealing with the death of a loved one, and then the rather upswing of them moving on but not forgetting. The story of Harry is disappointing and probably lets the game down on what could have possibly been the strongest story of them all.
The game allows the player to control the flow of the storytelling by selecting highlighted objects, these once triggered will activate the narrative of either a certain object or progress the scene overall. Sometimes it is confusing to see why you are actually highlighting and activating everything instead of just watching a cut-scene, this could be to give the player something to do and feel a level of interaction with the game.
This raises the question of wither this actually had to be a computer game or if this could have been a short animated film. The player does not really have a great deal of choices in the world and does not actually have a great impact on the events or outcomes.
The music is an underrated feature in this game as the pieces of music played almost always compliment the scene and the events that are occurring on screen. The music must have been picked with precision to work so well on so many levels, though in one scene in the student union they do mention bands from the 90’s in the UK like Pulp, Blur and Oasis; though none of them are actually in the game.
The game plays at a fairly stable rate, though I found a couple of issues that were worth mentioning. When looking away on screen from any items that you could interact with, the frame rate was at a ridiculously smooth rate. When the screen was saturated with objects to interact with, frame rates dropped to a clunky level but not unplayable.
I had a thought early on and found that the game would probably benefit and be suited much more to a VR headset. Though the player only controls a floating camera that follows the events of the onscreen characters, a VR experience would immerse you into the situation and probably allow greater appreciation for the textures and models that highlight every scene.
Overall the game is a good story told that is told very well, the game can be completed in a few hours and might possibly be the easiest 1000 gamer score a player will achieve in their life. Though do not expect to rush through the game and skip dialogue as that is not possible, you can gain 900 gamer score in a single play-through and gain the other 100 with a simple 2 minute replay of a certain scene.
The game has very little to no replay value once completed, though the story on a single play-through should stick with players and be stuck in their heads for a while after completion. I understand this game will not be for everyone, but it is refreshing to see someone wanting to tell a story for the sake of passion.
Calum Petrie – Follow me on Twitter