Back in the 90’s, point and click adventures were all the rage. One unexpected hit at the time was ‘Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars’; a game which remains, to this day, a classic in the genre.
A sequel just a year later would see a similar level of success, but with the advent of 3D gaming, the genre quickly fell into obscurity, the Broken Sword name with it. The series saw two more titles during the 2000s, none of which were particularly remarkable, and this latest entry had to rely on the ever-prominent Kickstarter for funding. And a big thank you to those who foot the bill. It was worth it.
Those who’ve played the much-lauded ‘Walking Dead’ game series will be right at home here. This is a pure adventure game which has you divide time between brain teasing puzzle solving when not engrossed in heavily dialog-driven storytelling segments.
The Vita is an ideal console for such games due to their simplicity. Here, you use nothing but the touch screen for everything — interacting with objects, talking to characters, looking at scenery, or dragging to combine items. Holding your finger to the screen also highlights interactable objects nearby meaning no time wasted desperately searching for anything obscurely hidden.
The game begins with our loveable lead George Stobbart, accompanied with regular love interest, French journalist Nico Collard, observing an art exhibition in Paris, for which his company insure, when yet again they’re at the wrong place at the wrong time. A pizza deliveryman enters with not just a cheese and ham special, but a bullet to the owner’s chest, before making off with the exhibition’s most prized painting. Naturally, the events leave too many questions to simply ignore, and so our heroes set out once again to crack the case.
Guiding the pair throughout Paris and, later, London will lead to meetings with a variety of distinctive characters, both friendly and foe, all for the most part well written. There are a few forced jokes in the form of bad puns, assertive personalities, or vaguely insulting stereotypical traits, but for the majority you’ll have a lot of enjoyment interacting with the locals.
The delivery of the accompanied voice acting is well done throughout, although perhaps not always matching the mood during the game’s more tense scenes. For instance, when a brutal murder takes places just moments of the game starting, witnesses afterwards seem surprisingly relaxed under the circumstances. You may also spot the odd hiccup where characters flip tones between lines due to slight inconsistent voice editing.
Music keeps with the fashion of the first two games; ambient tracks mixed with subtle orchestral cues during more important moments, which work just as well here as they did back then.
Visually, the game is outstanding. Paris and London are full of detail and enriched with an explosion of colours. It’s just a shame these places are usually static and almost completely devoid of life. What animations there are, however, especially in the characters are fluid and natural, although perhaps a little lacking. It seems that, even during more intense scenes, characters are short of the animations to so much as run or be seen properly interacting with some scenery.
Those who’ve played past Broken Swords will find it difficult not to make comparisons with past entries. And it’s in this respect that Serpent’s Curse also falls a little short.
You may role your eyes at the rather irrelevant reappearances of minor characters from past games, some of which play prominent roles this time round, all for the sake of fan service. On that note, however, those who are jumping into Broken Sword for the first time here will miss nothing from having not played previous outings.
When not discussing murder, fine art, tastes in coffee and… topiaries with the locals, you’ll be investing your time solving puzzles to progress the story. On the odd occasion the game throws something a little more elaborate, but are rarely complex, original or, to be honest, that involving.
Puzzles in adventures have always walked the fine line between holding players’ hands and being mind-numbingly frustrating. Broken Sword 5 sides in the former, what with locations being too restrictive for the most part, and little to interact with in order to allow any real complexity. Characters will also give fairly obvious clues as to what to do, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a hint system to pretty much give away the next move.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Serpent’s Curse’s lesser challenge does make for a smoother narrative flow. And that’s good too because, all things considered, Serpent’s Curse is one of the better stories to grace video games in a while.
It’s not to the epic the degree of the best AAA titles, nor will you feel much emotional attachment, but it’s certainly complex enough to hold you down for the 8 or so hours this first instalment has to offer.
However, the game is much too linear for it’s own good. You’ll rarely have more than 2 areas to explore at any given time, nor will you find yourself juggling multiple riddles needed to elevate this to the grand scale as some of Stobbart’s past adventures.
And whilst I’m aware this is only act one of two, unless the next part ramps things up considerably, then Serpent’s Curse is rather bite sized in comparison to games such as The Shadow of the Templars before it.
Never the less, regardless of the shortcomings and inconsistencies, there’s nothing that deteriorates from what is a genuinely absorbing game that’ll leave you pressing inquisitively further with every new revelation.
Serpents Curse isn’t the best Broken Sword in the series, but developers Revolution Software haven’t lost their edge for telling a mysterious, engrossing story yet. It’s a solid, albeit, by the numbers adventure worthy of anyone’s time. If you’re fed up of your action games, and you’re craving something among the likes of The Walking Dead, Broken Sword ought to be the next game on your list.