Originally released in the fall of 1996, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars still holds up as a fantastic point-and-click adventure game. I came to it last month with virgin eyes when I was craving a game to play on my Google Nexus 7. The director’s cut of the game was released onto Google Play in 2012, although it has appeared on many platforms since 2009. The narrative and characters were impressively crafted and the puzzle-solving gameplay was well-paced. My only complaint was the hodgepodge nature of the audiovisual qualities of the director’s cut.
Vacationing in Europe, American tourist George Stobbart witnesses the murder of a French citizen and takes it upon himself to research the tragedy. George is a self-confident, joke-cracking Californian and his conversations usually put a smile on my face. He quickly bumps into Nicole Collard, a French journalist, also interested in the murder. They cooperate and unravel a plot to revive the Knights Templar. George’s involvement came about due to happenstance and self-motivation. For Nicole, the events were personal.
The director’s cut of the game apparently includes a lot of new content. Among the additions is a lengthy introduction that stars Nicole. This segment filled in Nicole’s motivations beyond simply being a journalist. As she prepares to conduct an interview, the French diplomat who personally requested her is murdered by a costumed killer. Investigating his premises before the police arrive, she discovers that the diplomat had mysterious ties to her beloved father. More research leads her to another individual who would soon be murdered and bring about a chance encounter with George.
The ten or so hours of gameplay saw the duo explore Paris and a few nearby countries. Most of it was spent having conversations. These conversations were lengthy and necessary to digging up clues and leads. As I mentioned, the conversations George conducted with others were often humorous; if not because of his line of thought, because of people he spoke with. The other major time sink was the puzzle-solving. This entailed exploring each scene for objects to interact with and figuring out how to utilize the small inventory of items George had. Occasionally there were one-off puzzles that required translating a passage or completing a sliding puzzle as well.
George and Nicole’s journeys across Paris and the few neighboring countries they visited were conveyed solely through hand-drawn backgrounds and animations. Overall, it was an impressive-looking game. However, there were a few bits of animation that sequenced different scenes together and these were quite poor. The style calls to mind Don Bluth with shoddy animation. I feel the same about the voice-acting. In general, it’s great. Yet there are bits and pieces where the quality is noticeably worse. New to the director’s cut are hand-drawn character portraits during conversations. These were drawn by Dave Gibbons of Watchmen fame but hey, they’re just character portraits.
Now that I’ve completed Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, I’m sad I won’t get to experience anymore of it for the first time. I honestly found the narrative and characters enthralling. The lengthy exchanges George had with others only started to wear on me when I was in the homestretch, but they were always entertaining. I found this to be a perfect tablet game and the user interface for exploring and puzzle-solving was implemented wonderfully. Some of the illustrations and animation looked poor, but in a way, those were blemishes that endeared me to the game’s age. Fantastic game!