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Final Thoughts 03
Broken Sword: Shadow of
Note: This is not a review, but merely my musings after having recently
completed a game as part of my Rogue's Adventures playthrough of my
backlog. Follow @RoguesAdventure to keep up with my playthroughs.
Also Note: This was originally written (and game was completed) in December 2012.
Date: 1996 (original), March 21, 2009 (Director's Cut)
A critically claimed series that
spawned four games in a genre I love and I hadn't played a single one? Such was
the case with the Broken Sword games that thankfully my Rogue's Adventures backlog
playthroughs will alleviate. Shadow of the Templars is a fully voice acted, 10+
hours Adventure game that takes players on an international journey solving
puzzles and riddles associated with the history of the Templars. Anyone who's
read or seen the Dan Brown thrillers would feel right at home with the plot.
I was most pleasantly surprised by the pacing; very few times did I have a
"what do I do now" feeling, though I admit at some points there were so many
loose threads it was difficult to keep track of it all. Thankfully the in game
notepad works wonders for keeping track of clues and progress. The whole game
reaches a nice crescendo near the end with an exciting action sequence on a
train, but the finale at the Templar ritual was almost nothing but cutscenes,
and while enjoyable to watch, I would've enjoyed a bit more interactivity. In
my last session (the last 10% of the game) there was only a single simple puzzle
After reading up on the Director's Cut, it appears that none of the sequences
where the player controls French journalist Nicole Collard where in the
original game. In hindsight it makes sense, as her discovery of her father's
involvement doesn't really go anywhere with the main plot. The prologue is
interesting and has some neat puzzles. After that they sprinkle in her
sequences a few more times, with the conclusion being that her father was
involved with the character from the beginning that is only mentioned in
passing in the main plot as being one of the initial murder victims. By the mid
point in the game, the player no longer controls Nico. Playing the Director's
Cut made me think that the game would jump back and forth between protagonists,
which seemed interesting, but ultimately Nico only acted as a sort of home base
and confidant for George while he did all the adventuring. It wasn't until the
very end of the game that Nico finally comes along. Hopefully in the sequels
the concept of dual protagonists is used better, though I admit I found her
verbose, heavily French accented dialogue a bit much at times.
For a game with a cartoonish art
style, which was really more the style at the time, the tone is fairly dark.
George himself is a very lovable, wise cracking Average Joe Everyman, which
helps lighten the mood and provide a bit of comedy. Some of the darker parts,
besides searching dead bodies, was finding the skeletal remains of children
under a well, and speaking to a dying man. Everything is kept within the realm
of realism until a strange part at the end during the Templar ritual, where the
Grand Master is zapped by some sort of blue lightning power, presumably the
Sword of Baphomet that's mentioned in the title. Nothing becomes of it,
however, and it's not referenced at all as soon the whole place blows up.
Speaking of the title, the "Broken Sword" is only mentioned once by the
Templars as needing to be reforged. I thought this would be involved in the
plot at some point, but the main plot seemed to be just trying to figure out
where the end ritual was actually going to take place. Then...what? Try to stop
it? It worked out for George and Nico in the end, but they came in totally
the classic point and click gameplay, and one of the best User Interfaces I've
ever seen on an adventure game. I already mentioned the awesome notepad, and
the game also provided hotspots (blinking auras that let you know you could
interact with something) that appeared when you moused close to them, context
cursors to let you know how you could interact (talking, picking up, looking,
etc), and lovely portrait close ups of all the characters when you spoke with
them. The dialogue system was also interesting for an adventure game; not only could
you seemingly "use" every item in your inventory with everyone (and get a
different response), you could choose the topics you wanted to discuss via
icons. This lead to a more cinematic feel as you didn't know exactly what you
were going to say, only the topic in question.
The puzzles were awesome and varied.
I'm used to dealing with inventory management, but I'd say only about 50% of
the puzzles dealt with using the various items and knick knacks George
collected on his journey. My personal favorite solution: Using a blood pressure
gauge to stop the flow of water on a hose. The other half were interesting
visual puzzles, like sliding blocks, word searches, and checkmating in chess.
The few times I felt completely lost the game offers an intuitive progressive
hint system, similar to the likes found in Stacking, where you can click on a
button to get hints on where to go and what to do, with the final hint just
flat out explaining exactly what you need to do. As I mentioned in the Stacking
Final Thoughts, this is a mechanic that no adventure game should be without.
Sword series is very well regarded, with Shadow of the Templars considered one
of the greatest Adventure games of all time. It's certainly one of the best
I've played, despite a theme and modern setting that I'm not wholly interested
in. But the solid game play, phenomenal voice acting, and exciting plot really
make it stand out in its genre. I can only hope its sequels continue the trend.
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