The mystery of The Raven comes to an end here in the third and final chapter of this episodic point-and-click adventure game, A Murder of Ravens. It's not been all plain sailing since the rather fantastic first chapter which introduced us to the charming and unique hero Constable Zellner and his efforts to uncover the masked thief known only as The Raven. That first episode was a fun mystery adventure drenched in the atmosphere of the 1960s and clearly riffing off Agatha Christie's stories. Things were less impressive in the second chapter as the Constable featured for only part of the game and the story re-used locations and assets from the first chapter resulting in the feeling that it was all a little cheap.
So, how do things fare this time around? Unfortunately, chapter three follows in much the same footsteps as chapter two. Almost the entire game reuses locations from the first two chapters and leaves us feeling that in the end it was all very small. Even worse, here you don't get to play as Constable Zellner at all (indeed he barely appears). This is a confusing decision - the Constable was one of the ingredients that made the first chapter of The Raven feel so different. Zellner is about as far removed from your typical adventure hero as you could imagine (a notable accomplishment in a genre that is full of unusual heroes) and he served to lend the game a mood which made it instantly stand out.
In this new chapter you play again as two different characters which split the game roughly in half. For the first half you'll find yourself back on board the ship which featured in both earlier chapters, this time replaying events from the point of view of a young woman who is something of a con artist. These earlier section do turn out to be quite good fun, as Patricia is an interesting character and the puzzle design is varied and thoughtful. It's unfortunately offset by the knowledge of what is to come having played the previous chapters, and the very restricted environments making the solutions to these puzzles not all that difficult.
The second half of the chapter takes place in the museum which we were introduced to in chapter two and you resume play as Adil, whom you also controlled in that chapter. This part of the game doesn't work as well and things really begin to fall apart here as it's all quite unengaging. The puzzles have lost all spark and there are very few characters available to talk to. Possibly too many secrets were already revealed during chapter two, but this chapter does have some twists of its own and the ending goes some way towards saving the whole thing. Maybe you saw it all coming or maybe, like us, you'll be genuinely surprised by the way things are concluded.
Taken as a whole, The Raven seems to have a very odd narrative structure which - while it appears to have been planned out that way - doesn't really work in its favour. The first chapter was considerably longer than the second and third with some very varied and intricate puzzles, and suggested that the game would have a lot more scope than it ultimately turned out to. Does that mean that The Raven is not worth playing? Not at all. In many ways, this final chapter is better than the disappointing second as we at least get to experience a culmination to all our efforts and we go into it with our expectations somewhat lowered.
The game is still a joy to experience from a technical point of view. An absolutely lush orchestral score is filled with melodies which get stuck in your head, although the main themes do seem to repeat and get reused a little too often. The locations are beautifully detailed and absolutely vibrant. Once again, this attention to graphical detail can cause problems with pixel hunting as you can't easily distinguish objects you are meant to pick up from the backgrounds. Some unfortunate bugs which have been present since the very first chapter still linger: on occasion your character will become stuck in the scene and become trapped in a walk cycle without moving. For an entire portion of the game our character became unstuck from the environment and was randomly moving around or jumping in the scenery. The first issue meant reloading from a previous save, while we were still able to work with the latter but it looked very peculiar.
The Raven is not a classic adventure game experience to be enjoyed for years to come, but it hasn't fallen too far short. The atmosphere and mystery the developers were going for has been perfectly captured but the execution feels too haphazard. This most recent chapters feels almost like a throwaway after the ambition set forth at the beginning. It would be interesting to know if there were production difficulties which forced this direction or if it was intentional from the start. We won’t say it’s not an entertaining journey, but things are wrapped up here in a manner which unfortunately makes it all a somewhat hollow experience.
This most recent chapters feels almost like a throwaway after the ambition set forth at the beginning. It would be interesting to know if there were production difficulties which forced this direction or if it was intentional from the start. We won’t say it’s not an entertaining journey, but things are wrapped up here in a manner which unfortunately makes it all a somewhat hollow experience.