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Born of Bread Hands-On Preview

Screenshot of Born of Bread, one of several RPGs coming this week

Paper Mario has been inspiring a lot of games in recent years. Games like The Outbound Ghost and Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling clearly wear that inspiration on their sleeves. Although not directly influenced, WrestleQuest‘s wrestling match encounters feel like Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door‘s theatrical stage battles. This brings me to WildArts‘ and Dear Villagers‘ upcoming Paper Mario-like Born of Bread. I got to check out the first 3-4 hours of an early build of Born of Bread, and while the game still has a ways to go before it’s fully baked, I see plenty of potential.

Our tale begins with the royal archaeologists inadvertently releasing a gang of nefarious teenage demons during an expedition. These demons seek a magical gem held at the royal palace and set forth to pilfer it. Meanwhile, at the royal palace, Papa Baker frets over what special dish to make the ill-tempered queen. He risks trying an unproven bread recipe from an obscure book, and out of the oven pops a flour golem boy whom Papa Baker names Loaf and adopts as his son. The queen abhors children, so when an innocent bread boy and a group of rowdy teenage demons invade her dining chambers, she absolutely flips her lid. The ensuing havoc blasts Papa Baker and Loaf out of the castle and into the woods, where they befriend a lost raccoon named Lint during their journey back to town.

During Papa Baker’s absence, the queen puts out a warrant for his arrest, as she blames him for the appearance of these malevolent miscreants. The rest of chapter one consists of Loaf exploring the town (where he can pet a dog), a forest village, and a few decently sized dungeons to find a way to clear Papa Baker’s name. While doing this, Loaf helps the royal archaeologists recover their lost equipment, resolves a massive conflict between feathered and furry woodland creatures, and partakes in some optional side quests/content like engaging one of the game’s most popular heroes in a footrace.¬†Born of Bread¬†promises a fun 15-20-hour romp filled with more of the witty writing I saw in this demo and more wacky characters for Loaf to befriend.

Born of Bread Screenshot of the doughy protagonist talking to some animal friends inside a small stone cabin.
Born of Bread’s characters are delightfully animated.

Born of Bread looks good in still screens but even better in motion. The paper-thin, toon-shaded characters atop vibrantly colored polygonal environments give the game a delightfully cartoony, storybook style. Expressive faces and fluid animations bring the world to life and give the characters plenty of personality, especially our silent protagonist, Loaf. Loaf may not say much, but Born of Bread’s whimsical music and sound effects add robust appeal to the game’s overall aesthetics.

The 2.5D exploration adds to the feel of being inside a storybook. Progression through towns, villages, and dungeons is primarily side-scrolling, but exploring in other directions is encouraged and required, giving the environments (literal) depth. Necessary paths in dungeons were not immediately obvious, and I found myself running around in circles until I accidentally stumbled upon them. Occasionally, I fell into water hazards and lost HP when moving Loaf towards me because there was no warning that I was about to fall off a cliff. I also found the jumping rather floaty. Landing on even the larger platforms felt imprecise, leading to more falls in the water.

Battles are turn-based, with a variety of interactive button-pressing and analog stick-toggling elements to keep combat fresh. Like¬†The Thousand-Year Door’s¬†stage battles,¬†Born of Bread’s¬†battles are “live-streamed” to an in-game audience, and their reactions yield bonus experience and rewards. Control is far more intuitive with a gamepad than a keyboard + mouse combination. Though the default control schemes are decent, the option to remap controls is not currently present.

Born of Bread screenshot featuring Loaf and his raccoon friend Lint facing rocky creatures inside a mine.
Battles sometimes feel unbalanced, but they are still cute.

The area where¬†Born of Bread¬†needs the most refinement is its difficulty balancing. The overall balance in the portion I played felt uneven, with winnable encounters often followed by ones that kicked Loaf’s doughy behind. Some instances left Loaf a couple of whacks away from a Game Over, but without accessible opportunities to heal or restock items. One moment saw me deep in a dungeon on the cusp of a boss battle, but with low HP and only two items of the five total I could carry. The design of that dungeon’s platforming elements prevented me from hoofing it back to the entrance so I could return to town for healing and supplies.¬†Born of Bread¬†uses a save point system, and I wished that save points offered healing or fast travel to previously accessed save points.

These stages, though early, felt grindy in that “one step forward, but two steps back” manner. This combination of grinding, limited items, uneven difficulty balance, and a dearth of healing opportunities made for occasionally tedious progression and cheap battles.¬†Born of Bread¬†is a whimsical game meant to be family-friendly, so it would benefit from an easy difficulty mode or the option to instantly win boss battles for casual gamers who just want to experience the story. There are also still some bugs, such as the characters getting hung up on obstacles and soft-locking the game.

Despite its flaws, I enjoyed¬†Born of Bread’s¬†beginnings. A lot of love was poured into this project, and the foundations for a good¬†Paper Mario-style RPG are clearly there. I would love to see more of the game’s wacky characters and witty writing. However, the imprecise jumping and wonky difficulty balance need further refinement.¬†Born of Bread¬†aims to drop later this year for Switch, PC, PS5, and Xbox Series platforms, so stay tuned for more details as we get them.

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Neal Chandran

Neal Chandran

Neal is the PR manager at RPGFan but also finds time to write occasional game or music reviews and do other assorted tasks for the site. When he isn't networking with industry folks on behalf of RPGFan or booking/scheduling appointments for press events, Neal is an educator, musician, cyclist, gym rat, and bookworm who has also dabbled in voiceover work and motivational speaking.

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