Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse Episode 2
First posted on 01 July 2014. Last updated on 01 July 2014.
The game is available at GOG.
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse
The game is comprised of 2 episodes:
- Episode 1
- Episode 2
Being one of the most critically acclaimed adventure games of all time, the Broken Sword series, Revolution Software's muse and magnum opus, has primarily been known for its witty and intelligent dialogs, memorable characters, and, wherever necessary, adrenaline filled action and deep-rooted intrigue and enigma. Earlier games in the series have also been praised for their fluid, hand-drawn animations. Indeed, the Broken Sword series have left an everlasting impact on the adventure game genre, with many game developers and designers citing the original game in the series as one of the many sources for their inspiration.
The fifth installment in this long-running series, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse, is comprised of 2 episodes. Released in late 2013, the first episode has been met with high praise and positive feedback, though its cliffhanger ending has also yielded a mixed reception from fans and critics. While some fans, like I, have enjoyed the episode for its deliberate ambiguity and tantalizing nature, many critics have dismissed it for being too unnecessarily abrupt. The cliffhanger segues to a quick monologue, ending with the appearance of an enigmatic symbol in a style reminiscent of V for Vendetta.
To cap the story so far—intrepid American adventurer and patent lawyer George Stobbart is in Paris, overseeing an art exhibition at a local gallery which the company he now works for is insuring. By good fortune he runs into his old flame and pulchritudinous French journalist Nicole Collard, a woman of pulchra qualities and callipygian features. All appears to be in order for their reunion until disaster strikes, when an armed and masked robber enters the gallery, steals a painting named La Maledicció, and shoots the gallery owner dead. Once again, George and Nicole are reeled into a world of mystery, death, intrigue, enigma, danger, and razor romance. As usual, they are joined by a host of colorful characters who either further—or sometimes hinder—their investigation.
In the climactic ending of the first episode, George and Nicole have just discovered Hobbs' dead body on the floor of his apartment. Moments after their shocking discovery, the building they are in is set ablaze by a yet unclear assailant. Fortunately, the talkative duo are able to make their escape to the roof to safety via a skylight. The second episode starts off with the pair making their way to Catalonia, the birthplace of Tiago Marqués, an aging Spaniard who has staunchly made it clear that the stolen painting belongs to his family. Painted by an anonymous artist known only by his pseudonym, El Serp, the painting is considered so malevolent that supposedly it has left a bloody trial of murder in its wake throughout its history. With already a trio of deaths since its theft, however, it leaves little to doubt about the painting's alleged evil powers.
As soon as the duo reach Marqués' childhood home, they are unexpectedly greeted with a barrage of bullets—a positively heart pounding way to start off the second episode. To make matters more complicated, a metaphorical ghost in the form of a goat from George's adventurous past makes a comeback. Fans of the series will undoubtedly experience a wave of nostalgia and terror (mostly terror!) at the mere sight of this goat. Though the puzzle involving the goat this time around is rather tame, it still does great fan service to gamers who have vivid memories of the original puzzle.
The graphics in Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse (both episodes) are an amalgamation of 3D characters and 2D environments. Further, the characters are fully animated, and the environments are hand drawn. Unfortunately, the juxtaposition between the 3D and 2D graphics ultimately yields a jarring effect and an unconvincing artistic tone in a slightly negative manner. On the other hand, the animations are fluid (except for walking), and the artworks are simply gorgeous and even stunning at times.
Perhaps not as a shocker for fans who have played the first episode, but nonetheless imminent even to those who may be unaware, the second episode is by far the wordier of the installments. In fact, several moments of long conversations may pass over your head if the subject matter is not of your interest. Speaking about the subject matter, both the dialogs and the puzzles exponentially become complex and mind grinding as the game continues. Several of the puzzles involve cryptic but logical use of cipher codes for you to decipher hidden messages. The game also assumes that you have substantive familiarity and knowledge of the Gnostic Gospels and are able to identify obscure references in paintings to these ancient texts. Suffice to say, I simply see it as a blessing that the game's built-in hints system is always at hand to save the day.
As much as I have enjoyed the sharp writing and the occasional smart exchanges in this game, most of the story just falls flat on me. In particular, the latter part of the game suddenly becomes an impromptu debate on determinism versus free will. Combined with the gradually declining gameplay as the episode progresses, this episode for most of the part feels grinding and dull. The ending also falls short—too fantastic and over-the-top—a far cry from the series' usual knack for decent and more satisfying endings.
The voice acting remains absolutely as strong and effective as previous installments in the series. Series regular Rolf Saxon once again reprises his iconic role as the voice of George. Always a fan favorite, in this game Saxon truly demonstrates his full potential of a classic voice actor. The subtle changes in tone, the delivery of idiosyncratic remarks, the chemistry with other characters, his performance is—all summed up in a single word—perfect. Though there have been 6 different actresses cast for the role, Emma Tate emerges in this game as the truest voice for Nicole. While the original voice actress Hazel Ellerby has bought a distinct streetwise aura to the beautiful reporter, it is Tate who has fully elevated the character to the appropriate tune. If there is to be another sequel, I wish to see Saxon and Tate together in a reunion. The remaining cast is also decent, even if some of the performances are painfully stereotypical. Among the supporting cast, the most outstanding performance definitely comes from Rob Rackstraw as the new voice of the oddly charming art critic Hector Laine. With a firm grip on his eccentric character, Rackstraw dominates in every scene he is in. Interestingly, he also voices the bodyguard of Roman Medovsky and the masked killer of Henri Dubois.
In conclusion, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse Episode 2 finally brings closure to the latest installment of this long-running series. Judging both the first and second episodes as a whole, the game remains a worthy and brilliant entry, albeit falling short of the original. Longtime fans will undoubtedly be pleased by the decision from creator Charles Cecil to return the series to its roots. Despite the slightly awkward marriage of the old and the new that may draw a mixed reception from fans and non-fans alike, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse is still an easy recommendation for every adventure game fan.