Broken Sword: The Shadows of the Templars
First posted on 24 November 1997. Last updated on 19 December 2013.
|The search for the Templars leads to an old ruin.|
|George must get pass the guard to get to the door.|
|George stops by an Irish pub for more than just a good drink!|
|George searches for the reasons why the café is destroyed.|
Broken Sword: The Shadows of the Templars: The Director's Cut
Released in August 2010 by Revolution Software for the PC, Broken Sword: The Shadows of the Templars: The Director's Cut is a remake of the original Broken Sword: The Shadows of the Templars first released for the Nintendo DS and Wii in March 2009, the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch in January 2010, and the Apple iPad in May 2010. The remake features new story elements, puzzles, and graphics not found in the original.
The game designers and production specialists at Revolution Software must be congratulated for bringing us this title. Virgin Interactive Entertainment, the publisher of this game, always has a knack for knowing what "clicks" with a gamer. Be it the storyline, graphic presentation, or the game design, the company always succeeds in making all these elements fit together to produce a good gaming experience. Broken Sword: The Shadows of the Templars is an example of this success.
You play the part of George Stobbart, an American who is on vacation in Paris. The game begins with you enjoying yourself at an outdoor café when a suspicious looking person dressed in a clown suit enters the café and quickly leaves. Moments later, boom! The café is blown to pieces, leaving a man inside dead. The French police arrive on the scene and after George assesses the ineptitude of their investigation, you decide to take things into your own hands and attempt to discover the party responsible for the bombing and the cause behind the victim's death. The story reaches a climax when you discover that the bombing is connected to a dark secret and a lost treasure involving the legendary order of the Knights Templar dating back to the tenth century in France.
Broken Sword: The Shadows of the Templars is a classic adventure game. Unlike other games that fail to be an engaging adventure, this game has a coherent plot. The game plays in the standard "find the hotspot", "retrieve and find a use for the inventory item", and "engage in a dialog with other characters" manner. Using these familiar routines, the developer manages to create one of the cleanest interfaces I have ever experienced with an adventure game. You can pick up and combine objects easily. Subjects that can be brought up for discussion with the game characters are promptly displayed as icons for use at the bottom of the screen. The cursor signals the player objects or places of importance by changing to a magnifying glass (examine), a grasping hand (pick up), or a set of gears (operate). The player can also asks other characters about an inventory item by holding the object in question and clicking it onto them.
There is much praise to be said in the production of this title. The graphics and audio presentation are superb. It is like interacting in a Disney production rather than just watching it. The characters move fluidly, the dialog is believable, and the details are amazing. All the graphics are hand painted using cel animation techniques by artists formerly of Don Bluth Studios (All Dogs Go To Heaven, An American Tail, as well as the animation for the laser disc games Dragon's Lair and Space Ace). Characters and objects are animated separately, then overlaid on pre-rendered backdrops to allow for player control in real-time. In contrast, all cut scenes are pre-rendered as a whole entirely. The beautiful music is scored by Barrington Pheloung (Nostradamus; Truly, Madly, Deeply) and played by the London Metropolitan Orchestra. This, along with the ample amount of ambient sounds (trucks passing by on the streets, music from the hotel's piano), provide the atmosphere for the game.
Despite the ominous theme that involves the order of the Knights Templar, the game script is not at all serious. There are many humorous parts in the game that add to the liveliness of the adventure. Yet you can also die easily if you are not careful, therefore adding an element of suspense to the game as well. The game spans across five countries—France, Ireland, Spain, Syria, and Scotland. Aside from the main quest, there is also a subplot involving George and his love interest Nicole who acts as George's sidekick. In each country, you need to unravel the clues to the mystery behind the violent bombing of the café. The main story revolves around the legend of the order of the Knights Templar—a very popular subject that has been brought into a number of recently produced adventure games. The order is founded by a French nobleman in 1100 to protect travelers to Jerusalem during the Crusades. According to the legend, the knights have amassed significant wealth over the next two centuries and are therefore regarded as mercenaries by some people. Not all of the deeds done by the order are good. George sets out on his journey to find out what has gone wrong by interacting with a great number of people in the game. This gives the player the unique experience of creative storytelling. The storyline expands through interrogation of characters and solving puzzles. Additional locations appear as icons on a map of Europe for the player to select as the game progresses, providing additional areas for George to explore to complete his quest.
There are many positive elements in this game. The one element that grabs my attention the most is the quality of the graphics. They are just perfectly rendered scenes with photorealistic textures and an abundance of colors. In addition, the storyline is well thought out, the installation of the game is flawless, and I encountered absolutely no bugs of any sort. The cleanliness of the game interface and the fidelity of sound quality in this game leave other similar titles looking pale in comparison. There are also no dreaded "game extender" puzzles such as mazes and slider puzzles. I find these fillers annoying as they have no relative bearing to the game other than prolonging the game artificially.
On the other hand, some (not all) of the puzzles in this game bear little relationship to the story. Even those puzzles that stand in isolation, however, are interesting. Some parts of the game are quite linear, with Nicole's apartment acting as a central hub where you are presented with only a limited choice of spots to travel at any given time. Furthermore, once arrived in a new location, the player needs to complete all the puzzles in that area before the player can leave. There is no option to backtrack between key locations. Some of the puzzles are quite obscure and time based (goat in Loch Marne). A decent online help will be appreciated by some gamers. The dialogs in the game can also get pretty wordy and can be shortened to get to the point sooner. At times, the voiceovers leave little to be desired. The American, Spanish, and French accents are all mangled.
Broken Sword: The Shadows of the Templars is the title of the game when it is first released in Europe. In the US where it is released later, the name has been changed to Circle of Blood. Overall, I have found this game to be one of the best adventure games I have personally played in a number of years. The fine balance between story, graphics, sound, interface, and puzzles is testimonial to the fine efforts of its developer and publisher. This is a "must play and experience" adventure title for any adventure game lover out there.