Developer: KING Art
Publisher: Nordic Games
Release Date: July 23, 2013
ESRB: N/A (M suggested)
A download code was provided by the publisher for this review.
In the current generation of gaming there are only a few developers still focused on creating new adventure games. Only ones such as Telltale Games are embraced by the masses though. Developers such as KING Art are the outliers - catering to the hardcore adventure fan. Of course, they seem to have a bit of a rocky history, with their previous title Book of Unwritten Tales faring poorly with some reviewers. Is The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief an excellent new brand or a forgettable experience?
As far as I“m concerned, this seems like a nice new face in adventure gaming. The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief is an episodic series consisting of three episodes. Right now only the first episode, The Eye of the Sphinx, is available but the others are said to arrive in August and September. For the first episode, not only do we get introduced to the world but also tread knee-deep into the story. The first chapter provides 3 to 6 hours of gameplay, depending on your puzzle skill level.
The game begins at the scene of a museum robbery. Despite the best efforts of the night security, a criminal snags a priceless diamond right from under their noses. We catch a glimpse of this thief in the darkness. They“re dressed in all black and wearing a raven mask. Yes, this is the titular "Raven," who is a criminal mastermind. From there, we jump to a train which is carrying incredibly precious cargo. The diamond at the museum was only half of the famous Sphinx“s eyes and the train has the other one. What would otherwise be a leisurely cross-country train ride is now a high-stress situation as it is expected The Raven will strike again.
However, players do not take the role of The Raven. They aren“t even assuming the role of a famous detective. Instead, they jump into the shoes of portly and cheerful Constable Anton Jakob Zellner. Part of the Swiss police force, you are assigned to help take care of things while the train travels through your jurisdiction. As far as Zellner is concerned, this is going to be just another train ride. Of course, the proceedings become incredibly dangerous.
Story is certainly the biggest factor in any adventure game and The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief provides quite the interesting one. Although it may be treading expected territory, it does so in a refreshing way. The characters are an interesting bunch, even if some of them seem to fall under classic mystery novel tropes. Funnily, as this game was not made in North America, there is even a very stereotypically presented American character who emerges late in the story.
With an intriguing story, the next important aspect of adventure games is their actual gameplay! If one can“t offer up reasonable puzzles and clicking interface then the whole project might as well just resign itself to obscurity. Most of the puzzles in here are easy enough to understand. There are a few times that you might be unsure of what to do thanks primarily to bad hotspot triggers. For example, you might want to touch an item but find that the area you want to click doesn“t result in anything. Instead, you must radiate out from where you think the click trigger is and find that it“s actually assigned to a different, unexpected part of the object.
The game offers up hints as well as hitting the spacebar to pull up all hotspots on the screen. Unfortunately, utilizing either of these newbie-friendly tools spends points. These points accumulate with progress and you begin with a ton of them but some players might still run out due to abusing the hotspot check. This is easier to do than you might expect primarily because the hotspot notification itself is very subtle. There were multiple occasions that I pulled it up to check an area to find that I could only catch one hotspot graphic for the few seconds it was active, if that.
Other aspects of the interface are odd as well. Until you get used to it, discerning how to use objects with each other as well as observe versus talk, you might feel confused. There also happens to be a very cool but also slightly complex book which keeps track of all story information. As neat as it is to have a character chart to refer back to, the interface is kind of annoying to navigate when you know what you want to look up but don“t know where to look.
Visually, The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief really stands out among its brethren. It doesn“t seem to ooze any particular style, but it does look fantastic. Areas are bright and colorful or dim and creepy. The 60“s setting also lends itself well to the attractive design aesthetic of the train, character outfits, and the like. The world might not be one of fantasy, but is still fun to investigate.
Even the voice acting is pretty darn good. You might not expect it from a German developer but they manage it incredibly well. There are a host of voiced languages available from English to German to Russian and I played through in my native English. Characters all have their own accents but they are easy to understand. They also appear to (mostly) grasp the concept of voice â€œactingâ€ and emote appropriately. If there“s anything odd about their speech patterns, it may be that some characters talk rather slowly.
With understandable puzzles, great visuals and voice acting, what really is there that could hold this game back? Like previously stated, the controls are a bit awkward for an adventure game veteran so one must wonder how they fare for newbies. Then there was the bad choice of locking hints away to points when some people may really need continuous access to them. Finally, and most importantly, the game is just so incredibly slow.
Although the story is interesting, it drives along at a snail“s pace. So too does poor Constable Zellner. Sometimes you can double click to leave the screen immediately but other times you have to watch him walk all the way across a room. Beyond that, the puzzles are often incredibly tedious rather than entertaining as they should be. Sure, there is room for some tedium, but not when the majority of puzzles fit under that term.
If all you want is an entertaining and mysterious tale, then The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief definitely delivers. If you want to experience an adventure game with high production values that isn“t The Walking Dead then this is a good choice as well. However, if you can“t stand tedium then look elsewhere. For all the good that The Raven offers, it shoots itself in the foot with pacing. Only at the tail end of Chapter I do we get that rush of adrenaline which leads directly into a cliffhanger. Here“s hoping that Chapters II and III pick up the pace because that would help make the game an easy recommendation for many.
+ Intriguing characters with their own stories
+ Attractive 60s era backdrops and designs
+ Hints available to struggling players
- Why are hints tied to a point system?
- Story drags on so slooowly
- Somewhat awkward interface
Overall Score: 7.0 (out of 10)
Although there are some glaring pacing issues with The Raven, it still stands out among its peers as a worthwhile new adventure game.