George and Nico together again -- what a great team!
If you've read the reviews for other platforms, you're probably wondering about the problems with slow loading they all reported. So the first thing I'm pleased to report is that there is no loading delay in the Windows version
. Everything ran seamlessly on my Windows XP system - from the easy installation all the way through to the fabulous finale. That said, let's pick it apart piece by piece.Continuity
Because it's been quite a few years since Broken Sword 2
was released, I think the developers did a wonderful job bringing the player up to speed. From the main menu you can read background information about George and Nico's two previous adventures. This helps those new to the series get acquainted with them quickly. Inside the game, they will fondly remember past experiences by looking at mementos and talking between themselves. Several older characters make a reappearance in this game, and both George and Nico remember them.
5 stars for Continuity.Story
The "save the world" story doesn't jump out at you all at once. In fact, you have no idea exactly where the adventure is going for about one-third of the game. The plot line evolves very gradually. Playing George and then Nico in separate scenarios keeps you mighty busy - until all at once they're in the same place at the same time (Paris, naturally) - and working towards the same goals.
Once they get together, it's magic
. There are quite a few times when you must use both characters to solve a puzzle. Because of the ancient artifacts and exotic locations, it felt almost
like I was playing Indiana Jones with a female side-kick. But, I don't remember Indy ever having a relationship like George and Nico's. Theirs is a deep friendship, but nothing romantic. As you play, you know solidly how they feel (or don't feel) about each other from their playful sarcasm and dry humor. And the ending is great
5 stars for Story.Graphics
I give high marks for the characters, scenery, objects and general look overall of Sleeping Dragon
. Both Nico and George are very attractive people and their surroundings are realistic and appealing. All of the artwork is cleanly depicted in natural, vibrant colors. Objects are well integrated into the surroundings, but they're not difficult to find. Those with "hot spots" do not jump off the screen at you, so you do need to do the normal amount of exploring. You find those objects by walking near them, so there's really no pixel hunting.
It is difficult to match speech with lip movement, but the developers did an impeccable job here. In fact, I can't think of any other game that accomplished it better - or even equally well.
In only one spot did I notice a glitch in the graphics. This came at a critical time during what some people call the "tile puzzle". Part of the scenery stretched unnaturally out to the middle of the floor! But, quitting and loading again and it was gone. I can't help but feel that it was my equipment and not the game. But I'll subtract half of a point for that.
4.5 stars for Graphics.Sound & Music
Sound effects add to the realism of a game, and the ones you'll hear in this game are really good. The most memorable ones are of George grunting as he moves yet another box into place, or the "oof" heard if one of them runs into a wall. You'll also hear soft footsteps, the sounds of doors opening or closing, keys going into locks etc. All of them sounded appropriate to the action being performed.
I commend the actors and actresses who voiced the characters in the English version. All accents sounded authentic, inflections and tones were accurate for what they were saying, and dialog interchange was entertaining. Kudos, too, to the script writers for giving them great things to say.
The music was mood enhancing, especially when something was about to happen or when you accomplished something important.
5 stars for Sound & Music.Gameplay & Puzzles
Some adventurers have complained about the "keyboard only" interface. Well, it did take a bit of getting used to. The arrow keys are used for movement with the Shift key used to make your character run. The space bar brings up the inventory, which is arranged in a circular manner. The Control key lets you crouch and creep (while walking) and the Escape key takes you to the menu. The main keys for interaction are all together on the keyboard (the group W, A, S, D) and their use changes depending upon what you are doing. While I wasn't sure how I'd like going without a traditional mouse, I did get accustomed to it and fared okay.
The hard part was during the action segments when reacting quickly enough when the action icons appeared became a gruesome experience. Luckily the game restored you automatically to the beginning of that portion again. Walking straight in one direction caused no problems, but some of the scenes required a diagonal direction, so that became interesting.
Although I didn't particularly care for the keyboard gameplay, I can't imagine what it would have been like as a point and click Windows game.
There are only a few puzzles, in the true sense of the word. One involves pulling some wine bottles in the correct order (reminiscent of the old classic Countdown
). Another is the recreation of a very familiar riddle. Most of the other puzzles are interaction or inventory based - including the infamous moving crates
problems. (As a side note, moving crates around to reach inaccessible areas was also common in Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness
, which I finished a few months ago.) The only time I can remember having that many puzzles of the same type was a multitude of those tedious slider
puzzles (and I can't recall which game at the moment). When you do the same thing over and over again, it becomes tiresome - although you do get better at them as you go along.
So, 3 stars for Gameplay.
There aren't very many things that didn't like ... really. I've included most of them in the above section.
A small nuisance involves loading saved games. Instead of getting the Load Game selection on the menu, you must first select Exit and choose whether to save again or not .. and then
you'll find yourself at the Main Menu where you can load a game. Why make it so hard to find it? I also wished I could have named my own saved games instead of their "auto-naming" with the place and time.
Body language is nice, yes, but Nico acted bored sometimes - reaching her arms up and stretching - even in the middle of an interesting dialog session. What's up with that?
And .. who came up with that bogus front cover? Nico and George don't look anything
like those people!
The Bottom Line
Can you tell I really, really liked this game? My average is 4.5 stars - a pretty high mark for any adventure game these days, I must say. It really surprised me.
In addition to my opinions above, BS3 is nice and long .. and did I mention that the ending is great? I highly recommend Sleeping Dragon
and sincerely hope there will be a BS4.