The story begins as most do, with a girl. A mysterious blonde woman approaches George for help, moments before a group of thugs enter George’s office followed by our hero escorting the lady to safety from the dangerous men, thus beginning yet another globe-spanning adventure for George and company.
The adventure genre, as I have mentioned in prior reviews, is a very difficult genre to cover, as its fans are rabid and its detractors many. My experience with the Broken Sword games encompasses the three previous games in the series, which I mention as a way of explaining what I am about to say regarding this game.
As an adventure game, Angel of Death makes use of a hybrid of the traditional point and click gameplay. As a 3D game, Angel of Death allows play via point-and-click or through the use of the arrow keys, with options that allow running instead of walking. One would think that something as simple as pointing and clicking or arrow key movement would be a no-brainer; sadly this was not the case.
Angel of Death turned into a constant struggle: me versus the game controls. Between the poor path finding and the slightly awkward arrow key movement, one would’ve thought that things would have to get better eventually; sadly that was not the case, either. The game uses a system of icons: the magnifying glass indicates that you are looking at something; two gears indicate an action can be performed; a grasping hand points, of course, to something that can be picked up. More than once, I found myself unable to proceed further until remembering to left-click on the objects to see if there was more than one choice. For instance, where you may see a magnifying glass indicating something you can look at, a left click may show that the item can also be used. This non-intuitive system will lead to occasional, but not deadly, frustration.
The other area where the gameplay really bothered me is in the interaction with whichever sidekick George currently has. The companion will appear in the inventory, forcing one to click on this person, then on whatever they should interact with. There were times where I wondered why George hadn’t simply asked for help in accomplishing whatever two-person task he was faced with. In the end, as long as you come into the game aware of these unique control aspects, you will probably be all right.
"There were times where I wondered why George hadn’t simply asked for help in accomplishing whatever two-person task he was faced with."
This game has the look and feel of the Broken Sword 3, and many of its controls are quite similar. The biggest difference I experienced was with some of the graphical slowing and loading issues. Angel of Death doesn’t seem to be all that friendly with dual core machines; in fact, my hyper threading seemed to be the root cause of my slowdowns. The game is also too dark. Normally this isn’t an especially big deal, as most games that are dark feature gamma correction, something not included in this game. I also faced an issue with the CD-ROM software which kept telling me that I needed to install the original game CD and not a copy of it. As someone who never plays ROMs, warez, and never makes “back-up” copies of my games, I found this odd and frustrating. Still, this only occurred the first few times and hasn’t happened since.
The dialogue is where this story really shines, as the wit of George Stobbart comes right at you, chock-full of inside jokes and witty puns and banter. At the end of the day, the Broken Sword series has always been about telling a story and that is where this game truly reaches its aims. The voice acting is up to par with previous installments, although some will notice that Nico Collard has a new voice actress – something I found slightly disappointing.
"At the end of the day, the Broken Sword series has always been about telling a story and that is where this game truly reaches its aims."
This game will certainly not be for the faint of heart, as many of the puzzles can be quite challenging. At times, the environmental and inventory-based puzzles will take you longer to realize and solve than you may be used to, but when you find the solutions you will see why they work, if not understand the logic used at arriving at the solution. The PDA hacking puzzles, for example, I found to be a bit of a chore. These require a whole lot of trial and error, but then again this is a definite staple of the genre. Overall, I am pleased to say that this game is markedly more difficult than Broken Sword 3, and I was happy to see that I didn’t have to solve numerous sliding block puzzles.
For avid fans of the series, this game was a solid adventure, but it will likely not be your favorite game in the series, as it seems to lack a little of the magic that made the previous games so engrossing. Nevertheless, while George has fallen on hard times here, he seems to have retained that core personality that fans of the series know and love. I think part of the reason this game falls short of some of the others is that the other characters in Angel of Death, while interesting, lack the depth that I have found in the previous titles.
As a summary, here is what you need to know. Angel of Death is a solid adventure game with decent production values, something lacking in many of the genre’s titles currently for sale. Angel of Death was released with some annoying bugs, but nothing that cannot be followed up with a solid game patch. The gameplay of Angel of Death is somewhat frustrating, but once you master it you will be able to progress through the game at a solid pace, hopefully without a walkthrough.
I myself am quite an adventure game enthusiast, and the simple fact that this game uses the point-and-click/inventory management methodology, is not a detractor for me. While people always beg for innovation and then blast the adventure game genre for its lack therein, I see the forest for the trees. To me, the adventure genre is a kind of interactive story, where you actually play the character in the story and choose his path for him. Thus, I do understand the adventure game genre and judge this game accordingly.
Given that, Angel of Death is still not really a step forward for the adventure game genre. In fact, playing this game felt a lot like playing the previous game, which, in turn, felt more like a retread of previous George Stobbart adventures than a completely new adventure. A game in this genre also faces the problem of being entirely linear and not offering any reason to replay it after the first time. I think the phrase “Out with the old, in with the old” would probably best sum up this game. I would only recommend it to the most dedicated of adventure game fans, particularly those familiar with the previous games in the series.
"I would only recommend it to the most dedicated of adventure game fans, particularly those familiar with the previous games in the series."