Born Of Bread

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Developer: WildArts
Release Date: Dec. 5, 2023


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PC Review - 'Born of Bread'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 4, 2023 @ 6:00 a.m. PST

Born Of Bread is a home-cooked retro throwback to classic cartoony RPGs full of fun characters and charming stories for children and adults alike.

The easiest way to describe Born of Bread is that it's a Paper Mario title. This isn't meant as an insult, and the game wears its inspiration on its sleeve. It looks, plays and feels a ton like Nintendo's Paper Mario for the N64. It's clearly a love letter toward a specific spin-off that, upcoming Thousand Year Door remake aside, hasn't gotten much attention from Nintendo lately.

Born of Bread lets players control Loaf, who is a little boy who was quite literally born of bread, his baker father accidentally giving him life while trying to cook a meal for the queen. Unfortunately, Loaf is alive for about five minutes before everything goes to heck. A band of misfits breaks into the castle, assaults the queen, and steals the precious Sunstone. Poor Papa Baker ends up with all of the blame. It's up to Loaf to prove his father's innocence and stop the ne'er-do-wells.

Born of Bread is a cheesy and silly game, and it's filled to the brim with humor. It's very rare that it spends more than a few moments without being somehow funny, and the cast members bring life to the game. Even Loaf, who is usually mute, often has the chance to talk via dialogue options. They're almost all some variation of saying something in a normal way or making the worst pun imaginable. The cast is likable, and the game does a good job of standing on its own merits. It's fun, even without the Mario nostalgia.

Combat is clearly inspired by Paper Mario's turn-based combat system. A player's party consists of Loaf and a partner character, and each can be swapped out, but only one of them can be out at a time. Players and enemies take turns attacking one another. The player's attacks come in the form of simple minigames, most of which last about two seconds and involve timing a button press just right, while enemy attacks require you to press a button before being attacked to reduce damage taken. Both characters have their own HP pools, but if Loaf goes down, the game's over. Like Paper Mario, damage numbers are low, and anything over double-digit numbers is exceptionally rare and powerful.

Elemental damage plays a big part in the game. There are magical elements (fire, ice, metal, etc.) and weapon types (piercing, slashing, smashing, etc.). Most attacks feature both elements, so for example, a flame sword has fire and slashing elements. Enemies tend to have a weakness to a magical element and a defense against a weapon type, and if you properly hit them with an elemental attack that they are weak to without hitting their defensive type, you'll deal more damage. Considering that one or two extra damage points are usually enough to take out an enemy in one turn instead of two, it's great to focus on this.

This is doubly true since WP, Born of Bread's version of MP, is shared among the party and attacks can get pretty expensive. Aside from a few starting attacks, most character's abilities require at least one WP to use, and you probably won't have more than 50 by the endgame. Fortunately, the game gives you a lot of ways to recover WP in battle. You can use items. If you defend instead of attack, and you properly time an enemy's attack, not only will you avoid damage, but you'll also replenish WP. Oddly, your battles are livestreamed to a Twitch-like chat, and if you do well in battle, they will occasionally make requests. If you complete them, you get WP.

Your characters are also customizable. Each partner character has two elements that they're good at and has a customized skill tree to unlock multiple spells with different attributes. There are four skills you can unlock, and two variations for each skill, and once you unlock one, you can swap them. Lint the Raccoon can be geared to do non-elemental or wood-type damage, but he can also be focused into a healing character. Yagi the Goat-Monk can deal astral damage or fire damage. You unlock more skill points by finding hidden salamander-like creatures to reward you for exploring.

Loaf, on the other hand, functions differently. Throughout the game world, you'll find various items, including kitchen knives, gardening tools, magical swords, and oversized pieces of jewelry. Each item has its own elemental status and power. Each also has a Tetris block shape, and Loaf can equip as many as he wants as long as he can make them fit into his backpack, Resident Evil 4-style. This allows you to customize him as you like, and as the backpack grows larger, you can make him more effective as a jack of all trades.

Born of Bread also borrows the Paper Mario badge system. You can find various badges throughout the game world and equip them onto Loaf to give a variety of passive boosts. The boots range from assist abilities, such as sprinting faster, showing enemy elemental weaknesses, to improving the party's stats, to adding special attributes, such as restoring WP when blocking a regular attack. These can also be changed out at any time, but you have a limited number of badge spots.

Combat is mostly swift and breezy. Fights don't tend to last very long, and the largest challenge is ensuring you have enough WP. Since WP replenishes every time you level up, it's more of an encouragement to keep exploring rather than anything punishing. Like its inspiration, Born of Bread isn't interested in being a hardcore adventure but something cute and simple, and that works in its favor.

Likewise, exploration is straightforward. The game is linear, guiding you from plot beat to plot beat without much trouble. It has an incredible number of side-quests and hidden areas to find. Most areas have a few side-quests, some of which are one-time occurrences while others can span the length of the game. Each new partner character you recruit unlocks a new exploration ability, such as making astral plants (so you can jump on them), digging through piles of dirt on the ground, or setting aflame certain wooden objects. These abilities allow you to find new areas when returning to earlier zones, which can unlock new equipment, hidden salamanders, or even new palette-swap costumes for your main cast.

Exploration in the game is mostly fun, but it sometimes relies a tad too heavily on backtracking. While you can eventually unlock faster ways of travel, including shortcuts between zones and a city of doors that lets you warp between cities, it can be tedious to go back through the same few areas again and again, especially if you're looking for one specific hidden thing that you may not even have the skill to access yet. It's a minor problem at best; it means that I would build up a pile of side-quests and do them all at once, instead of when they were introduced.

Visually, Born of Bread is incredibly cute. It borrows the Paper Mario 2D cut-out art style but manages to bring a lot of its own charm to the designs. The weird mix of sentient food and adorable animals doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense, but it's distinctive and charming, and a lot of effort has been expended to make most areas in the game feel distinct. Even the enemy designs properly fit the tone, from bees and sentient rocks in the woods to living dolls and possessed ovens in a haunted house. The music is also quite good, with a lot of quality battle and exploration tunes.

As much as I enjoyed Born of Bread's design, however, it isn't possible for me to overlook that the fact that the game needs more time in the oven. Exploration can be fun, but the game doesn't do a good job of differentiating between accessible areas. Some areas that look accessible are not, and some areas that look inaccessible are. Some areas that are accessible can be entered early by mashing the jump button at certain spaces, although this can accidentally cause you to soft-lock the game. Other times, it seemed to be the intended solution, which made exploration feel tense, especially since the game didn't allow for multiple save slots. If I happened to jump to the wrong place, I could lose 20 minutes or more of progress.

Likewise, the combat is fun, but the more you progress, the less it feels like things were properly designed. For example, a character can inflict Sleep status on enemies with a 100% success rate — and to my shock, this included bosses. I had to force myself to stop using that exploit, but until then, I was able to trivially defeat all enemies by having Loaf attack while Chloe put them to sleep. The balance felt worse as the game went on.

Most critically, I ran into a lot of bugs. Aside from the aforementioned soft-locks by jumping in the wrong areas, I ran into a lot of issues big and small, most often involving events that didn't properly trigger. In some situations, characters would refuse to acknowledge that I had completed quests, so that made the quests impossible to finish. The game would weirdly un-complete objectives, which could cause the game to break if I did something that triggered the objective again. One area, the Misty Woods, became completely inaccessible, for some reason refusing to display anything on-screen. Perhaps worse was that Papa Baker forgot I had given him an item for a side-quest, so every time I tried to talk to him, it would trigger the side-quest dialogue and then the game would lock, meaning I couldn't advance. Since there's only one save slot, it meant that I would never be able to explore certain areas.

It's a real shame that these problems are so prevalent because there's a lot to like in Born of Bread. It's a very cute and charming game, and I enjoyed myself enough when playing it that I was willing to redo chunks of the game every time I broke something. I replayed sections until I just couldn't do it anymore. There's a good chance that there will be a bunch of patches for the game that will help it rise to its full potential, but at the moment, it's a bit too raw to readily recommend. I look forward to revisiting the title sometime later, after it's been thoroughly patched and stabilized.

Score: 7.0/10

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