Originally released on the PC in two parts back in 2013/14, Revolution Software’s crowd-funded return to their point and click roots – Broken Sword 5: The Serpents Curse, finally makes its way to the current generation of consoles. Does it compare favourably to the originals? You’ll have to read on to find out.
In this latest instalment of the long running, (mostly) point and click series, George Stobbart is now working as a claims investigator for an insurance company, returning to Paris to oversee the opening of a new art exhibition at a small gallery in Montmartre. Totally by coincidence (honest) Nico Collard happens to be there covering the opening for the local paper.
Disaster strikes as the main attraction, a curious painting with heavy religious overtones, called La Maledicció is stolen in an armed raid, in which the gallery’s owner Henri, is shot and killed when he attempts to intervene. So it’s up to George and Nico to solve the mystery of who stole the painting and, more importantly, why the painting was stolen, in the first place. In proper Broken Sword tradition the Parisian police prove to be less than helpful; handing the investigation to another crackpot investigator, along with everyone’s favourite bumbling constable, Sgt. Mou.
What follows is another classic slice of Broken Sword with all the intrigue, mystery and humour that made the original games so compelling to begin with. I don’t want to give too much away but lets just say that La Maledicció is far more than just a painting.
Broken Sword 5‘s puzzles, for better or worse (depending on what you like about the genre), by and large follow the conventions that you would expect from a point and click game from the mid-90s. You either need to talk to someone to get them to do what you want, or use X with Y to solve puzzle Z. The game’s logic is usually easy to follow, but on the rare occasion you do find yourself lost, Broken Sword 5’s robust hint system ensures that you are never stuck for too long.
The games presentation for the best part is exceptional, with absolutely beautiful hand drawn backgrounds and strong performances from the games principle cast; in particular Rolf Saxon and (name of actress) reprising their roles as George and Nico. Their familiar tones help lapsed fans, like myself, feel instantly at home and pull you straight back into the wonderful world of Broken Sword.
In the PS4 version they’ve also added a nice little touch where the controller speaker is used for hearing phone conversations, though I’d recommend turning the volume up because they can be a little quiet. Also the trackpad can be used to move the game pointer, so you can actually play the thing like a proper old school point and click adventure if you choose to.
The only minor complaint I have with the game’s presentation is that I wish they had decided to use hand drawn sprites instead of 3D models for the characters. Though they retain the style of the original point and click games, they sit just on the wrong side of uncanny valley for me, and often times look slightly out of place, moreover since they move at 60fps it all looks a little too slick in their animations making them feel separated from the world around them.
Aside from the presentation though the game is mostly, the same old Broken Sword you know and love. That is save for one scene in which Stobbart tricks Henri’s grieving widow into giving him the key to his safe by pretending to be her deceased partner. Not only did it seem out if character for George to do something like this. He’s supposed to be a fairly stand up guy, an undiagnosed kleptomaniac, but still it didn’t sit right with me.and I don’t care how distraught someone is they’re still going to be able to tell a man wearing a fake beard and the same cologne apart from their dead husband.
Maybe it was due to it originally being released as two separate episodes, but the narrative also feels slightly fragmented. Up untill the midpoint, though there’s some vague foreshadowing it really does appear that the narrative is merely about our heroes getting to the bottom of a relatively straightforward case of theft. Then at the mid point it seems to remember that its a Broken Sword game and then overloads you with all the secret cults and obscure religious practices, that characterise the series.
However once it gets going and you get out of Paris the game begins to pick up pace and the narrative, though a little stretched at times does come to a satisfying conclusion, and you are once again faced with tackling George’s true nemesis; a rather pissed off goat. This time found in the Iraqi desert.
On the whole I enjoyed my time with Broken Sword 5. It manages to retain much of the charm, wit and feel of those classic point and click adventures even if the 3D models are a little off. If you’re a fan of the series, especially if you have fond memories of Shadow of the Knights Templar and Smoking Mirror,and are hankering for some old school adventuring I would definitely recommend giving Broken Sword 5: The Serpents Curse a whirl.