“As I picked myself up, all I could hear was the ceaseless drone of traffic. Life went on around me, but the explosion was to change my life forever.” That Parisian café blast may have changed George Stobbart’s life forever, but Broken Sword has changed our lives, too.
First releasing in 1996, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars was unlike anything we’d seen before. Sure, there’d been point and click adventures – Full Throttle, Discworld, The Secret of Monkey Island to name but a few – but none told such an in-depth and intricate story as Broken Sword did. We might have loved Rincewind and Guybrush Threepwood, but no other character would be as relatable or capture our imaginations quite as much as the decidedly average American George Stobbart.
From small British studio Revolution, Broken Sword became something of a household name, with five titles being released over the last 20 years spanning no less than fifteen different formats.
The first two releases, Shadow of the Templars and The Smoking Mirror remain to be the biggest selling titles for Revolution, both originally selling over one million copies each with a further 500,000 copies of the later remastered versions selling on iOS alone. The early 2000s games which saw George leave his 2D animated roots for updated 3D graphics didn’t fare so well; The Sleeping Dragon and The Angel of Death both only sold a few hundred thousand copies.
Despite the decline in sales during the 2000s, Broken Sword still remained one of, if not the most prolific adventure game franchises – a title it still holds strong today. In any discussion about point and click video games, Broken Sword will always be one of the first games to get mentioned and there’s no denying the influence it’s had on the genre, and the gaming industry as a whole.
Although we saw a more modern release with the fifth instalment, Broken Sword: The Serpent’s Curse in 2015, still the signature image when we think of Broken Sword comes from The Shadow of the Templars. The first time we met George is undoubtedly the most memorable and the most engaging story so far. Revolution Studios nailed every aspect of the game; from a dark and engaging story, to incredibly believable characters, to absolutely stellar voice acting. Who can forget the eternal monologues of George Stobbart (voiced by Rolf Saxon) and his sarcastic quips when you tried to use something in the inventory that he didn’t agree with? (I thought about using the tissue, but then I thought… no.)
It wasn’t just George Stobbart that brought The Shadow of the Templars to life, either. His chic sidekick Nico is equally memorable with her sultry French accent (oh, Georgie) and the obvious sexual chemistry that was bubbling between the two characters but never explored (although in later games, a romance between the two was mentioned). Every character that we encountered through the epic journey was just as memorable as the last, no matter how big or small their part was.
Inspector Moue, for example, with his incessant suspicion of George; the incredibly creepy Todryk; larger-than-life American tourists Duane and Pearl Henderson; and my favourite of all, Lady Piermont, the unabashed upper-class British woman who George first encounters at the Hotel Ubu. The story may have been incredible on its own, but it was this brilliant cast of characters that brought it to life.
As a point and click game, it was the puzzles that propelled the story of Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars from beat to beat. While most puzzles in the game were fairly logical and solutions never relied on fantastical ideas that other point and click games of the time may have fallen back on (Discworld, I’m looking at you), it would be unfair to say that it was ever easy. The Shadow of the Templars – in fact, all Broken Sword games in the same way – never handed solutions to you on a plate, but trusted in you as a player to have the intelligence and analytical capability to be able to work out what to do next. Well, almost. Let’s address the elephant (or should I say bovidae) in the room: the infamous Goat Puzzle.
This puzzle, in Chapter Two of The Shadow of the Templars, involved George having to get past a particularly fierce goat in order to access an underground dig at Lochmarne Castle. It’s regarded by many as one of the most challenging puzzles that a video game has ever faced us with, and that’s largely due to its reliance on time sensitivity. Whilst the solution to the puzzle itself required nothing more than a couple of timely clicks, it appeared much more difficult than any other puzzle we’d been faced with up until that point. Nothing else had been timed in the game before, so how were we to know this puzzle was? The feeling of finally solving it, however – whether we’d had to ask a friend or phone a helpline (remember, this was in the days before we were all so readily plugged into the Internet!) – is probably still one of the biggest gaming-related elations a lot of us have experienced. It’s a feeling younger players won’t understand, however; the goat puzzle in the remastered version of The Shadow of the Templars was nerfed to be easier to complete. (Unfair – those guys had the internet to help them. We didn’t.)
Even that blasted goat puzzle doesn’t make The Shadow of the Templars any less enjoyable, though. Broken Sword is firmly etched in my mind – and many others’ – as one of the best point and click adventures of all time. Its sequels may not have quite captured the allure and ingenuity of the first, but thanks to George Stobbart’s undeniable charm and the incredible scripting, they each hold a special place in the point and click hall of fame. From the idea of a serial killer clown, to the wealth of gorgeous locations spanning across the globe, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, we salute you.
Now, hurry up and make a console remaster please, Revolution!
This article was originally published in May 2016