You would think by now they would have fixed it.
Prior to starting Broken Sword 5, I didn’t know anything about this series of traditional point-and-click adventures. It seems a shame, because Broken Sword 5 provided the puzzles and wit I want from the genre, even if the plot is a bit pulpy and the gameplay at times awkward.
Making a good point-and-click is a difficult balancing act: if the puzzle are too abstract the game is just frustrating; if it’s too easy it’s boring. Broken Sword 5 does usually keep these two concerns in balance, the puzzles are generally on the easier side but there are some more difficult ones. There are very few that I was unable to follow the puzzle’s logic, something that’s always a concern in point-and-clicks. Likewise, the game avoids the other point-and-click pitfall of making you walk all over the game world to find the item you need. With just a few exceptions, everything needed to solve all the puzzles of each area are located in the same area or are already part of your inventory. The only exceptions I remember are well telegraphed. Likewise, the game always tells you when you’re “done” in an area by pushing you along to the next zone. By striking a good balance on puzzle difficulty and keeping items needed to solve them at hand, Broken Sword 5 almost always makes it clear what you need to do.
Broken Sword plays well. The game can be effectively controlled with either the stick and facebuttons or the touchscreen, although I prefer the visual hints of using the stick and the cursor changing to show interactable elements. It also performs well both docked and undocked. I played the majority of Broken Sword 5 undocked, and it’s a good match for short sessions of solving a few puzzles and coming back later. My biggest gameplay annoyance is that characters slowly saunter between places, meaning upwards of 20 seconds of waiting for a character to interact with the thing you asked them to check. In some stages this adds up quickly.
The story of Broken Sword 5 could be described as Drug Store Bookcase Dan Brown. You have millennia-long religious conspiracies, obscure sects pulled from history, 1940s fascists, and The Church all hiding behind a simple robbery. It does the job, and provides some engaging twists, but it’s a little bit cheesy. And, of course, and the center you have George, the smooth-talking American who lockpicks his way through a conspiracy and around the world. This isn’t his first trip around a mystery and his unflappable sense of humor does this game a great service. His partner, the charming frenchwoman Nico, provides a foil who is suitably unimpressed by his hi-jinks while capable of delivering witticisms of her own. These two do a lot of heavy lifting to disguise the otherwise overly-convoluted plot.
The game looks good enough. There are dozens of areas, and each look good. The characters are consistent, easily recognizable even at a distance, and do a good job capturing the personality of the character they depict. There’s a handful of CG sequences that aren’t particularly attractive and some of the models for interactable objects don’t mesh with the art for the game’s locations, but the art is effective.
There’s plenty of voice acting, with all the dialog being voiced. Most of it is well delivered, with authentic-sounding accents for the various nationalities represented in-game. George and Nico’s interactions are especially well-delivered. There’s a few weird ones but overall it’s fine. There are a few songs composed for the game that are somewhat catchy but most of the music and background noises are completely forgettable.
Broken Sword 5 delivers a competent point-and-click, with a cast of colorful characters, a rollicking-if-cheesy adventure, and solid puzzle design. Some minor issues with gameplay and puzzle design don’t harm the game’s quality too much, and in such an undeserved genre they’re forgivable. The biggest issue with the game is that it is a bit too married to convention both in plot and gameplay. Broken Sword 5 won't stick with like classics of the point-and-click Golden Age, but it’s still a solid adventure and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for future (and past) travels of George and Nico.