Three months after part one of Broken Sword V: The Serpent’s Curse reunited Nico and George after their long hiatus, part 2 concludes the story of the mysterious painting La Malediccio, a forgotten religious cult and series of greedy megalomaniacs.
I felt - and, in fact, still feel - that the separation of Broken Sword 5 was probably the biggest mistake of the game’s development. Slow pacing in the first four hours would have been less problematic had the full 11 hour quest come in one package, but when the cut-off came such a short time after the action kicked off, the tension was rather deflated. I was curious to see whether Rebellion could rectify the issues of part one in it's second installment, and took to my PC to play through another chunk of investigative puzzling...
But part one of The Serpent’s Curse left players feeling a little flat, part two is a definite return to form. The franchise’s globetrotting tradition gets a nod in the first part - with a brief trip to London included amongst the mainly Parisian backdrop - but you feel it far more in part two. Darting about Spain and the Middle East with a mysterious old map, some runes and a bunch of ancient religious artefacts, the team at Rebellion have yet more chance to show off their stunning handpainted backdrops. Kooky religious sects and the influence of Indiana Jones-style exploration were essential parts of the early Broken Sword games, and Broken Sword V: The Serpent’s Curse really returns to this in part 2. It’s ridiculously contrived and over-the-top, and whilst long-term will likely enjoy and expect this, there’s a healthy dose of Saturday Morning Breakfast TV in the caricatured villain Langman and his burly henchmen.
Whilst the puzzles were fairly satisfying in Broken Sword V Part 1, there is a definite increase in quality in the game’s second installment. During part one, there was definitely at least one occasion whereby the puzzle solutions were so obscure that I was reduced to attempting to randomly combine objects in my inventory until I came up with the correct combination. In part 2 of The Serpent’s Curse, there’s more of a sense of discovery to the puzzles, and often a more natural feeling of progression from clues to solution. I’m a sucker for word games and lateral thinking puzzles, so the inclusion of two decoding challenges similar to one found in the first Broken Sword game was a definite boon to me, breaking up the physical puzzles such as the traditional combining of objects and requiring a different set of thought processes.
As a result, progression feels less sluggish and more natural, and the game’s increase in pace really benefits the overall story. It’s probably an inevitable and necessary quirk of the point ‘n’ click genre that the rather slow movement is - particularly in times of urgency - rather contrived, but the plot is interesting and the puzzles engaging enough that this is only really noticeable on occasion.
One curious issue I did find when playing through the game was the start, which was a little curious for an episodic game. Rather than recapping the events of the prior episode, or merely starting where I left off, for some reason I was forced to replay the final 5 minutes of the first part. Whether or not that was merely a glitch in my copy of the game, or whether my previous completed save had failed to load properly, I am not sure, but it was a slightly disarming introduction to the second part of the game.
The Serpent’s Curse will no doubt provide a great nostalgia trip for those who grew up on Nico and George’s adventures, and it’s a well executed and entertaining enough 9 or 10 hours with all the over-the-top, Indiana Jones-esque exploits we’ve come to expect from the franchise. Those less enchanted by nostalgia, however, may find the game feels a little dated, a little forced. The fully animated sections of the game still feel low-budget and a little hammy, and when the game ended on a particularly long instance of this (along with some pretty dire “jokes”) I couldn’t help feel a tad deflated after a generally enjoyable and fun slice of adventure game. That being said, the second half of Broken Sword 5 rounds off what is, all in all, a very solid adventure title that - as Rebellion promised in its Kickstarter for the game - faithfully recreates the sense of older, 2D Broken Sword games.
You can read my review of Broken Sword V: The Serpent's Curse Part One here.