Fragments of Him Developer: Sassybot Available On: PC/Xbox One
Video games as a medium have been pushed in recent years with regards to what is (or isn’t) considered a “game”. Titles such as Her Story and That Dragon, Cancer have challenged the conventional wisdom of video games as something that people play either for the challenge (Call of Duty, Overwatch) or for a more traditional storytelling experience in which you go from point A to B while defeating challenges along the way (Uncharted, Quantum Break). The recent titles which some people have termed “walking simulators” are more akin to interactive storytelling than anything else. Regardless of what you think of the genre, they are definitely pushing video games in some interesting new directions, and Fragments of Him is a prime example of this.
Developed by the small team at Sassybot, Fragments of Him is a story about love, loss and the effect one man’s life has on those who cared about him in the wake of tragedy. The early portions of the game focus on Will, a young man who is in the prime of his life with a future full of possibility. But after guiding Will through a routine morning of brushing his teeth, eating breakfast and preparing for his day, he is involved in a car accident after leaving home. The viewpoint then shifts to his loved ones. You spend most of the rest of the game examining the relationships between Will and his boyfriend, Grandmother and his ex-girlfriend.
The gameplay is what is most unconventional about this game and it’s also where I have the most issues. You progress through the game by clicking on various objects in the environment to move the scene along. An object will have a glowing border around it, you click it to watch the scene unfold more, then find the next object to click. This is essentially all that you do during the game. It creates an incredibly passive experience with the story, and I would have probably been okay with it if there was more context behind the prompts.
Most of the time the items you’re clicking on aren’t really that important to the scene. You click this table, or that lamp. For most of the game it would have been just as effective to have a button that said “next” at the bottom of the screen. There are some moments where the objects you click on do tie in with what’s going on and that works really well, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen nearly enough.
The visuals also took a little getting used to for me. All of the character models are very simple and lacking much in the way of detail, giving everybody a very mannequin look to them. I eventually got used to this style but it did provide a barrier at first for me to become emotionally attached to the characters. The game also uses a very muted sepia color palette but I thought that it worked rather well for this story.
The game really lives or dies by the story that it’s telling, and thankfully it’s a truly unique and beautiful tale. It does an amazing job of showing how complex personal relationships can be, something that is rarely shown so effectively in games. The characters in Fragments of Him all felt real and the great voice work really goes a long way to getting you invested in their story. By the time the game reached its inevitable and heartbreaking conclusion I was really pulled in to their lives and it made me do what so few great games have done in the past, it made me think about my own life and the choices I’ve made and how they’ve affected the ones that I love.
While the “gameplay” may leave much to be desired, the story told in Fragments of Him is special and one that I hope many gamers get a chance to experience. At a brief 2 (or so) hours it’s something you can experience over an evening or a weekend and if you’re anything like me it will leave a quite a lasting impression on you.