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Retro Review - Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (1996)

A classic adventure revisited.


During a recent trip to the horrible wilderness of internet-less-land, I found myself left with a PSVita that I’d stupidly forgotten to renew the game licenses on, and had to fall back on my phone to keep me sane. That too didn’t have internet, so my choices were limited but I had thankfully randomly thought a month or so back to reinstall the two Broken Sword games that I’d bought and never got around to playing.


The original Broken Sword and its sequel are considered some of the finest point and click adventures by many, fondly remembered alongside the Lucasarts classics of the day. After a couple of less well received 3D sequels Revolution Software have recently released a fifth game in the series, returning to the classic 2D gameplay (that I picked up in the last Steam sale and really need to get around to) so thankfully it’s a franchise that hasn’t become forgotten with the almost complete death of the point and click genre.

Broken Sword primarily casts you as American tourist George Stobbart who is on holiday in Paris and gets caught up in an international conspiracy by being in the wrong place at the wrong time when an assassin disguised as a clown kills a man by blowing him up in the café that George happens to be sat outside. He’s soon on a quest to take down the Neo Templar organisation who wish to reforge the titular Broken Sword to help them take over the world. George is joined by French reporter Nicole Collard, who is also investigating the Templars due to a number of mysterious murders.


On his quest, George travels to a number of locations such as Ireland and Spain to uncover the history behind the Templars and the Broken Sword, and meets a number of memorable and usually very odd characters along the way. You’ll need to complete a number of puzzles, often using a combination of items that George has collected with the areas he visits to make your way through the game.

Visually it’s held up quite well, with the 2D art for the areas still looking good and the character animations still having a great amount of personality to them. The music for the series, at least the first two instalments, is provided by composer Barrington Pheloung and is fantastically scored with some very memorable themes.


The voice acting is mostly good, with George being voiced in every instalment by Rolf Saxon. Nico for some reason has a new voice actor in every game, and the original was always my favourite. The supporting characters aren’t always as great, but most are pretty good. A lot of the dialogue is also pretty funny, and there are some genuine laughs to be had.

Even though I’d played the game a number of times in the past, I still managed to get caught up in the story on this play through, and had a few moments of remembering how a puzzle ended but not the process to get there, making me go through the full process instead of skipping to the solution.


The version of the game I’ve played this time around is the more recent Director’s Cut version and not the original – this version has replaced the original on Steam now though, so if you pick up any digital distribution version of the game this is the one you’ll get.

It adds a short prologue featuring Nico, with this followed up a couple of times during gaps in George’s story such as when he’s travelling, new character portraits for any speaking character by artist Dave Gibbons ( alsowho worked on the original version of Revolution’s previous game, Beneath a Steel Sky) and some extra puzzles as well as tweaks to the existing puzzles, so the infamous goat puzzle is now much easier and can’t break the game. There is also an integrated help system, to help with those moments where my brain just couldn’t process needing to combine item X with macguffin Y without needing to resort to Google.


As I wasn’t always in a position to play with headphones or the sound on, I had the subtitles turned on and these were a tad distracting – for some reason they have been placed on top of the character portraits, obscuring the face of the character who is speaking, which is a bit of an odd choice. I’m guessing this is due to the smaller screen size as it doesn’t happen on the PC version, but I’m sure they would have been just as readable moved a bit to the side.

Other odd parts of the Director’s Cut were that the new dialogue lines sounded a lot clearer than the original audio, as they would have been recorded at a much higher quality and I guess the original material couldn’t be remastered to the same level, and sometimes the lines seemed a little clipped, abruptly moving to the next one without any pause between them.


I also had a lot of trouble getting one of the new puzzles, where you have to highlight lines of text for George to read them, to correctly register that I had done so leading me to spend about 20 minutes doing them over and over. Finally some of the new portraits don’t seem to reflect the original character models very well, in particular the character of Duane who seems much slimmer in the portrait, as well as not being coloured correctly.

Odd little glitches of the new version aside, Broken Sword is still a great adventure, and while the old school mechanics of a point and click seem a little antiquated by modern standards the interface tweaks of the Director’s Cut certainly alleviate this a little and make the game a little more accessible to new audiences, but for players either new or old it still contains a whole lot of fun.