Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 10.09.2015

Review for Broken Sword 5: The Serpent

During the 1990s, it was a booming decade for point and click adventure games. Lucas Arts was breaking new ground with its Monkey Island franchise and even filmmakers like Steven Spielberg were getting in on the action when he pitched his cost-prohibited "Amazing Stories" script as a videogame, which would become known as The Dig. There was one English developer, Revolution Software, which would put out one of the more enduring titles in this genre, with Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars, which is fondly remembered due to its quirky protagonist, fluid animation, beautiful backgrounds, riveting story and some memorable puzzles. While the series had its ups and down, the original is typically highly regarded as an example in its genre, which can be best described as "Tin Tin" meets "Da Vinci Code." Now, years later, Charles Cecil, the creator of the series, is back to take it back to its roots and try to deliver a sequel fans have been hoping for. After reviews of both the PC and PS4 versions, does Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse deliver the goods on Xbox One?

It feels like Charles Cecil missed his calling in life to be an animated film director. As far as adventure games go, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse is pretty forgettable and often feels like work due to a huge amount of poor design choices that pad out a relatively short title due to absurdly long and slow walking animations and the lack of an option for direct control. In most point and click adventures, the cursor is handled with a mouse and this translates to a lot of extra steps and slow navigation for the console version. Protagonists animate slow enough as it is and to use a cursor on a controller is creating the extra step of having to awkwardly drag the slow moving pointer to the designated pixel, select it and then wait for the hero to shuffle their feet at an agonisingly lethargic pace.

Not only that but the position of the cursor resets after a selection, so trying to use items is an unbelievably tedious undertaking. This interface is fine for mouse controls, but with a controller, the absence of direct control is felt, even by Charles Cecil's own admission when he expressed great regret over the PlayStation port of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars that it should have just had direct control. The fact that Serpent's Curse lacks an option for this control feature is pretty jarring since it was specifically made for fans of the series and one thing fans always appreciate is options.

Screenshot for Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse on Xbox One

The story of Serpent's Curse revolves around the theft of a painting known as La Malediccio at a Paris art gallery where George Stobbart (former lawyer, now insurance assessor) and Nicole "Nico" Collard witness the crime. The heroes get embroiled in a globetrotting plot of fraud, murder and ancient conspiracies revolving around an old Gnostic cult. The story has some pacing issues, especially towards the end when it becomes railroaded with some puzzles that require preposterous leaps of logic, and many characters are not well developed enough.

While Serpent's Curse does take a while to beat - roughly 10 hours - much of it can be offset by the aforementioned slowness of the way characters move and long pauses between line exchanges where the actual game's run time would be closer to five to six hours. The story itself is pleasing enough, but lacks the freshness of Shadow of the Templars, which was more evenly paced. Instead, here many characters show up once to do their "bit" and disappear unceremoniously, never to be seen or heard from again, leaving a very "stop and go" feel to proceedings that makes progression feel annoying. The more story-oriented sequences are also laughably animated and characters move very robotically, having very little range of movement. Oftentimes they will have static or motionless pose and their mouths will mechanically open to the audio with their barely blinking soulless eyes. Even the scene construction of the cut-scenes is very cheap to low quality and since the Charles Cecil opted for 2D (beautifully rendered) backdrops, the camera placement never moves (only pans left or right), so each scene plays out almost like watching a stage-play being performed by mannequins. It doesn't look so bad when the camera is very far away, but up close these 3D character models look painfully generic and have no personality and the lacking animation becomes very apparent.

Screenshot for Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse on Xbox One

The acting in Serpent's Curse is pretty good and as bland as George Stobbart looks, his characterisation is refreshing and has his irreverent goofiness that fans would hope to see. George can be best described as a combination of Indiana Jones meets Agent Cooper from "Twin Peaks." He is an eccentric man who loves to travel, will put anything in his pockets, and even takes in a lone cockroach he names "Trevor," who ultimately plays an important role in this relatively serious story. Nico, the other lead, is a sassy and sexy French woman who loves a good sarcastic quip. Over the course of the yarn, George and Nico alternate as playable characters but, for the most part, George is thr primary role and gets most of the game's puzzles.

Much of the humour comes out of left-field and is more puzzling than funny, like when George re-enacts the dance scene from Pulp Fiction, or when the game plays obvious lip-service to one of the large Kickstarter backers in the form of a character who stops everything in the story so he can have his scene and then leave. Other examples of weird comedy are an elderly French cop who can't hold his bladder, and a bumbling French detective who is wrong about everything and looks like Nicolas Cage from the film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Some of these things just don't gel, although others do, like Trevor the roach. However, too often its quirkiness can feel a bit try-hard.

Screenshot for Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse on Xbox One

Serpent's Curse has no real replay value to it. It is a one and done kind of deal and replaying it would be a chore because of how ridiculously slow everything moves. It should also be mentioned that the hint system doesn't even try to be helpful and will just clumsily flat out tell the solution without any penalty at all. Sometimes the answer may not even be that obvious as much of the background details, as well drawn as they are, will not be made clear on a few occasions and will require tedious pixel hunting to find that sweet-spot that will indicate "insert plot coupon." While the story and intrigue are solid, it just is not worth the amount of time that will be wasted watching characters slowly walk or drag a cursor for a large portion of the romp.

While it is admirable that Charles Cecil made a very old fashioned point and click adventure title, Serpent's Curse has brought with it the worst aspects and does not offer any anti-frustrating features that even some of the past Broken Sword releases managed to include, making the gameplay more efficient, like options for quick movement or even direct control over characters.

Screenshot for Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

There are much better adventure games than Broken Sword 5 these days and people with passing interest in the genre could do way better than Serpent's Curse. While a throwback to '90s era point and click releases, it is held back by design choices that are not exclusive to the genre. This cannot be recommended to anyone who is not already a diehard Broken Sword fan. George's adventure may have its highlights, but they are far and few between, leading up to a somewhat underwhelming climax that feels like a result of the budget running out. With the adventure genre being popular again these days, it is a shame that the return of one of the classic adventure franchises fails to live up to its legacy.

Developer

Revolution

Publisher

Deep Silver

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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