Final Thoughts 05

Broken Sword III: The Sleeping Dragon


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 January 2013.

Developer: Revolution Software

Release Date: November 17, 2003

The third game released in the Broken Sword series, The Sleeping Dragon reunited protagonists George Stobbart and Nico Collard in another international adventure of mystery, secret cults, ancient devices, and ultimately a world saving conclusion.

The Sleeping Dragon was released on Xbox and Playstation 2 as well as PC, and it's console control scheme shows through in the worst way possible. The familiar Point and Click interface of its predecessors was abandoned in favor of a fully 3D world to explore.  Nearby objects and people are highlighted as hotspots, which you can then choose to Interact With or Look At. Thus a good chunk of time is spent wondering around the largely empty 3D spaces looking for the few points of interest. The mouse isn't even used; the arrow keys move either George or Nico, while WASD is used for interacting with the hotspots. In short, it's god-awful.

The other classic sin the game commits is one of the worst cameras I've ever experienced. Instead of hugging behind your character, the camera sticks in one spot of a scene, typically giving you a bird's eye view of the surroundings. This works until you start moving around, as there can be a dozen different camera spots in one particular spot, and it is the pinnacle of frustration trying to move around while your entire world view is being constantly whipped around and reoriented. Especially fun during the game's frequent stealth sequences in the end of the game, where a quick camera change can quite literally kill you.

Thankfully, the game itself wasn't the slog that the camera and controls would lead you to believe. The actual writing and storyline is incredibly well done, beginning with George and Nico on seemingly separate adventures until their stories intertwine. The plot involves a new evil leader of the Neo Templar group from the first Broken Sword game attempting to tap into the Earth's natural geomantic energy lines, called ley lines or Dragon lines. Chasing after Susarro, or in some cases beating him to the punch in his quest to gain power leads the pair from the Congo to Egypt to Prague, and even to familiar locations in the Broken Sword series, like Montfaucon square where the Templar Church resides. The developers were definitely riding on a nostalgic high, as all these reused areas were recreated in loving detail in 3D, and it was kind of cool seeing how they turned out. See the next page for some nifty comparison shots!

The nostalgia is also meant to bring back fond memories of previous characters in the series as well. To name a few, Bruno Ostvald, Flap the goon, Flobbage the construction worker, Andre Lobineau, and (spoiler) The Grand Master of the Neo Templars from the first game. Some of these callbacks work better than others, like Bruno having a major role and purpose in the plot, as well as a dramatic sacrifice near the end; while Lobineau retains his same role throughout the series as simply a character that spouts exposition and history about Templars.

Broken Sword II introduced the concept of separating our protagonists and jumping back and forth between their adventures for a time. The Sleeping Dragon continues this trend, though their reasons for separating at times doesn't make much sense, "Hey I'm going to go explore the ancient Templar Church underground which is undoubtedly crawling with clues and bad guys." "Alright, I'm going to hang out at the apartment for awhile." Other times they have to separate while infiltrating a castle, and the effect works really well as both characters have vastly different tactics to reach the same area.

What would an adventure game be without its puzzles? Sadly the puzzles in Broken Sword III are a very mixed bag. The developers just couldn't help themselves in the transition to 3D worlds and had to include a crate puzzle. A few crate puzzles. A lot of crate puzzles. SO MANY *** CRATE PUZZLES! Ahem. By crate puzzles, I mean you come across a room full of boxes, stacked in various ways, and you must tetris them around until you can traverse onward. Nearly every area in the game had at least one of these. Even the final location in the game, the final puzzle you perform is a freaking crate puzzle. Other than those, there were several puzzles I enjoyed, especially a very Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider like sequence where George and Nico were exploring one of the power sites in the Congo. Each room had a different inventive puzzle, from smashing spike traps, to a symbol colored floor (complete with falling ceiling), a light refraction puzzle, and...sigh...a crate puzzle. For the first time in the series, the game also introduced stealth sequences. While it makes sense for the plot, I find these sequences more frustrating than fun. Think Zelda where you get a view of the guard's patrols and have to stay out of sight, but there's no Line of Sight from the guards, and the aforementioned awful controls and camera hinder any fancy movement you try to pull off. There was one particular sequence near the end in the Templar Church that I had to replay at least a dozen times, and I was not happy about it.

While I started out instantly hating the game for its controls and camera and change into 3D, the writing and storyline really grew on me, and I enjoyed the classic dramatic scenes and plot twists that have become synonymous with the series. George and Nico are great protagonists, and could easily star in their own adventure TV show with their constant male-female sassy bickering (X Files and Bones come to mind). Most of the minor characters in the world jump out with great voice acting, and The Sleeping Dragon has by far the best villains yet. I feel like if the game had been done in the same 2D, beautifully animated style of the first two it would by my favorite. That assumes of course that the crate puzzles would have been eliminated in favor of inventory or logic puzzles. As it is, The Sleeping Dragon worked hard to get me to hate it, but I still came away with a decent experience, and it's impressive that the folks at Revolution continued to create quality adventure games using the same characters and themes.