by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars is my favourite game of all time. Does that mean I shouldn't review Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse? I can hardly be objective on the matter, can I? I had no problem with criticising BS 3 and 4 for their attempts to include action adventure features and a useless camera which frankly should never have been allowed anywhere close to a point-and-click game. I've always been one of those people who study things they love even more closely than things that merely raise their interest. I wish to understand everything about what makes Broken Sword so dear to me and that is why I believe I am the perfect man to objectively review this latest outing in the franchise. That being said, Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse is awesome and I'll try and make you agree with me. The piece of software currently available on Steam is not the complete game, however. It has been split into two parts and what you will get right now is simply the first of two episodes and the second will be released early next year. Why review only half a game, you may ask. Because they asked us nicely, that's why.
Thankfully, the series returns to its 2D roots this time around, rendering the viewing of each area as simple and easy as it should be. No more running back and forth in an attempt to get the camera to show you what's in that elusive corner. The backgrounds are beautifully hand-drawn but the character models are cell-shaded 3D, rendering the game's look quite similar to Focus Home's titles, such as The Next Big Thing. This blend of classic aesthetics and modern graphics technology works perfectly here, but I must say that many of the animations appear a bit...I hate to use the word “amateurish”, but there really is no other way to describe it. There is also no way to change the resolution of the game, so if you have a display that shows less than the native resolution, you're out of luck. The most jarring visual fault I found in the game is that every time the characters perform an activity, such as reaching for something or knocking on a door, the character model becomes fuzzy. It's a small gripe, I know, but it's one of those things that makes you all too aware that you're running a piece of software, and a visually unpolished one at that. The locations are beautiful however and they are reused quite a lot, but each visit to a specific location has a reason, so that recycling didn't bother me in the least. Now that the nasty business of visual critique is over, let's head over to the infinitely more important aspect of story, puzzles, and plot development.
Intellect and Humour
The dialogue is as witty as ever and presents a mix of philosophical intellect and humour that the franchise is known for, but it does suffer from some inconsistencies. The first time I played through the opening scene, for example, I examined everything, talked to everyone about every subject, and tried combining every item with every interactive element looking for things to criticise. I found only the fact that the Dominican priest who immediately started giving the dead man his last rites did not bother to close the dead man's eyes. That bothered me. Then, as the recording software I was using glitched out on me, I played through it again and as I knew everything that needed to be done, I simply fast-played through the scene. At that point, as I presented a piece of evidence to one of the characters, he reminded me of having already told me something he hadn't in that playthrough. I know that plot holes of this sort are easy to miss in a dialogue heavy game such as point-and-click games by nature are, but it's still a splinter in the eye of a fan expecting perfection. Also, George doesn't seem at all concerned that Nico runs after an armed man who has already shot one person dead. If I'd just met the love of my life by coincidence in an art gallery, I'd be more interested in her safety than keeping my job.
The voice acting is at a quality we've come to expect from a Broken Sword game, although Nico occasionally acts herself way into ridiculousness. The game features nice, intelligent puzzles reminiscent of the classics and I only had to use the hint system twice. It wasn't because the puzzle was obscure or the solution illogical, it was simply because I was being an idiot. Many of the puzzles reference conundrums from the first two games and in some cases even look like they're going to be solved exactly the same way and then present a brand new twist on the classic puzzle, leaving you with a delicious mix of nostalgia and curiosity.
Only halfway there
A perfect mix of humour and intrigue is what separates Broken Sword from other games out there. It's not as foreign and “silly” as Deponia, not as serious as Gabriel Knight and Agatha Christie, not as incredible (in the literal meaning of the word), as The Next Big Thing. Broken Sword is just Broken Sword. There is no comparison. Except perhaps in technical terms like interface and complexity, but those things are trivial when compared to the story in games of this genre. Brilliant story evolution and plot complexity will keep you locked in your seat playing this game. Of course, this is only half the story. As an episodic game it ends on a cliff hanger, but it does reveal enough to give you a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. Episode 2 will be released early next year and I'm already itching to get it. That does mean, though, that nothing can be said about the quality of the game as a whole in literary terms, and the score attached to this review is therefore subject to change upon release of the second episode. All I can say is: “so far, so good”.
Brilliant story, humour, and puzzles. Excels in every aspect that matters for a point-and-click game
Visual glitches and quirks make it feel unpolished.