Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse Review

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If you’re old enough to remember, or even owned, either a Commodore Amiga or Atari ST, then I’m sure you’ll have fond memories of some of the point-and-click adventures that were synonymous with those systems; in particular, those that were associated with developers, Lucasarts and there classical titles such as The Secret of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. Although remasters and ports have appeared on subsequent consoles, they never matched the same level of fascination, humour and intrigue as they did upon their initial releases. Move forward a decade though and the progression of technology and the CD-ROM as a means of information storage, the genre of point-and-click adventures began to evolve, with more detailed animations, deeper storylines and a more involving mechanic.

It was also during this era, that the crown worn by Lucasarts for so long, was to be passed to a new successor of video game adventures; namely those that followed the exploits of George Stobbart and Nico Collard in the series of Broken Sword games on the Playstation, Xbox and PC platforms. The success of the original title, The Shadow of the Templars was to spawn a series of sequels that still continues to this day; bringing with it the Guinness World Record for the longest running protagonist in a graphic adventure. Now, twenty-two years after the series was conceived, the latest in its long line of heraldry comes in the form of Revolution Software’s Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse, as it now sees a release upon the Nintendo Switch.

This enhanced port of the game comes five years after its original release on PC and sees a return to its aesthetical roots, a complete package of both episodes and a whole host of exclusive improvements to the control scheme, as well as the inclusion of some bonus content. This newest title within the Broken Sword franchise follows the exploits of former American lawyer, now turned insurance broker, George Stobbart and his accomplice, French journalist Nico Collard, as they pursue a trail in the hunt for a stolen painting that not only sends then across a variety of countries, but also unravels an ancient conspiracy of murder and intrigue.

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After a brief prelude, the adventure begins in the Le Lézard Bleu art gallery, where a masked raider bursts in, shoots the gallery owner and makes off with a particular painting that was hanging on the wall. From here, you are immediately thrown into the puzzling element of the game; its interface still retaining the familiarity of previous titles. Using the left thumb-stick, you guide a changeable cursor around the screen, its form highlighting scenery, items and objects of interest that can either be examined further or interacted with. Along with the values of the face buttons, you can check your inventory with X, perform actions with A and examine your surroundings with Y. The right thumb-stick pans around the scenery and locations, creating a bigger picture of the events that are presented on-screen. However, with this Switch version of the game, touch-screen controls have also been implemented, allowing you to use either of the control schemes, or combine them to produce the most intuitive version of the game to date.

Whatever interaction you take, its narrative and findings often lead you towards further clues or problems that need to be solved. Its mechanic creates a multi-branched investigation into your surroundings, creating a variety to the exploration of your surroundings or events within them. This is usually accompanied with a narrative of George’s thoughts; as well as a sprinkling of his often wry and very dry, sense of humour. Although your investigations can open other paths, there’s nothing here that produces a feeling of being overwhelmed, or bombarded with the options available to you. However, some of the mechanics on solving some of the problems that are presented to you do require some thought in their process.

Whilst most of the puzzles do contain a logic to their solution, some of them do require a bit of lateral thinking. Either through the use of single items, or a combination of others, most solutions present themselves through a trial-and-error mechanic. However, one or two contained a solution that, although were simple upon discovering what is needed, are merely silly in their execution. An example of this would have to be the mixing a fizzy drink with mints to form a rocket-bottle, just to open a closed skylight. It may be logical in its formation, but isn’t something that is immediately thought of when trying to find an answer.

There are many forms of finding the route to progression within the game. This can range from exhausting all possibilities of dialogue interaction to finding the necessary codes to keypads and locks. However, should you find yourself completely stuck, the game does possess a hints system which gradually presents clues to progression, although it does eventually reveal the answer that you seek. I wouldn’t personally recommend its method, as although it’s a mechanic that does add a touch of accessibility to the game, allowing it to cater for a wider audience, it also takes away some of the challenge which makes the series so great. This element is also enhanced with a handy map that easily pin-points important and previously visited locations. This, coupled along with the hints system, can produce a nice flow to the game, as I never found myself stuck in what to do or where to go; just be careful on how you use it though, as it can ultimately make the game a little too simplistic.

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Despite this though, the strengths of this game, as with the previous titles within the series, lies in its stunning locations and superb narratives within the story. From the amour of Paris to the bustle of London and even the sands of Iraq, the scenery of each location is beautifully presented and highly detailed. Character animations are too, well executed in most cases, although some elements, such as running into the background of a scene can look a bit iffy at times. The spoken dialogue though, and the story itself, remain strong; producing a feeling of needing to advance to see where the story takes George and Nico, and its this mechanic that forces you to keep playing the game.

Saying that though, I found the pacing of this title to be significantly slower when compared to the previous titles that I had played way back when. Although a series of set-pieces do produce some thrilling components to the story, there seemed to be too many instances where the story seemed to stall, bringing staleness to the gathering crescendo of its finale. This was further hampered by the overuse of revisiting previous locations. Despite this though, it also had to be said that this is still one of the best games within the series, both in terms of story and presentation with its return to the original format that made the series so popular in the first place. For those that have an interest in its development, or in the series as a whole, this new version of the game also comes bundled with a series of interviews and documentaries that delve into the background of the game’s design and production; all of which can be unlocked through progression of the game’s main story.

Overall, Broken Sword: The Serpent’s Curse is a welcome return to form from the series’ titles of old; something which is touched on through personal memoirs of the main characters’ interactions with each other. It’s stunning locales and intriguing story still contain the same level of fascination in unravelling its secrets, although its pacing is somewhat slower and some strange solutions to the puzzles do bring the game down slightly. However, if you’re a fan of the series, then don’t let these detract you, as its familiar interface and level of humour bring a nice touch of reminiscent value to its early iterations of the late nineties. As far as point-and-click adventures go though, there isn’t much out there that can come close to the detail and presentation, both graphically and thematically, that Broken Sword contains and for this alone, is a game that is sure to entertain throughout its eight-hour or more play time.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse Review
  • Gameplay - 8/10
    8/10
  • Graphics - 8/10
    8/10
  • Sound - 8/10
    8/10
  • Replay Value - 8/10
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Summary

A welcome return to form with George and Nico in this latest instalment of the Broken Sword series of games.


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