Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon impressions

We check out early PC and PS2 versions of Revolution's upcoming adventure game at a press event in the UK.

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At a THQ press event in the UK earlier today we were shown the latest PC and PS2 versions of the third game in the Broken Sword trilogy by the series' creator, Charles Cecil of Revolution. The Sleeping Dragon is the first game in the Broken Sword series to move away from point-and-click gameplay and two-dimensional backgrounds, so we were very keen to see how the game is progressing as its October release date draws ever closer.

According to Cecil, one of the reasons Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is being released so long after Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror is that he wasn't happy about making the move to 3D until he was confident that the available hardware could support environments that looked every bit as good as the 2D backgrounds in previous games. We're pleased to report that with the locales in The Sleeping Dragon, Cecil and the team at Revolution have definitely achieved this. The stylized textures throughout are totally in keeping with the appearance of previous Broken Sword games and are greatly enhanced by some sublime lighting effects that result in incredibly realistic shadows being cast by each and every object in the game, including the ever-present playable characters George and Nico.

We were able to play through only a couple of brief scenes in the game, but they were enough for us to get a feel for the game's new control system and for the kinds of puzzles that will be tormenting you come October--at least if you decide not to employ the game's new hint system, which can be accessed via the options menu at any point. In the very first scene of the game, George awakens in his airplane seat to find that the plane has crashed and that he and the pilot are in danger of plummeting off the edge of a cliff. Attempting to reach the cockpit of the aircraft to rescue the pilot results in the plane rocking dangerously on the edge of the cliff, and so in the first puzzle of the game, you must move a heavy crate in the middle of the aircraft toward the rear in order to counteract George's own weight as he moves to the front. After a series of events that includes bringing the unconscious Australian pilot around with a bottle of beer, both of the characters find themselves standing on platforms partway down the cliff face, and it's up to you to navigate your way to a nearby cave. At this point it's worth pointing out that although The Sleeping Dragon can at times look like a platform game, the challenge in areas such as this still involves puzzle-solving rather than split-second jumps and the like--in this instance, the jumps themselves are merely a formality, and the tricky part is finding the correct route along the cliff face.

The second level that we got to take a look at saw us assuming the role of Nico, who, upon arriving at a friend's house in Paris, is greeted not by her friend but by the sound of a gunshot. Unable to get in through the front door, we had to climb out onto a balcony and, after some minor puzzle-solving involving a birdbath and an ID card, access the apartment through French windows. Shortly after doing so, we were confronted by what Cecil refers to as an "action event" when the murderer pointed a gun at us in the kitchen. Dramatic situations like this, which Cecil feels aren't done justice by noninteractive cutscenes, will require quick thinking on your part and, in this case, required us to make use of both a nearby frying pan and a refrigerator door. Unusual for a puzzle-based adventure game, it's possible for your character to die in The Sleeping Dragon, although save points will be plentiful enough to ensure that large areas never need to be played through repeatedly.

The last level we saw, which was demonstrated to us by Cecil, had George attempting to infiltrate a large mansion late at night. Guards and dogs were patrolling the grounds, and so while puzzles were evident, the emphasis was most definitely on stealth. Interestingly, there appeared to be a number of different ways to approach the situation, and while reaching the mansion unnoticed seemed possible, Cecil chose to deliberately alert a dog, which in turn alerted a guard and caused him to stray from his regular patrol, giving Cecil the opportunity to climb back over a wall and take an ingenious if not obvious route past them.

For the duration of the demonstration, the PC version of the game was played using a pad not dissimilar to the Dual Shock 2. Given the more hands-on nature of the game compared to its predecessors, the PC controller was definitely welcome, although Cecil assured us that the game is every bit as playable with a mouse and keyboard. The functions of the four action buttons on the controller will be performed by the arrow keys, and movement will be achieved by moving the mouse left and right and then holding down the shift key to walk in the direction the character is facing. We didn't get to try this out for ourselves, unfortunately, but given the relatively undemanding nature of the game's action sequences, it seems unlikely that the lack of a controller will cause problems. PS2 owners can look forward to a game that looks just as impressive as its PC counterpart, albeit at a lower resolution.

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is scheduled for release in October. For more information and new screenshots, check out our specific coverage of the PS2 and PC versions of the game.

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