The Raven, KING Art Games’ latest Adventure title, is a curious beast. The developer’s previous forays into the timeless genre, The Book of Unwritten Tales and it’s prequel, Critter Chronicles, were met with generally favourable reviews, due to their good humour, intriguing fantasy graphics and charming personalities. However, the first chapter of their latest, curiously episodic release was met with mixed reactions, with some lauding it as “boring”, “a mess” and “tedious”. As such, I felt that a little cross-examination of the first segment was needed before fully beginning my investigation into this mystery’s second chunk, and I’m glad I did!
Set in the 1960’s, The Raven’s first chapter follows Constable Jakob Zellner’s adventure across the planet as he attempts to unravel a mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s, involving ancient Egyptian artifacts and a supposedly-dead master thief. Whilst the narrative flows at a relaxed pace with few moments of excitement, it remains generally enjoyable due to the cast of intriguing characters and stereotypes, convincing dialogue and curious moments of mystery. Ending on a cliffhanger with a villain revealed, the stage is set well for a more explosive second part. And that’s exactly what is delivered. Upon starting the chapter you realise the opening was just that; a lead into what turns out to be a much more compelling sequence of events.
The story really heats up with moments of high emotion from a variety of the cast. Characterisation is a strong-point of The Raven, as most are shown to be multidimensional and fundamentally flawed somehow. Few new characters are introduced, but as revelations are made about each and the connections are discovered, you can’t help but feel for their situations, especially in the case of a particular old lady and her companion. Many threads are tied here, but some are also left un-resolved, undoubtedly to be revealed in the third chapter.
The change of pace in this chapter is entirely welcome, with more set-pieces and a new sense of urgency, especially when Zellner’s time draws to a close and his search for the thief reaches it’s close. Also welcome is the second half of the chapter, shown from the perspective of the perpetrator of the theft. Whilst attempting to keep this spoiler free, it’s incredibly compelling to play the entire adventure again through another character’s eyes. In doing so, through your own actions many small things are explained. The entire segment also reflects the thief’s nature as a criminal, with each action smothered in tension.
An element key to the success of any adventure game is the puzzles themselves, and in this respect Chapter 2 doesn’t do half bad. The puzzles are of a generally higher quality than the first, with solutions which generally make sense both functionally and logically, whilst never really feeling like arbitrary filler. They never really outstay their welcome, though I partially would prefer a few more thrown in for Chapter 3.
What truly differentiates this from other Adventure games are the aforementioned “Agatha Christie” stylings, which could be partially to blame for many of the arguments made against it. At its core, this is a crime story with adventure game elements rather than the other way around. The action doesn’t really pick up until half way through the first chapter, simply because a story of this fashion requires a long build up, allowing the audience and “detective” to learn about the various characters before an actual crisis. With this information, both can start to formulate theories following an “incident”, slowly piecing everything together before a more exciting sequence leads them to a conclusion. In this way, in The Raven there are no quick thrills, but when the intriguing mystery reaches that oh so familiar “Aha!” moment you honestly feel like you’ve achieved something.
The main criticism I have of The Raven is regarding the actual build quality of the experience. Whilst it looks and sounds the part, with charming character/world design, a colourful pallette, well chosen voicing and incredibly atmospheric music, the animation quality in both chapters is far from stellar. Without sounding too harsh, at certain moments it resembled things seen in Garry’s Mod, with jerky movements and awkward facial expressions popping up at all the wrong times. Luckily this is less of an issue in the second chapter, but still a factor hindering the trilogy as a package. There are also a variety of small bugs and some clipping/movement issues, especially with screen transitions.
So does The Raven’s second segment improve upon the first? Definitely. Yes, it’s buggy and somewhat rough round the edges in terms of mechanical execution and general polish, but to yet it’s a well-tailored crime story which, to the right person, is engaging from start to finish with plenty of heart. It lacks the comedy of many adventure games, but is a compelling experience, and comes highly recommended for patient fans of crime novels and stories.
The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief is available now from both the Nordic Games Shop and on Steam for £20.99, with Chapter 3 (A Murder of Ravens) releasing on September 24th.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.