There might not be Murder on the Orient Express, but there is a jewel waiting to be stolen
The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief puts you in the shoes of Constable Zellner, a member of the Swiss police department who is on the verge of retirement - a sure-fire indication that trouble is heading his way. Trouble doesn't find him by accident, though, as he actively goes looking for it, hoping to leave his name in the crime-solving history books before bowing out of the force. As luck would have it, he starts his adventure on the Orient Express, joined by legendary, Raven-catching detective Legrand and a safe that contains a rare jewel whose twin was recently stolen from London.
With suspicion and tension high, Zellner is determined to help Legrand with his investigation, even if his help is not at first wanted nor appreciated. Setting out to prove yourself by bothering everyone on the train with your questions and picking up random-but-handy-looking objects - this is an adventure game after all - you must figure out the mystery of The Raven, and help uncover the thief from London's real identity. It's a whodunnit in the mould of Agatha Christie, with shady characters, red herrings, and locked-door puzzles that a shaggy-haired magician's assistant who lives in a windmill would solve in a second, but that remain an elusive mystery to a mild-mannered Swiss officer.
Could a little boy be The Raven? Probably not
From starting on the Orient Express, to the obvious Agatha-parallel that is passenger and crime author Lady Clarissa Westmacott and Zellner's Poirot-inspired moustache, there are plenty of things to please fans of Agatha Christie. It also leans heavily on the pacing and tone of her stories, which makes chasing a master thief feel like figuring out who ate the last biscuit at teatime - it's a slow, drawn-out mystery, with little excitement present. It does go for big action in places, but the set pieces never have the desired impact, as mulling up and down a train carriage for twenty minutes looking for the correct pixel to click doesn't exactly make the threat of impending doom feel all that, well, impending.
Jessica Fletchers of the world don't tend to look at the same object three times before deducing its importance, either. In The Raven, you often have to click an object multiple times before its actual use to you becomes apparent; a redundant and annoying technique, especially when you forget to click again, deciding the thing is of no value, leading you to look around the area without a clue as to what might be missing, before eventually realising it was that original object all along. These puzzles do follow real-life logic - big items don't fit in pockets for example, and item combinations are reasonable and believable - and for the most part are satisfying to solve, it's just a pity the same can't be said for the bigger picture.
The Raven's biggest question is 'who is The Raven?', and you'll find yourself struggling to care what the answer is. There's a few characters who it could be, and others who could - some who blatantly seem to be - simply be working for him. The story does a good job of including some obvious candidates and some left-field ones, each having plausible suspicion, but also plausible deniability. The problem, then, is that despite each character being setup well in regards to the mystery, they're just not interesting enough as whole characters to care about, and their motives and personalities too one-dimensional - at least at this stage - to invest emotionally in.
Clarissa Westmacott - a not-so-subtle homage to Agatha Christie
It also chooses to end at the wrong point. There's a moment that occurs a mystery or two before the end, where the screen fades to black, and you're left feeling how you should be after a cliffhanger: full of questions and suspense, slightly aggrieved by the fact the answers won't immediately present themselves. And then, they do. And you're left with a slow-paced final section, before the actual end of chapter cliffhanger occurs - it's far less interesting or exciting, and it doesn't really leave you with many pressing questions other than the ones that have been present since the very beginning.
THE RAVEN: LEGACY OF A MASTER THIEF VERDICT
Because of this, it’s hard to say I’m excited about the second episode. With only half an episode left to end the mystery (episode 2’s second half, along with episode 3, has you play the same story again from The Raven’s perspective), it’s strange that they didn’t just wrap it all up in a single release - the intrigue isn’t intense enough to keep you hooked across the break, and the pay-off might have been better had the mystery just unveiled itself immediately. Instead, it ends as mundanely as it began. The Raven is a gentle, well-crafted mystery, but it just doesn’t carry enough interest or intrigue to make you fully invest.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The first big cliffhanger…. until you realise it’s not yet the end.