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PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to The Best Free Games of the Week">you can do it







Free games are amazing, and the wide world of gaming is a wildly better place for all the wonderful interactive stories and goal-based games and exploratory oddities I've encountered over the last couple of years. While angry types grumble about 'walking simulators' and interactive fiction and having to look at games featuring pixel art, those of you with open minds may join me after the break. Read on for strange climbing, a different kind of haunted house, a dusty city, extreme berry-picking and more.



StrangeClimber by Strangethink Play it online here







StrangeClimber generates a climbing frame your very own jungle gym for you to clamber about on, in order to achieve that most noble of goals: being at the top of a big thing. It's a first-person platformer! But before you remember how everyone is supposed to hate those, try and remember how kinda-fun Far Cry 3's tower-climbing bits were. Now remove all of Far Cry 3's bullshit, replace the radio towers with vast procedurally generated structures with multiple routes up above, and colour in the geometry with your very best purple felt tip. Now you have a damn Strangethink videogame.



Dust City by Kitty Horrorshow Download it here







'Wow' is a word which here means 'What Tom said when he loaded up Kitty Horrorshow's Dust City', and I'll add to that peculiarly specific definition with the following sentence. Dust City recalls Morrowind, Quake and Pathologic, or at least it did for me: it's an atmospheric, alien wandering game where you encounter ancient stuctures in a barren crater. Decipher glyphy things, dodge bladey things, find passcodes and admire the (bleak) sights as you attempt to piece together where you are and what went wrong in Dust City.







Intimate, Infinite by Robert Yang Download it here







I'll admit to not having much of a clue what the fragmented on-screen narration was going on about here Intimate, Infinite is based on a Luis Borges short story, so I guess it's best to read that first but I enjoyed exploring its handful of scenes, which include a lovely moonlit forest and a game of chess against a disinterested bloke sitting opposite (complete with interactively slurpy glass of wine). My wrist wasn't too pleased with me holding the left mouse button down forever to slowly...trudge...along a train track, but Intimate does interesting things with its sporking narrative structure if you come at it with a bit (well, OK, a lot) of patience.



Curtain by dreamfeel Download it here







dreamfeel describes Curtain as "a lo-fi narrative about destructive relationships", and that's a good summation so I'm nicking it. The only (hyphenated) word I take issue with is 'lo-fi', as there must be some advanced game development magic going on behind the scenes to present a 3D world with such striking, animated pixel art. It's a woozy and unsettling game of investigation, as you return to an old flat tainted by horrible events. The garish, queasy art is a perfect fit for the story, which delves into, to quote dreamfeel again, "non-explicit themes of abuse". Please be wary of that going in: this is not a nice world to be in, and the game captures the lurching feeling of being trapped in an unfriendly, haunted environment perfectly.



Mouse Corp. by thecatamites Download it here







Mouse Corp sets you loose in a hilly, patchwork world filled with delicious berries, sentient bushes, caves and dreams and jerks trying to steal all your stuff. It's a thecatamites game, in other words, and if you've played any of Stephen Murphy's other titles (such as Goblet Grotto) you should already be downloading Mouse Corp as I type this. Murphy describes Corp as "3d mouse adventure-simulation, like Seven Cities Of Gold transplanted to the universe of Sonic The Hedgehog. There is lots of chance to wander and discover, as well as murder, sleep, deface gravesites and listen to records", also known as a typical Bristol Saturday night. As a trio of hunter-gatherers, your role is to subdue the wandering berry bushes and rob them of their fruit, while avoiding nasty thieves attempting to plunder your bulging sack. A silly, joyful, gorgeous, colourful and technically accomplished game, with a soundtrack that's still lodged in my head.



Like most of this week's games, Mouse Corp is available on a pay-what-and-if-you-want basis over on itch.io, so if you've enjoyed this week's selection and you'd like to support the developers, consider throwing a shiny shilling or two their way.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to The Long Dark makes the perilous trek to Steam Early Access in September">The Long Dark







Andy was impressed when he got his frostbitten hands on The Long Dark, so the news that it's heading to Steam Early Access soon is reason to be cheerful. (Unless it arrives a bit too broken to enjoy, of course.) Developers Hinterland Games have announced the date on which we can expect the game, along with details of what the Early Access version will entail. September 22nd is the entry to circle in your diary with your last remaining ounce of energy, giving the people that find your corpse plenty to chew on as they poke around in your cabin and pilfer your supplies.







You'll be able to sample The Long Dark's Sandbox mode when the game hits Early Access, which offers a slice of the Canadian wilderness to try and survive in, providing "dozens of hours of survival simulation", according to Hinterland. The developers have also stated that they'll "be announcing some exciting new content updates as we get closer to the Early Access launch date. Players can expect new gameplay systems, new gear, and several new locations to explore, as well as some other fun surprises". (Thanks, Polygon.)



A new set of screenshots, below, shows how the game is shaping up.



















PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Eldritch gets free Asylum expansion to celebrate H.P. Lovecraft’s birthday">eldritch expansion







H.P. Lovecraft isn't quite alive enough to enjoy his birthday anymore, so Eldritch developers Minor Key Games have taken it upon themselves to bake him a cake, then toss it into their procedurally generated dungeon. By this I mean they've added some H.P. Lovecrafty stuff to their roguey, stealthy dungeon crawler Eldritch, and they've done so free of charge. The Asylum expansion is the biggest New Thing, but you can also expect trading cards, achievements, leaderboards and more should you decide to load up the game.



The 'Happy Birthday, Lovecraft!' update makes the following changes to the game:



Added Asylum expansion

Added Steam trading cards

Added Steam achievements

Added Steam leaderboards

Fixed Steam screenshots in OpenGL

Fixed Mac savegame crashes

Improved voxel lighting

Improved audio occlusion

Improved display of keys/buttons

Improved display of FOV





It's not entirely clear what the Asylum expansion entails, but if it's anything like the previous free DLC, Mountains of Madness, we can expect a new dungeon, along with new enemies and items and all that jazz. It's wonderful that Minor Key are still releasing free content for Eldritch, even as they work on their next games: You Have to Win the Game sequel Super Win the Game, and Neon Struct, a "political thriller stealth game" that looks pretty damned intriguing.



Let's all watch Eldritch's reveal trailer again, because it always brings a smile to my face.



PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Saturday Crapshoot: Titanic: Adventure Out Of Time">tit_head







Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, a lost adventure about a lost adventure where ship happened and the world was never the same.



Frank Carlson is the unluckiest man in the history of gaming. A spy in 1912, assigned to the Titanic, he survived the sinking only to be fired from the OSS and end up alone in the Second World War, in a room he can't even afford. On his desk, just a tarot card - Death - representing, as ever, cliche. In his desk drawer, a ticket... for the Hindenberg. And just when everything seems at its worst, a bomb goes off outside his window. Do not stand anywhere near Frank Carlson. I mean it. Nowhere.



But wait. A game about the Titanic? That starts in the Second World War? I smell time travel! Not to mention the far, far more obscure, yet beloved by people who played it, spiritual cousin of The Last Express. Some years, it's best to just stay home. Frank doesn't even get to draw a naked lady...



Okay, Frank. Fourth time lucky! What could possibly go wrong on a plane with you, the Big Bopper AND Buddy Holly?



Titanic is a really interesting game that deserves to be much better remembered than it is. It came out a year before That Movie rather than trying to latch onto it, but does an almost equally impressive job of recreating the ship in an interactive form. As part of that, it has two modes, the main adventure and a separate tour mode for simply poking around and admiring the scenery. It's not full 3D, but its use of short animated jumps between nodes and spinny-roundy-3D-looky-pokey interface makes it possible to get up close and personal with much of it, in detail far beyond what most people were rendering back in 1996.



When I say that it's like The Last Express, I'm not kidding. It's a much bigger environment, but shares many of the same ideas, including lost artefacts, characters who go about their own business instead of just standing around (though not to a running clock, as in that game), and a direct connection between a fateful last voyage and the upcoming war - up to and including one of the passengers on the Titanic being a Serbian revolutionary working with the Black Hand. His name is however "Vlad Demonic", which loses him a few points. It's also got a bit of interesting history behind it itself. Frank Carlson was the name of an actual passenger who never made it on board the ship, though probably not one who subsequently time-travelled back for a second ride. If he did though, it didn't go very well. As we'll see.



"The past. Forever locked in regret. But what if the past could be changed?"



I would definitely steal back the hours of my life spent watching Transformers 2, for starters.



Let me just put a towel on here and... there! By law of Bagsie, this lifeboat is mine!



It's worth noting though that the objective isn't to save the Titanic itself, which is doomed, but to deal with the conspiracies and mysteries on board it that will have a major effect on the future - Carlson's first trip having gone badly wrong when he left his cabin at a crucial point. So, there's no running straight for the nearest lifeboat and disappearing into the night with a cry of "So long, suckers!"



Instead, your job is to catch up with fellow spy Penny Pringle... that is her name... and go an entire game without saying the inevitable. She's not exactly a fan of yours and wastes no time before launching into complaints that "Some idiot booked me into Second Class." But she is an interesting demo of Titanic's animation style, which combines 3D models with photos for a kind of puppet look that's almost as unusual as The Last Express' art deco stop-motion, though admittedly nowhere near as good. It does however allow for more movement, including blinking and head turning during movement, animated lips without the need for full FMV, and for some interesting details like filling the gaps between dialogue options with a "You were saying?" rather than just The Glassy Stare Of Doom. If you've ever played an adventure with portraits, you know The Glassy Stare Of Doom. She's also a little older than your average sexy game spy, with a very proper tone - never moreso than when dismissing a German for spending all day "eating... pastries..." Say it in the tone that everyone else would use for "swimming naked in Marmite".



"I want to draw you, like one of my French girls." "I want to practice un-anaesthetised castration. How about I go first?"



Thank goodness she never had to deal with James Bond. "Once you pop, you can't stop..." indeed.



The initial quest is a hunt for the The Rub iy t of Omar Khayyam, stolen and in the possession of a German colonel aboard the ship, though it quickly turns out that the ship is full of crazy people, including an upper class lady... trying to steal a diamond necklace... a very large medium, an angry missionary, and as mentioned, a Serbian revolutionary called "Vlad Demonic". There are bad English accents. There are bad Irish accents. There are lots of very twitchy faces, and a very hasty explanation of why the ship seems to have about 20 people on board rather than around 2000 - it's late at night, and so everyone not relevant to the plot is in their rooms. Ahem. But it works, and at least gets a handwave.



The actual adventure is okay, full of spying and tracking down items and even a couple of mini-games - fencing and poker. It's the recreation of the ship that's the most impressive though... thankfully combined with a map that allows for a bit of teleporting... and with lots of random appearances by the characters that adds a certain life to what could so easily have been nothing but boring flat backgrounds. By modern standards they're empty, but this was 1996.



"Can I draw you like one of my French girls?" "If you like, dahling, but isn't it usually the model who gets naked?"



The iceberg is always getting closer of course, and at around the midway point of the game the Titanic inevitably hits it - right when you're in the middle of a showdown with the evil German colonel. At this point an actual timer starts up and it's a race to get off the ship. But it's not quite that easy. During the first half it becomes clear that there's more than simply a book at stake - there are four artefacts on board, and all of them have potentially disastrous implications for the future. Take for instance the diamond necklace collected earlier on. If Vlad Demonic... sigh... gets away from the ship with it, he takes it to the Black Hand and uses it to finance the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. So, that sounds familiar. But, take the Rub iy t. The German colonel's plan is to trade it for a painting that is not, sadly, The Fallen Madonna With Ze Big Boobies by Van Klomp. It's possible to steal this from the cargo hold, or if you get there too late, to get it back later on - as said, there's a heavy time element to Titanic, if not as strong a one as The Last Express. But it turns out that while the painting contains war plans, they're essentially irrelevant next to the real importance of it... which is a little implausible, admittedly, but still a reasonable twist.



"As for the painting, it left with me. The plans proved useless. In the month following the sinking, the War Office scrapped the proposed deployments in a cost-cutting measure. But the canvas - as the only artifact saved from the Titanic, the painting became famous, along with its creator, a rather excitable Austrian named Adolf Hitler, who makes a lucrative career to this day peddling overpriced Alpine vistas to the carriage trade."



There are nine endings in total, where the combination of artefacts retrieved and lost can create a peaceful future, a familiar one, or alternate timelines where the Russians and Germans rise to dominance. Except actually in Germany, where all mentions of Hitler were removed as per usual.



"You, I think I'll just remember."



I haven't gone through the full game as with a lot of adventures, because this is one where the overall plot is less interesting than the main sweep of the game - a genuinely inspired take on the Titanic story that treats it respectfully, while still spinning off into cool new directions. The time travel side in particular accepts that everyone, except the people who complained about spoilers for the James Cameron version, already knows how this is going to go, and finds a new way to bring importance to it that it actually sells pretty well, despite a bit of goofiness with psychics and gator cards. It's a rare case where real history is considered the bad timeline, with two wars and a Revolution, and the quest is to put right what officially went 'wrong'. Even so, most of the endings are pretty miserable, with Carlson either drowning or being taken out by everything from the Nazis to an A-Bomb. That's almost Singularity level cock-up.



The historical parts though make up a very well researched tale. Clips from the game's version of the sinking have been used on TV and details like the presence of a copy of the Rub iy t of Omar Khayyam are true to life. It's also possible to miss the lifeboats but still be trapped on the ship for a while before it actually sinks... and unlike The Last Express, there's no easy time-rewinding. Unless you count reloading old saves. The technology of the time doesn't really allow for really feeling like you're on board the Titanic, but the developers did a great job with what they had. Which in 1996, was not very much technology at all. (The game is so old, the installer only reluctantly offers a DirectX mode, openly warning that it might screw things up and recommending its own technology instead. If only games of this vintage were so generous when it came to QuickTime...)



The game has never been re-released, and the company that made it is long, long gone. It struck a chord with fans though, who have gone to some lengths to make it playable with installers, and a complete Java version here. It's a couple of CDs worth of download, emulating Windows 3.1 to make it work, but it runs well and allows for things like saving and loading. (Obviously, if GOG ever gets it, buy it.) Failing that, here's a full playthrough thanks to the YouTube. As you can see, the acting is... uh... crap. But the game as a whole deserves to be played if you have any interest in history, adventure or otherwise - a very ambitious, clever step back in time that deserves its cult following, and a fair bit more besides.



PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to EA Sports promises dire consequences for FIFA Ultimate Team cheaters">Buying







With FIFA 15 just a month away, EA Sports has issued a rather stern warning to people giving thought to cheating in FIFA Ultimate Team. The publisher said it will be "more proactive in taking action" against bots, coin sellers, match cheats and other exploits, and players caught cheating could find themselves permanently banned from the game.



The bots used by some players to farm coins and automatically buy items from the Transfer Market are able to perform searches and make bids "at rates significantly higher than what is humanly possibly," EA explained. But that not only gives people using bots a big advantage over those who don't, it also puts a much greater strain on the FIFA Ultimate Team infrastructure than it was designed to handle, leading to problems like stuck transfers, lost coins or players, or market searches that turn up no results. And with or without bots, buying and selling coins is a violation of the terms of service and "amounts to cheating in FIFA Ultimate Team," it added.



To ensure that everyone knows where they stand, EA provided a breakdown of its ban process. Players caught buying coins or promoting coin sellers will first be given a warning in-game and via email; a second offense will lead to the loss of FIFA points and a club reset, while a third offense will result in a permanent ban from FIFA Online. Anyone caught farming or selling coins will be permanently banned from all EA games without warning.



Immediate, permanent FIFA Online bans will also be levied against players caught using match cheats to record false records, as well as anyone busted using exploits to boost the stats of their Online Virtual Pros in Pro Clubs. The FIFA Interactive World Cup leaderboards are also being "cleaned bi-weekly for cheaters."



"From here on we ll be more proactive in upholding our Terms of Service and banning those who violate the Terms of Service. We plan on giving you regular updates on our progress against cheaters throughout the year," the warning concluded. If you're a FIFA player, you'll probably want to read the whole thing.





PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to World of Warplanes adds PvE bots, improved ground targets and a new map">World of Warplanes 8







The trouble with breaking into a game like World of Warplanes is that most of the people you run up against have been playing for months or years already, and are going to use that experience to smack you around mercilessly and it's hard to get a feel for your fighter if you're being blown out of the sky every 45 seconds. That's a shortcoming the new 1.5 patch goes a long way toward addressing with the introduction of a new PvE mode creatively entitled "Battle Against Bots."



The new game mode, which will "follow its own unique rules and settings," lets players to team up and take on a fleet of AI-controlled enemies. "This new mode will be a perfect tool for both newcomers looking to explore the game and learn the mechanics," developer Wargaming.net explained, "as well as hardened veterans, who ll be able to discover World of Warplanes from a whole new perspective."



The update also adds "complex ground targets," which breaks down large individual targets into smaller components that will have to be destroyed independently, and there's a new map, "Canyon," described as "a mix between the flat 'Asian Border' and the high-rising 'Fjords'." The existing "National Park" map has also undergone a major overhaul, changing its geography, spawn points and other factors.



Other additions include 50 new achievements, matchmaker improvements, a new "Dynamic Observer" mode, two new Premium planes and a bunch of other good stuff. One other important point: After the patch is installed, the WG Stream Mod that allows players to stream their battles to Twitch will also need to be updated. WorldofWarplanes.com has the details.

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Civilization: Beyond Earth gameplay video takes a detailed look at building an effective colony">Civilization Beyond Earth 1







Odds are you've already made up your mind about whether Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth is something you want to sink hundreds of hours of your life into. But if you're on the fence, this lengthy gameplay video recorded during the August 21 Firaxis livestream might prove helpful.



Listening to Pete Murray and David McDonough of Firaxis discuss the value of the tectonic scanner isn't the most action-packed experience ever, but it is informative, particularly with regard to the early stages of the game. That's the focus this time around, as Murray explained in a recent forum post. "We'll go over how you build your colony to settle on the planet, going over the abilities of the sponsors, colonists, cargo and spacecraft," he wrote. "In detail. Hypothetical builds will be put together."



It's 55 minutes in length, and even though the first half-hour is little more than conversation laid over selection screens, it's a great place to start for anyone looking to get a leg up. This is actually the second such livestream the first, a look at the differences between Civilization V's barbarians and Beyond Earth's aliens, is available here and a third stream is scheduled for August 28 at 11 am EDT on Twitch.

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Next Hearthstone expansion to include around 100 cards, bought via booster packs">Naxxramas_Header









Still trying to make your mind up about which of the new cards is most OP? (It's Mad Scientist, obviously.) The next Hearthstone expansion will feature more than three times the number of cards released in the recent Curse Of Naxxramas adventure mode for you to bitch about. Speaking on Value Town yesterday, Hearthstone's senior game designer Mike Donais confirmed that the next expansion will offer a much bigger injection of cards, and these will be available from packs.



"It's not adventure mode, it's a lot of cards," said Donais. "It's not exactly 100, it's a lot of cards though It'll be booster pack format." He also said that the new cards would be available in different packs to the current set, to avoid unnecessary duplication. Unsurprisingly, he was unable to reveal how long it will be before the expansion arrives. "We are working super hard Sweat, tears, really hard But we don't have a date for it yet."



Elsewhere in the interview, Donais confirmed that Blizzard are not working on new Hero classes. Sorry, Monk and Death Knight fans. You can check out the show below. Sadly it marks the end of the series, as host Chris 'ChanmanV' Chan has decided to put all his shows on hiatus to focus on his home life. To which I say all the best Chris, your excellent content will be sorely missed from the scene. Hopefully we can plug the gap with some forthcoming Hearthstone videos we have planned. Meanwhile, ever wondered if pro coaching could improve your game? Find out how I got on here.





PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Titanfall returns to Game Time for another free 48 hours">Titanfall







If you haven't yet strapped on a 30-foot-tall suit of futuristic armor and used it to flatten some poor schmuck into a gooey pancake, now might be a good time to rectify that oversight. The weekend is here, and Titanfall is once again free.



Game Time is a pretty cool deal. If you've missed our previous coverage, it works like this: Download a selected game Battlefield 4, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, now Titanfall and then play as much as you can stomach for 48 hours. It's an improvement on the conventional "free weekend" idea because the timer doesn't actually start until the first time the game is launched, so you still get the full 48 even if you can't start playing until, say, Wednesday next week.



That's really all there is to it. Titanfall hit Game Time back in June, as you may recall, and if you missed it then, this is your chance to set things right. And why not? It's free, and going by our review it's pretty good, too. Snag it while you can from Origin.

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Civilization studio Firaxis Games annouces the first-ever Firaxicon convention">10391383_10154572251835171_5472212096466129152_n







Firaxicon is coming! But while it may sound like Firkraag's big brother has finally launched his quest for vengeance against the child of Gorion, it is in fact the first-ever videogame convention devoted solely to Firaxis Games, the studio behind the Sid Meier's Civilization series. And yes, it is official.



The question of its legitimacy is a fair one in light of the recent situation with Mineorama, but given that it's being promoted on the Firaxis Facebook page, this one appears to be on the up-and-up. It offers some pretty good reasons to attend, too, including a tour of the Firaxis offices, early hands-on time with Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth, panels, presentations, a meet-and-greet with various members of the team and "An Evening With Sid Meier," featuring an "exclusive presentation" by the man himself.



Firaxicon runs September 27-28 at the Embassy Suites Baltimore in Cockeysville, MD. Tickets are $40 each, which includes access to all events, dinner and drinks at the Saturday night "Firaxis Feast," and some swag, and are only being sold in advance; if you show up at the door without one, you're not getting in. Order links and other details are available now at Eventbrite.

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