The game's characters and some of the scene elements (such as automobiles, which fans might remember actually were also 3D models in at least one cutscene in the original game) are presented as three dimensional models, but the backgrounds are two dimensional and hand drawn, giving the game somewhat of a presentation somewhere between the first three games. This is a bit jarring at first to people who are used to the fluidity of the animation of the hand drawn character models of the original game. The feeling of disjointedness however is short lived, as the animation of the three dimensional character models are well done, and the art design of the characters match the art design of the backgrounds quite well. The game is also presented with a complete point and click interface similar to the original games in the series. There is also an option to present the text in the style of either the original games or the high definition remakes, which should please fans no matter which point they joined George and Nico on their adventures.
The game begins as George Stobbart, who is now working as an art insurer, is sent to Paris to a private viewing in an art gallery. He meets Nico Collard there, who is still working as a reporter, and the two catch up on old times. Unfortunately, as is often George's luck, there is a murder, and the painting is stolen, leading George to have to investigate on behalf of his employer, who had insured the painting and is now responsible for reimbursement. As is usually the case with this series, the investigation soon leads to a larger conspiracy, and danger for our heroes. This is just the first part of the game, so the investigation is just starting to build to the larger conspiracy before the first part ends, leaving a cliffhanger for the second. However, this is done very well, and the pacing of which the game builds up its story is similar to that of the other games in the series. The cliffhanger certainly serves its role well, as it leaves you wanting to know more once the credits roll.
The puzzles here are also very well done. The puzzles never quite get as hard as some of the puzzles in the original games, but the ramp up in difficulty is well done., but the puzzles do get more difficult and require more thinking outside the box as the game goes on. However, despite requiring some more outside of the box thinking at times, the solution to each puzzle always makes sense logically. They are all suited to the world of Broken Sword very well, which, despite the supernatural theme of the conspiracies the couple always encounter, are always grounded mostly in reality. The game also presents the player with a hint system if they get stuck, as well as the ability to highlight hotspots, which will prove useful for some of the smaller objects in the game's world. If you prefer to play the game with less help, these can also be toggled on and off.
The music and voice work is always a big part of the presentation of the Broken Sword series, and it certainly doesn't disappoint here. The music fits the scenes well, and have the same sweeping orchestral feeling that fans of the series expect. There are also parts of the game that have some other styles of music, and this also fits each scene very well. I found myself quite enjoying a 1970s style pop song that plays during one scene. The voice work is excellent as well. Rolf Saxon returns as George Stobbart, which is always a good thing, as his voice work is the main reason that the narrative style of the game works so well. The other characters are voiced excellently as well, from Nico Collard, to the supporting cast. As is usual, there are some popular characters from previous entries in the series that return here, and they are also voiced excellently as usual. There are some slight sound level fluctuations in some of the lines, which can be quiet at times, but unusually loud in others. However, this doesn't happen often, so it doesn't really detract much from the game.
Broken Sword 5 Episode I is an excellent start to a game which is shaping up to be a solid entry in this excellent series. The story is intriguing, the voice work and music is superb, and the puzzles are well done. There are a few technical hiccups regarding the sound levels of some of the lines, and the story here is really just starting to get on its feet before it ends on a cliffhanger. However, these small quibbles don't stop the game from being one of the best of the crowdfunded adventures to be released so far.
4 out of 5