Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars is a 20 year old point-and-click adventure. I’d somehow never played it before.
The nineties were the golden age of point and click adventures. Sierra Entertainment and LucasArts dominated the market with King’s Quest, Monkey Island, and all their point-and-clicky goodness. But there were others, and one of those is Revolution Games, from the UK.
In the mid-nineties, Revolution started the Broken Sword game series, after their success with Beneath a Steel Sky. Four more games followed the first. Broken Sword part one has been sitting in my Steam library for a few years now. Recently, I finally got around to playing it on my Steam Deck.
So, let’s have a look at Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars, the remastered version of the original video game from 1995.
Broken Sword is about the adventures of George Stobbart, an American Tourist on holiday in Paris, and Nicole Collard, a french journalist.
And here we immediately see some differences between the original and the Director’s Cut. I found out after the fact that the original game only features George as the main character, and no sections with Nicole, while my Director’s cut starts with a long section featuring Nicole.
Nicole visits a French official in Paris. She walks in on an assassin in a mime disguise murdering the man. This isn’t the first murder by an assassin in costume, and she digs into the investigation. She finds links to her own father. She comes into contact with a man named Plantard. He wants to meet her in a café the next day to share information about the murders. That meeting at the Café is where the original game starts.
The next morning, George is sitting in front of a café in Paris, when a man with a suitcase hurries in, and a little later, a clowns walks past. A bomb goes off in the café. George survives the blast and finds himself Nicole on the side walk. The bombed man was her contact, Plantard. George decides to get involved in solving the murders.
The two quickly get dragged into a plot of Templars and Assassins.
As I wrote above, Broken Sword is a point-and-click adventure. That means you use your mouse to point at things, and click on them.
Well, okay, there is more to it. You control a character: George (and in the Director’s Cut Nicole). You see a third person view of that character and they are in a 2D scene. So, the pixel George is standing in a — in this case — hand-painted-then-pixeled scene of a café. You can click on spots on screen to have George interact with them, or look at them.
By clicking, you can pick up items, and solve puzzles to advance the plot. And talk to people, like the owner of the café. Or the street worker down the street. Slowly, click by click, you overcome hurdles, find information, and advance the game until the credits roll.
I’ve played the game on a Steam Deck, and that works well. The visual are quite old, and low resolution, and that looks better on a Steam Deck than a large monitor or TV where the pixels are blown up to actual visible squares. And the Steam Deck mouse controls are pretty good, with the touch pad provided fine-grained enough controls, and the shoulder buttons easy ways to do left and right clicks.
Broken Sword is a fun game, in the vein of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, and Gabriel Knight. It has an interesting mystery, and the main characters are likeable enough.
However, George is not Gabriel Knight, and Nicole is not Grace Nakimura. By that I mean, the characters are okay, but they’re not that memorable. George is a tourist, and that’s it. We learn very little else about him. Nicole is a journalist, and that sort of defines her. There’s no real chemistry between the two, and they’re actually a bit boring. There’s nothing personal at stake for them; something the Gabriel Knight games do much better — the first two anyway.
The Director’s Cut tries to add a more personal stake for Nicole, but that doesn’t carry over to the sections with George. It makes the arc of Nicole’s father feel tacked on, like an extra thread that fizzles later. It also hurts the original strong opening with the bombing. The addition adds something new for old fans, but subtracts from the experience for newcomers like me.
The jokes and dialog of the game are sometimes stilted: cringy jokes about lazy government employees, out-of-character remarks. A kidnapping in broad daylight by a speeding sports car in front of a pub in a small town in Ireland doesn’t even make the locals look up from their beers. Then there are some motivational problems. Why would George get involved in this complicated murder mystery? What makes the bad guys act in such convoluted ways? Why does a priest in a church wipe at a chalice for you for days (literally, days!) when you talk to him out of the blue and hand him the 700-year-old thing.
In short, it’s a fun game, but grating in places.
There is a large volume of point and click adventures from the hey day of the genre, and Broken Sword fits right in. Where 3D games from the nineties usually aged badly, 2D point-and-click adventures withstood the test of time. Especially games like Broken Sword. It features hand-painted art and full speech.
If you like Point and click adventures, this one should be on your list. Revolution has a new edition in the works, which will arrive in 2024, with upscaled graphics. You could wait for that, and maybe have the best experience to date.