Game: Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse
Platform: PC (version played), PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, Android, iOS
Release: Ep 1 – 2013, Ep 2 – 2014
The goat puzzle – three words that strike anger into anyone who enjoyed adventure games in the 90s. It’s a hard puzzle, not through complexity or terrible moon logic (as is so often the case in bad puzzle design) but by being poorly designed, requiring you to perform actions your character had never and would never carry out again within the game, but it also came to overshadow what was the start of one of my favourite adventure game series, with two interesting leads and a realistic setting, even if the stories did get a bit Dan Brown.
Thankfully Broken Sword has seen a renaissance since the Director’s Cut versions of the first two games became popular on mobile in 2009, and a few years ago launched and completed a successful Kickstarter for a 5th game in the series. And finally, after sitting on my computer for a couple of years, it’s time for me to get to grips with it. Immediately the beautiful 2D backgrounds stand out, full of colour and interesting details that the series has become known for; unfortunately the 3D character models don’t quite mesh with the scenery at time and look more like cereal box cut outs than people who inhabit the world.
The main crux for any adventure game is its story and I was quietly impressed with what The Serpent’s Curse had to offer, thanks to its intriguing narrative and (mostly) interesting characters. Scenes are brought to life by some excellent voice work, particularly from Rolf Saxon and Emma Tate, and some well-written dialogue. It;s a shame, then, that the pacing for the game is all kinds disjointed and jumbled. There are massive gaps during conversations while animations load which breaks the flow of the dialogue, while the to-ing and fro-ing to the same locations for the first 6 hours of the game as the plot inches along really kills momentum. It’s a shame, too, that some characters vanish into thin air, with story elements wiped away with a transitional ‘Later that day’ type of screen.
Moving onto the puzzles and yes, the goat is back. Revolution Software have added little easter eggs from previous games in the series as well as their wider catalog, as well as some fan-service for series stalwarts (some of which make sense and others which require a leap of faith in the power of co-incidence that borders on its own conspiratorial story), but it’s the goat hat once again overshadows things. Thankfully the puzzles involved are certainly not as bad as before, but I do wish they hadn’t relied on repeat appearances of goats for puzzles. I know it’s fan-service, but it felt over the top. A final word about the puzzles in general too, there’s the usual mix of sensible solutions mixed in some slight examples of moon logic but overall I found them to be perfectly serviceable and not too taxing, though the occasional back and forths and repeated dialogue did grow tiresome.
Still, I enjoyed my time with Broken Sword 5 and I’m glad I was a backer. If you like a more serious tone to adventure games then this should definitely sate you for a while, although it does little to develop the genre any more than the series already has.