Genres often carry their clichés over to whatever medium they are situated in. Action movies and games both feature explosions and high octane action, fantasy constitutes elves and dwarves in many mediums.
The murder mystery is a little different though, with wise old- heroes in movies and books, and plucky young lads with cheeky witticisms in gaming. The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is one of the more recent and only attempts to capture the Agatha Christie style of mystery over the Guybrush Threepwood variant many adventure gamers grew up with.
The Raven is a three part adventure where the titular antagonist, a master thief with a colourful history, makes a sudden and unexpected return. You begin in control of constable Zellner, an ageing policeman determined to make something of his career and, with the Raven set to make a heist on the train he’s guarding, his chance may come sooner than expected.
"The most striking element of The Raven is its setting, a mid-century European adventure of globe-trotting proportions. Add in a sensitive but vibrant colour palette and detailed textures and The Raven winds up looking pretty sharp."
The most striking element of The Raven is its setting, a mid-century European adventure of globe-trotting proportions. Add in a sensitive but vibrant colour palette and detailed textures and The Raven winds up looking pretty sharp. Character designs are equally inspired but, with some odd models and animations, the game lets itself down a bit when it starts moving. Voice acting and music is well delivered for the most part, lending a sense of character to The Raven’s eclectic cast.
Characterisation is a strong point of The Raven. From an eccentric Baroness and her butler to a suspicious violin expert, the supporting cast are functional, memorable and a delight to interact with. The protagonist of Anton Jakob Zellner is equally engaging, with his calm demeanour and ageing concerns offering a pleasant counter to the bratty protagonists shoe-horned into so many contemporary titles. Things don’t stay quite so engaging as the game progresses though. The second chapter sees a shift in control to a plucky young thief in league with the raven, and with this more generic protagonist comes a dip in The Raven’s otherwise snappy narrative pacing. It isn’t a game killer, but it’s a shame the entire package doesn’t retain the momentum created by the first episode.
Story is but one part of a whole though, but The Raven delivers on all other fronts for the most part. Gameplay is of the classic point and click variety, with plenty of items for you to find, combine and manipulate in order to solve each location’s puzzles. The interface is simple, and the controls work well. There’s even a suspiciously good gamepad control setup that, dare I say, actually felt more intuitive at times than its mouse and keyboard counterpart.
"For fans of Agatha Christie or point and click adventures, The Raven is a flawed gem worth looking into. Obscure puzzle logic and glitches aren't enough to keep a well written adventure down in this classic crime caper."
Puzzles are the mainstay of gameplay, and they are sadly where the game doesn’t always hold up. The puzzles all follow a satisfying and logical pattern, but it is a very rigid form of logic. Plenty of puzzles had me stumped for ages, until I found out I was doing the right things all along, but in the wrong order. There is also the frustrating issue of some objects only being usable after you’ve examined them multiple times, forcing the game into a mad dash to right click everything on screen later on.
At least there’s no pixel hunting, thanks to a robust hot spot indicator. There’s a strange point system that is affected by how many times you use this though and, whilst it doesn’t hinder the game in any way, it seems like a strange and mostly unnecessary inclusion. Gameplay is a gate to content more than anything else for the most part and, though a few puzzles are satisfying to overcome, the story is the main draw here.
Now that all three chapters have released for The Raven, it comes in as a fairly substantial package. Each chapter is a few hours long and, though there isn’t any replay value to speak of, your initial playthrough will last a good amount of time. The character shift half way through does result in a few re-used levels, but there’s definitely quality to match the quantity of The Raven’s globe-trotting adventure.
For fans of Agatha Christie or point and click adventures, The Raven is a flawed gem worth looking into. Obscure puzzle logic and glitches aren’t enough to keep a well written adventure down in this classic crime caper. It’s worth noting that it is very much a genre piece though, so if you aren’t the biggest fan of the traditional locked room mystery, you’re not going to have your mind changed by the The Raven. It’s certainly a successful interpretation of this crime sub-genre, but it isn’t quite polished enough to silence the nay-sayers. Still, The Raven will serve those looking for more traditional crime capers well.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Note: This review included all three chapters released till date.
Interesting characters, Well paced narrative, Decent voice acting, Looks good, Fairly long
Shaky character models, A fair few glitches, Loses a bit of momentum in the second act, Archaic puzzle logic
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