Whether we like it or not, we’re all mortal, which means that our lives have a beginning, a middle and an end. This is the human condition, and what it boils down to is the fact that none of us will be on this floating space rock for all that long. However, given the unpredictability of life and all of the factors that go into it, most of us don’t know when we will depart, which is a good thing in a lot of ways.
Unfortunately, the loss of a loved one is something that every human being will have to deal with at least once. It’s a sad, disheartening topic, and one that we all try to avoid talking or thinking about. It’s there, though, sitting in the backs of our minds, amidst the worry and stress that comes with both the unknown and the inevitable. This is why Sassybot has decided to focus on the human condition with its narrative-driven indie game, Fragments of Him.
New to the Xbox One console after a recent PC debut, Fragments of Him tells the story of Will; a sexually conflicted man who’s about to make a huge commitment to his live-in boyfriend. That’s his plan, at least; though it doesn’t end up coming to fruition as a result of Will’s unfortunate passing as the result of a traffic accident.
Although Will’s last morning is playable, along with the moments leading up to his accident, the majority of this game is about those he’s left behind. Not his parents, mind you — which is kind of weird, to be honest — but his grandmother, boyfriend and beloved ex-girlfriend. All are major players in this story, as they share their memories of Will, their thoughts about him as a person and the hopes they had for him.
As the two-and-a-half hour-long story progresses, it shifts from the past to the future, moving from memories to the ways in which the characters will cope with the sudden loss of someone they loved so dearly. It’s a sad, somber and sometimes heart-wrenching experience, which does a pretty good job of handling grief without going overboard. And, being someone who’s recently lost three of the people he cherished most in life, I appreciated the seriousness of its tone, as well as the way in which it taught me things.
That said, there’s little of what we consider to be a game here, as Fragments of Him is more of a point-and-click walking simulator than anything involved. It’s slow, methodical, and doesn’t have any real variety, tasking its players with simply looking for and selecting things that glow blue within its different environments. Quite often, characters will need to be selected, and will then walk a few steps before you’ll need to click on them again, in order to get them to move a few more feet. So, needless to say, it’s a really slow burn.
At first, I found myself quite bored and uninterested in playing more of the game, but it grew on me as I approached its final bell. I respect it, appreciate its existence, and thank it for the ways in which it has helped me find a modicum of peace, but also know that it will only appeal to a certain sect of gamers.
To its credit, though, Fragments of Him knows what it is and doesn’t try to do too much. It’s an indie game with a message, and it’s secure in its own identity. The faceless characters who inhabit its world were designed that way for a reason, and its generally simplistic and sterile art direction was as well. This isn’t a game that will wow you with its presentation, or with its ability to run perfectly on the Xbox One (because there are performance issues, as well as a problematic user interface that obviously wasn’t designed around console usage), but it stands on its own two feet because it has something to say.
If you’re dealing with grief, have an open mind or are simply looking for something unique to play, then give Fragments of Him a shot. It won’t be for everyone, and is more of a movie than a game, but it happens to be both poignant and quite interesting.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
A game about love, loss and the human condition, Fragments of Him is a quality, narrative-driven affair with a message. It is, however, more of an interactive movie than a game, not to mention one that moves at a very slow pace. As such, it won't be for everyone.