Quoth the raven: “Is it any good?”
The second chapter of The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is finally available. The first chapter of Nordic Games and King Art’s suspense-filled whodunit, Eye of the Sphinx left a lasting impression on us, leaving us eager to discover the fate of investigator extraordinaire Anton Jakob Zellner at the dramatic close of the first chapter. Ancestry of Lies answers this question, and quite a few others in the course of it’s brief adventure, even putting players in the shoes of the game’s eponymous thief, but in doing so it loses a bit of the charm that made the first episode so appealing.
Ancestry of Lies begins with a life or death struggle aboard the Cairo-bound ocean liner armchair sleuths were introduced to in Eye of the Sphinx. Permitted you survive the game’s perilous opening encounter you’ll resume control of Swiss Constable Anton Jakob Zellner in the sand-swept city of Cairo, helping to prepare the treasured Eye of the Sphinx for its exhibition at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned, and after an explosive incident that puts the London Museum heist to shame, the legendary treasure is whisked away from under the noses of Inspector Legrand and Zellner, and the chase is on.
From here on out you’ll explore the small confines of the museum, solving simple logic-based puzzles and digging up some not-quite ancient history of your own while uncovering the mysteries of the museum itself. Unfortunately, the puzzles aren’t quite as clever as those in Eye of the Sphinx and, apart from one puzzle involving a mechanical door (which I’ll get to later), which is frustrating for all the wrong reasons.
About halfway through Ancestry of Lies you’ll finally get to see the face behind the Raven’s mask, and even take control of the infamous thief to experience The Eye of the Sphinx’s Orient Express heist from the kleptomaniacal mastermind’s perspective. Unfortunately, in doing so the game becomes a much more straightforward affair, almost entirely lacking all of the dialog and character development and interaction that made the debut chapter so interesting. As The Raven you’ll navigate the train’s precious few cabins, solving a handful of puzzles and unlocking many of the same doors you unlocked as Zellner as you prepare for the finale aboard the freight car which is under the watchful eye of Inspector LeGrand and Scotland Yard’s finest, the ever-incompetent Constable Robert Oliver.
That’s not to say Ancestry of Lies is a complete bust, the game’s dialog is still just as exceptionally delivered this time around, and adding a face to your nemesis in this epic game of cat and mouse is certainly a welcome turn of events. It’s just a shame so little time was spent with the focusing on the elements that made Eye of the Sphinx shine- the puzzles and the characters. Add to the fact that this chapter seems to fly by compared to the first (no doubt due to the lack of character interaction, which easily made up most of the previous chapter) and you’re left with a somewhat empty feeling adventure that closes with the impact of a wet firecracker.
As much as we loved The Eye of the Sphinx, it had it’s share of bugs that needed ironing out. It’s sad to say that Ancestry of Lies also suffers from a few of its own, though thankfully, they weren’t quite as game-breaking as the ones we experienced in the previous episode. Earlier in this review I mentioned an issue with a door and a series of canopic jars (you know, those creepy funerary urns the ancient Egyptians used to store the dead’s mushy inner bits and bobs). The jars are they key to a puzzle that opens the door, and need to be analyzed. Easy enough, right? Well, the game only detected 3 out of four of these jars every time I entered the room, so I basically had to leave and return multiple times to inspect all of them, which was pretty maddening, though far from game breaking. Also, character models still occasionally suffer from clipping issues and can get suck in the environment as the pace awkwardly in place. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen quite as much as in Eye of the Sphinx, though we do wish King Art had sorted this issue out by now.
All told, The Raven seems to stumble a bit more than it soars in this latest chapter. While we’re still eager to see what happens when the story is concluded later this month, we truly hope developer King Art is able to capture the magic of the exceptional first chapter for the finale of this engrossing caper by learning from the missteps of this somewhat middling misadventure.
Available on: PC (Reviewed),Xbox 360, Playstation 3; Publisher: Nordic Games; Developer: King Art; Players: 1; Released: August, 27th 2013 (Mac and PC), TBA 2013 (Xbox360, Ps3); ESRB: Teen; MSRP: $24.99:
Note: The impressions in this review are taken from a review build of the PC version of the game provided by Nordic Games.