The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief (chapter one): review

  • Format: PC (version reviewed), 360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN)
  • Unleashed: 23rd July
  • Publisher: Nordic Games
  • Developer: KING Art Games
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://raven-game.com/en/home/

Point and click adventure games have never really died (much like the Raven, maybe?), and over in Germany they’ve been going strong before, during, and after their reported collapse. Having already gotten both Unwritten Tales games released to some favourable reviews, KING Art Games are now turning from fantasy to a 60s heist scenario with The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief. This first Chapter details the side of the investigators, while Ancestry of Lies, or Chapter two if you prefer (due out in August), should bring about the story from the gangsters’ point of view (as described in the most recent trailer), before bringing about its conclusion in A Murder of Ravens (September).

The Raven, a mysterious figure who stole art and priceless jewels across all of Europe, seems to have re-emerged after his supposed death at the hands of Inspector Legrand. One of the Jewelled Eyes of the Sphinx is stolen, and by none other than the Raven, or at least that is what Legrand suspects. Others not quite so sure think it is more likely that it is a protégée or even a copycat due to the involvement of violence, something the original Raven was known to be adverse to.

Willing to get to the bottom of this and prove himself along the way, Anton Jakob Zellner, an ageing Swiss Constable, is there to oversee the transportation of said jewel during the train journey to Venice. Keen to impress the inspector, he massages the truth to gain a little favour, before beginning his own investigation of the train’s passengers.

Bound and gagged, Zellner didn’t appreciate his personal life invading his working day.

The game is coming out on various platforms and as such it does also have controller support on PC. In some cases it is better; but those cases are few and far between as handling the movement for Zellner is much like driving through treacle. All the while Zellner’s head will rotate on its axis as it bends towards the direction of whatever he can look at/interact with. It doesn’t look particularly comfortable for him but it does serve the purpose of helping to easily identify objects in the environment near to him, something that you might get a little difficulty from with the mouse unfortunately.

While locations are generally distinct and very pleasant to look at, there is a little trouble trying to move between locations in some of the more enclosed areas. Pixel-hunting is in most cases not an issue thankfully, but it isn’t devoid of slightly harder to find objects. Most of the pixel-hunting is reserved for something you can merely look at rather than anything purposefully hidden to spite you. The hotspot indicator is a little lacking, it is understandably made to make things a little easier – but as each icon fades in subtly and disappears so quickly, you will be hard pressed to notice where most of the hotspots are. Factoring in that using the hotspot indicator subtracts from your overall score for each use, makes it all the more frustrating that you can’t see what you are missing each time. This is the only area that the controller has as an advantage over the mouse with, so in dire times of need switching styles might be preferable to using the hotspot indicators.

The puzzles are reasonably challenging but some are quite straightforward, this is especially evident in the short sections of the Chapter, where you can only visit two or three locations with little to interact with. Items that can be combined/used with objects, will only ever show that they can be when relevant, making the random combining of everything in sight a feature that is neither missed nor fondly remembered. The difficulty keeps the game at a decent pace throughout, letting you keep on point with the story, helped along by the fact that you won’t spend hours trying to combine everything in sight.

The French take their wine tasting a little too seriously…

Characters are unique and interesting to talk to, they have their own little back-stories that you can uncover with enough investigation. Most avoid the uncanny valley. Two particular characters do delve into that spectrum, though only occasionally, when their unflinching faces stare at you during unfortunate periods of silence, or through the stillness of their bodies while their mouth moves. Aside from that it does stay quite nicely outside of that particular valley.

Voice acting, especially full voice acting, is always appreciated in adventure games – but only if it’s good. The English side of the voice acting is to a good quality, with an array of accents befitting the characters’ actual ethnicity. Zellner himself is pretty well voiced by the actor, his accent being a nice touch to the Swiss constable. The best of the bunch is Inspector Legrand’s actor who does a fantastic job of the French detective, you can also catch more of him from the prequel interactive novel from the game’s site.

It’s a nicely paced game with an interesting story that gets even more interesting the more you try and dig up the extra secrets and side stories. The puzzles aren’t the most perplexing (when you know where the interactables are) and as such don’t become frustrating easily, but they might leave you wanting something more thought provoking. The rough edges to the hotspot system do add to the difficulty adversely though, as something that is supposed to help, only hinders your overall score by an ever increasing amount under the guise of usefulness. It’s a nice start to a trilogy of Chapters, and so long as it keeps the same level of writing it should be enjoyable to unravel the rest of the tale in the coming months.

critical score 7

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I’ve done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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