Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars

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Broken Sword:
The Shadow of the Templars
Man in black-and-white with a black tattoo on his forehead and the game's title (in Spanish) across the middle of his face
European PC version box art
Developer(s) Revolution Software
Astraware (Palm OS)
Publisher(s) Microsoft Windows & Mac OS
Virgin Interactive Entertainment
PlayStation
Game Boy Advance
BAM! Entertainment
Palm OS & Windows Mobile
Astraware
Director(s) Charles Cecil
Producer(s) Charles Cecil
Chris Dudas
Steve Ince
Michael Merren
Writer(s) Charles Cecil
Dave Cummins
Jonathan Howard
Composer(s) Barrington Pheloung
Series Broken Sword
Engine Virtual Theatre
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, Palm OS, Windows Mobile
Release Microsoft Windows & Mac OS
  • NA: 30 September 1996
  • EU: 14 October 1996
PlayStation
  • EU: December 1996
  • NA: 31 January 1998
Game Boy Advance
  • NA: 17 March 2002
  • EU: 22 March 2002
Palm OS & Windows Mobile
  • NA: August 2006
Genre(s) Point-and-click adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars (also known as Circle of Blood in the United States)[1] is a 1996 point-and-click adventure game developed by Revolution Software. It is the first game in the Broken Sword series. The player assumes the role of George Stobbart, an American tourist in Paris, as he attempts to unravel a conspiracy. The game takes place in both real and fictional locations in Europe and the Middle East.

In 1992, Charles Cecil began researching the Knights Templar for the game after he, Noirin Carmody and Sean Brennan conceived Broken Sword. It was built with Revolution's Virtual Theatre engine. This was also used for the company's previous two games. Cecil co-wrote and directed the game, while Eoghan Cahill and Neil Breen drew the backgrounds in pencil and digitally colored them in Photoshop. The game has a serious tone, but features humor and graphics in the style of classic animated films.

Critics lauded Broken Sword's story, puzzles, voice acting, writing, gameplay, and music. The game received numerous award nominations and wins. It achieved commercial success as well, with one million copies sold in the mid-1990s. Topping several lists, it is known as one of the greatest examples of adventure gaming. Many developers of later games have cited Broken Sword as an influence.

After its initial release on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, and PlayStation, it was ported to the Game Boy Advance, Palm OS, and Windows Mobile. The game spawned a number of sequels collectively known as the Broken Sword series. From 2009 to 2012, a director's cut version was released on Wii, Nintendo DS, Microsoft Windows, OS X, iOS, Android and Linux.

Gameplay[edit]

Broken Sword is a 2D adventure game played from a third-person perspective. The player uses a point-and-click interface to interact with the environment and to guide protagonist George Stobbart through the game's world.[2] To solve puzzles and progress in the game, the player collects items that may be combined with one another, used on the environment, or given to non-player characters (NPCs). The protagonist converses with NPCs via dialogue trees presented through "conversation icons" to learn about the game's puzzles and plot.[3] Clues and other information are obtained by clicking on items in the inventory and on objects in the environment. The player navigates with a map, to which new locations are added as the story unfolds. Unlike in most adventure games at the time, the protagonist's death is possible, after which the player starts from the last save point.[2]

Plot[edit]

As the game begins, American tourist George Stobbart witnesses a terrorist attack at a café in Paris, during which a clown steals an old man's briefcase and detonates a bomb. Soon after, George meets Nicole Collard, a journalist who is photographing the scene. George investigates the area to help Nicole gather information about the attack. He finds the clown's discarded nose, a tissue covered in theatrical greasepaint, and a piece of fabric from the clown's jacket in the sewers around the cafe and learns that a man was seen escaping with a briefcase. After Nicole discovers the address of a costume shop inside the clown nose, George learns from that shop's owner that the nose and theatrical greasepaint had been purchased by a man named Khan.

Three people, two men and a woman, standing in front of a cafe
Left to right: Sergeant Moue, George Stobbart, and Nicole Collard standing in front of Cafe De La Chandelle Verte in Paris

George travels to the hotel where Khan is staying, where he obtains an ancient manuscript from Khan's hotel safe. After evading two hired thugs, Flap and Guido, George takes the manuscript to Nicole, who deduces that it is related to the Knights Templar. In a nearby museum, George finds a tripod that is illustrated in the manuscript. He soon travels to the excavation site in Lochmarne, Ireland where the tripod had been discovered; and, there, he obtains a gem identical to one on the manuscript. After facing a goat, George finds an entrance to a Templar chapel beneath the local castle ruins, where he discovers a mural of a hanged man with "Montfauçon" written underneath.

George returns to Paris and learns from Andre Lobineau, a colleague of Nicole's, that Montfauçon is a location in Paris. Flap and Guido attempt to steal the tripod from the museum; but they are beaten to the theft by Nicole, who gives the artifact to George. In the sewers of Montfauçon, George spies on a secret meeting of people who claim to be the Templars, and he learns of their plan to find the Sword of Baphomet. After the group leaves, George uses the tripod and gem in the underground chamber to reveal the name of a village in Syria: Marib. He travels to the village and discovers that Khan has been looking for him. At a nearby rock formation called the Bull's Head, George finds a lens and deduces that it is represented on the manuscript as a crystal ball. He also discovers an idol with three bearded faces, Baphomet; and a Latin inscription that describes Britain. Khan arrives and holds George at gunpoint, but George manages to escape.

Back in Paris, George learns from Andre that the manuscript mentions the Spanish De Vasconcellos family, who were once connected with the Templars. At the family's villa, George speaks to the family's sole surviving member, a Countess, who leads him to the De Vasconcellos mausoleum. There, George discovers the family's chalice, which the Countess entrusts to George. She asks him to find her missing ancestor, Don Carlos. In Paris, George uses the lens in the church at Montfauçon and discovers a hidden image of a burning man. In the church, George find Don Carlos' tomb, which is inscribed with a series of biblical references.

Andre reveals that an idol of Baphomet has been discovered in Paris, and George gains access to the excavation. Using the chalice, he discovers an image of a church with a square tower. George returns to the Countess, and he discovers that the biblical references show a secret area inside a well containing a chessboard mural with a river running through it. Compiling their clues, George, Nicole, and Andre decide that the Templars are going to Bannockburn, Scotland. George and Nicole board a train, but she and an old woman in their compartment soon go missing. He reaches the conductor's carriage, where the old woman, Khan in disguise, throws Flap out of the carriage. However, Khan is shot and killed during the confrontation. George and Nicole reach the church in time to see the Grand Master of the Templars acquire a power from two huge Baphomet idols—the Sword of Baphomet, or the Broken Sword. After trying to tempt George to join their ranks, the Grand Master orders the couple to be killed, but they escape with the aid of explosives Khan had given Nicole before his death. The church explodes, killing Guido, the Templars, and—presumably—the Grand Master. The game ends with George and Nicole's first kiss.

Development[edit]

In 1992, Cecil and Noirin Carmody met with Sean Brennan, then-head of publishing at Virgin Interactive, and spoke about how the Knights Templar would make an ideal subject to base a game on. Later, Virgin agreed to issue the game.[4] In a September 1992 interview for French magazine Génération 4, Charles Cecil stated that he had begun working on a scenario for Revolution's third game, after 1992's Lure of the Temptress and 1994's then-upcoming Beneath a Steel Sky.[5] The game would be set in Paris with a Templar story line.[5][6] The following month, Cecil visited Paris to research the Templars;[7][8] after reading The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, he was certain there was enough known about the Templars to make them a good subject for a game.[8] Cecil, Dave Cummins, and Jonathan Howard began work on the story and design.[8] Cecil and Cummins attended a film-writing course and their script was read by Alan Drury, a senior BBC scriptwriter and dramatist.[9] Revolution artist Steve Ince created initial location sketches for the game before working on Beneath a Steel Sky.[10] He was promoted to producer halfway through the project.[10]

Despite releasing the PC version, Virgin was not interested in publishing the game on the PlayStation, feeling that only 3D games would sell for the console.[11] As a result, Cecil contacted Sony Computer Entertainment, who agreed to release the game for the console.[11] In North America, Broken Sword was renamed to Circle of Blood.[12] Cecil was uneasy about the name change, feeling that it gave a wrong impression of what type of game it was.[12] In 1998 however, THQ published the game on the PlayStation platform under its original Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars title.

A man in a white shirt
Charles Cecil, creator and director of the Broken Sword series

One of Cecil's goals was to depart from the humorous adventure games more popular at the time, such as LucasArts' Monkey Island series, by creating a game with good pacing and a complex storyline, a reason he thought the Knights Templar would be an ideal subject.[8] Unlike LucasArts games, which used a question-and-answer conversation system, Broken Sword offered "conversation icons" that would not reveal to the player what the protagonist was about to say; Cecil's intention was to make the game more cinematic,[12] but not resemble interactive movies of that time; he felt that they were "mimicking movies."[8] He wanted to create two protagonists who would exchange ideas, helping drive the game along.[8] He made George American and Nico French to appeal to US and European markets.[8]

The team at Revolution had high expectations for Broken Sword, but there was significant competition. Revolution had a team that had created successful adventure games, but believed they needed to utilise the best of other creative industries.[4] Eoghan Cahill and Neil Breen of Dublin's Don Bluth studios drew the backgrounds in pencil and digitally colored them in Photoshop.[4] The introductory sequence and the main characters were done by animator Mike Burgess, who worked for the Red Rover animation studio.[4] The game's graphics were animated in a style resembling classic animated films.[13]

Cecil contacted composer Barrington Pheloung, who agreed to create the game's score.[4] Revolution had already cast Hazel Ellerby as Nicole Collard, but had trouble finding a voice actor for George Stobbart. Hazel, who went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, suggested her former schoolmate from Guildhall, Rolf Saxon, as George. Charles offered him the job, and Saxon accepted.[14] The remaining credited voice actors in the original are Rachel Atkins, David Bannerman, Rosy Clayton, Jack Elliott, Steve Hodson, David Holt, Peter Kenny, Richard Mapletoft, Matthew Marsh, Colin McFarlane, Don McCorkindale, Gavin Muir, Paul Panting, and Andrew Wincott.[15]

Cecil was the game's director and writer, Tony Warriner and David Sykes the designer-programmers, and Noirin Carmody the executive producer.[15] The game uses the Virtual Theatre engine,[15] as do Lure of the Temptress and Beneath a Steel Sky.[16] The game's final cost was one million pounds. It was ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2002, and to the Palm OS and Windows Mobile in 2006.[8][12]

In March 2009, Ubisoft released a director's cut of The Shadow of the Templars entitled Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars – Director's Cut for the Wii and Nintendo DS.[17] Dave Gibbons, with whom Revolution worked on Beneath a Steel Sky, created additional artwork for the game.[17] Due to the platform's size limits, the DS version contains no spoken dialogue, only subtitles.[18] A version of the Director's Cut for iPhone and iPod Touch was released on January 20, 2010.[19] In May 2010, a version in high definition was released for the iPad.[20] Versions for Windows and Mac OS X were released in September 2, 2010, on digital-distribution services.[21][22][23] An Android version was released on Google Play in June 2012.[24] The original version of the game is only available from Sold-Out Software and GOG.com with Director's Cut purchases.[21][25]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception and commercial performance[edit]

Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
Adventure Gamers 5/5 stars[26]
Edge 9/10[27]
GameSpot 9.2/10 (PC)[28]
5.8/10 (PS)[29]
PC Gamer (US) 80%[1]
Adventure Classic Gaming 5/5 stars[2]
Computer Games Magazine 4/5 stars[30]
Next Generation (acclaim)[31]
Generation 4 5/5[32]
Awards
Publication Award
Génération 4 Best Adventure 1997[33]
Quest Best Quest[33]

Broken Sword was acclaimed by critics, who praised the game's story, art direction, musical score, voice acting, and writing. Edge stated that Broken Sword was superior to LucasArts' adventure games, such as Monkey Island and The Dig, and believed it to be an "adventure gaming milestone" and the "best graphic adventure to date."[27] The game was a commercial success, with roughly one million copies sold in the mid-1990s.[34] Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars – Director's Cut also received praise—particularly the iOS versions, which, along with The Smoking Mirror's remastered edition, was downloaded by over four million people in 2011.[35] According to Cecil, the remake's sales were higher than those of The Sleeping Dragon and The Angel of Death.[34]

Adventure Gamers' Angella Mooney commented that the game's "deep and mysterious plot is designed to be thought-provoking and highly entertaining at the same time."[26] GameSpot's Rebecca B. Anderson found that the game's combination of real history and "highly-creative" storytelling "add[s] spice to an already-entertaining adventure."[28] Joe Antol of Adventure Classic Gaming wrote that the involvement of the Knights Templar generated a "unique experience of creative storytelling."[2] A writer for Next Generation magazine stated that the story is "rich in mystery and intrigue, with plenty of puzzles and locations to explore."[31] Edge's reviewer praised the game's use of "legend and modern-day intrigue", and believed that "Revolution Software finally escaped the shadow of Monkey Island et al. and [have] taken the graphic adventure to new levels in terms of both story and spectacle." The writer commented that, by weaving its "trans-European plot around the legends of the Knights Templar", the game "succeeds in appearing weighty and complex without ever losing its sense of place".[27]

Mark Wolf of PC Gamer US called the game "visually stunning", praising the animated graphics as "crisp and clear" and the artwork as "simply beautiful". He also wrote, "At the highest setting, the background and foreground scroll separately, delivering a sense of depth you don't see in many graphic adventures. Even the atmosphere of each of the areas you explore fit the locale."[1] Mooney called the animation "extremely colorful and well-executed" and noted that the art team "have taken this style of animation and really made an elegant, mature game with it." The writer also noted that the environments are "detailed and inviting".[26] Anderson called the game a "visual treat" and a "work of art," noting that "every scene is filled with rich, lush, illustrative detail that rivals any animated feature film."[28] Next Generation's writer called the character movements "fantastic" and the cutscenes "a joy to watch."[31] The writer for Edge praised its art direction, in which "every visual element is polished to the 'nth' degree". The reviewer believed that "the SVGA artwork by far exceeds the competition in this genre."[27]

Edge complimented its musical score for "play[ing] a large part in mood enhancement", noting that "it's beautifully orchestrated and adds immeasurable atmosphere."[27] Mooney also praised the score, calling it "ambitious and beautiful" and saying it adds a very "cinematic feel" to the experience.[26] Mooney said that the game's voice acting is "of supreme quality" with "delightful dialogue", but noted that long conversations might "turn some players off".[26] Wolf was more critical of the voice acting, calling it "not too professional" and "the worst thing in the game".[1]

Mooney stated that the game's puzzles are well integrated into the plot and are moderately challenging. Wolf called the puzzles inventive and challenging, but believed that some require "too much pixel-hunting".[1] Next Generation's writer said that the puzzles can be "disappointing."[31] Despite acclaiming the Windows version, GameSpot deemed the PlayStation version mediocre, criticizing technical deficiencies, such as lengthy load times and muddy graphics.[29] Cecil later cited the PlayStation version as his "one big regret" regarding the game. He believed that the team should have introduced direct control over the player character in this version, instead of mouse-driven point-and-click interaction.[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Génération 4 awarded it "Best Adventure 1997",[33] and it received the award for "Best Quest" from the magazine Quest.[33] The BBC magazine program Live & Kicking awarded it "Best PC Game of 1996".[36] In 2005, the Game Boy Advance port was awarded the "Pocket Gamer Silver Award" by Pocket Gamer.[37] The game was a finalist for Computer Gaming World's 1996 "Adventure Game of the Year" award,[38] which ultimately went to The Pandora Directive.[39]

The Director's Cut was nominated for the "Best Story" award at the 2009 British Academy Video Games Awards,[40] and Pocket Gamer awarded the DS version the "Pocket Gamer Silver" award in 2009 and the iPhone version the "Pocket Gamer Gold Award" in 2010.[41][42] The Wii and DS versions were nominated for the "Best Port/Updated Re-release" award at Adventure Gamers' 2010 Aggie Awards.[43] The iPhone version was nominated for the "Best Adventure/RPG Game" award at the 2011 Pocket Gamer Awards. The Wii version won the award for "Best European Adventure" at the 2011 European Games Awards.[44]

Legacy[edit]

Listings[edit]

Adventure Gamers ranked Broken Sword fourth on its lists of "Top 20 Adventure Games of All-Time" in 2004[45] and "Top 100 All-Time Adventures" in 2011.[46] In 2006, Adventure Classic Gaming put the game in third place on its list of the "Top 10 retro graphic adventure games of all time from PC to consoles".[47] It was listed on Bright Hub's "Best Windows Mobile Games Software" in 2008.[48] In 2010, Retro Gamer placed it in second on its list of the "Top 20 Adventure Games of All-Time ... not by LucasArts",[49] and was included in Universe Publishing's 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die, a book by video game designer and programmer Peter Molyneux and longtime Edge editor Tony Mott published in 2010.[50] NowGamer listed it on its 2011 feature, "Greatest Point-And-Click Games (Not By LucasArts)".[51] In 2012, it ranked eighth on GamesRadar's "Best point-and-click adventure games".[52] Broken Sword and its remake are listed on Adventure Gamers' "Top Adventure Games" recommendations list.[53] It is currently the third best-reviewed adventure game on GameSpot.[54]

The game's Goat Puzzle appeared on Computer and Video Games' 2011 feature, "Gaming's hardest puzzles".[55] In 2012, it was listed on GameFront's "5 Crazy Difficult and Intricate Video Game Puzzles".[56] Computer and Video Games also ranked Barrington's original intro theme 21st on its 2012 "Video game soundtracks: The 100 best themes of all time" list.[57] The Telegraph listed Khan as one of "The 10 best video game assassins",[58] while in 2013, Kotaku listed him as one of "The Scariest Clowns And Jesters In Video Games".[59] The Director's Cut has been placed on top lists as well, particularly the iOS versions.[60][61][62][63][64][65][66][67]

Influence[edit]

"In terms of loving adventure games, Charles Cecil – and in particular Broken Sword – is a big influence for me. I love the classic, older-style adventure games too, but Broken Sword is the pinnacle for me in terms of puzzles rooted in real-world logic, a fantastic, character-driven story etc."
Telegraph writer and Richard & Alice co-creator Ashton Raze on his creative influences.[68]

In his book Game Plan: Great Designs that Changed the Face of Computer Gaming, British video game journalist Ste Curran wrote that Broken Sword influenced the adventure games Toonstruck, in which Cecil has a "Special Thanks" credit, and Escape from Monkey Island, which features a puzzle that involves a broken sword.[69] Kevin Bruner, co-founder of Telltale Games, has said that he is a Broken Sword fan.[70] Ashton Raze, a writer for The Telegraph and the co-creator of the 2013 adventure game Richard & Alice, said that Broken Sword is his biggest influence.[68] In his review of the 2010 adventure game Deponia, Declan Skews of Video Games Interactive said that the game drew inspiration from Broken Sword.[71]

The Da Vinci Code[edit]

Cecil has said that the game's fanbase believes Dan Brown to have been influenced by Broken Sword when writing his novel, The Da Vinci Code, because of the parallels between the two works.[72][73][74] Cecil stated that he is flattered by this sentiment, but that he would never claim so himself due to the threat of Brown's "very serious" lawyers.[8] Joao Diniz Sanches of Pocket Gamer said Broken Sword's story is a "tale, some would argue, that effortlessly outclasses Dan Brown's similarly themed and tricksy novel."[75] In an article about Broken Sword, Computer and Video Games described the Knights Templar legend as a "great mythology to base a game on", and noted that Broken Sword "came out years before the Da Vinci Code made that sort of thing popular."[76]

Sequels and re-releases[edit]

Broken Sword spawned four sequels. The first, Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror, was released in 1997.[77] It uses the same engine as the first Broken Sword game. Six years later, Revolution released Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon, which features 3D graphics and a direct-control mechanism.[78] It uses the RenderWare engine. In 2006 the company released Broken Sword: The Angel of Death (Secrets of the Ark: A Broken Sword Game in North America), which returns to the point-and-click system used in the first two games. It is the only game in the series not released for a console,[79] and it uses Sumo Digital's engine. The fifth installment, Broken Sword 5: The Serpent's Curse, was announced through a Kickstarter project in August 2012. The game features 2D graphics,[80] and it was released in September 2013.[81]

After releasing the Director's Cut version of Broken Sword, Revolution released a remastered edition of the second game, entitled Broken Sword: The Smoking Mirror – Remastered, in 2010.[82]

Film[edit]

In May 2007, ComingSoon.net reported that Cecil, encouraged by the success of The Angel of Death, had begun work on a Broken Sword theatrical film adaptation. According to the website, producers Jay Douglas and Nav Guptatheir and their CastleBright Studios production company were involved. Justin Kaplan introduced Cecil to the company and was set to be one of the producers. Conversations had begun with directors and screenwriters from films such as Harry Potter, Casino Royale and X-Men.[83]

In July 2008, Cecil said he was conversing with small studios from Los Angeles. Although he was interested in making a film, he believed that it was not necessary, since the series was already successful and a bad film could only "damage" its reputation. Cecil said that he was not prepared to "give somebody [he doesn]'t know the editorial control", and that, should the film be created, he would write it himself. He wanted any adaptation to be true to the source material, a film that "enhances [the game] rather than cashes in on it".[84] In May 2009, Cecil stated that he was in discussion with the production company Radar Pictures, known for films such as The Last Samurai and The Chronicles of Riddick, and that he was re-writing the game into a film.[85]

In August 2012, Cecil said that he and Revolution were trying to "find the right partner" to create the film. Cecil believed that "a lot of film makers now in their early 30s played Broken Sword the first time around, so they have a lot of affection, and a number of them know a lot about the brand as well." However, he restated his opinion that it "would be much better not to have a movie at all, than to have a bad movie." While Cecil said that Revolution's main focus was the upcoming Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse, he added that he was "sure there [would] be a film at some point". He also said that he was "sure it will be really good, because [they]'ll do [their] utmost to make sure that it is."[86]

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