I find myself in the completely new position of reading reviews of a videogame from the other side of the wall. Broken Sword: Shadow Of The Templars The Director’s Cut, a new version of Charles Cecil’s most famous adventure game, is now out on DS and Wii, with a chunk of brand new content, a smattering of new puzzles, and a new diary and hint system. I think it’s rather good. This thought is encouraged by my having written bits for it.
I’ve always loved the Broken Sword games, playing the first two multiple times in my teenage years, and reviewing the third – a game I adored – for PC Gamer. Broken Sword IV I also reviewed… But that aside, it’s a great gaming series, and certainly the best British adventure series there’s been. George, a American lawyer, and Nico, a French photo-journalist, pair up in escapades linked to Templar myths, modern day conspiracies, and the only decent will-they-won’t-they running story in gaming history.
I was asked if I would be involved with the re-working of the original – a new version of Broken Sword I with a lot of new story from Nico’s perspective, reimagined for the DS and Wii – and was part of the process from the beginning. From contributing toward the original pitch, to script editing, puzzle testing, and writing some of the new content, it was a fantastic chance to get my fingers messy making the pie, rather than my more usual deciding if I like how it tastes long after.
The new story, by Cecil and co, follows Nico as she investigates previous murders by the culprit of the cafe bombing that opens the original game. It’s extremely smart. Originally you played only as George, occasionally checking in with Nico as he progressed. So now we find out what Nico was doing at the same time, meaning the events marry, alternating between each character, weaving new content with old. This means there’s lots of new puzzles, locations, and a touching look at Nico’s own life. There’s also more original artwork from Dave “Watchmen” Gibbons, with lovely close-ups of the characters on the top screen.
The biggest chunk of work I contributed is the new hint system, and the in-game diary. The former is an optional system that will prompt you when the game notices you’re stuck, with a series of increasingly unsubtle nudges toward the solution. The latter is a recording, in Nico and George’s voices, of the events that have taken place. This was especially fun to write, as it let me put words in the mouths of the two characters I’ve known for years.
Other bits and pieces that I was involved with are more complicated to explain. But I’m stating here and now that I get full credit for getting the wet towel puzzle from the original fixed. And the goat puzzle – I’d like to claim responsibility for that, but I think it was already altered before the project even began.
It was a great experience. The ever-lovely Charles Cecil is a pleasure to work with, and was extremely generous with the freedom I was given to throw out ideas. It was great fun spotting a mistake in a puzzle in one build of the game, and then seeing it fixed in the next. Reviewing is a one-way process – I see errors, and chastise games for them. Here it was a far more productive action. And it’s extremely rewarding to see things I’ve written appear in a real-life game.
Reviews are beginning to appear, and are so far positive. I’m taking this line from IGN’s review to be the first thing written about me, rather than by me, on a gaming site:
“Similarly effective in this new version are the inclusion of a story-so-far journal and on-demand help system which increase accessibility tremendously, particularly for a more casual audience.”
And this, from VideoGamer:
“I also have a lot of respect for the new hint system – slowly providing increasingly-clear pointers, and rationing the frequency with which you can ask for help. It’s quicker and easier than looking the answers up online, and it encourages the player to think their way through difficult bits.”
I think it’s pretty good. But then I would say that. It’s something I’d love to do again. Being in the position to spot the things in a game that I’d otherwise have been criticising in a review was extremely gratifying. And writing for a game series I’ve loved, and have so much respect for, was a real treat.