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The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief

By Fr33Lanc3r.00701-10-2013
BloodyFanGirl (editor)
Bis18marck70 (editor)
The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief

The Defence

Nordic Games
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8800
AMD equivalent
2 GB
10 GB

The Case

Coming from the guys behind The Book of Unwritten Tales, and inspired by detective novels in the style of Agatha Christie, The Raven seeks to bring a greater level of mystery and real world logic to the adventure game genre. With the third and final chapter recently finding its way to computer screens, it’s time to chew on the end of a pipe and get to the bottom of whether it’s worth your time and money to discover who exactly is The Raven.

The Trial

The Raven finds you taking on the role of Anton Jakob Zellner, a Swiss Constable asked to assist in the transport of a precious jewel. It’s not just any jewel however; it happens to be the partner stone of the one that was recently stolen by a masked thief thought to be the ‘The Raven’. The fact that said culprit was thought to have been killed 4 years earlier by one Inspector Legrand, Zellner’s mentor, adds even more mystery. Now Legrand and you have a top-class crime case. Starting on a train headed towards Venice and finishing in the Egyptian museum that was meant to be displaying both of the jewels, you are tasked with solving the mystery of who exactly The Raven is, and why he has chosen to reveal himself again. The story manages to be thrilling and pulls off the perfect balance between raising questions and drip feeding answers as you go along. There is so much more I could say about some of the more intriguing ways that the story plays out, but the editors frown upon spoilers, so you'll need to experience those twists for yourself.

I'm on a boat!

I'm on a boat!

The episodic content lends itself well to the genre, and the overall story. Each ends on a cliffhanger that introduces more questions into the story, and does that “crime show thing” where it looks like the characters have solved the case, but you know there’s still a good half hour left, so it must have been a red herring. You even get to swap characters about halfway through the second chapter, introducing even more questions but keeping things fresh, though that’s treading in to spoiler territory.

Being a recent entry in a genre that has suffered a slow decay since the 90’s, partly because it was difficult to get your hands on the right amount of brain altering chemicals needed to decipher the designer’s solutions, I have to commend The Raven for its dedication to keeping the puzzles within the realms of real world possibilities. While a few of the solutions seemed to be very coincidental, and more than a few took some lateral thinking (or guide finding) to work out, all of them at least made sense in hindsight. Yet, since only certain actions advance the story, there will be a number of moments where you’ll be going back and forth without making a lot of overall progress. Certain puzzles can also be sidestepped with some guesswork. There was one instance in particular where I guessed my way through a combination lock without realising that I was supposed to go a separate way in order to obtain the solution before I opened that door. Which I don’t particularly mind, especially if it’s the kind of ‘puzzle’ where you travel back through the rooms to find the one person with tangential knowledge of the solution. There are also side quests that offer additional rewards (often in the form of additional information for the major puzzles), but do not need to be completed in order to progress.

Solving the puzzles is a rewarding experience yet the constant retracing of your steps isn’t helped by the downright appalling control options, especially for a game that is designed to use only the mouse. The lack of direct control over the movements of the characters resulted in many occasions where I was attempting to enter an off screen location, which required a change in camera angles. Yet, the game decided that it didn't like that particular area of the screen and thus did not comply. I did manage to get around this problem somewhat, through the use of a controller - which enables direct control over character movement - but the controls for interactions were practically unusable and I had to revert back to mouse and keyboard. There's something inherently wrong with a set of control schemes if the easiest way to play is by swapping between the two.

Oblivion's lockpicking minigame looked good after this one...

Oblivion's lockpicking minigame looked good after this one...

The graphical aesthetic is amazing, with each of the locales boasting a vivid design. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of some of the character animations. There were a fair few moments where characters looked like they sat right in the uncanny valley and the playable characters all had the ‘Zoolander problem’ - that is, they could only turn to the left. And interacting with something on the right required a 270 degree turn. The music is wonderfully done though; suited to the setting and the story, it changes to reflect the mood, enhancing the experience of the story, and the players immersion as it plays. The sounds are serviceable, but the varieties of entertainment media have been producing great sound effects for so long that saying serviceable actually means that it does the job just fine. The voice acting is great, but it is let down by some of the animation problems that I mentioned above. It’s hard to have a character emote properly when the voice actor is channelling melancholy and the animation is of a Joker and his oversized grin. The dialogs are well written though, with each character having their own history, connections with each other, and personality quirks that shine through in everything they say.

The Verdict

The Raven is a wonderful example of how to make a mystery story work in the context of an interactive medium. The story is riveting and keeps you on your toes through its twists and turns. There are some animation issues, and the control scheme could have been more thoroughly tested before release, but those shouldn't put you off trying it, as the story alone makes The Raven worth your time.

Case Review

  • Story: Riveting, complicated, and full of surprises - exactly what a mystery should be!
  • Music: Suited to the tone and locales, it invites you in to experience the world more fully.
  • Aesthetic: Beautifully designed environments.
  • Puzzles: The focus on non-crazy logic is good, but there are still a few that only make sense in hindsight.
  • Animations: Most aren’t too bad, but there are some that come straight from the uncanny valley.
  • Handling Issues: The lack of direct control over movement led to some frustrating moments.
Score: 4/5
A thrilling mystery in a decent wrapping, unfortunately caught up in some handling issues.


I love Agatha Christie. I’ve probably read every single Poirot story of hers. Though the subject matter of criminal investigations translates well to games in theory, it rarely ever happens successfully. The majority of these are point-&-click games but most of them are basically low budget click-fests with a predictable story and repetitive gameplay. Enter, The Raven, a three-part crime adventure that aims to set the record straight. The story follows a Swiss constable who gets caught up in a good old mystery that involves heinous murders, international intrigue and lots of mouse-clicking. All dialogue is fully voiced and, for the most part, is decent. There are also some twists and turns, most of which are less predictable than you’d think.

The visuals aren’t state of the art, with the stiff animations and lackluster variety in camera angles during dialogue, but characters are nicely modeled and environments are colorful and vivid. Gameplay-wise, there aren’t any surprises; you walk around static environments talking with people, picking up items and solving puzzles. These games are often extremely linear and there are rarely multiple way to solve a given puzzle. This is not the case with The Raven. It doesn’t stray far from the traditional formula, but it doesn’t always force you to find every clue and solve every puzzle in order to move forward. Instead, only the most critical actions progress the story. The Raven is not without some irritating flaws though. Usually in these games, when you move the cursor to the edge of the screen, the mouse pointer will change to indicate that it’s possible to walk to a new location within a room. The Raven doesn’t always have that. Sometimes, you don’t realize that you can visit a corner of a room where a critical clue or item is found until you get stuck and eventually consult a guide. Walking to a new location can also be a pain even if you know it’s possible because your character can sometimes get stuck at the edge of the screen, without moving to the next location.

The story is decent and the puzzles mostly make sense. However, the game can sometimes get a bit boring. Between the more climactic sequences, you often end up walking back and forth between rooms, doing the same stuff over and over again before the story continues. Pick up this, do that, talk to them, solve this. I wish they had trimmed some of the fat away, even if that had made it a shorter experience. Still, The Raven is at times an exhilarating game and you feel like you want to get to the bottom of the mystery. It might not be for everyone, but fans of Agatha Christie and point-&-click games should not forego it. The Raven doesn’t do anything new but, the things it does do, it mostly does well.

Score: 3.5/5


Point and click adventure games are going through something of a renaissance at the moment - something I am most decidedly in wholehearted support of. Given their distinct lack of presence in recent years, it's easy to forget why they were so popular in the first place. Then something like The Raven comes along and politely, quietly, oh so subtly raises a finger, softly coos 'ahem' and seeps into your brain like an Alpha Centauri mind worm.

Graphically speaking, the game is nothing more than functional. Though some of the backdrops are impressively detailed, the overall effect is...functional. But then, if you are coming to an adventure game from the visuals, you are doing it wrong. They stand, rest, shine and are carried entirely on their narrative, which is something that The Raven has in spades. The main protagonist, a late middle aged Swiss Constable named Zellner, is an engaging, infinitely endearing, classic detective borrowing quite openly from some of the greatest literary detectives in history - Holmes, Poirot (the first chapter even opens on the Orient Express) and Maigret to name but a few.

Whilst the plot is surprisingly deep, with many a twist and turn that are sometimes screamingly obvious, but are layered in such a way that you feel smart for figuring them out. Then you’re dumbfounded again when you realise there's another twist hidden behind them. You even switch characters to play as the titular Raven about two-thirds of the way in to the second chapter. That adds a whole new layer of context like you wouldn't believe.


Score: 4.5/5
Comments (7)
You must be to post a comment.
Posts: 1548

Well they cant be that bad because the game got an average of 4 :D

Posts: 3290

You know I do ;)

Posts: 1317


Posts: 3290

Controls? I honestly didn't have any trouble with it.

You obviously all just suck

Posts: 1317

Not only are the controls too old-fashioned, but they're unresponsive half the time. It's tedious.

Posts: 207

The controls are some of the worst I've ever seen...although at least the inputs work for this one...

Posts: 1548

This is probably one of the best looking adventure games I've personalty seen to date. Pity about the controls though.