Publisher: Nordic Games
Developer: King Art Games
Release Date: Out Now
Thieves, gangsters, and distrustful bystanders. Murder, mystery and a journey across land and sea. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the latest title from developer King Art Games, The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief seems to take its cues from the works of well-known author Dame Agatha Christie, her influence permeating every element of the game, from the familiar periodic setting to the family-friendly feel that the game emanates.
The Raven puts you in the shoes of Anton Jakob Zellner, an endearing policeman (easily mistaken for Hercule Poirot with that moustache) who we follow as he travels far and wide in an exciting tale of murder, mystery and jewel thieves. The debut instalment in a three-part episodic series, it offers a wonderful and deeply engrossing story that you will not want to put down until you reach the end, and after that you’ll be left eager for more. With intriguing characters, (including what may as well be a cameo from Christie herself), outstanding voice-work, and a beautiful soundtrack, The Raven is a marvellous example of an engaging heist adventure that hooks its talons in you from the very beginning.
You start the first chapter of your journey as the amicable Constable Zellner, riding the Orient Express. It’s here that you find yourself dragged into the centre of a mystery when it is discovered that the notorious thief, The Raven has his sights on a jewel locked up on the train a few carriages away. Your enthusiasm to help out on the case goes ignored by the unshakable Inspector Nicolas Legrand who is adamant that he can wrap this up without your interference. But with a penchant for mystery, the bumbling Zellner uses his own initiative to hunt down the vital clues and attempt to solve the case singlehandedly.
Typical of the usual point and click adventure game formula, your investigation involves the usual path of walking around to discover and collect random useful items that help to progress the story, and The Raven manages to thrust you straight into the action. Thus begins the entertaining process of going from room to room, opening drawers, asking other passengers for information and so forth, until you manage to resolve the conundrum. The dialogue is fleshed out well, and it goes without saying that The Raven is an exceptionally well written story, that continues to surprise you at every plot twist. Just when you think you’ve worked it all out, The Raven will throw something new at you and change the whole dynamic of the story.
Adding on to the fun-factor, and an aspect of the game that deems it far more accessible to newcomers, is the fact that some of the puzzles are designed to be optional, which in turn is great for both novice and veteran of point-and-click games. Another nifty feature is the scoring system, which totals up dependent on how many puzzles you solve and how many clues you come across.
One of the great joys of playing The Raven is uncovering and learning more about the characters, their personalities and back stories. Everyone has a story to tell or something to hide, from the young violinist who gets strangely flustered when you ask to see inside the case of his instrument, to the neurotic professor who manages to lock himself out of his room. Aside from spending a lot of time talking to others, the rest of the time will be spent picking up items and solving puzzles that will progress the story. Along your journey, Zellner will have to get himself out of risky situations or spend time figuring out how to get himself into risky situations. The majority of solutions involve using your surroundings and inventory in the traditional point and click adventure style. However, although the puzzles seem fairly straightforward, the story manages to pace itself incredibly well, and by not being bogged down by overcomplicated brainteasers, it therefore not once falls off the beaten track.
The soundtrack and localisation of The Raven are, without a doubt, exceptional. Considering the fact that the game was written and developed in Germany, the translation is considerably outstanding and the voice acting is commendable across the board, notably the smooth Swiss tones of Zellner himself, but not forgetting young boy Matt who brings a whole new level of decency to child voice acting. From the opening cut-scene to the rolling credits, the audio is outstanding.
Yet another aspect of the game worth talking about is the grand orchestral tracks that manage to set the tone of the game for each individual scene. From the haunting but exciting main theme composed mainly of stringed instruments, down to the lighter carefree tone created by the brass instruments, the audio manages to capture the atmosphere of the game perfectly. The mystery and suspense of the story is ramped up by each individual track, and this is especially a game in which the soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment.
The Raven is obviously graphically apt, but is not without its minor flaws. The crisp 3D environments are well detailed, along with the character art, which again is very distinctive. The use of shadows and lighting effects within the game are totally impressive, however, the animation is where the game lets itself down. Though most of the character animation and interactions are incredibly well done, the character’s faces seem somewhat lacklustre, almost as though they have no life to them. Another annoying factor is the game’s desire to cut the action scenes short just when that scene starts to get interesting. It usually just fades to black and continues on from a different point in time, but it definitely steals away some of the excitement. It’s a shame, as the game itself is beautifully created, only to be let down by these slight niggles.
The game itself can be completed within about 7 hours, which feels like a good length of time to get you hooked right in. The cliff-hanger ending is sudden and quickly throws you off, but it most definitely sets you up for the next part of the series. It’ll certainly be interesting to see where The Raven will take us from this point, and I’m anticipating the continuation that is to be released later this month.
- A well-paced storyline that keeps you immersed from beginning to end
- Outstanding voice-work and exceptional localisation
- Great orchestral soundtrack
- Interesting and unique characters
- Crisp, clean graphics and beautifully detailed art
- Slight animation shortfalls
RATING: 4 out of 5