Tag Archives: tex murphy

The 10 Best Games Ever (according to me)

Today I stumbled across a post on I Hate Loading Screens about her top 10 games, and thought it was a great idea for a blog post.

So here is my list of the 10 best games I’ve ever played.

Planescape Torment

1. Planescape Torment – I talk about this game a lot. And there’s a reason for that – it’s fucking amazing. I’ve always been a fan of isometric RPGs and Torment is the best of the bunch by far. The story is great. The characters have backstories and personalities and feel as real as video game characters can get. The game is full of lore, every object you pick up can have it’s own story that sends your imagination on a joy ride. It’s text heavy and the text is beautifully written. Gameplay is also strong, and allows you to master different classes and switch between them. It also allows you to choose how to approach situations, with brains, brawn, or subterfuge.

If, by some chance, you like RPGs and have not played this, I can probably hook you up with a GoG code. Comment/message me if you want one.

Pandora Directive box art

2. Pandora Directive – Of all the adventure games I’ve played over the years, this one is the one I’d call the best.  Pandora Directive puts Sam Spade-inspired PI Tex Murphy on a missing person’s case that soon unearths a vast conspiracy. The gameplay combines point and click mechanics with first-person exploration to great effect. During the course of the investigation Tex solves puzzles, makes contacts, and shares wisecracks about everything. Pandora Directive has sharp, funny writing and allows the player to shape Tex’s character through branching dialogue trees (way before Bioware made this popular), which can lead to a number of different endings. All the Tex Murphy games are great, but this one is the best. The combination of noir setting with humour really works for me.

Beyond Good and Evil

3. Beyond Good and Evil – Besides having one of my favourite protagonists of all time, Beyond Good and Evil has an interesting story and really solid, fun gameplay. As Jade, you need to take on the DomZ, aliens who are enslaving humans. The game world of Hillys features a really cool combination of sci-fi and fantasy elements and features stylish visuals and a really cool soundtrack. Gameplay is diverse, featuring action, combat, stealth, platforming, puzzle solving, and hovercraft racing. All of these elements are done really well. It also features a photography mechanic which is used both to gather evidence about the conspiracy going on and to catalogue all the species of Hillys. I’m a sucker for photography in games when it’s well done.

Shadow of the Colossus

4. Shadow of the Colossus – There’s a certain beauty to exploring a vast and empty land and having a story that isn’t really spelled out for you. Shadow of the Colossus is one of the most moving gaming experiences I’ve had. It’s technically an action game, but the action is confined to one very specific thing – battling colossi. Each battle is a puzzle, where you need to find the beast’s weakness in order to defeat it. As the game progresses these fights become no less exhilarating, but take on an aspect of sadness and you start to wonder why you’re killing these magnificent creatures.

XCOM Enemy Within

5. XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within – Set during a global alien invasion, XCOM puts you in the commander’s chair of an elite organization that represents humanity’s last hope against the invaders. It expertly combines tactical turn-based combat with resource management and strategy. Managing your base is a balancing act of researching alien tech so you can adapt it for your own use, building items and facilities which aid in combat, and reducing worldwide panic by deploying satellite coverage and shooting down enemy UFOs. Everything about this game is compelling, and while I generally play through games like this once then declare “I won,” XCOM is a game that I’ve played through multiple times. Just turning on Ironman mode makes this an entirely new experience.

Shadow Hearts: Covenant box art

6. Shadow Hearts: Covenant – The PS2 was an amazing console for JRPGs and of all of them, Shadow Hearts: Covenant is the one that won my heart. Set during WW1, Covenant takes an unlikely group of protagonists across the globe in order to stop a group of sorcerers intent on world domination. Admittedly, it’s not the most unique story, but it’s the game’s execution that makes it special. Shadow Hearts introduces some really likable characters and puts them in some seriously goofy situations. It’s the humour that really sets this JRPG apart, and there’s a lot of it. It also gives some unique character abilities, from having a character who uses tarot cards and aromatherapy in combat, to a puppetmaster whose doll gains abilities from new outfits, to a vampire who changes forms from golden bat to muscle-bound pro wrestler. From a gameplay perspective, one of the best things about the game is the Judgement Ring, which turns turn-based combat into something much more active and interesting.

Star_Ocean_Second_Story

7. Star Ocean: Second Story – Another amazing  JRPG. Like many JRPGs, the story is a bit of a save the world cliche (though it does add a lot of sci-fi elements to the usual fantasy tropes), but it’s the details that make this game great. First, you get to pick your main character. You can be the attractive, broody, sword-wielding young man with spike hair OR you can play as the naive young woman with magical abilities. Okay, I’m doing a bad job selling this. Your choice of character makes subtle changes to the story, including which other characters you can recruit, and changes some of the story that you get to see, so that’s cool. Second, crafting. You can write, you can blacksmith, you can cook, or compose music or create art. It’s a really robust crafting system that lets you create a ton of usable and special items. If you get good enough at cooking you can even compete in an Iron Chef-like tournament, which is amazing. I’m not generally a fan of crafting in games, but in Star Ocean it is so much fun. Third, the combat is really interesting. Rather than turn-based, combat is more active with you controlling movement and actions on the battlefield. Also, 4 characters participate in each battle, and 4 is better than 3. There’s also an emphasis on building relationships with the other characters in your party and Private Actions let you talk to each character individually.

Mass Effect - Commander Shepard

8. Mass Effect – I refuse to pick one game, Mass Effect is best looked at as a series. Why is Mass Effect awesome? Well, primarily because of Commander Shepard and Jennifer Hale. Shepard is an amazingly kick-ass space action hero and Mass Effect is one of the few games where I enjoy both the Paragon and Renegade character development track. In a lot of games the renegade/dark/evil options just make your character into an asshole, but Mass Effect gives options that are pragmatic and direct rather than just being jerky. Character development is great, relationships in the game get into your head and never let go, choices are hard. Mass Effect features some really memorable characters and the trilogy as a whole is an experience that covers not only the thrills and dangers of saving the entire galaxy but also has a ton of smaller, quieter moments that make the games special. Also, it’s a very solid 3rd person shooter.

Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines

9. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines – Set in White Wolf’s World of Darkness, VtMB and is an atmospheric and immersive RPG. As a freshly sired vampire you need to navigate through an eternally dark Los Angeles, making friends and enemies, feeding on mortals, fighting foes, and surviving vampire politics. The game is not without flaws, there are some pretty nasty bugs, but the story and interactions in the game more than make up for them. The lore of the game is deep, each vampire clan has its own strengths and motivations. You can choose whether to abide by the rules of the Masquerade and what clans to align yourself with. The writing and voice acting in the game is top notch, and there are some truly creepy moments.

Final Fantasy x-2

10. Final Fantasy x-2 – Final Fantasy X was a great game, and X-2 leveraged the great world and characters it had set up and added some amazingly fun new gameplay. Yuna becomes the heroine and teams up with Rikku and new character Paine to spread girl power throughout the land (and save the world, obviously). Though there are some cringey bits (I find serious musical numbers in games to be immensely uncomfortable), the sheer amount of fun this game offers more than makes up for it. Combat has evolved past that of FFX. It’s faster, it’s slicker. Characters can use numerous different dresspheres which offer completely different sets of abilities and a snazzy new outfits. The mini-games like Sphere Break and Gunner’s Gauntlet are amusing diversions and the quest-focused story works really well.

Well, that’s my 10 (right now). I seem to have a thing for RPGs. And here’s a video where I share some more thoughts on what makes a game good enough to be called favourite.

What are your top 10 games?

My History with Kickstarter

Some great games have been funded though Kickstarter – Dragonfall Returns, Wasteland 2, FTL. However, many games that get funded don’t actually get released, draw out the delivery timelines significantly, or under-deliver. I’ve seen a number of people on Twitter who seem hesitant to back new games because they had been burned before. I have yet to be burned (that sound you hear is me knocking on wood, because most of the games haven’t been delivered yet). I thought it would be interesting to take a look at all the games I’ve backed, whether they’ve delivered, and how the whole Kickstarter experience has been. As of right now, I have backed 7 games.

Tex Murphy – Project Fedora

Project Fedora KickstarterDate of backing: May 2012
Estimated delivery date: July/August 2013
Actual delivery date: May 2014

Project Fedora is the game that got me into Kickstarter. I love the Tex Murphy adventure games. Love them. From the first time I saw that big box for Under a Killing Moon in Radio Shack with real, live actors on it when I was 11, I’ve been hooked on this series. After Overseer, it seemed like Tex Murphy would be no more, since the software company was sold to Microsoft and they are evil. Then came this kickstarter. I needed to help make this game happen, and pledged a much larger amount of cash than I have for any game since. The devs estimated a 12-14 months development cycle for the game which would put the estimated release date sometime in summer of 2013. The game, Tesla Effect, was actually released in May of 2014, about 10 months after the estimated delivery date. The lateness didn’t both me too much, since there was a ton of communication from the devs, and backers were given frequent updates and peeks at the game as it was being made. I’ve received 78 project updates.

When it released, I was happy. The game delivered what was promised. The quality was a bit uneven – for the whole first half of the game I had a goofy smile plastered onto my face, while some of the second half was a bit of a slog – but overall it was a game I enjoyed and was happy to have supported. It hit me right in the nostalgia feels and for the most part, it was a good game in its own right as well.

The only negative thing I have to say about this project was that almost 6 months after the game was released, I still don’t have my physical backer rewards. I did get all the digital rewards though, many way before the game was released.

Jane Jenson’s Pinkerton Road

Date of backing: May 2012
Estimated delivery date: March 2013
Actual delivery date: April 2014

After signing up with KS for Project Fedora, I found Jane Jenson‘s project. She made another of my favourite adventure series, Gabriel Knight. So of course I had to back this as well, but for a smaller amount that was just enough to get a copy of of one of the two new games the studio would be making: Moebius or a mystery project (which ended up being a GK1 remake). I received 70 project updates total.

Moebius was released in April 2014, a year after the estimated delivery date, and The GK remake came out in October 2014. I wasn’t too disappointed with getting the game late, but I was disappointed with the game itself. It was not good. The quality of Moebius, and the brief looks I’ve gotten at the completely unnecessary GK remake make it likely I won’t support another Pinkerton Road project (unless they switch to a completely new engine at some point). However, I did get what I paid for in the end.

The Curse of Shadow House

Date of backing: June 2012
Estimated delivery date: October 2012
Actual delivery date: August 2013

Curse of Shadow House is an adventure game for mobile devices. I don’t play a lot of mobile games, but I found this project somehow and was in a generous mood so I decided to help fund it. This was a much smaller project than the other two I had backed and the person running it did a really good job with it. The goal was only $8000, and the total funding was a bit over $9k. Some of the physical rewards offered were quite amazing – art prints, handmade necklaces, and journals. I seriously don’t know how this guy made a game and spent all this time/effort/money on physical rewards and shipping with only $9000. He also sent personal messages to every backer to say thank you. Which was very nice.

I got my iTunes code for the game 9 months after the estimated delivery date. The game is decent, it’s a dark adventure games with lots of puzzles. I’m going to admit that I got stuck at some point and haven’t finished it yet though. Over the course of the project I received 47 backer updates. The only iffy part is that this was billed as a trilogy of games, which backers would get all 3 of, and I haven’t heard much about the next two games.

Hero U – Rogue to Redemption

Date of backing: November 2012
Estimated delivery date: October 2013
Actual delivery date: ??

Hero U is another adventure game (noticing a pattern?), this one by the creators of another favourite series – Quest for Glory. Now we’re getting into the games I’m still waiting on. Throughout the process I’ve been getting regular and very detailed back updates (58 so far). There have been a lot of art samples and a lot of discussion of what is going into the design and story of the game. The game is currently 13 months past the estimated delivery date.

The last update did give some solid numbers though. The developers say they have completed: 100% of the design, 85% of the art, 50% of the programming, and have just started the writing. The new tentative delivery date is summer 2015, so the game is in all likelihood going to be delivered 2 years late. I am a bit disappointed with the time frame of this project. I’m no development expert, but considering the scope of the game, 2.5 years for development and delivery seems a bit long, and I’ve reach the point of impatience.

Kona

Date of backing: September 2014
Estimated delivery date: April 2015
Actual delivery date: ??

Kona is an episodic survival adventure game, from a small studio in Quebec. I really like exploration games when they’re well done, and though the though of exploring in the cold, Canadian winter makes me shiver, I really like the concept for this game. I’ve received 16 backer updates so far. It seems like the devs are dealing with financial stuff at this point, which makes me think the April date for episode 1 is a bit of a pipe dream. It is good that they still seem to be raising money though.

Fallen: A2P Protocol

Date of backing: September 2014
Estimated delivery date: March 2015
Actual delivery date: ??

Fallen is a turn-based tactical RPG that’s a cross between Fallout and XCOM. Again, I feel like having a delivery date only 6 months after the project was funded is quite optimistic, though it looks like they’ve already made a playable build. It looks good, though I’m still skeptical about the date.

Something that does not give me warm, fuzzy feelings is that since the project was successfully funded on September 6th, I’ve only received one backer update, and that was more than a month ago. Lack of communication does set off some warning bells.

The Black Glove

The Black Glove is being made by a number of the devs that worked on Bioshock, and you can really tell that by the art and trailers that have been released.  The game looks amazing, right up my alley – the atmosphere and eeriness of Bioshock without the shooting. However, the game is only 27% funded with 7 days left to go. Unless a miracle happens, this may be the first thing I’ve backed that doesn’t get funded. And that makes me sad, because it looks great.


Seven obviously isn’t a huge sample size, but here are some things I’ve learned about backing games on Kickstarter:

  • Take estimated delivery dates with a grain of salt. Or a whole tablespoon of it. Sometimes the estimated delivery date next to the pledge level is not for the actual delivery of the game, but when to start expecting the other rewards. For example, Project Fedora gave me a date of Dec 2012, but that was for digital rewards. In the FAQ section of the project they said they expected a 12-14 month delivery cycle. So it’s tricky to know what you should be expecting when. But even if the date is for the game itself, count on it being late.
  • I’m starting to get wary of episodic games, or projects that promise multiple games. I’m generally pretty confident that the first game/episode will be delivered, but budgeting time and money for multiple releases is harder to pull off. For these projects I feel like I should only back as much as I’d be willing to pay for one release so if the subsequent ones don’t come out, I’m not losing too much.
  • Communication is key. Check to see how many updates are being posted. Updates do tend to be much more frequent during the funding phase than the development phase, but it can still be an indicator of how successful the project will be. I look for updates that show the devs have a very good idea of where they want to take the game, and have things like art or design documents to show backers, or maybe even builds already in progress.
  • Kickstarter is a lot of fun when you’re heavily invested in a project. I checked the Project Fedora page daily as it was being funded, and poured over each backer update with glee. Though my other experiences have generally been positive, none of them have been as exciting as that first one.

Have you backed many games on Kickstarter? How has your experience been?

Project Fedora

I just wanted to take a minute to spread the word about a project currently going on that is near and dear to my gamer heart.

One of my favourite genres of games is adventure, and one of my favorite adventure series is the Tex Murphy series. Tex is a Private Investigator in post-apocalyptic San Francisco. The games combine a detective story, film noir-style and science fiction, with engaging puzzles and witty dialogue.

I still remember the first time I discovered the games. It was 1994 and I was in a Radio Shack. I remember seeing the box for Under a Killing Moon and being astounded by the description on the box and the presence of real people in the game (it’s Full Motion Video). I convinced one of my parents to buy it for me, brought the game home and did the 4-disc DOS installation. As soon as I heard James Earl Jones voicing the intro (and quoting Poe!), I was hooked. I played the hell out that game and enjoyed every minute of it. This was the game that made me appreciate noir and cynical characters and fueled my love of video games. When the next two games, The Pandora Directive and Tex Murphy: Overseer, came out in the following years I eagerly played, and replayed, those as well.

Then, after a cliffhanger conclusion to the last game… Tex disappeared. After 1998 no more games were made in the series. It seemed the whole adventure genre sort of faded away after a while.

But now, Tex has a chance to be battle-rezzed. The creators of the series have started a new adventure game company and are planning on making a new Tex Murphy game – but they need help. On May 15th a Kickstarter project started for Project Fedora, looking to raise money to partially fund the new game. So far they’ve raised almost $250,000. The goal is $450,000 and there are 24 days left.

I wanted to spread the word about this for 2 reasons. The selfish reason is that I really want a chance to play a new game from one of my favourite series. The less selfish reason is that I like the idea of supporting independent game developers.

So, if you also love the Tex Murphy series; haven’t played but think they sound fun (you can check out all the previous games at GoG.com); like to support indy developers; or just have a little extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, you should go check out the Kickstarter page. If the new game looks like something you’d want to play, you could pledge $15 (or more) and you’ll get a digital copy of the game when it is released (and warm, fuzzy feelings from knowing that you helped get it made).