Posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 at 3:30 PM by Guest
In 1996, my love affair with “point-and-click” adventures began when I first played Revolution Software‘s title: Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. The characters were well rounded (and all voice-acted too), and the plot was straight out of a classic adventure movie, and long before Dan Brown thought to pair an American Man with a French lady and sent them off investigating Templars…
The games in the series put players into the role of George Stobbart (2 B’s and 2 T’s) , a blonde-haired American who is visiting Paris for a vacation. In the first game, an explosion occurs and his world is thrown upside down as he chases the streets of Paris for the culprit, with the assistance of plucky Parisian photojournalist, Nico Collard (also called Nicole). The story takes the player (and both characters) all over the world, from Ireland to Syria, and the gameplay consists of typical point-and-click style, with the player moving a cursor on- screen and choosing whether to look at an item or person, interact with it, or use another item on it. It was the clever use of clear, cartoon-style graphics, the enthralling plot regarding the Knights Templar, and the simple but effective gameplay that lead to the games amazing success. Since it’s inital release on PC, it has also been made available on Mac and Sony Playstation, and more recently a “Directors Cut” was released on iOS devices, Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii.
A year later, Revolution created a sequel. Bringing together the same 2 characters, the setting became Central America, and the story revolves around Mayan god Tezcatlipoca and people that are trying to free him to restore his reign over the world. George and Nico end up embroiled in another mystery and have to save the world once more, but this time from an entirely different threat, with their only weapon being a mouse cursor. While the first game was met with critical acclaim, Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror received mixed reviews, and many criticised the deviation in plot from it’s predecessor. The gameplay, graphical style and humour remained faithful to the original, but with the focus on bright, sunny vistas rather than dark Parisian backstreets, it divided fans and critics alike. I personally liked seeing the familiar characters being thrust into a new adventure. It was also released on the PC, Mac, Sony Playstation and iOS devices.
The third game in the series, Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon, went back to the series’ Templar roots (due, mainly to fan outcries from the second game), but it took a huge leap of faith in moving from 2D adventure to 3D direct control action game. The classic cursor movement had disappeared, in favour of the HUD on the bottom right of the screen indicated actions that could be taken when approaching an object or person, and indicating which buttons should be pressed on the keyboard or control pad to perform that action. Due to the controls being radically different from its predecessors, and considered clunky compared to other action/adventure games from the same era, the game was criticised for this. The story and graphics (especially in the cinematic cutscenes) stayed true to the series and retained their charm and appeal, and I really enjoyed playing with the characters in 3 dimensions, which added a new depth to the puzzles. The game returned to Paris, but also features Glastonbury (England) and a brief stint in the Congo. The game was released in only 3 formats: PC, Xbox and Playstation 2 in 2003.
The fourth (and final official) game in the franchise was Broken Sword: The Angel Of Death, released in 2006 only on Windows PCs. The game takes place in New York, Istanbul, Rome and Phoenix. The graphics were a more realistic and impressively 3D rendered than had been seen in the previous games, and developers put this down to focusing purely on PC output, rather than accommodating the limited graphics provided by consoles. The gameplay, however returned to a more faithful point and click adventure, and although there were a few tweaks to the original style of gameplay to allow for the 3D environments and characters, it was well received (despite a few control glitches). Due to the more realistic characters, what it gained in spectacle, it lost in charm and unfortunately the series has since fizzled out.
Aside from the released games, a fan-made game appeared Baphomets Fluch 2.5 (translated to Broken Sword 2.5: Return of the Templars) was created by freelancers under the label of “mindfactory”. Staying true to the 2D graphical style and point- and click style gameplay of the first 2 official games, 2.5 was released in 2008 for free download, and received English voice actors (to mimic the original voices) from 2009. While this may be seen as a step backward in terms of style, for a completely fan-made game, it should be applauded as a huge achievement, and recognised as the symbol of fan adoration for the series that it is intended to be (which I strongly recommend you try out).
So, is there a place for Broken Sword in todays gaming line-up? I like to think so. It is less action-packed than games like Tomb Raider and Uncharted, but it still has the same level of charactarisation, plot and puzzle elements of similar games (indeed, George shares a lot in common with Nathan Drake – the spirit for adventure, the humour, the attraction to women). It can sometimes be more like an interactive novel or movie than a game at times, but I feel there is still a place in people’s hearts and minds for that style of game.
With the advent of touch-screen handheld devices and consoles (and the hand-held tablet integration with Nintendo’s Wii-U and Microsoft’s Smartglass), I think this would be an ideal time for a resurgence of the franchise and I, for one, would be willing to welcome it with open arms.
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