Released: March 13th 2012
It’s the main village party, the Sea Songs Festival, so people enjoy, laugh and sing. But Garrett will not have time to rejoice, he is here to meet a messenger and will meet him inside one of the rooms at The Three Heroes Inn.
The Black Frog is a five mission campaign which assigns Garrett the task to steal a well guarded portrait. Little does he know however is that the secret behind this very painting will soon reveal a mystery concerning something called The Black Frog and a woman by the name of, Emilie Victor. Expecting the unexpected will become bound to common sense here, with enough twists and turns across the experience to give someone a thumping headache. The constant progressive plot unravels itself through the nature of gameplay in each mission, with intriguing mystery and depth to its settings to push players forward and give them incentive to discover more. But they may also take one more step back through the use of horror themes, increasing the build up of a tense atmosphere and fear.
The beginning of the campaign goes for a relaxing prologue, where the streets are filled with the bustle of celebration, music and dancers. The town feels alive and Gaëtane gets that across well through the characters going about their business, like people getting themselves drunk and doing silly things, a young couple chasing each other through the streets or an angry man cursing out from his window. Even the use of a crowd banter sound effect inside the tavern makes a whole difference to emphasis this busy atmosphere. There will be no need to be afraid with getting caught on the streets, because everyone will act neutral toward the player and are simply having too much fun to notice. They don’t seem to care about a darkly dressed and hooded man prancing about in daylight to rob them of their goods. They either have a bad case of obliviousness or the afternoon nap syndrome. Garrett is only in town to meet up with a man providing the next mission’s goal, but there is still enough reason to stick around to finish up that optional loot goal and discover the secrets scattered about.
The Portrait, the second mission, is where a good old thief can get his hands dirty. However this level actually comes across as the most trickiest one to sneak through without causing too much disturbance and attempt to ghost it. This seemed a bit much despite being so early into the campaign and made me feel as if it would only get harder from here. Not quite. The thought comes from the number of tight patrols and large amount of marble flooring that decorates the manor and a few other scenarios such as the thief’s corpse outdoors. It did become a little tiresome trying to overcome this, leading to the drastic anti-hassle measures by causing some head injuries. My main peeve most probably comes from the manor’s layout, which just didn’t feel intuitive and I found myself having a harder time getting around to places, but this never happened during the other missions. And even now I can’t quite put my finger as to why this one in particular bothered me. By no means a bad mission however, but probably the weakest in the pack considering how much I enjoyed the others in comparison.
Upon reaching the halfway point, Tears and Sorrow is where some elements of the horror theme begin to sink its way through, aiming to create a darker tone and tense atmosphere in the environment as opposed to earlier gameplay. However, this is also at the point in which loot seems to become more of an afterthought, with barely much to find during the later missions, which is a shame for those who actually enjoy seeking them out. Despite the lack of this, there are many secrets to hunt down which reward useful supplies such as fruits and arrows. The further into the campaign I had gotten through, the more immersive it becomes through its rich settings and designs, along with the interesting situations and events that unfold. Having these mission themes vary so much did help considerably and at times I just wanted to keep on playing into the late hours even though I really needed to sleep.
The Lady and the Thief is the fourth mission taking players into nature, with old village housing at one side and an ancient looking temple in the other. The general goal here is to deactivate several levers and offers a very non-linear nature to the order most of them can be done and how to overcome the obstacles that prevent them from doing so. This also contains two specific locations that I had absolutely enjoyed going through every step of the way. The old temple offers a very adventurous and puzzle element, while another place had this very mysterious creepy touch and then receiving a nasty surprise when I was least expecting it. Natural aspects of the design blend in with other parts throughout the mission, from trees, foliage and rocky walls along side both wooden, brick or stone buildings. The abandoned fishery is a great example of nature overtaking architecture, using the right textures to present the overgrowth and no signs of human activity for a long while.
If anything, the final mission was perhaps the most immersive and in-depth experience for me in The Black Frog, which had pushed itself out there with enough content to be rememberable in many ways, especially how it continued to provide a consistent quality experience from beginning to end. Out of the five, this one also took the longest time to complete, with changes during its course of gameplay which effectively splits the journey into smaller chunks as not to become dull. The castle interior design had enough charm through subtle means toward mood and well constructed architecture and lighting to ensure a pleasant environment to scramble through. Another positive is the layout which felt better in many ways despite the bright hallways and daylight theme, and how patrols don’t appear as tight as seen in The Portrait. Later events which unfold were extremely gripping and kept me going until the end, where Gaëtane does a great job at presenting a familiar place in such a twisted and gritty perspective. This style for the environment only helps to make the heart race when those heavy footsteps come stomping down the hallway.
This campaign is made up of five quality missions which make up a progressive plot, with many twists and turns across various themes and locations. Gaëtane offers rich settings, design and atmosphere in each one, while also slightly changing the flow of gameplay as players progress for a hint of spice. There are many surprises to be had during the experience and it keeps getting better over time.
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