The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief – Chapter 1 (PC)

What’s this? A mystery afoot? raven

There’s been murder, thievery, and deception!
The only man who can save the day is a mild mannered Belgian cop, close to retirement?
To confront these strange going on, I take a look at the new adventure title from Nordic Games, and try to get to the bottom of a string of enigmas.

Originally published at SquareGo, full text below the cut:

The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief – Chapter 1

Nordic Games

3/5

From the opening moments, as the Orient Express crests the mountainous peaks of the Swiss Alps, to the soaring thunder of a string orchestra, it’s clear that this isn’t your run of the mill video game.

Up until recently the old fashioned adventure had fallen out of favour with the general gaming public. Although there were some stalwarts, such as the Sam & Max, Broken Sword and Longest Journey series, the old fashioned point and click, “rub the monkey on the filing cabinet” style of game had been consigned to the special interest corner.

While the recent success of the Walking Dead, has turned this on it’s head, the concept had found a peculiar niche in the popular Sherlock Holmes detective games, and it’s in this way that, The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, from Nordic Games is itself a true adventure game, defined partly by it’s unwillingness to concede to many gaming ‘norms’.

Set in the build-up to the Second World War, Raven is all about keeping the player guessing. This is above all a mystery game, in the old fashioned Agatha Christie style, with a wealth of characters all taking turns to seem most likely to fit the guise of the “Raven’s Heir”.

Not sure who he is? Well luckily Nordic have also released a, frankly brilliant, little web-based intro to the series, where the youthful French Inspector Legrande once defeated the Raven on a cold Paris night. You can play that little gem here: The Raven: Prologue

Steady on Sir! I'm on duty.
Steady on Sir! I’m on duty.

This first chapter, The Eye of the Sphinx, is a leisurely affair, quite fitting to the slightly weary and bumbling pace set by our hero, Constable Anton Jakob Zellner, a lovably buffoonish old policeman.  A man who longs to be a sleuthing hero, like the detectives of his favourite novels, but fears his time has passed. It’s up to Zellner, and an older and wiser Legrande, to guard the transportation of the fames Sapphire, the Eye of the Sphinx, along it’s journey to the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo.

The game itself is a beautifully rendered 3D adventure, with lavish detail on every aspect of the world.  The sweeping score is another great factor in it’s favour, as the music really helps keep the tone right, and ensures the game feels evocative of the mystery genre and the time.  Everything seems to lean towards this being styled after old 60′s  versions of Agatha Christie novels, with Poirot about to step out casually from behind a curtain.

This never happened to Miss Marple!
This never happened to Miss Marple!

Ironically it’s this wonderfully accurate and evocatively slow pace that might actually put people off the game.  There’s a lackadaisical paucity to the game that you simply need to accept while playing; as frantic mouse-clicking will actually cause more problems than it solves. Which is likely to compound the trouble of anyone who simply wants it to move a little faster.

This tepid pace even holds true in moments of extreme urgency, as no time limit is imposed. The game instead wants players to stop and think. It also however expects them to have near clairvoyant abilities to see pixel-small onscreen items. At several points this even occurs in an almost unplayable near-total-darkness, and the game menu has no brightness controls!

Allo Allo! Let's be 'avin' you!
Allo Allo! Let’s be ‘avin’ you!

That said, The Raven is a charming game, with a real heart, and the few niggles that occur are only momentary concerns. None of the puzzles are ever too hard, and a handy points for clues system is built into the game in case you get stuck. As it stands, the mystery can only deepen with Chapter 2.

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