In an interesting, if perhaps ultimately less than ideal experiment, King ART games released their point and click adventure, The Raven: Legacy Of A Master Thief, in three chapters over three months. Seemingly modeling, well, nothing else, this chapter format has certainly obscured the game. With the final part out tomorrow, does this pick up the pieces after a very soggy middle? Here's wot I think:
To catch up, you can read my thoughts on the genuinely superb first part of The Raven here, and on the extremely disappointing second release here. I've entirely avoided spoilers below, which as anyone who's played the first two parts will know, is a touch limiting in terms of story description. The basic events of the second chapter are mammoth spoilers for the first, so I've avoided saying anything specific about that aspect.
Well, the ending is a load of old nonsense. But thankfully, getting there in the third part of this point and click adventure is a lot more fun than the second, if still coming nowhere near the first.
Clocking in at around three hours, it's again a disappointingly short chapter, but it's a pretty dense one. You play as two different characters, one who's never been available before, and unravel the remaining mysteries left over in this tale of murder and jewel heists.
Which of course makes it pretty tricky to write anything at all about, since a lot of people will have been waiting until this final review before deciding whether to buy what should have been one complete game in the first place. Really, the game breaks into two halves, and always should have been released that way, the first half far, far better than the second. Releasing its flabby middle section as a unique chapter will likely be the mistake that haunts this production, but now with all three parts unlocked you can at least play through without that two month gap.
What was originally a story about semi-retired Constable Zellner, Swiss policeman and Poirot tribute, pursuing the re-emergence of a master thief known as The Raven, eventually offers multiple perspectives on the same stories, as you see how the thieves themselves went through Zellner's tale. And that's a bit of a shame, since playing as Zellner was The Raven's masterstroke, a comfortable, gentle old man, calmly and pleasantly solving mysteries with a wry smile on his face. Losing that aspect in the game's second half is never really made up for, and begins to feel like a much more generic Euro-adventure, in which the routine of talking to everyone and clicking on everything loses a lot of its charm.
This third release may certainly be more interesting and fulfilling than the second, but it also continues the development of multiple issues and confusions. There's a prolonged and relatively dull section in which you must have your character speak to a number of people aboard the cruise ship to learn about various pieces of art. It's to open a combination lock. Except, finish learning about the pieces and, er, you don't get to even try to lock. You just had your time wasted for no goal. It also starts jumping about the story a little too liberally, with what should have been puzzles to solve replaced by a leap forward in time and events having happened when the screen went blank.
As for the ending itself, it's just daft. You may or may not have guessed it, but you can't congratulate yourself if you did. The excuses for the contradictions it has with what actually happened are ridiculously weak, so you just have to roll your eyes and move on. Fine, sure, but no one's going to pretend it was clever.
Where does that leave the finished game? At £21 for the lot, it's not bad. At £15 I'd be saying any adventure fan should get it, but the declining quality and loss of what made the first chapter so adorable makes it tougher to enthusiastically recommend at the full price. As for all the promotional nonsense that's been taking place, with adverts in the Times newspaper appealing for the identity of the Raven, it demonstrates a lack of an understanding of how the game was poorly structured for that. What with the game announcing who the Raven is at the midpoint, it takes away any drive from the player to know what mystery it is they're supposed to be solving. With better structure, or just a game that had more heavily focused on Zellner throughout, this could have been a real winner. As it is, it's still worth playing for the lovely first half, and tolerating the second.