Review – Broken Sword V: The Serpent’s Curse – Episode One

It’s quite endearing, yet equally bizarre how George Stobbart and Nico Collard keep ‘bumping’ into one another. But the fact that that’s almost always a recipe for disaster soon overshadows any good vibrations either may be feeling.

Perhaps that’s why they’ve kept their distance from one another, even though they clearly share strong feelings.. Perhaps that’s why they’ve accepted a future which can never bring them together.

And yet, us fans still cling to a single hope. A hope that Charles Cecil and the team at Revolution have been teasing us with for over a decade. That when Nico and George are concerned, anything is possible.

Right at the beginning of The Serpent’s Curse, when George finds Nico in an art exhibition and invites her out for dinner, you start to believe in that hope all over again. After everything George and Nico have been through, the things they’ve seen and the places they’ve been, finally, the star-crossed lovers are going to get it right this time.

But then a brutal murder throws everything into disarray. Just like that, all hopes are dashed, and we spiral head-first into mystery and suspense. Romance, once again, takes a back seat. That’s always been part of the magic of Broken Sword, and in just the first five minutes of The Serpent’s Curse, Revolution have recaptured it effortlessly.

Developer: Revolution
Publisher: Revolution
Release Date: Out Now
Format: PC, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita
Price: £7.99

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Revolution don’t completely ignore our pleas, however. From a fan’s perspective, I appreciate the dialogue between George and Nico throughout the adventure. Their chemistry is still second to none and their banter remains the star of this epic journey. But the game definitely leaves plenty of unanswered questions. Most notably, what happened during their time apart, and where exactly is their relationship heading next? For most of the game, their interactions are ‘purely business’, with occasional quips and jibs thrown in at appropriate moments. Just like old times, then, but with the sexual tension dialled up to an all-time high.

But just because we don’t get everything we want, doesn’t mean the game has nothing to offer. Far from it. Tone is something The Serpent’s Curse captures perfectly. Whether Revolution are detailing history and legacy or establishing character dialogue and interactions, the game is always gripping and compelling. You’ll be hooked from its dramatic opening moments and be left craving more when Episode One draws to a close. Revolution have also done a wonderful job of not just making this for backers and hardcore fans. Anyone can experience this journey as if it was their first and enjoy it in equal measure.

That said, The Serpent’s Curse features a few cameos that are sure to raise a smile. Characters we’ve already come to know and occasionally love. But there are also some fantastic new characters that feel absolutely appropriate in this universe. Charles Cecil and co have truly recaptured the magic that made this series so special in the first place.

However, one of my main issues with The Serpent’s Curse episode one is how confined the player will feel across its limited run of locations. Through the course of the 3 – 4 hours, the player will end up visiting the same places many times over, and during that time, almost always find themselves in-doors. I still have fond memories of walking golden beaches, sneaking away on cruise-liners and visiting market stalls in previous installments. This time around, however, I don’t retain any such memories about any of the locations in The Serpent’s Curse. Although I get the impression that this Episode was designed to set the tone for the game’s major moments in episode two. We’ll have to wait and see.

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Graphically, The Serpent’s Curse is absolutely perfect for the genre in 2014. It feels current, fresh and still does a magnificent job of staying anchored to its roots. The characters are very active and alive. Nico will regularly check her phone for messages when she’s standing around, while George’s eyes are everywhere. The rest of the cast are equally observant and alert, mindful of others in their immediate area and the environment at large.

Unfortunately, you’ll find yourself finishing up in an area quicker than you might expect. It’s almost always too obvious what you need to do. Puzzles are almost always solved with an item you’ve just picked up, rather than something you picked up a while back. And despite George’s sizeable inventory, quite a few objects aren’t used for anything in particular. Though I would imagine some of these items will play more of a role in Episode Two. And even if you do get stuck, the Hint System in the top left hand of the screen is a grand temptation. It will always spell out the solution for you, but only if you want it to. The team have done a magnificent job of providing as many subtle clues as possible before explaining everything. Even if you’re just looking for a bit of direction, the game will help shift your priorities so you can try to work it out yourself. However, if you’re really stuck, you can always elaborate further.

This is the Broken Sword I remember. The missteps of Angel of Death and The Sleeping Dragon are distant memories, and there are real shades of The Smoking Mirror and Shadow of the Templars residing within this narrative. Without question, The Serpent’s Curse does a magnificent job of getting the series ‘back on track’.  I’m very excited to see what happens in Part Two, as the mystery and history surrounding the painting is sure to take front and center stage.

It’s not perfect. Despite the dramatic opening, some of the tension goes missing midway through and over-familiarity in locations eventually causes the episode to lull, but things start to pick up towards the end and will really send your anticipation levels into overdrive.

Some of the puzzles are also slightly questionable. Focusing on a roaming cockroach and a pecking seagull certainly won’t be remembered as series highlights. Still, episode one does a wonderful job of reminding us how much we missed the exploits of Stobbart and Collard. Cecil and co have brought us back to the glory days of Broken Sword, and we couldn’t be happier.

Pros:

  • The glory days of Broken Sword are here again
  • Nico and George’s chemistry is in fine form
  • The engine works wonderfully for the Point & Click Genre in 2014
  • Wit, suspense and mystery make for an incredible plot

Cons:

  • Some of the puzzles miss the mark
  • Numerous unnecessary inventory items
  • Mid-way lull dulls some of the tension
  • Over-familiarity in locations

Rating:

4 out of 5

A rare modern gem that is respectful of its roots, and remains fresh and current in today’s bustling market. The Serpent’s Curse: Episode One isn’t perfect, but remains engaging throughout its four hour duration. Episode two can’t come soon enough.

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,