Revolution Software’s Charles Cecil took time to answer a few questions about ‚Broken Sword: The Angel of Death‘, the fourth iteration of the adventure game series, which is slated for release in September.
Charles, how has the players‘ feedback for ‚Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon‘ influenced the development of ‚The Angel of Death‘?
We greatly respect the opinion of the game’s fans and take their feedback very seriously.
The decision not to include point-and-click in BS3 was unpopular with some, so this time around we give the player the choice between direct control and point-and-click.
Many felt that crate puzzles were overused in BS3, and they attracted criticism. A generic gameplay like crate moving works really well when combined with other puzzles – like when it needed to be employed to balance the aircraft / trigger a pressure pad while also being required to reach a ledge. Where it didn’t work so well was when it was purely a block – particularly at the climax of a scene.
The make up of puzzles has also changed – they are more traditional in their structure and the challenges that they offer. This means that the game will offer greater challenge and increased gameplay time.
As far as I know, BS4 partly returns to the open hub structure which worked great in BS1 but was dropped for BS2 and BS3. Why do you return to that now and how exactly does it work?
We do return to a more open hub system by providing a map for the three key cities which allows the player to visit areas that they know about. This has been done to ensure that the game feels non-linear. Obviously there is a careful balance to be struck between non-linearity and the control of a strong narrative!
One of the great things about BS1 was that you could talk to every character about every single item you had found. Compared to that, the dialogue in BS3 seemed pretty limited especially in the second half of the game. How much dialogue has BS4 compared to its predecessors?
This game has more dialogue then BS3 – but not as much as BS1. The idea of having unique exchanges for every combination was loved by some people and hated by others. The former liked the way that the game responded to every combination, the latter was frustrated that incorrect combinations were acknowledged and, in doing so, slowed the game. Our compromise has been to provide unique responses to all reasonable combinations rather than every possible combination.
The BS series started out realistic but became more and more fantasy: BS1 saw George Stobbart fighting against Neo-Templars, in BS2 he fought against an evil Mayan god, then in BS3 he had to deal with some strange earth force fields. Who’s his enemy in BS4? Is the story going to be more realistic again?
You are absolutely right – it was not a conscious decision to move further from reality but this is certainly what has happened. Part of this has come about because the series was always intended to be a trilogy with the climax coming at the end of the third game. And, having finished BS3 on an incredible high, that left us with a problem of how to start this fourth in the series. Our solution has been to start George on an absolute low.<br /><br /> The game opens with a dramatic biblical scene from 1,500BC which morphs into the present day with the sun streaming into the dark chamber as people break into it. This is then juxtaposed with George running through the rain in a particularly grim part of New York – he is working as a clerk in a bail bond agency, the only job that he could get after being blacklisted. In starting on a low, this has given us more scope to build a more realistic story – although I would like think that the ending is both dramatic and epic.
Is the series with BS4 going back to its roots a bit in general?
In many ways yes. One of my regrets with BS3 is that we didn’t provide enough background information on our historical references, nor did we tie them into the gameplay. This time around we feature high quality, believable manuscripts which are packed with historical reference and clues that are absolutely central to the gameplay.
As well as a point-and-click option, the puzzles feel more traditional to the genre than they did in BS3. The end result is that while we vigorously avoid obscure, illogical puzzles, the number and complexity of the puzzles has been ramped up.
One thing many adventure fans didn’t like in BS3 were the action/stealth sequences. Will we see them again in BS4? If so, have you changed them in any way so that they are easier to control, for example?
The game doesn’t feature action-events in the way that they were featured in BS3. However, we do aim to keep the player under pressure – it is just that this time, the player is given much longer to work out how to progress. So, for example, the game starts with George trapped in his office with mafia thugs breaking the door down. He has limited time to work out how to escape – the sound of fire axes crashing into the door putting the player under sustained pressure. I do feel that this pressure provides the drama that people expect from the Broken Sword series – in the same way that pressure was used successfully in both BS1 (Khan on the cliff) and BS2 (Nico being strangled by Karzak).
Will there be more characters on the locations of BS4? In BS3, many places looked a bit too lifeless due to performance issues, I guess.
There are many more characters than in BS3 – and incidental animation. Together with special effects (steam, smoke etc.) and pigeons driven by ultra-realistic AI, the game feels full of life!
How much influence do you have on the technical side of BS4?
The relationship that I have with Sumo Digital, who are undertaking the core production, means that while I define the requirements, they are responsible for designing and coding the technology.
Being PC lead, the game is much more ambitious than BS3 in terms of technology – and includes technology such as depth of field, motion blur, normal mapping, dynamic mood colourisation, adaptive HDR approximation, colour balancing etc. This will ensure production values that are far above those expected from traditional adventure games.
Final question: Will we see familiar characters like Pearl and Duane in BS4?
You will see some familiar characters. Perhaps like Pearl or Duane, but I wouldn’t want to give too much away.