Future Fragments is a video game developed by a core team of three people: HentaiWriter, TriangulatePixels, and FrougeDev. The game has been in development since early 2015 and is supported by a healthy amount of patrons on the game's own Patreon, which is pulling in just over $11K per month as of this writing. During the game's development, various demo builds have been released to patrons over the years, with the most recent build being what we'll be looking at in this preview.
Right out of the gate, Future Fragments' story establishes itself with a lengthy, fully illustrated introductory cutscene. To keep the synopsis simple for the sake of this preview, the story begins in 1000 AD, where the ruler of Spell Kingdom is working to protect his domain from those who would threaten it. In his endeavors to keep his people safe, he spent years training certain individuals to become magicians. Among these individuals were two women with incredibly high magical potential: Talia and Faye. While the two became the kingdom's most powerful magicians, the kingdom itself was drifting closer to its downfall.
Foreseeing the impending end, the king searched for a solution to their plight and eventually came upon a powerful weapon fragmented and scattered, far, far into the future. Thus, a plan was formed: Talia and Faye would be sent forward into the future to retrieve these fragments, with whoever returned with the most fragments being appointed the king's right-hand woman. With the promise of power, their future and even their own personal agendas on the line, the two begin their journey 2,000 years into the future, in 3000 AD.
While the main game will presumably start shortly after Talia and Faye land in the future, this demo takes place right in the middle of the game, in what will be the third level of the full release. As such, some scenes and events assume you have some prior knowledge of the story and is admittedly a bit tricky to follow at first. There's definitely a lot of story to follow, but we're getting a little ahead of ourselves here.
Gameplay in Future Fragments is that of a sidescrolling 2D action game. The demo sees you take control of Talia in an industrial level, as she is tasked with disabling six milk chambers wedged into the far corners of the facility. Upon starting the game proper, you're greeted with an optional tutorial, which will still force you to watch a primer on the controls even if you choose to skip it. Beyond the tutorial rooms, you're thrown into a small hub room that branches out into four different paths, including a locked door you're trying to disable. From here, the demo allows you to venture out and explore the maze-like structure as you see fit.
The core game mechanics in Future Fragments are fairly straightforward: Talia can run, jump and crouch, as well as use basic magic projectiles to defeat any enemies in her path. Additionally, Talia can also make use of more specialized elemental magic, with a fiery dash and a freezing projectile available in the demo. These attacks run off a special, regenerating meter and can't be spammed recklessly. In addition to these mechanics, there are also various pieces of equipment strewn throughout the level. Up to three of these items can be equipped at a single time, and each has varying degrees of usefulness.
That's the simplest breakdown of Future Fragments' basic mechanics and what the objective of the demo is. Describing anything beyond that in any coherent, succinct manner is akin to playing Jenga on a rowboat in a hurricane. We'll get through it, but it won't be pretty.
Based on what was presented in the demo, Future Fragments is a game that's surprisingly heavy on plot. In fact, not only is there plot, but there's loads of it, presented through fully voiced cutscenes and data terminals, both optional and mandatory. While I'm not inherently opposed to cutscenes in games like these (one of my all-time favorite series is the Mega Man Zero series, after all), they would greatly benefit from brevity. At one point, I had just finished watching a 2-3 minute cutscene, only to be met by another cutscene of equal length, before stumbling into yet another one soon after, all in rapid succession. I am 100% confident when I say most of my experience was spent observing the characters discuss past and present events, rather than directly impacting them myself.
Not only are there too many cutscenes, but they all suffer from the same set of problems: they either don't amount to anything in the long run or spend too much time getting a point across. As one example, there is one optional encounter with Talia's rival, Faye, in which she is captured. Talia is given the option to assist her or leave her be. If the player opts for the former option, Faye is assisted but is forced to remain in her predicament for another 20 minutes. It's very easy to explain, but the game takes its sweet, sweet time laying that last point on thick, as Talia keeps saying she'll leave Faye be only to continue reveling in her predicament.
Part of the pain comes in the form of the voice acting, which was respectable overall. Sure, some of the performances in the data terminals and cutscenes felt more amateurish than others, but the main issue I have with the voice acting goes hand-in-hand with the writing in the demo as a whole: it all overstays its welcome. The novelty of having every single element of the story fully voice acted means that the act of listening to every scene and optional bit of exposition station pulls you away from the game for minutes at a time. While you can disable voices if you're so inclined, it doesn't take away from the sheer amount of scenes present in this very demo alone.
My greatest grievance with the story in the demo is that the ratio of gameplay to story is heavily skewered towards the latter. It's paced in such a way that the player isn't left with any breathing room between cutscenes, info dump, and lore. After a point, it becomes very easy to see the endless stream of words and events as an obstacle getting between you and the game.
When I was able to play the demo beneath the stream of cutscenes, I was exploring the several different paths available. From what I gleamed of my experience and based on what HentaiWriter himself has said, the level design in Future Fragments is geared towards non-linearity, encouraging experimentation and replayability to see all the content in store. Even the demo itself encourages repeat playthroughs, with a large number of scenes being altered depending on your actions, though just how far this will go in the main game remains to be seen.
While the incentives to pursue replays are nice, it feels like it comes at the cost of decent level design. There were a few points in the level where it felt less like a field to test the player's skill and navigation abilities, and more like a museum filled with various exhibits and sights. It feels like the demo is more interested in getting you to the next bit of story or dialogue than it is doing anything meaningful with its mechanics or level design. Even the equippable items are sometimes lying around haphazardly in the level, no real thought behind their placement or even their utility; many of these items have incredibly arbitrary, seemingly random "benefits".
Now, this isn't to imply the levels are entirely bereft of challenges; some screens in the demo make decent use of the featured level's anti-gravity mechanic, challenging the player's navigation and execution skills. As an example, one room sees the player enter on the ceiling, running through projectiles and hazards to flip a switch at the room's end to normalize the gravity, backtracking with the same hazards also affected by the change in gravity. Perhaps the best showcase of Future Fragments' potential would be the sequence of rooms leading to the demo's boss, putting all the enemies and hazards thus far to their to better use than anything up to that point.
Even the demo's gameplay achievements just aren't that stellar, though. When the demo isn't feeding you thousands of lines of dialogue and is actually trying to be a game, it fluctuates between an exposition exhibit, a frustrating mess of off-screen projectiles, and the occasionally welcome puzzle or bout of platforming. At times, it feels like even the level design is being strangled by story's ambitions, which may or may not hold true for the other four levels planned for the full release.
To some degree, this also holds true for the erotic content in this particular demo of Future Fragments. The erotic content comes in three different forms: optional H-scenes strewn through the levels, being weakened and pursued by enemies or by getting a game over, leading to enemy-specific game over scenes. Of the three, the game over H-scenes are easily the highlights, displaying higher quality artwork and showcasing perhaps the best of the female lead's voice acting talents. The in-game sex sequences are all enemy-specific, to the point that some are of the "go out your way to trigger them" variety. Fortunately, even the demo has a gallery to watch all the enemy-specific animations once the boss has been defeated. This gallery will be expanded even further in the full game to revisit not only every type of h-scene but also the various data terminals and cutscenes through the game.
If there was one complaint I had with the erotic content in the demo, mainly the optional and game over scenes, it's that the writing can pull you out of the scene. Even in the midst of a scene intended to rock the player's semen, the quirkier, drawn-out aspects of the writing still persist. In some instances, it works in the sheer audacity and absurdity of the situation. Other times, it can get carried away.
Going by this taste of Future Fragments, the game certainly shows potential. The main mechanics all work soundly, the presentation is solid, if a bit sub-standard, and it's very clear this game is a passion project. That said, I can't shake the feeling it's also a project too eager to indulge in its own world, sacrificing the player's time and the game's own potential to do so. While I have no doubts that Future Fragments will at least be an adequate experience, the promise of a highly replayable title influenced by the player's actions in seemingly endless ways is always a tall one. Time will only tell if Future Fragments will realize its full potential or be strangled by its ambition.
If you'd like to try out the demo of Future Fragments or support its development, you can find out more on the game's Patreon page. Alternatively, you can download v027F of Future Fragments from the link here.