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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon (PC)



By Jim McHugh

The fine line between PC games and feature films has gotten even closer with the release of Broken Sword III: The Sleeping Dragon. This latest release from The Adventure Company deftly intertwines adventure gaming and classic story telling into an intriguing PC title. So, get your tub of popcorn ready, warm up that hardrive, and prepare yourself for the big screen experience right on your own desktop PC.

We said it before, and we'll say it again: the adventure game genre is alive and kicking. After playing Broken Sword III: The Sleeping Dragon for just few minutes, you'll become a believer of that fact as well. PC game developer Revolution Software has given the genre a much needed kick in the keister by adding the familiar aspects of feature film to the overall gaming experience without detracting from the classic adventure gaming molds. They've also moved the game's franchise into a forward direction with its overall presentation, taking fans of the adventure series finally into the realm of 3-D graphics.

Taking on the dual roles of George Stobbart from Broken Sword I, and Nico Collard from Broken Sword II, players embark on a world of action, adventure, and mystery. Through a series of events, players will stumble upon a conspiracy revolving and ancient scroll and an insidious organization that will take them to the four corners of the globe in search of the truth.

As with most adventure games, Broken Sword III: The Sleeping Dragon runs the gambit of intuitive thinking, puzzle solving, and inventory management. Players must work through many different sorts of tasks in order to progress through the game's story. Gone for the most part are the 'click-n-point' aspects of the genre, replaced with more thematic and action based gaming elements. These include timed action sequences that put the player right in the middle of the action, not unlike Tomb Raider and other action filled titles. For example, during the first leg of the 'Nico' levels, players must hit an action key just as an assailant takes aims and fires at our heroine with a pistol. If players are a moment too late, Nico bites the dust and players must start the sequence over again. Other puzzles found in the game also revolve around action based sequences. Included among these are wall scaling, box movement, stealth, object balancing, and item building.

As with the two previous incarnations of the game, the latest Broken Sword incorporates an excellent story into the gaming experience as well as some above average writing and voice acting. Moving between the two separate stories as you follow the escapades of Nico and George as they travel and find adventure in Prague, Paris, and the Amazon (among other locations) is intriguing, entertaining, and even sometimes surprising. The whole presentation is made even that much better with the inclusion of a brand new 3-D engine, something new to the Broken Sword series of PC games.

As mentioned before, Broken Sword III really does give the player the feeling of cinematic immersion. Simply put, the game lets you actively take part in a feature film itself, rather than watching it from a distance. With this in mind, all of the activity within the game plays off like a feature film, including puzzle solving, cut-scenes, and of course camera shots. While all of this is neat in theory it did add a little bit of turmoil to a few elements of the gameplay. For example, the shifting camera angles made character movement and control a little difficult from time to time. The jump from regular gameplay to the in-game cinematics/cut-scenes also made things a little tough at first, mostly because they were completely unexpected. The game's engine would grasp control from your hands rather quickly, spurring your character into other actions and movements. Most of the time this wasn't a big deal: the game would progress normally without any real difficulties overall. Other times, the game would leave you with one of the numerous 'split-second' movement options that you needed to complete in order to progress within the game. Thankfully Broken Sword III always auto-saves before the scenes that could possibly kill your character. Still, it's a little difficult to get used to.

Taken as whole, Broken Sword III: The Sleeping Dragon is an incredibly entertaining adventure game. Not only does it incorporate a modern, top notch graphics engine it also contains all of the major elements needed to make a high quality adventure game. That includes a great back story with excellent writing as well as challenging and diverse puzzles. Some of the controls could have been a little easier for PC users (most likely they were built with a console control system in mind), and the ghost of the multiple camera angle comes into play every so often. We also ran into a few stability issues during the course of the game forcing us to cold reboot our system, usually cropping up right after cut-scenes. These problems weren't a complete detriment to the gaming experience provided by Broken Sword III, however. We still found it to be one of the best adventure games this year, raising the bar for the genre single handedly as well as providing quite a bit of fun.

Grade A-

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