Secrets of the Ark: A Broken Sword Game
Description official descriptions
Secrets of the Ark (The Angel of Death in the UK) is the fourth game in the Broken Sword series. It is the first not fully developed by Revolution Software Ltd. Instead, they outsourced the art and programming to Sumo Digital Ltd., which already provided consultancy on the PS2 and Xbox version of the third game, The Sleeping Dragon. Charles Cecil still wrote the story and oversaw development however. Unlike the previous game, it is now only available for the Windows platform.
Keeping to the tradition of ancient mysteries, hero George Stobbard needs to expose an old rivalry between powerful factions as he chases after a manuscript Moses used to construct The Angel of Death. This powerful weapon was the final of the ten plagues that brought the Pharaoh to his knees and allowed Moses to start the Exodus as he freed the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. The factions are especially interested in the mysterious substance "mfkzt", referenced in the manuscript but forgotten for thousands of years.
George gets involved when he is forced to take a job at a bail bonds company in a dangerous neighbourhood. The Dragon incident is classified as mass hysteria and he has been blacklisted by his previous employers. During one of his assignments, he meets Anna Maria who tells him about the manuscript. As she is being chased, George decides to help her. The familiar French reporter Nico Collard is also present in the game and this only complicates things as George has to keep the balance between the two women. Some of the locations you visit include Phoenix, Vatican City, New York and Istanbul.
Although still relying on a full 3D engine with fixed camera perspectives, the game returns to its roots by reintroducing point-and-click-based mouse control next to keyboard control, along with a new drag-and-drop control mechanism. A few puzzles are still action-based, but you are now given more time to act in stressful situations, rather than having to make split-second decisions. Next to the regular puzzles, you need to investigate images, texts and clues in the central manuscript as the story progresses.
- Сломанный меч: Ангел смерти - Russian spelling
Credits (Windows version)
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Average score: 75% (based on 48 ratings)
Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 47 ratings with 2 reviews)
This is the fourth game in the Broken Sword series. The previous games have some historical significance to them. The first one, for example, revolves around the Knights Templar. If you haven't played those games, then it's safe to assume that this game doesn't follow on from the third game.
If you have played the previous ones, however, then you'll be familiar with George Stobbart and Nico Collard, who worked together in the past. In this game, another woman by the name of Anna Maria enters his life, asking for help escaping the goons who are trying to kill her for a manuscript that reveals the location of the Arc. Eventually, she gets kidnapped, and it is up to George and Nico to find the manuscript and decode it to find its location.
When I first was able to control George, I noticed that the game made the transition to 3D. I tend to ignore the 3D aspect of games and just focus on the gameplay. The camera follows your character wherever they goes. Some of the locations you visit in the game, including Rome and Istanbul, have breathtaking environments.
Another thing that got my attention is the point-and-click interface. With its absence in The Sleeping Dragon, I found it difficult memorizing the keyboard shortcuts when it comes to doing certain tasks. I was glad, then, to see the welcome return of the interface. It's easy to control George or Nico, just like you did in the first two games, and you won't have to memorize the keyboard shortcuts (because there isn't any).
There are many interesting characters in the game. Right at the start of the game, a young girl named Anna Maria enters George's life and asks for his help after a group of men threaten to kill her. She is eventually kidnapped and George discovers that she was a nun. You also deal with Virgil, George's assistant, who refuses to help George unless he fixes his MP3 player. You deal with Peter who hangs around Rome, as well as the other nuns working in the wafer factory.
The opening sequence demonstrates just how powerful the weapon George and Nico are seeking is, with Moses using it on someone. There are cut-scenes like this throughout the game, and they further add depth to the story.
Like the previous games in the Broken Sword series, both your characters can perform a variety of moves, including shimmering along ledges and jumping across gaps. A new move that I like is the ability to run. This saves you a lot of time, especially when you have to do something under a strict time limit.
There is some humor in the game, and some of it is George and Nico picking on each other. George has to do outrageous things wherever he goes just to enter a building. One thing I had to laugh at was George posing as a German health inspector in the wafer factory. I also like when he has to deal with the Swiss guards in the factory.
In BS4, puzzles come in three forms. The first two forms are typical of the series, with some involving you pushing and pulling crates, while others have you pressing a series of buttons a number of times and in the right sequence. The third form that I found challenging is using George's PDA to hack into security systems, because you have to reach the target computer without hitting any security devices along the way.
The music in the game blends well with the type of situation that your characters are in. At the start of the game, dramatic music is heard to indicate that George and Anna Maria are in danger. Each location you visit contain little pieces of music that is relevant to the place.
BS4 demands hefty system requirements, but as I found out, not even my Dell XPS 630i could run it. The game's performance dropped like a rock, and just watching a cut-scene or playing the game was unbearable. After doing some research, I found out that BS4 had a problem with multiple cores, so I limited the cores to just one and the game worked fine after that. Perhaps THQ should have addressed this issue before making the distribution.
The Bottom Line
If you have enjoyed the previous Broken Sword games, then you'll enjoy BS4. It is a point-and-click adventure game not unlike the first two Broken Sword games. To get through the game, researching on historical events is essential both to find clues and to open up new areas in the game. The puzzles that were present in the previous games are still here. The music blends in well with what you are doing, and there are some humor thrown into the mix. If you are about to play BS4, then be warned: you may need to limit the number of cores in your system, otherwise the game will be unplayable.
Windows · by Katakis | カタキス (43051) · 2012
No mazes, no sliding-tiles puzzles. After this tear-inducing good news for veteran adventure gamers, the thing about the Broken Sword series that makes it attractive to me, since I started playing the games back in the nineties, is how comfortable the gameplay feels. It feels like wearing an old shoe, the characters and interface are pleasant enough, and the story and puzzles are usually mildly interesting at least. In fact, in some weird way the games feel like they were always lurking in some obscure portion of my imagination, and were eventually realized in the real world for me to finally play them. The bland and generic design is perfectly complemented by the bland and nonthreatening writing, and all these characteristics are present in this fourth adventure of the Aryan patent lawyer and his cock-blocking eurotrash companion.
After the third, more console-oriented outing, the developers probably realized that it was mistake to alienate all the fan base, and you don't want to piss off that many Germans. So they went back to the basics, adding a point-and-click interface on top of the keyboard/joystick controls. This game is a more traditional adventure, and while there is still some crate-pushing and ledge-shimming action, this time it was kept to a more reasonable rate. The 3D graphics have nice touches, with good models and textures and some well-constructed locations. The puzzles are a bit strange, alternating between easy inventory puzzles and hard manuscript enigmas that push lateral-thinking to the limit.
The game was technically developed by Sumo Digital, while still being written and designed by Charles Cecil and the other folks at Revolution. Since they handed out the license, they could have handed out some money as well. The whole game has a low-budget feel. The models are nicely realized, but their animations are somewhat limited. Problems with clipping are very common, and is very difficult to maintain any suspension of disbelief when characters keep disappearing inside walls, their hands going through objects and other characters, coupled with a tendency to hover rather than walk. Some of the locations really lack detail, like the Vatican that according to the game is a warehouse with a small garden.
This is not the only distraction, unfortunately. Both controls schemes are useable, but erratic and imprecise, often making the main character stuck or walk right towards a guard in one of the tiring sneaking sections. More pathetic are the cuts in animation, where the characters keep talking about some exciting scene with the player only seeing a black screen and hearing a description. It also subscribes to one of the most idiotic Hollywood conventions, where foreign characters speak with heavy accents even when alone or with other compatriots. The goofy voice acting returns, with Rolf Saxon playing George Stobbard once again with his wooden line delivery, but this can be considered a good thing by some. I agree that is one of its charms.
The character development is almost nonexistent, and this is probably another hallmark of the series. Four games later, we still don't know much about the two main characters, besides the alcoholism of the foolhardy Grandpa Stobbard. The story was quite convoluted and not that interesting, unless you really like conspiracy plots about religion like the Da Vinci Code and similar books. Don't expect to have all the answers by the end of the game, though. The ending is quite abrupt, leaving all the plot threads unresolved. Maybe they ran out of cash to fully realize an epic ending, I don't know, but it only makes it look even more like a B title.
The Bottom Line
It's a mediocre adventure in a series that didn't gain anything by switching to 3D graphics. While I understand that 3D animation is cheaper than the traditional 2D, I miss the easy and simpler interface without problems of the earlier titles. Maybe now that they are working in bringing their back catalogue to portable platforms, we will see more official 2D games from the original developer.
Windows · by Macs Black (80154) · 2009
Related Sites +
Fan site by Lyle, jokingly investigating sightings of The Angel of Death in modern times.
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Game added by Sciere.
Game added September 15th, 2006. Last modified December 5th, 2023.