If there is something I have come to terms with over my short time formally reviewing video games, it’s that I am pretty nice and not too hard to please. Overall, I tend to find the good in a lot of games before I notice the bad. Rarely, I come across games that are actually pretty bad. Unfortunately, I have found one.
Developed by Nordic Games, The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is an adventure/mystery game akin to that of a Sherlock Holmes game. The game was divided and released into three chapters, though this review concerns itself with the entirety of the game, not each individual chapter.
It pains me to give poor reviews, it really does, but if there is one word I would use to describe The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, it would be this: frustrating. From the outset, I found little else but flaws, and large ones at that.
The first issue that stood out in The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief were graphics. For a game released mid-2013, nearing the end of the PS3′s life cycle, this game has the graphics of a late-PS2, early-PS3 at best, title. I don’t like nitpicking at graphics, but the PS3 has been around for far too long for a game to look so poor. Looking in close at characters allows you to see the outline of their polygon-like skeleton. More specifically, I could see contours and all the clear-cut lines and angles that separate where a certain feature ends and another begins. While there have certainly been worse graphics before, I couldn’t bring myself to ever approve of how this game looked. Colors and backgrounds were actually nice, but the overall structure of how the game was built was just poor.
The next thing to bug me, and easily the largest, is how clunky, awkward, and flat-out annoying the controls and handling were. I note that this review can only testify to the PS3 version and anything I say may very well be different on another platform. Nevertheless, for a game that depends on moving your character around, movement is unbearable. The protagonists, including Zellner, react to commands a good whole second behind the actual command being made, a delay that just feels really awkward. Not only that, but moving feels more like a process than a fluid action. If I knew I wanted to move in an upper-right direction, I would make sure to actually angle my character before I actually began to make the movement, all to avoid some frustration.
And once you do move, it feels much more clunky and pronounced than it should have. One tug in an upward direction on the analog stick moves you far more up than you would think. And oddly, but often enough, I found myself moving in circular motions. I don’t feel I am exaggerating when I say I spent more time correcting my movements than I did actual, intended moving. As such, approaching people or objects to speak with or examine them, a very integral component of gameplay, was an awkward process that was never as simple as it should have been.
And once I did get to speak with these characters, I found myself bored and annoyed. Each character, including the protagonists, has his or her own flair, but is unfortunately never fully realized. For the sake of example, I’ll pick at the violinist you meet right at the very beginning of the game. He starts off interestingly enough: a man of music on his way to Egypt for a performance, but soon flattens out to just another character whose characterization was not fully explored. In the sense of realism, I suppose this is a good thing, as one’s occupation is hardly his or her wholly-defining characteristic, but for storytelling, it is pretty bland.
I am not saying that characters should have been as flagrant or exaggerated as those in the Ace Attorney series, but they definitely should have been livened up a bit. Unfortunately, most of the characters you play as, those who you spend much of the game with, are no better. Barely any of them have anything to their personae that stand out and makes you wholly interested in them, and their often flat, unchanging intonation of voice wasn’t doing them very many favors. Voice acting, as a whole, was decent enough, it just was unfortunate that the weakest voice acting performances were for those of the more important characters in the game.
Among the more technical, less serious offenses that The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief commits are long loading times. Loading times, especially in the first chapter when you are constantly jumping across train cars, were noticeably long. I can deal with loading screens, but when I am consciously aware of the fact that I have enough time to check Facebook while the game loads, there is a problem. While by no means did I run any formal analysis of this, I counted many loading times to be somewhere within the range of 20 to 30 seconds.
Another issue that I encountered were some glitches. Sometimes I would find that my limbs were moving inside of objects (a chair, for example) or part of my body would be in places they shouldn’t have been. While glitches like these are minor and not that serious, I stumbled across two glitches that were a bit more grave. The first, and less problematic of the two, I encountered in a loading screen. A loading screen was once running for something around two minutes–it didn’t strike me at first because I was entertained on my phone, but after a bit I realized that the game was never going anywhere. I don’t know if I would say it “froze” considering there was music still playing and some moving animations on screen, but it just was not loading to the next scene. At this point, I had to quit the game and restart it.
The second glitch, and the far more obvious one, I encountered after around an hour of gameplay. At one point I was examining an object on the wall, finished, and turned around to walk away and continue with my investigation. But I couldn’t. My feet had gotten stuck in the floor (my feet and shoes were nowhere to be seen) and I could not move. I rebooted the game and hoped that it would fix itself, but it did not, and, unfortunately, I was forced to begin the game anew. Thankfully this was only an hour in so I didn’t lose too much progress. However, this, coupled with the other minor glitches I encountered, makes me believe that it wasn’t a freak accident and that the game truly needed some more polishing and bug testing. After this incident, I deleted the game and reinstalled it. While I never encountered this gamebreaking issue again, it was only after the reinstallation that I experienced the indefinite loading screen mentioned above, and continued to experience my limbs moving through different objects.
However, not everything in The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is bad. The game certainly has some strengths worth noting. The first, and despite what boring characters would have you assume, is that the story is actually pretty enjoyable. The characters may be a bit on the flat side, but the narrative being told, the narrative surrounding this fascinating master thief is actually quite interesting. And while it is nothing absolutely unique, it is enjoyable all the same. There are points when the story will really make you think and wonder, others when you might actually be taken aback by some reveals, and yet others still when you won’t be able to fathom how something may have occurred.
The other notable strength of The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is the game’s music. The music is all very entertaining and very enjoyable. Sounds will often change to match the ambience at that point in time. And if there was any one positive note to be had with the loading times, it was that listening to the background music was always a treat.
All in all, I’m afraid I did not enjoy The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief. Had all of the flaws mentioned above been taken care of, particularly the more technical ones, the game would have been far more enjoyable. Unfortunately, in its present state on the PS3, the frustrations the game provides are far too numerous to be capable of being shadowed by its interesting plot. Had I experienced The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief on some other medium besides a video game (novel, movie, what have you), I would have enjoyed it much more. But as it stands, it is borderline unplayable. While I find many players will not be able to get past its flaws, I’m sure there are others who can find enjoyment in it despite its flaws.