Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon – Review

For better or for worse, game creators are always looking to innovate with video games. They strive to make games more realistic, to give gamers a feeling of awe and wonderment when they first see the game. They want the experience to be immersive, drawing the gamer into an imaginary world of escapism. Sometimes, the innovations are ground-breaking and the game in question is revered by creators and gamers alike, going down in history and regularly being referred to as “the game that broke the mould”. Sometimes, however, the game is a dud. Sometimes, creators try too much too soon before the technology has been fully realised, affecting the gameplay, sound and graphics, leading the game to be panned and unappreciated in the annuls of video game history.

Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon broke the mould of the format of the games that went before in the franchise. The question is: Is the game a dud or is it hailed as a giant leap forward in adventure gaming?

Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon is a single-player adventure game developed by Revolution Software. It was published by THQ in Europe and The Adventure Company in North America. It was released on Microsoft Windows, Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2003. It is the third instalment of the Broken Sword series. For this review, I chose to play the PC version.

The story begins a few years after the events of Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror. We find that Nico Collard and George Stobbart have parted ways. George has returned to the US to continue his career as a lawyer and Nico is still that hungry journalist we met during their first outing.

It is a dark, stormy night in Paris. Beneath the city, a clandestine meeting is taking place. We are given little information other than a moment in time of great significance is drawing near. An individual known as the Preceptor sends his minions on an important mission…and failure will result in Armageddon!

Next, we find George on a chartered flight, flying over the jungle in the Congo. His pilot is unable to evade an oncoming storm and the plane crashes.

No more point and click (Screenshot taken by the author)

Back in Paris, a software consultant by the name of Vernon Blier is working at his computer. In the background, the news is reporting occurrences of extreme weather around the globe.

(Screenshot taken by the author)

Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon is the first and only game of the series to break away from the point-and-click style of gameplay. The game itself is more action driven. You can control your character making them walk and run, and creep, and there is an introduction of a new action menu. When you near something or someone that you can interact with, a little animated star-type cursor will appear on that something or someone. At the same time, a symbol will appear in the bottom right screen where there is a template of four buttons in the shape of a diamond. You have the choice to click which action you wish to take. There are also instances in the game where you need to time your actions precisely, else you may die and have to restart the action scene.

Straight away I can tell you that judging by the way the game is designed, it is clearly created with a joypad in mind. When playing on the PC and using a keyboard, the game feels awkward and clumsy. I was unable to get my PC joypad to work with the game but that may simply be down to my technological ineptitude. Eitherway, it shouldnt be that difficult to switch to a more game-friendly way of playing.

One rather annoying aspect of the game is that you cannot seem to skip conversations that you previously have had.

(Screenshot taken by the author)

Spoiler Alert

Occasionally, there is a convoluted puzzle like when you need to use an iron bar to break some silver coins out of a laminated book cover. I know, right? Also, there is a lack of inventivness in the puzzle department. On several occasions, the puzzles are simply the same tired moving crates and square boulders around in a logical way to climb over a wall or onto a ledge.

The graphics look great. This is the first instalment of the series where Broken Sword moved into 3D graphics, and thankfully they did a great job. The characters do not look polygonal at all, the backgrounds are detailed and well designed. When the camera gets a bit too close to Nico, it seems she has a bit of a pig nose reminiscent of Christina Ricci in Penelope (I may be exaggerating here).

Even though the game contains voice actors, the subtitles appear in different colours, signifying that a different person is speaking, which is a nice touch. It would still have been nice to have the name of the individual talking or a little portrait box indicating who is speaking.

Did I complete the game?

Yes

What the critics said:

Adventure Gamers: “An amazing, brilliant story, at times told with such directorial excellence as to bring out emotions normally reserved for Final Fantasy. Gorgeous, eye-popping cutscenes. Infuriatingly stupid puzzle design at nearly every step of the way. Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is a game of breathtaking (sic) highs and ridiculous lows, and thankfully the highs definitely outnumber the lows (moreso(sic) if you’re better at crate puzzles than me, which apparently shouldn’t be too difficult). The bold attempts to innovate and push the adventure to new places are generally successful and quite welcome. Overall 4/5.[1]

Edge Online: “Extravagance was one of the signatures of the graphic adventure: extravagance to bring them in, and a cracking story well told to keep them. Both tenets of the Broken Sword series remain intact here, and that’s all the devoted fans could have wanted. A fairytale (sic) comeback. Overall 9/10.[2]

GameSpot: “Even if Broken Sword can at times be frustrating to play, it’s a joy to behold. The graphics sure aren’t cutting edge, but the attention to detail, vibrant colors(sic), and smooth animations give the game its own attractive style. (The “idle” animations of Nico repeatedly brushing her shoulder or stretching are odd and distracting, though.) The wonderfully elegant and evocative soundtrack varies from bold fanfares to jaunty comic bits to pensive piano interludes to suit the locales and situations. The voice-overs really bring the game to life, too. By and large, the actors are really acting here instead of just lazily reading their lines like you find in so many games. Unfortunately, the voice-overs highlight the game’s biggest flaw, a major sound bug. Occasionally, dialogue can cut out, a character will make two statements at the same time, or two characters will speak over each other entirely. This bug can ruin the mood or make it hard to know what on earth is going on when you miss vital dialogue.

It’s a shame problems like that mar Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. With its blend of cinematic style, 3D immersion, sharp writing, and likable characters, this is otherwise an adventure game that does the genre proud. Overall 8.1/10.[3]

IGN: “Cartoonish graphics, incredible voice acting and an engrossing story all make this a game to look at, that is – if you can get past the horrible interface and somewhat repetitive block puzzles. Finishing the game also has a reward associated with it, in addition to the impressive ending. This is something far too few PC games do. The ending left it open enough for the next incarnation of Broken Sword – the adventures of George and Nico. I just would ask one thing of the developers – please improve the interface and skip the block puzzles! Those are the two things preventing this from being the perfect adventure game. Overall 8.4/10.[4]

Game Chronicles: “Adventure gaming is alive and well thanks to designers like Revolution and publishers like The Adventure Company. Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is a stunning achievement in interactive entertainment. With a solid story, engaging characters, stunning visuals, and delightful dialogue, this is one adventure you simply won’t be able to tear yourself away from. This is a must-own title for anyone looking to relive the golden era of adventure gaming Overall 9.2.[5]

Eurogamer: “In many senses The Sleeping Dragon is a leap forward for the genre. The actual play mechanics, the interface and the visuals are great, but you’ll be wishing Revolution and THQ had invested as much time and effort polishing the narrative and puzzle element to the same high standards. We’re in no doubt that it tried, but we can’t lie just because we think Charles is a good bloke. We’re caught in two minds, ultimately. One says we’re excited to be talking about a largely uncompromising adventure game that does much to revive a dead genre, the other is that we’re gutted that it’s populated with cast hired from Stereotypes Anonymous that should have been subjected to the firing squad at the concept stage. There’s much potential here, but Cecil and co. have some work to do before they can awaken The Sleeping Genre. Overall 6/10“.[6]

My verdict:

“It’s great to have another Broken Sword game to add to the franchise. The game looks awesome, the music is cool and the story is…ok. However, the controls are awkward when playing on PC, and I didn’t like the move away from the point-and-click style of controls. I also found some of the puzzles montonous and tiresome. I just didn’t enjoy this game as much as I enjoyed the previous instalments in the series.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Dickens, E., (December 16, 2003). ‘Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon – Review’. Adventure Gamers. (https://adventuregamers.com/articles/view/17657 Accessed 1st September 2020).

[2] Edge Staff, (December 1, 2003). ‘Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon review’. Edge Online. (https://web.archive.org/web/20140911031744/http://www.edge-online.com/review/broken-sword-3-sleeping-dragon-review/ Accessed 1st September 2020).

[3] Osborne, S., (November 25, 2003). ‘Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon Review’. GameSpot. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/broken-sword-the-sleeping-dragon-review/1900-6084646/ Accessed 1st September 2020).

[4] Krause, S., (13 Dec 2018). ‘Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon Review’. IGN. (https://www.ign.com/articles/2003/11/25/broken-sword-the-sleeping-dragon-review Accessed 1st September 2020).

[5] Smith, M., (January 11, 2004). ‘Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon Overview’. Game Chronicles. (http://www.gamechronicles.com/reviews/pc/brokensword/sleepingdragon.htm Accessed 1st September 2020).

[6] Reed, K., (26 November 2003). ‘Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon’. Euronet. (https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/r_brokensword3_ps2 Accessed 1st September 2020).

Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror – Remastered – Review

With the success of Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, it was inevitable that a sequel would follow…but how do you follow up such a compelling story of conspiracy and murder?

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror is a point-and-click adventure game developed by Revolution Software and published by Virgin Interactive. It was released in 1997 on Microsoft Windows and the PlayStation. A remastered edition was released in 2010 on Microsoft Windows, OSX and iOS. For this review, I looked at the original version on the Playstation and PC, and the remastered version on the PC.

It has been six months since George Stobbart and Nico Collard stopped the Templar plot. Stobbart has returned to France from the US, where he was visiting his ill father, and plans to resume his relationship with Nico. Together they visit the house of archaeologist Professor Oubier in order to learn about a Mayan artefact that Collard has been researching. After arriving at Oubier’s house, they are ambushed, and Nico is kidnapped. Stobbart must rescue her whilst learning about, and preventing, a conspiracy to release the Mayan God Tezcatlipoca during an imminent eclipse.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”, or so the old saying goes. The graphics have remained in the classic animated film style, which I am a fan of. The music, whilst subtle, is atmospheric and fitting, and usually indicates either danger or that an important puzzle has been solved. The controls and gameplay also remain the same, that is, you can control George and Nico (at separate times during the game) and direct them to walk or interact with objects by using a cursor. The cursor icon will change depending on what action you can do. For example, if you place the cursor over an item you are able to pick up, the icon will turn into an animated hand that motions as if to pick up an object. It’s all very clear and straight forward. You are also able access your items from your inventory by moving your cursor to the top of the screen, where your collected items will appear. Similarly, when talking to another character, icons will appear at the bottom of the screen, indicating that more information can be gleaned from that person.

The Remastered Version

After replaying the game years after its release, Charles Cecil, who originally designed the game, wished to fix several issues he noted about the original version. He felt that the backgrounds were too pixelated, the movies were of poor quality, the audio needed sharpening up and that some of the dialogue seemed a bit out of place. With these issues addressed, Cecil explains that they decided to add a diary and a hint system. He also enlisted the help of illustrator Dave Gibbons to create new artwork for an interactive-comic bonus.[1]

A large brick building

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A comparison between the original (top) and the remastered (bottom) versions (screenshot taken by the author)

There is a small difference with the original in how you gain access to your items. In the corners of the screen are slightly translucent icons. The bottom left is a satchel where your can find your collected items; the bottom right is the diary, reminding you of your journey; top left is the option menu, and top right is a question mark for when you need help. When talking to another character, a box will appear onscreen with icons that you can click on to gather information from that person.

A person standing in front of a building

Description automatically generated
A comparison between the original (top) and the remastered (bottom) versions (screenshot taken by the author)

I enjoyed playing this game, but I think I still prefer the first instalment. It was great to see some familiar faces from the first game, and there were some interesting new characters added too. For me, there are two things that let this game down. Firstly, I felt that they didn’t provide enough information on the Maya and Tezcatlipoca. Other players may not feel they needed more information but I’m an archaeologist and a historian by trade, and so my curiosity naturally seeks more information on such subjects. My second gripe was slightly rectified in the remastered version in that I wish they had added something new to the game to.

In the remastered version, the graphics do look a lot smoother, and the colours have been toned down a bit to add more realism to the scenes. The little portrait character boxes that appear during conversations is a nice new touch too.

Did I complete the game?:

Yes, but I found this game tougher than the first and so probably used hints more often.

What the critics said of the original Version:

Gamespot: (Playstation) “The horrendous loading times that plagued the original have been trimmed a great deal, and the animation runs a lot smoother. Still, the game is not for everyone. Earfuls of semi-relevant conversation and the digital pad’s inability to properly replicate a mouse make Broken Sword II tedious at times. But while Broken Sword II certainly isn’t revolutionary, it’s still refreshing to see a game of this nature done well. A compelling story, plot twists, offbeat humour, great graphics, and solid sound makes Broken Sword II a game with great aspirations. It’s simply too bad the game’s format and the Playstation’s limited capabilities keep Broken Sword II from fully realizing them. Overall 6.9/10.[2]

Gamespsot: (PC) “George is slightly more sophisticated (a consequence of all that traveling he did in Circle of Blood no doubt), Nico has been fleshed out a bit and takes on a few adventures of her own, and the quirky humour of Circle of Blood raises its oddball head once more (i.e., the minor character who gets up from his desk only to reveal that he works in bikini underwear – not pants – because it makes him feel friskier). It’s Circle of Blood with new characters, a new storyline, a new threat to world harmony, and a few omissions and additions that help to streamline the adventure. Overall 7.9/10.[3]

Next Generation: (PC) “What’s new helps the game immensely, and the already intuitive interface is still there. Smoking Mirror may not be an outstanding leap in graphics adventures, but much like the sequel to a good book, it’s a fun romp with familiar characters and well-worth the price of purchase. Overall 3/5.[4]

Computer Gaming World: (PC) “All in all, Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror is above average, but it’s not great. While the engine and the graphics have been refined, there are some minor slips in plot, dialogue, puzzles that bring the whole experience down a bit. Overall 3.5/5.[5]

What the critics said of the remastered version:

Gamezone: (PC) “Among the most impressive things about the Broken Sword series are its animated cut scenes, which look fantastic on the iPad. The animation itself is a bit dated, but it also brings a sense of nostalgia, reminiscent of cartoons and animated movies of the same time period. The voice acting is solid, and the game sounds great on the iPad. The remastered version of The Smoking Mirror is compatible with both the iPad and iPhone, and though the game can look a bit stretched and blurry at times on the iPad, the bigger screen is preferable for gameplay purposes. Overall 8/10.[6]

My verdict:

“A great sequel and enthralling storyline. Great graphics, and tougher puzzles than the first instalment. Pity about the lack of innovation in gameplay, and information regarding the Mayan culture”

Rating:

What are your memories of Broken Sword II? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Hoggins, T., (January 4th 2011). ‘Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror Interview’. The Telegraph. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/8238685/Broken-Sword-II-The-Smoking-Mirror-interview.html Accessed 7th March 2020).

[2] Stohl, B., (May 5th 2000). ‘Broken Sword II Review – Playstation’. http://www.gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/broken-sword-ii-review/1900-2545928/ Accessed on 7th March 2020).

[3] Muldoon, M., (May 1st 2000). ‘Broken Sword II Review – PC’. http://www.gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/broken-sword-the-smoking-mirror-review/1900-2538230/ Accessed on 7th March 2020).

[4] ‘Rating: PC – Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror’. Next Generation. (December 1997). Issue 36:170.

[5] Nguyen, T., ‘Review: PC – Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror’. Computer Gaming World. (March 1998). Issue 164:162.

[6] Chase, S., (May 4th 2012). ‘Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror – Remastered Review’ Gamezone.com. (https://www.gamezone.com/reviews/broken_sword_ii_the_smoking_mirror_-_remastered/ Accessed 7th March 2020).

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – The Director’s Cut – Review

Original cover art

Ah the city of Paris, home of the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre. A city that countless visitors seek for romantic getaways, art and culture. American lawyer George Stobbart was visiting Paris. He was enjoying a coffee and minding his own business…then a bomb exploded in the café he was sitting at.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (also known as Circle of Blood) is a point and click game developed and published by Revolution Software in 1996. It was released on multiple platforms including Android, Game Boy Advance, iOS, Linux, Mac OS, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, Palm OS, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii, Windows, Windows Mobile, Xbox, Xbox One. Here, I will review the Director’s Cut which was released in 2009.

Director’s Cut cover art

This is the first instalment of the Broken Sword series. You play as American George Stobbart who witnesses the assassination of a man named Plantard. Whilst enjoying a coffee at a Parisian Café, Stobbart observes the assassin enter and then leave with a briefcase moments before an explosion destroys the establishment. Naturally Stobbart begins to investigate the murder because, let’s face it, the explosion almost killed him too and to rub salt into the wound, he appears to be a suspect. During his investigation he meets and allies himself with French reporter Nicole “Nico” Collard. What starts as a murder investigation soon unravels as a conspiracy plot involving the Knights Templar, which takes Stobbart and Collard to several different countries including Ireland, Spain, Syria, and Scotland in search of the murderer.

The animation style is in the beautiful classic animation tradition (screenshot taken by the author)

Like with all point and click games, you control a cursor on the screen. By hovering it over certain objects or characters, you have the option to look at or interact with them. By moving the cursor to the lower part of the screen, you will gain access to your inventory and any objects you have picked up. When talking to characters, a number of pictures will appear and when these pictures are clicked, George of Nico will engage in a line of questioning. The gameplay is easy to learn and intuitive.

The game is designed to be reminiscent of the classic animated film genre. The scenes are incredibly detailed and the characters are well animated. The story is engaging, especially if you love a good conspiracy theory, and I felt immediately drawn in by it. The puzzles are challenging but not convoluted like in the Monkey Island series. I did need assistance to help with the odd puzzle, but I never got bored of this game.

George and Nico’s adventures see them meet a number of undesirables (screenshot taken by the author)

The Director’s Cut has several differences when compared with the original release. The graphics have been improved and are smoother. There are extra scenes; in the original you begin with Stobbart at the Café, but in the Director’s Cut, you begin with Nico needing to escape Plantard’s house. Artwork of character profiles appear during conversation scenes, and there are extra puzzles to work your way through.

Did I complete the game?

I did, but there were one or two occasions when I had to use a walkthrough.

What the critics said about the original game:

Gamespot.com “Without question, Circle of Blood is an adventure of epic proportions and ranks as one of the most intriguing games to roll out this year. Its only drawback is that the graphics might be too real. After playing the game, you might find yourself wanting to pack your bags and take in the European sights first-hand. But if you’re lacking for travel funds and must stay home and play computer games, Circle of Blood definitely won’t disappoint you. Overall rating 9.2 superb[1]

What critics said about the Director’s Cut:

PC Gamer Magazine “Wonky visuals, but this is as close to the Da Vinci Code meets Monkey Island as we’ll get. Did I mention the hot French accent? Overall 69%[2]

Awards for the original cut:

Best Adventure 1997 – Generation 4 Magazine

Best Quest – Quest Magazine[3]

Awards for the Director’s Cut:

Pocket Gamer Gold Award 2010 – Pocket Gamer [4]

(Wii version) Best European Adventure 2011 – European Game Awards[5]

My verdict: “I love this game, and am a huge fan of the franchise. I love the graphics, the story, and the puzzles. If you like point and clicks, and even if you don’t, I’m sure you will find this game entertaining.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Anderson, R., (October 3rd, 1996). ‘Review – Circle of Blood’. Gamspot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/circle-of-blood-review/1900-2538410/ Accessed 10th December 2019).

[2] PC Gamer. (October 31st 2010). ‘Review – Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars Director’s Cut’. PC Gamer. (https://www.pcgamer.com/uk/broken-sword-shadow-of-the-templars-directors-cut-review/ Accessed 10th December 2019).

[3] Cecil, C., (July 18, 2011). ‘A New STEAM Age’. TED. (https://web.archive.org/web/20131217015330/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcUcl23D7mA Accessed 10th December 2019).

[4] Usher, A., (Jun 28, 2012). ‘Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – The Director’s Cut’. Pocket Gamer. (https://www.pocketgamer.com/articles/042432/classic-point-and-click-title-broken-sword-the-directors-cut-makes-its-way-onto-android/ Accessed 13th December 2019).

[5] European Game Awards. (https://web.archive.org/web/20120415092901/http://www.european-games-award.com/ Accessed on 13th December 2019).