The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief Chapter 1 Review

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Posted on July 24, 2013, Phil Hornshaw The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief Chapter 1 Review

Creating a deep and intriguing mystery is tough in any medium, but video games have a leg up — they let you do the investigating, and the best mysteries let you discover clues that add up slowly to a bigger picture, without just sending you along to the next info-dumping cutscene.

It’s that feeling of uncovering secrets and completing the story at the scene of the crime that makes the first chapter of point-and-click adventure title The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief work well, especially in its later hours. Successfully creating a whodunit of any sort is a challenge, but The Raven manages to litter the way with clues for its intrepid investigator protagonist, while still successfully obscuring the bigger picture. While it’s smaller puzzles and moment-to-moment gameplay might not always be as compelling, the larger story is smart enough to keep the whole thing moving and to keep players engrossed.

The first of three chapters of The Raven left me wishing it was time to start the second. It manages to create a fairly gripping mystery with a mix of shady, mildly comedic and earnest characters. While The Raven has a few troubles with little things like pathing, and skews a bit easy in terms of puzzles, it mostly functions as a lighthearted story that’s covered in carbon-dusted Agatha Christie-inspired fingerprints.

The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief: Chapter 1
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Mac, Linux
Developer: KING Art
Publisher: Nordic Games
Released: July 23, 2013
MSRP: $24.99 (includes all three episodes)

The Raven is a master thief who has plagued Europe for years, but some time ago, he was shot to death during an encounter with the French detective who had been hunting him. After years of the Raven having been thought dead, his calling card has started popping up at major burglaries have started to crop up all over Europe. The latest of these crimes is one of a pair of Eyes of the Sphinx, which the Raven stole from the British Museum.

The remaining Eye of the Sphinx is being transported to Cairo for a display, and the famous Raven hunter Inspector Legrande believes this New Raven will make a play for it. The plan is to trap him and expose him when the New Raven makes an attempt on the jewel as it’s being transported across Europe on the Orient Express, and it’s here that the game’s protagonist, Swedish Constable Zellner, gets mixed up with the mystery.

It’s clear from the outset that The Raven is highly influenced by mystery fiction, much to its benefit. Zellner is a would-be detective eager to prove himself, despite being around 55 and not in the best shape, but he’s a perfect character to carry the story of the first chapter. He’s intrigued by the case as much as anyone, and the game supports his search for a chance to prove himself and his excited investigative undertakings with a fairly bright take on some potentially dark criminal proceedings. There’s a mixture of realism and whimsy that really serves the game well — as mentioned, it’s clear the works of Agatha Christie are a huge inspiration, and a character who ostensibly represents an in-game version of Christie plays a big role in the story. Zellner, it’s pretty obvious, is a stand-in for those lightly comical detectives such as Christie’s Hercule Poirot, or maybe Peter Falk’s Columbo, as I pointed out during my time with the preview build of the game.

That makes Zellner a great character for Chapter 1 to hang on. He’s fun and intelligent, as well as earnest and even a bit naive and nerdy. An off-handed bit of exposition about his acting method in his community theater troop (“I don’t just talk like my characters, I try to think like them,”) reveals just how small-time and normal he is. It’s a refreshing tone for a game to convey, and The Raven conveys it pretty perfectly.

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