Among the most important and long-lived point 'n click adventures in gaming, the Broken Sword series has earned a special place in the hearts of the players all around the world during its twenty year-old story. The very first chapter - as you may well remember - was released in 1996 for PC, MSDOS(!) and PlayStation. The series offers the perfect mix of straightforward adventuring, an original visual style, always-satisfying puzzles, and great narrative.
First released in an era where some of the most important point n' click sagas flourished, the Broken Sword series has managed over time to adapt to new platforms, showing great versatility and an ability to adapt itself perfectly to the needs of its player base. This is what happened with Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse, the latest episode that was backed by the fans of the series in August 2012, as Revolution Software turned to Kickstarter in order to fund it.
The great success of the campaign ($771K of $400K requested, with 14K backers) enabled the studio (responsible for both development and distribution for the first time following THQ's demise) - to arrive first on PC (divided into two episodes, a move that wasn't very popular) and on PS Vita. It then also landed on iOS and Android devices, and in doing all this, reaffirmed the interest of fans who'd long been looking forward to the next chapter in George Stobbart and Nicole "Nico" Collard's ongoing adventure.
Almost two years after its original release, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse lands in a full on PS4 and Xbox One, both as an occasion to celebrate Revolution's twenty-fifth anniversary, and also as a way to allow new players to tackle a very interesting series for the first time. And in this regard, we had the opportunity to try the Xbox One version of the game.
Before offering an in-depth analysis of Broken Sword 5, let's offer few details about the plot, without spoiling anything, of course. Spain, 1937. A mysterious painting - called La Maledicciò - was taken from a militia of fascist soldiers. We discover that this painting is particularly coveted, and the soldiers killed the man who owned it for taking it. Flash Forward. The story starts again in Paris, in modern times, where the same painting is revealed during an exhibition at an art gallery called Le Lezard Bleu.
The two main characters, George Stobbart and Nico Collard, are attending the exhibition when suddenly an armed robber comes in, steals the aforementioned painting, and kills the gallery owner. George, as the insurance agent in charge of the exhibition, and Nico, as a freelance journalist, being their investigation of this murderous robbery and the mysteries that lie behind this painting. The investigation will lead our two protagonists on a journey that will take them from Paris to Catalonia, via Montserrat, England and Iraq, in an interesting road trip full of puzzles to unravel.
One of the first things that fascinates in Broken Swords 5 - whether you know its glorious past or not - is the intriguing plot. Unlike the PC version, originally offered in two episodes, the console version allows players to play through the experience as a whole, something that definitely works better as the first part of the story has a much slower pace (a sort of trick that allows the player, especially if you're new to the series, to learn the mechanics of the game).
As it happens in classic adventure games, the player has to navigate around the level in search of clues to collect, solving puzzles so they can progress through the adventure. One aspect that has always characterised the series, and that is perfectly replicated in Broken Sword V, is the tricky nature of some of the puzzles; it requires the player to think for a few minutes before working out the use of the objects in their possession, which then allows the puzzle to be solved. It's puzzle-solving mixed with a gripping storyline, and it makes for a satisfying experience. Even if some sections are quite complex and require some effort, we never found it frustrating. In some cases where you're completely stuck, you can always count on the help feature, even if it kind of spoils the fun.
The console build appears slightly more fluid as far as the animations and character movement goes, at least compared to the PC version. Although the game is far from perfect (especially at the beginning, where we noticed some minor slowdown and a couple of minor bugs), the experience appears smooth and it's easy to enjoy. Even the controls are good; the controller proves a good replacement for the mouse, and the environment is easy to navigate.
The visuals have always been one of the highlight features of the series, and once again it's here where Broken Sword shines. Although the PC version was already good, the console builds boast more definition in terms of the silhouette of characters, and the backgrounds are even more clearly defined. This is a visual delight.
Although there aren't really any new features when compared to its PC predecessor, Broken Sword 5 on PS4 and Xbox One is undoubtedly a must-have game for fans of the genre, especially these days when there's not so many adventure games on the horizon. Engaging, well written and stylish, if you've missed the earlier releases, or even if you're new to the series, The Serpent's Curse on console is a great opportunity to experience one of the most intriguing chapters in the series, and it's also excellent value for money.