A Sword Only Slightly Rusted by Time
Earlier this year (back in January, in fact) I promised myself that 2014 would be the year I would really start cutting down on my Steam backlog, in earnest this time. I set this goal when I finally made my way through Limbo, and realized I had many, many more titles waiting to be installed and played next. Now, at the tail end of the year, I’ve finally managed to at least get one more game struck off that list. The ten months in-between were too full of free games via Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus, a few higher profile titles I purchased on my own, as well as keeping up with reviews over at AdventureGamers. Sadly, my 3DS handheld and Steam account came up short this year around.
Even though there’s now a new entry on the list of Steam games completed, this didn’t happen overnight or on a whim. In fact, I spent a good amount of time making my way through the point-and-click adventure Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars. This first episode of the now-long-running series starts out with a bang, literally! As the game opens, a mysterious assassin has obliterated a Parisian streetside cafe with a suitcase bomb, then fled the scene before the authorities could arrive. As luck would have it, American George Stobbart was sitting at a table outside the cafe, enjoying a beverage while on vacation. Having seen the suspect enter the cafe then flee shortly before the explosion, he is more than willing to get on his trail and conduct his own one-man hunt across Paris. Before long, he is joined by French newspaper journalist Nicole Collard, who has her own ties into the case by way of her long-deceased father’s mysterious involvement. Together, they embark on a rat race of historical proportions.
Truth be told, it took me several months to play all the way through this game, and not just because it is a lengthy adventure (which I do feel it is). Rather, I played it start-and-stop style, in little increments, generally for a few minutes before bed each night, since the “regular” daytime hours were just begging to be filled by console games, Netflix, and a social life – sometimes in that order! Add to that the fact that I took time off Broken Sword whenever I wanted to do some reading instead or had a review to write, and the otherwise simple task of flying through a classic point-and-click adventure becomes a major time commitment.
So playing the game piecemeal like that certainly didn’t exactly help my enjoyment of the story, which deals with the Knights Templar, a lost treasure, and a modern cult on its trail to attain great power in the present. Oftentimes, I would forget minute plot details or lost track of some minor characters from one brief play session to the next. Also I’m no history buff, and the whole ‘Knight Templar’ theme in general has always somehow failed to grab my attention – kind of strange, actually. But there you have it: at some points, playing Broken Sword was more fun for me because of the overall classic point-and-click experience than anything about this particular game itself. There’s just something satisfying about painstakingly examining all your surroundings and solving those strange “adventure logic” puzzles, like using a shoelace and a tennis racket to hotwire a car (true adventure fans know I’m really only using a small amount of hyperbole here to make my point…).
This all sounds a little too much like a slam against Revolution Software’s classic game, and I think I may be coming off a little too harsh. The game scratches that itch that true PnC nuts know all too well; it is brightly animated, dialog is witty, and the characters are humorous exaggerations, though George’s Western attitude of superiority does get a bit old after a while. The puzzles fall right into the mold of the genre, generally requiring you to use an item in your inventory to solve the task at hand, sometimes in lateral, out-of-the-box ways. There was really only one moment where I felt well and truly stuck, to the point that I figured the plot wasn’t advancing due to a bug, when really it was just that I hadn’t used an item in a specific spot, simply due to there not being an impetus or any clue to do so.
Overall, this first Broken Sword episode was a decent, humorous, if somewhat drawn-out and slow-paced adventure, a usually charming introduction to the characters I’ll likely be spending quite a bit of time with over the course of the series. I’ve already made some headway into the sequel, and it’s clear where the game has made some great evolutionary leaps forward. But that’s a story for another day…