Paper Mario-style gameplay starring an oven-baked hero.
I recently had the opportunity to play a Steam demo of Adventure RPG Born of Bread, and from the opening moments, the Paper Mario inspiration is unmistakable. The 1 to 2-hour demo took me through the start of the game and up until the completion of the first major mission, rescuing Papa Baker, the man responsible for bringing protagonist flour golem Loaf to life. The world is full of color and characters to interact with, in addition to sidequests to undertake and secrets to uncover. In my brief time with the game, it’s hard to deny the appeal, and fans of Mario-themed RPGs and indies like Bug Fables should keep their eyes squarely locked on Born of Bread.
After emerging from an oven in the Royal Castle, Loaf meets the man responsible for baking him to life and then has free reign to explore the kitchen and other parts of the castle. Shortly after, a group looking set to function as the primary villains show up to snatch a treasure known as the Sunshard, and the result is Papa Baker and Loaf being blown out of the castle only to land in a nearby forest. Making their way back allows Loaf to learn the ins and outs of combat in addition to meeting your first companion character, Lint. After being accused of causing the castle explosion, Papa Baker is apprehended and the first major story quest unfolds, with Loaf needing to prove his father’s innocence. There’s an effective sense of pacing early on, and a helpful notebook in the menus that shows what objective(s) you’re working towards.
Born of Bread employs an effective sense of humor and a vibrant color palette to make both the heavily populated and more solitary spaces both feel enjoyable to explore and interact with. Light platforming is required to traverse the different environments, including a mine, a crystal cavern, a forest village, and a dark, water-filled passageway, but most of these places were fairly straightforward with just a few treasures and collectables off the beaten path. Enemies you come across will attempt to run into you to initiate combat, but you can also smack them with your ladle to get an extra bit of damage in before the fight starts. In the town area surrounding the castle, you encounter an office filled with heroes, and a misfit among their rank ends up joining your party as a “Saver,” who has the job of recording your progress (and even pops out at save points to facilitate this).
The turn-based combat features timed attacking and defending, with Loaf and his companion (Lint for this demo) taking their turns before each of the opponents had a chance to act. Besides a basic attack, Loaf could perform a slicing sickle move to the first enemy in the row or toss a pickaxe at any enemy on the battlefield. The pickaxe was particularly effective against rock-like enemies, but it was costly to use in terms of weapon points (WP). The timing component for many of the attacks involved starting and stopping a meter at a particular spot, and it’s also possible to miss entirely if you fail completely in your timing. Loaf also has a move to bolster his defense (which requires spending from another meter, RP), and it’s funny and a bit weird to see enemies attack you as part of the move, with its effectiveness based on how well you time your defending of these blows. The combat felt a little bit slow until I unlocked a move with Lint that could hit every enemy in a row, and stat gains only seem to come in the form of increasing health, WP, or RP after a level up. You can equip weapons you find to give you new moves and slot in objects called Boons to raise your stats, but I didn’t come across any to reduce damage received or improve my damage output, at least in the demo.
What impressed me the most about Born of Bread was the way in which the explorable areas had a lot of depth to them. Instead of being dominated by west-to-east movement and flatter rooms and environments, the interior spaces in particular had a lot of north-to-south navigation room. Tying into this is just how detailed and bright all of the objects and backgrounds look, almost like a cartoon that’s come to life. There’s less of a sense of a book or pop-up book flipping pages and more one of fully realized 3D spaces, making exploration and traversal more engaging. I’m really eager to see more of this world and encounter more of its citizens in the full game.
Born of Bread doesn’t yet have a release date, but it is coming to Switch soon and we’ll find out exactly when budding bakers will be able to get their oven mitts on the game shortly, as we've been assured it's still on track for a 2023 release. So far, I’m intrigued by the environments and characters I encountered and hoping the Switch version holds up enough to make for an enjoyable experience.