Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse - Part II Review

Journey's end.

The camera slowly pans over the rolling yellow and green hills of Catalonia, a Spanish community nestled between France and the Mediterranean Sea. In Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse, George Stobbart and Nico Collard leave London and Paris behind, traveling to this quiet landscape after deciphering clues hidden within a painting that stands at the center of a murderous conspiracy.

Mere hours before they stepped out onto the Spanish countryside, they were rescued from atop a burning building, set alight by one of the game's key antagonists: a man whose true identity and purpose remain unknown. As George and Nico are standing at the dilapidated entryway of the Castell del Sants, the tragic epicenter of the story, the pensive calm is shattered by gunfire aimed at them from inside the building--out of the frying pan and into the firing range.

George is visited by a nightmare from the past.

The two protagonists leave the first chapter with the elusive painting La Malediccio in hand. The enigmatic Gnostic imagery that enshrouds the canvas has led George and Nico to the aging castell, where they hope to decipher the meaning behind its cryptic symbology. They are soon led to a gorgeous town in the scenic Spanish mountainside, and later, to the parched amber sands of modern-day Iraq. The game discards the urban sprawls and embraces nature, a move that bolsters the impact of the already impressive aesthetics. The hand-painted environments range in scope from imposing mountains, which are home to soaring eagles, to archaic monasteries and Gnostic shrines stained and cracked with age.

Since the first episode's release late last year, the developer has released a large update allowing you to make the game match your current resolution. If you run your computer at a 1080p resolution, you now have the option to make the game match your settings, which should improve many of the finer details within the environments. The visuals are not without some problems, such as the occasional dropped frames and animation oddities. Thankfully, graphical issues are rare. The second part doesn't come free of other glitches, however. There is a small chance the game will crash directly to the desktop. Worse than that, I once loaded my quick-save file to discover that George and Nico had completely disappeared from the scene. Though I could click on objects to hear George's internal monologue describing them, he had somehow vanished into the ether. Luckily, I had another save file to fall back on.

Characters from prior games in the series make an appearance.

The game touches upon some heady subjects, mostly revolving around the conflict between Gnostic and Dominican Christians. The second part delves even more deeply than the first, covering the religious theme of two "opposing sides": the devout, who believe the world is ruled by order, and those who embrace freedom of human expression, and don't devote their lives to following traditional theisms. George, a skeptical man by nature, stands in between. He is presented with a challenge: follow one side over the other or, perhaps, find a balance between the two. Not unlike prior games in the series, Broken Sword 5 also delves into the metaphysical realm late in the game.

Broken Sword 5's second chapter puts more focus on puzzle solving over the investigations involving exploration and the conversations that established the first part. The move makes the chapter an even more linear adventure than before, discarding the map system that allowed you to warp between locations tracking down clues. Some of the puzzles are noticeably more difficult, demanding more chin rubbing than usual. They challenge you to decipher messages such as a telegram yellowed by age and an ancient artifact on which lies the directions to a lost biblical paradise.

The game includes stunning Spanish locales.

Though the puzzles still deliver satisfaction when completed, most aren't especially engaging, nor are they anything that hasn't been experienced in adventure games before. Others, however, adhere to the series' penchant for including complex puzzles you solve by using an eclectic mix of items stored in your inventory--the Broken Sword series has long been known for its unusual puzzles and their intricate, sometimes-out-of-the-box solutions. During the second chapter, you control George as he hammers out a religious tune using cans of paint and an old oil drum. In another moment, he fixes a complicated piece of hardware using a biscuit-loving cockroach, named Trevor, which occupies an empty matchbox that George has carried around since early into the first half of the game.

With the map system discarded, the game funnels you onto a path broken up by brief moments of puzzle solving. It's a shame, because the linearity removes the need to explore the world and engage in conversations, which I found to be the most memorable part of the game's first half. I was enthralled by characters who populated the starting chapter of Broken Sword 5, and their departure causes the game to lose some depth and energy.

Travel from the Spanish countryside to Iraq.

The second part isn't completely devoid of narration, however, and moments of interaction are fortified with strong writing and voice acting. The protagonists are briefly joined by a new ally, Eva Sanchez, and George is reunited with two old friends who graced the first two Broken Sword games, Duane and Pearl Henderson. Much to George's chagrin, the disgruntled goat that gave nightmares to those who played Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars makes a return early in the second half of The Serpent's Curse. But fear not: the goat that some publications dubbed one of the most difficult puzzles ever is graciously declawed, providing a simpler puzzle, and is mainly there for nostalgia--perhaps to evoke a little terror as well.

Broken Sword 5's second part is noticeably shorter, coming in at fewer than five hours when compared to the first part's six, and its linear nature diminishes the joy of exploration. Nevertheless, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse is a solid installment in the nearly 20-year-old franchise, delivering a captivating story with great characters and loads of good-natured humor. We'll have to see if the combination is enough to warrant another adventure, but until then, The Serpent's Curse achieves its goals, giving George and Nico one more shot at the limelight.

The Good
Beautiful hand-painted environments
Fantastic writing with a solid sense of humor
Great voice acting
The Bad
Linearity hurts the sense of discovery
Glitches range from graphical flubs to crashes and disappearing characters
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse

About the Author

Cameron Woolsey has spent years besting some of the finest adventure games, and gets strangely excited to find a use for a ball of yarn he's kept in his inventory for the majority of a game. For the purpose of this review, Cameron played around five hours, with a grand total of around 11 hours for both parts of the game.

Discussion

24 comments
nyran125tk
nyran125tk

waiting for full game in its complete entirety with all episodes. Then it wont be short. Is there going to be 5 episodes or is this the last?

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

Oh no that is disappointing but I will still get it eventually. It is a Broken Sword game after all.

Cloud_imperium
Cloud_imperium

Great game but suffers from bugs and crashes . I'd give it 9

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

very disappointing. the first episode felt so much like a broken sword game should feel. second episode let the game down. very far-fetched plot, stupid ending with an unfunny joke at the end, don't waste your time. this is a sad day for adventure games.

cmarison
cmarison

Reminiscent of the game, "The Dig," which was a great immersive game set in similar environments and employing similar play styles.  Such a great game.

marynash1447
marynash1447

think ill be starting playing this one...

Hurvl
Hurvl

I'm glad that the short goat section is easier this time. This game isn't Goat Simulator, so it shouldn't take up so much time.

dubsdjb
dubsdjb

oh and if anyone missed it try using the chewing gum id card on the radio in the old car! It's really amusing.

CyrenII
CyrenII

"- Fantastic writing..

- Great voice acting"

Fantastic. That is just what I'm looking for in an Adventure game.

usernameonetwo
usernameonetwo

As i thought, they just rushed the second half and released unfinished game. Will wait until this game in a bundle or drops at least 75-80% in price.

Chronologo
Chronologo

While I'm a big fan of the Broken Sword series, the game's 2nd half felt a little bland. It was nice to have the handrawn enviroments back for a more "classic" feel, but some of the puzzles were really though (I love point and click games, and been playing them since the 90s, but the puzzle were you must translate some icons gave me a really hard time, harder than any other puzzle in any other game). And the ending was pretty lame. Still the story was solid, and the humor top notch. I would welcome a 6th installment with open arms!

camachine
camachine staff

Keep in mind: this review covers the second part of the game which was released last week. The reasons I felt it deserved the score are listed above for your reading pleasure. I gave the first half an 8/10, so feel free to mentally adjust the score based on those two grades--or however much you feel based on your own experience. Taken as a whole, The Serpent's Curse is a solid point-and-click adventure game, and is a satisfying journey for fans of the series as well as longtime followers of adventure titles. 

dubsdjb
dubsdjb

This game is brilliant! How a FAIR rating can be justified is beyond me. The puzzles are really tough too!

pizu55
pizu55

@Aaronp2k Hello. I would like to ask you a favor: can you send me a savegame at 51% of the game, or at least that it starts from the beginning of the second episode? When I load the last savegame from the first episode, the game crashes. I have another savegame ep .2 but part of the 61%. Thank you. PS: the version is pc. Pleaseeeeeeeee

chibistevo32
chibistevo32

@usernameonetwo  That's not really the case at all. I think ultimately they just chose to split the episodes up at a bad point, and ended up with unbalanced length. The linearity was going to happen anyway, as the story just doesn't need the map system. People might dislike the linearity, but all told, the games only ever made you feel like you had a choice of venue. There was still only one way to progress.


I wouldn't hold your breath for a ludicrous Steam sale. that's what's wrong with the game industry these days.


I backed the Kickstarter with 250$, and am absolutely satisfied with what Cecil and his crew came up with and hope for more.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@gamerno66666  

I have read his review - dude's very forgiving and he is already an ardent Broken Sword follower. There are also more than a few uses of highly subjective phrases like "top-notch", often without any further elaboration.

I doubt that his review is any "better".

usernameonetwo
usernameonetwo

@chibistevo32 @usernameonetwo  i don't care about linearity. I'm mad because they couldn't release the whole game. They had the money from kickstarter.

It was on sale already 50% off, so it's very likely it'll be 75% on summer sale. 23 euros for such game is too much.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@gamerno66666 @camachineOverall, grades don't matter, but your own experience does. "Solid" and "satisfying" are better descriptions than any number.

Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse More Info

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    George Stobbart and Nico Collard reunite for a new adventure in Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse.
    7.4
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    Developed by:
    Revolution Software
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    Revolution, Revolution Software, Koch Media
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    Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
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