Exercise your little grey cells.
The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is the latest point and click outing from developers KING Art and is keeping with current trends by being offered in episodic form, with the first chapter The Eye of the Sphinx hitting the digital distribution portals on July 23rd. The subsequent two chapters will become available in August and September to complete the tale of this dramatic jewel thief.
As is always the case with episodic titles, it is difficult to get an overall feeling for the entire game from just finishing the first chapter. There are many questions left unanswered and parts of the story have gaps which can only be filled by concluding the adventure. But, for what its worth, this first chapter does the work of setting the scene and the tone for the game, and it is quite an enjoyable romp.
Set in the 1960s, first aboard the Orient Express and then a cruise ship, the player enters into a world of investigation and deduction reminiscent of a Agatha Christie novel. In fact, beyond the setting, the inspiration of Agatha Christie novels is blatant – from the cast of characters to the pacing and puzzles. Hell, there is even a lady mystery novelist included in the cast.
But the main character is a meandering aging Swiss policeman who bears more than just a resemblance to Poirot himself. The player will get to control this Constable Zellner for this first chapter, and the story will slowly unfold.
The master thief, The Raven, who was presumably shot and killed some time earlier by Inspector Legrand, appears to be back and begins the game by pulling off a daring robbery from the British Museum, stealing one of the Eye of the Sphinx jewels. Zellner has his own theory on the perpetrator being a copycat, constantly referring to the thief as “The Raven’s Heir”, but he has nothing to do with the case and can only speculate. That is until Legrand appears on the Orient Express guarding something of value. Could this be a trap to catch The Raven? And can Zellner prove his worth and become involved in the case?
From here, the player will find themselves chatting with the variety of different characters as they move the story along and finding objects to solve simple puzzles. The puzzles themselves actually make sense for the most part, which is something of a novelty for this type of game. There are no obscure solutions to problems and much of the time the solutions are obvious before the player even finds the objects that are needed.
Should the player find themselves stuck, there is help available. Players receive points for solving problems, and can then pay out some of these points to either reveal objects within the current scene that they can interact with (identified by a handy floating magnifying glass) or to get more blatant hints in their notebook.
The characters themselves in the game are well fleshed-out and interesting to learn about. The localisation to English has been well handled and the voice work is surprisingly good, with the accents all fitting with the characters and the setting. In many ways, The Raven is just like watching a Sunday afternoon movie. This is something that is mirrored with the games’ visuals. The set pieces are clean and well detailed, the characters all look good, and for the most part items that can be used are easily identifiable. Even the orchestral soundtrack has a movie feeling about it, offering drama where drama is needed. This is only slightly marred by the player taking to long to complete a dramatic sequence and forcing the soundtrack to stumble on itself.
There are a few problems with the game however. The laid back attitude of the main character is mirrored in the game, with things seemingly taking far longer than necessary, even down to the characters movement. There are a few occasions where the player will find their character almost doing a little dance as they become stuck in a loop trying to get to somewhere they are not able to go. And one puzzle, for which the solution was obvious from the very start, stumped me for ages. It wasn’t until I returned to a previous save that I discovered the item I needed was simply not showing up for some reason. This kind of thing is frustrating and wasted my time, but fortunately this only seemed to happen the once.
I couldn’t say what more will come in the following two episodes of The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, bit it has certainly started well. There were a couple of problems with this first chapter, which will hopefully be ironed out before long, and the slow pace will certainly not be to everyone’s taste. But the tale is interesting, the characters believable and the puzzles are actually logical. It’s a relaxing game with an Agatha Christie style – not a bad way to spend an afternoon.