Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars

[Review] Broken Sword – Shadow of the Templars Director’s Cut (PC)

One day a few weeks ago, I was perusing the discount bin at EB Games, and came upon Broken Sword – Shadow of the Templars Director’s Cut for the DS. I had never heard of the Broken Sword franchise before. I surmised from the back cover it was an adventure game, so as always, I thought: Why not try it out! From the start of the game I was immediately intrigued by the story of Nico Collard, a French journalist investigating the murder of a media mogul in Paris, and George Stobbart, an American lawyer on vacation interested in a recent bombing of a French cafe who suspects a conspiracy. Of course there is more to the story than meets the eye, and together Nico and George work together to solve the mystery surrounding the incidences, which include a link to a neo-sect of the Knights Templar. The story sends you to different countries, picking up clues and interviewing suspects. Shadow of the Templars is a point and click adventure where areas are highlighted as you click around the scenes. You pick up items, combine them and then use them when interviewing people you meet along the way. There are also puzzles to solve, but most of the story involves you interviewing suspects.

Playing this game on the DS wasn’t that great, and I honestly didn’t get too far with it on this platform as everything appeared so teeny tiny and blurry on two screens. The animation, gameplay and graphics really didn’t live up to the strength of the story, and I remember telling my husband I would rather read the transcript of Shadow of the Templars than play it on the DS.

Before I give up on any game, though, I like to read up on its backstory to gain perspective. In doing so, I discovered the Director’s Cut version (the version I played) is slightly different than the original 1996 release of the game in terms of the sequence of events within the story. The Director’s Cut is available on other devices and platforms (PC, MAC, iPad, Android, Wii), and it was recently on sale on Good Old Games for the PC, so my husband picked it up for me with the hope the PC version played better – and it did.

To start, the PC version of Shadow of the Templars had voice-acting (completely missing from the DS version), which made the gameplay a better experience. Also, using the mouse to click around in the game seemed to work better than using a DS stylus. And finally, the best part about the PC version – I could see to play the game! On the DS, some of the details were too pixelized to tell what they were, but thankfully, the PC version allowed me to better see, read and hear what it was I was looking at with a few exceptions I will explain later.

Shadow of the Templars was a game originally released in 1996, and unfortunately, some scenes for both PC and DS versions do look like they were made 17 years ago, but you can tell the developers cleaned some scenes up and added some new animations. The voice acting was professional, strong and entertaining, especially the actor who played George Stobbart. The gameplay itself was not difficult, and if you screwed up in interviewing a suspect, you were never penalized. Overall, the game was enjoyable, and I’d like to look into the other sequels they have of this game. It is important to emphasize though, that this game is strongly character and story driven, and I think the story alone is one that could stand on its own without the gaming adventure piece. The developers did an excellent job of writing an epic story and incorporating an adventure video game within it. Like other critics have already pointed out – the story of Nico and George is very reminiscent of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code; I’ve read the book, and can say I do see similarities. But, I have to remember this game came before Dan Brown was on the scene, and having read Brown’s book and played this game I can say I’ve enjoyed both on their own merits.

And now the complainy bits about Shadow of the Templars: I relied on the voice-acting when playing the PC version as the text on-screen was way too small for me to read on my big 42 inch TV (seriously!). Thankfully, for the most part, I could hear the voice-acting…except when there was a revelation within the plot, in which case the background music would crescendo, drowning out the voices. There was one part where Nico was explaining a back story, but I couldn’t hear it for the music that drowned her out (and yes, I turned the music way down in the settings).

One more thing: I wish Nico had more participation in the story. At the beginning  of Shadow of the Templars Director’s Cut, we meet Nico, and it seemed like she was the central character, but once we are introduced to George, she seemed to sink into the background, allowing George to do all the investigating. I’m not saying this to be a hard-nosed feminist. I like both characters in this game. But I wanted to interact more with Nico. Her history, the story of her father, and her personality were things I didn’t feel were developed enough, and wished to learn more about her.

Overall, Broken Sword -Shadow of the Templars Director’s Cut was a great story with a decent gameplay on the PC, and I recommend it. I would pass on the DS version, though. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has played this on the tablet or iPad what your experience of this game was. But, for now, happy gaming!

Broken Sword – Shadow of the Templars Director’s Cut (PC)
Developers: Revolution Software
Released 2009

Credit: Engadget