Go back to Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars

Written by: Rik

Date posted: July 23, 2011

As part of our 10-year anniversary (2001-2011), we decided to go back and have another look at some of the games we’ve covered over the years. This article is part of that series. Go here if you want to know more.

The Game: Broken Sword

Original review: Written by Rik, August 2006.

What we said: “If you’re the sort of person who views adventures as dull old relics better best forgotten, then this certainly isn’t going to change your mind. Everyone else, on the other hand, has a fair chance of enjoying it, especially if they’re able to endure the charms of a certain blonde-haired, green-jacketed American tourist.”

Note: There are spoilers all over the place here. If you don’t want to know what happens, play the game before you read this!


The Director’s Cut, and porridge

Rik: Hello there. Sorry I’m late. Also, my PC has been behaving strangely recently. So if I suddenly disappear, it’s because it’s turned itself off.

Stoo: Sounds like a PSU issue?

Rik: Microsoft say: “It could be a problem with your hardware OR software”. Gee, thanks.

Jo: Helpful. What happens before it switches off? Or is it just totally unexpected?

Rik: Sometimes it bleeps. Sometimes it doesn’t turn off, just locks up.

Stoo: Did you possibly spill porridge in there?

Jo: It might be that.

Rik: Er, no. Anyway. Let’s talk ’bout Broken Sword!

Stoo: let’s!

Jo: Yay!

Rik: Cards on the table – what research have you done…?

Stoo: I bought and played the Director’s Cut!

Jo: I did forty minutes after dinner. But I made notes. In my defence, I’ve completed it a few times now [pause]…that sounds a bit up my own arse – sorry.

Rik: Don’t be ridiculous, of course it doesn’t. Well, I gave it another blast on DS without getting to the end.

Jo: Have we lost Stoo?

Stoo: Nope, still here.

Jo: It says you’re offline. Or are you pretending?

Rik: He just went silent when we talked about research.

Stoo: Hey I spent a whole £4 just to replay, I think that counts as dedication.

[MSN: Rik has left the conversation]

Stoo: Oh dear…

Jo: Whoops…

Stoo: … and that’s our discussion, everybody. We didn’t actually play the game.

Jo: Haha, looks like his PC has died…

Stoo: He’s shovelling more coal into the furnace as we speak.

Jo: I think he forgot to feed the hamsters again. Poor little things, spending all night, running in those wheels…it’s cruel really. But more eco-friendly than the previous coal system.

Rik: Right. I’m back now. So, we’ve all played Broken Sword again recently…

Jo: Sort of.

Stoo: And enjoyed it, at least in my case.

Rik: Were you surprised to enjoy it? That seemed to be the theme of my review: “I used to not like this much, but actually it was surprisingly enjoyable” – or words to that effect.

Stoo: I wouldn’t say surprised, I thought it was flawed but decent the first time around.

Jo: I think when I first got it, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I remember being quite surprised by the intro. It’s pretty dramatic.

Rik: The clown/bomb thing, right?

Jo: Yeah…

Rik: I ask the question because it changes a bit with the new ‘Director’s Cut’. Which isn’t what I reviewed, but it is what I’ve played most recently. They focus mainly on Nico…

Stoo: Right, there are a couple of major scenes before that introduction, now.

Jo: Ah. How does the director’s cut start?

Rik: Nico gets invited to the house of a French politician (and womaniser)…

Stoo:…who gets murdered by a mime…

Rik: Who must be the same guy as the clown, right? Or not?

Stoo: Yep…

Rik: Khan. Or Moerlin…

Stoo: It turns out there’s been a run of powerful figures getting killed by an assassin in fancy dress, which Nico has been investigating.

Jo: That does kind of make more sense than the original. Where she just turns up and takes pictures and talks funny…

Stoo: Right, her motivation for getting involved is far better established now.

Rik: Yeah, it does give her a bit of back-story and a reason for being there.

Stoo: We also learn that her father had ties to the politician guy. So she has a personal interest as well as professional

Rik: Stoo, did you buy the fact that these were scenes that couldn’t make it into the original game for whatever reason? Or was it new content shoved in and passed off as a ‘creator’s vision’?

Stoo: Oh, have they claimed this was part of the original script?

Rik: Well, I haven’t done much research. But I think ‘director’s cut’ implies it was stuff they’d like to have included first time around. I mean, whether it is or not, I guess it doesn’t matter.

[Note: Since then, a moderate level of research has been conducted and it seems fairly clear that the genesis of the new content was actually around the time of the DC development. Series creator, Charles Cecil:

“One of the key things was to decide that everything that went before [in the original version] was a fact, and couldn’t be changed. What I had to do was come up with a [new] story that actually allowed us to tell the story without…affecting the feeling of the game the first time round.”

(Interview with VideogamerTV, 30/06/2009)]

Stoo: Well, the new content is, itself, well done. It does feel somewhat detached from the original stuff though. George isn’t involved, and Nico doesn’t even tell him about it. She flat out says “it must be a secret forever” or words to that effect…

Jo: George isn’t involved at all?

Rik: Nope,

Jo: Wha-?? But he’s the MC!!

Rik: It’s more of a ‘this is what I was doing while you thought I was sitting around doing nothing’ type thing. Which we did point out at the time.

Jo: Yeah, that’s in my notes. She has “a telephone, and lots of contacts” – or at least that’s her reply when challenged by Georgie.

Stoo: So it is addressing a key criticism of the original version, in a manner that fits into the plot, if standing somewhat apart from the original scenes.

Rik: I think it all works well enough, considering, I don’t think there could have been much of a business case for ripping the whole thing up and remaking it. And although it is a bit weird the characters don’t discuss what’s happened, it sort of makes more sense than Nico doing nothing all day.

Jo: No, I agree. But it is kind of misleading with the whole “Director’s Cut” because it doesn’t sound like that’s what it is. It’s more of a re-imagining, using a different central character…

Rik: …no, George is still the main guy. It’s just you play as Nico at the start.

Stoo: Yup, Nico at the start, and a then few more scenes woven in between George’s.

Rik: Just like in 2 & 3, where they swap around a bit.

Stoo: The whole Nico subplot is written up by about halfway through.

Rik: I’d say even earlier than that…sorry Jo, too much director’s cut talk.

Jo: That’s okay.

Rik: It is the version people would be likely to obtain now though. I think you’d have to be a fairly humourless grump to say they’d ruined it or messed it up, or that you preferred the original.

Jo: You can get it on Nintendo Wii (she says checking Amazon)

Rik: You could, but it’s cheaper (and better) on PC.

Stoo: For sure, it’s a definite improvement. Also the rest of the game plays mostly the same, except with new character portraits, and you can’t die, so Jo shouldn’t feel too left out!

Jo: I wish I’d taken a look at it.

Rik: Well, let’s leave it there for the director’s cut. Available from all good online stores…


Touch my tissue

Rik: Okay, so my review focused on George a lot, it seems.

Stoo: George with his floppy hair.

Rik: And green cardigan.

Stoo: And free time to cruise around Europe on a Dan-Brown esque adventure.

Rik: With unlimited money.

Stoo: Except for when he suddenly goes broke in Syria…weirdly, now Nico is much better explored as a character, we’re left wondering what George is about.

Jo: “One of the most irritating adventure game characters of all time” you say…

Rik: Are those my words?

Jo: Yep.

Rik: Whoops. Well, okay. That’s how I felt coming back to the game. His motivation for going after the clown is a bit warped. But actually, he’s tolerable. The guy playing him seems like a good actor, by no means the worst.

Jo: I never really understood why he got involved in the whole incident.

Rik: Yeah, if my holiday had been ruined by a near-death experience, I’d be upset and then think about getting on with the rest of my trip. Or I would go home.

Stoo: I get that he’s curious about the bombing he was almost caught up in, but that doesn’t seem sufficient motivation to go on such a lengthy and dangerous chase.

Jo: I mean, if I was a tourist on holiday, I’d rather keep it that way than hunt after a terrorist dressed as a clown – especially if that involved going into the Parisian sewer system…

"I never really understood why he got involved in the whole incident...if my holiday had been ruined by a near-death experience, I’d be upset and then think about getting on with the rest of my trip. Or I would go home."

“I never really understood why he got involved…if my holiday had been ruined by a near-death experience, I’d think about getting on with the rest of my trip. Or I would go home.”

Rik: Maybe it’s because he fancies Nico.

Jo: Or he was just having a really shit holiday.

Rik: He does say something about ‘eyeing up the ladies’ in the initial scenes. Maybe that wasn’t going so well.

Jo: No, maybe not.

Rik: I guess we’re not really after realism in an adventure game.

Stoo: I remember finding the tone a bit hard to gauge. Is this a serious thriller? Or kind of goofy and whimsical?

Jo: Ditto. It seemed to lurch from one to the other pretty frequently

Rik: I think it works best as ‘amiable buffoon gets caught up in dangerous episode and manages not to die but wants to get to the bottom of it’. Here’s where I think George is the problem – he’s not much of a hero…

Jo: No. And we don’t really know why he’s doing what he’s doing. In fact, apart from being an American tourist in Europe, we don’t know anything about him.

Stoo: I can handle him being a bit goofy but there’s not a lot of competence to go with it – like when he knocks himself out in the museum. [He tries to push the totem pole on a pair of crooks, and it just lands on his head].

Rik: I think I’d rather he was goofy. He’s a goofy character.

Jo: He willingly asks everyone to inspect his dirty tissue. (Sorry – couldn’t hold it much longer).

Rik: “What do you think of this tissue?”
“It’s disgusting, m’sieur”

Jo: Or sometimes, “What do you make of this tissue – I found it in the sewer!!”

Rik: I remembered today that the tissue is necessary. You have to give it to the guy in the joke shop to help identify the paint on it.

Jo: Also, you use it to clean something. Or polish something.

Rik: Yep, remembering that now.

Jo: But I’m pretty sure that’s just so you can continually ask people to look at it.

Rik: Same as the clown nose.

Stoo: Yep. So he can be goofy and incongruous in an Irish pub.

Rik: I do wish that they’d use words instead of symbols for the dialogue options. Otherwise the temptation is to ask every question and show everything in your inventory to everyone you meet.

Jo: Yeah, it’s pretty vague.

Stoo: It basically means all dialogue is quizzing characters on people and items

Rik: I hate symbols. They rarely explain things as well as an actual word.

Jo: Especially when the same symbol means multiple things. So you just keep clicking it until it disappears.

Rik: And sometimes they reappear when you talk to the character again. You think, “Is he just going to ask the same questions?”

Jo: And then you ask the same thing. It’s so much worse when they give an especially long answer, and you’re just hammering the mouse button to get to the end. Actually, thinking about it, I just didn’t like the really long talky bits full stop. Short attention span. And I’ll admit it, after a while, I just sort of stopped listening. And then I’d realise I’d missed something really important.

Rik: I found that I lost track of the plot the further into the game I went.

Stoo: The plot I was mostly okay with. Except for the end, which was bollocks.

Rik: Agreed.

Stoo: We actually learn by about halfway through that there’s a conspiracy to bring back the Templars. So then, what are they trying to do? Use a MAGIC SUPERWEAPON? What the fuck?

Rik: That goes for the other games as well to be honest. I could focus on the little tasks, ie ‘Get into this room’, but I didn’t really follow the overarching story in any of the BS games.

Jo: I was definitely lost at the end. Maybe I should play it again and try to take notes through some of the dialogue.

Stoo: Sorry to go quiet then start shouting, I didn’t mind George too much or the dialogue, apart from comedy accents, but the ending is silly.

Rik: The bits of George I didn’t like: making sexist remarks and making threats to hit someone for being mildly irritating. He’s a massive dork, so to have any kind of ‘This old bird’s not much of a looker, eh fellas?’ doesn’t make sense. As well as being unwelcome generally. I can’t think of who he threatens to punch…

Jo: Me neither, but I do remember that being a factor.

Rik: It’s an accordian player or a harmless minor character. He says something to George who responds with something like, “I was tempted to smash his face into the pavement” HAHAHAHA! [pause] Hang on, “Stoo is busy and may not reply”

Stoo: Stoo is drinking hard liquor and may not be able to reply. No, actually just making sure I don’t get bugged by other people on MSN…

Rik: Whereas I accidentally clicked on ‘invite’ earlier and got a message saying “all your contacts are in the current conversation”. Anyway, so George: tolerable.

Stoo: Playing up to the stereotype of an American tourist…but tolerable.

Rik: Not irritating when compared with, say, any character from Mystery of the Druids

Jo: ALL the accents in the game annoy me.

Stoo: There are a lot of moustachioed French guys with slightly suspect accents.

Jo: The French accents are the worst – sometimes lurching into a Russian accent, or a Polish one. And one guy just sounds like he’s trying not to be sick.

Rik: Which one?

Jo: The one digging a hole in the road.

Rik: I had the acting down as a ‘mixed bag’. Which is a compliment coming from me as I normally get very irritable about such things. George is good, I think. Nico, I can’t remember. I’m sure they changed the actress who played her a few times in the series…

ALL the accents in the game annoy me...one guy just sounds like he’s trying not to be sick.

“ALL the accents in the game annoy me…one guy just sounds like he’s trying not to be sick.”

Jo: The Irish kid’s a bad job…

Rik: “Okay mister” [imagine I’m typing in a bad oirish accent].

Jo: hahaha

Rik: In fairness, the DS version (which I’ve been playing recently) is text only. So perhaps my memory is playing tricks. But I could tolerate most of them. There’s some bad stereotyping – I cringed at the kebab stand guy…

Jo: Yeah, that’s terrible. Rik, in your review you say that the voice acting will remind people of ‘Allo ‘Allo…I think that’s pretty accurate.

Rik: I think that’s my stock phrase for describing bad acting in games. But, yeah, I guess that show was all English people doing silly accents. Which is what this sounds like.


Hamsters on strike, ponytails and mullets

Rik: Anyway, I think we’re being quite negative here. There are some good things about Broken Sword. Dialogue aside, I think the presentation is really good.

Jo: I’ve always loved the music, and the setting.

Stoo: The artwork is fantastic. Autumnal Paris is romantic and mysterious – one of my favourite parts of any adventure game.

Rik: I find the Paris setting really well done. I know it’s cartoon Paris, and if I was French I’d hate it. Like London with bobbies and red phone boxes everywhere. But it’s been captured really well.

Stoo: Ireland is all rustic country pub and castle, but again even if a stereotype the depiction is well done.

Jo: I think you get a real sense of the season too. I mean, he mentions that it’s ‘fall’ or ‘Autumn’ to you and me, but it’s not just a case of having a few orange leaves blowing about.

Rik: If I think of the opening scenes, I often find myself wanting to go back and play the game again. Perhaps not all the way through, but certainly the start. I know that might sound a bit weird, but do you know what I’m on about?

Jo: Yeah, the start is my favourite.

Rik: Paris, Ireland – good. Syria, not so much…

Jo: Yeah, I’m not really sure why that doesn’t work too well.

Stoo: Syria is less memorable and relies more on comedy accents. Oh, and I just remembered a dick move by George that happens there… passing a crappy statue off as an antique to con some lady.

Rik: Syria isn’t your classic setting.

Stoo: We don’t really see anything memorable there.

Rik: Duane! And his wife…

Stoo: Duane doesn’t do a lot as I recall. But I guess there’s no reason every character has to be significant.

Rik: Speaking of characters in the game, no-one’s mentioned Lobineau yet! The ponytailed hunk…

Jo: Yeah – didn’t quite get the attraction there.

Rik: Nico’s not got much of a choice when it comes to rivals for her affection – Georgie or ponytail guy…they retained him for the sequels, too. Have we lost Stoo??

Jo: Stoo, you there?

Rik: Hm, it seems we have….[whistles]

Jo: Are you… whistling for Stoo? Like… a dog?

Rik: No, not like a dog! Just, you know, passing the time. Whistling wouldn’t work on the internet.

Jo: Oh. Okay. Sorry. My mistake. I thought you meant like HERE BOY!! Sorry, I’ll stop talking for a while.


Rik: Ok, good. Don’t know what happened there.

Stoo: Incidentally, instead of whistling for me I would prefer, say, something like the batman signal. So where were we…oh yeah, ponytails. I had one once. No, wait, I had one TWICE.

Jo: How long til the next one?

Stoo: Depends if I want to rock the long hair and receding hairline look. I feel only Bill Bailey really gets away with it.

Rik: I grow a mean mullet these days. Not deliberately, of course. But when [Mrs Rik] Laura shouts ‘MULLET’ at me, I know it’s time for a haircut.

Stoo: Weren’t we talking about a videogame at some point?

Rik: Yep. Well, all I’ve got left on my list is ‘sequels’. Anyone played the others, or got anything to say about them?

Stoo: Not played them, sorry!

Jo: I got sick of the second one. I can’t remember why. Something about being stuck at a market with Nico in combat trousers. Also, Nico sounds like she’s been smoking about 40 a day since the first game.

Rik: I think they just changed the actress.

Jo: Going back to the first one, momentarily, I really like the way the music was chirpy or sinister depending on what was revealed in conversations/puzzles.

Rik: Yes, that’s always good. And it was done well. In Mystery of the Druids there was dynamic music but it was always REALLY LOUD or just inappropriate.

"I do wish that they’d use words instead of symbols for the dialogue options. Otherwise the temptation is to ask every question and show everything in your inventory to everyone you meet."

“I do wish that they’d use words instead of symbols…otherwise the temptation is to show everything in your inventory to everyone you meet.”

Stoo: The main theme is good too, quite stirring, and it pops up when you do something significant.

Jo: I also have another thing on my list…regarding the puzzles. I think all adventure games use a bit of “adventure game logic” from time to time, but I definitely found that Broken Sword did that more than most. Sometimes the solutions to puzzles were things that I would never have thought of. And only discovered through the age-old frustration game of “use everything with everything else”. I’m sure there’s a bit towards the end where you have to use a key with some soap or something.

Stoo: Right, you have to make a fake and swap it for the real thing, and then cause the guard to put his gloves on so he doesn’t feel the difference.

[MSN: Rik has left the conversation.]

Jo: Uh oh…

Stoo: Hamsters on strike.

Jo: Yeah, I heard they’d joined the union. It was the best thing for them really.


The guard and the dog, with the baked beans in the shed

Rik: Sorry about that, it was due to MY FUCKING COMPUTER TURNING OFF. [Apologies for the swears, but this was getting annoying…subsequent diagnosis revealed a dodgy RAM module as the culprit]. Anyway, we were talking about the adventure-logic puzzles, I think.

Stoo: Make a fake key in plaster, then cause the guard to feel cold so he puts gloves on and can’t feel it’s wrong…

Rik: Any other examples?

Jo: I can’t think of any others. I think that just stuck in my head. It’s the ones that don’t make a load of sense that bug me.

Rik: Some I quite liked. I enjoyed the bit in the hotel, where you have to get the key to the room next door and climb along a ledge. And then chuck the manuscript into the street to avoid being frisked by those gangsters…

Stoo: Now that bit made sense. As in, something you might think of in real life.

Jo: There was another bit with the guard and the dog and some baked beans in a shed.

Rik: Isn’t that in the second game?

Stoo: I don’t recall it myself…

Rik: I think it is…

Jo: Oh. Yeah…that’s in the second game.

Rik: Well, we can talk about it anyway…

Jo: I can’t really remember much about it. Something about trying to get rid of the dog, by chucking it in the river…[Close – actually, you lure the dog onto a platform with dog biscuits and then knock it into the river…]

Rik: Anything else? I enjoyed the other games, although they’re not quite as memorable as this one. Broken Sword 3 is possibly going to age badly because of the polygon graphics.

Jo: Do you think people will still play the original game – now that the Director’s Cut has been released?

Stoo: I’d say there isn’t much reason to.

Rik: It depends how much you have to hunt it out I guess. I think if you haven’t played it by now, you’re likely to pick up the newest, most readily available version. So, how do we want to sum up? I think it’s an enduring game that isn’t a classic but has stood the test of time pretty well. One of the better oldies not from the LucasArts stable.

Stoo: I like it more than my comments might be suggesting. I thought it was charming and enjoyable, and not too frustrating. There’s some silliness but it’s tolerable until the end.

Jo: And it’s educational! Sort of. Maybe.

Rik: It seemed like the sort of game your history teacher might approve of. If he or she were very laid back.

Jo: It’s stood the test of time enough for them to release a newer version of it.

Rik: Yep. It’s even on iPhone.

Jo: Boooooooooo!

Rik: The mark of modern respectability! (booooo!)

Jo: (hisssss)

Rik: etc

Stoo: Also, it comes from around the end of the golden age of point and clickers. If we’re doing Monkey Island later, that marks the start. So we’ve chosen a good couple of adventures to cover.

Rik: Any more thoughts on Broken Sword? I still have to do the washing up.

Stoo: I like it enough that I’ll probably pick up the sequel on Steam.

Jo: I think I’m going to attempt to finish the second one. I definitely think of it with a certain fondness though. I think the beginning of the first one holds the best memories though.

Rik: OK, fair enough. Thank you both!