With every new version of a well-loved movie or game, there comes much responsibility and also much fan debate (and hate), resulting from a discrepancy between what one remembers of a game and why the director or game designer wanted in the first place. Remakes are a different story if they’re done by a third party. So how does Revolution Software’s Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – Director’s Cut fare?
Two storylines which try to find each other
Having a different perspective on a story that is already over ten years old is justified, but playing with a gamer’s memories is a different story entirely. By including a new opening chapter and side story which jumps between the main one left intact is an interesting take, although it works only to a certain degree. In the original game, it was already hinted that Nico was investigating a series of murders when she finally meets George, so it’s only logical to show her first encounter with one of those grisly deaths, this time by a pantomine. Her father seems to be somehow involved as well.
So far so good. The way the player investigates is also rewarding and wouldn’t look out of place in a Broken Sword title. The only problem is that despite trying to flesh out her character more, this episode doesn’t add much to the main story, and even if the change of pace between George’s and Nico’s investigations makes for varied gameplay, the parts feel disconnected and don’t add much to their relationship or the progression of the story. Worse: Nico’s investigation simply makes the game longer and lose some of its momentum, therefore turning the perfect pacing of the original into an unnecessarily disrupted one. The addition of a new and rather sappy ending, plus the alternation of a perfect beginning are further proof that one shouldn’t always tamper with something which isn’t broken and doesn’t need fixing.
New puzzles added to an old game
While most of the gameplay is left unchanged, there are obviously new puzzles in Nico’s sections. Some work quite well with their investigative touch (like piecing together torn letters or decrypting messages), others are unnecessarily cumbersome (sliding puzzles). A few alterations have been made by adding more puzzle sequences in the main game, although their value and purpose are questionable, as they don’t add any new ideas. Still, there are some additions like a hotspot key and a clue/diary system which make the game more accessible and comfortable to newcomers, although the latter could have been put to better use with the added variety in puzzles, as only a select few require checking the diary once in a while.
It should also be noted that in addition to some welcome changes in death-scene difficulty and alterations to more obscure puzzle segments (keyword: chess), a comic and making-of can be unlocked, giving additional background information on the original title.
Old technology with artistic changes
Graphically, there are some differences, too, but not in a good way. Backgrounds and characters are mainly left alone in the main game, and the new locations are well-drawn too (although they can’t really compete with the original, especially since there aren’t a lot new ones), while the characters also look the same. So it’s not all Monkey Island reboot with a bad hairstyle déja vu. Unfortunately, character portraits have been included which are shown during conversations. These cover up parts of the wonderful scenery and sometimes don’t even look like the original characters. Trying to convey some emotions with facial animations is one thing, but having them presented in a low-budget anime open-close-mouth-eyes way stands in stark contrast to the rest of the fluid animations. The addition of new cutscenes (and an end sequence) is questionable as well, because there’s a discrepancy between the graphical and artistic quality which doesn’t gel well together with the other cutscenes.
A questionable remake of a very good game
All in all, Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – The Director’s Cut is an interesting but ultimately unnecessary effort to improve on a perfect game, as it fails to add anything interestingly new to the main story or character development. While some of the puzzles are fun and add to the longevity, they’re not really that memorable. What one ends up with is a game which feels too long than necessary with some artistic incongruencies which could also have been left out. Nevertheless, for first-time players, the “old material” will be just as rewarding to play through than it was over 10 years ago, having lost none of its sparkle in storytelling.
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