Broken Sword, as a series, has always stayed a little outside my radar. Growing up with Monkey Island and Simon the Sorcerer I was always tugged to the more outlandish adventure games out there, though as I grew I found myself wanting something a little deeper. If only I’d found Broken Sword; a series which is more akin to a da-vinci-code-esque detective novel than a swashbuckling adventure. The series, which began in 1996 with The Shadow or the Templars, gained critical acclaim for its polished mechanics and storylines. A sequel quickly followed in 1997 and a third entry was released in 2000. Whilst the first three were well received, 2005’s fourth entry, The Sleeping Dragon, struggled with fans due to a high number of action sequences and crate puzzles. Like the titular dragon, this caused the series to sleep for a number of years, until Revolution decided to revive the series in 2012 with the help of Kickstarter. The Serpent’s Curse, the fruit bore of the highly successful campaign was finally released in 2014, and has arrived on a number of other platforms since. With the latest version recently hitting the Switch the question is “does it hold up in comparison to other, similar games which have also arrived on the console?”.
The plot of Broken Sword V begins in Paris, as many of them do, with our two heroes George and Nico attending an art exhibition. Pretty swiftly, there is a violent robbery leaving the owner in a pool of blood, which of course is left to the player to solve. Controlling Nico and George alternatively, the player is led on a winding mystery adventure that has more than a pinch of a “Da Vinci Code” vibe, and a little bit of “Indiana Jones” thrown in for good measure. Saying much more than that would spoil the experience, but suffice to say it winds well and leaves the played intrigued by the mystery for much of the game. Intrigue, crime and romance intertwine to make an excellently crafted story.
The Serpent’s Curse has an elegant and streamlined yet effective interface; like any excellently designed adventure game should. The cursor is controlled either by the control sticks or touch on the Switch, with the A button or a simple tap activating the most contextually obvious interaction, with other interactions (usually examine) being controlled by other buttons. Using these controls, the player travels around the world (starting in Paris) and interacts with a variety of people and objects to progress the plot. It’s a well-put together system which contains just the right amount of depth to appeal to older fans.
The graphics are also incredibly impressive, mixing an almost MI3 style with fully-realised backgrounds and 3d elements. It just works, lending a distinct style to the whole experience which elevates it above its predecessors. It’s a timeless style which is used incredibly effectively throughout the world.
The sound design of the game is also excellent, with Rolf Saxon reprising his role as George masterfully. The game is fully voice acted with multiple languages supported in this release and an excellent musical score. The French roots of the series come through in the sheer quality of the French accents with which they are presented.
In conclusion, I feel that BS5 is an excellent addition to the console and the series that, despite some hiccups, has grown into a multi-platform success. The intuitive design lends a lot to the formulae, even if the occasional glaring plot holes leave much to be desired. George, as a protagonist, is genuinely likable and lives up to the excellent writing in previous games. I can highly recommend this to all adventure game fans; just watch out for snakes.