John Walker's Electronic House

Broken Sword: Director’s Cut, And Me

by on Mar.20, 2009, under Rants

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.

22 Comments for this entry

  • The_B

    OK, firstly, I have to praise the aboslute genius joy of hearing this news. As another stalwart fan of the BS series (except for 4, again like you) it seems a stroke of brilliance for the guys to literally go: “Well, you didn’t like it, think you can do better?” and then actually let you, as a writer. There are so many reasons I have to say YES!

    However, there is one very big “Ah.” that I do have to say to Mr Publisher. Releasing it on the same day as GTA Chinatown Wars? Mnngh. Hardly fair on a great series. I had no idea until now it was out the same day as, and have GTA pre ordered. I think I’ll pick up this at the same time. (Assuming the DS version is fairly similar to the Wii one?)

  • Mike

    Oh, what a wonderful idea. I think Broken Sword stands as one of the most universally likeable games ever. It breaks through almost every “I don’t play games, really” barrier I’ve ever seen, and provides one of those gaming atmospheres that really stay with you.

    I can’t imagine how it must have felt to work on a game that you played so religiously in childhood. Broken Sword is one of the first PC Games I have a really good memory of.

  • John Walker

    The DS version doesn’t have the character audio, because of cart size. The music is also midi-ified. Other than that, I believe they’re reasonably similar. I didn’t really have much involvement with the Wii version, so I’m not too clear on that. The DS version, I can tell you all about : )

  • The_B

    Again though, really have to slap Ubisoft a little bit though. I had no idea it was coming out, and ESPECIALLY with GTA having so much exposure for this Friday, I would have thought they would have put a little more effort into promotion. Mnngh. I really do hope this still does well, but if when I go to Game tomorrow, and see it barely noticable amongst this weeks new releases, I may have to try and stand outside all day and go “Hey, bought GTA? Why not get this as well to wind down afterwards?”

    I know I’m probably getting quite overexcited about this whole deal but it really just kinda… – I suppose main catalyst is being last week when I was in Game, while buying other games I was asked if I wanted to pre order GTA, and said yes – and Game’s release schedule was right in front of me, yet I didn’t see new Broken Sword on it at all nor was it offered to me. I shall calm down now anyway, but cheers for the headsup. I’m mainly relieved I have the spare cash for two DS games at the moment though, had the circumstances been a little different there would have been no way I could afford it.

  • Richard

    Finally, a public congrats sir ;-)

  • James G

    I loved the first two Broken Sword games, haven’t played the third yet as I had for some reason got the impression that it was as bad as the fourth. I actually have a copy though, so may look at it soon.

    Hadn’t realised you were involved with the DS version, I’ll have a look at picking it up.

  • KBKarma

    Wow, congratulations! I’ll have to buy that now. Been a while since I played the original.

  • Little Green Man

    Wow, I had no idea that this was coming out. Grrrrrr no advertising, but will pick it up if I see it in Game/station. If not… THEY WILL PAY FOR NOT HAVING IT!!!!!

  • Man Raised By Puffins

    “Broken Sword IV I also reviewed…”

    You forgot to mention Brian’s cameo in BS4, alas one of the vanishingly few highlights in that game.

    I knew Dave Gibbons was doing some new art for the game but didn’t realise it was getting a thorough working over. I’ll definitely be picking up the DS version at some point, ‘grats John.

  • Dorian Cornelius Jasper

    Fancy that. I don’t have a Wii, but have a DS.

    And I do like a good Adventure game, though I’m reminded of a youth spent not knowing what the big deal with all these “not-actiony” games were all about.

    Something I regret these days.

  • Diogo Ribeiro

    My heartfelt congrats, John :) It must’ve been pretty interesting being on the other side of the game. I will have to play the DS version ASAP, but knowing someone with appreciation for the genre helped with its development is already good news :)

  • The_B

    Bloody enjoying it so far – memories are flooding back as I’ve just managed to get to the point which was the opening in the original – must say though I am tempted to install original BS again just to hear the voices, but other than that, ’tis really good.

    However, I will moan about seeing those bloody sliding block puzzles again. :P

  • John Walker

    What did you think of the cylinder/hole/cross/shell casing/shell casing puzzle?

  • The_B

    That indeed was very clever.


    I have to admit I did get a little frustrated when I had to pry the door open and the shell casing didn’t work at first as I initially thought I needed an entirely different inventory item rather than having to modify an existing one, but once it finally clicked (or rather reading the hint) I worked out the rest. I have to agree the hint system so far has been excellent at cluing me up without just telling me the answer straight.

    I also really liked the deciphering the code puzzle too, provided just the right amount of challenge for me although I was worried at first that without any letters given it might be a little too hard.

    I’ll most likely have more comments about stuff as I play through, although I don’t want to clog up this post with spoilers – I’ll probably Tweet them your way or something.

  • John Walker

    Cecil and I will go to our graves disagreeing about that puzzle. One of us is right : )

  • The_B

    Well, at least there were no random dragons ready to come and bash the door down…

    Also, loving the sly little nod & wink in the diary after the goat bit.

  • John Walker

    What does it say? I haven’t seen it in the final version yet.

  • The_B


    “So the ‘ghost of Lochmarne’ is no more than a fierce Billy goat. For a moment I thought he was going to be incredibly awkward to get past, but in the end it was surprisingly simple. Who would have known?”

  • Anthony s

    I’m currently playing this on the DS and loving it.
    I like the hotspot cues that fade in and out as you move around the screen, it keeps that old pixel-hunting feel, but without the frustration.
    Also a fan of the tiered hint system, which i’ve had to use a couple of times (again, prying open that jammed door. I still don’t see how you can pry open a huge stone door with a bullet casing, flat or no) . It’s nicely vague to start with and then more to the point in later hints. Which is what you want; i remember some hint systems where the final hint was almost as baffling as the first.

  • The_B

    Righty, finished it – again, just have to reiterate how much I love the series, and it’s encouraged me to play number 2 and (when I can find it on it’s own) number 3 again (if I have time, I may even slightly forgive four for long enough). Really don’t feel cagey about saying my favourite game series, and just hope if we see any more fully new ones they return to their former glory. This goes a good way to regaining the goodwill for the series, I would hope, especially to a new audience.

    I will mention though, I didn’t see your name in the credits at all, or was this me being unobservant? It is 3.30am in the morning, mind, so could well be the latter.

  • John Walker

    Heh, my goat joke survived : )

    If my name’s not in the credits, I’ll be a little perturbed.