November 1996. The original Broken Sword game, Shadow of the Templars was released on the PC and a month later on the Sony Playstation. It included beautiful hand drawn backgrounds and characters, an intriguing and well thought out storyline and, arguably, some of the best voice acting in video games to date. It has since spawned three sequels but none so far have critically captured the magic of the original. Does this extended Directors Cut add to the original games charm, or does it show flaws in an ageing classic?
You play as George Stobbart, an American who is touring Europe and is currently in Paris. When the original game begins, we see George sitting outside the Café de la Chandelle Verté which is subsequently bombed by a mysterious clown. This sets in motion a mystery adventure which you will control via a point and click interface. Now the first thing you notice when you load up the Wii version, is that you do not actually start the game outside the café. You will instead be greeted with French journalist Nicole Collard, George's investigative partner through-out the game.
Nico has been given an assignment to interview a notoriously lecherous French business man. The whole opening revolving aroung Nico leads up to her and George's fateful first meeting and is presented in such a way that it is perfectly integrated with the original source material. The way it is handled doesn't break the stories continuity which is an impressive feat for such a heavily story driven game.
Being on the Nintendo Wii, the controls are all done via the Wii-mote. The nunchuck isn't required during play. The controls are as simple as they get, with the remote being used to guide what was previously a mouse cursor around the screen. When you hover over someone you can talk to, a mouth icon will appear, if it's an object of interest a magnifying glass will appear and if it's an object you can pick up or use, a grabbing hand or cog will appear respectively. The controls take a total of about five minutes to get used to and you'll soon be comfortably looking for clues to help you on your journey.
Looking for clues, however, is one of the game’s problems. For someone such as myself who has completed the original game on more than one occasion, the new content is greatly appreciated, though the original content remains largely unchanged. This saw me flying through some portions of the game that will take newcomers considerably longer. The only original content, gameplay wise, that has been altered are a few of the puzzles, which now make use of the Wii's motion sensing. These include the chess board puzzle from the part of the game, where you must move certain chess pieces to certain places, which is handled now by dragging each piece with the Wii-remote.
The game now also features a hints system to go along with the new content. At any time in the game, new content or old, you can bring up the hint menu which gives you varying levels of assistance for every puzzle in the game. These start off relatively useless, stating the obvious. The second hint will be somewhat more specific and the third hint will usually outright tell you exactly what to do. These could be useful if you get truly stuck, however I would advise against using them whenever possible as it can ruin the challenge and the point of the game.
The hints system shouldn't be needed a great deal though, as the puzzles in Broken Sword are usually solved with a good bit of lateral thinking. This isn't to suggest the game is easy though; there are times newcomers will be stuck for a while if you don't use the hints. When you finally get past that shocker of a puzzle you'll be wondering why you didn't think of the solution sooner.
Other changes to the game are audio and visual. While the main game looks the same as it did way back when (and still features fantastic artwork) the characters now have portraits appear on screen when they are talking. These portraits are drawn by Dave Gibbons of Watchman fame; they add new life to the game, simple as they are, it really is better to see the characters close up like you've never seen them before. The only problem with this is that the portraits are static. This draws some of the atmosphere away, especially during the games lengthier dialogues.
Audio changes to the game include some reworked dialogue, all new dialogue in the case of Nico's new segments and some lines removed altogether. This isn't really a problem as the removed dialogue doesn't really detract from the overall experience but someone who has played the original cut may notice some missing lines. Audio is the games main problem - the music is superb and is suitably epic when it needs to be, the voice acting is beyond excellent (although sometimes more than a bit stereotypical) and the sound effects are usually spot on. The main problem is the bulk of the speech, which has been lifted directly from the original. And when this is mixed with newly added speech, it's not uncommon to hear two different voice actors playing the same character, in the same conversation.
Small gameplay changes and new additions included, as someone who knew his way around the original and never got stuck on the newer puzzles for a noticeable amount of time, I had beaten the game in about eleven hours. This was without skipping any of the dialogue so for newcomers to the game you can expect to get a play time of about 13-14 hours. Therein lies the game and the genre's problems. Once you have helped George and Nico solve their mystery, there is little reason to go back. There's no alternate endings, no different paths to take. Once you have beaten the game, it's done.
For fans of the point and click genre who haven't experience the game before, or for fans of the series who haven't played it in a while or simply want to try out the new content, this is worth giving a go. However I can safely say the new content, while integrated perfectly and being just as fun as the rest of the game, isn't enough to warrant a purchase if you already own the game. Regardless it was good to play a good adventure game again and this is a great game to bring point and click to a new generation via the Wii. Here's hoping for a Broken Sword 2 Directors Cut in the future.
Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars - Directors Cut (Reviewed on Nintendo Wii)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
November 1996. The original Broken Sword game, Shadow of the Templars was released on the PC and a month later on the Sony Playstation. It included beautiful hand drawn backgrounds and characters, an intriguing and well thought out storyline and, arguably, some of the best voice acting in video games to date. It has since spawned three sequels but none so far have critically captured the