The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief review
Point and click adventure games are renowned for their atmosphere and The Raven is no exception. In 1960, the master thief known as The Raven was shot and fatally wounded by the young French detective Nicolas Legrand. Four years later, a spectacular theft at the British Museum, signed with a black feather, has convinced Inspector Legrand that The Raven is back in business. However, the previously gentlemanly burglar, who harmed no one, has become more violent in his methods.
As the game opens, our protagonist is neither the daring Raven nor the driven Inspector Legrand. Instead, you take control of Anton Jacob Zellner, an aging Swiss police constable who’s been seconded to Legrand’s Interpol investigation. Events begin slowly on the Orient Express, where a precious cargo is being transported to Venice, but as the game progresses, the troubled Legrand’s obsession with The Raven blinds him to any evidence of another guilty party. Zellner must uncover the truth before anyone else gets hurt, as a pattern of catastrophe, sabotage and too-convenient coincidence starts to emerge.
The 3D graphics aren’t what you’d call photorealistic, but they set the scene brilliantly, creating lavish environments which reminded us of both period magazine illustrations and classic 2D adventure games such as Cruise for a Corpse and The Dagger of Amon Ra. Zellner’s travels take him from the Orient Express to a cruise liner, both classic set-ups for a closed circle mystery, in which a limited number of suspects are trapped together while the criminal’s schemes continue around them.
The game uses closed environments - a train, a cruise ship - to heighten the atmosphere of mystery
The puzzles, plot and game structure also hark back to seminal mystery adventures. While there’s a clear storyline to follow, making it easy to keep on track with your investigation, there are a number of optional paths that can be taken. The entire story won’t be derailed if you fail to recover an aristocrat’s purse, but you’ll get extra brownie points for doing so and get to see some content that you’d otherwise miss. These side-quests also provide more demanding challenges which help to offset the relative ease with which experienced adventure gamers may tear through the game.
Talking to your fellow travellers drives the game forward, with an archaeologist, touring violinist, doctor and an English author of detective fiction as obviously inspired by Agatha Christie as the game is itself all dropping in and out. You’ll also uncover clues and work out physical solutions in a crisis, such as making an improvised torch when the lights go out. A handful of puzzles require a little more physical interaction, such as a lock picking exercise in which you bend a piece of wire to the right shape, but there’s nothing that operates on a time limit or which makes great demands of your coordination.
The voice acting is top-notch, featuring established talents such as Rula Lenska. The music can become a little repetitive but absolutely sets the scene and is in keeping with the period setting. We did encounter a few bugs, of which the most irritating meant that we couldn’t re-enter a critical room a second time. We save often when playing adventure games, so were able to go back and solve that room’s puzzle in a single attempt rather than going back and forth to get the items we needed.
The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is being released in three episodes, of which we’ve played only the first, which ends on a cliff-hanger. All three chapters can be bought together for £21, with chapter two coming out on the 27th of August and chapter three due on the 24th of September. Most players should get somewhere between four and six hours of gameplay out of the first episode, depending on whether you take advantage of the built-in hint system and on how much time you invest in scouring every location to find sub-quests and hidden elements.
In the next two instalments - included in the purchase price - you may get to control The Raven himself
Developer King Art promises that you’ll get to see both sides of the story, strongly implying that you’ll get to play as The Raven, or his mysterious heir, in future instalments. Despite a couple of bugs, this is one of the most engaging adventure games we’ve played in years. If you’re a fan of a good mystery, you’d be hard pressed to find a more absorbing point and click adventure than this.