Jumping back into The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief for Chapter 2 feels like jumping back into a book you were forced to lay down. It's characters are instantly familiar after only a few moments and so are the actions they've taken, or in this case, the mysteries they solved. Though it adds nothing truly new to the gameplay of the first chapter, this second continues building and breaking expectations of the familiar tropes of the mystery/crime novel. Unfortunately, it features puzzles that require no thought to solve, and pulls back the curtain on some mysteries that were better left in the dark.
Having ended with a cliffhanger, the start of Chapter 2 picks up immediately where the first left off. Constable Zellner, his suspicions confirmed, is in immediate danger. Drugged and delirious, the situation concludes itself with a couple quick actions by the character, leaving Zellner unconscious. Action picks up again in the parlor of the cruise ship, explanations offered, and conclusions are drawn.
There's not much else that can be said without spoiling some major plot points, and the ones revealed in Chapter 2 form the backbone of the entire mystery. The central conundrum, the identity of the Raven, plays a crucial role, and at the mid-point, the story takes a turn in the form of a flashback, bringing us back to the Orient Express and the events that put our dear Constable on the case.
What's lacking in this chapter is nearly all of logical, deductive thinking that was introduced in the last chapter. There are only a few puzzles that were introduced, and none required more then simple observation and steady pass over the environment to reveal their solutions. The most egregious culprit, built on the history of the Egyptian pharaohs, looked as though it would take some careful thought and a even a bit of classic note taking. It turned out to be nothing but a few wheel spins, and it was especially disappointing that it didn't even draw on the information you were trying to collect. It's easily the low part of Zellner's portion of the story, and it's a shame that it could not support the strides this chapter took in cementing his, and by proxy the player's, reputation as a detective easily on par with the legend of Legrand.
Similarly, the second part of the chapter, which focuses on the flashback, is struck by a hefty amount of ludo-narrative dissonance, as the actions of the protagonist in that section, would have easily intersected with Zellner's own exploits one more then the single highlighted occasion. It was nice seeing a different side of familiar scenes, but also ripped the mystery from the magic trick, exposing a solution to reveal something ordinary. Given the right pomp and circumstance, like the elaborate reveals by Penn & Teller, revealing the magic makes the act even more impressive. But tearing back the curtain from this particular action makes it feel mundane and completely unworthy of a master thief.
Unlike other episodic games, and only a month between chapters, I have to assume that the majority of Chapter 3, the conclusion to The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, is already set in stone. The finale has a lot of ground to make up if it hopes to equal the promise of the great first chapter. The fumbling of the flashback, and the phoning in of the puzzle content, leaves the second chapter feeling sour in comparison. My hope is that this is the valley between two great bookends. We'll find out when The Raven concludes next month.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!