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Broken Sword - the Sleeping Dragon (GC)

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      18.08.2004 04:36
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      Charles Cecil is one of the nicest men in the industry. At least that?s what many magazines seem to suggest. He, along with his people at UK based Revolution Software, has been a pioneer of adventure games for many years. Last year he announced the ?adventure game was dead?. Of course he didn?t mean it that literally just the fact that adventure games as we know them are now, unfortunately, a thing of the past. Revolution?s history of adventure games sees them responsible for some of the most critically acclaimed titles of the genre. They have been responsible for Lure of the Temptress, Beneath a Steel Sky and, of course, Broken Sword. After an attempt to combine adventure with more action with In Cold Blood, luke-warmly received by critics and the public, work began on the eagerly anticipated third part of the Broken Sword series. The Broken Sword games have followed the adventures of George Stobbart and Nico Collard. In the first game they met up and uncovered a plot by the Neo Templars. In The Smoking Mirror they took on an ancient Myan God. Now in The Sleeping Dragon they face the formation of the Templars once again and another deadly, powerful force set to destroy the world. The world is in chaos thanks to freak storms popping up all over the globe without warning. The game starts with George, back to his normal lawyers job, on his way to the Congo to meet a client to patent a machine. However lightning strikes the plane and it crashes down with him barely escaping with his life and then he finds the person he is supposed to meet killed by a mysterious, pale-faced man. Meanwhile, in Paris, Nico working on the freak weather patterns is set to meet a person who has knowledge of them yet as soon as she arrives gunshots are heard from his apa
      rtment. It is not long before the adventurers meet up and have to save the world once more. The game has made the jump into 3D pleasing to the eye. You wont find the intricate detail that was lavished on the first two games but it still manages to retain the quality looks that the series has had so far. One great thing about the transition is that along with old faces locations that you have visited in the previous two games have been reproduced. Seeing the old places that you have been to in the past restored into 3D is great to see and also rewards fans of the series who are familiar with them as well as looking nice for the newcomers. Character models are great for the most part. A lot of time has been spent in the facial animations and it shows. Characters expressions, especially in cut scenes and key conversations, are realistic and detailed and the lip-syncing, for once, is actually quite decent. An annoying thing about the overhaul to 3D, however, is that the locations are largely just there to be looked at and not interacted with. There are a lot of doors in each location, which you can try and open but they will just be locked causing you to wonder why the option to try and open them is there in the first place being as that there are so many. The audio has always been an equally strong aspect in the Broken Sword games. Luckily with the Sleeping Dragon George and Nico are voiced by the same familiar people to keep up the consistency. Dialogue spoken by the characters is not only well scripted but also well acted and pretty much everything is worth listening too. Actually everything will be listened to as you can?t skip dialogue, which can be annoying if you accidentally press the button to speak with the person again. Conversations between George and Nico are the highlight, they joke and snipe at each other yet always with their tongue
      s firmly in their cheeks. Musically this game is a departure from the others as the score isn?t composed by Barrington Ferlong, however even though it is a different style it still fits the game well. While the dialogue is great there just doesn?t seem to be enough of it. The long, historic but interesting speeches that were used in the other two games have all but gone and conversations are also fairly short with minimal room for going off topic. While this is no doubt implemented to keep the pace up it is a shame to lose a lot of something that remains so strong. Controls of the game are kept fairly simple. The control stick moves the character around while the face buttons are used for actions such as speaking, using an object or moving to a platform. Inventory remains off screen until you select it to show and you can cycle through each item via the control pad and also combine using button combinations. This does take some getting used to for those who are used to the simple mouse interface of old and it is fairly cumbersome to begin with but it does keep the screen free of clutter. Finding objects is no problem as everything that can be interacted with his highlighted and your character will look towards the item in question. So what of the puzzles? Unfortunately they don?t seem to have been carried over with as much flare and imagination. There are very few head scratching puzzles that were in the previous games. Remember the famous Goat Puzzle from the first game? Nothing like that is here. Most puzzles can be completed easily and if there is a certain puzzle in an area you have to solve more often than not the item you need to solve it with is there with it. All puzzles also seem very straightforward and require little thought if you have been playing adventure games for a number of years. Another bone of contention are the crates. Seemingly not just
      dumped into Tomb Raider games anymore you will curse the person who decided that crate puzzles should feature so prominently. The first few times you can forgive it, it?s not exactly thrilling but its painless, yet as the game goes on puzzles like these still appear with scary consistency and it soon becomes a chore and a disappointment when there is a room full of crates. Stealth also features heavily in the game. This does seem fairly out of place in an adventure game but the inclusion isn?t as painful as the crates. There are times when the enemy AI is either too deaf or deadly alert which can cause you annoyance when you get shot for the hundredth time but mostly they are implemented well. Platforming also, oddly, makes an appearance. Not in the traditional sense, you cant die, but choose your destination and George or Nico will jump to the place you wanted them to go which results in it just becoming a task of ?finding the right way?. These type of newly styled puzzles certainly aren?t as engrossing as the old fashioned puzzles of old. Revolution may have included these to appeal to the console audience or maybe to add diversity but unfortunately they just don?t add up to a pleasing playing experience. There are a fair few technical problems, which can bring the game down at times. Loading times are long and not only that but long and frequent. Each area in the game needs to be loaded up beforehand so when you enter a new building you will be greeted by the loading screen and even certain parts of buildings will see you waiting for areas to load up. This isn?t a problem if you install the game fully on PC but play it on anything else and you will be waiting a long time. This really does break up any tension you may be coming to because you will always be able to tell if an action sequence is coming up because of the loading time before it. There are also some clipp
      ing problems where characters seem to walk through objects and body parts can magically go through doors. There is some slow down in cut scenes and sometimes speech is cut off. All these faults unfortunately add up and it would have maybe been beneficial for a little longer tweaking the game and ironing out the bugs that appear. Yet with all the glitches and the under whelming puzzles somehow this game manages to still be enjoyable. What really saves it is the story and the wonderful character interaction. It may not be as gripping as the previous two, you really don?t have that sense of impending danger as you did with them, you will still be drawn into it. Charles Cecil knows how to weave a story and the move to 3D at least doesn?t affect that. The game is also extremely cinematic and when needs to be the camera, lighting and effects always create the right mood, which is enhanced with the 3D aspect. You also care about your two lead characters. Most games these days are lucky if their characters are memorable let alone liked. George and Nico are still on form in this game and their witty banter and genuinely warm and believable relationship really does help the game stand out from the problems that arise from it. Revolution had a lot of work making this game. They had to decide to make it at a time when adventure games are still on shaky ground and also work on a brand new engine as well as new plot and puzzles. Should we see The Sleeping Dragon as a test bed and try and forgive the glitches and the expense of puzzles over graphics? Partially. Hopefully we will see another game in the series that gets back to form now that half the work is done. Luckily this was one game that actually managed to break into the charts this Christmas so the fan base is still strong. It is a shame that this game didn?t progress perfectly into 3D but the effort
      is there and shows. The Sleeping Dragon, then, is not the pinnacle of the series. However for the first foray into true 3D Revolution should be commended. It has tried to balance the style towards newcomers (mainly console-based) to the series as well as old fans. While the balance doesn?t always work this is still a game with more charm, wit and entertainment value than most of the games out there today. You may not want to forgive the glitches and you may hate where the series has gone but you should at least give it a try. [7 out of 10] BROKEN SWORD: THE SLEEPING DRAGON IS Nice to look at A great continuation Complete with a good story BROKEN SWORD: THE SLEEPING DRAGON IS NOT Bug-free As good as the others As polished as it should be Capital letters courtesy of: http://www.chuckleweb.co.uk/fixit.php

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