[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.