Tex Murphy: Overseer is considerably more polished than the two “previous” games (Under a Killing Moon and The Pandora Directive). The visuals are much better and control has been improved. However, the game is considerably easier (occasionally to the point of silliness) and includes some downright terrible puzzles.
The interface and control are much better. Menus pop up when you move the mouse to any edge of the screen, so everything is readily accessible. There’s finally a strafe button, so while you can’t really control Tex like an FPS, movement is much more convenient. The notion of switching between roaming and a point and click mode has been dropped. Instead, you’re always in point and click mode, and can move freely. This also means the graphics are considerably more crisp in all scenes, at the expense of reduced roaming area (there’s no longer an option to wander the street)
Hotspot interaction is now done with a contextual menu which pops up, showing all possible actions. That makes it slightly more difficult to find the “interesting” crate (unlike Pandora Directive where you could scan the mouse and look for actions to light up) but that wasn’t a problem in practice.
Finally, like Pandora and unlike Moon, you don’t need to position yourself awkwardly or search all the trash cans to find clues. Objects are located in reasonable places, which is a blessing because some scenes are very detailed.
Graphics are considerably better than the previous installments. The movies are higher resolution, the scenes are more detailed and look more crisp and the acting’s considerably improved (except for Chelsea, but her main role is to look pretty anyway).
The story is good, in an absolute sense, though it doesn’t stand up to the standard of the previous titles. I felt the atmosphere was somewhat lacking due to the very sparse use of music and due to the less structured storytelling. Days weren’t clearly cued, and the framing story really served no purpose in the end - the game interleaved it during cutscenes in a way that seemed haphazard and pointless.
Characters’ motivations are often vague. The game casts some doubt about whose intentions are pure, but because it’s ultimately not resolved and has no real effect on the story, it just ends up being confusing instead of adding depth to the characters.
The puzzles are the most problematic part of the game. Like previous games, you find evidence, talk to people, reconstruct damaged evidence and solve all manner of standalone puzzles. However, despite playing at the “Gamer” setting (which in Pandora was punishingly difficult), this time it was very easy to solve puzzles under the time limit on the first try. Don’t get me wrong, save-scumming is not fun, but there’s something off about a “hardcore” mode where you can figure out the rules AND find the solution quickly enough to get the maximum score on the first try, every time.
In case the puzzles themselves weren’t easy enough, the game downright solves things for you often. Sometimes Tex’ narration tells you what to do (“I should try X on Y now”) as soon as you face a challenge. Other times, instead of giving you means to figure something out, you just find a note that has a solution spelled out. For instance, a part of the game is figuring out passwords to computer systems. At some point the game just thrusts a piece of paper with all the passwords at you, and that’s it.
Moreover, inventory items disappear when they’re no longer needed (which threw me off at first, I thought it was a bug). That makes the game a lot easier, as you have very few “live” inventory items at any given moment.
To offset this, unlike Pandora, the game won’t let you overlay the clue to a puzzle over the puzzle itself. For some reason, as a player you have to copy down text from an item in your inventory, then approach the puzzle and refer to your own note. What this adds beyond annoyance, I don’t know. It’s especially infuriating near the end, where if you attempt to exit the puzzle to view your inventory (not expecting to need to refer to it), you die and have to reload a saved game.
Puzzles themselves, when not too easy, are often annoying. There’s one maze-like puzzle that could serve as the definition of unfun - beyond the maze aspect it requires some reflexes and good mouse precision. Another puzzle near the end actually astonished me by being a worse chess-based puzzle than the one in Broken Sword - it’s a proper chess puzzle, except it plays like a dialogue puzzle. You have to choose moves from a list that never changes, and the “solution” has the computer responding stupidly to one of the moves. In other words, chess skill actually works against you - if you find a side solution or try to figure it out reasonably, you’re doomed to fail.
Like the others, this game has some stealth sequences. Most of them are pretty easy, except for one where you’re sneaking around when someone’s in the shower - the idea is good but you often get killed without really understanding what you did wrong (and to be honest, even after finishing it I’m not sure what the problem was).
There are a couple of dead ends of sorts, but they require replaying about 30 seconds, and the game warns you that you should search the area well.
The game suffers from some technical issues. To run it I’ve had to work around a bug in the game’s loader. Then, late in the game there was a game-crashing bug where you had to run around staring at the floor, lest the view of the wall crash the game. There were other cases where the game got stuck or crashed. The good news is there’s some sort of autosave for those cases, so you don’t lose a lot of progress.
All in all, it’s a fine game. I might’ve liked it even more had its predecessors not proved a Tex Murphy game can be a lot more than what it was. Still, a very solid game.
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Time Played: 10-20 hours