Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars Director’s Cut
Developer: Revolution Software
When the original Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars was released for the PC back in 1996 (back when point and click games weren’t a niche genre), it became an instant classic with a visual and storytelling style vastly different from the two main publishers in this genre: LucasArts and Seirra.
Since that time, Broken Sword has been ported over to the Mac, the PSX, and even the Gameboy Advance. Unlike these previous versions, which were straight ports, the new version for both the Wii and DS are Charles Cecil’s, “Director’s Cut” with new content. So is this revamped version of an old classic worth yet another playthrough?
Without giving too much away, the story puts you in the shoes of plucky American tourist George Stobbart who is on vacation in Paris. Suddenly he witnesses a strange murder while relaxing at a Parisian café. George takes it upon himself to locate the killer and teams up with French journalist Nico Collard, who is researching a string of similar murders. Pretty soon they’re thrown into an international conspiracy involving the Knights Templar (if you couldn’t guess from the title) and the Crusades.
So basically, it’s similar to The Davinci Code but less sucky.
The director’s cut also adds some new storyline elements. When I turned on the game, waiting to see the familiar scene of George sipping coffee (or whatever) at the sidewalk café, I was surprised to instead see Nico going to interview a famous media mogul just before the events of the first game start! In the original Broken Sword, Nico just kind of sat at her apartment doing nothing while George would risk life and limb in exotic locales across the world to discover clues to the Templar’s secret. The Director’s Cut adds new levels where Nico makes her own investigation about her late father who was involved with the Templars, in-between George’s escapades. These new pieces are a nice addition that helps flesh out Nico’s role in the Broken Sword mythos. The only problem is that they are far too short. Nico’s story ends abruptly halfway through the game and shunted off to one side, probably to be never seen again. This is a damn shame because it seemed interesting.
Story/Modes Rating: Very Good
Broken Sword’s 1996 2-D graphics have aged pretty well, which should come as no surprise since 1996 is around the time the entire videogame industry decided that 2-D was obsolete and blurry 3-D graphics were the future.
Yeah, I’m still a little peeved at that. (Give me 2-D Street Fighter, Capcom! Give it back!) The hand-drawn backgrounds still look as beautiful today as they did 13 years ago. The new areas included in this release are just as good and fit in perfectly with the original 1996 levels. Also included are speech portraits that are shown on the DS’ top screen and are illustrated by longtime series stalwart Dave Gibbons (He’s the dude that illustrated Watchmen for those of you that don’t know his name.). They look great and help show some emotion on the character’s faces. This is direly needed as the lower resolution of the DS screen does lose a lot of the detail of the PC original such as character faces. It’s not bad enough to significantly hinder your enjoyment of the game, but it is noticeable.
Graphics Rating: Good
The music in Broken Sword has always been understated. Most of the time, you’re playing with no music and only the occasional sound effect from the objects in your immediate vicinity. The music only kicks in when you discover an item or solve a puzzle. It seems strange, but this setup works perfectly with the game’s aesthetics and adds to the “mysterious medieval conspiracy” feel to the game.
A major omission is the voice acting for the game. I know the voice acting is old and the sound quality was poor, but the voice actors put in so much effort into bringing their characters to life, that omitting them means losing a lot of personality from the quirky characters that populated the Broken Sword version of our world.
Sound Rating: Above Average
To accommodate the DS’ different control scheme compared to a mouse, Revolution had to devise a new way to control the game. Instead of clicking on objects to interact with them, you slide the stylus across the screen and faint circles will appear around certain objects. When you move the stylus inside one of these circles, a ring of icons appear that represent your possible actions (speak, use, examine, etc.). You then move the stylus to one of these icons and release from the screen to activate the action. Moving around is accomplished by tapping the screen where you want to move.
It’s a slick system that works very well and should be studied by any studio trying to make a point and click adventure for the DS. As for the new exclusive puzzles, most of them are the standard DS puzzle fair you’ve already seen in games like Professor Layton , like sliding block puzzles. They’re not too imaginative, but they don’t detract anything from the game (Except one of them… you’ll know it when you see it.).
A diary for both characters has been included, which fleshes out their personalities a bit more as well as helping in the solution of some puzzles. A hint system is also included if you’re stuck on what to do next. Of course, if you’re a hardcore point and clicker, you can turn this hint system off.
Overall not much has changed and Broken Sword is starting to show it’s age. There are some old problems such as illogical puzzle solutions and the old adventuring stalwart if you get stuck (Use everything in your inventory until something sticks.). In addition, even with all of the new content added in, the game length in only increased by around two hours of play time.
Control/Gameplay Rating: Above Average
Replayability. The bane of adventure games and Broken Sword is no different from the rest. If you’ve played through the game once, that should be enough. You might want to go through it one more time to see some dialogue options you’ve missed the first time around, but that’s about it. Don’t expect any “New Game +” schemes to get you to pick up your cart for another go around. This game is best played as a rental.
Replayability Rating: Dreadful
In general, all the game’s puzzles are about average in difficulty. With the hint system in place you shouldn’t be too frustrated or stuck.
The game goes for around $30 new and that, to me, is a problem. When you can get both this game and its sequel for around twenty dollars on your PC (with full voice acting), the DS kind of feels like a rip-off. The extra content just doesn’t justify the price tag.
Balance Rating: Below Average
The original version of this game is over 13 years old. However, there are very few games to this day that are similar to Broken Sword , which is understandable considering that Broken Sword came out at the tail end of the golden age of point and click gaming. Modern point and click games such as Secret Files: Tunguska and The Lost Crown are serious affairs that don’t have the same mixture of mystery and humour that was the norm in all of Charles Cecil’s games (such as the excellent and free Beneath a Steel Sky). Alas, this still doesn’t make up for the fact that the game mechanics are getting a bit tiresome.
Originality Rating: Decent
The plot for the game is very good and every character you meet is quirky and fun to talk to. The puzzles are also fun to figure out and if you have the hint system, on you shouldn’t be stuck for too long on any single puzzle. Despite all of this, sometimes you do get sick of a few puzzles that are either illogical and/or time consuming, such as the levels in Spain.
Addictiveness Rating: Good
Broken Sword is a classic franchise with a cult following. The fact that the entire point and click genre is practically one large cult following helps as well. Point and Click games are also games with very smooth learning curves that fits the Nintendo DS casual crowd. The DaVinci Code-like storyline should also entice casual game to break out this game and give this series a try.
For long time Adventure gamers, paying 30 bucks for a game you’ve played before (Or in my case, three times before) is sort of pushing it.
Appeal Factor Rating: Good
The lack of voice acting is detrimental to this game. I can’t just state that enough. I haven’t played the Wii version, but if you have a choice, pick that one even if the sound quality is the same as the 1996 original. The game loses so much personality without the actors portraying their characters it is unreal.
The $30 price tag is something I feel is just too much for a game that’s 13 years old now. Especially without that voice acting. Just spring for a used copy or one of those white label collections and wait for this one to drop in price.
Miscellaneous Rating: Very Bad
Story: Very Good
Sound: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Balance: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Very Bad
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
While the new additions to this old classic are welcome and enjoyable, Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars just isn’t worth the admission price for longtime fans of the series. If you’ve never played the original game before, this is a great entry point into the series and if it does well enough, you might see a director’s cut version for the sequel as well.