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- Review: Broken Sword 4 – The Angel Of Death
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Review: Broken Sword 4 – The Angel Of Death
This review, along with DEFCON, suffered slightly when TMG’s webserver went down. Due to various issues – not least not having as much time with Uni – TMG still hasn’t really fully recovered. Therefore I’m reproducing these reviews here, one as it’s more reliable and two so I can still let people see it as an example of my work. Which should be why you’re here. Or you like my writing.
Underwhelmed: 1)To fail to excite, stimulate, or impress. 2) Broken Sword:The Angel of Death.
Sorry to start this review on somewhat of a negative note, but having just completed the latest adventure of our favourite Patent Lawyer/Bail Bond employee George Stobbart in the latest game in what most would say is THE name in adventure games, I come away thinking that something isn’t right. You see, ten years ago, we were introduced to Mr Stobbart and indeed the Broken Sword series outside a Cafe in Paris, and indeed the series started with a bang – quite literally – as said Cafe was soon blown up by an evil clown. From here, the adventure just got better, taking any many many exotic locales, meeting up with more and more interesting and funny characters while taking in a engrossing, adult story dealing with many aspects of Mediveal and Christian mythology, all the while giving the player deliciously tricky puzzles to solve, and coupled with the absolutely georgeous orchestral score and indeed the unique artwork and animation that went into the game, provided a solid, enjoyable and indeed special adventure experience. The torch burned brighter still for the second one, giving us more more more, while still having equally tricky – if not moreso – puzzles, and possibly the best storytelling in an adventure ever. The third – although moving into 3D and indeed changing the control system to suit both consoles and PC, changed the feel a little, and evolved the series in order to keep up in a market that still won’t shake off the fable that the Adventure genre is dying. BS3 was a great example of how to do adventure gaming post 2000, and indeed had a degree of storytelling that really pulled the player in. Fans will know what I’m talking about when I say about “That moment when Bruno…” and nod quietly in sage agreement, it being possibly one of the most emotional scenes ever to grace a videogame. So, why does Broken Sword 4 seem like half the adventure it should be?
Well, lets start off with the new. After the events at the end of the last game – in which George faced a dragon – he was swiftly taken aside and questioned by the FBI, who soon enough managed to cover up any evidence and quite conviently dismissed the events at Glastonbury as “mass hysteria”. This is a good enough excuse to have Stobbart back at the bottom of the barrell again, Nico being nowhere to be found, and George now working as a lawyer at a small bail bonds company. Like Lara and Tombs, trouble doesn’t stay away for long, as the game opens with a mysterious new blonde girl coming to George’s office with a manuscript – as you do – and pretty much less than 30 seconds later, the Mafia are banging at your door trying to get to you and your new friend which leads on to the rest of the adventure. At this point I’m reluctant to say “Globe Trotting” as one of the first problems with BS4 is exposed – there don’t seem to be that many locations this time around. The whole game only sees you travelling to three countries in total (abliet two different states of the US, so that could be counted twice). Another problem is that the areas seem a little easier to clear than in previous Broken Sword games. Sure, it makes the game slightly easier, but the lack of the little touches is probably what makes the game seem to lose it’s sparkle, as it were – especially when you can pretty much find everything useful in a room within seconds as the rooms are relatively sparse.
The thing is, Broken Sword 4 is a good adventure game, and it does do a lot of things right. The graphics, while not as breathtaking as the art from the first two games, are fairly well done, a slight step up from BS3 and the areas themselves do look lovely and functional. From a derlict New York warehouse, to the Vatican, the areas themselves while small, are pleasing on the eye to look at, and nothing looks out of place. They almost feel like real areas, which in an adventure game is a good thing, as it doesn’t break the illusion that these places were never used before. Another plus point is the control system. Some people didn’t really feel that Broken Sword 3’s button based approach suited the series, and with the latest release staying only on the PC, we return to a classic point and click interface, which for the most part is simple yet functional, and most importantly, it works. There are minor niggles with the camera being fixed, so that it can be a little tricky navigating stairs and making sure George goes where you want him to go when the camera changes, but overall it’s clean and functional, which works well. There’s also the option to use the arrow keys, however I don’t reccomend this, as especially when the camera changes, it is rather infuriating and actually more tricky to control Stobbart in this way. However, the reinclusion of crate puzzles first introduced in BS3 do feel shoehorned in, and make you wonder what the point in them are, given the removal of the direct control.
Another positive point is the puzzles. As tricky as ever, these at least seem to be something of a saving grace for this game, a few of them are annoyingly hard – you may find yourself resorting to the walkthrough for a couple – but they really do tax the brain quite considerably. As expected, you have impossibly deep pockets to store many things, and most of these are put to good use throughout the game, and the puzzles have – and this is probably the most important thing for an adventure game – a sense of smug satisfaction on your face when you manage to complete them. Some are a little obscure – and occasionally you may find yourself asking “how the heck was I supposed to figure that out” but these are thankfully, few and far between. Of note are the puzzles involving a manuscript. See, the Broken Sword series has always been good at teaching you a bit of history along the way, and this incarnation is no exception – so the manuscript, combined with the abilty to research the topics involved using your PDA, is a very good part of the game. Heck, you can actually look at indivudal parts of the manuscript, and work out some of the harder puzzles thanks to clues found within said manuscript – a genius additon to the usual “right click on everything in your inventory until the player notices something” often found in other adventure games. Futhermore, the main charcter of George Stobbart, voiced once again by the inimatble Rolf Saxon, is still one of the best characters in a game. Heck, he’s witty, charming and indeed all the hallmarks of a good player charcter. So many adventure games can get this wrong by trying to make the charcter all dark brooding and mysterious, but Broken Sword has always gotten it right by making their lead, well… normal.
It’s a shame really then, that the rest of the cast haven’t quite been given the same care and attention. Anna Marie seems rather wooden in comparison, and when she dissapears about halfway through the game, you can’t help but feel slightly unconcerned about her fate. Heck, when you eventually run into Geroge’s regular companion Nico – who incidentally has a new voice artist who seems to do about as good a French accent as I do a Sunday Lunch (not very)-a little while later I felt like I couldn’t really care less about Anna. Credit to the writers, they do end up trying to make Anna Maria’s loyalties rather clouded later on, but then it all rather falls flat close to the finale. And that’s the main problem with the game as a whole. It just doesn’t feel, well – finished. Sure the game itself is a pretty good romp, but as a stalwart fan of the Broken Sword series as a whole, I can’t help but feel the writers got bored halfway through and started to rush to the end. Some of the more minor characters, such as the Elvis Guard, and the Drunken tramp are awesome set piece characters, all being a little quirky, enjoying some good banter with George and having some excellent lines. But both Anna Marie and Nico just don’t really seem to have the same amount of effort put in. And the same goes for the story towards the end, it all starts to fall apart. The ending, given the pedigree of the series, was pretty atrioucus. Granted, it wasn’t as screwed up as the ending to BS3, but it all ends rather abruptly, and then tries to generate emotion that isn;t even there, and even fails that miserably. It’s probably the main reason I felt Underwhelmed at the end, and for a Broken Sword game to end so deflatedly, it’s a little worrying.
So you see, here’s the thing. Even after all I’ve said, Broken Sword 4 is a really great adventure game. It’s another nail removed from the Adventure Gaming coffin, and it provides a fair few hours of good entertainment, and I can still reccomend this to any adventure game fan – and indeed, I implore them to at least try the game. The puzzles are tricky, the humor is clever, the music is still beautiful, and the adventure is all there. But as a long time Broken Sword series fan, I can say while it may be a great adventure game, it’s not a great Broken Sword game. It is the weakest in the series in terms of story and atmosphere. But when you weigh up the good with the bad, it could have been a lot worse, I for one hope that the series is not going to end on this game, as the lagacy of Broken Sword does deserve so much more.
Final Score: 69%