The Raven: Legacy of an Awful Twist


TheRaven1When it comes to plot, I’ve always felt that the journey is far more important than the destination. It was tempting to toss Mass Effect 3 into the bin when it ended with a multiple choice question, but after spending hundreds of hours stalking the halls of the Normandy and fraternizing with an impeccable crew, I couldn’t muster much anger. In a perfect world, stories would end with the same spark they began with, but until I played The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, I never knew a rotten ending to systematically destruct the positive moments found throughout the rest of the plot.

After a charming opening that dropped me on the Orient Express, I was introduced to Constable Anton Jakob Zellner, an aged Swiss policeman who yearns for one exciting case before retirement. Stumbling into a stakeout for the Raven, a master thief who behaves like a gentleman, he butts his way into the machinations of a hotshot investigator in the hopes that he’ll finally solve a caper worthy of an Agatha Christie novel. Zellner is not shy for the player; he monologues about his frustrating heart condition and always reminds you of his goals, from interrogating witnesses to examining the Raven’s crime scenes. Save for the surrounding cast of characters who can’t hear his thoughts, he is an open book.

Over the course of the three chapters, I also took control of the Raven’s assistant, along with said assistant’s girlfriend. They certainly fooled Zellner (and consequently, the player) when I met them through his perspective, but when inhabiting them, they similarly left nothing to the imagination. I heard plans of running away from home and using their ill-gotten funds to start a new life, and how they’d pull one over on the Raven when the job is done. Unsurprisingly, this Raven character (who turns out to be an impersonator) was one step ahead and attempted to kill them for their treachery, but not before the furious investigator finally caught up with him. It was a disappointing turn of events (the villain was a boring, unpleasant fellow who spouted clichés and twirled his non-existent mustache), but at least I had the first chapter and a half to remember fondly… right?

TheRaven2Not to be satisfied with a simple letdown, the game pulls its curtain and reveals its ultimate twist: Constable Zellner is the Raven! Yes, the man I spent the last ten hours with, witnessing his every last thought, observation and action, was lying to me the whole time (along with the assistant/girlfriend pair, who were also somehow in on this tomfoolery). Their “acting” excuses might be admissible if they were only putting on the show in front of others, but why would Zellner make a big show of tossing his heart medication into the ocean when he’s alone? Why did the three of them put themselves in needlessly risky situations that would easily be averted if they used what they already knew?

In one reveal, The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief unravels every last shred of goodwill it earned over ten hours. I can’t reminisce on the bumbling charm of Constable Zellner in the first two chapters without the sour realization that it was all one weak act. I’ve never experienced a story that blatantly lied to me throughout the whole game, and I hope to never experience again. It’s an even greater shame when considering the unbelievably strong first act; the creators had the skill necessary to present a gripping caper with strong characters, and they threw it all away for the gambit of a memorable, sloppy twist.

An audience is unbelievably flexible; they’ll follow the storyteller along for all sorts of fantastical rides, from a world hidden behind a dresser to light swords and laser guns. However, their patience will wear thin and turn to anger if their trust is abused; twists can make quite an impression, but if they’re built through feeding the player false information, they become cheap narrative tricks and breed only ill will. Developers new and old would do well to deliver plots that honor the intelligence of their audience, instead of delivering a jewel thief pantomiming an elderly constable.