Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse Review (PS4)
Kickstarters and crowd funding have allowed many a formerly forgotten franchise to find reinvigorated prospects in the gaming markets of today. Joining the likes of the Elite series and the revived Wasteland franchise, Broken Sword 5 saw a successful 2012 Kickstarter campaign that brought the beloved adventure game series back to PC and mobile gamers during 2013 and 2014.
However, this autumn has seen the games also released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and we got our hands on the PlayStation 4 edition of Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse to see just how well the game has translated to big-telly living room gaming.
For the uninitiated, Broken Sword is a series of old-school point and click adventures games – admittedly beset by some stealth and crate-puzzle genre-bending in the third and fourth instalments that are generally regarded by fans, critics and even the developers as the franchise’s troubled adolescence. Fuelled by ancient conspiracies, globetrotting puzzle-solving and a consistent blend of intrigue and humour, Broken Sword titles star American lawyer-turned-mystery-solver George Stobbartt and his companion and tumultuous love interest Nicole Collard, French journalist extraordinaire.
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse alternates player control over these plucky heroes as the plot demands, winding a tale of mystery, sarcasm and some genuine laugh-out-loud hilarity around Paris, London and the Middle East. The two episodes that the game was originally released in are combined into a continuous whole on consoles, with added bonuses such as more active animations, a nifty gallery in which to chronicle the characters that you meet, and some thoughtful utilisations of console-specific tech. For instance, the PlayStation 4 controller enables touch-based gameplay using its integrated panel, which alleviates the clunkiness often found in moving a point and click game’s cursor with a thumbstick in other ports of such games.
Similarly, the PS4 controller’s speaker is used to charming effect in telephone conversations played out in the game – the character on the other end of the line delivers their dialogue via the controller’s speaker, while the character you’re controlling continues their side of the conversation on your TV. Charming touches such as these reinforce that the game’s developers, Revolution, weren’t content to simply throw out a slapdash port to as many machines as they could, and have instead thought about the unique strengths of modern home consoles.
The puzzles and pacing of Broken Sword 5 feel finely balanced, never dwelling in one place long enough for the player to feel jaded, yet presenting enough ambience to attract your attention to a cast of often quirky characters. Many have drawn scornful conclusions regarding the developer’s decision to use 3D models with cel-shading to match the hand-drawn backgrounds of the game, but it works more effectively than we initially expected, creating a unique and mermorable visual feel.
The plot revolves around religious conspiracies, an enigmatic painting and a host of villains bent on acquiring it for a variety of evil ends. It’s absorbing stuff, and fuses modern multiculturalism with the headscratchers left to mankind by civilisations long past in perfect Broken Sword style. The music is sweeping, the visuals are engaging and the puzzles a mixture of logical and downright bizarre – although the in-game hint system is available for both use and abuse, even if we did feel ashamed on those occasions we had to resort to it.
Clocking in at between 12-15 hours of playtime, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse has made an admirable transition to consoles, and is recommended to gamers with a love of puzzles, plot and intrigue. If you’ve already completed the game on PC, you’ll admittedly find little reason to buy the console edition bar the promise of Achievements of Trophies. Yet for PS4 and Xbox One owners, Broken Sword 5 comes highly recommended, for veteran fans and newcomers alike.
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse is available now