Home > Games, My writing > For the love of… Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (Article)

For the love of… Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (Article)

Broken SwordBroken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, on the surface it’s a fairly standard point and click adventure game, like your Monkey Islands or Day of the Tentacles. You collect various objects, which you’ll use to solve puzzles, ask people questions or just keep in your pocket for posterity. That said, since I first played it almost 15 years ago it has remained one of my favourite games. A wonderful tale of intrigue, conspiracy and adventure told via a beautiful cartoon style, Shadow of the Templars is a true classic in my mind.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Broken Sword tells the story of George Stobbart, an American tourist traveling across Europe. When we join him he is relaxing outside a quaint little cafe in Paris. Things quickly start to go wrong as a creepy clown playing some suitably menacing accordion music shows up. Swiping a fellow cafe patron’s briefcase and leaving his suspiciously beeping accordion in its place, as he quickly flees down an alley. Before anyone can react, a thunderous explosion erupts from the cafe. Thankfully, George survives with barely a scratch and quickly sets about investigating just why a clown would want to bomb a Parisian cafe.

This opening is all presented in a colourful but simple animated sequence, which remains one of my favourite game intros. Accompanied by the elegant orchestral score of Barrington Pheloung [who wrote the cracking Inspector Morse theme too – Ed], the scene sets up the tone of the game perfectly. We quickly go from a gorgeous sweeping vista of Paris to a playful moment in front of a cafe, only for things to take a nasty turn as the explosion rips through the scene. Broken Sword keeps this feel throughout the game, a fun, joke-filled adventure that at the same time can be dark and mature.

The writing is exceptionally witty, George has a brilliantly sarcastic and dry sense of humour and his narration of events is filled with hilarious one liners. Characters outside of George and Nico (the other main character) are painted with broad strokes, all simple archetypes; the dopey policeman, misogynistic workman. This might sound like a bad thing but it works surprisingly well here, thanks again to the fantastic script. Broken Sword is a rare game in which a large bulk of it’s cast of side characters are eternally memorable. Emboldened by some pretty good, if occasionally hammy, voice acting.

Then there’s the overall plot, which sees George follow the mystery of the Knights Templar all over Europe. Don’t worry if you don’t know much about the (very real) Knights Templar, the game isn’t afraid to give you a history lesson or two. An excellent mix of real historical events and a gripping modern conspiracy, there are plenty of twists, turns and revelations to enjoy throughout. This isn’t a short game either, it’ll take around ten hours to finish, more if you are someone who likes to click on every single interactive object. A perfectly acceptable thing to do just to hear what George has to say.

While some of it’s visual aspects may not have aged all that well, Broken Sword is still a delight to look to at. Every scene has a marvelous hand-painted background which have all held onto their charm, even if they have lost a bit of fidelity over the years. The character art was never especially detailed but they remain exceptionally well animated and affable, if a bit blurry in their old age. You can still appreciate the craft and ambition that went into making the game look like an animated film.

In my personal gaming history, Broken Sword is the game which showed me games are not only a viable avenue for storytelling but can be bloody good at it too. Having played mostly 2D platforming and action games on my Super Nintendo and Mega Drive, it was quite a revelation. Before I played The Shadow of the Templars I didn’t think game stories got much more complex than King Koopa kidnapping that poor Princess again. Some might argue that there are better ways to tell stories in games. I’d be inclined to agree, but that doesn’t stop me getting engrossed in Broken Sword every time I play it.

A director’s cut of Broken Sword has been released on various platforms in the last couple of years, sadly it made some changes to the game that make one wonder if George Lucas was involved. So if you are interested in trying the game out, I’d recommend grabbing it on Good Old Games, as those lovely chaps have included the original version for free with the less than great director’s cut.

Originally published on Square-Go.com

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