The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief
- Street Date:
- January 14th, 2014
- Reviewed by:
- Nick Hartel
- Review Date:1
- February 6th, 2014
- Game Release Year:
- Nordic Games
- King Art Games
- ESRB Rating:
- T (Teen)
PS3 version reviewed, which contains all three episodes. 'The Raven' is also available on the 360 and PC.
From the creators of 'The Book of Unwritten Tales,' comes 'The Raven - Legacy of the Master Thief.' Kings Art Games has combined the three episodes of their Agatha Christie-inspired adventure game into one release for the PS3. Though the subject and design hearken back a ways, the game has been built on the ever-popular Unity engine. Now it is time to step into the age of the detective and investigate the investigation.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
There will always be a soft spot in my heart for the point-and-click adventure. As a burgeoning gamer in the mod-90s, one who spent most of his time blasting through various PC offerings, the point-and-click adventure was the first genre to truly satisfy my desire for an immersive game experience. From the heyday of the LucasArts offerings to the more modern incarnations of the genre, including but not limited to 'LA Noire' (arguably a more radical, modern take on a point-and-click saga) and one of 2012's finest games for any platform, 'The Walking Dead.' While I do approach a point-and-click game with a natural bias towards wanting to thoroughly enjoy it (then again, don't we all have that bias for any game?) I'm probably more critical of the genre, than most, because at its best, it can provide an amazing engrossing narrative with very straightforward logical, but mind challenging game play. Drawing on these principles, 'The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief' makes its way to the PS3 as a three chapter adventure drawing heavy inspiration from the works of Agatha Christie while perhaps paying far too much homage to the early days of the point-and-click genre.
Let me get what doesn't work out of the way, and sadly, it's quite a bit. The basic gameplay approach in 'The Raven' feels generally clunky having been translated to a console and with enough stellar examples of the genre working on consoles, there's not much excuse for this glaring issue. The controls are incredibly basic, nearly to a fault, especially when coupled with the incredibly simplistic gameplay design and puzzle creation itself. Our protagonist, Anton Zeller, moves very slowly via the left analog stick; if I suspected the developers were more witty than the rest of the game would seem to dictate, I'd say its intentional and representative of Zeller's portly frame, but alas, the interface system is so lacking in polish, that it all boils down to second-rate design. The environmental interface itself is watered down to a level below that of the mid-90s heyday of the genre, with options for interactions coming off more scripted than pseudo-dynamic. When investigating a window you get the option to look at it, hear a brief comment from our hero and then that option is replaced primarily by a generic use/interact with command. This leads to an approach to game play that is straightforward to a fault.
The game's underlying puzzle design is equally linear and almost too logical, leaving any semblance of mystery for the game's continuing narrative. The basic flow goes as follows: encounter a scripted mystery, discover a possible solution lacking a key item, backtrack to an earlier setting where either a previously encountered character is able to help you, or suddenly you find the item you need. It's very much a dog and pony show of the highest magnitude, and the monotony is only broken up by occasional subplots that feel just ever so slightly less obvious in resolution, and the overarching plot itself. In the actual gameplay department, 'The Raven' just falls short in bringing anything new to the table and is a huge step backwards to a very competent era of gaming that has thankfully evolved to the next level and needs to continue doing so. Thankfully, with inspiration from the works of Agatha Christie and many other mystery writers, 'The Raven' does end up being worth your time and money.
More jaded gamers, who have never experienced a classic point-and-click nor immersed themselves in a timeless mystery novel are going to find 'The Raven' rather hokey in the narrative department, but those wanting a true throwback approach that works successfully should find a good genre indulgence. 'The Raven' simply put, follows our hero, Anton Zeller through three episodic adventures focused around the emergence of a possible protégé of the titular Raven, a master thief supposedly taken down by a prominent French inspector. Beginning on a train that Zeller is employed as a conductor on, all the way to a lofty Egyptian museum, players will find themselves caught up in very familiar mystery settings. The story apes all the hallmarks of a good Poirot or Miss Marple, to a frighteningly comforting degree. The characters you meet are almost always rich clichés who serve specific purposes to the story, and necessary plot twists emerge for the sole purpose of a thrill or dramatic tension. There's not a lot of depth and subtext to the story, but in this case, it's not a bad thing as 'The Raven' merely sets out to provide gamers with an old-school mystery on a modern console. The game's growing narrative does grow more and more intriguing as we move on, even with the tidy resolution obviously choreographed as the end game approaches; it's just a true shame that the old school approach seems to have spread to the gameplay department, resulting in a wholesome diversion in spite of less than refined game play.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'The Raven's' graphical designs suffer from the same issues as its gameplay in that nothing is truly polished and ultimately the game settles for a very dated approach for its visual appeal. Character models don't begin to take advantage of the PS3 hardware with overly stylized character models, workmanlike static environments, and distractingly stiff animations. To make matters worse, the stiff movement and clunky interface of the game suffers from moderate drops in framerate and other graphical hiccups. There's little more to be said about the game's graphics and frankly, that's solely due to the effort put into the appearance of the game feeling second rate.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
In the audio department, 'The Raven' does sport well beyond serviceable voice acting, though most performances are as exaggerated as the characters are written on paper. Effects and musical score merely exist out of necessity and there's little atmosphere built up by the gameplay soundscape; cutscenes fare a little bit better, but only accentuate that if the score isn't forgettable, it's hackneyed.
Much to my own chagrin, there's little replay value to 'The Raven' aside from those wanting to go back and scoop up every trophy, which with careful attention on a first run-through shouldn't be too hard to begin with. I could see the game being revisited by huge genre fans on occasion, but chances are, one playthrough will be more than enough.
In the wake of 'The Walking Dead' there's not a single reason any modern point-and-click adventure should sport game play design choices that would have seemed limited more than a decade ago. King Art's only saving grace is drawing from a well utilized well and giving modern gamers a chance to experience an Agatha Christie-esque mystery in a non-traditional setting. Capturing that special product has meant that in spite of its luckluster characteristics, 'The Raven - Legacy of the Master Thief' should find its way into any point-and-click aficionado's library, but a purchase at full price is not recommended, which makes the game perfect for grabbing whenever discounted.
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