Review – Remothered: Broken Porcelain
Ever since the release of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, horror gaming has never been the same, thanks to Frictional Games’ masterpiece’s then-innovative focus on hide and seek gameplay. One game that tried to capitalize on the trend was 2017’s Remothered: Tormented Fathers, a game our own Jason Palazini tackled and disliked, despite everyone else seemingly liked it, to the point of even being considered a “cult classic” by some. The brand new entry on the series, Remothered: Broken Porcelain, however, manages to be worse in every single aspect.
The story follows a maide called Jennifer,who works in a failing hotel called the Ashman Inn. One day her fellow housemaid Andrea goes crazy, getting surrounded by moths, and she eventually tries to kill Jennifer. After being knocked out, Jennifer realises she must escape the hotel before it’s too late. As it turns out, there’s a drug called Phenoxyl that is driving everyone crazy and is the centre of the story, and our protagonist is somehow tied directly to it.
What should have been a fairly simple and compelling “escape from the crazies” scenario is transformed into a jarring mess. The presentation here is absolutely puzzling, and not in a good way. Even a few hours in, I was confused with the characters and their motivations, with cutscenes ending abruptly with little context whatsoever. They kept jumping back and forth between two periods in time. It’s hard to care about a story that is told in such a confusing manner. However, it’s not all bad with some interesting revelations and one (that’s right: ONE) main character that I didn’t despise. I wanted to care about Jennifer’s struggle as for the most part she is well written and believable, but it’s not enough.
As I started exploring the grounds of the hotel, I’m not gonna, I was having an initial decent experience. Other than the controls that were quite wonky at first, of course. There’s plenty to interact with, and seemingly a ton of secrets to find that really flesh out the world. But as soon as you meet an enemy, everything that could eventually go wrong, went wrong. Very wrong. The basic gameplay loop of Remothered: Broken Porcelain is your basic “hide and seek” horror game schtick that we’ve seen many times before, but this one takes the cake with how broken it is.
The rather fittingly named Broken Porcelain is one of the buggiest horror games I have ever played. I would be laughing at it, but this ended up being a trial in frustration. Almost every single part of the game is broken in some shape or form that will almost always hinder your progression. I couldn’t play more than give minutes without encountering a new glitch. Problems that all build up for a gameplay experience that is more frustrating than terrifying, problems that can only allow me to stomach one encounter at a time before quitting to desktop.
Jennifer will only encounter a small handful of enemies throughout her adventure, acting as Mr.X-like stalker enemies until you finally get a boss fight with them. Their AI ranges from dumb to moderately self-aware. Often times I would be able to hide right under their noses whilst other times they would lock onto me like a heatseeking missile. It’s a bizarre spike in behaviour that changes by the second. In one moment I was able to lose my stalker by running circles around him until he kind of forgot about me but other times the same foe would spot me through a wall. The enemies can also easily get stuck on a piece of the environment. One time, an enemy actually got stuck on an objective.
Once spotted you have two options: either you run away and hide, or throw a bottle on the foe’s face and stab it in the back. It’s almost always better to simply run away. Going into an encounter will most likely do nothing for you, since this doesn’t really stun them much at all and you can’t kill them. The only time to attempt to take on an enemy is in the game’s scripted boss fights, which are even worse than the stealth sections. Pretty much all of the game’s mechanics aren’t functional enough to work consistently in these sections. In the end if you can think of a way to cheese an encounter, try it. It will probably work.
I haven’t even scratched the surface on the amount of bugs and issues this game has. I have also managed to accidentally sequence skip an encounter when I hit a checkpoint after dying to one of the bosses. When I respawned, I was in the same room but the enemy had moved on. Even when the game wants to work the way it was intended to, it just wasn’t a lot of fun. The opening 20-30 minutes were the best this game had to offer, with simple exploration segments and a more tightly designed stealth sequence but it still felt off and way behind other games in the genre.
Even basic movement is problematic, with Jessica often getting caught on the environment or having a weird delay when trying to move quickly. Then you’ve got actions such as picking up a weapon or entering a locker, which were frustratingly inconsistent, with issues such as having to perfectly place the camera so the button prompt would appear, but even then if it died appear there would be no guarantee that it would work. This can be applied to every object in the game. I can’t count how many times an enemy detected me because Jess just wouldn’t go into the locker unless I positioned my camera in the right position.
A little less than halfway through the game Jennifer will gain the ability to control moths. This will initially allow you to escape from the room you are locked in, but you will also be able to use this “power” to distract enemies and guide an ally to safety. Eventually this will also be used in boss and stalker encounters where it’s at its absolute worst. Controlling Jennifer is already problematic in its own right, but this moth movement makes it way too easy for it to get stuck on the environment, often leading to an early game over if there’s an enemy nearby.
To give the developers some credit, a number of patches have come out to deal with some of the bigger issues. AI behaviour has been improved and boss fights are a touch more fair, less reliant on stun-locking attacks, making it easier to get out of tougher situations. They’ve also made changes with interactions you can make whilst being chased. Unfortunately this just isn’t enough to fix some of the more fundamental flaws that Broken Porcelain has. If you are still interested in the game keep an eye out because the developers are still working on patching the game, but in its current state, it’s impossible to recommend.
The Ashman Hotel is surprisingly packed with references to other horror classics such as The Shining, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t visually dull. Whilst the intial areas are nice enough to look at, it eventually gets boring quickly, lacking variety. Character models in particular aren’t bad, but they hit this proverbial uncanny valley where they just look out of place. As you can tell by the screenshots, the overall image clarity changes from session to session. With how many times I’ve had to close the game down due to boredom or frustration it becomes a dice roll if this particular boot would look any good. Changing graphic settings back to default seemed to fix this issue, however.
The best thing about Remothered: Broken Porcelain is actually its sound design. The soundtrack is atmospheric and eerie enough, without being too overused, knowing its place in the background. In the brief moments where the game slows down, it really shines through, and you can even see glimpses of what could have otherwise been something bearable.
Voice acting, whilst nothing stellar, serves the story really well, as it even managed to immerse me in some of the cutscenes every now and then. Jennifer’s voice actress in particular was a huge highlight, but the supporting cast and villains did a decent job as well. However, even the sound design had some big issues. Missing sound effects such as a fuse box blowing or when an enemy throws you to the ground just pull you straight out of the experience.
Remothered: Broken Porcelain is one of the most disappointing horror games that I’ve played in a while. Nay, one of the most disappointing games in general. I wanted to like it, I really did, but beyond the unbearably buggy gameplay lies a shallow stealth horror experience that is more of an exercise in frustration than it is in terror.
The well designed Ashman Hotel is let down by weird character models, bad lighting, and other visual issues.
A stealth horror game where the stealth doesn’t work. In face, nothing in its gameplay works at all.
Sound bugs aside, there’s actually something to enjoy with the sound design. Voice acting is decent enough and the soundtrack is pretty alright.
Broken Porcelain is a fitting name for this broken mess of a game. It’s buggy beyond believe, its gameplay is downright awful, and its story simply isn’t compelling enough to make me ignore these shortcomings.
Final Verdict: 2.5
Remothered: Broken Porcelain is available now on PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Remothered: Broken Porcelain was provided by the publisher.