Although we have spoken with Revolution about their upcoming Broken Sword game many times, nothing beats seeing a game in action. At the E3 2003 Expo we were finally given a chance to test-drive the game for the first time.
Although the keyboard controls appeared to have not been finalized yet, we were able to play the game using a gamepad, which worked extremely well. Earlier 3D adventure games have been notoriously hard to control. Not so with Broken Sword 3. The interface is very easy to get into and appears to be highly streamlined based on what we played.
The game uses four context-dependent action buttons. Icons are mapped on the screen whenever the character approaches another person or object. George, the game’s primary protagonist, is able to grab, talk, climb, jump, push and so on. In a sense, Broken Sword 3 provides the same range of options as the “verb bar” interface that was popular in the early nineties, except now the options are only available if they’re likely to produce a meaningful result.
Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon has certainly not been without controversy—at least in the adventure community, that is. Although Revolution has attempted to belay fears of Broken Sword 3’s new action-style elements, many have remained sceptical of the game’s genre orientation.
Having played three different scenes from the game, we see no reason why anyone would be turned off by the gameplay. The direct-controlled interface involves the player in a much higher degree, but the underlying principle is still the same. To illustrate, instead of applying the “push” verb on a crate as you would in a point-and-click adventure game, Broken Sword 3 requires to navigate the character to the crate and press the button that corresponds with the “push” icon on the screen. Expect exploration to take a much bigger role in Broken Sword 3 as a result of the new interface.
Another action sequence we were shown involved a timed puzzle where Nico, whom we know from the first games, is threatened with a gun. Nico has to use her wits in order to overcome this challenge. If you don’t succeed at solving the puzzle at first, you are returned to the beginning of the sequence until you get it right.
Some of the locations we saw are slightly low on detail, though it may still be too early to make any judgement. Although the graphics quality itself is impressive, some scenes may require additional props or texture layers to make them truly believable. Hopefully progress will be made in this area, as Broken Sword 3 will have to compete with other pre-rendered adventure games that may not offer the same level of immediacy, but are able to show more detailed scenes for obvious reasons. The animation however is particularly impressive; movements are smooth and natural. The wait is now until Revolution is ready to show off its new facial animation system, which was not implemented in the alpha build just yet.
Based on current previews our overall impression is that things are looking bright for Broken Sword 3. Slated for release on October 10th on PC, Xbox and PS2, the game will be published in Europe and the US by THQ and The Adventure Company respectively.