Reflections (Early Access) Review

Screenshot from Reflections
In Reflections, how you live your life will alter the epilogue

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Broken Window Studios
  • Publisher: Broken Window Studios
  • Release Date: 26 Jun 2015
  • Time played: 96 minutes

What is it

Broken Window Studios is an indie development studio that has been developing "deeply immersive first person experiences" using the Unity 5 engine which include the game I'm reviewing today called Reflections and another game called Grave. Neither game (as far as I know) have actually been completed yet and they both launched a few years back.

Reflections started off as a game jam project in 2012 but the developers held back on releasing the game since they didn't feel the market was ready for walking simulators. However, after the success of The Stanley Parable, Gone Home and Dear Esther they went ahead with development. The game was released on Steam Early Access in 2015 and it also was nominated for several indie game convention awards in 2015 and 2016. However, communication has been intermittent since then and despite news of a new Community Relations Manager being hired in the middle of 2018 there have been no further game updates.

So, as Reflections is still in Early Access it's still not complete yet but I think it's meant to be a walking simulator that changes your narrative depending on what you interact with in the world. The game is split up into two chapters which are set at two points in the player character's life: the first is set just before the player character leaves for college and the second is set during a day at work (at least that's what I experienced - I wasn't able to figure out if there were any other paths implemented yet). The game's epilogue is tailored based on how you approach these two chapters.

The game doesn't currently have a Metascore but it does have a rating on Steam of "Mixed" based on 25 user reviews.

How I got it

I acquired the game Reflections along with a whole bunch of other random games on Steam back in July 2016, so I'm assuming the game was a freebie from the very generous Mix-Master (again, many thanks for the game key). I've always had a soft spot for narrative games which is why I was keen to eventually try this one out. What caused it to be played sooner rather than later is the fact reports that the game doesn't take long to complete.

Screenshot from Reflections
If you interact with enough items in a room, it will slowly turn from monochrome into colour

What I like:

Story changes depending on what you do

While I didn't really get to experience this much first hand (since both times I tried to take different paths and nothing really changed) the game apparently remembers the actions you make and this will influence which path of the story you take in the future. For me, I always ended up being rather lonely without any long-lasting relationships (despite trying to spend as much time as I could with the girlfriend in the pre-college scene) and my life revolved around my work. Judging by the way the epilogue describes the life I chose, it seems that there are other options, not to mention you can access a tree from the main menu that hints towards other outcomes (but it doesn't explicitly state what they are).

Black and White turning to Colour

What seems to be rather unique about this game is that everything is initially presented in black and white. However, once you interact with enough items in a room this will usually result in the room being repainted in colour - a great visual metaphor for a particular place or person being etched into your memory.

Screenshot from Reflections
Reflections still has some graphical glitches to work out

What I dislike:

Slow development

A lot of the issues that I'll mention below can probably be traced to this one issue: the game isn't finished. It's been over four years since the game entered Early Access and not much has been delivered so far. If you're optimistic you might say the game is just being developed slowly but it will be completed all in good time. For the cynical amongst us, you're probably thinking the game has been abandoned.

Graphical glitches

I've noticed a few graphical glitches in the game so far, such as all your work colleagues using the same male character model regardless of name (maybe it's intentional, but I doubt it). Also, you'll sometimes find colleagues with a keyboard typing animation but they're actually facing the opposite direction from the computer.

No voice-over

This is apparently what the developers are focusing on now but it would be nice if the game had voice-overs.

Don't have enough time to explore

Okay, this might be the point. Maybe you're not meant to have enough time to explore the beginning? However, as a result I can't find anyway to alter the game's narrative path because I can't get everything done in time, unless no matter what I do, it's futile… It's really hard to tell when the game is only half-finished...

Character conversation trees could use more work

You can converse with characters and choose what to say but you can't say a proper "goodbye" when talking to someone, which is unfortunate since as soon as you turn your head away, they interpret it as being very rude, which might be affecting how the next chapter starts (i.e. without a girlfriend - hey, manners matter to some people).

Few CTDs

I also encountered some Crashes-to-Desktop while playing but usually during loading scenes (I don't think the game takes too kindly to impatient gamers randomly clicking in the hope the loading occurs faster).

Score – 6/10 (Okay)

Reflections has some promise in that it could be a walking simulator with the ability to drive the narrative in different directions based on your actions (a bit like The Stanley Parable); its use of visual metaphors such as the colouring of black and white scenes to represent memories is also a nice touch. However, the game has been in Steam Early Access for over four years now and not much progress has been made. In its current state, there isn't that much to experience and what you can play is unpolished.

Is the game worth $14.50 AUD?: No. Not for what is currently there, but if you have confidence that Broken Window Studios will complete the game despite it being in Early Access for over four years, then maybe it's worth a punt if you're into narrative rich games with multiple paths.

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[ LINK: Official Reflections Website ]