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Broken Sword: Director's Cut (PC) artwork

Broken Sword: Director's Cut (PC) review


"It’s almost like Revolution have silently admitted the world is getting dumber, and wanted to baby a new generation along whilst they used to be content with challenging them."



A few years ago, I was contracted by a magazine specialising in electronic entertainment to pen a top ten list of video games you should play before you die. My list featured several surprises, but, to the shock of no one, Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars ranked highly.

Several lists were configured by several different critics, but Revolution’s lauded graphic adventure featured numerously. When the lists were tallied into something the publication hoped would make a stab at validity, Broken Sword sat proudly at number seven. It deserved its acclaim; hitting PCs late 1996, it told the tale of George Stobbart: arrogant American tourist visiting Paris. Seconds after leering at his waitress and popping a passing clown’s balloon with a toothpick out of sheer spite, the café he lounges outside explodes, throwing him from his comfy perch, showering him in glass fragments and leaving him justifiably shaken and agitated.

Back then, the charming hand-painted visuals and the perfect voice acting that’s still now waiting to be surpassed culminated into a personable mystery filled with paranoia and historic conspiracy. In between the murder, the deception and George’s ham-fisted approach to amateur detective work was a clumsy blossoming romance with French photo-journalist, Nicole Collard. The two started off coolly: George’s initial sense of righteous anger in finding the madman who tried to blow him up was already starting to fade when he met Nicole taking pictures outside the razed café. Like every male trying hard to win the attention of the exotic foreign girl playing hard-to-get a little too well, he threw himself into the task of impressing the hell out of her.

When he tricks his way into the Paris sewer system, deceiving senile war veterans and outsmarting lazy construction workers, he heads straight to Nicole’s draughty flat to show off. She realises this early; the French sewer’s aren’t the most aromatic of places, and she teases him about it. He, though, flushed with pride, bulldozes through this, boasting about the evidence he had discovered, evidence the bumbling police sergeant and oddball detective failed to unearth.

The pair continue to stumble along their all-too-familiar road, still unwilling to soften to the other until they’re both doing so without realising. Nicole dismisses her professionally distant guard around George eventually, telling him about her past, her admiration for her father and the winter she spent with her Grandparents. George, in turn, recedes his smart-guy, sarcastic attitude, softening under her trust. She even goes so far as to use a male colleague to make George jealous when the quest becomes more alluring than she. It’s an ultimately human outreach, and one less angled to make her look like a controlling hussy, but more one highlighting just how important the pair become to each other in such a short time.

The new Director’s Cut had opportunity to expand on many things, but focus on Nicole especially. Rather than serve George’s impromptu date with an exploding café window as introduction, it instead begins with a journalistic endeavour through her eyes, ending in the game’s first death. In investigating this, it reveals her to have a much more personal stake in the main story than had previously been promoted. Back then, Nicole shares George’s zeal because the story she would report would catapult her into a Pulitzer prize nomination and a shot at the nationals; now, she finds family wrapped up in the conspiracy and is desperate to not only find the truth about their involvement, but ensure the world never discovers her dark little secret.

To that end, atop the original game is added three brand new chapters, each detailing Nicole’s new side of the story as she explores forgotten catacombs, majestic estates and hidden fascist headquarters left over from World War Two. In this, the updated version could have easily found a way to enhance the foundations, but for every advance it makes, something equally important is left by the wayside.

Maybe it’s unfair, then, to pick right away at the Director’s Cut‘s main addition of extra chapters, but the very first thing they highlight is a kind of crazed stupor away from what made the title so mesmerising in the first place. While Stobbart matches wits with a portly construction worker to steal away his sewer key in a largely logical progression, Nicole is flattening randomly discovered case shells and completing sliding puzzles that serve for security measures a toddler with enough patience could crack. While Stobbart is combining his inventory and manipulating the game’s colourful cast of extras to bypass hospital security, Nicole gains access to a locked-down mansion by unclipping a couple of cables and climbing up the piece of modern art that just happens to be directly under a window.

Broken Sword: Director’s Cut does a lot of the little things wrong. Back in 1996, the player was thrown out into a graphic noir world very much like our own, one brimming over with unique personalities who don’t think of themselves as cogs in a giant machine, but people getting suitably annoyed at the pushy American who won’t stop showing people the soiled tissue he found in the sewers and asking them if it means anything to them. Now updated, a lot of the dialogue options are cut in an attempt to streamline the adventure, making the Templar mysteries a significantly greater focus point, but in doing so, it robs the title of so much of its former wealth. Interactive hotspots are not only slashed in half, but are made instantly visible, taking away the nagging frustration of room-sweeping with your mouse to find them yourself, but also highlighting just how much the new version wants to hold your hand. Including an in-game hint system is understandable: a stuck player only needs visit numerous online walkthroughs should they decide coping with their frustration early is better than the cerebral rewards of working through a puzzle, but gone also are the numerous instances where George could make a fatal mistake. Leave an exclusive French hotel with an important and newly-discovered clue, and fail to remember the pair of Italian gangsters hanging around the entrance, and the last thing you’ll remember before being gifted a pair of concrete shoes and invited for a swim is an aggressive frisking and an insincere goodbye. Now, try and leave through the same door, and George will warn you that it’s not a good idea. Then tells you exactly why!

Just as big a crime is how badly the game is edited: new lines of voice acting segue into old ones with seemingly differing voices played at audibly different volumes. Old cut scenes included to help the story along as well as build characters are trounced, deleted all together or cut suddenly to a black screen rather than play out naturally. The little touches are abandoned to try and make the personalities and the quirkiness take a back seat to the detective story, but it’s a poor decision. One that made a blossoming relationship, once subtle and human, instead forceful. Personal revelations shared in private company become sudden and, although the work gone into them makes them still touching, it’s a step back.

I’ve not been invited back to compile a list of top ten games to play before you die for some years now, but, should I have to write one up tomorrow, then Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars would still rank high. Broken Sword: Directors Cut wouldn’t even make the footnotes.

Rating: 6/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (September 09, 2010)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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zippdementia posted September 09, 2010:

This is my least favorite thing for a game company to do: release an updated version of a game and make it worse in the process. What a !@#$! travesty. It happened with Siberia DS in an even more aggravating way, but this still makes the cut as a terrible, terrible, tragedy.
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EmP posted September 09, 2010:

Playing through Director's Cut (for a second time to pen my second review -- that was harsh enough) was disappointing. I'd hoped that the trip back to PC taking over a year would mean a lot of things have been fixed, but, frankly, despite the time taken, the game doesn't feel finished. The audio is off, scenes end prematurely and the game talks down to you, assuming you'll get stuck at every step and waiting for you with a hint book and a cup of marshmallow-filled hot chocolate.

You best still be getting the PSX version of this one, Zipp. I never forget a randomly-issued command!
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Lewis posted September 10, 2010:

I thought The Director's Cut was wonderful. The transition between old and new was jarring, but the new interface, hints systems, and additional content were all delightful in my eyes.
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EmP posted September 10, 2010:

Growing apart, man.

I really did not like a lot of it. I can understand the need for a hint system, but making all the hot-spots visable and scaling back what you can use to about half was moronic. That they nuked a lot of what George says and does is an odd way for a Director's Cut to go, and, in doing so, the entire balance is thrown off. Every time that balance tries to make a comeback due to what's probably the tightest writing in an adventure game, the stupid comsmetic issues like dialouge read in different volumes of a cut scene fizzing out slap you in the face instead.

It's nothing more than Broken Sword on easy setting with extra content held back for the real setting.
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CoarseDragon posted September 10, 2010:

A couple of things in the last paragraph.

One that made a blossoming relationship, once subtle and human, instead forceful instead...

I’ve not been invited back to compile...

------------------------------------
I always thought that director's cuts were supposed to be "the way the director envisioned the game". If that is what the director wanted then they seemed to have done a bad job of it or did they? You don't suppose thet original design was supposed to be that way and the only way they could get that done was to insert things and thus botch up the game?
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wolfqueen001 posted September 10, 2010:

Heh. Nice review. I was wondering how you'd compare this one to the old. I mean, I already knew you weren't as happy with it, but I was wondering how exactly you were going to put that into words, especially after already having reviewed this game effectively twice. To that end, I think you did it well here, and though I've never played a Broken Sword before, I know now what to expect from this one and not to let it deceive me.

Also, I didn't know you'd written a top-ten list however many years ago. Hahaha. That's kind of neat, and also a bit amusing, considering your thoughts on them.

You did a considerably good job on your proofing. I didn't find that much wrong here.

EDIT: Curses, CD: I caught those! hahaha. =P I'm going to leave the instead/instead edit in because I think he should take out the first one, not the second, though.
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EmP posted September 10, 2010:

Thanks for those catches, the pair of you.

I can kind of see what they wanted to do with this cut: I think they felt a lot of what they cut was 'fluff' that took away from the main thrust of the story, which was the Templar mystery. I can appreciate the effort, but I can also reserve the right to point and make sour faces when they screw it all up majestically.
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fleinn posted September 11, 2010:

..oh, good. I thought "lounging" was some sort of perfectly ordinary American activity I didn't know about :p

Good review. So same old, I guess - the game makers mistake simplicity and straightforward explanations for good overview and involving story-telling. To the point where they actually have to change some of the scenes and the build-up..

I mean, that's something I still remember - the parts in the game where you actually could die if you did something stupid. The hotel scene, the Baphomet idols, the hospital..
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sashanan posted September 19, 2010:

Yikes, sounds like they messed this version up rather badly. I hear you on the dissonance between the way George's original chapter's play out and how Nicole's new ones apparently do - the latter reminding me a lot more of Broken Sword 3 than of the original - and cutting George's dialogue is murder. That's what made the whole game awesome, especially since for all his smugness he's frequently outwitted by, well, everybody else.
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zippdementia posted February 14, 2012:

Don't hate me EmP... I'm playing the Iphone version. Which is the director's cut. I do really like it thus far, anyway. I'm planning on reviewing it from the perspective of someone who never played the original.

Then I'll hunt down the PSX version.

I will admit that the handholding is already annoying. Why have such beautifully drawn environments if you are going to take away my ability to slowly explore them? It's like the game is trying to speed me along... "Okay, gamer, we've got a schedule to keep here. There's 150 rooms in this game and I want you to spend no more than a minute on each room. Click on everything blue, go go go go!"

Like already there are some items I would have overlooked had not the game put a big neon sign on them saying LOOK DOWN HERE YOU PRICK! And that's a shame becuase about the only gameplay in an adventure game is going back to look over an environment in which you may have forgotten something. As it is, it reminds me a little bit more of one of those children's Winnie-the-Pooh interactive CDroms.

Except it's got templars.
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EmP posted February 15, 2012:

Trust you to side with Lewis. If he was still around, he'd gloating like crazy right now.

If you jump from this to the PSX version, you'll notice a lot of changes. The PSX version has some crazy load times, so be wary of that, but it eliminates all the handholding, isn;t afraid to kill you if you do something really stupid and adds hours and hours of dialouge the DC version cut for no reason other than because.

Still really sore, even now, how bad this re-release was handled.

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