Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars

1996 Revolution Software
Designed by Charles Cecil, Dave Cummins, Jonathan Howard
Reviewed 1998 March 29

Rating +2 Linearity narrow, segmented
Reasonability sporadic Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time minor

You are George, an American tourist in Paris. While at a sidewalk café, a bomb goes off inside, killing a man. You immediately make a connection with a clown who had run out a few seconds before. You decide to investigate the incident and uncover the culprit (I guess Paris is just too boring for some). Your investigation leads you to various sites across Paris and out to several other locations in Europe and vicinity. You quickly discover a conspiracy rooted in the old mystery of the Knights Templar, and their lost treasure.

Broken Sword has a strong, detailed plot set in a rich world. While the main story is serious, George himself is a happy-go-lucky character and he spices up the game with a lot funny observations and minor incidents. Some of the supporting characters are also played for laughs. While George is an interesting character, I did find it odd that he so easily devotes so much time and expense to the investigation, as well as exposing himself to the danger. Along with the intrigue and humour, you learn much about the history of the Templars, making the game intellectually interesting, too.

The challenges are mostly the standard get object, use object, talk to somebody. There are a few instances where you must quickly make a decision, and a few others where you must act within a window of opportunity, but there is no arcade-like action required.

The majority of challenges are very simple, but the few that aren't are fairly difficult. Unfortunately, this is largely because of poor challenge design. In some instances, the actions George performs don't obviously follow from the inputs you give him. Sudden, unexpected death is another too frequent failing: go right and die, go left and win, with nothing to differentiate the choices.

Broken Sword is a standard third person, panning adventure. It has an easy, intuitive interface. It has one novel graphic feature: there is a separate foreground pane, and when the scene pans, the foreground pans at a different rate, giving the illusion of depth. You've seen this before in any Disney animation, but this is the first time I've seen it used in an adventure game.

The characters are standard cartoons, but the backgrounds (and foregrounds) are accurately drawn images of the locales, as if they were traced from photographs. This combines clash-free with the cartoon characters. It's also very detailed and very beautiful. Visually, the game is gorgeous.

A good, long story, full of intrigue and humour, make this an enjoyable game to play. The challenges let it down in various ways, so the gameplay can get annoying (make sure you save often). This is a good game for the novice adventurer, since it is mostly easy so progress is steady. The fun story should keep the veterans happy.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

Related reviews:

  • Broken Sword 2
  • Broken Sword 3
    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.