Chapter 1 of The Raven was quite the surprise, released late July by The Adventure Company. A point and click, story-driven, mystery game in which you are poking around various lovingly designed locations in order to try and figure out the identity of the master thief The Raven. There were puzzles, great characters and dialogue and a cliffhanger which had me shaking my computer with frustration and angst. Basically it was exactly what a mystery game should be, excellently paced and written so that you were constantly questioning and pondering on this puzzle of who The Raven was.
So I was looking forward to the second chapter, In my mind I saw the whole experience becoming a great deal tenser with perhaps a near encounter with the Raven where you see his/her silhouette in the darkness and then another cliffhanger. All this would have led to the massive and impressive reveal of who the Raven actually was, perhaps right in the middle of the party where they showcase the Eye of the Sphinx.
Except, the second chapter did none of that, in fact I came away from the second chapter feeling disheartened and disappointed. Mostly the gameplay is the same so I will be focusing more on the story but there were a couple of things that seem worth mentioning about the gameplay. First, it seemed a great deal more buggy than the first chapter with a degree less polish. The movement system, which in the first chapter was little more than slightly frustrating, became genuinely annoying as I played the chapter. It was the same problem where when I had move out of the “bottom” of the screen I would have to click underneath the inventory. Where this seemed to just about work in the first chapter, NOW it didn’t and instead it just got right on my tits. I said it in the first chapter review, I will say it again. This game would have SO benefited from a WSAD movement system. It could be seen particularly in certain parts of the Museum where Zellner, when I tried to make him move somewhere, would get confused, start spinning in circles and then just do a teleport to where I wanted. That’s just poor design.
Also, I want to say that while the Museum was a rather nice location, I really hated one of the rooms. Twice in a row I got horribly stuck because of a massive aerial view in which you could see a rather big room. And twice in this same massive room in order to progress you had to click on a really tiny piece of scenery in the room to progress. In both cases I had to use the in-game hint system, which is just as bad as admitting defeat and telling the world that you might as well just go back to the colouring book.
Now I’ve been deliberately cagey about the story so far for two reasons. First of all I want all my gripes related to the story to be in one place so I’m not going back and forth in this review. The other reason is that because I feel there ARE issues with the story I will have to talk a bit about it and I worry about giving anything away. I’ll try and avoid spoiling anything but there might be some minor overview type spoilers, nothing specific but still I just want to give you the heads up anyway.
So basically there is a brief period on the boat in which the major events from the first episode are quite neat and tidily wrapped up. This is followed by a period in the museum where you are still pottering about trying to protect the second Eye of the Sphinx from The Raven. Then, quite suddenly, half-way through the episode it is revealed who The Raven is and then, in a flashback sort of way, you are teleported back to the train from the start of the first episode except now you are playing as The Raven.
Now there were a couple of issues I had with the story but I think the major one was just how quick the reveal of The Raven actually was. It felt oddly anti-climatic and unimpressive, partly because it occurs half-way through the story instead of near the end and partly because I feel like their chosen character of The Raven didn’t match what I had in mind for the dashing and impressive thief.
Other issues I had actually include most of the major points of the story. For example I feel that the way they wrapped things up about the events of the first episode were a bit TOO neat and tidy. I mean, it wasn’t completely sorted and it may come back to haunt us in the third episode, but I would have liked for there to still be a few elements of mystery to the whole situation. I also feel that suddenly switching to the character of The Raven and playing him/her during the same section of game that you had already played with Constable Zellner was a bit of a mistake. Sure it was good to see how the Raven had accomplished what he did during the first episode but it also left the developers with a very limited number of options.
Because you are playing at approximately the same time you were playing Zellner on the train this means you have to avoid any parts of the train where Zellner had to have been to prevent conflicts with the story told in the first part. Also, because Zellner is going about the train using various different things you have to prevent there being too much conflict with what he would have been using at the same time you are. This makes the puzzles a great deal simpler because there are less options of things to interact with. Perhaps I’m the only one to notice this but I felt that the puzzles with The Raven just felt simpler and a great deal more straight-forward than the puzzles of the first episode. Also, because the Raven can’t have been seen to be interacting with anyone who might then change their opinions towards him/her there is a great deal less dialogue and character interaction in the second part of the chapter.
It’s also worth mentioning that due to less dialogue and less options for interacting with objects there is less opportunity for the player to get to know the character of The Raven (because that is the means by which we got to know Constable Zellner in the first part). This makes the character overall less engaging and less relateable and this pushes you out of the story, a story which on it’s own has suddenly become a lot less immersive anyway.
Basically I feel that while the spirit of the game remains the same the developers have not done themselves any favours by so suddenly revealing who the Raven was. I also read the RPS review about this chapter and I am led to agree with them that it might have made more sense to divide the game into just two chapters. The Zellner Chapter and then the Raven chapter (because I understand that the third chapter will probably mostly feature the Raven and then perhaps back to Zellner for the final conclusion). Doing that might have resulted in a more balanced story with a very clear cut mid-point instead of the slightly messy one it has right now.
So, while mechanically it remains the same just about (with perhaps a few more issues and a bit more impatience) I feel that the game has now very suddenly lost what made the first chapter so good. It used to be all about the feel of mystery and about trying to figure out who the Raven was. I even believed that there might have been an ending where you would be put into a position to have to choose who you thought the Raven was and then the game would end different depending on who you chose. But no there’s just a very sudden and quick reveal which leads to the rather swift deromanticisation of the character overall.
Like I said, I came away quite disappointed about the game and felt that it didn’t live up to the standards set by the first. I hope that the third episode will go some way to remedy this by introducing a few more plot twists and turns and perhaps show that not every question has already been answered. I’m hoping there will be a daring and spectacular finale but I also worry that the story will no longer be as strong as I had hoped and I worry that I will, at the end of the day, come away from the game just not happy with it.
It’s worth noting right now that if you HAD bought The Raven: Legacy of the Master Thief and played through the first chapter, both chapters 2 and (when it is released) 3 will automatically be part of the game and you just have to download them on Steam. It doesn’t require any additional purchases.
Note: This rating is not a rating of the game as a whole (and as such will not be on the “Game Ratings” page) but is merely a rating for this particular episode. For the overall rating of the game I will wait until my review of the Third Chapter.