Double E3 Preview: Deadfall Adventures, The Raven
After Deadfall came The Raven, an adventure game created by KING Art, the developers of last year’s well-received Book of Unwritten Tales. Everything that Deadfall is, The Raven isn’t: it was slow, methodical, bereft of supernatural elements, and supremely intelligent. It was also one of the best-looking adventure games I’ve seen in a long time.
As story and presentation are the two most important aspects of a modern adventure game, it’s heartening to see that The Raven takes both quite seriously. The story follows several characters as they attempt to discover the identity of a master thief known as the Raven, because of his trademark clue, a black feather. The demo shown revolved around a constable gunning to be a detective as he moved around train cars, interviewing people and solving puzzles. It was all very standard adventure game fare, but written extremely well. The best part is that there are no supernatural elements: Sherlock Holmes was specifically mentioned as the primary inspiration, and Nordic said it wanted to avoid polluting a good crime thriller with the paranormal.
As for The Raven’s presentation, it was an absolutely stunning-looking game. Animations were realistic and detailed, character and environment designs were unique and colorful — with an emphasis on capturing the mood of old crime thriller serials — and sound work anchored the gentle mood without being forgettable. Speaking as a former adventure game player — years of action games have diluted my patience a bit — I found the presentation of The Raven to be extremely soothing and inviting. It’s a very humble sort of game, couched in quiet deliberation and thoughtfulness. Sometimes you need to decompress from shooting a hundred Nazis, and The Raven wants to be the game you decompress with.
The Raven makes no pretensions of unique mechanics; it’s all about the writing and visuals. As such, there are only two mechanics that set it apart from the herd. First, you have a realistic inventory — no storing furniture in your back pocket. An item can be carried and placed only where it is logical to carry and place such an item. Second, you earn “detective points,” which can be used on hints, or more importantly, on special features after the game is finished. These points appeared to function much like they do in the Detective Layton games: solve puzzles to get points, use them when you are stuck.
Much like Deadfall, The Raven is no Game of the year contestant. It’s too slow and thoughtful to catch the eye of the average gamer. However, it may end up being the best adventure game of this year, if the demo is any indication. If you have a passion for writing in games, crime stories, or adventure games, you’d do best to keep an eye on it. The Raven comes out July 23 on PC, the Playstation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade, and will be split into three episodes.
After my time in the Nordic Games booth, I felt refreshed. After all the time looking at the loud and angry, it was calming to sit down and see some games with a focus on more casual and relaxing mechanics. They weren’t wildly innovative games, by any means, but they looked like quiet, unassuming fun, and sometimes that’s what you need.