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8 Features

History Lesson: Broken Sword - The Shadow Of The Templars

One of the most visually stunning point-and-click adventures ever

Conspiracies and hidden societies, assassins and Templars.

On paper it sounds like the predecessor to a certain other series that's quite big with the kids today, but there was no rooftop sprinting here, just exploratory ambling; less brawling and knifing, more interrogating and problem-solving. Mesdames et messieurs, welcome to the point-and-click Parisian paradise of Broken Sword.

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Up in the north of England, Revolution Software had Lure Of The Temptress under its belt and Beneath A Steel Sky about ready to go by the time work began on this, the studio's most ambitious project yet.

Founder Charles Cecil and his team had been sifting through legends of the Knights Templar and scouting out locations since 1994, finding it all fantastically fertile adventure material (without going full-on conspiracy nut) encased in mystery in those pre-internet days.

Broken Sword was pitched as a true cinema-quality adventure, with Revolution and publisher Virgin pumping up the production values to see how it'd do against other genres taking hold in an image-conscious PlayStation generation.

Veteran artists from the Don Bluth studio (The Land Before Time, Dragon's Lair) came in to hand-craft and animate those gorgeous visuals, while the score was handled by Britain's most implausibly-named TV and film composer, Barrington Pheloung, who was best known for scoring Inspector Morse.

Overcoming its generic US title Circle Of Blood, the game soundly impressed everyone from keen rookies to grizzled adventuring critics. Its quality shone through in whip-smart dialogue and dozens of instant fan favourite characters.

These ranged from eccentric officers Moue and Rosso to upper class cougar Lady Piermont, tourists Duane and Pearl, Khan the Costume Killer and, of course, our on-screen partners in prising open the legend: young American lawyer George Stobbart and no-nonsense French lady-journo Nico Collard.

Each gratifying breakthrough kicked the plot up a notch: identifying a killer segued into tracking a lost treasure and derailing the Neo-Templars' long-term plans, with a streamlined point-and-click interface making it un morceau de gâteau to locate hotspots, deconstruct puzzles and compel every character to comment on every last item jammed into your pockets.

Continuing the story with quickstep sequel The Smoking Mirror, Broken Sword amassed five adventures up to and including the fruits of its 2013 Kickstarter project, The Serpent's Curse. Following a publisher-driven shift into 3D for the third and fourth instalments, The Serpent's Curse brought George and Nico back to fan-pleasing classic 2D.

The original game lit the Templar touchpaper and watched it burn down through the years, culminating in the recent AAA antics of Altair's bloodline (and there's also strong fan feeling that it left an impression on The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown). But its strongest legacy was in showing how aspirational these games could be.

The likes of LucasArts and Sierra had already peaked by the mid-'90s, but Revolution's new saga was just hitting its stride, shaping the company's future in ways it could barely have imagined

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