With Chapter 1: The Eye of the Sphinx scheduled for release on Steam and other ESD platforms on Jul. 23 and for PC, Mac and Linux later this summer, The Raven marks King Art’s most ambitious project to date. The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief will contain three chapters that span thirty locations and feature more camera shots and character locations than all of their previous point and click titles. Set in the 1960′s, The Raven is a point and click murder mystery game with Agatha Christie Stylings.
Aboard the Orient-Express, the player will be introduced to the main protaganist for Chapter 1. Constable Anton Zellner, a Swiss policeman intrigued by events surrounding the theft of a priceless diamond by a renowned thief is eager to prove himself. Sent by the Swiss to help with the investigation, he meets Inspector Legrand aboard the train and the meeting goes much as one would expect. Legrand is uninterested in another fame seeking policeman botching his case, especially an older gentleman with heart problems.
While the story of The Raven is rarely original and it’s characters fit the mold of many murder/crime mysteries before it, the realistic dialogue and lovable protagonist set it apart from other games in it’s genre. Players will have multiple dialogue options with each character they speak with that will shed light on motive, open roads to side investigations or provide clues for the main investigation. The Raven’s dialogue stands out because of it’s realism. Though the characters of The Raven may be stereotypical of your average murder mystery their responses to the difficult questions and circumstances surrounding the investigation are genuine. The characters of the Raven are believable as real people with real answers and real emotions.
Constable Zellner also stands out as one of the few original aspects of the storyline. Though initially it seems that he is just another fame-seeker eager to have his name associated with a case making major media headlines, his actions and general methods reveal him to be a man of integrity, intelligence and compassion. Unlike many mystery/crime stories, the Raven does not rely on quirks or supernatural investigative abilities to make it’s protagonist a super-detective. Anton Zellner is an average man dissatisfied with his job who was given the opportunity to help with his first major case. He proves that being a great detective doesn’t mean angrily accusing or intimidating suspects (every detective show on TV) or being an eccentric anti-social genius (Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Poirot).
The point and click format is easy to understand and hints displayed on loading screens are helpful in figuring out gameplay mechanics. The Raven features an inventory system which allows the player to select and combine objects for use in the investigation as well as a journal which outlines the characters, clues and general details uncovered throughout the course of the game. Players will also have the option to fast-forward dialogue which is useful because there is a lot of it. Players struggling to figure out which objects and people to investigate in a scene will find the hint reveal function useful. Pressing the space bar will highlight all objects and people available for examination in a scene. Unfortunately, there are still some bugs in this aspect of gameplay as objects are not always highlighted accurately and it is sometimes difficult to determine what the game wants you to examine and why.
The Raven would benefit from clearer investigation objectives. Though the game does a good job of laying out the general tasks the player is supposed to accomplish like uncoupling a train car or examining some evidence with scientific equipment, how these tasks should be achieved and where to begin is not always clear. A checklist of what the player needs to collect in order to accomplish a goal would be helpful and result in much less time spent wandering unproductively through the same locations repeatedly. Gameplay is sometimes frustrating and often slow due to lack of detail about objectives and long cutscenes.
One of Zellner’s fellow passengers on the train is an 8-year old named Matthew, a stereotypical boy who behaves much like a young child would. Matthew sets the graphic tone for The Raven as he, due to his youth and inexperience lacks the verbals skills to express his emotional responses to the events of the story. King Art did an amazing job of conveying through facial animation the emotional state of it’s characters. During one interrogation, Matthew scrunches his face in response to a difficult question. Unique mannerisms like this are seen in characters throughout the game and help the player to develop an emotional connection with the Raven’s characters.
The Raven also does a fantastic job of animating the body language essential to real-world investigations. People lie but their body language does not. Nervous gestures, slouched posture, avoidance of eye-contact, etc. all help the player to read characters better and make The Raven feel like an actual investigation. Though not quite the level of a game like LA Noir, The Raven’s cutscenes are sometimes choppy and character close-ups reveal the graphic flaws, the graphics of the Raven hold their own against some much larger competitors.
The Raven’s realistic dialogue, facial animations and charming protagonist make it worth playing, especially for mystery enthusiasts. At $24.99 for a season pass, the price for this point and click game may seem steep but the future release of Chapters 2 and 3 make this game a steal if not right away. Chapter 2: Ancestry of Lies is scheduled for release Aug. 27 and Chapter 3: A Murder of Ravens for Sept. 24. The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief was developed by King Art and published by Nordic Games. A trailer for The Raven can be viewed below: