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Fraser Brown's blog
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4:01 PM on 01.02.2013

Eleven games that rocked my world in 2012

Hamza wanted us to share our top ten games of 2012, which is a rather splendid idea as no single list is representative of everyone who works here. Unfortunately, this conflicted with my new year's resolution to not do what I'm told (until after January). In the spirit of the new year and the generally festive season, I'm willing to compromise, however.

So, not quite the requested list, and ten games plus one, which is obviously better than ten games plus nothing. Eleven is better than ten, right?

2012 was a great year for games, at least the ones I had the pleasure of playing. I was still enjoying some of the larger titles of the previous year (The Old Republic, Skyrim) in January, but by February I got my hands on a game I'd been salivating at the prospect of playing for quite some time: Crusader Kings II.

I was doubly excited to try my hand at ruling a vast medieval dynasty as it was going to be my first review at Destructoid. As fate would have it, it also managed to be my favourite title of the year, and undoubtedly the one I've played the most. I completely lost myself in the sociopathic world of old school political intrigue and Machiavellian plotting, and I've yet to find my way out of it.

Perhaps above anything else, I love games that give me the opportunity to craft my own narrative that I can share with people, and CK2 offered that in spades. Every game feels like the beginning of an epic retelling of the fortunes and failures of a, more often than not, completely loony medieval dynasty. It's vast in scope, but relies on paying attention to characters and relationships rather than inflation and land management.

While it might not have kept me playing for nearly as many hours, Telltale's phenomenal The Walking Dead really helped to define the whole period, spread across much of the year as it was. I admit a great deal of scepticism before I actually played it, as the studio's previous offering (Jurassic Park) had done nothing for me, but I ate my words after the first episode.

What it lacked in challenging puzzles it more than made up for in characters and writing. Looking back, I actually struggled more with that than any other adventure game this year, as the emotional challenge was just as effective as any more tangible obstacles. After five reviews I thought I'd be sick of going on about how great it is, but I'd happily talk your ear off about this weighty decision or that heroic sacrifice. It's only my superhuman willpower that allows to refrain.

It may mark the point where many people ultimately soured on the series, but Mass Effect 3 ending BioWare's space opera wonderfully, for me. The forty or so hour experience was the ending that I was hoping for, and the last ten minutes might have been slightly odd and rushed, but everything that came before it was a delight to play.

I connected more with my Shep in 3 than I had in the other two games together, and though it may have overlooked some of my favourite characters from the series, the speedy -- but often satisfying -- farewells and new faces were fine by me. Admittedly, on its own I may not have loved it as much as I do with the weight of the previous titles behind it, but as the end to the trilogy I found it highly engrossing and ultimately one of the most entertaining gaming experiences of the year.

I confess that by this time last year I was getting sick of open world guns and cars playgrounds. I appreciated them, still, but couldn't really get excited by them. Then Sleeping Dogs came along in August and I changed my mind. It combined some of the best ideas from franchises like GTA, True Crime and even Yakuza, slapped on a hell of a lot of polish, set it in stunning Tokyo and I was completely and utterly sold.

It deftly walked the line between being a serious thriller and a wacky action movie. One moment Wei is having nightmares and twitching due to guilt and confused loyalties, the next he's beating a man to death with a fish while dressed up like Bruce Lee -- somehow it just worked. My biggest problem with it was that I wasn't ready for it to end.

Legend of Grimrock makes me thankful for my map making skills, learned during an era when graph paper was as important to my gaming habits as a mouse. While there were quite a few dungeon-laden games knocking about this year, like the awesome Torchlight 2, playing Grimrock is like jumping in the Tardis.

The slow and steady pace, punctuated by occasional horrors jumping out from a side tunnel or some tricky (or deadly) puzzles, put me right back in my parent's pretending to use the computer for "homework", a lie made all the more believable by the graph paper.

XCOM! Sometimes I just like shouting that. I keep forgetting that we really got another XCOM game and that it was absolutely bloody marvellous. It managed to kick my arse and allowed me to send Colonel Sanders (he was a remarkably talented sniper) into battle against aliens, along with a whole heap of people I work with.

The occasional bits of story and chatty chums back at base were a wee bit crap, but inoffensive enough to not mar an otherwise awesome tactical outing. It may not have been quite as ball bustingly tough as its fore-bearers -- though the Classic Iron Man mode would put anyone through their paces -- but the challenge rarely dipped below extremely satisfying.

One of my absolute favourite games of all time -- even the future, probably -- is Star Trek: Bridge Commander. It's a title I replay often and continue to enjoy even after all these years. It's not that good, by which I mean it is definitely good but not replay countless times kind of good. Regardless I think it's groovy as hell. The awesomeness is laid out right there in the title. You command the bridge, Data is your sidekick for several missions, it's Star Trek. I'm reinstalling it tonight.

There's a point to this, though only tangentially -- I really just wanted to bring it up because it's brilliant. Ah yes, the point. Even with the absence of a classic brand like Star Trek, FTL: Faster Than Light managed to boil down the essence of what makes a lot of these space faring sci-fi shows great and what I found so compelling about Bridge Commander. It also goes to a lot more interesting places, namely the world of management sims and roguelikes. The combination works remarkably well, and damn did it kick the absolute shit out of me, but it never for a second stopped being fun as hell.

In the busy realm of multiplayer I was faced with a hell of a lot of disappointments, and it wasn't until the second half of the year that anything tickled my fancy. The Secret World initally grabbed me, but I quickly threw it away and got sick of the emptiness and lack of multiplayer oppurtunities. Guild Wars 2 was definitely the cure.

Great PvP, interesting progression, Shotgun-wielding Charr. I'm still playing it now, despite my short attention span. It kept players together, even when they weren't grouped, always moving from one area with "not-quite-quests" to another, jumping from event to event, and while it didn't eliminate all of the genre's problems, it did manage to hide them behind some fetching curtains. It's unfortunate, then, that I have to split my MMO time up, because I still need a frequent fix of PlanetSide 2.

Three giant battlefields and a war that keeps on going -- it's great stress relief. I wasn't really interested in an MMOFPS until I took it for a spin, and now I'm absolutely hooked. While the constant war is a hoot, it's pretty limited right now. Immensely fun, but just focussed on shooting people and moving to bases.

The long-term plan is pretty damn interesting, though, with resource harvesting and physical harvesters that need to be protected, NPC factions and a seamless ocean between the continents. I'm more than content right now, and I've got my hands full invading industrial complexes and military bases or, more often than not, hiding behind a Sunderer, but it's nice to know there's actually a plan rather than just hoping.

2012 was blessed with not one but two medieval multiplayer duel-fests, pretty much at the same time, to boot. While War of the Roses was great, it was Chivalry: Medieval Warfare that ended up making a more lasting impression on me.

The surprisingly robust melee system and excellent collision detection were admirable, and chopping people up might not be friendly, but it's rather fun. It's got a moat full of emergent gameplay, fantastic maps in striking settings, and a vast array of cruel looking medieval weaponry. I've got a ridiculous number of bloody war stories which I continue to bore people with, and most of them end with someone burning to death or getting thrown off a battlement. The best kind.

Eleven really should have been on my list for our nominations a while back, but I had unfortunately yet to play it at that point. Far Cry 3. has been taking up a not insignificant amount of my time of late. Burning down tropical rainforests and stabbing tigers likely makes me a villain, although a greatly amused one.

The frequent nods to the adventures of Lewis Carroll's Alice, and the subversion of exploitative pulpy and Victorian literature made it surprisingly more nuanced than its predecessors, but it manages to avoid getting stuck in pretension and still offered up a crazy and explosive romp.

Actually, that makes it eleven plus one, even though that "one" is from 2002. Well, that's just good value.   read

6:39 AM on 09.03.2011

A belated introduction

Howdy folks. I'm Fraser, one of the new PC/news interns. I thought I'd jump onto the c-blogs and properly introduce myself before I start appearing on the site. A handful of you might already know me as ImmortalWaster from comments and my blog posts here. I never really got around to writing an intro blog, I just sort of jumped in due to an overwhelming desire to write about Total War: Shogun 2.

I'm from Scotland and right now I'm trapped in our nation's capital of Edinburgh. After getting a useless degree that won't serve a purpose until someone invents a time travelling device I pretty much got stuck here. But it's not so bad, I found a really comfy seat.

I enjoy expensive whiskey, cheap women, dogs that wear hats (particularly top hats, bowler hats and deer stalkers) and daleks.


I can't stand animals that don't talk, spontaneous singing and the many, many individuals who don't laugh at my jokes.

I once smoked shisha with an Iranian bus driver who looked like George W Bush.

Now that you've read my online dating profile and know me as well as any human possibly could, we'll get to the good stuff...


I have my folks to thank for my passion for gaming. If I hadn't been such a trying child they might not have bought me a Game Boy, rather, they would have delighted in my company and I'd be one of those weird chaps who thinks his parents are his best friends. Despite popping my cherry with Nintendo's phenomenal handheld and going on to get most popular consoles, PC gaming is what gets my juices flowing the most. Many of the genres I enjoy the most don't get much love (or plain don't work) on consoles.

Adventure games probably pushed me over the edge. Before I knew of the wonders of Lucasarts I was content to play platformers and not much else. I liked gaming, but we were stuck in the friend-zone. When my parents finally got a PC, which took some persuading, I assure you, I got my grubby little mitts on the first two Monkey Island games and they swallowed me up. A lot of the humour went over my tiny little head and I have no idea how I dealt with some of the more challenging puzzles without the aid of the internet, so I can only assume I was actually a kleptomaniac and was enthralled by the opportunity to pick up lots of crap that didn't belong to me.

I can happily spend an entire day playing a grand strategy/4X game. Honestly, they make my balls tingle more than electrocution. Civ II was my first ever reason for pulling a sicky/skiving school (or whatever your favoured colloquialism is) and I once turned down sex from a lovely, vomit covered young lady, just to play Gal Civ II. I would say I wasn't proud of those moments, but that would be a bold faced lie.

Away with you, woman! I have planets to destroy!

My addiction to 4X games is balanced out by my equally strong addiction to RPGs. I know that there are some folk who bemoan the state of the modern RPG scene, but I genuinely believe that we've never had it so good. Sure, a lot of the practical criticisms levelled at big devs like Bioware and Lionhead by RPG purists are completely valid. A lot of AAA RPGs are incredibly stripped down, but they still appeal to a huge demographic and it's not like their popularity has stopped other devs from creating cracking classic additions to the genre. Avadon: The Black Fortress immediately springs to mind.

Now you know more about me than you could possibly give a shit about, so let's move on to the inappropriate touching. By the way, I like it when people stroke my beard.   read

2:03 PM on 06.02.2011

E3 Approaches: But do I care?

I really wanted to write about how excited I was for E3. I was prepared to gush about what games I want to read about and what announcements I'm waiting for with bated breath. But as I sat down to add to the ever growing lists of people's E3 expectations and predictions, I realised something horrifying. Something that shook me to my very core. I don't really care.

I'll be swept up in the buzz and hype, I have no doubt of that. I'll devour hundreds of videos and articles, I'll hear far too many opinions and form my own, based on the scraps thrown to us by the developers, publishers and press. So yeah, I'll get involved in the excitement. But I'll probably be sighing a lot and thinking I could be doing something a little bit more interesting.

It's not that I don't care about gaming, but E3 isn't for me. It's an industry event. It's for the developers and publishers who want to push their latest product and it's for the press so they have something to relay to us, their hungry readers.

I don't resent that, gamers get their own fantastic conferences. It would be silly to demand that gamers gain admittance. It would be like letting anyone who is ill go to medical conferences for doctors. It's pointless.

Ok ladies. I will promote your wares.

What I do resent, is the build up. Despite the event being a three day affair in June, we have to bloody hear about it all year round. For the rest of the year we'll be discussing the stuff announced at E3, then as if by magic we'll start to hear rumours about new games or new consoles and we'll be told that we'll find out about it at the next E3 or GDC.

Holy shit, a rumour that will be clarified at a conference for the industry along with hundreds of other rumours!? How will we contain our excitement? Let's just read about that one rumour for months, work ourselves up into a frothing madness and eventually be let down. At least it gives us something to do.

Perhaps the industry has become too cynical, or more likely it's just me. But I find it hard to ignore that the biggest gaming event of the year is just a big promotional event. Developers and publishers save up their secrets and announcements for these three days, they get as many members of the press as possible and then they wait for them to get drunk, throw women at them and then speak at them. Awesome.

Now, I've never been to E3. But I've got a pretty good imagination. So I think I have a solid idea of what it's like. Big developers and publishers stomp around the place, they might eat a journalist or two or squash wee developers. When they're tired of the carnage they might shout at a member of the press, perhaps even a whole room filled with them. Then everyone gets alcohol poisoning. While the big shots are sleeping, the smaller developers swoop in, dragging journalists off into the dark places. What happens there is anybodies guess.

I think that I simply don't like to be reminded that my favourite past time is a big, cynical business which depends a great deal on showmanship and hype. It might just be that today is particularly warm and I live in a country where we don't believe in air conditioning. So naturally, I'm grouchy. So I'll just be sitting over here, wanting to ruin your fun, but restraining myself.

However, I don't want to be a total spoilsport, so I'll make an attempt. I'm most excited about seeing more of Skyrim, more of Arkham City and lots of videos of Hamza being drunk.   read

3:25 PM on 05.18.2011

A Mercenary Attitude Towards Companionship

No thanks

There is a particular popular gaming trope that has never gelled with me. Escorting. In the real world this word makes me think of a couple of things: High paid, glamorous women of ill repute, cheap women who don't look like their picture on the back page of a magazine (I want my money back woman!) and heavily armed soldiers/security teams. I don't consider myself either of them. It seems that a lot games want to change that perception I have of myself.

It's a popular mission type in most genres of the medium. From space sims to RPGs and MMOs, and it often appears to be a lot of folks least favorite part of many games it features in. Yet time and again we see it used, I get it, it's a simple catalyst and reason for more conflict. Awesome. Use your damned imaginations, I'm sick of looking after fools. It could be worse, they could be making entire games based around protecting and/or depending on some AI controlled arsehole. Oh, wait...

To be fair, most games based around this simple mechanic try to spice it up. Indeed, they often have success with the formula, Prince of Persia and Ico are both critically acclaimed games. Thing is... I don't like them. Objectively I can see that Ico is an excellent game. It's beautiful, atmospheric and rather clever. But I simply don't give a shit about that blasted woman. The minimalist approach has certainly won over lots of people, but if I'm being tasked with traipsing around with some ethereal lassie and making sure she doesn't do something stupid like die, I need a bit more of a reason other than "that's what you do in this game".

I'm a busy man. I have lots of man business to attend to, things like growing a beard and punching holes in steel. Ico's a kid, escaping a massive fortress is tough enough without having to look after a silly princess. Sure, some might say that saving the damsel in distress from her mum is motivation enough. But if I went around saving every woman I meet from her overbearing mother (and is using your own daughter to prolong your life really the worst thing a parent can do?) then I'd never have time for my aforementioned beard growing and steel punching. Man business doesn't take care of itself, you know.

Then there's Prince of Persia. I don't have a problem with the franchise, I loved the original as a kid, I found it rather brutal, but I was fond of it. The Sands of Time was excellent. Then the others were good for a laugh, but I was getting a bit tired of them. The 2008 version decided to add a new mechanic, a constant companion. I knew before I got it that I'd regret the purchase, but I live in the now. Future be damned. I assumed that future me would be a dick, and thus he could bugger off if he didn't like the game. However, it turned out that future me was splendid and seriously hates past me. Past me is a dick.

Elika, the Prince's companion, is a bit more helpful than Yorda, Ico's ward. She stops you from falling, for one. I'd quite like an attractive Persian woman to stop me from tripping up and making a tit of myself, but as this is a video game all it did was make traversing the world incredibly easy and without much risk. Unlike controlling time in The Sands of Time, she wasn't a tactical option which you used to correct a mistake, she simply saves your arse. She also helps out in battle... a woman? Fighting in my battle? I could barely contain my rage. Misogyny aside, the fights were pretty easy fare. Now, despite my earlier complaints about having to protect damsels and fools I dislike it even more when I have to look after one who can clearly take care of herself. It didn't help that I found both Elika and the Prince to be devoid of any substantial character. At least in Ico the minimalism was by design, in Prince of Persia it's simply bad writing.

For me a companion needs to offer something that isn't a mechanic or a bland personality. I have no problem with the plethora of RPGs that require the hero to build a party. These companions are on equal footing with the hero, but still subordinate, they pull their weight and offer new avenues in the narrative and character development. Also, you usually get to treat your companions how you want. I love taking every opportunity to torture and torment them, then I get them to open up and then laugh at their hopes in and dreams. So I don't necessarily mind companions in games, but I want them on my terms. If that makes me a childish sociopath, then so be it.

With so many games containing at least one escort mission and quite a few built around it has anyone else been driven insane by incompetent or plain dull companions and strangled a kitten or punched an elderly person? I'm not saying I was driven to do either of those things.

Although I might be implying it.   read

7:27 PM on 05.11.2011

It's all about follow through

I've never been the most athletic of men. I live in a country where the national dish is often believed to be "deep-fried anything", my local fish and chip shop had a "if you bring us some food we'll put it in the deep fat frier for you for next to nothing" policy and our weather varies between pissing it down with rain to pissing it down with rain while the wind tries to knock you over. This, as you can imagine, is hardly conducive to any sport that involves braving the elements. Despite this, I did give a few sports a shot. One of them was golf. When I wasn't golfing the most athletic I got was bowling. Yeah, I was a regular athlete. I didn't really learn much from either of these exercises in frustration. In fact I probably only learned one thing. It's all about follow through. That's what my golf coach always said, and coincidentally it's what the creepy old man who owned the bowling alley said as well. If I'd taken their advice to heart then I might have become a slightly better golfer and bowler. I also might have finished more video games. Ah ha, I hear you cry. This rambling paragraph finally starts to make sense. It's all about video games.

I couldn't begin to count the number of games I've started, yet failed to complete. Even games I really enjoyed. It's odd, because other things I like, masturbation for instance, I always finish to completion. I never used to think about this much. I thought it was completely normal. Especially when I was a wayward child. Those unrepentant imps have famously short attention spans. It wasn't until I started to live with other gamers that I started to recognise I might need to start working on this issue. Over the years I've lived with five people who loved to game, while we all had our favourite genres and didn't always like the same games, we had enough in common so that we often split the cost of new releases. We were students, it was a smart move. Without fail, these dedicated men and women would complete whatever game we had just purchased in one foul swoop. OK, that's a bit dramatic and slightly untrue. But they would always complete the game before moving on to something else. I rarely followed suit and they started to notice. More often than not, I'd simply get another game and start investing time in that, leaving my unconquered purchases to lesser men. I wish I could say that it ended in an epic intervention, with my friends and family confronting me, making me cry and then solving all the worlds tiny problems. Instead they just laughed at my inability to finish anything and left me to my foibles.

It wasn't a simple matter of being physically unable to finish these games. Other than Demon's Souls and Super Meat Boy I haven't been especially challenged by a video game in years. It wasn't because I didn't like the games either, sure, there were some that I didn't enjoy, but for the most part that wasn't what stopped me from finishing them. I think that the main problem was that I found many games to be very disposable. There was simply no reason for me to finish them. I don't care about achievements or trophies and I certainly don't care about bragging rights. Even if the game was very fun there's always another fun game out there for me to try and unless I'm genuinely invested in a game, especially the characters, then I would move on to the next game.

Now, this is not to say that I never complete a game. I spend a huge amount of time gaming and a significant amount of money on gaming purchases, if I've only completed 10% of the games I've owned that's still a vast amount of games, but it's not great. I need a good reason to get to the end. I've completed every single Bioware game, other than the Sonic DS one. They always have great characters and interesting setting even when the stories aren't the best. In general I tend to complete most western RPGs actually. More recently I completed Red Dead Redemption (I also completed Red Dead Revolver, but it was as short as it was awesome, so that's not exactly an achievement) in a couple of sittings. I adored John Marston, I'm a whore for Sergio Leone and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I also managed to get 100% in Assassins Creed II a wee while ago. Now, while I enjoyed that game immensely, my reason for forcing myself to get full completion had little to do with the game itself. My flatmate had managed to get 99% or there about, he ended up getting sick of looking for the last feather and gave up. When he told me this, something odd happened. I got competitive. I'm not naturally like that, my flatmate is the alpha male in our abode, not me. But for once I wanted to be the boss. I know, what the hell? I'm an odd chap. It's hardly the most masculine way to assert my dominance either. My victory was pretty hollow, though. He certainly didn't care. That was hard to accept. I got pretty huffy. Upon getting all of the feathers I got a new cloak which was completely pointless (not just because I'd already finished the game) and a trophy that I couldn't care less about. While I had enjoyed the game and I was actually happy about finishing it, I was not happy about wasting my time completing every aspect of it. Now every time I look back on it and remember the fun I had, I also remember the boredom of hunting down some stupid feathers for Ezio's depressed mother. Ugh.

I have, however, changed my tune. It has nothing to do with the time wasting feather hunt of Assassins Creed II though. I love Steam. I'm not randomly inserting that statement into my post just because I want to express my delight in Valve's digital distribution service. Although I do, and I am. I have 113 games on Steam (actually I have more like 120, but some of them are bundled together, like the Space Quest series). Almost all of them were bought due to sales that I could not turn down, I do love a good bargain, it's the frugal Scot in me. Every time I load it up they sit there mocking me. I've completed very few of them, and I simply can't ignore this fact. Whenever I want to play one, all the others peer right into my soul and make me cry. At least I'm able to hide all of my Wii games, none of which I've completed (maybe my worst crime), not so with my Steam games. So I decided to take action. I dyed my body blue, much like my ancestors before they went to beat up some other angry blokes, spiked up my hair in a terrifying fashion and then started to shout and scream at my PC. After a little while I realised that this wasn't making much of a dent in my game library. So I started playing them with one goal: To complete every single game in my Steam library. Even the ones that aren't very good, I'm looking at you Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (to be fair the remake of Butcher Bay was quite good). That's about 90 games, though a few of them are MMOs or games like Civ, so they can never be finished. When I need to take a break I go and sit on my comfortable seat and fire up one of my consoles to tackle those games as well. This might be my last year on Earth, I have no doubt that trying to complete so many games in quick succession will end me, but you know what? I'm ok with that. It needs to be done. Because I discovered follow through.

Not my ancestor

In hindsight making this post was a rookie mistake, I'm trying to play Alpha Protocol today, and it needs all my resolve, because, frankly, it's sort of shite. I'd much rather be playing Bully, like Conrad Zimmerman in his valiant attempt to get through his own backlog.   read

12:22 PM on 04.06.2011

The FMV Gumshoe

While I hate to admit it, over the years I have realised that I lack any real skill when it comes to adventure games. I don't solve problems, I usually make them and then run away from the inevitable fire and potential dismemberment. But that has never stopped me from trying, and to this day the genre is one of my absolute favourites. There is never a time where I don't have a few adventure titles on my hard drive. Most of my first games were adventure titles, on the PC at least, like the Monkey Island series, the classic Sierra landmark games like Kings Quest and Space Quest and yes, even Leisure Suit Larry (although looking back I was clearly to young for LSL, and it probably speaks volumes about my disturbed mindset now). Now thanks to developers like Telltale I'm still able to enjoy excellent quality adventure games. With digital distribution outlets like Steam and GOG I'm also able to relive my fond memories of the old classics. However, and this is thanks to GOG specifically, it also reminded me of one adventure sub genre which I had never really invested much time in: FMV adventure games.

It wasn't that I actively avoided them or had some inexplicable deep seeded resentment towards them which could only be dealt with through extensive and expensive therapy. They just never took my interest. At the time these games had their golden age I had drawn a very definite line between the thespian enterprises I witnessed on my crappy TV or in my local cinema and games. Even then it was a silly line, and now the line has been smudged beyond recognition, but forgive me, I was an ignorant child. It didn't help that I simply didn't think they looked very good, aesthetically. FMV quality wasn't exactly the best and the characters often contrasted starkly with the CG environments. This was all despite the fact that one of my first PC games was a fantastic FMV adventure called Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective..

For those that know it I need say no more, but not everyone will have had the good taste to play it. It was more of an interactive story driven by interviews conducted by Holmes than a traditional adventure game. There were three cases, unique to the game and all were exactly the sort of thing one would expect Holmes to be involved in. Investigating was pretty simple stuff, you would interview witnesses, suspects and anyone else that could help, gather evidence in your notebook and read the paper for new clues. Nothing ground breaking, but the FMV quality was quite good and it was all FMV, so there were none of the dodgy CG sets some games were plagued with. At the end of your investigation you would go before a judge, he would ask you questions about the case and if you answered correctly then you "won". Just like British courts today! Looking back it seems a bit arbitrary and silly, as even if you had answered everything correctly and it was clear you had solved the case there was always a final question and if you were wrong that was it, you'd have to go back to investigating until you could answer it, even if you knew who committed the murder and could prove it. But at the time it didn't really bother me, I rather liked the fact that even though you had solved the crime you still had to prove it to the Judge. It made it seem a lot more immersive. But as much as I liked it, that was my one and only brief foray into FMV games. Until last year.

The wonderful bastards at GOG always seem to remind me of the classics I missed and it was no different when they released the Tex Murphy games, specifically Tex Murphy: Under A Killing Moon. Now, I was aware of the existence of said game before GOG added it, but as biased as I was when it came to FMV games I had never really taken notice. The premise should have sold me, but I was a fool. Tex Murphy is a sarcastic, bitter, somewhat sleazy, cliche of a PI which a penchant for fedora's, flasher macs and hideous white tennis shoes (they are rather comfy). He's awesome. His beat is San Francisco, but not the happy go lucky San Francisco of today, rather the radioactive, mutant ridden San Francisco of the future. The reviews were just as glowing as they had been back in the day, people still adored the game and it was on sale. I had nothing to do and I was pretty bored of playing the same sort of crap over and over again, so I decided to take a risk and get it. The risks I usually take often end in disaster, like buying a car from a homeless guy or agreeing to carry someones suitcase through customs. So imagine my surprise when buying Under A Killing Moon didn't end up with me either in a car accident or in prison for smuggling drugs and organs.

I've played few games which are such a perfect mix of self aware cliche and cleverness. It's got everything you'd expect from an adventure game, lots of dialogue, puzzles, problem solving and a good dose of kleptomania. The dialogue (and the acting) is all fairly terrible, but oh so very self aware. Every line is full cliches from film noire and detective novels but also a surprising amount of wit, Tex is hilarious and often brutally sarcastic and the other actors do a good job of being memorable. The over acting, which is rather prevalent, seems perfectly at home in Murphy's bizarre world, and it helps make the game feel more alive because the FMV really shows it's age. The case is mutilayered and has a good amount of twists and surprises, it's all well paced and the puzzles are all logical, often rather fun and most of them are easy, which is good because as I mentioned before, I'm a bit shit at these games. It's got everything one could want from an adventure title: elephant trunk-nosed snitches, dead clowns in barrels of toxic waste, the hero committing credit card fraud for shits and giggles, tennis shoes and a crusade against mutants (where the fuck are the X-Men when you need them?). Now the flood gates have opened and I grabbed Gabriel Knight 2 (I've played 1 and 3 and loved them, even if 3 was very flawed) and Phantasmagoria. I could wax poetic about these games for quite some time, but I've written enough for now.

So I ignored these games for most of my life due to the aesthetic and now that the aesthetic is terribly dated and completely out of fashion I adore them. Either I'm becoming a dirty rotten hipster or I've suffered a revelation. Regardless, if you never really got into FMV adventure games you should give them another chance, or at the very least give Under A Killing Moon a chance. I'm sure you won't regret it, and if you do, don't blame me. I'm an idiot.   read

9:44 AM on 03.24.2011

I've pissed off Japan and I didn't even make a tasteless earthquake joke

I knew it was late. It wasn't that I had any real concept of time, I didn't, but I vaguely remembered chatting to a mate on Steam at 2am and that seemed like ancient history. If anyone had come across me at this ungodly hour and asked me, in that annoying, condecending way people always use when you are up late, what time it was, then I would have replied "1561". So at least I knew what year it was, at least in Shogun 2. In the back of my mind I recalled a meeting I was meant to go to in the afternoon, but that didn't really seem important in the grand scheme of things. My mundane responsabilites would have to take a back seat to my dreams of conquest.

In my role as the Daiymo of the Shimazu clan I was a pretty solid leader, perhaps even Shogun material. I rapidly expanded our territory and swiftly wiped out all of the weak clans on Kyushu but didn't stand for looting after capturing cities. I was a fair and merciful leader. Of course that all stopped when those bloody foreigners started to manipulate my weak-minded citizens. My enemies had created ports and churches which encouraged that dasterdly foreign religion known as Christianity. Before I knew it I had rebellions coming out of every perceivable orifice. "Enough is enough!" I said. I actually did say this, I stomped my foot, punched my wall and slapped my PC and yelled it loud enough so that my flatmate joined in by punching his wall. At least I think he joined in. He might have just been telling me to shut the fuck up in punch code.

It was winter and three of my provinces had rebel infestations. I had refused to lower taxes, I wouldn't train any priests and I was trying to stem the tide of religious conversions. I had a lot of rather miffed members of the JC fan club. So I did what any wise, fair and generally intolerant leader would do. I burned down the churches, I destroyed the ports and I gathered my troops and slaughetered my own people. This violent and generally unecessary crusade was rewarded with an event which sped up the conversion of my large Christian population to Shinto-Buddhism. Job done, back to domination.

As I continued on my march to Kyoto my foes did everything they could to slow down my steamroller style progress. They used small armies as bait to lure me into ambushes, during battles they always seemed to find a way to the high ground or forests where their plethora of hidden archers could rain down hell on my exhausted troops, they actually bothered to flank me (AI actually flanking!? In Total War!?), they would split up their forces to attack from all directions and attack in well thought out phases. They really were a wily bunch. But they were AI and this was still Total War, so I soon had Kyoto in my sights.

Unforuntely, our dear Shogun was of a nervous and paranoid disposition. He had got it into his head that I was about to take over Kyoto. Smart chap. Within a turn I had gone from having one almost wiped out foe to having every single clan, apart from my one ally, gunning for me. A smarter, more patient fellow would have slowed down, consolidated his forces and slowly chipped away until he created a buffer zone between his foes and Kyoto. I'm stupid. So I decided, fuck caution, I carved a straight line through my enemies towards Kyoto, ignoring everything else.

It all went rather well. That is, if "rather well" means I was cornered into a city with few defenses and surrounded by nine armies belonging to three different clans, with reinforcements on the way. I managed to hold on to the city until the battle ended. Most of my archers were dead, fleeing or out of ammunition. I frantically searched for a button that would allow me to throw dead bodies or simply piss on the invaders, but alas. Despite the losses I'll admit to a certain cockiness after such a close victory. I had another army on the way, and my one ally was sending reinforcements. I actually thought I could hold out. I would, at this point, like to reiterate something I mentioned earlier. I'm stupid.

My reinforcements were ambushed on the way, they managed to come out of the battle victorious, only to be defeated by a second army which had fled after the failed siege. The reinforcements from my ally turned back to free one of it's cities which had been conquered by a very sneaky army. I was fucked. I took a deep breath, lit a cigarette, saved the game and switched of the PC. I looked up for the first time in a while. It was 7am. I took a shower, had breakfast and made my meeting. I didn't think about Shogun 2 at all.

Now I'm venting.

The venting is now over.

Shogun 2 really is Creative Assembly at their peak. While Rome remains my personal favourite, that is as much due to the historical period as anything else. Objectively, I do feel that Shogun 2 is the best game in the entire franchise. It's quite a relief to see that, after creating the worst Total War game, they went and made the best. It's a ridiculously addictive, intuitive, smooth and pretty goregous game and I just felt like sharing my experience with it so far. Because, underneath all the strategy and warfare, it's also a game where you can craft an epic story. I think it does that better than any other Total War game and, indeed, I can think of few examples in the entire genre that do it so well.

On a slightly more serious note, despite the levity of this post's title, my heart goes out to everyone in Japan and everyone who has friends and loved ones over there.   read

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