The first half of Broken Sword 5 – The Serpent’s Curse was a much anticipated return to the characters and world of the popular point & click adventure series. Spawning from a very successful Kickstarter campaign, it was split into two halves in the interests of getting some of the game into backers’ hands as soon as possible.
When George and Nico met up by accident at an art exhibition, they are witness to a theft and murder, quickly thrown into a mystery as they try to track down the killer and the painting itself. What, on the surface, looked like a simple stick up job soon revealed itself to be much more than that.
While it did a lot right, with the traditional form of point & click gameplay and the returning voice actors behind the beautiful art style, it was also clearly just the first half of a game, as was noted in our review. The puzzles were generally quite straightforward while it finished on what I considered to be a rather clumsy note.
Funnily enough, considering my criticisms of the first episode’s ending, the second’s 5-6 hours felt better tuned to being played on their own. It picks up right after the first’s climactic moment, before quickly taking George and Nico out from Paris and London and off to Spain, in order to follow up on the latest revelations and the mythology behind the stolen painting.
It’s not quite the jet-setting that we’ve seen in the past and the plot is very focussed and direct, pushing you through the three distinct locations fairly quickly as the story unfolds. That doesn’t mean there isn’t time for a few little cameos and moments of fan service, which certainly put a smile on my face.
Unfortunately, the bloated inventory from the end of the first episode comes back to haunt and, with a few months having passed between their releases I found myself at a loss as to where I needed to look for my clues. Not a major issue when played consecutively, but a minor hangover from splitting the game in two.
It also starts to push more difficult puzzles your way, often in a more standalone fashion rather than relying on the inventory. Things like needing to decode a telegram, pinpoint a location on a map and so forth. There’s one or two particularly devilish puzzles that had me completely stumped and saw me fall back on the hints system.
With the first episode, it was interesting to see the manner in which the game was translated from mouse-based controls to touch, tapping on interactive items but also highlighting those that are near to your finger. It’s something which I feel is now missing in the PC version which I played here – the Vita release is coming soon – to have to hunt around on the screen with the cursor when developers like Daedalic will readily show you what you can click on in their games.
Yet it’s easily made up for by playing the game on a screen much larger than 5″. Every scene is simply sublime and a delight to behold as you’re hunting for clues and solving puzzles. The manner in which characters are shaded and lit by light sources also does wonders for giving them a sense of place in those painted scenes, even if the animations are a little lacking and the timing of some interactions a little stilted – minor complaints which don’t detract from a script that is quite pleasantly witty.
All the way through this second episode, it is quite painfully obvious that this game should never really have been split in two. It was a decision made for the right reasons, but one which detracted from the game as I was unable to experience it for the first time as a cohesive whole, something which I would wholeheartedly recommend.
Having said that, the second episode does everything that was expected of it. It brings more challenging puzzles to the table, while sending George and Nico to some lovely new locations and finishing off a nice and intriguing plot.
Version tested: PC