Broken Sword 5 is another sequel that started it’s life on Kickstarter. After smashing their initial goal of $400 thousand by nearly double that amount, Revolution Software got to work. For fans of the first two games in the series, this sequel will feel like a favorite chair that’s just been reupholstered. You know exactly how it feels and you love it for that, but now it looks new again. This refurbishment leads to some of Episode 1′s finest traits, and greatest shortcomings.
As with the first game in the series, George Stobbart once again finds himself in Paris. Witnessing the theft of a painting his company insured, George partners up with Nico Collard in order to track it down. The parallels between this beginning sequence and that of the first game in the series are palpable, but it doesn’t feel like a re-hash. This latest adventure was created by Charles Cecil, the man who’s overseen every title to date, and it plays out much more like a welcoming homecoming. It’s not long before you’re taken out of the gallery, and the beauty inherent in the art direction really hits you.
All the environments are hand drawn, and the workmanship shows. They’re highly detailed with incredibly lush, vibrant color palettes. It recalls the adventure games of yore, but with that beautiful new veneer you’d expect from high definition graphics. Unfortunately the same can’t always be said of the character models. As 3D characters traversing 2D backgrounds, it’s obvious why the designers went with this choice. It requires much less work and still looks quite good. The downside is that the models all look a little out of place, and lip syncing is devolved to mannequinesque levels. Their jaws move in time with the auditory speech, but there’s no change to the lips or tongue. It can become a bit jarring, and closeups make it feel like you’re watching computerized muppets instead of human beings.
The life of this game comes from the wonderful script and voice acting. With the original actors reprising their primary roles, the lines are delivered perfectly. George comes across as an every man thrust into adventure, though he seems a bit more jaded and manipulative this time around. Nico is the ever watchful journalist, catching clues that George may miss. The other actors lend a sense of originality and definition to their performances. They deliver their lines so well it bypasses the flaws of the character models. There are moments in the game when it seems like the main characters have too few scruples though, particularly when it comes to George’s manipulation of a grieving widow. On the occasions the game allows you to choose between two options, lying and telling the truth, being tough or nice, you don’t feel as though it will have any real effect. After games like Heavy Rain showed us what choice can really do for gameplay, it feels like it would’ve been better left out.
The plot sees you navigating various locations around Paris, jet setting to slightly further locales as the game goes on. Once again you’re hunting down an artifact from an ancient long forgotten religious sect with the potential to destroy the world. With all the humor this game scatters throughout, and how punchy so much of the dialogue is I’m surprised Nico and George didn’t look at one another and say, “Again?,” as soon as they realized what they were hunting. As much as earth destroying artifacts and Broken Sword go hand in hand, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was playing a re-write of the original. Ferreting out clues involved talking to a bevy of characters both old and new, and the game never forced you to talk about everything in your inventory, instead ending conversations after you’d hit salient points. This kept the pace brisk, and made asking about extraneous clues an entertaining aside instead of a necessity.
In addition to interrogating a cast of increasingly interesting characters, you’ll encounter the usual array of item combination puzzles, and actual puzzles. The item combinations always felt organic, almost to the point of simplicity. I kept waiting for that one really strange combination, the Rube Goldberg event that would lead to an entertaining in-game cut scene. To my dismay it never showed itself, the inventory puzzles are all straight forward and incredibly logical. I never once found myself at a loss for how to proceed. The other puzzles are also fairly straight forward. Putting together torn messages and flipping switches is about the bulk of it. Only one puzzle utilizing the Cyrillic alphabet threw me for a loop.
As Part 1 of 2, the game clocks in at roughly 4 hours and ends on a cliffhanger, but knowing that the most interesting locales are yet to come leaves a lot to anticipate. For fans of the original, this is a walk down a familiar trail, but the time in between journeys has allowed for new growth. The Serpent’s Curse Part 1 may leave you with a sense of deja vu, but it’ll also leave you with the same sense of satisfaction. Though it is not without shortcomings, this is the build up to what should be a rousing second half. For any fan of point and click adventures, particularly those of Nico and George, Broken Sword 5:The Serpent’s Curse Part 1 should not be missed.
This review of Broken Sword 5 Part 1 was written using a Steam Code provided by Revolution Software.