I learn something new everyday. Sometimes the information is useful, other times its video game trivia like the fact that Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars was originally released as Circle of Blood in America.
The first time the game was released at all, it was released as Circle of Blood in America. I don’t care much for the stained glass box art. It doesn’t hint at the mystery as well as the European box art does. One could ascertain the game takes place in Europe thanks to the stained glass visage and the gargoyle, but it just doesn’t do it for me. Although, I would like to win a trip to Paris…
This box art was used for the European releases of the original PC version and the PlayStation and Game Boy Advance ports. As I mentioned earlier, I feel the collage used and the menacing man on the cover hint at the mystery of the narrative quite well.
For the American release of the PlayStation port, THQ (R.I.P.) chose to utilize a crucial in-game item. The Templar manuscript that George and Nicole locate fuels their journeys for the latter half of the game and uncovering what each section symbolizes was a major narrative driver.
When BAM! (R.I.P.) published the GBA version in America, they opted for a cover that had more in common with the European cover. And yes, I’m only saying that because of the leering eyes. Although, this is the only box art that features a broken sword. Not that it’s important or anything; it didn’t really factor into the narrative until very late in the game, and even then, in a minor way.
The first director’s cut of the game appeared on the Nintendo Wii and DS. The American releases of the games shared the same box art and featured an ancient looking symbol of the Knights Templar. I’ve always had a soft spot for this box art; perhaps because it was a notable “exclusive” for the Wii back in the day.
Finally, the European release of the director’s cut for the Wii and DS ventured away from the traditional European box art. Like it’s American counterpart, it uses color tones that hint at age, but in general it hints at the mystery of the game as it’s European predecessor had.
And of course, the game has since been released on countless digital since the director’s cut was debuted on the Wii and DS. There’s not really a suitable image to show for these as they lack proper box art. The icons they use generally seem to include a head shot of Nicole since she is featured more prominently in the director’s cut release. I like all of the covers well enough with the exception of Circle of Blood. The original European cover is my favorite at this point.
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!