Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon
Review by Jesse
The Long Wait Is Finally Over
After an agonizing six-year hiatus, adventure gamers everywhere
rejoice at the prospect of joining George and Nico in another globetrotting
adventure to save the world, once again, from supernatural forces
bent on taking it over. Has it been worth the wait? Is Revolution's
decision to move to 3D a wise one? Will the action segments alienate
the ever-fickle adventure crowd? Is this truly the future of adventure
games as Charles Cecil would have us believe?
Enter the Intrepid Heroes
Sometime between The
Smoking Mirror and The Sleeping Dragon, George
and Nico parted ways. The game opens with George, now a patent attorney
in Idaho, journeying to the Congo to visit a scientist named Cholmondely,
in order to check out his machine that supposedly provides limitless
energy. It seems a little farfetched, but at least it is more exciting
than Idaho. Unfortunately, George is not the only person looking
for this guy, for when George arrives, Cholmondely has been shot
and lies dying on the floor. With only a postcard, and the final
gasps of Cholmondely, George decides he is in too far now not to
As George romps through the Congo, Nico, still working for La Liberté,
is three months behind in her rent and still waiting for her big
break. Until that time, she has to suffer the whims of her editor
and meet with a hacker named Vernon Blier, who claims the world
is about to end and he knows why. Nico arrives to his apartment
in time to hear shots ring out and finds herself framed for murder.
Two days later, after being released from prison due to a lack of
evidence, Nico investigates Vernon and what he was working on in
order to track down the person who framed her.
Eventually, George and Nico's paths cross, and it turns out they
are both working on the same case. The story culminates with the
fate of the world hanging in the balance, and it is up to you whether
they succeed or not.
Action and Adventure
So onto the big question: What's with the action elements? If I
wanted an action/adventure, I would have purchased Tomb
Raider, but I have certain expectations for this series.
Does the game measure up? Is this truly the future of adventure
games? Is it the death knell of point-and-click adventures?
The action falls into two categories: the Dragon's
Lair-like, plot-related scenes, and the Zelda-esque
environmental action scenes.
The only time you can die is during the plot-related scenes. In
one scene, a villain holds a gun to your head, and you have a second
to pick up something and defend yourself. If you don't react in
time, you will die and be given a chance to try again. These scenes
are well-integrated into the story and serve to keep up the pace.
No longer do you passively watch the cutscenes during all of the
exciting momentsnow you are part of the action.
I enjoyed the adrenaline rush, but the action may not be for everyone.
The implementation was not done as well as it could have been. It
is consistently a "do this or die" decision. It would
have been fun to throw in some options that ended up getting you
in worse trouble, to make you think about what you are trying to
do. When you have no real decision-making ability to change an outcome,
the scene is exciting the first time but no real surprise afterward.
There are only two scenes were you are given an opportunity to do
more than just react, but they consist of running away, so be prepared
to master those controls.
In most scenes, you will not be aware that there is an action element
... until you are killed. Herein lies the fatal flaw of the system
in my eyes. You cannot advance the dialogue or skip scenes you have
already seen, so if you are killed after watching two minutes of
a cutscene, you have to watch that same two minutes again. This
is a personal pet peeve of mine, and it served to kill the mood
of the scene and frustrate me. It brings the momentum of the scene
to a screeching halt.
The environment puzzles too come in two different flavors. First,
we have everyone's favorite, block puzzles. If this is truly the
future of adventure gaming, I think block puzzles will soon achieve
the notoriety of mazes and sliding tile puzzles. They really serve
no purpose, are added merely to extend the length of the game, and
once you know what to do, you still need to spend five or ten minutes
moving all the blocks into place in order to progress forward. A
couple of these would have been great, but the seven or ten that
are in the game are a little too much.
The other environmental element is the climbing, jumping, and sliding
inherent in the 3D world. Gameplay reminded me of Splinter Cell
but actually more closely resembles that of The Legend of
Zelda: The Wind Waker in its gameplay and difficulty. You have
to keep you eyes open for ledges and windows throughout the game.
You cannot die in these puzzles, but these are where I became truly
stuck. I ended up asking for help rather than spending another four
hours looking for that ledge or window that I needed to climb up
but couldn't find. Sneaking around guards also plays a big factor
in the Prague level. Just like in Zelda or Splinter Cell,
you need to avoid the guards by walking slowly, climbing around
them, and generally being sneaky. I enjoyed it and found it fairly
easy since I had already mastered Splinter Cell, which is
infinitely harderbut this can be frustrating to the new player
when he gets shot by the same guard for the fourth time.
Nico Does the Drunken Stumble Dance
Poor, poor Nico. I constantly felt bad as she repeatedly stumbled
drunkenly into every wall in her path. I give fair warning to all
of you who hated the controls in Grim
Fandangothe controls in The Sleeping Dragon are
My first point of contention is the camera-relative movement. Every
time the angle of the camera changes, so do your movement keys.
At least in Grim Fandango, you could set the controls to
character-relative movement, which provided an island of consistency
in a sea of changing camera angles. To be fair, if you don't stop
moving, your controls will stay the same throughout screen transitions,
but as soon as you stop moving or change direction, they conform
to the camera angle.
Second, the entire game was built with console controls in mind.
With four movement keys on the PC, you will notice every angle that
is not exactly 90 degrees relative to the camera when you slam once
more into the wall. A control stick does not have this problem.
The action buttons were also designed with a controller in mind,
and, in my opinion, they do not translate all that well to a keyboard.
If you do not have a gamepad for your PC, I suggest you buy the
console version of BS3. If you don't mind playing around
with wonky controls or you already have a gamepad, stick with the
PC version for the cheaper price.
Wonderful World of Three Dimensions
If the last 3D game you played was Grim Fandango, then things
have come a long way. You will be awestruck by some of the visuals.
If you have played every third-person shooter there is and are anticipating
the release of Half-Life 2 and Doom 3, then you won't
be as amazed, but still The Sleeping Dragon is a pretty game.
It is a little more resource-heavy and requires a better system
than most adventure games. Most everyone should have a computer
that is able to run this game, but the recommended specs may be
higher than you are used to, so keep that in mind when you are purchasing.
The best part of the graphics in my opinion was walking up and
down stairs. It is a rare game where the animators make the effort
of providing animation specific to stair-climbing, and it is a beautiful
thing to behold when George's feet actually land on each individual
Some Old Friends
Veterans of the series with recognize many faces, and even some
locations, in this iteration of the Broken Sword series.
While this adds to the experience for us who have played the previous
games, will it just serve to confuse newcomers? Can someone new
to the series start here and be able to follow what is going on?
Every time an old character is introduced, Revolution does a fairly
good job in giving a little background explaining how we knew him
or her and what he or she has been up to in the intervening time.
Honestly, I am not sure if newcomers will fully understand situations
without having played at least the first game. Would I recommend
this game to someone who hasn't played the others? Probably not.
Given the shortness of the game plus some of the other issues mentioned
above, I would instead suggest he get his hands on the first game
to see if he enjoys the story at all before he invests his money
in this one. You can still get the GBA version in stores, I believe,
and you can get the PC version at Playing
Games or Sold
My review up to this point may sound a little harsh. But I truly
enjoyed this game. It is a nice fit with the series, and it is very
much a Broken Sword game.
Things I didn't like were the abundance of block puzzles, not being
able to advance dialogue and cutscenes, the controls, and the shortness
of the game. I spent a total of 10 hours and 26 minutes playing
it. Running through a second time for this review, I played only
for five and a half hours, skipping loads of dialogue on the way.
I enjoyed the action elements. The first time through, they added
an element of excitement to the plot and helped me really feel a
part of the action. The original voice actors returned to provide
the voices of George and Nico, which is goodI am not sure
if I could accept different voices for them. Finally, this was very
much a Broken Sword story, which will serve to please most
fans and help overcome any of the flaws.
Is this the future of adventure games? I believe it could be. It
was a valiant first attempt, and I liked it. If the development
community uses this as a launching pad, and what we see here is
just the infancy of incorporating interactivity into cutscenes,
then we could be witnessing the birth of something truly extraordinary.
There will still be a vocal group out there, crying foul at any
change from the good ol' days of point-and-click, but that will
If you are a fan of the series, I can heartily recommend this game.
The $40 price tag may still be a bit much for 10 hours of gaming,
so you may want to wait until it goes on sale, but this will be
a game you'll enjoy. If you have yet to play a Broken Sword game,
I would have reservations recommending this game, as you could play
the first two games for half the price of the third, and by the
time you finish, you should be able to find this one on sale.
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Release Date: November 2003
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium III 750 MHz (Pentium III 1.2 GHz recommended)
128 MB RAM
8X CD-ROM drive
Sound card (5.1 Surround Sound support recommended)
GeForce2 64 MB or equivalent (GeForce4 Ti 4200 or equivalent recommended)
1 GB free hard disk space
Keyboard and Mouse/Gamepad
Where to Find It
Links provided for informational purposes only.
FFC makes no warranty with regard to any transaction entered into
by any party(ies).