The third game in the Broken Sword series, Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon was released in 2003 and saw the series move away from its traditional point and click interface. Instead, opting for a 3D graphics and more standardised 3rd person controls.
It was a controversial decision at the time, one that was reflected in sales, even though the game was positively received. Nearly 20 years after its initial release, it’s easy to see why the game was both lauded and loathed.
Developed once again by Revolution, the game takes place years after the events of The Smoking Mirror. Series protagonist, George Stobbart is flying to the Congo to meet a scientist named Cholmondely. This scientist claims to have created a machine that can make limitless energy and George, being a patent lawyer, is going to write the patent for the machine.
Unfortunately, after a bad landing, George arrives at Cholmondely’s lab to find him dead at the hands of a mysterious man named Susarro. George and his pilot, Harry are able to escape with their lives but George isn’t willing to let this mystery lie.
Does he ever?
Determined to find out why Cholmondely was killed, George’s journey will take him to England, Prague, Egypt and back to Paris. There, he will reunite with Nico who is doing her own investigation into the murder of a hacker who had contacted her after being hired to decode the Voynich manuscript. The murderer had made a point of dressing like Nico to try and frame her.
Together and through their own separate investigations, George and Nico will find a plot that may end up destroying the entire world. A plot that goes back to their encounter with the Templars in the first game.
Let’s talk about the good first.
The most important aspects of Broken Sword are at their best here. The story is fantastic and keeps you hooked right up to the end. Broken Sword games have always combined realism and outlandishness and here, it is no different. However, it never takes things too far in either direction (aside from the finale) so it never gets overly analytical or overly silly.
One moment you’re climbing down some cliffs in the Congo. In another you’re talking poetry with an Irishman in Glastonbury. Then you’re trying to sneak into a heavily guarded castle in Prague. Before heading back into the catacombs under Paris.
The characters, both new and familiar, are excellent and the voice acting is brilliant. Meeting up with George and Nico again is like returning to the warm family home after many months away. It just puts you at ease. Nico, level-headed and tough as nails. George, sarcastic and brave. If you loved them decades ago, you’ll love them just as much here.
The same goes for the music. Another set of memorable and classic Broken Sword themes to put a smile on faces. Nothing is going to top The Smoking Mirror’s soundtrack but The Sleeping Dragon comes mighty close.
Less familiar but well worth praising are the visuals. Moving Broken Sword into a 3D environment was brave but it plays off as the game looks fantastic. Character models feel real and environments feel interactive even though they’re often not. It manages to keep the cartoony look without over-doing it too.
It all sounds so good, right? Well, that brings us on to the problems with The Sleeping Dragon. Problems that are just simply too big to just ignore.
The interface is annoying to use and the controls have issues. The former is not game-breaking but can result in irritating moments where you’ve trying to view or interact with different items or things and keep mis-selecting. This also applies when quick reactions are needed resulting in unfair deaths and restarts. The controls can also cause numerous problems with this too but mostly the problems with those arise to running into walls and finding yourself turned around as you move from one fixed camera point to another. You can get used to the problems but they are there all the way to the end.
What no-one can get used too, and you’ll find is the most heavily criticised thing about the game, are the puzzles. Specifically, the crate/block puzzles. Revolution hopes you like pushing and pulling blocks and crates to solve puzzles as it’s the predominant feature of the game. Why on earth did they decide to focus the majority of the puzzles on this? To call later one’s groan-inducing is an understatement, but they also get really tricky and frustrating. The worst thing about them though is how they simply break the immersive feel of the game. You’re in a desperate race against time to stop the end of the world but first you need to reach this ledge by moving a ton of crates to reach it.
It’s a real shame as the other puzzles are the perfect mix of brain-taxing and clever ideas that Broken Sword has become synonymous with.
Bad enough to ruin the game? Absolutely not, but bad enough to knock it down a point or two.
The positives vastly outweigh the negatives though. Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is a delight to play and while it doesn’t quite have the charm of the first two games, it is a worthy sequel.
Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon (Steam)
The Final Score - 7/10