Platform: PC, PS2, Xbox
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Developer: Revolution Software
ETA: November 2003
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Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon
excluding the previous two Broken
Sword games, developers Revolution Software have made an enviable
impact on the games world, almost exclusively as designers of adventure
games. Anyone with a background in gaming dating back more than ten or
twelve years is likely to remember the splash caused by 1992ís Lure
of the Temptress, a game which garnered critical credit all over the
world and, 11 years later, still looks good enough to eat. This was
followed shortly after by the futuristic thriller Beneath
A Steel Sky, with a storyline that tackled the adventure genre from
almost the opposite end of the spectrum. But then, in 1996, the first Broken
Sword game was released, and that series has since gone on to become
Ďthe most successful adventure ever to appear on any console,í
according to the blurb, with revenues worldwide in excess of $100
million. And thatís a lot.
then, numerous critics have gone to town over the death of the adventure
game, the merging of the adventure game into other genres, and the lack
of any good adventure games, these days. With the exception of a couple
of interesting 2D adventures coming out of continental Europe, most of
the hopes for the genre seem to be resting on the Sleeping
DragonÖ but The Sleeping
Dragon has gone 3D.
Lucasartsí Grim Fandango,
people took it as read that an adventure game was a two dimensional
affair. Looking back, it seems funny that a game full of skeletons
should be the first to successfully flesh out the adventure genre but,
whilst there was a certain amount of skepticism about Fandango,
the end result was a wonderful game that suffered not a bit for being
rounder around the hips. However, when that same engine was used for the
fourth Monkey Island game,
the worm turned. The consensus was that if Guybrush had called it quits
sailing off into the distance with Governor Marley at the end of his
third script, then everybody would have gone home happy. Adventure games
spluttered, died, and largely continued to be released as normal, whilst
everyone ignored them because theyíre supposedly dead.
in all that time, we can only presume that Revolution have been silently
working on Broken Sword 3.
Itís now nearing release, and the hype machine has kicked into gear
for adventure once again.
played an advanced build of the game at ECTS, and was mostly impressed.
What I saw of the game seemed to be pretty standard adventure fare,
albeit with the kind of lush graphics that put just about every other
pure adventure game back into its box. The character models are solid,
and the actions they perform are impressively lifelike. The environments
can be simply stunning.
camera angles donít seem to pose any kind of problem, either, which
was always a worry. Theyíre fixed in position for the most part, which
makes the playing field not unlike that of a 2D adventure, but on the
completion of specific actions you get to see the field from every angle
Ė and itís all there, gloriously enough, ready to leap out at you
with its pretty, pretty pictures.
fact, the skepticism revolving around BS3ís
transition to the third dimension has mostly come from
traditionalist quarters, with old time fans and admirers of the series
worried that the game will lose the grass roots feel of an adventure,
turning instead into a weak 3D platformer.
Tomb Raider is the most oft cited comparison for any game shifting
to basic 3D, probably because for the best part of the last decade
Laraís adventures have represented the most basic form of 3D youíll
press have added fuel to the fire with talk of time-critical responses
to problems in the game, as well as a more action oriented feel. In
Sleeping Dragon combines detective investigation, exploration and
stealth, punctuated by 'action events'.
quote marks, by the way, arenít mine. That worries me because, as a
reviewer, I find that the use of such punctuation is a handy way to
signify a sort of sarcastic incredulity about whatever the enclosed
comments. For example, Angel of
Darknessís press release promised that you would Ďtake more
direct and fluid controlí of Lara.
the quote marks are mine, you see, and if youíve ever played the game
youíll have a pretty good idea of what color fluid Iím taking out of
that control Ďsystemí.
(See? I did it again!)
when a gameís publisher and/or promoter starts using quote marks like
that, I just donít know what to think and, since I didnít get to see
any of the Ďaction eventsí in Broken
Sword 3, Iím reserving my judgment. They might be real crappy, and
they might not. Iíd be surprised if they did the rest of the game much
justice, but Iím kind of a cynic.
itís any consolation, I found that the characters in BS3
moved much more smoothly and responsively than in the latest Tomb
Raider, and thatís just in the adventure segments. Thatís not to
say that the games share many common points of course Ė so far just
the third person view. But, given that Iíve yet to come across the
aforementioned Ďaction eventsí, it has to be said that Sleeping
Dragon is holding up well against comparisons.
was impressed by the control system, in fact, although it took me a
while to get to grips with it. With a simple combination of three or
four buttons, a fairly advanced set of options is available, item
selection and what to do with it appearing overlaid on the main screen
as a set of rotating bubble-like things, which Iíd imagine might
become fairly intuitive given the sort of time I didnít have available
on the day.
One thing that I wasnít so happy with, although in many ways I think itís an unavoidable aspect of a Ďproperí adventure game, was the consistent repetition of the same phrases once youíve tried a given action once or twice. When youíre desperately combining objects, trying to find some solution to a puzzle thatís not immediately apparent, it can be damned grating to hear the same thing over and over again. But, then, if youíre an adventure games purist, youíll be used to that sort of thing. And, unlike me, you probably wonít mind picking up and putting down the same damn fire extinguisher fifteen times in a row, because youíre not too used to the controls, and you donít know what to do with it in any case.
now, Iím excited about Broken
Sword: The Sleeping Dragon, and thatís about as much as Iím
willing to say. Whether itís too long or short, whether the Ďaction
eventsí add, subtract or merely Ďpunctuateí the game, whether
itís as consistently pretty as I saw in the demos, whether or not the
puzzles are logical and pitched right (and thatís a big one!), whether
the game proper is old school or new fangled Ė all these things will
become obvious with time and patience. But, if I were you, Iíd watch
Revolution have recently given their blessing for both Lure
of the Temptress and Beneath
a Steel Sky to flow as freeware, which makes them alright, in my
book! Check www.revolution.co.uk
for more info.)
*No, not this space literally. When I was about seven years old, my Dad bought me a copy of some Amstrad CPC magazine or other. One of the pages was an advert for some Ďstunningí new game or other, with the caption ĎWatch this spaceí. And every week, for about six months, I went back to that damn magazine, to see if the page had changed. As you can see, my technological expectations of the print industry have yet to be satisfied.
- Matt BLB
(October 30, 2003)