Friday, May 09, 2014

Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse gets unbroken

Finally it feels like a Broken Sword game. This is very much a continuation of the first part of The Serpent's Curse, properly digging into the history of the Gnostics and the usual jet setting the series is known for. It's everything I hoped for. Yet at the same time everything I feared when Revolution cut it down the middle.

This second part seems short too, which is part of the problem Revolution have created by splitting it in half. I know they wanted to make their original release date, and Double Fine did it so it made it 'okay', and they probably needed the cash injection, but releasing in halves has severely reduced my enjoyment of The Serpent's Curse. The first half felt not Broken Sword enough staying too much with the modern crime, while the second doesn't feel long enough. Put them together and I can see the whole package being up there with The Smoking Mirror, but having played them as two games I've got too much of a disconnect.

The plot carries on at a decent place and finally dives properly into the ancient mysteries of the Gnostics after setting up all the modern day characters in the first part. The only one who really suffers is the main villain, briefly introduced in a short scene in part 1, he gets roughly the same amount of screen time here, so defeating him feels a little anti-climatic. Making matters worse is that the final puzzle is a simple put one item into place, while half an hour ago I'd had to crack a number of really in-depth connected puzzles to finally solve the mystery of the Gnostic artefact that has driven the entire adventure.

There's also significant reliance on code cracking. I don't remember it from the original games, but it was certainly in the remake of Shadow of the Templars. In the first half they didn't bother me, but in Act 2 they've stood out a lot more. Mainly because I couldn't figure out two of them and had to rely on the built-in hint system to tell me the answer. The first I feel no shame about. It was music, and I'm not the slightest bit musically talented – unless you count drunkenly playing Rock Band – so there was never any chance of me getting it. The fact Revolution didn't offer any other way of getting round it other than being told the answer felt cheap though.

The second was a symbol puzzle. You had to figure out what words matched what symbols, with a previous passage already decoded for you. Which is fine. Only I couldn't work out the logic behind it. Maybe this is just be being a dumbass, but I figured out half of it and when I saw the actual solution I looked at a few of the symbols and got where I went wrong. However, the rest I honestly didn't understand how they related to what the words were meant to. It just seemed like someone threw symbols down and hoped for the best.

Part 2 is also quite linear, and while you do get to go jetsetting, it's not open like Broken Sword should be. Again, this is likely to only be an issue because the game was divided up. The first part had this in spades, and it's absence here is more noticeable for it.

For those of us that played it as it arrived – which is likely most of the people who backed it on Kickstarter and allowed it to exist – Revolution slightly tarnished its image by splitting The Serpent's Curse. Which is shame. For those that have yet to try Broken Sword 5, or have waited for the whole package, I have a feeling it's up there with some of the best the series has offered. I envy that you get to play it as one big game.
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