Game Review: The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief

[TW: possible racism, mention of Nazis]

It’s been quite some time since I picked this up and I’ve only just beaten it a few minutes ago. Truth be told, I have a weird history with games from The Adventure Company (now a division of Nordic Games) everyone seems to love their point and click adventure games, but to me they’ve always been badly acted with puzzles that defy common sense.

The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is a point-and-click adventure game in the truest sense. Whereas other games I’ve reviewed recently add some interesting features (like Gemini Rue‘s verb interface and combat) this game goes back to pointy and clicky goodness. You probably know the drill by now: wander around gathering items, combine some of those items, use items to solve puzzles. The controls aren’t particularly fancy in that you use the mouse to do everything except bring up the options menu (press escape for that).

The story concerns the exploits of a gentleman thief known only as “The Raven”. The Raven’s burglaries are always grand affairs, and the thief always emerges unscathed, until a botched heist in Paris in 1960 where a hotshot detective, Legrand, fatally shoots The Raven.

Or does he? Four years later, a priceless jewel, part of a pair known as the Eyes of the Sphinx, is stolen from the British Museum, and speculation runs rampant that The Raven has returned. Mixed up in all this is Swiss Constable Anton Jakob Zellner, his journey will take him from a train in the Alps to a ship in Venice to the Cairo Museum.

I found Zellner to be a likeable character. He’s a very well-mannered man, very much not the shoot first type. The other characters have their own quirks. There’s the snooty violinist, the bratty child, the distinguished writer who is basically Agatha Christie, and a few others. As you might expect from a game with a heavy emphasis on mystery (and something so heavily influenced by Agatha Christie’s novels) most of the characters have secrets to hide, some darker than others. The one thing that didn’t endear me to the characters was the voice acting. Although it’s much improved from other games I’ve played from this developer, and I would say that the voice acting in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes was far worse, the voice work in this wasn’t the best I’ve ever heard.

There’s also the issue of the puzzles. Yes, it’s the return of Adventure Game Logic, where the item combinations usually don’t make any sense and you need to crack open the developer’s head to try and figure out what they were thinking. Seriously though, how the hell does wooden salad tongs + penny = makeshift screwdriver? Yeah I guess I can see it but wouldn’t it make more sense to use a nail or something? Other times when I was stuck it was because the game wanted me to go on a pixel hunt, and those are never fun. The game does have a hint system, where you spend “Adventure Points” (gained from solving puzzles) to either highlight all objects that you can interact with or provide a text-based hint via your notebook. However, spending too many adventure points will cause you to miss out on achievements, so if you want all the achievements, it’s best not to use them. If you don’t care, use away. The pixel-hunting was easily the most frustrating aspect of the game for me.  The other most frustrating aspect was the pacing. The game does speed up at points but most of the time you’re left wandering around because you forgot to click the one thing twice.

The graphics are a meh for me. They haven’t changed much since the late 90s when I was first playing these games (although they are much crisper and the scenery is very pretty). The music kind of annoyed me after awhile, and it has a tendency to be very loud in sections.

Another frequent issue I had with the game is that character pathfinding was very very weird in spots, and at one point I needed to restart because a character would become stuck in the environment. At its lowest point, I had to replay the same series of scenes at least three times because for some reason the game wasn’t saving where I wanted it to save, and the game doesn’t give you the option to skip cutscenes outright. I would recommend saving frequently, keeping multiple save files, and overwriting saves whenever possible.

As far as stuff to keep an eye on, there’s only one person of colour in the entire game and his portrayal is….mixed….in my opinion. He does call out a character for treating him like shit, specifically referencing his skin colour, but I’m not really sure if anyone would consider him positive representation or not, and, like I said, he’s the only non-white character in the entire game (and, TBH, during some scenes in the game his skin is just a shade darker than white, so I wouldn’t be surprised if many people simply read him as white).

And, oh yeah, Nazis are eventually involved as part of a character’s background. There needs to be a variant of Godwin’s Law for video games.

Overall, if you really want a “classic” adventure game you could do much worse, but I’d recommend buying this on sale, especially if you’re an Agatha Christie fan and you’ve already played the games based on her work.

The Thirteen Houses Project: Valerian

It’s the thirteenth, and by now you know what that means, but now we’ve reached the final entry in the Thirteen Houses Project. Seems like it’s been awhile since I wrote that introduction, and now here we are at the end. On the one hand, it’s been a long journey and a job well done, but on the other, I’m kind of sad to see it go.

Valerian House’s canon is algolagnia and submission. It’s motto is “I Yield,” like Mandrake House, we don’t learn about what they hold transpired when Naamah offered herself to the King of Persis, but i think you can guess. Valerian House has an interesting way of selecting apprentices. They are given spiced candies, and are told that the pleasure from the candy is derived from the pain of the spice. Those who understand this lesson are kept, others have their marques sold to other houses. Valerian House also maintains an altar to Kushiel, in Kushiel’s Dart, Phedre learns that many Valerian adepts are dedicated to him.

Although Valerian adepts are recognized as Servants of Naamah and perform the same sacred duty as the other Houses, Valerian adepts don’t get a lot of respect in canon. Characters compare them to dogs and refer to them as “whipping toys for ham-fisted noblemen” even Phedre, who has been divinely ordained to be so masochistic she can never be broken by torture, looks down on the adepts of this house. The only characters to give Valerian adepts a measure of dignity and respect are Imriel and Mavros.

Valerian’s lessons are submission and surrender. These can be hard lessons to learn, especially since many people (at least, in North America) seem to want to take Mandrake’s lesson to heart, to assert control over every aspect of their lives when there are some things that are always going to be out of control. I feel like Valerian adepts know how to go with the flow better than any other house, they learn to trust their patrons in ways that other houses do not. In Heathenry, there’s a sizable contingent of Heathens who assert that “we don’t kneel before our gods” this despite numerous references to people kneeling and prostrating before images of the deities. It seems like there’s at least one meme every week echoing that sentiment, and it’s no less annoying every time it happens.

At the same time, I feel like some groups, perhaps reacting to the former view, push too far in the other direction at times. I don’t think I have to name specific names, but I’ve found that some people seem to expect everyone to have 100% godslave=like devotion to their deities at all times, and, quite frankly, I find this notion to be utterly ridiculous. Not everyone is going to have the exact same relationship with their deities, some might not even interact with deities at all, instead focusing on local land spirits and ancestors, not wanting to devote one’s life 200% to the deities doesn’t make you impious, it means that you have other responsibilities, and few people in this day and age can really afford to devote 100% of their time to their deities. It’s not uncommon to see reactionary movements that respond to one extreme by going to the other extreme, and I don’t think that either extreme is really helping in this case. It is possible to say “It’s okay to kneel, it’s okay to have an intense relationship with your deities,” without expecting everyone to be the same way, sometimes you might need to just go with the flow, but other times, other times you need to help yourself. My deities aren’t all-powerful and are frequently busy, so I don’t really have a choice in the matter.

This project has taught me that there are many ways to serve Naamah. That might seem like an obvious conclusion to reach, but even Phedre didn’t fully understand this until Kushiel’s Avatar, and she was born and raised in Terre D’Ange. I know some of the entries are rushed because I really wanted to get the post done on the 13th, but overall I had fun with this project and it provided a nice framework for discussion topics.

Thank you for sticking with me through this project. I don’t know when I’ll be doing something like this again, but until that time, enjoy all the reviews, rants, and random mutterings.

Image credit: “Valeriana officinalis” by Kurt Stüber (via Wikipedia)

Growth and Changes

Since it seems like the comments on the blog have been inundated recently with comments from ignorant folkists who seem to think I will magically accept their racist ideologies, it’s time for me to move this blog forward a bit.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my views have changed over the past decade (or, hell, over the past few years). I’ve gone from thinking things like Pop Culture Paganism are weird to actually calling myself a Pop Culture Pagan and engaging with that community, and TBH, the most shit I’ve gotten for it has been from more “traditional” Pagans.

When I started this blog (and when I started my main tumblr) I didn’t think I’d get any followers. I was just someone who had opinions on the internet. Lots of people have those. I just passed the 666 follower mark on tumblr, like, really? That many people think I’m at least worth a follow? It just seems so weird.

There are also times where I just want to reach back into the past and smack myself because I just….gods…..WTF was wrong with me? But I suspect we all have those moments, and I bet our past selves are thankful that we don’t have access to time machines or they’d be pretty bruised from all that smacking.

It’s one thing to be like “You weren’t the same person five years ago,” but it’s a whole other thing when you are five years on looking back, you know?