I think you would struggle to find another RPG on PlayStation 5 that channels the spirit of Nintendo’s excellent Paper Mario series quite so well as Born of Bread manages to achieve. A breezy, feel-good genre effort with ample charm to spare, it’s clear that much like it’s titular protagonist, Born of Bread is something of a labour of love from its developers as it blissfully channels a love both for the Paper Mario games of new and old, while also displaying an affection for good humor and a sly wink or two at some of the tropes of modern day gaming.
Born Of Bread PS5 Review
A Routinely Charming Paper Mario Alike That’s A Little Too Limited For RPG Veterans
As Loaf, a ‘flour golem’ given completely accidental life by a good hearted baker in a fantasy kingdom, Born of Bread tasks you with taking Loaf into the realms beyond as you make new friends, stop a reemergent dark power and become the champion that the kingdom kneads (sorry). Viewed from a side-on 2.5D perspective where Loaf can freely wander across and into a game world filled with flat characters, Born of Bread very deliberately evokes Nintendo’s Paper Mario series and presents a gorgeously sharp and colourful visual showcase that is dripping with charm from every yeasty pore.
Structurally, Born of Bread is super straightforward. You wander from location to location, speaking to NPCs, taking on quests, battling enemies, levelling up and filling your bags with as much loot as you can carry. Certainly in terms of exploration, Born of Bread is a joy. Whether you’re plunging into the mysterious depths of the shimmering Crystal Mines, finding your way through the glossy ponds and lush greenery of Lapwing Village, or ascending to the breath-taking peaks of Humble Heights, there are no shortage of eye-popping vistas for Loaf and his gang of mates to saunter around.
Beyond its stellar art direction, Born of Bread makes tremendous use of Unreal Engine 4 on a technical level too, immersing the player in a super smooth fantasy world bursting with colour that not only trucks along at a rock solid 60 frames per second, but which also boasts a variety of attractive shadow, reflection and lighting effects to boot as well. Born of Bread is one heck of a treat for the ol’ peepers, that’s for sure.
The bright and twee art direction also has an analogue within the writing as well, since Born of Bread’s characters and conversations all seem to possess a real wide-eyed innocence and warmth, not to mention an absolute avalanche of puns, it’s almost impossible to not smile at the screen when you see each of Born of Bread’s colorful cast of characters interacting with one another. There’s also a welcome streak of humour running through the whole affair too – with an example of this being the loading screens carrying a message which says things like ‘tips are displayed to make load times more bearable’. Oh and there is no shortage of different animals to pet to boot (there’s even a trophy for doing it). It’s tremendously wholesome stuff.
There’s a decent amount of satisfying exploration to be had in Born of Bread’s whimsical world too, since not only is there ample difference in the various places that you’ll visit, but there’s an element of Metroidvania game design to be had here too, since some ledges and areas can only be reached if you have the right ‘buddy’ character in your party. For instance, Lint can dig through and under mounds of dirt, opening up new paths forward as a result, while the karate-chopping Yagi can use his meditation skills to manifest magical lotus flowers that can help Loaf reach heights that were previously inaccessible. The main reason to explore the various environs in Born of Bread is to seek out the cunningly camouflaged salamanders that when hit give up spirits which when traded in pairs at special shrines, provide you with skill points that can be invested into numerous different skill trees.
Of course when you’re not exploring every nook and cranny of the land in Born of Bread you’ll be fighting and being a card carrying member of the classic Paper Mario guild, the combat in Born of Bread follows the turn-based design of the earlier games of that series, albeit with some neat twists of its own. First and foremost, Born of Bread embraces a buddy system where you can swap in different characters into your active party as you progress through the story, but you can never have more than two heroes in battle at any one time.
Principally, you have three different stats to worry about when you’re knee-deep in a scrap; willpower, which is spent when you execute stronger attacks than your default strike, health which naturally depletes as you take a beating and finally resolve, which is used to leverage special abilities that can buff Loaf and his buddy (or vice-versa). Equally simplistic is the way in which you would replenish each of these stats too, since food which can be bought or looted can easily restore your health, willpower or resolve, while having a good night’s sleep can have the same effect. Equally in the heat battle, defending attacks successfully can also restore one or two points of willpower at a time, allowing you to stay very much in the fight as a result.
Speaking of attacks and special abilities, it’s also worth mentioning that the various enemies you’ll come across in Born of Bread tend to have a weakness against certain attack types and a resistance to others. Though it’s cookie cutter stuff, it certainly makes Born of Bread more approachable than other RPGs – something that I would consider a boon when we take into account its clear direction at younger audiences.
Though combat is turn-based in Born of Bread, it is also more interactive than other turn based JRPGs. If you press the corresponding buttons at the right time as the enemy attacks you will block some of the damage, while other attacks require you to mash the analogue stick or hold down a button and release it in the right zone for optimum damage. Likewise other QTE style commands also add a little bit of flavour to what would otherwise be a borderline spectator sport after you complete your command.
Finally, after you gain access to an adorable little dragon called ‘Dub’, who also doubles up as a handy resource for saving your progress at any one of Born of Bread’s numerous save points, he’ll stream your battles and as you gain fans and the better you do, the more willpower points you get. You can maximise your willpower gain too by completing special viewer requests as they come in and there is even a real time chat (which can be hidden) full of wise cracking chatters to complete the impression that you really can’t escape from streaming culture. In truth though, while it’s a nice little mechanic, it doesn’t add a whole lot to Born of Bread’s combat design in actuality.
Where Born of Bread feels a little under-baked is that it certainly feels quite limited when compared to its Paper Mario inspirations. At around just under twenty hours long and with battles that rarely pose any real challenge, not to mention a stripped back combat system, it’s also clear that Born of Bread is very much geared toward youngsters or genre newcomers, rather than necessarily those who would have cut their teeth on more sophisticated RPG fare.
In addition to not really reinventing the wheel in any sort of significant fashion, there are also some odd design designs in Born of Bread that serve to frustrate. Saving for example, is not something you can do early on in the game – instead, you need to progress far enough (about 30-45 minutes in) and meet the aforementioned Dub who will then allow you to save at various save points. This perhaps isn’t ideal if you’ve just started the game and find that at 10-15 minutes into it you need to stop and do something else.
Another couple of issues are tied directly into the quest design of Born of Bread. Quite simply, the bulk of the side quests that you’ll do are almost overwhelmingly fetch requests that either require you to nab an item or escort someone to a specific location. The problem here however, is that not only are these quest objectives fairly repetitive, but there is also no fast travel function as far as I can see, meaning that you can literally spend ages trudging from one area to another to complete a side quest.
Even though Born of Bread might be a touch too simplistic and straightforward for RPG stalwarts, there is no denying just how well it manages to evoke the aesthetics of Nintendo’s Paper Mario series, all the while providing a wonderfully breezy genre effort that youngsters, RPG newcomers and cozy gaming aficionados can enjoy. Born of Bread is a great little RPG that is overflowing with character and charm. You can crust me on that.
Born of Bread is out now on PS5.
Review code kindly provided by PR.