Remakes of classics pose opportunities to make money and/or stage a high-profile comeback for waning game-makers; this trend started to pick up speed during the turn of the first decade of the 21st century. Revolution Software, which is known for titles other than the Broken Sword games such as Beneath a Steel Sky, learned this too and had jumped on the bandwagon.
The first result of this is the “Director’s Cut” version of the very first Broken Sword title. Fortunately, where most other remakes and re-releases are mere rehashes which would not look out of place in CD Projekt’s Good Old Games store for the nostalgic, this game is an exception. It has additions and differences which make it stand apart from so many other so-called “golden” versions of old games.
Of course, a more sceptical person can argue that these changes just barely makes this remake comparable with more modern adventure games, but Shadow of the Templars is arguably a game which stands the test of time, at least in its story-writing.
Followers of the Broken Sword franchise might already be quite well-versed in how the saga started, but there are also several new scenarios which have been introduced into the pilot entry of the series.
These do not change the game’s story about murderous conspiracies and ancient artefacts. Rather, they are intended to showcase the background of the other protagonist of the series, Nicole Collard.
Unlike George, who seemingly imposed himself into the game’s story and has the luck and wit to overcome troubles which he knows nothing about beforehand, Nicole already has some experience as a journalist and has some idea of what is happening. This is shown in the new prologue for the Director’s Cut version of the game.
There are also other irregular bits which have been added in the Director’s Cut, such as comics which present Nicole’s background in a stylish manner.
These additions might impress fans of the series who particularly like Nicole more than other characters.
The bottom part of the screen is reserved for the user interface. It is made up of a bunch of large icons, which the player can click (or tap – the game is made for the touch-screen platforms too) to access things such as the display and audio settings.
Some of the icons on the user interface blink when there are updates to be seen in their associated features. For example, the icon for the inventory would blink after something new has been picked up.
Speaking of inventory, the player is shown a bar filled with icons, each of which represents an item which the player character has stowed away on his/her person. This bar is also used in conversations; this will be elaborated later.
There are a few other buttons, each of which has enough significance for its own section.
One important button comes up in the user interface whenever the player has the protagonist conversing with another character or examining something closely. This button, which is shaped like the “Return” arrow on old keyboards, lets the player return to the main scene in order to move the protagonist elsewhere.
However, there are scenes where this button does not appear, thus restricting the player to either completing the current conversation or examining something further. This might give away the solution to progressing further, namely that the player may either need to pick the right dialogue option or pick up critical clues from the examinations.
Yet, at other times, the “Return” button appears to be missing because it is a glitch. This can be seen in a conversation between Nicole and a certain gendarme in one of her segments. In this case, the player can only exit the conversation by exhausting all dialogue options which concern persons.
The Director’s Cut of Shadows of the Templar adds a feature in the form of the “diary”. Either protagonist of the game supposedly keeps track of their experience within a personal record book. The player can read it in order to remind themselves of critical bits in the story. This is also convenient if the player is looking for important clues which he/she has forgotten.
There are issues with the diary though.
A minor issue has the first few pages of Nicole’s diary being written with short-hand sentences. Whoever was responsible for designing the diary might have overlooked the need to convert these into more coherent sentences.
There is another issue which happens to be more significant. The diary appears to have not been handed over to Revolution Software’s localization partners, because it is written mainly in English. Changing the subtitle options will not change the language with which the diary is written.
Perhaps it could be argued that this is not much of an issue, since English is one of the lingua francas of the world. However, this may come as a disappointment to players who expected more thorough localization.
Other issues with the writing of the diary entries include misplacement of phrases, such as “leprechaun” when it should have been “pixie”. (Unfortunately, the elaboration for this has to be withheld because it is a spoiler.)
Some people play adventure games because they want to experience the puzzles and obstacles which the game puts in their way, as well as their stories.
Some other people may want to just experience the stories though, so they would be looking at walkthroughs to breeze through the puzzles to get to where cutscenes and dialogues occur. However, walkthroughs can feel very cheap, or even contain spoilers.
Therefore, it is pleasant that the game has included a feature to alleviate the need for a walkthrough for the latter sort of players. This game is far from the first game to do so, of course, but such an optional feature is still easy to appreciate.
The player can also use the “Help” feature to get a refresher on the gameplay elements of the game. Of course, this entails reading a lot of text across a muddy background, so the player may have to be a patient person to take in all those passages without the help of a more graphical tutorial.
However, there is a small issue with how this part of the “Help” feature is tied to its other part, namely the hint-giving one. Once the puzzles in one area has been solved, the icon for the feature dims, becoming inaccessible. If, for whatever reason, the player needs to have a refresher on the basics of the gameplay again, he/she would have to get to an area with unsolved obstacles.
REGIONS OF INTEREST:
Regions of interest on-screen are highlighted with pulsing blue circles when the mouse cursor hovers over them. The pulses linger for a while, continuing to pulse if the cursor is close by. This is a small but handy visual convenience.
Not all regions of interest in a scene can be highlighted. Some of them require the protagonist to make an observation, performing an action or both, before they can be highlighted. This limitation is quite understandable.
There may be an issue of convenience with the system of regions of interest. Considering that most modern-day adventure games have the convenience of allowing the player to highlight all regions of interest within the screen with the tap of a button, that this remake does not do so can seem a bit disappointing.
One could argue that it should be the player’s prerogative to go looking for areas of interest, given the aforementioned small convenience already. However, this argument would ring truer if areas of interest do have more visual contrast than their surroundings; this is not always the case in this game.
For example, early on in the game, one of the protagonists finds herself in a room filled with quite a lot of upper-class items and decorations, but only a few of these can be interacted with while the rest competes with them for the player’s attention.
Using an item which is incompatible with another object usually results in the protagonist shrugging silently, with subtle twinkling noises in the background (which can seem odd). Although this is functionally sufficient to inform the player that he/she has done some futile thing, this does reveal that the game’s designers had not thought of witty remarks for every futile action.
There are some exceptions of course, but the player should not expect the kind of humour which other adventure game series such as Monkey Island and Daedelic’s games have when it comes to futile decisions.
In every situation, the player has to have the protagonist examine objects or characters in the surroundings to get clues on what to do. Usually, before remarking on something, he/she has to come up close to said object or person.
However, there appears to be an oversight regarding this when it comes to George’s examinations of objects and persons.
For some objects and most persons, the player can have George examine such an object or person. This immediately freezes George’s animations, followed by the playback of George’s remarks while the animations of on-screen things or other characters continue.
This can result in a lot of unintentional hilarities, such as his sprite stopping mid-stride in awkward positions.
There are quite a number of locales across the city of Paris and in other countries, so there happens to be a map system to organize them. The system labels each locale with its own tool-tip, showing the name of the locale. Locales which are not needed to progress in the game have their icons dimmed.
If the player is to conduct research on the locales, or at least their names, the player might have the impression that the game – the original and its Director’s Cut version - is not exactly trying to accurately recreate Paris.
Revolution Software does get well-known locales such as the Eiffel Tower placed adequately correctly. Another example is the La Chandelle Verte, which does appear in the real world (in this case, it is a restaurant). Its facsimile in the game happens to appear at about the same place in Paris as the real one does.
However, another lesser known real-world locale in Paris, Rue Jarry (“Jarry’s Street”), does not seem to have an accurately placed facsimile. The facsimile is placed in southern Paris, while the real one is located in north-central Paris.
Of course, there could be, or had been, another “Rue Jarry” in Paris, but doing so much research to confirm that Revolution Software had been exacting in its version of Paris would be the purview of an ardent fan of Broken Sword.
The locales in other countries are more difficult to do research on, though this is perhaps to be expected because they are fictitious.
Being an adventure game, Shadows of the Templars: Director’s Cut does the usual of putting obstacles in the player’s way.
The goals of overcoming most of the hurdles are understandable though; they involve searching for clues to uncover the conspiracy which the protagonists have chanced upon.
Some of the puzzles also have the secondary intention of lampooning a certain trope in adventure games, namely the protagonist’s tendencies to pick up anything which can be picked up, even unseemly things. Even if the player’s decision is ultimately futile with respect to progressing in the game, there is still some reward to be had.
For example, the player could have Stobbart picking up a certain item which another person has unceremoniously disposed away. Stobbart tries to convince other characters whom he shows it to that it is a clue, but, usually, the other person remarks on how unseemly it is, usually with entertaining wit.
Asking questions is certainly something that most protagonists do in adventure games, but given the real-world settings of the Shadow of the Templars, having Stobbart ask a lot of questions which would be quite unseemly can be in itself a source of hilarity.
For example, the player can have Stobbart asking about the whereabouts of a garishly-costumed street performer at anyone, who usually responds with witty incredulity.
The Director’s Cut leaves most of the original puzzles untouched – except for the poorly designed and tested puzzle which concerned a very territorial livestock animal. A simple tweak made the puzzle a lot easier than it was – and the diary would also contain a remark which would have amused fans of the original game too.
If there are any original puzzles which may still be a problem, it is one concerning the retrieval of a certain package from underneath a certain libation-oriented establishment. The logic for this puzzle is still only clear in hindsight; it could have benefited from a hint-dropping remark by Stobbart on the nature of where he needs to go to in order to retrieve the package.
Of course, one could also argue that people who are knowledgeable about the brewing of a certain libation would know what that place is almost right away. However, other people who do not would not have such an advantage in figuring out how to start the solution for this puzzle.
Another example of such puzzles requires the associated protagonist to upstage a street performer. Again, the reasoning for this puzzle is only clear in hindsight, after the player has seen the consequences of the solution; even then, the consequences leave a few loose ends hanging awkwardly, namely a crowd which remains despite the absence of anything entertaining which would make them stay. Similarly, the protagonist could have made a monologue on why he needs to do so in the first place.
Some of the puzzles may also feel like padding: examples of these include those which occur in a certain Middle Eastern country in the game. These are entertaining, of course, if only because of the remarks by the associated characters (who are some of the most entertaining in the game), but they would feel like a lot of going to-and-fro. Furthermore, after all that, one would wonder whether the puzzle designers had pulled off a deus ex machina for a monetary problem which the protagonist is facing.
Another example of a moment with a strong impression of deus ex machina is when one of the protagonists somehow finds an assortment of motley items from a pile of refuse.
There are also a couple of scenes with settings of great urgency. Such scenes are not new in the adventure game genre, of course: other games either gave the player ample time to achieve the solution, or give the player an outright game-over screen if he/she dawdles. For this game, the solution is automatically triggered if the player takes too long.
It can be argued that the situation was urgent enough that any dawdling would have been too convenient to be unbelievable and giving a game-over would have resulted in the tedium of reloading game-saves. However, having the game go on auto-pilot would give the impression that the player’s control has been taken away.
On the contrary, Nicole’s puzzles in the Director’s Cut appear to be better rationalized. One of them even has more than one way to solve them; early on in the game, the player could have two ways of getting inking material on an object. To elaborate further would be to include too much of a spoiler in this review of course.
REMARK ON LOGIC PUZZLES:
Then there are the logic puzzles. There are a few of these for Stobbart’s segments (and they are in the original version). Most of these are quite easy.
Notably, one of them appears to have a logical issue, ironically. This one occurs after Stobbart has discovered and felt around for a certain edifice in the darkness. Yet, this logical puzzle appears to visual-driven.
Upon closer observation though, the logical puzzle does have tactile elements, namely reliefs which could ostensibly be felt by the hand; Stobbart later confirms this. In other words, the player has been given a clearly lit view of the puzzle only because the player is not expected to be able to touch the puzzle at all.
One could give kudos to the game’s designers for realizing this potential issue and including a narrative excuse to cover it up, though a more cynical player would grumble that it would have seemed too convenient.
Another one of the original logic puzzles has a minor complaint. It is a puzzle which requires matching colour patterns to colour patterns, but it is not exactly kind to colour-blind players.
The Director’s Cut also introduces some additional logic puzzles. These are of course for Nicole’s segments, and these appear to be more well-thought out.
For example, there are a couple of character-matching puzzles, each with more than one way of approach. It can be satisfying to figure out one such way.
Where Stobbart’s logic puzzles appear to serve as little more than padding and light brain-tease, Nicole’s logic puzzles reward the player with exposition on Nicole’s past.
If there is a complaint with the puzzles, it is that in order to deliver said exposition, a certain type of puzzle was repeated more than once, thus diluting its entertainment value.
A few of Nicole’s logic puzzles also have some awkward designs. For example, there is a puzzle with plates which can only slide in one direction, though they seem like they can slide in two.
As a side note, all logic puzzles reset when the player quits them and re-attempts them, conveniently.
Interestingly, there are very few puzzle solutions which require combining items within the protagonist’s inventory. This would be just a minor quirk, if not for their association with some less-than-impressive puzzles. For example, the aforementioned deus ex machina puzzles happen to involve the combination of a pair of unlikely items.
If the puzzle designers had thought of including item combination as part of puzzle solutions, this is not the most convincing of implementations.
DIALOGUE OPTIONS – TECHNICAL:
Unlike so many other adventure games, during its time back in the mid-1990s and even today, the dialogue options which players get when having protagonists converse with other characters in this game are not merely presented with a list of numbered lines. Neither are they presented with abstract icons or odd-ball images as in some games which are very eager to show their sense of humour.
Instead, Shadows of the Templar: Director’s Cut takes the middle road with an additional dash of sophistication. It uses image-based presentation, but arranges and categorizes the images in two different parts of the screen during conversations.
There is one bar for queries about characters and objects of interest, and another bar for queries about objects in the player’s inventory. Incidentally, the latter bar is also used for the occasion of using an item on the same character whom the protagonist is talking with, which is convenient.
The system is not without its problems though.
Sometimes, conversations devolve into having the player make one of two mutually exclusive responses. This is simply presented, but generally, the player is shoe-horned into making a decision which advances the game’s linear story.
There are also two other issues with this system, one minor and the other major.
The minor one is that the player needs to remember the faces of characters from the portraits which are shown during conversations with them or from the examination of picture items. These are the faces which are used for one of the aforementioned bars, and even then, they are often truncated. These faces are quite different from those which are seen on the sprites of characters.
The major one is a technical issue. For conversations with certain characters, picking certain dialogue options causes the conversation to end prematurely.
There are other small foibles. Sometimes, the dialogue system does not appear for some characters at certain times, such as a certain former soldier upon meeting him for the second time after a previous scenario. Fortunately, these characters are usually already not needed to advance the story with, but having the conversations with them end just as soon as they started can be jarring.
DIALOGUE OPTIONS – NUANCES:
Taking different dialogue options in different sequences results in different responses. The player is sometimes rewarded for experimenting with the sequences. Such rewards include amusing monologues which express the witty personality of the protagonists; an example is shown below.
Where most other adventure games would have the player character collecting items so that they can be used on other objects or other persons, Shadow of the Templars allows the player character to show each and every item in his/her inventory to other characters. As mentioned earlier, this is also how the player “applies” an item on a person, if the solution to a puzzle necessitates this.
However, the main value of this feature is the remarks which the other characters would make about the items – and about the player character, if the items happen to be unseemly in their eyes. There can be a lot of amusement to be had from showing items to other persons.
DIALOGUE – FACIAL EXPRESSIONS:
The game does not have sprites with high enough resolution to support facial expressions, so these are handled by portraits which appear during conversations instead. These portraits are additions in the Director’s Cut, and they are drawn by Dave Gibbons (who had come a long way since Beneath a Steel Sky).
The facial expressions are mainly intended for emotional expressions, however; if the player is expecting lip-synching, he/she would be disappointed. Furthermore, the game sometimes fails to pick matching portraits for certain emotions. For example, Stobbart could be expressing bewilderment and there is a portrait for this, but the game uses the portrait for when he is calm and composed instead.
The facial expressions are also often obscured by subtitle bubbles. However, this is a minor complaint, because the facial expressions sans lip-synching would not have added much substance to the dialogues anyway.
Compared to Revolution Software’s earlier games, such as Beneath a Steel Sky, Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars appears to have more characters, but most of them have seemingly shorter screen-times.
However, this does not mean that the characters are less amusing – far from it. Instead, the game’s designers had made certain that each character which the player meets comes with at least one trait which they find amusing. It is not a guarantee that every player would find them amusing of course, but it would be a rare player indeed who finds them displeasing.
The most prominent of these are of course the two protagonists. They are witty but otherwise (usually) believable people. For example, there is Nicole’s remark about a deceased super-rich adulterer being “stiff for the last time”.
Then, there is Stobbart’s penchant for taking and keeping things. This is a common habit among adventure game protagonists, but it is made more amusingly awkward because of Stobbart’s otherwise believable character designs.
Cynical players might have an issue over how Stobbart could be so earnest as to investigate incidents which have nothing to do with him. Besides, the trope of the accidental hero has been done many times already to the point of being clichéd. However, Stobbart’s wit, and the opportunities to have an otherwise normal guy say silly things, would soon have (most) players putting such misgivings aside.
Yet, it could be argued that Stobbart’s role in the story could have been taken up by Nicole, who similarly has a sharp wit but more acceptable motivations for getting caught in a conspiracy. If one is to be unkind to the Broken Sword series, Stobbart’s most significant role in the story is as the love interest of Nicole.
(On the other hand, in hindsight, such a set-up for the pilot entry of the series has opened up a lot of story-telling and gameplay opportunities for the later Broken Sword titles.)
Speaking of hindsight, the discerning player would only give thought to the aforementioned issues after having played the game, because he/she would be distracted by the other characters when playing it.
In fact, just about every other character has a wit of one sort or another, from dry wit, drollness and sarcasm to dark humour and veiled cynicism.
The best examples of these expressions can be heard whenever someone makes a remark on an American tourist such as Stobbart getting himself into trouble by poking his well-bridged nose into matters which do not particularly concern him. These strongly suggest that the writers are well-aware of the possibility of cynicism on the part of the player. Stobbart’s subsequent reply (if any) would suggest that the writers have intended him to be a rare example of idealistic young people.
Shoe-horning the player into a scenario is nothing new in the gameplay of adventure games; however, it can be made more bearable if some characters can provide the context for this. Fortunately, Shadow of the Templars does not disappoint in this regard.
For example, there are scenarios in the game where the player could attempt to have the protagonists leave the scene without achieving what they came for, but the protagonists would rebuff the player’s attempts with reasonable monologues.
The most entertaining elements of the designs of characters can be experienced when the player has George showing the same items (such as a certain metal tool) to different characters. These displays elicit different responses, most of which point to the socio-economic and cultural differences between them; this adds flavour to the characters. However, the greatest significance of these replies is the characters’ regard for George’s decision to carry these items around and show them to people.
There are remarks by some characters which might irk the sensitivities of some people. They are likely intended as nothing more than geopolitical humour, but jokes are of course not funny when told to the wrong people.
For example, there are remarks made by French characters about Englishmen; though none of these remarks are terribly vulgar, none of them are kind either. Of course, it can be said here that Revolution Software and its writers happen to be United Kingdom citizens with a liking for self-deprecating humour.
Furthermore, a few statements by some secondary characters happen to have significance which would not be clear to players who do not concern themselves with knowledge which has nothing to do with them, i.e. “useless trivia”.
For example, there are characters which make references to the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp incident and the Middle Eastern “Old Man of the Mountain” – neither would be immediately familiar to people who are not already interested in either. Other examples include references to companies which provide ore excavation equipment.
Inquisitive players may be somehow entertained by looking up information on these obscure references, but they would fly over the heads of anyone else.
There is also one particular secondary character who stands out not because of his noteworthy character, but his noteworthy lack of any. This character only pops in and out of the scene for the solution of a certain puzzle, and felt a lot like a lost opportunity to add one more interesting character into the game, especially if one considers that he is related to a younger and much, much more interesting character who happens to be standing outside their home.
Unsurprisingly, Shadow of the Templars makes use of highly romanticized legends belonging to medieval times, specifically the Knights Templar and the Ḥashshāshīn, to craft a conspiracy of sorts. Shadow of the Templars is not the first game to do so (and certainly not the last; after all, there are later examples such as Assassin’s Creed), but generally, one should not expect very well-researched and fact-supported portrayals of such legends in this story, which is after all a work of fiction meant to entertain (and it would entertain, of course).
In fact, the game may even seem to use these legends as an excuse to have the protagonist (Stobbart in particular) trotting around Europe. One example of this is the legend of the involvement of Knights Templar remnants in the Battle of Bannockburn in the history of Scotland.
REMARK ON CHARACTERS IN ADDITIONAL SCENES:
Most of the characters in the additional scenes are unique to these scenes, and not encountered anywhere else. Clever writing ensures that they are insulated to scenarios which concern Nicole’s backstory. The most prominent, and best-voiced, of these characters is a certain classy lady. Another example is Nicole’s enigmatic but ill-fortuned father.
Some of the these additional characters are intended as references to characters who were in the original game. An example is a certain handyman, who apparently knows another handyman, who appeared in the original.
Unfortunately, some of these characters may not have been well implemented, or even well thought-one. For example, there is a character who can be tricked into wasting time doing something vain, but if the player does not follow up on the trick with an actual puzzle solution and talks to the character again, the character’s dialogue is reset, as if the trick did not happen.
Also, it can be quite unbelievable that this character can be fooled into falling for the same trick over and over as many times as the player needs to come up with a solution for the associated predicament. The writer does try to rationalize this through Nicole’s monologue about her regard for this character, but this is at best just a hint at how the trick can work for the first time, and not how it can work repeatedly.
AIR TRAVEL REMARK:
There is no serious issue of believability about the map system which is used to have the protagonists going to and fro locales within Paris. However, having Stobbart going around Europe seemingly by flight to visit scenes in different countries and then leave only to come back again can raise the eyebrows of cynics.
Supporters of the series can argue that George Stobbart has the means to afford such frequent air travel, and their argument would be supported by Stobbart’s choice of career, which is stated somewhere in the game (and if not, later in the series). This career could give him travel perks after all.
However, Stobbart is a tourist in the first game, away on vacation. Without the perks of his job, there are very few ways to argue that he could undergo such frequent air travel in this entry of the series; he could have a lot of money available, but this is not mentioned in-game, or he could have frequent flyer perks, which is not mentioned in-game either.
There are options for subtitles, but these only work for monologues and dialogues. They do not work in cutscenes, unfortunately, so the player must play these cutscenes in languages which he/she is versed in.
Learning to change the subtitles can take a little getting used to, because the game does not label the options for subtitles with text, but with flags instead; this is also done for the language options. The player will need to brush up on his/her geographical knowledge.
UNLOCKABLE COMICS & OTHER EASTER EGGS:
The additional scenes should be enough to shed light on Nicole’s backstory, but there is also unlockable content in the form of graphic novel strips.
The ways to unlock them may seem random though, even if there appears to be a pattern of sorts.
For example, one of these ways involves Nicole’s sarcastic remark about a computer science book being in the collection of a person who should seemingly have no use for it.
If there is any pattern to be had, the player has to do many odd things – often seemingly futile with respect to progress through the game. Fortunately, there is not just a single way to unlock them. For example, for the third comic strip, there is more than one futile action which can be performed on a certain museum exhibit to unlock it.
Once a comic book strip has been unlocked, the player hears the noise of a goat bleating. This is not told to the player, however, so the unobservant (or uninformed) player might fail to notice this the first time around.
The Director’s Cut also includes other Easter Eggs. Not all of them would be humorous though. There is one which makes a reference to an earlier Revolution Software game, but also includes a joke by Stobbart which might not be funny to the wrong ears.
Shadow of the Templars and its re-release are made with Virtual Theatre, the same engine which was used to create Revolution Software’s earlier work, Beneath a Still Sky. The limitations of the engine happen to show, even in the re-release.
The lack of detailed sprites which could have supported facial animations has already been mentioned.
In some scenes, the layering of sprites appears to be messed up. An example can be seen in the following screenshot, where the sprite for a glass of beer appears on top of Stobbart’s sprite. The sprite for a musician is also supposed to be on the couch.
Next, there is the lack of smooth transitory animations for characters who are turning around. However, at least Revolution Software had made sprites with secondary animations to mask this visual gap. Even so, these animations fail to show sometimes, especially during in-game cutscenes.
With the exception of specially made animations, the game resorts to stock animations for when characters take an action. These stock animations have them raising their arms to varying degrees; this happens to be a staple of many adventure games over the years, but they are still awkward sights.
Although Revolution Software had been limited by the technology which they had for the original first Broken Sword, it had shown some ingenuity in utilizing what it has. The best example of this can be seen from how the spray of water from a garden hose is depicted in a certain scene; this appears to make use of mere brightness changes.
Usually, when the player has a protagonist leaving a scene by walking, the game renders unto the player the convenience of having the current scene fading to black and the next scene fading in. In other words, the player does not have to wait for the protagonist to walk over to the next scene.
However, where other animations are involved, such as the protagonist climbing stairs or ladders, the player has to watch the animations and does not appear to have any way to skip it.
The Director’s Cut retains the cartoon cutscenes of the original, but have also added graphic novel-like cutscenes. Incidentally, these additional cutscenes have been drawn and coloured by Dave Gibbons, who worked on the comic cutscenes for Beneath a Steel Sky. Followers of Revolution Software may be amused by changes in Gibbons’ style.
For better or worse, some of the original cutscenes have been remixed; scenes with Gibbons’ style have been inserted into them. Watching the mash-up is not exactly pleasant.
The original version of Shadow of the Templars was notable for its lavishly drawn and coloured locales. They may not have been touched-up much in the Director’s Cut, but they still look pretty.
Some of Nicole’s segments have the player revisiting locales seen in the original games. For example, the player can return to the scene of the infamous café explosion as seen in the prologue of the original game, so as to see the aftermath (which is a lot tidier than one would expect).
As a source of humor, the game also happens to record a few certain actions which the other protagonist had done earlier in the same locale; the current protagonist would make a remark on this if he/she is compelled to examine the results of these actions.
If there is an issue with the locales, it is that a few of them are repeated, if only for a secondary plot to progress. This can dilute the aesthetic appeal of the locales.
USE OF VIRTUAL THEATER:
Not one to use any other things when it has its own tools, Revolution Software uses a version of Virtual Theatre, its own in-house game engine which it previously used for its earlier games.
Yet, followers of Revolution Software might notice that its signature traits, which is the movement of non-player characters about different scenes, is not utilized as much as it was in previous games, such as Beneath a Steel Sky.
There are very few characters who move in between scenes in Shadows of the Templar, and the Director’s Cut does not appear to have introduced any new ones either. There are only a couple of instances where this feature of Virtual Theatre was convincingly used: a certain establishment for medical care and one of the few segments in the game in which the two protagonists are together.
For the localization of the original game, Revolution Software has hired audio-providing studios to deliver the voice-overs. However, due to the state of recording technology at the time of the original, the voice-overs have some noise.
It would appear that Revolution Software had re-used the voice clips from the original game as they were, without improving them with filtering. In fact, the levels of noise across the voice-overs in different languages can vary wildly, even from character to character.
Such noise can make for a jarring experience to players who are more used to present-day adventure games instead of re-releases.
George Stobbart’s American voice was delivered by Rolf Saxon. Stobbart is a witty and spirited fellow in the first Broken Sword game, much like so many other adventure game protagonists.
The voice-actress for Nicole’s English voice-overs, Hazel Ellerby, does try to mimic a French accent, but it would only be convincing until a keen-eared player picks up some British intonation. Yet, she still perhaps delivered the best performance for Nicole.
The other voice-actresses for Nicole are enthusiastic, but sometimes rush their lines or have slightly distended intonations. For example, there are moments where Nicole has some internal monologues about some mysterious occurrences. The French Nicole more often than not reads these lines quickly, whereas the British Nicole takes slightly more time to enunciate them, if only to emphasize the mystery.
The following commentary is not intended as an offense to Toneworx GmbH, to whom Revolution Software outsourced the German localization to. Yet, it has to be said that the Deutsche voice-over for Nicole can sound jarringly different from the rest, if only because it is a lot deeper in pitch.
REMARK ON VOICE-OVERS FOR ADDITIONAL SCENES:
The additional scenes in the Director’s Cut version of the game happen to benefit from better-filtered voice-overs – most of the time.
Unfortunately, the Italiano voice-overs are exceptions. Although they were delivered with convincing empathy, the audio studio which provided them, Synthesis International, lacks the recording equipment or perhaps even the post-processing skills to minimize noise.
A few lines of the voice-overs for the new scenes and their subtitles happen to mismatch. An example can be seen when an old lady remarks on a ruined piece of fabric; where her voice-over remarked over how it could be salvaged, the subtitles had her expressing disgust over how it became so.
There appears to be only ten save-game slots, though this is probably more than enough considering the linearity of the game’s story. However, there are some issues with the game-saving system.
The first of these issues can be seen in the screenshot above. For certain percentages (it was perhaps around 26% in this case), the number is not properly displayed; it resembles an unsigned integer variable. This is fortunately a minor issue, because the completion percentage does not do much beyond informing the player about how far he/she is from the game’s ending.
A certain other issue happens to be more serious. There are a few scenes where the player is unable to make a game-save; an example is a scene involving a certain train car.
Most of the music in the game are recycled from the original tracks by Barrington Pheloung. That is not to say that they are bad though – far from it. They pleased ears back in the mid-1990s when the game was released, and it is doubtful that they would be stale by now.
Pheloung’s tracks are generally slightly melancholic; these ones happen to be used for less exhilarating moments of the story. Some of Pheloung’s tracks in this game may be newer, but if they are, they still have the same signature soothing melodies.
Many other adventure games treat their music as aesthetics to fit the current situation. Shadows of the Templar appears to take a small step further and tie certain parts of tracks, e.g. their refrains, to the player’s decisions.
For example, doing a futile act like trying to pull open secured metal grates with one’s bare hands would play a subtly playful tune.
Doing anything which increases the player’s progress rating results in a flourish of inspiring music. This is very gratifying, of course, but like the progress rating, it may also be a mild spoiler which gives away the fact that the player is progressing whether he/she knows it or not.
The Director’s Cut brings with it three tracks by Miles Gilderdale, who is working on the soundtracks for the Kickstarter-backed fifth title of the series.
These tracks are particularly prominent; two of them are used in the additional scenes with Nicole as the player character, and they stand out from the other soundtracks in the game because they are songs featuring lyrics sung by Jade Herbert. These songs happen to be quite pleasant to listen to, at least for this reviewer.
(Doing research on Jade Herbert may be difficult though; she does not seem to have a particularly high profile and her name is actually quite generic.)
The third track is perhaps the most exciting to listen to though, partially because it is used as the music for the credits roll and would have been a fitting send-off to the end of the game.
The Director’s Cut for Shadow of the Templars retains many of the original’s minor flaws, and the additional scenes which it includes also have small foibles of their own. Fortunately, these small setbacks are easily forgivable, and may even offer some amusement (especially for when lining them up for screenshots).
Even after all the years since the debut of the game, the humour of Shadow of the Templars can still be quite fresh. After all, it is not often that adventure games resort to such humour as having the protagonists stow away unseemly things and showing them to other persons who are just as witty as the protagonists themselves.
The Director’s Cut of Shadow of the Templars may seem little more than yet another convenient re-release, but it is far from being a waste of anyone’s time, be it followers of the franchise or those who are new to it.