Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse Review
Microsoft Xbox OneAlso available on Apple Mac, PC, Sony PS Vita, Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
If you’re a kid of the early nineties a good point-and-click adventure was one way to while away a few, sometimes infuriating, hours. However with the advent of 3D graphics and the greater immersion these sorts of games brought, this genre fell mostly by the wayside. For someone who grew up in that decade it’s great to see a minor resurgence of the format. After releasing originally on PC/Vita in two episodes which we reviewed last year, Revolution Software’s Broken Sword franchise has now made its way to the Xbox One as one complete game.
Our story kicks off during the Spanish Revolution that gives some backstory to the events which will unfold before us. Fast forward a number of years and we end up in Paris where we are reunited with George Stobbart and Nicole “Nico” Collard. Before the sexual tension between our two leads can get anywhere an art theft takes place and some poor Parisian art shop owner is murdered. With George’s boss desperate to avoid paying out on the theft as they insured the art gallery and Nicole wanting to get that front page scoop for La Liberté our duo unite in the quest to uncover the truth.
The art style of Broken Sword thankfully retains the style of its original forebears and is all the better for it. The two main locations of Broken Sword are Paris and London and both are rendered beautifully. Iconic landmarks such as Le Tour Eiffel, Big Ben and the Sacré-Cœur Basilica make an appearance. The Parisian streets are narrow and littered with boutiques and cafés, its flamboyance captured in both the places you pass and the people you meet. Whereas London has a rather more straightforward feel to it which is inline with the “no nonsense” reputation Britain has become accustomed to. The character of Shears, an archetype henchman, in particular embodies this well. Spain and Iraq are also locations but by comparison their appearances are brief. This is a bit of a shame but I suppose there are only so many places you can go before things get a little bit disjointed.
The characters and locations are 2.5D giving things that little bit more depth than if they were strictly 2D. Controlling George and Nico is done through moving your cursor around and clicking mainly on points of interests but one can move around by clicking on open spaces on the floor or extreme limits of the screen. All interactions are icon based which means if you wish to progress or learn new information you’ll need to have found the right clue before other options open up. This has been a staple of the point-and-click games past and present however it seems to me that most modern ones tend to shepherd you through the game.
Perhaps I’m viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses but I remember spending a good half an hour or more on certain points, often re-visiting areas of the game multiple times before finally figuring out the answer. In Broken Sword, however, the game often refuses to let you leave areas unless you’ve discovered absolutely everything that you need to progress. Appreciating that Revolution Software were tight on time to meet their Kickstarter goals, rarely will you come across a puzzle that will have you stuck for a significant period of time. Most can be solved by carefully scanning the environment for everything that isn’t nailed down and exhausting every conversation tree. Do that and you’re pretty much home free bar a few logic puzzles dotted around along the way. During my play through I even missed an item that would be required for progression. I wasn’t able to go back and retrieve it however somehow the item I needed just appeared nearby. The puzzles improve towards the latter half of the game but those accustomed to point-and-clicks of old aren’t likely to find the majority of the puzzles overly complicated.
In the audio section the music that accompanies the game is pretty good, the dialogue is crisp and clear with the ever present Rolf Saxon reprising his role as George. Nicole is well acted by Emma Tate who is the fifth leading lady of this franchise. Other roles are equally well acted however none quite seem to be as witty and funny as George though the Parisian waiter sure gives him a run for his money. Most of the support cast are exaggerated caricatures of their country of origin but thankfully they avoid being tasteless in their execution. Those who have played previous Broken Sword games will recognise many of the returning characters with nods to the game’s past with a good goat puzzle or two. This is definitely a good thing as there is a lot of dialogue to be had in Broken Sword and with some high quality jokes and snappy delivery it keeps you interested and amused.
The plot itself feels like a cross between a particular Dan Brown novel and the first Indiana Jones movie. Revelations are handled nicely as you discover them along with George and Nico so you really do feel part of the story that’s unfolding. Apart from the light relief most of the interactions you have with the game’s characters and environments help flesh out the story even more. If you pay attention and follow every breadcrumb what you’ll end up revealing is a very rich story with plenty of mysticism and intrigue that would rival many a bestseller. It’s this sort of attention to detail that really stands out, and while Broken Sword could have descended into the downright silly it mostly manages to keep things within bounds with the exception being the finale.
I still have my concerns that modern point-and-clicks have these hint systems and almost guided puzzles but that should not detract from what is a well made game. This iteration also benefits by being one complete game as opposed to its original episodic release. The gap between episodes still remains however it is less noticeable as you move straight into the second half of the story. That said, given the time between releases you would have thought this could have been some sort of Director’s Cut but alas it was not to be. Veterans of the point-and-click genre may find many of Broken Sword’s puzzles straightforward but if you haven’t already picked it up it’s a game worthy of anyone’s collection.