The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief - Chapter 2: Ancestry of Lies Review
Reviewed on PCAlso available on Apple Mac, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3
Ever wanted to know what it's like to be a middle-aged, slightly overweight Swiss police constable investigating jewellery theft and murder? Of course you have. And you're in luck, because Constable Zellner returns to continue his search for the mysterious master criminal known as The Raven in Ancestry of Lies which is the second chapter (of three) in The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief. If you skipped Chapter One then shame on you because it was rather good. The Raven is a cinematic 3D point-and-click adventure set in the 1960s, requiring you to solve puzzles, talk to other characters and figure out who the elusive Raven is. It's not all as calm as it sounds as this all happens amidst death, intrigue and action as the Raven begins to kill people to achieve his or her goals.
This chapter integrates into the files you already have installed on your system and just resumes from your final save game of Chapter One, picking up directly where the cliffhanger ending of The Eye of the Sphinx left us. Constable Zellner appears to have discovered who the murderer is and his life is in imminent danger. Despite the general slow pace of the adventure game genre, The Raven manages to give you sequences that make you feel that time is of the essence and that there is pressure to solve the problems quickly. This is of course just an illusion, but the effect is certainly there. The game sprinkles these moments in amongst much more leisurely exploration sections and the balance is close to perfect.
Once again the game is split into two major sections. Playing as Constable Zellner, the first half deals with the fallout from the events of the first chapter and takes us to Cairo where the Raven is expected to attempt to steal The Eye of the Sphinx from a museum. This isn't the most exciting locale to explore as the museum is virtually deserted and the game suffers from being too talky at the start, much in the same way Chapter One did. After a slow beginning things do become much more eventful as The Raven sets a plan in motion. There are a number of reveals and surprises here, perhaps giving away too much too early. This all begins to make sense as the second half of the game kicks in and you take an unexpected jump back in time to play through events from the first chapter from the perspective of a different character. This switch is a bit jarring at first and could even be regarded as a cheap move to save money by reusing assets. However, it works out to be quite an engaging experience. We won't reveal who the character you play is, but it sheds light on a number of mysterious moments from The Eye of the Sphinx.
As you would expect, nothing has changed about the way the game plays. This is a traditional adventure game in a 3D environment. Just click where you want your character to move to, or click on items in the scene to interact with them. Whereas the first chapter was a decent length, giving you in the region of five hours playing time, this offering comes in considerably shorter. Expect to get around two to three hours out of this chapter depending on how much you rely on the game's hint system.
The new locations here are somewhat less impressive than the ones from the first chapter so graphically it doesn't quite feel as immersive as previously. The quality of the art in the backgrounds is just as good as in the first chapter but the museum is a rather bland, open space and feels quite sparse when compared to the wonderfully detailed and intimate train setting from Chapter One. Fortunately, you do get to revisit that train here during the second half. Similarly, the writing and voice acting seems to fall a little short after how good it was previously. It's certainly not bad by any means but feels like it has lost some of the magic. Originally it felt like there was a lot of purpose and intrigue to every action you made or conversation you had, whereas this time there’s more of a sense of just going through the motions to fill up time in the knowledge that all the really juicy material is being kept back for the final chapter.
We also experienced a number of bugs throughout our playthrough. On numerous occasions, the game would get stuck and not let us interact with objects or pick up items needed to progress. The only way to resolve this was to reload an earlier save and try the problematic section again. Hopefully a patch will be made available to fix these issues properly. Another let down is the journal/hint system which transfers over from the first game in quite a muddled fashion without any useful improvements, making it difficult to find the clues you’re looking for amidst the pages of information which built up during the first chapter. Any time some new details are added to it, you are given an indication that you have new info but no way to determine what that is without searching through all your journal entries.
The middle part of a trilogy is often considered to be the most difficult to get right due to being unable to have any real beginning or ending, and Ancestry of Lies does seem to suffer from this. It's got some excellent reveals and interesting twists, but doesn't quite manage to bring everything together as well as you might hope. The puzzles are even more simple this time around so will pose very little trouble outside of the odd annoying pixel hunting moment (which can be solved by using the hint system to highlight any hotspots you might have missed). The reliance on realism in the design is a double-edged sword, as while it eliminates any problems with illogical puzzles it means that you’re never going to be stuck with a little exploration and common sense.
This is not a bad offering by any means but just doesn’t feel as if as much care has been put into it as before. There’s still a lot of fun here with the reveals and the alternate perspective time jump serving as a welcome surprise. Here's hoping that the designers are keeping the best stuff held back and that the final chapter will live up to the promise set by the first.