Go back to Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars

Written by: Rik

Date posted: February 3, 2007

Picture a scene – a French workman digging away at the side of the road. Or the locals enjoying their pints in an Irish pub. In steps a young, grinning, floppy haired American tourist:

“Hi. I’m George Sto-Bart. What do you make of this gross dirty tissue I have? Hey, how about this clown nose?”

In Monkey Island you might expect such things as par for the course but here I’m not sure the chortles raised are intentional. As Rik says, it’s not always easy to tell how seriously we’re supposed to take the tale of George Stobbart. The game wanders back and forth over a line between earnest and slightly silly. One minute you might be in a dangerous situation facing a deadly-serious assassin, the next giggling at a caricature of a French policeman.

So we might poke fun, but Broken Sword does have its strengths. For one, it rates well in terms of visuals and aesthetic appeal. The background artwork is wonderful, particularly in autumnal Paris which feels incredibly atmospheric. Characters and custscenes are are done in the style of an animated movie – apparently involving artwork from chaps who had worked for Don Bluth’s studios. Overall it holds up very well today. Then there’s the sweeping soundtrack, to add another layer of excitement and urgency to events.

Meanwhile the puzzle-solving side isn’t too bad. Well, I resorted to walkthroughs once or twice, but then I always do, and not so much as some adventures (shudders at memories of Discworld). Actually it’s been a while since I played this, but I recall it being mostly quite logical. There are a few “action”-ish bits where you have to act quickly or George gets killed, but these only crop up occasionally, not like the multiple arbitrary deaths of older adventures. Most of the time you’re doing detective-work, uncovering clues and trying to trace the mysterious clown-bomber, and its quite satisfying to make progress.

The story is enjoyable enough – unravelling secret societies and their plans, etc, and ties to the Knights Templar of old. It’s never really truly exciting, but still reasonably involving as long as you can put up with George. It kind of stretches plausibility that he has the resources or time to do any of this stuff – again depending on where this game sits on the serious-o-meter. I guess you just accept, without worrying over such details, that this is all about a brave\goofy\lovable young guy stumbling across a grand adventure. And sort of dragging an attractive\snarky\annoying French girl with him, at least when she’s not sat in her apartment being the least useful investigative journalist, ever.

Sadly it all falls down at the finale – which completely failed to make sense to me. Otherwise though, it’s a worthwhile adventure. Also, with the lush artwork and streamlined interface, it’s a good example of one of the last 2D point-and-clickers. The adventure genre would continue, but this perhaps marks the closing period of its glory days.