The Raven, revealed!

The final episode of The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief has arrived, and all the secrets of the greatest thief Europe has ever seen are finally laid bare! The third chapter in this international adventure doesn’t finish quite as strongly as the first part began, but the payoff is definitely worth the effort.

The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief isn’t your conventional video game. Set in 1964, it’s an Agatha Christie-style romp across Europe and into Egypt, starring a paunchy Swiss police constable searching for relevance in his declining years, a gentleman master thief who’s taken a mysterious turn to vicious violence, his young, idealistic protégé, and a colorful supporting cast including an obsessed French police inspector, a German doctor with a dark secret, an Italian ship’s captain left broken by two wars, and many others. It’s interspersed with puzzles, as adventures generally are, but there’s no question that in The Raven, the story’s the thing.

The Raven: Episode 3 - A Murder of Ravens

(Oh – There are spoilers within. Consider yourself warned!)

Like its predecessors, Episode 3 – A Murder of Ravens is a very conversational adventure, which is to say that most of what you need to do can be accomplished by simply talking to people. There are relatively few objects to peruse and collect, and puzzles, aside from one infuriating button-pusher on the roof of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo, are solvable through a reasonable application of observation and common sense. The game’s notebook does offer hints and a hotspot indicator is available as well, but using either requires “adventure points,” earned by solving puzzles and making headway through the game – and, fortunately, supplied very generously.

Episode 1, The Eye of the Sphinx, started off extremely well, while episode 2, Ancestry of Lies, slipped a bit as it switched to a less-interesting protagonist and spent less time with the supporting players. Episode 3, alas, is more akin to the second than the first, focusing as it does on Adil and his partner, revealed at the tail-end of the second episode. (No spoilers on that one!) It picks up aboard the MS Lydia, with Adil safely escaped from Constable Zellner and Inspector Legrand. From there, you will experience the balance of his shipboard adventures before moving to Egypt, where that part of the game will be repeated as well, also from Adil’s point of view. Effectively replaying the game from the perspective of the villain is an interesting idea, but in practice it comes up a bit short because for the most part we know what’s going to happen. It’s fun in spots to have some of the details filled in, but it feels like a lot of work for relatively little reward.

The Raven: Episode 3 - A Murder of Ravens

Even so, A Murder of Ravens is definitely a step above the previous chapter, and not just because it enjoys the benefit of pulling everything together for a big finish. While the cast isn’t nearly as varied as it was in the first episode, when literally everybody had a meaningful part to play, the supporting characters who serve as the focus in the final chapter are easily more interesting than those who headlined the second. Dr. Gebhardt, the violinist Kreutzer, the Baroness’ butler Mr. Inch, and the shadowy Dr. Gebhardt all get a moment in the spotlight, and although their individual stories have little impact on the plot, they’re all far more interesting characters than they initially appear and really help to bring the game world alive.

The writing does occasionally get bogged down in exposition, but far more problematic are the visual and technical glitches that plague the production. It’s not uncommon for characters to pirouette once or more while moving into position to examine an object or talk to someone, and hotspots to room exits are unmarked and easy to overlook. Adil exhibits particularly bizarre behavior in front of the Egyptian museum, sometimes seemingly leaping to the roof (or at least out of sight beyond the top of the screen) before jumping down again when moving elsewhere, and at one point I had to manually close the game when he began walking on the spot and refused to stop, trapped by some invisible force that left me unable to do anything more than watch.

The previous chapters suffered from many of the same issues, but they seem much more common in A Murder of Ravens; it’s worth noting, however, that I played a late pre-release version of the game, and the developers said that at least some of the technical problems will be cleared up for release. Your mileage may vary, in other words, but some rough patches should be expected.

The Raven: Episode 3 - A Murder of Ravens

The end, when it comes – and it will come fairly quickly, as the third episode is only a few hours long – is satisfying and well worth the effort. An awful lot happens very quickly, some of it a little forced and not very well explained, but it nicely captures the feeling of the last page of a well-written crime novel of the era, in which everybody gets what they deserve and the hero – the real hero – earns some well-deserved peace. 

If A Murder of Ravens doesn’t quite meet up to the standard set by the game’s first episode, it’s only because that first episode was so wonderfully good, with a lead character who really couldn’t be surpassed by anyone else in the game – not even The Raven himself. In its own right, it’s a fun little tale that takes a couple of unexpectedly dark detours but never lingers for long, and as the final chapter in The Raven –  Legacy of a Master Thief, it ties up one of the more unusual and enjoyable adventure romps I’ve taken in a while. I don’t know how likely it is that we’ll see more of Constable Zellner in the future, but I certainly won’t mind if we do.