REVIEW: Broken Sword 5 – the Serpent’s Curse: Episode One

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

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Broken Sword 5 - the Serpent's Curse Cover Art
Title Broken Sword 5 – The Serpent’s Curse: Episode One
Developer Revolution Software
Publisher Revolution Software
Release Date December 4, 2013 (Windows/Mac OS/Linux)
December 18, 2013 (PS Vita)
January 2014 (iOS/Android)
Genre Adventure
Platforms Windows, Mac OS, Linux, PS Vita, iOS, Android
Age Rating Not Rated
Official Website

As Broken Sword 5 begins, you are attending the opening of an art exhibition in Paris. Within moments, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet bursts in, steals a painting and kills the exhibition hall’s owner. What follows is a detective story with twists, turns and more than a little murder as you find out that the painting is perhaps more than it first appears.

Broken Sword 5 | La Malediccio

The mysterious stolen painting La Malediccio. It certainly looks like the occult is at work here.

You play as George Stobbart, an assessor working for an insurance company, and his partner, Nicole “Nico” Collard, a photojournalist for the newspaper La Liberte. Along the way, you will run into a host of characters, including a womanizing art critic, a bumbling detective and an apocalyptic priest. The Broken Sword series has always woven tales of conspiracy and the occult, and this newest tale is just as compelling as the ones that came before it.

Broken Sword 5 | Coffee Shop

The cast of characters really helps sell the world. Here, Nico questions an art critic who witnessed the crime.

The characters are likeable, and the genuinely excellent voice work and script really help to sell the cast. You don’t have to be told that Nico and George have a lot of history together. The dialogue puts their chemistry on display, helping the player bond with the two of them. Every member of the supporting cast is voiced just as well, even those who only have a few lines. Combined with the excellent plot, the result is a story that grabs you and won’t let go. You will grow to enjoy these characters, even the bad guys. Along with the sound and voice work, the soundtrack further aids the atmosphere. It’s nothing I would listen to outside of the game, but the pieces are appropriate to their scenes.

Broken Sword 5 | Nico's Apartment

George and Nico’s past history is obvious through the dialog and easy for newcomers to catch on to.

I’m a sucker for well-drawn 2D art, and Broken Sword 5 does not disappoint. The characters and environments are beautiful and varied, with shady side streets and dirty lots looking every bit as attractive as the upscale apartments and bright flower shops. Interactive objects in the environment are well-balanced with the rest of the visuals—unlike many adventure games, the points of interaction are not impossible to see, but they also don’t pop out so much that the challenge is stripped out. I do wish the game supported resolutions higher than 1280 x 720, though—a minor quibble perhaps, but the art is so beautiful that I would like to see it at a higher resolution.

Broken Sword 5 | Seedy Part of Town

Paris isn’t shiny and pretty everywhere, but the art remains beautiful throughout.

Broken Sword 5 is not a terribly difficult game. The game is a pretty standard inventory-based linear adventure title. Pick things up, use them to solve puzzles and talk to people to move the story forward. Few puzzles are particularly challenging, but if you do get stuck, the game includes a built-in hint system that is actually quite smart. When opening the hint window, it gives a brief hint at the top of the screen, something simple like “I need to distract her so I can grab her black book.” Below that are boxes that can be clicked, one after another, with each one revealing a little more information about how to solve the next puzzle. The final box just gives the player the solution, so puzzles are as easy or as difficult as you want them to be. It is very smart on the part of Revolution Software. Getting stuck, and frustrated, is never really an issue, and this serves to keep the great story moving forward.

Broken Sword 5 | Hobb's Studio

Distracting people and skulking around behind their backs is a recurring theme. It never stops being fun.

If there is anything to complain about, it is that Broken Sword 5: Episode One ends in a cliffhanger just as you start wrapping up story threads around four to five hours in. The game is a Kickstarter project and, whether due to time or money, Revolution Software is releasing it in two parts. I would have preferred the developer just waited until the entire game was complete to ship it rather than splitting it in two. Adventure games have been toying with episodic releases for a while, with great examples from Telltale Games like the Sam & Max series and the fantastic The Walking Dead. But the way Broken Sword 5 handles the break feels a bit too hasty, especially if you didn’t know about the two-part structure going into the game. In a way, I suppose this is a great problem to have—I’m so hooked by the story that I’m disappointed I have to wait a month or two to finish it.

And that is the greatest praise I can give Broken Sword 5. It is a game so good, with a story so interesting and characters I like so much, that I’m disappointed I can’t play more of it right this moment. If you enjoy the adventure genre, the $24.99 price is well worth your time. If you hate waiting, though, and think episodic adventures aren’t for you, maybe wait for Episode Two to come out before playing.

Review Score

Review copy provided by publisher.

About Brad Williams

Brad's love for gaming began over thirty years ago on the IBM PC1, and is an avid PC and console gamer. Living in rural Vermont, Brad also enjoys target shooting and backyard astronomy, as well as spending time with his wife, four cats, and dog Wrex. He has a Bachelor's degree in Business Management from Johnson State College, and is seeking employment in the nonprofit sector.