The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, German developer King Art Games’ latest point-and-click adventure is finally upon us. The studio is no stranger to the genre, garnering critical acclaim for the fantasy adventure series The Book of Unwritten Tales. The Raven abandons the realm of fantasy in favor of the more realistic setting of a 1960s Europe that happens to be caught in the midst of a rash of high-profile burglaries. Does King Art’s debut entry, The Eye of the Sphinx, the first episode of this three part whodunit mystery take the point-and-click genre to soaring new heights or is this episodic adventure destined to crash and burn?
The Raven pits players in the shiny patrol shoes of Swiss Constable Anton Jakob Zellner, an affable and wildly curious officer of the law who has a knack for letting his inquisitive nature get him into trouble. The aging but nearly supernaturally keen lawman has been tasked with assisting Parisian Interpol investigator Nicolas LeGrand (much to the chagrin of the hotshot investigator) on a secretive assignment on board a passenger train making its way through the Swiss Alps en route to Venice. LeGrand, whose career took a meteoric climb four years ago after he mortally wounded The Raven, a deft and notorious master burglar who had been terrorizing Europe for years, stealing countless pieces of priceless antiquity during his reign of kleptomaniacal terror. Just before your assignment with LeGrand, a priceless ruby known as ‘The Eye of the Sphinx’ was stolen in a brazen robbery that had all of the hallmarks of the long dead criminal mastermind. Is the master thief really dead, or has an heir come to take his place? After a whirlwind of catastrophic events unfold aboard the speeding train, Zellner finds out just how dangerous this shadowy thief is as he is thrown into a deadly game of cat and mouse to find out the answer and unmask the cunning crook.
The gameplay in The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief will be instantly familiar to any fans of the point-and-click adventure genre. Controlling Constable Zellner is as simple as clicking where you want him to go, and what you want him to interact with. The game uses a nicely implemented clutter-free user interface, with no need to select different prompts from a menu to perform different actions. During the game’s first episode, which takes place primarily aboard the speeding Alpine passenger train, and aboard a cruise liner headed towards Cairo, Egypt, players will solve a variety of cleverly designed puzzles that will test your logic, but seldom tax your patience (with the exception of one grueling puzzle later in the episode which will surely give you a new level of appreciation for your local Pop-A-Lock rep). If you do manage to become stuck on one of the game’s puzzles, you can spend “Adventure Points”, a kind of currency you accumulate based on the performance of your investigation, with which you can use to highlight hints in the environment to help you progress. The only problem is during the few times I required the in-game hint system, it didn’t really seem to do anything at all. While the cerebral puzzles are are enjoyable in their own right, the true enjoyment in this episode of the three part tale comes from interacting with the varied cast of characters you meet in your investigation. From the deadly serious and brilliant Inspector LeGrand and the mischievous but kind-hearted schoolboy Matt, to the tense and matter-of-fact Dr. Gephart, the numerous people you interact with in this classic whodunit caper all have a story to tell, and it’s easy to get pulled into their characters due to King Art’s masterful voice talent and impressively rendered facial expressions, which breathe life into the cast of the mystery. In addition to the stunning characters, the game is a treat to look at as well. From the simple things like the way Zellner casually strolls through the scenery, interacting naturally with the environment, to the fine details and era-specific decor of the places you visit, the world of The Raven is looks believable and teeming with life and personality.
In addition to the impressive visuals, the game also features a superb instrumental soundtrack that bounces from lighthearted melodies to pumping and perilous sounding themes that always fit the on-screen events like a glove. The soundtrack would fit perfectly in a 1960’s mystery film, which I assume is exactly what the team at King Art was going for.
While The Raven soars for much of the roughly two and a half hour or so long episode, there are a few points where the game faltered during our investigation. Early in our playthrough we experienced a few bugs that put a damper on our experience. In one instance we had to use an item to solve a puzzle but were unable to access it in our inventory, even though the item was clearly in our hands the whole time. After fumbling with the puzzle for a few minutes we reloaded our save and things worked just as they should, but it was still a frustrating experience. Also, there were a couple of occasions where our character became stuck in the environment, and proceeded to walk in place, ignoring our directions until we reloaded our save. These issues, while they sound serious, only happened a handful of times during our time with the game, and could likely be resolved by a patch when the game is released. Even still, after the first few times we experienced these issues we found it best to save frequently.
Another small, nagging gripe to mention is the fact that Zellner moves with the speed of a turtle slathered in molasses. While I generally don’t mind the good Constable’s leisurely pace when he’s exploring a crime scene or taking a stroll on the sun-soaked deck of an ocean liner, it sticks out painfully when the game turns to some of its more perilous moments. Watching Zellner casually waltz about a train cabin full of noxious fumes when he’s supposed to be desperately searching for a means of escape pulls you out of the experience, especially when you find the loveable lawman would rather speak to the player at volume about the uses for certain types of alcohol and sugary sweets rather than focus on the life or death task at hand.
The first episode of The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief does exactly what any good introduction to a trilogy should do. Most of the time spent in the game is spent building up relationships with the cast of characters we’ll likely be seeing until the final conclusion of The Raven is released this September. In the few exciting hours it took for us to wrap up The Eye of the Sphinx, we truly started to feel a bond with the characters we met, and as the mystery began to unfold we racked our brains trying to figure out which one of our compatriots could possibly be the infamous crook. Filled with more than enough shady characters, murder and conspiracy to satisfy the most jaded mystery buffs, King Art’s debut caper delivers the goods in spades. While we experienced a few technical gaffes during our time with the game, they did very little to affect our overall enjoyment of this gripping mystery. If you’re a fan of point-and-click adventures or enjoy a good whodunit, you owe it to yourself to experience this exciting introduction to the legacy of a master thief. We can barely wait to see what happens when the next chapter, The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief- Ancestry of Lies, is released on August 27th.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Xbox 360, Playstation 3; Publisher: Nordic Games; Developer: King Art; Players: 1; Released: July, 23rd 2013 (Mac and PC), Summer, 2013 (Xbox360, Ps3); ESRB: Teen; MSRP: $24.99