If you were gaming during the golden era of point-and-click adventure games, that time when Monkey Island, Myst, and Grim Fandango were captivating people on PC, then it is very hard not to get excited about the next entry in the Broken Sword series. Unfortunately, there are a few issues that keep this game from being as great as the plot and premise deserves.
It is difficult to discuss the plot all that much with this type of game because it is almost entirely story-driven. Rather than risk spoilers, I will say that the story starts off very slowly, but the slow burn approach makes sense in this type of story. If you are willing to stick with the game past the very slow opening hour or so, you will be rewarded with a very engaging and entertaining conspiracy story that is ideal for fans of The Da Vinci Code or similar works.
One of the first things that you will notice when you start up this game is how gorgeous it looks. The backgrounds and landscapes almost make you feel like you are playing a painting, especially in some of the sweeping shots capture during the opening of the game. The high quality artwork continues when you see the first character models. While the models do not retain the same painting-type artwork, opting instead to go for a more cartoony look, you will not be disappointed as the models are really well done.
However, the animation does not really live up to the promise and quality of the character models. In most cases, the characters will feel wooden while moving around the environment or when they are making even minor hand motions. In addition, the facial animations are quite sparse, and when they do appear, they tend to be overly exaggerated. This can make many of the characters feel like caricatures.
As far as the sound goes, the music is nothing really special, but it does get the job done. The music mostly sticks to forgettable, but relaxing, background music that will not distract you while you are navigating the environment or trying to solve a puzzle.
This leads us to the voice acting… I’m not sure if the poor voice acting in this game is due to inexperienced voice actors or a lack of direction when the lines were recorded, but just about every line in the game is pretty monotone. When emotion does happen to make it into the voice acting, it is either absurdly exaggerated or a tiny step above monotone. For example, early in the game the protagonists and several other people are present when an art gallery is robbed and the owner is shot. Whenever any of the people involved are spoken to in the minutes after the murder, their responses might as well be “meh” or “oh, well” based on the amount of emotion in their voices.
While there are a few hiccups in the presentation, the gameplay rarely fails to disappoint. While most modern point-and-click adventure games tend to focus on straightforward storytelling with very little gameplay beyond making an occasional decision (I’m looking at you Telltale), Broken Sword 5 makes you earn your way to the next level. This is accomplished by forcing you to solve puzzles throughout the various scenarios and settings in order to get enough information to determine where you need to go next.
These puzzles will require you to not only interact with the environment, but it can also require you to speak to any of the other characters in the environment multiple times to determine what needs to be done next. In addition, these puzzles will also not be basic to the point of solving a single step and watching the a door or safe open, you will often need to work through several layers of the puzzle before you get the pay off.
An example of this would be the very first puzzle of the game where you need to get access to an office to review CCTV camera footage of the previously mentioned robbery/murder. In order to get the code to the office, you need to interact with 7-8 different objects, pick up multiple items, explore the art exhibit, visit the neighboring cafe, and speak to one of the other people in the art gallery at least twice. While that may sound like a lot of work, it is very gratifying when you do make progress.
If I have any complaints about the gameplay, it’s that some of the puzzles do have some steps that don’t really make any sense. At times, Broken Sword 5 will have you randomly showing items in your inventory to everyone, or trying to use your items with everything in the environment until something finally clicks together can be quite frustrating, especially after you have completed a series of tasks that are are at least somewhat logical. Thankfully, this does not happen very often.
In the end, Broken Sword 5 is worth playing if you enjoy story-driven games that do require more than minimal interaction, or if you enjoy solving puzzles. While there are some issues with the animation and voice acting, don’t let that deter you too much as the plot and artwork are more than worth putting up with those issues.
Agree? Disagree? Comment below and let us know what you thought of Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse.