After going a bit too 3D with QTEs and stealth segments, will Revolution Software (with the help of Sumo Digital) return to old form with Broken Sword: Angel of Death?
George Stobbard discovers the secret of the Lost Ark and what the church, a gang of mobsters and a mysterious and attractive girl named Anna Maria have in common, while his old friend Nico is also met along the way.
Conspiracy this, cliché that
Mystery and crime stories are difficult to write without diving into the depths of clichéd conspiracy theories and Italian mob gangsters. While the plot is engaging to a certain degree and how an old manuscript is used for investigative purposes works extremely well, being reminiscent of the first game, the title ultimately suffers from neglecting what made the series great in the first place: an adventuring duo who complement each other. So instead of Nico and George, there’s too much George Stobbard and Anna Maria whose relationship is superficial.
When Nico finally comes into play (way too late), their interaction is forced, while their conversations are often less entertaining because of George’s pseudo coolness which is further complicated by some chauvinistic remarks. Few emotional scenes help this characterization at the end when the player doesn’t care anymore about George, Anna Maria or Nico, while the plot gets more convoluted and nonsensical. NPCs are also less interesting with few exceptions, like a priest who loves violent movies. Except for this, conversations with other people aren’t that fun anymore, compared to the older titles.
Returning to gameplay roots…of the problem
The gameplay is less action-oriented and focuses on inventory object combinations and environmental interactions in addition to the typical conversations with various characters. There is also a bit of research to be done on specific topics in a historical data base where connections have to be made, while the aforementioned manuscript provides clues to certain puzzles. These are varied, but they can also become frustrating, because their solutions aren’t always clear. Especially the object combinations are difficult when running from one place to another for a very obscure interaction with the environment, which gets extremely annoying when these have to be done on time as well.
Even if there are no QTEs or stealth sections, the classic point-and-click adventure gameplay receives a problematic hacking mini-game that outstays its welcome very soon. Here players are tasked to direct one or more data streams through various computer terminals (or gateways) with a select number of mirror-like devices. This gets more difficult when other obstacles have to be avoided. There’s no timer, but it’s still a rather unnecessary mini-game that is more frustrating than it is fun to play. Defusing a bomb at a later stage of the game is even more infuriating, because it is time-sensitive and gives a very limited amount of information to the player in order to solve this problem in a very short time.
Newer technology with mixed results
Despite the return to its point-and-clicker roots in gameplay, the controls are less than perfect due to the 3D environment. Not only do the camera angles obscure one’s vision, but there are too many obstacles where George and Nico get stuck, while the hotkey/interaction spots aren’t always clear either. Graphically, there’s definitely an improvement of the character models over the third game, but the environments are still rather empty. The cinematic presentation is also less engaging here with fewer set-pieces, while the soundtrack and especially voice acting are a bit disappointing as well (even in the German version where some sentences sound offkey).
Not a classic, but still a good game?
Broken Sword: Angel of Death is the low point in the series and a disappointing game in its own right. While it tries to tell an engaging mystery story, the suspense takes a backseat most of the time and the plot drifts into ridiculous scenes the more time is spent with a rather unsympathetic George and boring Nico whose teamwork hasn’t much to do with the older titles. It’s also riddled with control issues and obscure puzzles. This is not a bad adventure game per se, as it does some historical fact and fiction storytelling and mystery solving aspects right, but it’s still not worthy of the title the other games have carried before.
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