Revolution Software certainly knew what they were doing when they created Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (or Circle of Blood as it is known in the US). Released in fall 1996, this game remains an absolute masterpiece. I hardly know where to begin bestowing the accolades (and I'm really ticked no one told me how great this game was earlier)!
You enter the game as George Stobbart, who is happily taking an autumn vacation in Paris, France. While enjoying the morning outside a small unassuming bistro, George is witness (and victim) of a violent bomb attack that leaves quite a few shaken and one man dead. By trying to gather a little more information on the explosive start to his day, the clues take George deeper and deeper into a thick and ancient mystery. This simple explosion will send George gallivanting through many countries in pursuit of a mystery hidden behind centuries of conspiracy.
Sounds good doesn't it? Well it is!
Honestly, the reason I had put off playing this little gem for so long was the title it was given here in the US. Circle of Blood sounds like a bloody shoot 'em up to me. Boy, was I ever missing out.
Broken Sword: The Shadows of the Templars is a third-person cartoon style game. This may put some of you photorealisim aficionados off, but don't let it fool you. This game is definitely not for young kids. The deep and mysterious plot is designed to be thought provoking and highly entertaining at the same time. Many games utilizing this style of animation have been comedic romps, but Broken Sword is a serious game that contains plenty of intrigue and bundles of historical references. There are only enough jokes to add comic relief, and they are very witty.
As said before, this is a cartoon style game. The animation is extremely colorful and well executed. Three cheers for Broken Sword's art team, for they have taken this style of animation and really made an elegant, mature game with it. The screens are detailed and inviting. The voice-over acting is also of supreme quality, and it seems like this game never runs out of delightful dialogue. On the other hand, there are some rather long conversations, so if you are the fidgety flavor of gamer, this could put you off.
The score is also ambitious and beautiful. It adds a very cinematic feel to the whole experience. As George travels from country to country, you are greeted with music that compliments the scenery and really draws you in. This makes the concept of George traveling to another country much more convincing.
The gameplay in Broken Sword is smooth and intuitive. It has inventory-based puzzles and an easy-to-use point and click interface. The puzzles are very well integrated into the plot. They are also moderately challenging, for there are a couple that can squeeze the breath of life clean out of good old George. The game also has a "smart-cursor" that changes into an icon when a certain action can be performed at a "hotspot." For instance, if you can operate something, the cursor changes to display a turning gears animated cursor. This cuts out a lot of guesswork, and makes the game a much more enticing experience.
At last, a game with a great sense of closure! Everyone knows how frustrating it can be to sink 15+ hours into a game and get a pathetic little "Congratulations You've Beaten 'insert game here'" screen. Even worse, you are rewarded for all your hard work with a 1 minute animation of the result of all your playing and then must endure 10 minutes of credits with goofy pictures of the developers either being overly serious or making stupid faces at you. No, no, no, with Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars you get a big, juicy, satisfying, action-packed ending. Hurrah!!!!!!
But wait! There's more.
Broken Sword is a long game, and I mean LONG. Hence the large installs. You have a choice of three installation sizes, 18MB, 155MB, and 200MB. I recommend the largest installation, because it cuts down on load times and enhances overall performance. Most of the time, installing a game is mundane and boring. Here again Revolution has thought it all out with the player in mind. While you are waiting for that 200MB of adventurey goodness to be installed on your computer, Revolution has given you a little "Pong-like" game to play. That's right! They have given you a game to play so you won't be bored installing their game. How is that for user-friendly? I really wish other developers would take us into such consideration.
After all of that, the only three words I can leave you with are: WHAT A GAME!!! This is a true masterpiece and adventure gaming at its absolute finest. No adventurer worth his or her salt should let this one pass by. If you haven't experienced Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, drop whatever it is you are playing, and immediately push this one to the top of your list!