As I play through The Raven: Remastered, I have one thought the entire time. "Why does everything take so damn long to do?" It doesn’t matter how engaged with the story I am, nor if my favorite of the varied cast of characters is on screen. At almost every turn, I am fighting some level of annoyance with this updated version of the 2013 point-and-click adventure game.
This episodic mystery takes place in 1964, with you playing as the long-past-his-prime Swiss police Constable Anton Jakob Zellner. One of two rare gems, the "Eyes of the Sphinx," has been stolen, and the other is on the train in which Constable Zellner is assigned. Protecting the gem is famed Inspector Nicolas Legrand, celebrated for killing the most renowned thief of all, The Raven.
However, the Raven is revealed to be back and as flashy as ever. By somehow stealing the gem, the thief reveals their return with a trademark feather left at the scene. The plot follows the overeager Zellner as he forces himself into the case, doing whatever he can to prove himself to Legrand and gain fame as an officer.
Initially, things take a little while to pick up. You spend time meeting each of the expertly portrayed characters (read: suspects) and learning how to interact with them. Each discussion is thoroughly well voiced, with actors' effort shown through the little nuances and tone changes while speaking. Zellner's actor receives special praise, as he stays at peak performance during all three chapters.
Scripting is top-notch, with nearly every conversation flowing naturally between sentences. The amount of quality dialogue stuffed into this game is easily its most significant accomplishment, but even that is not enough to make the overall experience easier to bear.
No amount of quality dialogue could save The Raven from its rough gameplay. Sifting through the world just isn't fun, as Zellner lives up to his bumbling appearance. His walking speed is slow, the man is continually bumping into things, and interacting with objects takes much longer than it has any right to.
Combining items often results in long, unskippable animations that you must repeat if you mess up a step. In one early puzzle, I had to combine a chair leg with a curtain and light it on fire. Multiple solutions were on offer, but only one of them was right. It took ages to figure out, as each try had Zellner picking up the leg, putting on the curtain, trying it, blowing it out, taking the curtain back off, and placing the leg back onto the table.
That is not to mention the puzzles that have you going back and forth between areas. Sometimes I didn’t even know about a new area due to Zellner getting stuck on objects, making it seem like a dead end rather than a new location. On top of our Constable's slow walking speed, each loading screen lasts around 15 seconds. This time takes the excitement out of the exotic locations in which The Raven takes place.
The latter half of Episode 1 takes place on a cruise ship. This requires moving through multiple cabins and decks, at times even going back and forth between the same few. The time adds up, and playing for two hours sometimes felt like four.
These hindrances are a shame because the story here is quite good, but it’s just a challenge to enjoy. The Raven is indeed a master thief and uncovering how they accomplish these near-impossible heists is exciting. Tying into this is Inspector Legrand's struggle with the survival of his enemy. He consistently endangers the case, beating himself up for the fame he does not feel he deserves. The plot even gains new life in Episode 2, with an unexpected twist that shows The Raven is a much smarter title than initial impressions give off. I will say that The Raven doesn't deserve its ending, however. It is not entirely a letdown, but the writers went for shock value over cleverness here.
Small mini-games interrupt gameplay here and there, and most of which are just as frustrating. For example, the lock-picking section offers no explanation but asks quite a bit of you. It just isn't the type of challenge I am looking for in a narrative adventure game. The shuffleboard mini-game is a nice distraction, however.
Stoic movements and cringeworthy facial expressions hamper the fantastic voice-acting. It is somewhat funny to hear the shock in Zellner's voice but see what looks like a gleeful manner on his face due to the animation style. Physical interactions are closer to the awkwardness of Mass Effect than they are a realistic representation of human beings. The remaster brings some subtle shading and texture upgrades, but not enough to provide any eye candy.
I want to say that The Raven: Remastered is worth playing for its story alone. However, the package around the tale is such a turn off that I cannot fully do so. Most of the experience is awkwardly stumbling through the world and sitting in loading screens, a burden I would wish on no one. If you can put up with this and want a good detective tale, The Raven is an alright choice for you. Otherwise, you’re better off leaving this mystery unsolved.
The Raven: Remastered was reviewed on Xbox One using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam.
Updated graphics and a stellar mystery cannot save The Raven from its slow, frustrating gameplay. While not an unbearable experience, the overall package is brought down significantly by the mechanics.
- Impeccable Voice Acting
- Engaging Plot
- Brilliant Twist
- Frustrating Gameplay
- Awkward Animations
- Undeserved Ending