Upon completing Chapter 1 of The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief, I had mixed feelings but high hopes. The initial entry in KING Art’s ambitious point-and-click (or at least ambitiously presented) title had its fair share of problems, ranging from the mildly annoying to the torturously frustrating, but all things considered it at least had its heart in the right place. That’s something I can get behind. Not only that, but it finished strong and seemed to be ramping up nicely for Chapter 2.
Though the second chapter does address some of the initial entry’s biggest problems, it also swaps out some major strengths in the process and makes an extremely awkward transition from last month’s game. It overall leaves me feeling similarly, but in an inverted sort of way. That probably needs an explanation, so stay with me.
Chapter 2, entitled Ancestry of Lies, does away with the grand opening of its forebear and throws the player right into the game with distinct immediacy. I found this odd, but possibly a good sign. May as well cut right to the chase! Unfortunately, cutting to the chase is far from what preceded to happen – instead, I was met with a downright massive assemblage of dialogue designed to set the scene. Though I guess this is all well and good to refresh my memory or rope it new players or something, it just didn’t make sense to me. “No matter,” I thought. “Things are just getting started, after all.”
And get started they did, though not always in the kinds of ways I had hoped. The early portion of Ancestry of Lies has the player returning to the shoes of Swiss cop Anton Jakob Zellner, and I must admit that it felt good to see the old bloke again. He’s no-doubt a likable character, and between his overall kind demeanor, unquenchable curiosity, and penchant for well-intentioned meddling, I had really come to enjoy playing as him by the end of previous entry Eye of the Sphinx.
Lengthy and oddly paced transition from the previous chapter behind me, I excitedly dove in to what Ancestry has to offer. To my delight, I began to realize that Ancestry of Lies has dealt with one of my biggest complaints about the first game – the infuriatingly obscure solutions to some puzzles. Readers of that review will recall one particularly exasperating encounter I mentioned, where the only way to make a torch out of a nearby chair leg is to track down a covertly placed fire extinguisher and slam the leg off. Ancestry of Lies contains no such frustrating anomalies, and as the game progressed I found myself moving through its challenges with ease, their solutions logical and their effect on the game’s progression surprisingly cogent.
Because of that, it absolutely pains me to say what I’m about to, but it can’t be helped. The puzzling was a bit too easy this time. Yes, the developers removed any and all pointlessly frustrating roadblocks, and I am appreciative of that. However, the ideal situation is that they’d be replaced with puzzles that are still challenging, just not unfairly or aggravatingly so. I always hold Zelda games pretty much on the pedestal for perfectly balanced puzzling – in those games, even if I wander aimlessly for an hour completely stumped, when I finally do figure it out the light bulb goes off and there’s almost always an “aha!” to be heard soon thereafter. You always have everything you need, it’s just a matter of thinking in ways you hadn’t necessarily considered to find the solution. Eye of the Sphinx got the harsh challenge and aimless wandering part down, but the payoffs felt cheap and the lightbulb moment felt more like twisting the thing off and smashing the lamp. Ancestry of Lies removes the frustration entirely, but I was never stuck for more the five minutes. There’s one more chapter in the pipeline, so maybe the third time will be the charm.
About halfway through the game there’s a perspective change, and we jump from controlling Zellner to instead taking charge of a thief character for some flashback-type sequences. It’s worth noting that this character is not the Raven himself, but the game does reveal additional story information via this perspective change, which I felt was cleverly done. I’ll be happy to go back to our friend the Constable for the final segment, but switching it up a bit here was definitely a welcome change.
I do want to take a moment to discuss the visuals, because in the previous chapter it was kind of a mixed bag. The early train sequences looked fine but were pretty boring, whereas the later outdoor segments and boat environments looked wonderful and vibrant. I’m happy to say that Chapter 2 pulls through and pretty much looks great through and through. There are less claustrophobic, dull areas and more open ones that you can walk around and marvel at. I honestly think this is more coincidence than it is KING Art actually going back and changing a whole lot, but I’m happy the game is nice to look at all the same.
The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief has once again left me feeling mildly balked but highly optimistic, and I suppose that’s not the worst thing. The game ramped up towards the end, as it did in Chapter 1, so I am again excited for the next chapter. That said, there are some unpleasant trade-offs here, and the game’s relative ease and resulting shorter length compared to its first entry are things that really need tweaking and fine tuning in time for Chapter 3’s release. Ancestry of Lies takes two steps forward and one step back, and if KING Art really wants to finish this thing off with a bang then we’re going to need something more akin to a hop, skip, or jump. Or all of the above. Either way, my fingers are once again crossed.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which was provided for us.