Broken Sword 5: Charles Cecil answers the Call to Adventure

In 2012, after six years without a new Broken Sword adventure, Revolution turned to Kickstarter to fund one more globetrotting quest for George and Nico. Fans responded in force. With Episode 1 of the Serpent”s best price for cialis online Curse kicking off a new tale, Charles Cecil describes to us the changes that allowed Revolution to work on a new instalment and their approach to videogame storytelling in a vastly different era.


Years before Dan Brown was scribbling secret codes in the margins of history books and rewriting the demise of the Knights Templar in order to support his irreverent narratives, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars catapulted the militaristic Middle Age Order into wider cultural awareness.

Revolution’s gripping adventure thriller sent everyday American George Stobbart and French journalist Nico Collard across the globe, following ancient conspiracies and mystical canada goose sverige macguffins. Along with its sequel, The Smoking Mirror, both are considered vital works of the classic point-and-click adventure era.

But the Broken Sword series lost some of its lustre during the mad rush for 3D adventure games in the late 90s – the third and fourth entries, the Sleeping Dragon and the Angel of Death, both wilted under the demands of changing technology at the time. Revolution struggled, and all but collapsed in the new environment.


Coincidentally, technological progress also saved them.

Supernatural Aid

Broken Sword 5 – The Serpent’s Curse begins in Paris in the spring. A time of growth. A fresh start. A new beginning.

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“It wouldn’t have been possible a year earlier,” says Revolution co-founder, Charles Cecil.


A combination of factors had led to this moment. Mobile games introduced a whole new market. A successful re-release on the App Store and a featured spot on Apple”s 12 Days of Christmas app saw Shadow of the Templars burst through to the top of the charts with 2.5 million downloads in 24 hours. Broken Sword became the 10th most tweeted keyword in the world that day.

“I think either by

chance, good

fortune, skill, or a combination of all three, we had found the ideal time to develop Broken Sword 5,” says Cecil. “It wasn’t a strategic decision but we’d very much been pulled along by this extraordinary change.”

In the intervening years between Shadow of the Templars and the present day, the adventure game genre and videogame storytelling has also seen significant changes. “I think it’s very interesting and very vibrant, but that’s because of the indie scene,” says Cecil. “People can choose the kind of games they want to play and support; it’s a much more level playing field.”

It’s true that the likes of Daedalic and a host of other indie developers from Ben Chandler to Dan Marshall have stayed rooted in the classic point-and-click adventure. But the adventure genre as a whole has grown in multiple directions.

Player choice and consequence have been brought to the forefront by Telltale in The Walking Dead. Similarly, Quantic Dream have experimented with the player-driven interactive movie (“I really admire David Cage and Quantic Dream,” enthuses Cecil. “But I can’t quite forgive them for the twist they put into Heavy Rain!”). And then there are the likes of Gone Home; Papers, Please and Journey, all of which explore ways of telling stories through the fundamental interactive elements unique to videogames. In comparison, Broken Sword’s approach looks hugely traditional within the genre at large.


“What I have discovered after all these years at Revolution is that people love innovation provided its pragmatic, provided you temper it and it actually translates into gameplay,” Cecil argues. “We’ve always been rewarded by innovating, but to stray as far as Heavy Rain does is something we really wouldn’t want to do.

“Also, I’m not totally sold on people wanting to tell their own story. This obsession with emergent storytelling – I’m slightly sceptical about it. Players clearly want to have freedom in the game world and they clearly want to have a choice in how they approach puzzles and challenges. But as far as the story is concerned, if it is a traditional plot-driven narrative, I think it’s generally better if there’s a storyteller in control.”

That opinion was shown to shelter truth at the end of 2012.

Crossing the Threshold

Double Fine had cleared $3,000,000 for its point-and-click adventure, Broken Age. Jane Jensen secured over $400,000 to set up Pinkerton Road Studios, with the intention of almost exclusively developing point-and-click adventures. Seven buy cialis online months later, Ragnar Tourquist and Red Thread Games would receive $1.5 million and commence work on Dreamfall Chapters.

But back in August 2012, in the midst of Kickstarter fever, Revolution launched Broken Sword 5’s funding campaign. Less than a fortnight later the $400,000 target had been met. It was eventually exceeded to the tune of over $800,000. Revolution were now in a position where they could realise their wildest ambitions for one more adventure featuring George and Nico.

Those ambitions were still fairly humble, but nonetheless canada goose jacka fundamentally changed the direction of the game. Parts of the Serpent”s Curse were rewritten, locations were added and expanded, and the game became so large it was decided to split it in two. Cecil details the developer’s iterative design process that allowed for these changes, one that constantly considers and reconfigures the game’s most important elements: story and puzzle design.


“Each will affect the other,” explains Cecil. “The story always comes first, because puzzles have to be based on the story, but then we’ll update the story to fit the best puzzles. If we come up with a puzzle we really like, then it can profoundly affect the story because it’s important that we consider the experience of the two together.”

Quite how such a process generated the world’s most infuriating goat puzzle, we may never know, but that continual back and forth keeps progress through the story logical – at least for the most part. It also ensures the story is well-grounded in reality, despite the game”s many fantastical elements.

The Road of Trials

Over the years Broken Sword has covered a range of unique and intellectually stimulating subject matter: the Templars, Arthurian legend,

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and now, the Gnostic Gospels, a selection of unearthed manuscripts written from the 2nd to the 4th century AD. One particularly stood out to Cecil and heavily inspired the game’s plot, The Gospel of Truth, which contains a rather heretical retelling of the Bible book, Genesis. It’s a huge part of the appeal that, when compared with the tired inspiration behind other videogame stories, sets Broken Sword apart. There’s an overwhelming sense of mystery in a Broken Sword game that grabs you – a sense that you’re exposing long-hidden online casino secrets along with George and Nico.

And despite all the advancements in games over the years, videogame storytelling is still largely neglected in the wider spectrum of mainstream titles. It’s little more than a thinly-veiled incentive to motivate play, other names for viagra but Charles believes that stereotypical stories arise due to the challenges of interactive storytelling more than anything else.

“One of the big constraints of an interactive experience is that as soon as you start playing you have to work, you have to be engaged, so therefore you have to – as the storyteller – provide the motivation. If you’re writing a story-based game then the player needs to know, one: what their objectives are; and two: why they need to complete them. In a videogame you have a cutscene at the beginning and that’s it.


“One of the ways to get around this issue is to come up with very stereotypical characters. So if you have a space marine you know he’s going to speak [Charles assumes his best, deep, husky American voice here] with deep, husky American voice. You know who he is, and you know his background because we’ve all seen Starship Troopers, and you know what his objective is: to kick alien ass. Similarly, if you see a wizard with a long, flowing beard like Gandalf, he’s there to slay orcs – that’s his role in life.

“It’s quite tempting to do that and that’s why there are so many Lord of the Rings style games or so many World War II simulations. You go straight into a highly charged environment and you know exactly why you’re there.”

The Ultimate Boon

With bombs going off in the streets of Paris and murder in broad daylight,

Broken Sword is equally quick to cut to the chase but “…what we try and do is write something slightly more subtle,” clarifies Cecil. “We try to create archetypal characters. In Broken Sword we have George and Nico who are both relatively normal. But then as we go further and further away from the main plot the characters become more and more exaggerated.

“Then you can go in to the world and you kind of know what to expect from them, but then we specifically reverse those expectations. What that means is we can go for a slightly more varied story because of our approach.”


It’s clear by talking with Cecil that he and Revolution are well-versed in established storytelling techniques that any film screenwriters guide would tell you, but also appreciate that there needs to be adaptation for them to also work in games rather than simply copy and pasting them.

“I think that there are lots of similarities [between film and game storytelling] but the differences are profound,” he suggests. “It’s why when Peter Jackson was invited to write his opus magnum for Halo, it never happened. And when Steven Spielberg was invited by EA to write his opus magnum, it never happened. And when great writers are put in charge of development teams, and if they are given creative control, failure is inevitable.”

Times have changed, but Charles, Revolution and Broken Sword feel no need to respond to it – at least in any dramatic fashion. The Serpent’s Curse stands on the strength of its storytelling and its eye for unique subject matter. With it, Broken Sword is reborn again with a fiendishly paced tale – a classic point-and-click adventure lovingly grown by those who care for it the most; both designers and fans. Revolution are in bloom once more.

James Pickard

Author: James Pickard

James is BeefJack's Critique editor, and therefore despises the words "graphics" and "gameplay". When he isn't playing games, he's usually found watching others play them competitively, while sipping on a chocolate milkshake.

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