A quick disclaimer before we begin… I’ve never played a Broken Sword game before. I had very little idea of what to expect, have no idea of any works of genius or failings in the series so far, and absolutely no preconceptions of what Broken Sword 5 would be like. What I have played before, however, is dozens of point and click adventure titles and even more text adventure games as a kid, so the idea of moving around and working out how to interact with various people or things isn’t alien to me in any way. Broken Sword 5 adds itself to the currently undernourished collection of pointy clicky games on the PS4, and for anyone interested in the genre is certainly worth a look.
The main idea of the story revolves around the theft of an old, mysterious painting and the murder of the gallery’s owner in the process. This fills the early parts of the game, with plenty of conversations and searching of properties leading you through various surprising twists on your way to finding out the information you need. You’ll be travelling to some varied and beautifully drawn locations throughout the game, and meeting some genuinely intriguing characters, driven on by those controlled by you – George Stobbart and Nico Collard. These are, I’m lead to believe, long serving characters in the Broken Sword series, but there’s no reason to know that; it certainly didn’t enhance my enjoyment once someone mentioned it to me. The conversations themselves are acted out really nicely in terms of the voice work, and whether you’re chatting to the local coffee shop owner, being interrogated by the arrogant detective or keeping an eye on the fairly stroppy goat the characters are believable and humorous to listen to.
The animations aren’t quite so polished, and rely on the often-popular Power Rangers method of speaking (that is, waving your arms around while talking to prove it’s you making the noise) which, while not ruining the game, does take away from the voice acting a little. It’s easy to forgive though – the character models have a 3D cell shaded effect on them, which when plonked on top of the fantastic 2D drawn backgrounds give a very acceptable feeling of depth and perspective.
But as with all games of this ilk, the main attraction is in the puzzles you need to solve. Some are pretty straight forward early on in the game, and rely on you just finding the right item nearby in order to carry out something which you clearly know how to do. Others are extremely cleverly done, such as rearranging the letters on a broken neon sign to give a market trader a new name for his shop, or figuring out a passcode for a CCTV system by finding a key piece of information about its owner. But these are very early in the game – as you get further on the difficulty of these puzzles is increased considerably, leaving that horrible desire to hit Google for a walkthrough when things get tough. Generally they’re entirely possible to figure out, but I’ll admit to being stumped once or twice and having to stop and come back later to think again. It can be frustrating when you can’t quite see what you need to click on, even in the opening half hour I spent ages trying to find something, only to find it tucked away and looking very, very tiny on the screen in front of me. It’s traditional pointy clicky stuff, but no less annoying than it’s ever been.
And yet ,the storyline is such that you might not remember the annoyances. It twists and turns, full of deceit and double crossing, never leaving you quite sure where the plot will go next. It’s what makes the game so enjoyable really, and while everything I’ve said so far has had a “but…” after it, everything ties together really rather well. A game like this needs a good story, well acted, and that’s exactly what it’s got. The fact that the game mechanics around those two things aren’t perfect is an irritation, but not a game-killer. As such it’s easy to recommend to those who enjoy these games or have played through previous Broken Sword games, but harder to believe it’ll convert sceptics of the genre towards playing them more. Either way, Broken Sword 5 is a very valuable addition to the PS4’s game catalogue.
Reviewed on PS4