Monday 7 September 2015

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse Review (PS4)

Ah, Paris in the fall. The memories come flooding back as we think about our first experience with the Broken Sword series. Shadow of the Templars was arguably the best ever point and click adventure game so it wasn’t a massive surprise that the games that followed it couldn’t quite live up to it. Both Broken Sword 2 and 3 were both funny and taxing as the series moved from 2D to 3D but then came Broken Sword 4.

We’ve tried to play Broken Sword 4 on three separate occasions to bring our reviews up to date but it is awkward, dull and downright broken in places. But now The Serpent’s Curse is here and the series has returned to its 2D roots and it is so much better for it.

Broken Sword 5 has an air of wiping the slate clean and starting again in terms of design. We now start our game back in Paris, this time in the spring at an art gallery where George is soon reunited with on and off girlfriend Nico. Here a murder takes place and a strange painting is stolen. With George now working as an exhibit insurer he picks up the case to find out what has happened to the painting, who the murderer was and why the gallery owner was killed.

The return to Paris has also seen the series return to the 2D style that worked so well with the first two games. It’s not such a hand drawn look but the graphics are really very nice and keep it traditional while also working exceptionally well in HD and making the game look fit for the PS4. The control system has also reverted back to the ‘dragging a cursor around’ variety and clicking on things with the PS4 controller doing an excellent job of mimicking a mouse.

The game also maintains the series excellent standard of voice acting and scripting with dialogue throughout feeling natural while also maintaining just the right amount of sarcasm and humour. The story itself is strong with a genuinely intriguing mystery to explore with the hints of magical MacGuffin we have come to expect.

One thing we could have done without returning are those tiny objects that require careful scanning of the screen to find. Right from the start there is something fairly well hidden. We weren’t entirely sure if it was colour-blindness that played a part or not but the option to highlight interactable objects would have been a useful addition. It’s a relatively minor point though and at least you know what to expect from games like this.

The actual puzzles are a bit of a mixed bag – though they are designed to stop you backtracking and wandering around multiple locations. Normally when you arrive in a location you can’t leave until the puzzle in the area has been completed. This is good in the fact that it allows you to focus on things with what you have to hand in the confidence there isn’t some tiny object somewhere else that you need. However, it did make us feel a bit penned in at times compared to some of the other games.

Though solid, there aren’t that many puzzles here that will remain memorable. There’s a nice one fairly early on in an art restorers loft but we found little that gave the same high as getting into the docks in Broken Sword 2 or getting the key to access the archaeological dig in the first game. Some of them are a little obscure as well – and not in the ‘use weird object to do thing’ way that these types of games are famous for. There’s also a slight over reliance on things like connecting wire puzzles and shape moving.

Overall, Broken Sword 5 is a solid return to form for the franchise. The mystery is genuinely compelling and the excellent art style and voice acting keep you interested throughout. It’s certainly not up there with the first game but it’s better than both the 3D games and gives Broken Sword 2 a fair run for its money as well. Above all else it’s a proper classic style point and click adventure and we’re glad to see it back.

Overall 7/10

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