Developed and published by Revolution software, Broken Sword 5 starts off with the all-famous quote “And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Following that quote was a introductory cutscene and a murder mystery for me to sink my teeth into. But as I gazed longer into Broken Sword, Broken Sword’s gaze started to dim.

Broken Sword 5 starts off with the two main characters, George and Nico, attending a small gallery show which is subsequently robbed of a painting named “La Maledicció” and the owner shot dead. As George works for the company that helped insure the exhibition, it’s up to him and Nico to track down the stolen painting and unravel the mysteries surrounding it.

For the first half of the game, the story is focused on finding the stolen painting and solving the murder mystery. While some of the plot points can be predictable, it’s fun to slowly gain clues of what really transpired and start putting the pieces together. However, in the second half of the game, the story shifts focus to tracking down a mystic treasure using the painting and it becomes bogged down in explaining the history of ancient religious cults which makes for good puzzles, but not an interesting story.

The story also has a bad habit of setting up cliffhangers, only to immediately negate them. At one point, George and Nico are on top of a burning house with no escape.. and then firemen show up. Another time, George is arrested by the police on suspicion that he’s the murderer.. only to be let go a couple hours later. The overall tone of the game struck me as off-balance with one joke in the game being that George almost curses, yet in another moment George is talking about somebody “Blowing their brains out.” While the dialogue made me smirk a couple times, it made me groan a whole lot more. There are a handful of moments where you get to choose between two dialogue options, but other than changing the dialogue of that scene slightly it has no lasting effect on the story and doesn’t add anything to the games lack of replayability (Unless you like trophies). Dialogue that is spoken over a phone comes through the PS4 controllers speaker, and while that may seem gimmicky, actually helped me get more immersed into the game.

Funny that the plot should feature paintings so predominately, as the 2D backgrounds of Broken Sword 5 are of similar quality. From flickering neon lights above Paris shop windows to the sun shining over an abandoned Spanish vista, each area has little details that makes you pause just to take in and admire the scenery. Even the 100 year old paintings genuinely look like 100 year old paintings. In direct contrast to this however, is the characters themselves. Characters are 3D animated instead of being hand-drawn, which makes them look like they’re walking on top of a picture rather than being part of the environment. Character lip-sync is awful, animations look clumsy and you’re often left waiting too long for a character animation to finish before you regain control of your character. Some backgrounds alleviate the issue by not allowing the characters to get close to the camera, but cutscenes push characters to the foreground and it’s here where they stick out like a sore thumb the most.

Gameplay, AKA the puzzles are also a mixed bag. In several parts of the game, Broken Sword 5 will make it obvious that you have all the pieces to the puzzle and it’s up to you to put them together. These moments are when Broken Sword 5 is at it’s finest, as it’s entirely on you to figure it out and it feels satisfying when you finally do. On the reverse side of this are some of the puzzles related to interacting with your inventory and the environment. Every so often an answer to a puzzle will be so far away from any sort of logic that you feel relief rather than satisfaction from solving it. At one point during a puzzle involving arranging wires, one wire wouldn’t show up on screen even though I had specifically placed it somewhere which made a simple puzzle more confusing than it should’ve been. Broken Sword 5 does include a hint system which can give you a helping hand when you get stuck but sometimes it will outright tell you what to do instead of pointing you in a general direction which can make asking for hints risky if you were just looking for a small hint.

Controls are standard fare for a point-and-click game, with the left analog controlling the on-screen pointer that is used to interact with the environment/select where your character will move and the right analog to look left and right around the environment. The controls work for the most part, but it can get annoying not being able to look around and move the pointer at the same time as this could have sped up interacting with the environment. One nice touch is when you click on an entrance to a new area, the screen will fade to black and you’ll arrive in the area without having to watch your character walk all the way there.

While Broken Sword 5 starts off well, it’s change of focus in the story as well as some frustrating puzzles and timely character animations hold it back.