Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse review

The Good:

Intricate story that meshes real historic events with legends; flawless hand-drawn 2D scenery; George’s cheerful, practical personality; several outstanding supporting characters; excellent voice acting; engaging puzzles.

The Bad:

Repeatedly using Nico as a sexy diversion; some technical glitches; slow and expository first quarter; poorly-clued main puzzle.

Our Verdict:

Eminently playable, cheekily characterised and delectably artistic, The Serpent’s Curse rekindles the romance of the much-loved Broken Sword series.

The preface to Revolution’s tale of the serpent is as beautiful as it is bloody. A sweeping cinematic follows an eagle as it swoops off a rugged mountain tor and flies over the verdant plains of Catalonia towards a sprawling estate. It's 1937 and Spain is in the grips of the Civil War, and like the nation, the villa too is under siege. As fascists rain bullets on the mansion, inside the Marques family scrambles to save some books and a painting. This painting, “La Maledicció” – which literally means “the curse” – eventually resurfaces in a present day Parisian exhibition, and continues to wreak havoc in its wake when it's stolen in a violent daylight robbery that leaves the gallery owner dead. The event fortuitously reunites George Stobbart, the insurer's representative, with ex-girlfriend and partner in crimefighting, journalist Nicole Collard. He must recover the painting to avoid the fat payout; she is still chasing the story that will get her a front page byline in the local paper. Racing against both the bad guys and the bureaucratic French police, the two are soon embroiled in a life-threatening international thriller dating back to the religious persecution of heretics by the Roman Catholic Church in the 1300s.

The fifth installment of one of the adventure genre’s most accomplished series, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse returns the franchise to its roots, trading in technological experimentation for visual excellence and smooth gameplay. It boasts stylish hand-drawn scenes populated by nicely animated comic book-style characters; simple point-and-click mechanics and a smart hint system; easy but engaging tasks; an interesting supporting cast, and above all, a multilayered mystery that meshes real history with myths and legends and embellishes it with intrigue and emotion. The enchanting artwork and carefully crafted simplicity of the game make it easy to get immersed in its narrative, but while it has no potent negatives, some aspects could have been better. The adventure is slow off the blocks – the first quarter is bloated with idle talk, and I was also distracted by the momentary lag between responses, which robbed the dialogues (particularly the snappy ones) of spontaneity. Towards the end, a lengthy segment in a monastery suffers from poorly clued puzzles and glitchy triggers. And while George has evolved into a powerhouse of ingenuity, Nico is repeatedly used as a sexy diversion for lecherous males, which is not only irreverent but disappointing as she has little else to do. All’s well that ends well, though, and the game wraps up in about ten hours with all loose ends neatly tied.

Largely financed by more than 14,000 backers through Kickstarter and released in two distinct parts, this game has wisely followed the formula of its predecessors' success: it weaves elements from Europe's strife-riddled politico-religious past into a modern day crisis replete with conspiracies, secret societies, explosions and dead bodies, and sets it against super-attractive backdrops that make even the grungiest locations feel inviting. George and Nico trade witty banter with cops and criminals as they shuttle between Paris, London, Spain and Iraq. Series regulars like the upright gendarme Moue, lascivious socialite Lady Piermont, Fleur the psychic florist, and the irrepressible American tourists, the Hendersons, bring on the warm fuzzies, as does revisiting Nico's apartment, which now has a swanky computer instead of her '90s hi-fi system.

While the blasts from the past are sure to delight longtime fans, the case itself is new and unrelated to previous games. The absence of baggage – even George and Nico have been out of touch for a while and are almost starting afresh – is welcome as it allows you to get right into the story and enjoy it on its own merit. The theft of “La Maledicció” seems straightforward at the outset: an expensive painting stolen for its monetary value, with an unfortunate, unintended victim. But when George's inquiries lead to a shady Russian oligarch, and the Marques heir, Tiago – now aged and ornery – appears at Nico's door to explain the significance of the serpent Ouroboros to his religious sect, it's clear that a more sinister game is afoot. The painting’s secret, if decoded, could lead to the rise of the Devil himself and jeopardize the very existence of humanity, so it becomes imperative to recover it ASAP.

The majority of tasks in the first half involve gleaning information from dodgy individuals and their possessions, while the second focuses on using those clues to decrypt “La Malediccio”. Most quests are inventory-based, interspersed with a few basic tasks like reassembling torn letters and decoding simple ciphers. While a clever sign-fixing puzzle warrants a pause-and-think, another involving musical notes forced me to peek at the hints by neglecting to provide a reference. Genuine frustration, however, was encountered while decoding an important ancient thingamajig: despite being warned that ‘lateral thought’ would be needed, I could not logically extrapolate half the answer via the ambiguous clues.

Inventory solutions are of the practical sort and generally use items found in the vicinity. This, combined with the smart art design, makes useful things easy to identify without pixel hunting. Some objects become usable only after a trigger sequence, so it's important to pay attention to their descriptions, which may indicate their future utility. This trigger system is painfully buggy in the Spanish monastery of Montserrat, where a large number of tasks have to be done in a precise order. The inventory holds about two dozen items, which may be deconstructed, combined with each other or onscreen hotspots, or presented to people, often to humorous effect. Intra-inventory matches are somewhat restricted by fading out unviable options, leaving only five or six possibilities to experiment with. Items range from genre staples like crowbars, coins and cellphones to more exotic elements like a peeing Cupid statue, a cookie that never crumbles and Trevor the pet cockroach. Some items are removed from inventory after use, but others persist till the end.

Progress is linear, and all activities in a particular segment must be completed to proceed. An optional tutorial introduces the gameplay mechanics – left-click to move and interact; right-click for observations. Some scenes can be zoomed in to inspect in greater detail. Characters don't run, though double-clicking exits transitions instantly to the next screen. Conversations have preset dialogues, but on occasion you get the option to broach a topic gently or play hardball. While there are no major consequences of either route, some dialogues and reactions are altered according to your choices. In the latter half, many dialogues persist even after the related quests have been completed. Overall the game is simple and intuitive, but if you're stuck, the comprehensive hint system provides several levels of help, starting with a reminder of the objective, moving up to a couple of nudges, and finally blurting out the solution. You also earn fancily-named achievements for finishing certain tasks. My game crashed a couple of times even after patching, though the auto-save feature let me resume from the point just before the crash.

Continued on the next page...



AD Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse can be purchased at:
GOG   • Apple App Store   • Amazon  

Game Info

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse

Platform:
Android, iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, Mac, PC, Playstation 4, Vita, Xbox One, Linux

Genre:
Adventure

Developer:
Revolution


Game Page »

Digital April 16 2014 Revolution

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User Score

Average based on 42 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by Doom on May 15, 2014

Paris in the Spring

Everyone waited for this moment: Broken Sword returns in a great shape! Die you blocky 3D, no more Sokoban and pseudo platforming, no... Read the review »

Posted by Nibiru on Apr 29, 2014

A fine reminder of the the old times

For a long time i havent felt so excited by an adventure game as i am now.This game came at just the right time for me,to get me back on... Read the review »

Posted by gray pierce on Apr 25, 2014

A Return to Greatness

After having to endure the Broken Sword series go to waste with the awful The Angel of Death I was extremely nervous for this releases and... Read the review »

Posted by Niclas on Dec 5, 2013

Lovely old school feeling

What a great new instalment in the BS franchise. Revolution have really captured what was great with the first BS games. Everything from the... Read the review »



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About the Author
gamrgrl's avatar
Shuva Raha
Staff Writer

Comments

incometrader
Apr 25, 2014

I loved this game and give it an easy 4 out of 5 as well

One major puzzle in the Monastery was hard and well done but needs better feedback. Instead of marking each line as complete when you get it right, each word of that line should be marked correctly when right or at least have better clues at the bottom. There’s 36 items to choose from so it’s not like it can be easily bypassed with random guesses. I had most of it right without knowing it.

Also a note to developers: some of us are tone deaf and can’t read sheet music, please provide some sort of reference to compare notes to.

High quality title with no crashes or bugs on my end, very recommended…

gray pierce gray pierce
Apr 25, 2014

Very good review. I agree with virtually everything except that I quite liked the puzzles at Montserrat. But otherwise I agree with everything you said and think the official rating is spot on!

Origami Origami
Apr 25, 2014

There are actually 4 main cutscenes. All above mentioned and the one in-between what was once episode 1 and 2.

Origami Origami
Apr 25, 2014

^
Sorry, actually 5. Forgot to count the one explaining the fresco.

gamrgrl gamrgrl
Apr 26, 2014

You’re right, Origami, there are more cutscenes, even for example, the cable car trip to Santa Cova, or G&N on the burning roof. I picked the three defining ones for the review… so I qualified that by using the word ‘main’, rather than stating a fixed count by saying, ‘three cutscenes’.

MoonBird MoonBird
Apr 26, 2014

Excuse my stupidity, but where in the heck you’re supposed to get part 2 without paying part 1 again?

Jackal Jackal
Apr 26, 2014

It depends where you bought it. On Steam the game should simply update automatically (unless you changed the setting for it not to). I’m not sure how it works with GOG; maybe just download it again?

Castledoque
Apr 26, 2014

I verify that on GOG you have to download the whole game again.

Origami Origami
Apr 27, 2014

^
But if you kept your save you can just pick up from where you left.

PadanFain
Apr 27, 2014

Is a good game. Moebius was better.

Tad Tad
Apr 28, 2014

Apart one or two little issues this is definitely a return to what made Broken Sword great in the first place.

Stuart Stuart
Apr 29, 2014

Loved it! It felt more like the legendary original than any of the sequels had. Thank god they moved away from the clunky 3D stuff and went back to the gorgeous artwork. Let’s have Broken Sword 6, Charles!

Nibiru
Apr 29, 2014

It is a rare gem among modern adventure games,really enjoyed playing this game.A must play game.

nomadsoul nomadsoul
Apr 29, 2014

Good review, Nico as a whole felt forced at times but i overlooked that
problem because there was fan demand for her. Would love some other
Woman in BS6 Wink

Paracetamol
May 2, 2014

A rather good game, but nothing too amazing. The end came too early and it felt a bit pushed. A nice game and worth the dollars nonetheless.

Palemaze
May 8, 2014

Wel, along with perfect technical execution and offering everything an adventure gamer would love to see in games, there is some extra bits might have been worth no effort for for making two-episode game.

It’s weeker than prequels, but is stll a brilliant game that threads strongly in defining the genre.

All that i can say as bad is that Episode 2 knows to bore you a bit with long rounds of obvious solutions where you keep clicking all-with-all untill the obvious happens. Ep1 also ended with puzzle that is not very lpgical and needed guessing.

If these two puzzles were combined in one and given more focus at following story, it would be bettert. Again I am against sequeled game releases in same chapter - while I loved playing this game, it leaves a bitter sense that at ndo of part one and beginning of part two, there has been too much effort wasted which only goal was to interrupt and stun players.

Still, Revolution and Pendulo make the best of the genre. At the end i was still very happy to play one more Broken Sword game. And can’t wait to see next one!

Viperswhip
May 27, 2014

@nomadsoul heh, I’d rather lose George and have Nico continue, not because I mind him, but because I still remember starting as her and wondering who the heck this guy was when I was forced to switch. This is really the only adventure series I have played that splits the time as much as this one and I still maintain loyalty to the one I started with.

strom-z
Jan 10, 2015

after playing episode 1, I agree with paracematol, rather good but nothing amazing. I just have to say it - no matter how hard they seem to try, they just can’t recreate the awesome level of Broken Sword 1 and 2! what I found probably worst was some of the “puzzles” , the cockroach thing almost made me stop playing the game tbh - nothing batshit crazy like that was in BS1 or 2, those games had much better inner logic and location design which is another thing Cecil or Jensen seem to have completely forgotten or somethin! (Moebius has basically terrible and dull location design as well). I feel like some people give this more probst than it deserves, this sure has some positive aspects to it (George’s voice hasn’t changed at all which is amazing), the game doesn’t look as good as BS1 and 2 but looks pretty solid, but all in all it won’t go down as a classic that the first 2 BS were.

Jon_wachter
Jul 9, 2015

Great review spot on, but Hector Laine is not a new character, like George said they met in an art gallery in Marseille in BK2. He gave him absinthe.




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