For those of you who have been keeping an eye on Kickstarter and the various app stores for mobile devices, you’ll begin to notice two trends. One is the revival of old adventure/point’n’click adventure greats such as Broken Sword, Escape From Monkey Island, even Knights of the Old Republic which falls somewhere in-between the two genres. The second trend, which applies especially to Kickstarter, is the rise in number of small teams and even seasoned developers trying to fund brand new point’n’click adventure games. Why you ask? Well simply because it’s one of those genres that nearly every gamer will have fond memories of in one way or another but for some reason, sadly has become ‘uncool’ in this current market that’s flooded with triple A first person shooters and racing simulators. The pace today is permanently set to ‘dubstep’ with everyone rushing for quick reflexes and not taking a moment to savour an experience that asks you to stop and think.
Amongst those leading the charge is KING Art Games who, for such a small team, have been producing quality titles for some time now and this time around, have set their sights on revitalising the adventure genre with some fresh ideas, along with some classic ones, all held together with spectacular visuals and overall delivery. The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, designed as an episodic release much like the television shows/movies which have inspired it, holds a deep and engaging story which will span across the globe and split into three episodes in the hopes of building a conversation within the community about the true ending of the story.
As you begin your journey you’ll be placed in the shoes of Anton Jakob Zellner, a Constable in the Swiss police who despite his aging frame, still has one of the sharpest minds around and he’s always in search of one more chance to prove himself as a great policeman and an even better detective. On this occasion, he’s in luck as there’s a copy cat on the loose, a master thief who is replicating The Raven who himself was once a master criminal, responsible for stealing some of the world’s finest jewels and art pieces.
The first thing you’ll notice, as the game pours onto your screen with a smooth motion, is just how gorgeous the visuals are. The Raven simply looks stunning, mixing realism with a charming cartoon style which suites the games 60’s era, the real-time 3D effect makes each character seem full of life, you want to have conversations and soak up the atmosphere.
The world around you is just as beautiful, from the rolling hills and waters of Switzerland’s vast mountain ranges, to the scorching pyramids of Cairo. It fills the screen with exuberant colour and extreme amounts of personality. You’ll happily spend hours lost in this game world, scouring every inch and exploring every avenue of conversation available to you. That’s the best part of point’n’click adventures after all, there’s no rush. Soak it all up, you’re on a gaming vacation!
Anton himself is the perfect lead character, far from the typical all american stud, or goofy young buck hero, stumbling his way through. Much like Poirot from the famous Agatha Christie novels, Anton has class and somehow manages to exude a sensibility that makes you rally behind him with every step. This richly developed character whom you’ll learn more about as you carry on throughout you’re journey, isn’t resigned for just the lead. Many of the game’s cast are colourful and fun, filled with excellent stories and great dialogue, if you can afford yourself the time as many of your objectives are optional.
The story flows naturally, really working with that classic ‘whodunnit’ concept, and playing with your expectations at every step, I myself made a few theories and now only a few remain possible. With such an engrossing and well told story, this meant that the vast majority of tasks were clearly outlined simply through the games narrative, leaving all avenues of investigation up to your discretion. This was a great way of adding in optional challenges and objectives, meaning KING Art could keep away from shoving a ‘mission board’ down your throat and having to spoon feed you every step of the way.
For those that may find some of the puzzles a bit obtuse, which on some occasions certainly might be the case, there is the option of a helping hand. As you make your way through the Raven, you’ll notice what is essentially a point meter filling up for each clue you investigate and interrogation/polite conversation you engage in, this can then used to purchase hints to tricky situations. In all honesty though, this was one of the weakest parts I found in the game mechanics, as the hints themselves were often more confusing than any of the puzzles, only vaguely alluding to the answer.
While the controls are as you’d expect from a point’n’click adventure, I unfortunately didn’t get up close and personal with the Xbox 360 version, leaving me unable to paint a crystal clear picture of how the controls have ported, but settling for a spin on the PC I can only imagine good things from the control scheme. After all, in order to play the game smoothly you simply needed just a mouse and the space bar so the addition of some extra camera and character controls can only be a boon to the overall experience. In a bid to mock-up the full effect, I experimented with a wired 360 controller hooked into my machine and the movement speed that the joysticks produced was more than suitable, while the left and right triggers acted as my left and right-click.
The voice acting throughout is top-notch, no character seemed at odds, with the talent behind the scenes playing a huge part of why you’ll be happy to while away the hours chatting with that suspicious lady with the handbag, or that guy who looks ever so fishy. The audio quality expands into the soundtrack which is scored beautifully, taking cues from composers of the era such as Richard Rodney Bennet and Christopher Gunning, KING Art Games composer Benny Oschmann has done an outstanding job delivering beautiful set pieces that breath some modern ideas, and character into a solid theme. You’ll find those difficult head scratching moments all the more enjoyable because of the sounds that will flood your ears. On plenty of occasions, when pausing for those important breaks (safety first kids), I found myself waiting those few extra minutes just to enjoy the music, which is a quality some games ignore or just miss the mark entirely, so it’s nice to see KING Art Games taking the time to make a fully rounded experience.
Overall The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is a fantastic experience. It’s not going to be the groundbreaking title that brings the point’n’click genre hurtling into the future, with huge changes and updates, but I’m sure it will be the title to bring the genre back in to the limelight because it does everything it’s supposed to and it does it damn well. The story is great, the puzzles range from clever to mind bendingly difficult and if you give it the chance, you’ll be hooked! Lovers of the classics will find comfort and beauty here while those who are still waiting to dive into the genre will find this the perfect place to start. If you’re still unsure, head over here for a chance to play the rather slick free-to-play game that sets up the story for The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief.