You can see my reviews of the first two chapters of The Raven here and here. As you can see, the opening act was impressive, but chapter two took the game a few steps back. I had high hopes for chapter three, but, having just completed it, I have to say it failed to satisfy. Sure, there were some interesting character revelations and it was nice to finally get a few things, including The Raven’s true identity, sorted out, but a host of amateurish bugs and bland gameplay left me unimpressed.
Chapter 3 begins in Patricia’s cabin aboard the Ms Lydia ship. As you may recall this is the cruise ship that is destined for Cairo, where the two Eyes of the Sphinx were supposed to be shown together in a museum exhibit for the first time in decades. It’s difficult to discuss much of the story for those who haven’t played the game up to this point as I don’t want to spoil anything — so if you read on, please note there are some spoilers ahead. That said, her playable scenario has you trying to gather a few clues by talking to a variety of previously introduced NPCs so that you can solve a combination lock puzzle in another cabin. In a way that’s similar to what Zellner faced in the basement of the museum in chapter two. It’s pretty much the same deal here, and once that portion is solved, gameplay shifts over to Adil. The playable scenario for Adil takes you all the way to Cairo where the heist of the second Eye of the Sphinx is supposed to happen. Interestingly, chapter three does not feature Constable Zellner, the protagonist through the first two chapters, as a playable character.
Although you don’t get to play as Zellner, the gameplay is exactly the same. Simply scan each room for objects and characters that you can interact with and “click through” those objects or characters until all new information is exhausted. Some items get placed in your inventory, but, you’ll never have more than five or six things on you at a time, and often less than half of that. Having so few items in your inventory does make puzzle-solving much easier and quicker. The puzzle design — a critical element to any point and click adventure — is again lackluster and simplistic, an observation I had from chapter two as well. The only hard part about solving the puzzles is seeing all of the objects on screen; you can pixel-hunt, or, press spacebar to reveal all objects that you can interact with. It docks you a few points, but unless you’re a die hard for Steam Achievements, losing a few points makes no negative difference. Once all of the objects in play are accounted for, the puzzles are all pretty easy and predictable, and the design of several of them is likely to induce some eye-rolling.
As an example of poor puzzle and sloppy gameplay design, take the puzzle of getting Adil into the museum in Cairo. Within moments, you’ll discover a thin, bendable wire. There is a vehicle whose door you need to unlock, but Adil won’t just bend the wire — you have to do some other arbitrary thing with a drain in another scene first. Secondly, there happens to be an abandoned dog just sitting right outside the museum entrance. Not a soul is around except you and the dog. You use a tennis ball to get the dog to run into the museum, which then gets the receptionist guard off his ass to chase the dog back outside. With his back turned, you slip in, yet somehow the tennis ball is still in your inventory. Moments later, there is a guest list clipboard that you can interact with and sign a name. You can click “write a name on the list” as much as you want, and watch Adil go through the same animation over and over. None of it makes any difference unless you first solve another small puzzle outside the museum. I just didn’t understand why the game lets you jump through these hoops indefinitely when there is no purpose for doing so. The fact that Adil has paint specks all over his arm after putting on a painters disguise doesn’t make any sense either…
More bugginess and questionable QA are found inside the museum’s grand hall. Here, you can see old lady Westmacott sitting in her wheelchair next to a sarcophagus. However, when you mouse over her nothing happens; yet if you mouse over where she was in chapter two, which is just a couple of inches away, then you get the prompt to look at her. Worse yet, during a short in-game dialgoue cutscene, you can see an empty wheelchair in the background where she sits in chapter two — while simultaneously she’s sitting in another part of the room. Graphical glitches abound too; from feet sinking into the ground (Adil outside the museum), to your character literally sliding into the predetermined ‘hotspot’ for interacting with an object or NPC, to all of the bizarre 360 degree turns your character does whenever you select an object (not all, but many) to examine. By that I mean, you’ll be standing near an interactive object and then click to examine it. Instead of your character walking smoothly over, they’ll do this weird 360 degree turn and/or literally slide across the floor to get where “they’re supposed to be” for that interaction.
Are these bugs game-breaking? Well, no, although I did have a couple of game-breaking bugs while playing a beta version a few days before the official release. But even though these bugs are not game-breaking, they’re still sloppy, especially given that some of these have been around since the first chapter some two-plus months ago. I’d be more apt to overlook and forgive them if the rest of the game were outstanding, but that just isn’t the case. Chapter three is the shortest and the easiest (read: least satisfying) of the trilogy, and that just made the experience feel rushed. Granted, by this time I was invested enough that I was going to see the events through to the end given the ten-plus hours I had already logged with The Raven. And as I said before, there were some interesting revelations, but the gameplay design is such that it’s almost like you’re just going through the motions and clicking through a graphic novel. For someone who loved the old Lucasarts adventures as a kid, what The Raven lacks the most is that powerful sense of triumph when you solve a well designed puzzle.
With that, lets get to the summary…