BIOMUTANT

More Biomutant details have crept out of Gamescom, with new footage showing off the diverse, post-apocalyptic open-world. It’s not your typical post-apocalyptic world, either. Notably, it’s actually pretty, and unlike its many peers, green and seemingly full of life. 

The highlight of the trailer is undoubtedly the giant, metal hand that you can ride around. It looks like Biomutant will contain plenty of vehicles, from huge mechs to hang gliders, but they’ve got nothing on the hand. It comically runs on its fingers like Thing from The Addams Family, and in combat it uses a finger-gun attack. Why would any other vehicles even be needed? 

Crafting, puzzles and giant monsters are also teased, along with genetic mutations. You’ll be able to re-code the genetic structure of your adorable critter, changing its appearance as well as unlocking new abilities. Mutations include barbed tails, claws and telekinesis. 

A Steam page for Biomutant also appeared yesterday evening, dropping even more information about weapon crafting, combat and exploring the open-world. 

Biomutant is due out next year.

Grand Theft Auto V

GTA Online gets another new car today: the pleasingly late '70s-looking Ocelot Ardent, which comes equipped with two front-mounted machine guns. You can grab this one from Warstock now for a not-too-bad $1,150,000. 

If you're looking for double experience and money this week, the Bunker Series playlist or any Bunker-based adversary mode offer twice as much GTA bucks and Rockstar Points for your time this week. Vehicle Vendetta also offers double payouts. 

Also paying double this week are Vehicle Cargo Sell Missions, if you've got a vehicle warehouse. If you haven't, Rockstar's discounted those by 25% to get you started. I'm more interested in spending my spare $750,000 on an executive office, which are all discounted by 25% this week, too. For those fond of long drives into the countryside to make incremental money from arms trading, the Smoke Tree Road Bunker is $1,653,750 this week rather than its usual $2,205,000. Bunker manufacturing and research speeds are increased 25%, too.

You can also save 25% on the fancy Rocket Voltic, Cognoscenti 55 and and Schafter LWB from Legendary Motorsport, if you're into cars that don't have machine guns strapped to them. There's also a new premium race, Pulse, and a time trial, Coast to Coast, for those seeking more ways to earn bonus GTA$ and RP this week. 

All of these bonuses and savings run until 28 August, and are live in the game now.

Middle-earth™: Shadow of War™

"Middle-earth: Shadow of War is a violent Tolkien fan-fiction generator," said our James of Warner Bros and Monolith's Lord of the Rings-inspired Mordor follow-up, after going hands-on at E3. The trailers since impressed me with improvements to the game's coveted Nemesis system, reinterpretations of Shelob and, most recently, dragons. 

However it was James' mention of stealth—or, perhaps more importantly, lack thereof—back in June that caught my eye. "My biggest concern going into Middle-Earth: Shadow of War was stealth play getting sidelined for the large-scale combat of the fortress assault missions and a renewed focus on managing uruk forces," said James. "So at E3 when I got free reign over how to spend my time in an entire region, I figured I’d attempt to infiltrate a fort, coax the captain out, and kill him without anyone knowing I was there. Classic Shadow of Mordor stuff." 

James had some luck sneaking into the enemy compound, but in the spirit of exploration I seek to double-down on stealth as much as my hands-on with Shadow of War allows, to see how varied your approach can really be.

At first glance, 'mounted massacre' doesn't strike me as a particularly pro-sneaking mission, but I take it on anyway and am immediately asked to mount a caragor—a sort of big orcy dog beast. I spot three uruks battling one such brute up ahead and decide to hug a line of trees before lying in wait. Cautious to avoid rushing in too soon, I inevitably overestimate my downtime and wind up face-to-face with a wounded beast who clearly ain't for taming. I turn tail and run with my life intact and my azkâr between my legs. 

Before long I've tamed and mounted my own creature of the hunt. I'm prompted to notch ten kills and five "counter attacks while mounted." The former sounds doable without going detected, but the latter is going to require finesse, timely strategy, and—WOW, LANCING URUKS FROM UP HERE IS FUN. Ten? Call it 20, or 30 or 40 as I tear through hordes of great orcs like an Aeglos through butter. Talion butchers his foes with care and precision, and my quest for stealth is well and truly forgotten. Bodies pile up around me and, for better or worse, I feel an enormous sense of wellbeing.

Onto the next quest. 'Tirith' recalls Celebrimbor's march into Mordor at a time when the realm was said to have went to war with itself. "Remember how he flew into battle upon a drake, killing the mighty graugs of his enemies," so reads this mission's briefing and, needless to say, stealth is hardly an option here either. Riding dragon-back into battle as you save your keep from hostile caragor riders, on the other hand, absolutely is. 

Swooping beneath archways and soaring above turrets in bouts of uninhabited flight is a joy, as is isolating targets with the gamepad's left trigger and raining fire upon them with the right. The world burns on my command and I get so caught up in my willful slaughter that I completely overlook one secondary objective that says "0/3 release captured drakes."

In a flash, I shepherd a horde of caragors to their fiery doom at one end of the castle, nip down to free one of my three incarcerated dragon companions, and grin from ear to ear as my newly relinquished serpentine pal takes to the sky before destroying the remaining threat at the keep's opposite end.

Later, I take on Shadow of War's more open set pieces and test my hand at its new 'ring of power' possession feature that sees me flipping enemy allegiances in a BioShock Plasmid-style show of mind control. Drawing out captains from strongholds becomes a lot easier when you've got his minions onside, doing your bidding instead of your aggressor's.  

Prior to going hands-on with Middle-earth Shadow of War at yesterday's NVidia showcase event, the game's director Michael De Plater said: "Every single time you play one of these missions it's about making your own stories." This perfect outlines Shadow of War's scope for nuance and its all-embracing approach to combat. 

In June, James recognised that perfect stealth runs probably don't fit the game's storytelling purview. I now agree—but when there's this much fun to be had tearing Mordor and beyond apart who's really complaining?

Middle-earth Shadow of War is due October 10, 2017.   

PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS

Kills rarely come easily in Battlegrounds, or at least when they do, it's usually because you've gotten lucky. So when you do end up mowing an enemy down it can feel a lot more meaningful than in virtually any other shooter. Perhaps knowing this, Nvidia has introduced functionality to ShadowPlay which will automatically capture every kill you pull off in the battle royale phenomenon.

Announced at Gamescom, the Highlights functionality will not only automatically save kill clips, but also knockout clips – so you needn't ever forget the harm you've caused others in-game. In order to activate it, you need GeForce Experience 3.8 or higher. Go to the in-game settings menu and select "Nvidia ShadowPlay Highlights".  Next time you enter a lobby, the game will ask whether you want to enable Highlights, to which you must reply: "yes". 

Here's a video showing how it works:

No Man's Sky

I'm on a bit of a roll in my exploration of No Man's Sky's new content. On Friday I found a planet covered in hexagons, and spent some time exploring it. Today, I found a second hex planet (which I decided to make my homeworld), and shortly after, I stumbled on something else: a planet littered with weird metallic orbs. Most look like they've been dropped and are resting on (or partially in) the planet's surface, some are broken in pieces, and some hover, glow, and slowly spin.

Take a look below.

There are no alien creatures on this weird planet, just like the hex planet. The intact fallen orbs (they look kind of like the rollermines from Half-Life 2) can be harvested for Detrium, provided you use the mining laser mounted on the Colossus exocraft. The shattered pieces can be mined with a standard laser.

As for the hovering orbs? They're glowing and spinning, and try as I might I couldn't destroy one. I tried mining lasers, grenades, my ship's lasers, and even smashing straight into them at high speeds. Nothing seemed to have any effect.

It's worth noting that scanning one of these orbs tells me its age is 'Millennia' and that its root structure is 'Sentient' so maybe I shouldn't be trying to destroy it anyway. Nice orb. Friendly orb.

I explored the planet a bit, hoping to find interactive terminals similar to the ones present on both the hex planets I've visited. As it turns out, they're not similar, they're exactly the same. Same shape and same messages as the hex planet, as far as I can tell.

If you're looking for some of these new planets yourself, both of the hex planets I discovered were described as 'Airless' when I scanned them (also, they're covered with hexes, which is hard to miss unless you're really far away). The rollermine planet (as I'm calling it) shows up in scans as a 'Dead Planet'. So, if your scans turn up one of those, you might want to land and take a look.

Far Cry® 5

If there's one thing you can rely on a Far Cry game delivering, it's shooting. Or at least, that was the case until Far Cry: Primal, which had no guns in it. Far Cry 5 will commit no such crime, delivering shooting, bombing, ramming and even fishing in spades, judging by this extended gameplay video.

This video is what journalists saw behind closed doors at E3, and there's nothing particularly revelatory about it. The Far Cry gameplay template of exploring and shooting is very much intact here, and it'll be interesting to see whether this condensed Montana will feel dramatically different to previous Far Cry settings.

You'll also hear a bit about gun customisation, stealth, and – perhaps most importantly – fishing in this video. The game releases February 27. Here are some impressions based on some time spent with the game earlier this year. 

FINAL FANTASY XV WINDOWS EDITION

Final Fantasy 15 on PC looks good. Actually, that's a lie. Final Fantasy 15 on PC looks great.

And it's been a long time coming. In March last year, game director Hajime Tabata acknowledged the "big call" he and his team faced regarding a potential PC port of their then console-exclusive Final Fantasy 15. A month ahead of its console debut, the Crisis Core mastermind then suggested it could take upwards of 12 months for his latest work to land on desktops—if it were to arrive at all. An impressive tech demo powered by Square Enix's Luminous Studio Pro engine and Nvidia's GTX 1080 Ti aired this year, suggesting Noctis et al might debut on PC sooner rather than later—and today the latter unveiled Final Fantasy 15's Windows Edition as something that's definitely happening.  

"This is not a tech demo. This is a proper game," said Tabata on stage, before showing off the following.

Having spent an hour wandering around a small section of the game's Lucis kingdom—a single, interconnected landmass you'll explore on foot, by car, or on the back of one of the series' iconic flightless Chocobos—I can confirm that Final Fantasy 15 on PC is a proper game. At this early stage, it's also a very pretty one, assuming you're being propped up by an i7 6700 processor, a GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, and 4K resolution, such were the specs of the top-end system I got to grips with shortly after Nvidia's stage showing. 

This isn't to say Noctis and his ragtag bunch of monster-bashing, tune-whistling, recipe-crafting followers won't look nice on less powerful setups—for what it's worth, I'm nowhere near these lofty settings on my home PC—it's just that getting either Nvidia or Square Enix to pass comment on FF15's minimum and/or recommended PC specifications proved more difficult than I'd hoped.   

"Gameplay-wise, it’s the same game," Raio Mitsuno, the game's global brand manager, tells me. "Obviously we’re using a lot of tech from Gameworks so from a visual standpoint and a technology standpoint it’s the highest end version of Final Fantasy 15, but the gameplay experience is no different from console versions. 

We can say now that FF15 on PC supports native 4K and also up to 8K, as well as HDR 10.

Raio Mitsuno

"We can say now that FF15 on PC supports native 4K and also up to 8K, as well as HDR 10. But we haven’t really revealed anything like minimum specs yet because we’re developing at such a high end which means we can’t really define it with current standards now. At some point we will publish the recommended and minimum specs, but we can’t say exactly what they are at the moment."

Akio Ofuji, FF15's global brand director, adds (as translated by Mitsuno): "Obviously when developing for PC we have to keep in mind the demographic and players that play on PC and what they’re looking for. From from a technological standpoint, we’re trying to meet their standards and obviously when we think about PC gamers we put in a first-person camera mode in the PC version. 

"We’re doing stuff to cater to the PC audience and we hope that by appealing to what they’re used to, that’ll bring them into the franchise and make them into fans of Final Fantasy."

It's worth noting that I myself am already a fan of Final Fantasy. Like many western players, I was first captured by 1997's Final Fantasy 7, and thereafter tackled its forerunners in retrospect. I've played every main series instalment since and, crucially, have sunk close to 80 hours into its fifteenth entry on PlayStation 4. Needless to say, I'm already sold on FF15 and while it's by no means perfect, it appears Square Enix has made a great job of the JRPG's much-anticipated PC port that's due at some stage in "early 2018." 

As the footage above suggests, Lucis' vibrant pastoral landscapes look gorgeous, facial animations look incredibly sharp, and enemy run-ins sparkle as you tear your adversaries apart with a succession of timely blows, bursts of magic, and cooperative takedowns.

Against my wholesome console tally, it’s also worth noting that an hour-long demo, as you might expect, barely scratches the surface of what a game like this has to offer. My time today kicked off with protagonist Noctis Lucis Caelum—the Crown Prince and heir to the realm’s throne—positioned at a hearty experience level 27, alongside his similarly vital chums Ignis, Prompto and Gladious. Foes in the surrounding area tended to plateau at level 15, which made for some exciting if one-sided showdowns, and on the off-chance we got caught on the back foot our off-roading Regalia Type D truck was at hand to whip us off to safety.

Final Fantasy 15 already feels well at home on PC.

I may've been retracing old ground, but from the demo’s opening sun-kissed highway—that serves to underscore the scale of the game's overworld—to my trek to the far-flung Disc of Cauthess meteor impact site; from my trip to Wiz's Chocobo Farm, to getting lost in the wilderness and facing off against (and quickly hightailing it from) a level 30 Iron Giant and four level 25 Reapers—Final Fantasy 15 already feels well at home on PC. You'll of course create your own stories, however my short time today reflected everything that made my first FF15 experience so enjoyable.   

Combine this with FF15's unabashed deference to nostalgia by way of familiar theme tunes, retro sprites when assigning newly purchased armour, and teammates singing the instantly recognisable 'victory' melody in the wake successful battles, and those keen on the Final Fantasy formula should already be excited. I may have spent 3.3 real life days touring its highways, traversing its mountain ranges and being driven near crazy by colleague Prompto’s unreasonably irritating quips and bursts of song, but I'm looking forward to doing it all again, hardware permitting.  

That last part is crucial, so much so that Final Fantasy 15's Windows Edition will live or die by its performance on lower spec hardware. It's all very well dazzling on top of the range equipment, but the average PC player doesn't necessarily have access to a 4K screen, 1080 Ti, and i7 processor combined. I'll press game director Hajime Tabata on this point when I speak with him later this week. I'm certain the success of his latest venture depends on it. 

Borderlands 2

Damage dealing is the most selfish of gaming roles. It's not about mending the wounds of your buddies or taunting off the bullies attempting to harm them in the first place; it's about the ecstasy of climbing to the peaks of damage meters and watching ever-larger numbers splash the screen. If gaming in general is a power fantasy, a strong DPS build is the wet dream.

And sometimes they gets out of hand. Some builds are so powerful that developers pull the plug, worried that they're damaging the game itself. This is a celebration of those builds that have achieved or come near those marks: the most famous, powerful, interesting builds that disrupt a game's conventions as violently as the power chords of an Amon Amarth riff at a Chopin recital.

We know we've barely scratched the list of great builds here—almost every game has one! If there's one you think we should have included, tell us about it! 

Skyrim: Sneak Archer with Slow Time (2011)

Subtlety isn't really the first thing that comes to mind upon a first glance at Skyrim—after all, it's largely a game about some rando shouting dragons to death. But for years nothing struck fear into the hearts of giant flying reptiles and creepy Reachmen quite like Skyrim's Sneaky Archer build. It's still quite beastly, but YouTuber ESO describes it in its most broken form.

The build's cornerstone was the Slow Time shout, which you could extend by 20 percent with an Amulet of Talos and up to 40 percent by visiting a Shrine of Talos. Slap some Fortify Alteration enchantments on your ring and swig a Fortify Alteration potion, and you could push that over a minute. That's longer than the shout's cooldown. Pick up the Quiet Casting perk in the Illusion line, and you could wipe out a whole band of Stormcloaks before they even knew you were there.

Combine that with plenty of points in the Sneak line, Fortify Archery enchantments on every bit of gear, and paralysis or fear enchantments on your weapons, and you might be tempted to ask the fur-clad denizens to worship you in place of Talos. Unfortunately, Bethesda killed the fun with last year's Special Edition. Slow Time now slows down time for you as well. But even without it a Sneak Archer remains a force to be reckoned with.

The Witcher 3: Alchemy and Combat build

Most crazy damage builds feel as though they're breaking with the lore of their parent games, but The Witcher 3's combination alchemy and combat builds tap into the very essence of what it's mean to work in Geralt's profession. You're a badass swordsman thanks to 36 points in Combat, and 38 points in the Alchemy line see you chugging potions and decoctions along with making sure you're using the right oil for the right monster.

YouTuber Ditronus detailed the best incarnation of this monster setup, which focuses on stacking everything that gives you both critical hit chance and critical hit damage. Ditronus claims he can get hits that strike for 120,000 damage for the build at Level 80 and on New Game+. 

The tools? Pick up the steel Belhaven Blade for its crit potential and the Excalibur-like Aerondight silver sword for its damage multiplier. Use some other crit-focused gear along with two key pieces of the Blood and Wine expansion's alchemy-focused Manticore set and use consumables such as the Ekhidna Decoction. Toss in a few key mutagens and frequently use the "Whirl" sword technique, and Geralt becomes the spinning avatar of Death herself. It's bewitching.

World of Warcraft: Paladin Reckoning Bomb (2005) 

World of Warcraft has seen some crazy damage builds over the course of its 13-year history, but none has reached the legendary status of the Paladin class' "Reckoning bomb" of WoW's first "vanilla" years. It wasn't officially a damage setup, but rather an exploit of the Reckoning talent from the tank line that some Retribution (damage) Paladins would pick up. Originally, Reckoning gave you a charge for a free attack whenever you were the victim of a critical hit, and in 2005, you could stack this to infinity and unleash them all at once for your next attack. Build enough stacks, and you could one-shot other players in PvP.So how imba was this? In May 2005 a Paladin named Karmerr from the guild PiaS (Poop in a Shoe, if you must know) got his rogue friend Sindri to attack him for three whole hours while he was sitting down, guaranteeing critical hits, until the stacks reached a staggering 1,816. Their mission? The Alliance server first kill of Lord Kazzak, one of WoW's first 40-man raid bosses. Knowing their plan was controversial, PiaS asked a Blizzard Game Master for permission, and the GM claimed it couldn't be done. But Karmerr popped his invincibility bubble and, boom, killed Kazzak in a single shot. Alone. The devastation was so intense that it locked up Karmerr's PC for 10 seconds and the system was so unprepared by the 1,816 attacks it could only register the blow in second-long ticks until Kazzak died. PiaS posted a video, and within 24 hours Blizzard nerfed Reckoning from a 100 percent chance to a mere 10 percent chance and limited the stacks to five.

Diablo 2: Hammerdin 

Overpowered Paladins are something of a Blizzard tradition. One of the most infamous overpowered DPS builds of all time is the so-called "Hammerdin" from Diablo 2. The Blessed Hammer skill was the heart of the build, which shot out a spinning floating hammer that smacked any monsters foolish enough to get near. 

Hammerdins had been around in various incarnations for months, but the build came into its own in 2003 with the introduction of synergies. With Blessed Aim, Paladins could increase their attack rating; and with Vigor, they could boost their speed, stamina, and recovery. Damage, too, got a boost with Concentration Aura. But nothing made the build so broken as the Enigma Runeword, which sent the Paladin immediately teleporting into huddles of nearby enemies and clobbering them for up to 20,000 points of damage each. Watching it in action looks a little like watching a bugged game.

The catch? Almost everything needed to complete the build was outrageously expensive. But as the obscene number of Hammerdins dominating Diablo 2 came to show, that was never much of a deterrent.

Borderlands 2: Salvador

Forget specific builds for a second: Borderlands 2's Salvador is kind of broken by default. His class ability—"Gunzerking"—lets him fire off two weapons and reap their benefits at once, all while taking less damage and constantly regenerating ammo. Nor does this kind of destructive divinity come with any real challenge. If you've got the right weapons equipped, all you really need to do is sit still and fire away. Dragon's Dogma had the right of it: divinity can get kind of boring.

The right weapons push this already preposterous setup to absurdity. Pick up the Grog Nozzle pistol from the Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon's Keep DLC, which heals Salvador for 65 percent of all the damage he deals out. In the other hand, equip a double-penetrating Unkempt Harold pistol, which hits enemies as though seven bullets had hit them twice. Then pick up the Yippie Ki Yay talent that extends Gunzerking's duration for 3 seconds for each kill and "Get Some," which reduces Gunzerking's cooldown after each kill, and you'll always be firing, always be healing, all the time.

Elder Scrolls Online: Magicka Dragonknight Vampire (2014)

Ever wanted to be a raid boss in an MMORPG? You could in 2014, not long after the launch of Elder Scrolls Online, if you were a magicka-focused Dragonknight who'd become a vampire. You were both DPS and tank, able to take on dozens of players in PvP at once and kill most of them as well.

The root of the problem was the vampire tree's morphed "ultimate" ability, Devouring Swarm, which sent a swarm of bats down on everyone else in melee range while also healing you for everyone hit. But every class who became a vampire had access to that.

Dragonknights, though, could also use their Dark Talons skill to root all those players in melee range while roasting them with fire damage at the same time. A huge magicka pool made it even deadlier. Then a passive ability called Battle Roar factored in, allowing the Dragonknight to replenish health, magicka, and stamina based on the cost of casting Devouring Swarm. And it gets crazier. If you were wearing the Akaviri Dragonguard Set, you enjoyed a 15 percent deduction in ultimate ability costs, essentially allowing you to spam Devouring Swarm.

This was already hellish with regular Dragonknights, but players who earned the "Emperor" title in PvP might as well have been Daedric lords. Being the current emperor granted buffs like 200 percent ultimate and resource generation, leading to situations like the one in the video above. 

The easy way to stop this nonsense was always just to stay out of range (although the DK's charge ability from the Sword and Shield line complicated that). Within a month, though, ZeniMax Online nerfed it to hell.

Diablo 3: Inarius Necromancer 

How do you bring interest in your four-year-old dungeon crawler back from the dead? With a Necromancer class, obviously! At least that's what Blizzard Entertainment was apparently thinking when it introduced the class to Diablo 3 in June 2017.

That makes the Necromancer the "youngest" entry on this list, but it's no less deserving of the honor. The damage Necromancers have been dishing out this summer is so crazy that the "best" broken builds change every few weeks. Not long ago the top dog was the Bones of Rathma build, which basically let the Necromancer kick back while an army of skeletons and undead mages did all the hard work. 

Nowadays it's the Grace of Inarius build (which YouTuber Rhykker calls the "Bonestorm" build), which centers on the set's six-piece "Bone Armor" bonus that smacks enemies who get too close with 750 percent weapon damage and boosts the damage they take from the Necro by 2,750 percent. Then the Necro goes around whacking everything with his Cursed Scythe skill with the help of another bonus that reduces his damage taken. Choose the right complementary skills and weapons, you'll soon be tromping through Level 107 Greater Rifts as easily as a katana slicing through yarn. Getting the set pieces will take a bit of grinding, of course, but it's worth it for the payoff. Until, you know, Blizzard nerfs it.

PC Gamer

Nidhogg 2 is horrible. Which isn’t to say that the graceful austerity of the first game has been stamped into mush by this sequel, but that its new art style is quite disgusting. The response to its unveiling suggests the new look isn’t for everyone, but while some of the original’s slapstick simplicity has been lost, it’s memorably grotesque. 

If you spliced misshapen clay men with Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste, you’d get something close to Toby Dixon’s squishy, messy, delightfully grisly art. One stage has a room with two meat grinders and pink, fleshy smears on the walls—another sees you passing through both ends of what looks like an annelid relative of the Nidhogg, before the eponymous worm (now more fearsomely ugly than ever) arrives to gobble you up once you’ve reached your goal. The very best multiplayer games are those that prompt the most spontaneous exclamations during play—involuntary cheers, yelps, laughs, expletives—and that’s still true of Nidhogg 2. But now you can add ‘eww!’ to the list. 

Otherwise, not an awful lot has changed, certainly little to compromise the core that made us all fall so hard for the first game. Nidhogg was always the perfect example of ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’, working small miracles in squeezing depth and nuance from a two-button (one to jump, one to attack) control scheme. You could throw your sword—and, indeed, use your own to deflect one heading your way. You could jump and dive kick, or slide into your opponent. Tapping up or down let you change your stance and your sword’s position, allowing you to jab your rival in the face or, well, somewhere a little lower—or even to disarm them.

That’s all still here. Once your opponent is down, you’ll still race off, following the large arrow pointing you towards your destination. They’ll still respawn after a few seconds of sprinting headlong into their territory, and you’ll still have to defeat them again and again to win, though you’ve got a little further to travel before you do this time. It still feels like a weird, beautiful hybrid of fencing and tug-of-war.  

If Nidhogg 2 was to have a subtitle, it should be Nidhogger—it’s basically Nidhogg, only there’s more of it. There’s more variety in the weapons, for starters: alongside a standard rapier, there’s a quick, stabby and highly throwable dagger, a heavier but rangier broadsword variant, and a slow-firing bow, which is a great option when there’s a bit of distance between you and your opponent, but rather less so when they’re right in your face. Arrows can be returned to sender with a well-timed swipe, though you can return the favour in kind, which can lead to the odd silly arrow-tennis interlude. 

If Messhof got on the phone to Matt Groening, they could easily reskin this as an Itchy and Scratchy-themed fighter that would surely print money.

The environments, too, are different, and not simply because they’re much richer and more detailed than the spartan settings of the first. Pyroclastic flow and conveyer belts change your momentum, forcing you to readjust your tactics on the fly, there’s high ground and low ground, tunnels that see you fighting in silhouette, and rooms within rooms where doors become a factor. Bursting through to give your opponent a poke in the eye is great fun; even better is seeing an arrow thunk harmlessly into the wood as it shuts behind you and you peg it as fast as your bug-eyed fighter’s legs will carry them. 

Even if you didn’t take to the new aesthetic at first, you might well warm to it as you play. The extra detail sometimes makes the action a little less crisply readable than the original—and the colour you choose for your avatar can be a factor on some stages—but it lends a cartoonish character to the battles that makes them more amusing to watch. Stomping on a grounded opponent until they’re nothing more than a puddle of brightly-coloured goop is just the right level of gross to be funny, and the expressiveness of the animation sells it as a desperate fight to the death between two idiots. If Messhof got on the phone to Matt Groening, they could quite easily reskin this as an Itchy and Scratchy-themed fighter that would surely print money.  

It’s such a brilliant local multiplayer game that it almost doesn’t matter that its single-player component is a bit rubbish, and that its online still suffers from intermittent lag. In the case of the former, it’s just a straight run through each of the 10 stages against an AI opponent that seems to oscillate between bewildering stupidity and bullshit-unfair clairvoyance. The latter’s an improvement on the first game, but still slightly annoying for those who aren’t fortunate enough to have a friend or family member regularly available for a scrap. 

But if you do—god, what a game. Given the original is still readily available and hasn’t got any less wonderful over the last three years, you could argue that Nidhogg 2 is an unnecessary sequel. Then again, if you loved Nidhogg, it’s a borderline mandatory purchase.

Surviving Mars

Earth’s a bit rotten these days, so why not consider relocating to Mars? Haemimont and Paradox have put together a new in-game trailer for martian management game Surviving Mars, and it continues to look promising. 

The trailer offers glimpses of the different stages of a colony, from its first moment, where unmanned rovers set everything up, to a burgeoning city of connected domes, full of colonists with their own desires, needs and personalities. 

Chris and I got to see it in action last May, and it boasts some novel ideas. Colonists, for instance, come with their own skills and agendas, and may even be driven mad by the harsh red planet. Or they might not be too happy with the way you’re running things and attempt to get in the way of your plans.

Here’s everything we know about Surviving Mars so far.

It’s due out next year.

...

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