By guyver0 13 Comments
My favourite game of all time on any platform is Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars.
It always has been. Ever since I played it. And probably always will be.
I came up to Scotland on year with my parents to see the family. Whilst visiting my Aunt and Uncle, I when into my cousins room to find my eldest cousin, Jamie, playing his Playstation One. Something that was still quite new at this point in time and a console I had seen seldom of.
Right now, he was playing Broken Sword.
It had come as part of a HELP charity compilation of Playstation one games. Which seems very weird looking back on it now. Packaged together was; Road Rash, Broken Sword and Msyt.
He'd printed off the walkthrough for Broken Sword from a website using a computer in school. The very idea of getting a) a walkthrough of a game and b) getting it off the internet, blew me away.
So I sat down beside him and just watched him play. He glancing at the walkthrough every few minutes to see what needed to be done next. When he wasn't reading I was. I think I playfully accused him of cheating, and he replied that it was the sort of game you needed a walkthrough for.
I sat and watched a story unfold. Watched as the protagonist, George Stobbart, uncovers a mystery that could endanger the world. Watched as George journeyed around Europe. From France to Ireland, to Spain. Solving puzzles and getting closer to his goal.
Let me back up a moment and elaborate on the details of the game before I start gushing about it.
The game was made by British developers, Revolution Software, headed by Charles Cecil. The company that had a few well received games under their belts. Those being 'Beneath a Steel Sky' and 'Lure of the Temptress'. However it was 'Broken Sword' That really made it's mark. Released in 1996 the game garnered wide spread critical acclaim and commercial success.
The game starts on with a crows eye view of the Paris skyline. George then narrates the following;
“ Paris in the fall. The last months of the year, and the end of the millennium. The city holds many memories for me, of music, of cafes, of love. And of death.”
The crow swoops into the air and flies across Paris towards the Eiffel Tower. Thus begins Broken Sword.
George Stobbart is an American in Paris. A lawyer on vacation. Whilst enjoying a cup of coffee outside a cafe, a clown strolls inside. Seconds later the clown speeds out, and runs down a nearby alley. George watches in curiosity. BOOM. The cafe is rocked by an explosion.
“ As I pick myself up all I hear is the ceaseless drone of traffic. Life went on around me. But the explosion was to change my life forever.”
It was true. George is soon forced by fate to team up with female photographer, Nico Collard. She has been investigating a series of bizarre murders involving fancy dress and was suppose to meet a man named Plantard at the Cafe. The duo suspect he was the target of the explosion and this leads them on to an even bigger conspiracy. One that involves world domination.
So where do I begin. Broken Sword is uniquely 2D. rendered using traditional animation. An idea so simple it's easy to miss. Especially since modern games are the complete opposite of this. It's beautifully detailed and lushly coloured backdrops give a romanticised view of their location. Wether it is the deep greens and other earth tones of Ireland or dry, dusky, yellows and browns Syria. But not just the backdrops. Each individual character is given care and attention. George with his classic hollywood good looks or Nico's exotic french features.
The writing is clever and interesting. Cleverly referencing old Hollywood adventure movies whilst also capturing a European feel. Both Nico and George are written as normal people in an unusual situation. George quips at the wrong moments and can't quite believe the mess he's gotten himself into. The reluctant hero. He flys all over the world in search of answers. Is faced with life or death scenarios. All the while being cool headed. George never seems over exaggerated. The story is filled with interesting twists and turns, all being justified and never out of the blue. When George flys to Spain, you understand why he is there. There is a logical progression. In many ways I feel like 'The Da Vinci Code' ripped off Broken Sword.
Gameplay wise it is a simple point a click game. Like many adventure games of that era. However unlike a certain 'Lucas arts' game objects in the environment that you must click on, make sense. To open a manhole cover, you collect the manhole cover tool. To get to the manhole cover tool you must distract the guy who it belongs to. To do this you give him todays paper. Simple. Logical. this style of gameplay slows the pace of the game right down giving a greater sense of story. There is no need for constant player interaction unlike a 'FPS'.
Last year, Ubi-Soft released a directors cut of the game. I was thrilled. I got to have new copy of Broken Sword, on an up to date console. This Directors cut added a new beginning, new puzzles and new animations. None of it was needed. But none of it felt out of place. Yes, the game lacks the shock impact of an explosion. Yes, the new animations, drawn by 'Watchmen' artist Dave Gibbons seem odd and out of place. But I don't care. In a way these items fit the game.
To me this is a very important game. It was the first game that showed me what games could be because up until then I had been playing 'Sonic the Hedgehog'. I've played had the game on half a dozen consoles from PC to DS. And now I have it with me always , on my iPhone. I still hold out hope that Charles Cecil will make another. Using animation, as a 2D point and click game and released digitally on XLBA, PSN, Steam and the App Store. A boy can dream.