To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £15
inc VAT

A sound plot, excellent voice acting and great dialogue all help make this mystery one of our favourite recent adventure games

Point and click adventure games have seen a revival of fortunes of late, following success on mobile platforms and numerous crowdfunding campaigns. The fifth Broken Sword is the latest; like its prequels, The Serpent’s Curse revolves around murder, occult conspiracies and a mysterious MacGuffin which may or may not have mystical powers.

An introduction set during the Spanish Civil War introduces the MacGuffin in question: a painting called La Maledicció. The game proper opens in an art gallery in modern-day Paris, where La Maledicció is on display. The series’ returning protagonists, French investigative journalist Nico Collard and American lawyer turned insurance assessor George Stobbart run into each other at the exhibition. They’ve barely had a minute to talk when a man in a motorcycle helmet bursts into the gallery, steals the painting and murders the gallery owner.

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse

Nico and George soon find themselves running up against the art forgers, a Russian oligarch, the finest minds of the French gendarmerie and a member of an ancient Gnostic tradition who claims to be the painting’s real owner. The twists and revelations can at times be predictable, but it’s tightly plotted, consistently engaging and has sharp, believable dialogue with top-notch voice-acting to match. You’ll spend most of your time controlling George, although you’ll periodically switch to Nico as she makes critical discoveries in the investigation.

The present day, real-world scenario sets The Serpent’s Curse apart from the fantastic, comedic and period games that made up the bulk of last year’s point and click releases. The 2D environments are a welcome return to the style of the first two instalments following the 3D graphics of the second and third entries in the series. The backgrounds are beautiful, with loads of detail in outdoor scenes in particular. Character art and animation can be a little more simplistic, but the overall effect comes together nicely.

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse

The pace is measured and the puzzles logical, calling for more engagement than the use-everything-on-everything-until-it-works approach that is often the lowest common denominator of adventure games. They aren’t particularly hard, though. We never had to resort to the built-in hint system, but there are a few puzzles that’ll keep even experienced adventurers scratching their heads for a little while. We were happily perplexed for a few minutes while we tried to work out the best way to distract a shopkeeper long enough to get a look at her personal documents, while a typewriter keyboard and a rare book helped us uncover a code in Cyrillic.

There are moments, such as when rifling a room before someone returns, when the sense of tension generated by the game’s narrative doesn’t match up to its actual pace. You might be told you have to move quickly before the house’s owner comes back into the room, but the game just waits until you solve the puzzle in your own time. We generally hate timed puzzles in adventure games, so it’s a not bad design choice per se, but it does slightly compromise your suspension of disbelief.

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse

Remaining compelling throughout the seven or so hours of play we got from the first of its two parts, we have high hopes for the other half. A little more tension would have been welcome in places and some might wish for more difficult puzzles, but the strength of the plot, dialogue and voice acting carry the game all the way to Best Buy award, assuming part two keeps up the quality.

Only the first part of the game is currently available, on Windows, Mac, Linux and PS Vita with Android and iOS versions to follow, but the second part will be distributed free to owners when it launches later this year. It’s a must-have for adventure game fans, although some will doubtless want to wait for the tablet version.



Read more