The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is not a game to get the blood pumping, but provides an elegant charm nonetheless...
However, with the injection of fresh capital and passion into the genre, we have seen some brilliant new games coming out. Telltale Games has been at the forefront of the resurgence, adapting the point and click style to more narrative heavy games such as The Walking Dead, while also enjoying the more zany and excitable aspects of licenses like Sam & Max and Back to the Future.
The Raven is a mash up of sorts, incorporating several styles of adventure games into one. Developed by KING Art, whom some of you will remember from the delightful Book of Unwritten Tales, Raven emulates the Tell Tale formula by going episodic and by focusing a greater share of its time on character development and immersion.
The first chapter, Legacy of a Master Thief, sees the introduction of series protagonist Anton Zellner, a portly, older gentleman who has spent the bulk of his life as a Constable, working tirelessly (if unglamorously) towards making the world a safer and more humane place. As the game opens, we are able to compare Zellner to the dashing and heroic Nicholas Legrande, a man who has won fame and fortune through the shooting of The Raven. The comparison is a good one, as gamers we are more used to taking the place of the rugged hero, the man with a past and a claim to fame. In this instance we will be taking the back seat, for now.
With the daring theft of the ruby eye of the Sphinx, rumours abound that the death of The Raven, and the subsequent hero worship of Legrande, may not be all as it seems. With fears that a copy cat is on the loose, or that The Raven himself has returned, a cunning plan is hatched to use Legrande as bait in order to oust and catch the master thief.
Thus begins the adventure of Zellner, as he struggles to solve a puzzle that will either be his ultimate undoing, or give him at last the opportunity to feel he has accomplished a goal that will leave him a lasting legacy - his final chance to make a visible difference in the world he has chosen to be part of.
One of the first things you notice about The Raven is that it is artistically beautiful. The environments are well drawn, and characters are modeled with personality and character. In this, however, is one of the major drawbacks of the game - whilst the characters appear fleshed out and interesting, it can be difficult to draw that personality out of them when talking, helping or interrogating them. I was expecting a lot more depth from the supporting cast, but with the exception of a few, the writing and dialogue has left them feeling a little empty in comparison to the setting.
At first, I thought the same of Zellner, but as the game progressed there are few little moments scattered throughout that give you a sense of the weight that he feels about his situation, and the worth he attaches to solving the puzzle that surrounds him. Perhaps my favourite moment was the casting of his pills into the ocean, an acknowledgement that he sees this as his last chance to place his mark, and failure takes on a permanence that stretches far beyond the loss of the elusive master thief.
This lack of character does not stretch to the locales, with the action taking place on the Orient Express (a not so subtle nod to the influences of Agatha Christie), and a cruise ship bedecked in luxury and opulence. In each setting, there are numerous encounters with potential suspects, and the amount of interaction you have with each character gives you a lot of insight into the backgrounds and thoughts of the people sharing the scene with Zellner. As you talk and explore, you unlock objects that will help you solve the puzzles that crop up (most notably as cutscenes play, advancing the story).
While these puzzles are by no means challenging, they offer an extra element of immersion into the world. Most follow the simple standard of combining objects together, but generally they follow a more realistic logic than you find in other adventure games (suffice to say there will be no need to stick a magnifying glass to a telescope in this game, so far at least).
With the rest of the episodes included in the price of the first, and the solid foundation laid down by this one, I can see The Raven becoming a very interesting and exciting adventure. It may not be the exact game you're looking for if you have spent a lot of time with The Walking Dead, Monkey Island, or Back to the Future - BUT if you are fan of mystery novels and the influence of Doyle & Christie, then you will easily find something to enjoy and delight.
The orchestral soundtrack that matches the mood perfectly, the beautifully drawn locations, the simple yet logical puzzles, and the somewhat brooding and defeated feeling of the protagonist create a sometimes rich, deep world to explore and adventure in. There are some stumbles with the characters, and the animations are a little stiff and awkward, but The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is an excellent first step towards creating what I hope will be a very successful series of adventures.