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Broken Sword

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Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror
Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon

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Broken Sword: The Angel of Death
Broken Sword 2.5

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Broken Sword: The Angel of Death / Secrets of the Ark: A Broken Sword Game - PC (2006)

European Cover

American Cover

Broken Sword: The Angel of Death

By 2006, Revolution Software had been reduced solely to Charles Cecil, but that didn't stop him from hiring up a few old folks as consultants and developing the fourth Broken Sword game. Subtitled as "The Angel of Death" in Europe, and known as "Secrets of the Ark: A Broken Sword Game" in North America, this most recent entry was actually outsourced to Sumo Digital, the British development house who's mostly known for working with Sega on their tennis games. Once again, it's fully 3D, but it's a bit of a return to form, bringing back the cursor-based interface and ditching some of the more annoying puzzles.

The story begins with George having separated from Nico once again, this time having ended up in New York City and reduced to work as a bail bonds clerk. On a rainy night, George is visited by a young woman named Anna Maria, who seeks his advice in deciphering yet another old manuscript. Trouble follows her, though, as George and Anna Maria are forced out by a group of mafia thugs, who have their own plans. After retrieving and analyzing the manuscript, the duo are led to Istanbul, where they discover a golden statue beneath the palace. Unfortunately, the next day, George wakes up to find both the statue and Anna Maria missing, and furthermore, gets tossed into a Turkish prison. Through some fantastic coincidence, George meets up with Nico - disguised as a nun, with a different haircut and yet another voice actress, with a less pronounced accent - and set off to find both the statue and the missing girl. Their adventures will take them to a monastery in Rome, a strange laboratory in Phoenix, and the bowels of the Vatican, as they discover another group of people set to destroy the world. This time, they seek the power of the Lost Ark, to unleash the plague that Moses cast upon the people of Egypt - otherwise known as, of course, The Angel of Death.

While the basic plot isn't terribly different from Raiders of the Lost Ark (minus the Nazis), there are enough twists and turns to make it stand out on its own. The narrative isn't without its problems though. The opening segments are quite boring - it takes far too long to escape from the bail bonds building - and the game really doesn't pick up until Nico joins about a third of the way through the adventure. And then there's Anna Maria. She's obviously meant to be a new love interest for George, but despite her motivations, she's really little more than a nice body and a pretty face. In other words, she's no Nico, but at least the tensions between the two girls lead to some interesting dialogue.

Some of the stronger humor elements from the first two games have made it back, which is definitely welcome. One of the first thugs you face is a bizarre Elvis impersonator, the local mafia thugs have a strange fixation on salami, to the point where it appears on their gang tattoo, and one of the most interesting folks is a priest obsessed with action movies. (Also, apparently "In Cold Blood", an older action-adventure game by Revolution Software, is an action movie in the Broken Sword universe, which is a fun little reference for fans.) You even get to run into Duane at one point, however briefly. It's still not as funny as it could be, although the writing is otherwise pretty decent. And while the endings of the previous Broken Sword games have always felt a bit rushed - defeat bad guys, everyone hugs, credits roll - this one is even worse, with only the vaguest of resolutions.

While fans may champion the return of the point and click interface, it doesn't work nearly as well as it should either. The pathfinding is terrible and the sudden camera changes make maneuvering more difficult than it should be. There's still an option to move with the keyboard, but it's also clumsy and hardly manageable. Most of the more annoying bits from The Sleeping Dragon, like the box puzzles and the reaction segments, are gone, although there are still a few stealth segments. In their places are regular inventory puzzles, as well as several hacking mini-games. One of George's greatest tools is his PDA, which can be used to jack into certain computers, as well as make phone calls and access historical databases, which not only provide extensive background but are also required to solve certain logic puzzles.

Despite the three year difference between The Sleeping Dragon and Secrets of the Ark, this game somehow looks worse than its predecessor. On a technical level, it's a bit better, with improved character models and such, but the backgrounds are incredibly drab, the lighting effects are gone, and the animations are a bit worse. It's also quite glitchy at parts, and the seams in the programming are quite apparent. Strangely, they ditched the past-tense narration, and you still can't skip through lines of dialogue.

So, even though in many ways it's a step in a better direction, Secrets of the Ark still suffers from a number of issues. It's not just the technology though - it's well written and amusing enough, as usual - but overall it can't help but feel somewhat uninspired, like it doesn't really have anything interesting to say. Like many modern adventure games, it's good to see the genre is still alive, especially in a series so revered as Broken Sword, but merely showing up isn't enough.

Broken Sword: The Angel of Death

Broken Sword: The Angel of Death

Broken Sword: The Angel of Death

Broken Sword: The Angel of Death

Broken Sword: The Angel of Death

View all "Broken Sword Angel of Death" items on eBay

Fan Game: Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of the Templars - PC (2008)

Cover

Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of the Templars

Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of the Templars

In 2001, a group of German fans who called themselves MindFactory began work on their own Broken Sword game. Between then and the time it was released in 2008, two official Broken Sword games had been released. And yet those seven years of effort paid off in an astounding way. Officially known as Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of the Templars, it utilizes the same 2D art style as the first two games, and thus feels closer to being a "true" Broken Sword game than even its official 3D sequels.

As the title suggests, Broken Sword 2.5 takes place in between Broken Swords 2 and 3. George has left for America once again to tend to his dying grandfather, when he receives a shocking telegraph - Nico Collard is dead! He takes the first jet to Paris and finds her alive, if not particularly well. She's quite distant, and furthermore, seems to be involved in an assassination attempt on the governor of Paris. Of course, the truth isn't quite apparent, but it does involve the resurgence of the Templars, naturally. In digging further into their history, George and Nico learn of an ancient connection to a Chinese emperor - and naturally, the two must travel the world to stop another diabolical Templar plot. Along the way, they'll meet a few familiar faces, including one character from the original Broken Sword that, by all means, should have been dead.

It's astounding how professional this game feels. The game actually runs in a higher resolution than the first two Broken Swords - 800x600 vs 640x480 - which means the graphics are even crisper. Many of the assets needed to be redrawn, or at least touched up. There are plenty of familiar locales, and while the redone artwork isn't quite as detailed as it was in the first game, everything still looks very nice, and the new locations are just as well illustrated. Even the music, despite missing a live orchestra, sounds fantastic. All of the dialogue is fully voice-acted too, and they even got the original voice actor for the German games to reprise George. The English version has a decent replacement for George (no Rolf Saxon, unfortunately), and Nico...well, Nico's been played by four different actresses in four different games, so it's not like they had any real consistency either. It's also surprising how well written the dialogue is too - it's quirky and funny, as it should be, it just cements the fact that you probably wouldn't know it's a fan game if someone didn't tell you.

Well, that and the cinemas. Asking for fully animated, hand drawn cutscenes might've been a bit much, so we have to do with computer rendered cutscenes, which don't look great, but are sparse in number. The rest of the stumbling blocks are few, and many are common with the rest of the series. A few of the puzzles involve tiny objects that require lots of pixel hunting, and the plot doesn't really pick up until near the end, by which point the game's almost over. The adventure is quite a bit shorter than the other games, and a bit too much takes place in Paris, making it a bit overly familiar (or perhaps, nostalgic) to players of the first game. Still, there are plenty of new locations, and it's cool to talk to old characters, like the waitress in the cafe, who's considerably less shaken up.

Broken Sword 2.5 is available for free download on their site, which even includes printable materials to make your own case. It's a class act job all around, and not only one of the best fan made games in the adventure game genre, but more than worthy of the Broken Sword game. It can be obtained from http://www.brokensword25.com.

Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of the Templars

Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of the Templars

Broken Sword 2.5: The Return of the Templars

Quotes

Shadow of the Templars

George: Paris in the fall, the last months of the year, at the end of the millennium. The city holds many memories for me, of music, of cafes, of love, and of death.

George: As I picked myself up, all I could hear was the ceaseless drone of traffic. Life went on around me, but the explosion was to change my life forever.

Moue: Freeze! Hold it... right there!
George: Woah! Don't shoot! I'm innocent! I'm an American!
Moue: Can't make up your mind, huh?

George: Let's just say I'm working in the interests of truth and justice.
Todryk: Ah, Thank God, I thought you were the police.

George: You speak very good English for a French girl.
Nico: Thanks. You speak very good English for an American

George: Look Sergeant, the Inspector gave me his card.
Moue: Yes, m'sieur. He wants you to advise him if you have any information concerning this case.
George: Well, I'd be glad to talk with him, but I don't want him working his psycho-weirdness on me.
Moue: Ah! Non, monsieur, you are confusing the science of parapsychology with witchcraft.
George: Oh yeah? What's the difference?
Moue: We don't do sacrifices.

George: It's a weird thing but you could take the most intelligent people in the world...put them in their vacation duds and, Hey Presto!...they look like morons. Why is that?

George: You speak very good English.
Nejo: Thank you, sir. I learned from tapes that my uncle procured.
George: Oh. A language course.
Nejo: No, sir. "Jeeves and Wooster". Gussie Fink-Nottle! Aunt Agatha! What-Ho!

The Smoking Mirror:

Pablo: Who is it?
George: Pizza delivery.
Pablo: I didn't order pizza.
George: No? This is the Condor Transglobal Shipping Company, isn't it?
Pablo: I don't like pizza.
George: C'mon! Everyone likes pizza! Look, this pizza has been paid for, you might as well take it.
Pablo: I told you, I don't like pizza.
George: Not even with extra olives?
Pablo: I hate them. Olives are the devil's butt nuggets.

George: (after showing the dead worm to cat) The cat looked to me as if to say "Why have you brought a dead worm halfway around the world to me?" I honestly didn't have an answer.

George: (after solving a particularly mindbending puzzle) I'd successfully got the marker into a position near the top of the needle simply by using the kind of lateral thinking that can get you institutionalised.

The Sleeping Dragon

Irate Scottish Chef: Who the hell are you anyway?
Nico: Er...Susan.
Irate Scottish Chef: Susan? What kind of pathetic, girly name is that?
Nico: It's er...a name for a girl.
Irate Scottish Chef: Well change it. I don't like it.

Broken Sword (PC)

Broken Sword (PC)


Broken Sword II (PC)

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon (PC)

A Broken Sword motion picture has been optioned by a major movie studio, however, it remains to be seen whether anything will become of it.

Links

Revolution Software Web site of the developers.
Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon Official site of the third game.
Broken Sword: The Director's Cut Official site for the re-release.
SCUMMVM Grab this to run the first two Broken Sword games on nearly any operating system.


Broken Sword II (PC)

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Broken Sword

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Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror
Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon

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Broken Sword: The Angel of Death
Broken Sword 2.5

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