Assassin's Creed® Origins

Assassin's Creed: Origins, the game with the $60,000 headphones (and by the way, I still haven't received a reply to my inquiry about getting a review set), comes out on October 27, which is just four days away. What the game is all about has already been pretty well established, and the title is a pretty big spoiler in that regard too. But maybe you need a quick catch-up, or maybe you just want to spend a couple of minutes watching a guy cinematically disembowel a bunch of other guys. Either way, the launch trailer is here to help. 

A quick rundown of what it's got: There's a stabbing, a strangling, a shield-bash, a double-axe face-chop, a mid-air triple-arrow perforation, a camel-chicken decapitation, a defiant stand against a divine manifestation, a Babe-Ruth-called-shot to the pie hole, the ol' smack-em-and-stick-em, and of course the leaping stab downward that turns a guy's skull into a pimento on a toothpick. It's all rendered very dramatically, as you'd expect from this sort of production, and while we can't completely overlook the fact that it's really just a mass murder montage, it is awfully pretty. 

For more practical information about Assassin's Creed: Origins, don't miss our rundown of the season pass (two expansions, one Calamity Blade), the loot boxes (only purchasable with in-game gold), the system requirements (middle of the road), and the adjustable difficulty—a first for the series. 

TARTARUS

The first person action-adventure Tartarus sounds a little bit like Under Siege in space. You play as Cooper, the cook aboard the mining ship Tartarus, where things have gone seriously wrong. Security protocols are engaged, everything's locked down, and the ship's orbit over Neptune is slowly decaying. Naturally, it falls to you to put it all right, a job developer Abyss Gameworks announced   today will fall in your lap on November 21. 

We got our hands on an early build back in the summer and it looked "promising as hell," although we also noted a rather conspicuous lack of action during our time with it. "None of the devs have mentioned anything about first-person combat, so I’m assuming that the parts of the game that don’t happen in computer terminals will be more Gone Home than Aliens," Ian wrote of his experience

That's reflected in the launch trailer, which features all sorts of Alien-esque corridors and rooms, and not a whole lot else. Even the music crescendos into nothing: You expect the bass to drop and the monsters to jump out and the guns to fire, and instead it's just... more rooms. 

That's not meant to be a criticism, but rather a heads-up: If you're expecting to solve this particular problem with an M56, you're probably going to be disappointed. If that doesn't put you off straight away, then you can learn more about how you will (hopefully) handle the situation at tartarusthegame.com

Warframe

Plains of Eidolon, Warframe’s 22nd major update, dprd more than give the free-to-play shooter an open-world shot in the arm. It also introduced a whole slew of new systems, upgrades, and activities to go with it—not to mention an entirely new economy of resources you'll need to farm to unlock those new upgrades.

As we've already said, Plains of Eidolon isn't the best place to be spending your time as a new player. It offers too few of the valuable resources you'll need early on, so you're better off sticking with the main campaign until you've completed The Second Dream and War Within main story quests.

That said, Plains of Eidolon is a vast and beautiful zone, and we wouldn't blame you for wanting to spend some time there even if it's not the most efficient way to gear up as a newbie. But whether you're a veteran or a new player, Plains of Eidolon's new systems like mining, fishing, and monster hunting are a lot to swallow in what’s already a tremendously complex game. For that reason, we’re breaking down the basics of what makes this new update tick—plus a few general tips on how best to spend your time.

First things first 

Before you even step foot on the wide-open Plains of Eidolon, it would behoove you to research an Archwing Launcher Segment—assuming your clan hasn’t done so already.

This nonspecific-sounding device isn’t vital. It is, however, a mighty convenient tool for getting around the update’s massive map. Once constructed, the launcher will allow you to summon an Archwing, Warframe's jetpack equivalent, at any time inside the new zone. Not only does this allow you to fly around willy nilly, skipping past enemy encampments and otherwise inaccessible terrain, you can also summon Archwings for friends to use in order to keep up with you.

The Archwing Launcher Segment will make your time in the Plains more enjoyable.

The downside is that the launcher requires a considerable amount of rare resources to research and construct. It also takes 72 hours to finish synthesizing the blueprints in a clan’s Tenno Lab, plus another 12 hours to construct.

If you're brand new to Warframe, you won't be able to use your Archwing until unlocking Earth and completing several secondary objectives to unlock the Mars Junction (which lets you travel to Mars). Once that is done, you'll be able to start The Archwing quest, a relatively short series of quests that will give you all the blueprints you'll needed to craft this jetpack.

Even if you don’t plan on hitting up the Plains anytime soon, do the The Archwing quest first and start construction on both it and the requisite Archwing Launcher Segment. The Archwing will save you a lot of time hoofing it on the ground.

Where to start 

Besides an admittedly nice little cutscene showing your Warframe arriving at the settlement of Cetus, Plains of Eidolon doesn’t exactly tell you where to go or what to do first. Allow us to rectify that oversight with the first few things you should do and buy on the Earth colony.

The Plains of Eidolon is entirely unlike any area in Warframe. The main town of Cetus is a public instance that can house up to 50 players at one time, while the Plains themselves are a vast open world where squads of up to four players can run around adventuring. There is a real-time day and night cycle, with day lasting 100 minutes and night lasting just 50. The daytime is safest for new players because once the sun sets towering Eidolon Teralysts stalk the plains. These behemoths are extremely powerful and can only be killed by endgame players. You can still head out at night if you want, but be prepared for a difficulty spike. There is no real in-game indicator of time in Warframe, so use this website to track when the sun will set.

Eidolon Teralysts are super-powerful enemies that you'll want three friends to help you kill.

Here's the first two things you should do, in order:

  • Talk to Konzu. You can’t do much of anything on the Plains of Eidolon without the currency known as Ostron Standing. When you first arrive at the new location, the only way to earn such standing is by doing bounties for Konzu. So complete one straight off the bat before doing anything else (there’s more on that in the next section).
  • Accept and complete the Saya’s Vigil quest. This unlocks after completing your very first bounty, after which it can be accepted from Konzu. Saya’s Vigil takes you on a guided tour of the Plains with slow, scripted teasing of various locations and events. You’ll spelunk through an ore-rich cave system, meet your very first Eidolon—the terrifying monstrosities that roam the Plains at night, and get a general lay of the land that makes acclimating to the new zone much easier. On top of that, the quest gives you something to strive for by nudging you towards finding components of the new Warframe, Gara (more on her below). 
  • Earn 1000 Ostron Standing from completing the bounty missions Konzu offers. You'll need this first bit of currency to unlock mining and fishing, which we'll talk about more below.
  • Continue doing bounties, while spending your new Ostron Standing on better fishing and mining gear. For new players, head back to the main campaign and begin working towards unlocking The Second Dream and War Within quests to fully unlock everything you need for Plains of Eidolon. Veterans can begin hunting Eidolon Teralysts and grinding for better gear, which we explain below. 

Ostron Standing and how to get it 

The Ostron are the people of Cetus, the settlement around which Plains of Eidolon is centered. They’re also the backbone of Warframe’s open-world update. So you want to be on their good side. Luckily, their goodwill is clearly represented with “standing.” And similar to standing gained with Warframe’s existing Syndicates or Cephalon Simaris, there’s a limit to how much you can earn per day: 1000 multiplied by your profile’s Mastery Rank, plus another 1000.

Standing is used to both buy gear from Ostron vendors and to level up your overall ranking with the settlement. Each new rank opens a new tier of items that must also be purchased with more standing. The combined costs add up quickly. Which is why we’ve listed where to focus your earning and buying efforts below. 

Bounties

If the Ostron are the backbone of Plains of Eidolon, then bounties are the backbone of the Ostron. The multi-stage missions set in the Plains are the most efficient way to earn standing by far—not to mention a subset of gear and crafting materials you won’t find anywhere else.

Konzu refreshes his list of bounties every two hours.

To initiate a bounty, hit up Konzu at the northmost end of Cetus. He’s just below the giant door leading into the Plains. You’ll find that his missions are split into five categories—each more difficult than the last. Of course, harder bounties also yield greater rewards. These bounties can be completed multiple times for the rare loot drops (like Gara's blueprints), but they'll only offer Ostron Standing once. Fortunately, Konzu refreshes his list of bounties every two hours (essentially after each in-game day/night cycle), so check back in the morning so you can earn the Ostron Standing again.

Once you actually select a bounty, you’ll be sent into the Plains. The quest will be broken down into several steps (with harder bounties taking more to complete). The upside is that each step rewards its own share of standing. You won’t get the bonus reward unless you complete the full bounty, but this way even a failed one is worth something.

Incursions

Incursions are basically mini-bounties. You don’t collect them from Konzu. Instead, they pop up automatically while you’re roaming the Plains without an active objective. You’ll be given a heads-up message via radio and told to reach a certain location within a certain amount of time.

There will be a one-stage mission waiting for you once you get to the incursion site. Complete it to earn a stipend of standing and a light bonus reward (usually crafting materials, credits, or mods).

You can enter the Plains without a bounty to explore and complete randomized Incursions.

Turning in Materials

Besides bounty and incursion-based combat encounters, you can also turn in materials gathered from the Plains for Ostron Standing. Said materials include fish and gems, which are gathered by fishing and mining. We’ve included more specifics on both of these activities farther down. In the meantime, know that neither is the best method of acquiring standing.

Early on, about a dozen ore deposits’ worth of gems are worth just a couple hundred standing—or about what you can earn from just one phase of a mid-tier bounty. Beyond that, gems and ore are used as weapon crafting materials and as an additional cost to level up with the Ostron. 

By hanging onto the resources from the get go—especially the rarer gems that can be sold for standing—you’ll save yourself a lot of grief down the line. The same goes for spearfishing. Instead of standing, fish can be converted into materials with a variety of uses—not least among them is the Fish Oil that’s needed to power your Archwing on the Plains of Eidolon.

The Quills

The Ostron aren’t the only new faction in Plains of Eidolon. Once you’ve beaten The War Within and Saya’s Vigil story quests you can unlock a more secretive group called The Quills. Head up the staircase northeast of Konzu in Cetus to find them behind a blue door. This door can be opened by switching to Operator mode—which you'll fully unlock after beating The War Within.

Earning standing for The Quills is much more specialized and difficult than with the Ostron. You need to turn in Intact, Exceptional, and Flawless Sentient Cores at the hidden outpost for 100, 500, and 1200 standing apiece. The only way to earn said cores is from killing Eidolons. You can learn all about that process in our full guide. 

How mining works 

Mining is exactly what it sounds like. The Plains of Eidolon are filled with rocky outcroppings marked by red and blue veins of ore and gems, respectively. You’ll almost certainly stumble upon them while exploring, but you’ll need a Nosam Cutter to actually carve out the stoney treasure troves.

You can purchase your first cutter from Old Man Suumbaat in Cetus. He’s the NPC marked with a pickaxe on your map. Although you’ll need to complete a bounty or two first to afford its 500 standing pricetag. 

The most helpful tip we can offer about mining is to do it while you’re already leveling up your standing with the Ostron. Each grade of Nosam Cutter comes with built-in radar for ore deposits. If you equip it while leaping from one bounty objective to the next, you can make periodic stops to collect ore on the way. That will save you time and effort hunting the right randomized minerals for crafting and leveling up your Ostron Standing later.

How fishing works 

Fishing in Warframe is even more straightforward than mining. Which is great, since anyone spending a great deal of time on the Plains of Eidolon will want to do it somewhat regularly. The reason being that Fish Oil, one of the basic rewards for fishing, is necessary to craft charges for your Archwing Launcher Segment so you can fly over and around the open zone.

To begin fishing, purchase a spear from Hai-Luk in Cetus for 500 Ostron Standing. They're marked by a fish icon on the map. Then just equip the thing near a body of water to make fish appear. When they do, you can aim and throw the spear the same way you’d fire any normal weapon, albeit with a travel time. Just be sure to lead your target.

Fishing is a bit less efficient than mining in that you can’t just clear out a vein and move on. The critters only spawn into the world when you stay put at a body of water. On the plus side, as far as fishing minigames go, Warframe’s is a lot fun and relaxing. It might not be as conducive to multitasking as mining, but it’s a great way to unwind while you grind out standing and crafting materials or wait for a blueprint to craft.

Crafting Zaws, Amps, and Arcanes 

Each of these aforementioned activities—bounties, fishing, mining, and Eidolon hunting itself—are all in service of buying and crafting your way to the top. Even with its new open zone, Warframe is still a loot game, after all. Its endgame amounts to making your character as powerful as possible.

If you're immediately interested in obtaining Gara as a newer player, it's possible but it will take time. The Warframe requires three component blueprints which are randomly awarded from various bounties (explained below). From there, you'll need a combination of fairly common resources along with some mid-tier materials exclusive to the Plains of Eidolon that will require a bit of grinding in order to get. It's not an impossible task for a new player, but you might want to consider investing your time leveling up your current Warframe first or working towards the recommended newbie favorites like Rhino

Zaws are a cool but expensive way to built a hand-crafted weapon.

The most accessible steps on that road to new power are the Zaws. This new class of melee weapon is the first-ever set of fully customizable gear. You build them from the ground up by combining different grips, links, and strikes that determine what kinds of damage, movesets, and special abilities each custom Zaw offers.

Zaw parts and upgrades are purchasable from Hok in Cetus. His shop is the one marked by a hammer and anvil on your map, but you might want to wait just a minute before visiting. You won’t have immediate access to his best blueprints right away and even his cheapest wares cost a decent chunk of Ostron Standing.

Unless you re just itching to make your own custom weapon, Ostron Standing is best saved for ranking up with the Ostron.

High level players will almost certainly have equal or better gear than the first tier of Zaws available to them. Unless you’re just itching to make your own custom weapon, Ostron Standing is best saved for ranking up with the Ostron. That way you can permanently unlock access to better gear rather than wasting your time with the lower, weaker tiers.

Amp crafting is another story. These gauntlets are weapons used in Operator Mode, powering up their Void Beam and giving them a new energy pool to draw from rather than their generic Void Energy. The system—accessible from The Quills’ secret station inside Cetus—is largely identical to the three-part system of making Zaws. The difference is that Amps are brand new to Plains of Eidolon, and are meant for for late-game players. There's plenty of room to improve and experiment with combinations as they're not a replacement to a regular weapon like Zaws are. 

Arcane Enhancements are an extremely grindy way to power up your Warframe, best left to endgame players.

Plains of Eidolon also introduces a suite of new Arcane Enhancements, permanent upgrades for Zaws and Operators themselves. These are crafted from Eidolon Shards, which you get from taking down the monstrous Eidolon Teralysts that wander around at night. They allow a bit of wiggle room when it comes to tailoring your Zaw's powers and abilities. In the case of Operators, it’s a straightforward passive upgrade.

As a newer player, your efforts are best spent on gathering Ostron Standing and spending it on fishing and mining gear, farming their resources and completing bounties. From there, begin ranking up with the Ostron while working through the main campaign to eventually unlock Operator Mode from The Second Dream and War Within Quests. Once you're closer to Warframe's proper endgame, you can begin investing your Ostron Standing in Plains of Eidolon's more costly pursuits, like Arcanes, Amps, and Zaws while also looking to hunt the Eidolon Teralysts.

Plains of Eidolon's massive new zone is accompanied by an equally large grind. But the trick is knowing which systems to focus on at which stage of your time with Warframe. You don't have to focus on everything at once, especially as a new player. Now, armed with a bit of that knowledge and where to start, you should be well-equipped to tackle Warframe’s biggest update yet.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Former BioWare guy Manveer Heir recently gave an interview in which he said that Electronic Arts is prioritizing more open-world games, because they're easier to monetize and can go on more or less indefinitely. Yet in this recent GamesIndustry report, current MachineGames guy Tommy Tordsson Björk said his studio is doing exactly the opposite with the upcoming Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, because cramming in multiplayer would detract too much from the story it wants to tell. 

"The only way we can create these super immersive narrative experiences is if we can solely focus on the single-player," Tordsson Björk said at Gamescom, which actually took place in August. "Having a multiplayer component in this work process would just dilute it all. That's the danger if you try to do two things at once." 

MachineGames considers its Wolfenstein games to be action adventures rather than shooters, "because we feel there's so much more to them than just shooting," he added. Obviously the core gameplay is all about the guns, but Tordsson Björk said it's the setting and the story that really put it over the top. 

"It's a fictional setting, of course, and it's a crazy story, but we tried to stay honest and tell it as honestly as we can. That's our goal," he said. "There are so many things you aren't seeing. We're definitely pushing the limits, but at the same time continuing what makes Wolfenstein really special: the drama, the human relationships, with dark humor and violence. It's pushing them all, on all fronts." 

It will never stop feeling weird to me to think of Wolfenstein as a character-driven game with a strong emphasis on the underlying narrative. I don't want to oversell the point—Wolfenstein 2 remains, at its core, a game about killing Nazis by the truckload—nor do I think it represents a broader overall shift in how the industry approaches the genre. But it is a nice change from the attitude that led to a multiplayer mode in the famously story-focused shooter Spec Ops: The Line, an addition mandated by publisher 2K Games that lead designer Cory Davis described (very angrily, I'm guessing) as "cancerous" and "a waste of money." 

Bethesda announced the Wolfenstein 2 system requirements and PC-specific features today. Get the lowdown here.

Divinity: Original Sin (Classic)

It’s no secret that from the start, the Divinity series has had its sights set on respectfully dethroning Ultima 7. "Everything out there after Ultima 7 never did it as good as Ultima 7," Larian founder Swen Vincke once said. It's for RPGs what The Secret Of Monkey Island is to adventures, what Doom is to shooters, and what Shakespeare is to English literature, and not just because it's the last time a game was able to get away with 'thou', 'doth' and the rest of ye olde English without the world justifiably taking yonder piss with a catheter.

It hasn't been an easy road. The first Divinity game suffered from trying to do Ultima 7 without the lessons of first making Ultima 1-6. The passion was there, but the time wasn't right. Similarly, later games soon set a trend of having phenomenal ideas—psychic powers, turning into a dragon, being soul-bonded with a death knight and so on—but without the budget or RPG foundations to really make them sing.

With Divinity: Original Sin though, Larian finally pulled it off, gambling everything on a game that nearly bankrupted them. The multiplayer-first design meant that every system had to be rock-solid, Kickstarter offered both the money and the need to build a reasonable framework, and in those limits, the company's passion and talent finally found the home that it deserved. Fast-forward, and Divinity: Original Sin 2 is even better, tightening up the storytelling, greatly improving the characters and questing, and still overflowing with ideas and humour, without being quite as goofy as its predecessor, and offering a less convoluted but far stronger plot.

In short, I absolutely love Divinity: Original Sin 2. It's one of my favourite RPGs in years, and when I put that in the context of having not liked the original Divine Divinity much at all, that's only to reinforce how glad I am that Larian kept pushing forwards, kept the faith, kept evolving, and finally created a sequel that unquestionably carries the spirit of Ultima while still having its own very different, distinct soul. On any terms, it's an absolute triumph.

But speaking as an old-school RPG fan, how goes its quest to beat it? Is it finally time to stop bringing up the 90s classic in every conversation and move on?

Okay, so the Guardian now looks like a talking Muppet. But he was scary in 1992!

A legend returns

I know it's an unfair comparison, because it’s not really Ultima 7 the Divinity series is going up against, but the legend of Ultima 7—the Platonic ideal of the open world RPG that was established back in 1992. I was thirteen when I not simply played it but got blown away by it. That huge open world. That freedom. The fact that you could bake bread and eat it. It was both a design and technical milestone in an era where 256 colours were still a novelty. The villain could talk to you. In real speech! You could blow up the world with Armageddon!

It s not really Ultima 7 the Divinity series is going up against, but the legend of Ultima 7 the Platonic ideal of the open world RPG that was established back in 1992.

Never mind that games like Minecraft have long since surpassed its scripted, largely sign-posted crafting, or that the combat was dreadful, or that the world isn’t actually THAT big if you take a step back. No game will never supplant my love of Ultima 7 because no matter how much tech or how much brilliance you put it in it, it will never fill my soul with the magic that those chunky VGA sprites and a few speech files did back then. The same goes for many longtime RPG players, who hold Ultima 7 in high esteem - perhaps even Vincke himself. And no, you'll never experience that same feeling now, if you play Ultima 7 in a world with the likes of Planescape: Torment and Skyrim and Dragon Age. You missed it. Sorry.

At the same time, Ultima 7 doesn’t just cast a shadow. In being that illusion of a perfect RPG, even if in practice it’s far from it, it offers a great guiding light for Divinity as a whole—highlighting both how far it’s come, and where the issues still are. Again, it’s come a hell of a long way. As much as I hate to say it, Divinity: Original Sin 2… deep breath… is a better game than Ultima 7 in pretty much every way, from the depth of its world simulation to its raw mechanics and combat and character building. Certainly, as a standalone adventure.

But what more might it be? What else has Ultima 7 to teach?

Pathfinder

Let’s start with the world. By far the worst part of both D:OS and D:OS 2’s design is that they pretend to be an open world, but they’re not. In practice, there’s a strict path that you’re meant to follow around the world. Trouble is, it’s unmarked, usually makes little logical sense, and is managed by the fact that enemies with even a slight level distance on you are notably more powerful and will typically squish you flat.

To use Reaper’s Coast as an example, you start on a main road leading north, with a town off to the west. Despite the map pushing you onwards and upwards, exploring that way only going to lead to your death. The design actually wants you to go into down and poke around there. While less problematic than some of D:OS’ pathing, this fights against both your natural inclination to explore, and often the drive of your character’s own quest at that, and the fact that the goal of the map is open in a similar way as Baldur’s Gate 2’s second chapter—to hook up with Sourcerers and learn from them, in essentially isolated modules that feel like you should have more freedom than you do.

The world had never seen realistic worlds like this in the 90s. Not just seen, but been able to poke around in detail.

Let’s compare to Ultima 7. One of the big lies of Ultima 7 is that it’s an open world game. This is true to a point, in that you can go almost anywhere, but in practice the intended journey around it is linear (this is why when you die, you return to the same place to be told where the people you’re chasing have gone next, to put you back on the correct course). The map itself is then typically controlled not by beef-gate monsters and impossible fights but environmental hazards like poison swamps and locations it’s pretty clear you’re not equipped for. It’s a far more naturalistic approach than just throwing in some assassins or similar to block the way, especially when the scenery itself can convey the hint that you’re getting out of your depth.

Whether Divinity wants to convey the feel of an open world or not, this is something that needs improving next game. This doesn’t mean dragging the player around by the ears or cutting out exploration, just better guidance. More clearly name checking the next camp they have to go to. Having extra NPCs and encounters point them in the right direction, and making the map progression feel like encountering natural resistance instead of punishment for not reading the map designer’s mind. The guards in Reaper’s Coast who warn you away from one of the local evil Sourcerers are a great example of D:OS2 addr—you’re welcome to ignore them and head off into a spooky part of the map anyway, but it’s on your own head.

The old school vs. the new order

When you ve got as many characters and subquests as a modern narrative game, a notepad doesn t necessarily cut it.

On a similar level, and this isn’t unique to Divinity by any stretch, D:OS2 features a lot of old school moments where the designer’s intent simply isn’t clear and intuition doesn’t cut it. Many older fans chafe at modern niceties like flags on maps and being led through every step of a quest, and that’s fine. The catch is that you can’t simply remove them without having something to take their place, especially with a map and suite of skills as big as D:OS2’s. I remember not being able to find a location I ‘knew’ was on a creepy island because I was failing a stat check, despite it being on my main character’s critical path. Later, almost at the end of the game, being Mr. Clever about one puzzle solution involving a judgemental statue meant never even speaking to the character who was meant to tell me how to get past a later puzzle. Cue a vast amount of frustration and resorting to Google.

Now, Ultima 7 offered no in-game quest log at all. True. It was the era where you were expected to have a notebook on standby. However, it was good at directing players to the next location, and its puzzles and situations weren’t typically that complicated when you arrived. For all the baking bread talk and world simulation going on, dungeons tended to be about basic stuff like pressure plates and dragging things onto things versus pen-and-paper style adventure modules.

When you’ve got as many characters and subquests as a modern narrative game, a notepad doesn’t necessarily cut it. Modern narrative driven RPGs offer far more tools and possibilities than the Avatar and friends had, and that player feedback is important. It’s not a question of dumbing down, but designing so that the player can better intuit what the designer wants. After all, in real life if someone asked you to deliver a package, you could at least outright say “OK. Where to, exactly?"

Amongst DOS:2 s best ideas, the conversations let you mentally fill in dialogue with how your character s would talk.

What we fight for

Most of this is of course implementation rather than design philosophy per se, and again, D:OS2 is a massive jump over its predecessor. The same applies to the story. It’s a wonderfully simple concept where all your party members are competing to become the next Divine, against a background of wider political and metaphysical messing around. It’s a fantastic RPG story because it’s simple enough to grasp and appreciate the implications of, wide enough to allow more or less any smaller story within its confines, and feels both epic and personal. It’s not as complex as, say, Planescape Torment, but it works in a similar way.

The Ultima games from Ultima 4 onwards were overtly About Something in a way that very few RPGs manage to be.

So why does Ultima 7 still feel like it has an edge? A couple of reasons. The first is that its world of Britannia is a place that doesn’t simply have lore, but history. You’ve visited it as the same character, and adventured with the same Companions, and seen the same towns many times over. It’s like a virtual home away from home, kept interesting by the constant changes to the status quo in each game—in Ultima 7, the biggest being that you’ve been gone for 200 years and life has moved on without you. You see it as you explore, both in the stories you hear and the quests you complete, and in the incidental details as people go to work, go to bed, head to the local tavern, and otherwise show off all kinds of NPC scheduling fun that’s all the more incredible for how hard that stuff is for games even twenty-five years later.

That sense of life would of course be wonderful to see in Divinity. However, even excluding it and focusing on the sense of Home that Ultima 7 offered, it’s not hard to see how the series has squandered its potential somewhat and doesn’t have the same foundation. The big reason is that despite all the games being set in the world of Rivellon and having a few recurring characters, each game time-jumps and focuses on completely different areas each time. They’re connected by lore, yes, but that’s not the same visceral sense of returning to a beloved world that you get in long running series like, say, Tex Murphy’s Chandler Avenue and Monkey Island’s corner of the Caribbean, nor are there many familiar characters there to greet you and feel like old friends who are glad to see you back.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this approach per se, but it does mean that the familiar tends to be mechanical, like the Pet Pal perk, or mythological like its pantheon of gods, versus recurring characters to deal with on a more human level, like Bracchus Rex, Damien and of course Lucian the Divine.

It s such a pretty world. Some trips to further flung areas would be fun in the next game though.

The second is that while their success has arguably been overly glorified over the years, the Ultima games from U4 onwards were overtly About Something in a way that very few RPGs manage to be. Ultima 4 of course was about becoming a hero, Ultima 5 about the misapplication of justice, Ultima 6 about racism and tolerance, Ultima 7 about corruption and the power of religion, and Ultima 8 about a hero forced into a position of doing evil for the sake of the greater good.

(We don’t talk about Ultima 9).

Specifically, Ultima 7 features persuasive moral philosophy and shows how it can be perverted to promote selfishness and obedience to a cause, the much denied but blatant fact that the villains are a pastiche of Scientology, and smaller stories involving many important themes of the time such as drugs and the growing violence of the media, as seen by the fact that your first encounter is a bloody sacrificial murder site full of assorted giblets.

This isn’t to call out Divinity: Original Sin 2 for not following the same storytelling path. Both its main story and its character based plotlines are excellent. It is however a big part of Ultima’s core design philosophy—that RPGs can be about more than gods and monsters and saving the world. Though nothing else has truly surpassed it, bits of that have wormed their way into many RPGs since, to make them more than the sum of their adventures. Planescape has ‘What can change the nature of a man?’, while Fallout followed both its catchphrase ‘War never changes’ and the unspoken ‘even as the world does’ in developing its world.

These are the touches that help a story really resonate; to sink their claws in and stick with you as meaningful long after the credits rolled. That resonance is also a big reason why other classic RPGs like Might and Magic and Gold Box games may be beloved by fans, but the likes of Ultima and Wasteland remain nothing short of legendary decades after their time.

Dialogue hasn t necessarily aged well. Making it worse, Lord British here is from 20th century Earth.

A legacy within reach

The Divinity series isn’t quite at that level yet. But as I said at the start, that’s not intended as a criticism—talking in these terms, and about that possibility, is intended as a huge compliment. Nothing has ever gotten closer to beating Ultima 7 at its own game, and that includes its sequels. To accomplish that and still have time for ideas as great as Pet Pal, talking to ghosts, and a campaign that works just as well if you play it straight or if you team up with friends and murder everyone Diablo-style is nothing short of incredible.

The fact that there’s still inspiration to be taken from the classics is honestly exciting, especially after seeing the love and commitment in every part of the jump between D:OS and D:OS2. Maybe the next Divinity: Original Sin will finally push over the edge, or maybe the company will go in a different direction entirely—to take the vast amount learned so far and create something that’s entirely their own, as, say, Troika did with Vampire: Bloodlines, Toby Fox did with Undertale and BioWare did with, ooh, let’s say 2.9 Mass Effects.

But that’s for tomorrow. For now, let’s stick with what really matters. Whether Ultima 7 can ever officially be ‘beaten’ or not, nobody has come half as close as Divinity: Original Sin 2. It’s a great RPG on its own terms. It does the greatest RPG of all time proud. Most of all though, it should give RPG fans everywhere reason to be excited about the future of both the Divinity series, and the as-yet unknown promise of anything else Larian might have bubbling away over in its labs. Anyone else’s fingers crossed for urban fantasy?

Grand Theft Auto V

In December 2013, Rockstar appeared confident Grand Theft Auto 5 would receive single player DLC in the new year. Now, almost four years on, the developer has all but confirmed GTA 5's future updates will be exclusive to GTA Online

In conversation with Game Informer, Rockstar's director of design Imran Sarwar suggests the scale of the base game, the next-gen console and PC launches of 2014 and 2015, and work on the forthcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 has, in essence, made subsequent single player story modes unfeasible for Grand Theft Auto 5. 

"As a company we love single player more than anything, and believe in it absolutely—for storytelling and a sense of immersion in a world, multiplayer games don’t rival single player games," says Sarwar. "With GTA 5, the single player game was absolutely massive and very, very complete. It was three games in one. The next-gen versions took a year of everyone’s time to get right, then the online component had a lot of potential, but to come close to realizing that potential also sucked up a lot of resources. And then there are other games—in particular Red Dead Redemption 2. 

"The combination of these three factors means for this game, we did not feel single player expansions were either possible or necessary, but we may well do them for future projects. At Rockstar, we will always have bandwidth issues because we are perfectionists and to make huge complex games takes a lot of time and resources. Not everything is always possible, but we still love single player open-world games more than anything."

For the sake of reference, Rockstar's December 2013 Newswire post claims the developer then had "big plans for substantial additions in 2014" where it would continue "Michael, Franklin and Trevor's action, mayhem and unexpected adventures in Southern San Andreas." Elsewhere in GI's interview, however, Sarwar highlights mid-2014 as a turning point for GTA Online—whereafter supporting its ever-increasing playerbase with a host of updates clearly became priority. 

Later, Sarwar admits that GTA Online's updates may become less frequent when Red Dead Redemption 2 arrives. "One of the enjoyable things about working on a project like this is that you can iterate quickly," he says, "and change and evolve plans fairly quickly too, so we don’t have to be as clear in our plans as with other projects."

Game Informer's interview with Sarwar can be read in full in this direction.

EVE Online

At this year's Golden Joystick Awards presented with OMEN by HP, we're not just celebrating the best games of the last 12 months. We'll also be spotlighting those enduring classics that we return to again and again. We did this for a few reasons—for many people, these are still the games that they play the most, whether it's an MMO, a long-running sports series, a multiplayer shooter or an endless journey for more loot. 

In the 'Still Playing' category of the Golden Joystick Awards, then, we're celebrating a bunch of these games. People can vote for the following titles: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Diablo III, EVE Online, FIFA 17, Hearthstone, Minecraft, Overwatch, PES 2017, The Elder Scrolls Online and World of Tanks. There's a broad range of games in there, so hopefully there's one that's captured your imagination over the last few years, and you think is worth further acclaim. 

Just head here to cast your vote, and help celebrate the game of your choice, among many others. Voting is open until next Friday, and the ceremony itself is being livestreamed on the 17th of November. Expect interviews, trailers and more on the day. Voting now also gets you a free copy of a PC Gamer bookazine, worth £10/$10.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Just a few days in advance of the release of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, Bethesda Softworks has revealed the system requirements for the PC version of the game, as well as the advanced settings we'll be able to play with, which will include an FOV slider, colorblind modes, and no fewer than five anti-aliasing modes. 

The "Can I Play, Daddy?" (720p and 60 fps at low settings) 

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3770/AMD FX-8350 or better
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 770 4GB/AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB or better
  • RAM: 8GB
  • OS: Win7, 8.1, or 10 (64-Bit versions)
  • Storage: 55GB

The "I Am Death Incarnate" (1080p and 60 fps at high settings)

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4770/AMD FX-9370 or better
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB/AMD Radeon RX 470 4GB or better
  • RAM: 16GB
  • OS: Win7, 8.1, or 10 64-Bit
  • Storage: 55GB

Regardless of where you are on the hardware scale, Steam and a broadband internet account are also required, and AMD GPU drivers apparently no longer support Windows 8.1—but seriously, why are you still running Windows 8.1?

"Many on the team here are dedicated PC players and there’s been a lot of engagement in making sure we accounted for and went above and beyond to add lots of additional settings for PC players," executive producer Jerk Gustafsson said. "Everything from unlocked framerates, field of view slider, to lots of advanced visual settings like lights, shadows, reflections, the list goes on!"

It does go on, in fact, right below.

Advanced visual settings:

  • Lights
  • Shadows
  • Directional Occlusion
  • Reflections
  • Decals
  • Motion Blur
  • Image Streaming
  • Volumetric Quality
  • Decal Filtering
  • Deferred Rendering
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Depth of Field
  • Resolution Scaling

Anti-aliasing options include, but are "not limited to," TAA, FXAA, SMAA, and TSSAA. And for gamers dealing with color vision deficiency, Wolfenstein 2 will offers modes for protanopia, deuteranopia, and tritanopia.

"We’re also taking full advantage of Vulkan, allowing us to push improved performance across the board in ways that simply weren’t possible before," Gustafsson said. "The minimum hardware requirements are set to ensure a high-quality experience, and with Vulkan players should see solid performance on a variety of system configurations. However, if you’re aiming for 1080p with high framerate and settings, you would need to bump towards our recommended specs."

There are no plans for mod support in Wolfenstein 2, although Gustafsson said MachineGames would love to support them, and "hopefully we will find an opportunity to do so in the future." He also said that the technical issues that caused texture pop-in and crawling framerates in Wolfenstein: The New Order at launch have been addressed as well.

"The New Colossus version of the id Tech engine is no longer mega-texture based, which means we have a lot more control over when and what textures are being streamed in," he explained. "With that said, there will always be texture streaming, but in a way that will cause a lot less risk of noticeable issues."

As for BJ's rumored head transplant, Gustafsson scoffed but didn't actually deny it: "A head transplant sounds extreme. Where do you guys get these crazy ideas from?"

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus comes out on October 27. Many, many digital Nazis will die as a result. 

Football Manager 2017

Ahead of its November 10 launch, Football Manager 2018 has so far teased its Dynamics system, its overhauled scouting system, and its new Medical Centre, among a number of other features. Naturally, these deal with the behind-the-scenes side of Sports Interactive's esteemed footie/soccer management sim, however the latest instalment will also double down on its 'Matchday Experience.' 

As portrayed in the following trailer, FM 2018 introduces a new graphics engine, as well as a number of UI and HUD tweaks, that enhance how matches play out and how you interact with your team. New motion capture animations lend a new degree of realism to games, with goalkeeper movements a particular focus of the developer. 

Over to Sports Interactive: 

As detailed there, the new engine now supports DirectX 11, against previous games' DirectX 9. On-pitch lighting and textures have been "significantly enhanced", and there's now more movement variation from one player to the next. These improvements "make it easier for the match view team at SI to make changes in the future," we're told, and stadiums now play a bigger role in outlining scale and depth. 

"It's not just the background tech that's improved, the graphics have too," says Football Daily's Joe Tomlinson above. "Our art team have worked closely with our sister studio at Creative Assembly this year to improve the player models and stadiums… this affects how a player moves around the pitch and operates on the ball, which leads to a more authentic portrayal of the players during a match as a result."

Football Manager 2018 is due November 10 (that's two weeks this Friday). Until then, here's the devs on what's changed on the transfer market and board interaction front:

Look out for our early impressions of FM 2018 this week, as well as an interview with Sports Interactive's Miles Jacobson. 

City of Brass

City of Brass is the Arabian Knights-meets-Indiana Jones roguelike that proves there should be more whips in games. It arrived in Early Access last month and has now launched its first major update 0.2. 

Asking players to "enter the Catacombs", City of Brass' new update is out now and adds a new environment—the Catacombs, unsurprisingly—which replaces the previous patch's levels 6-9. Within, you'll go up against new foes in the form of Unstable Salitars, Hazardous Gladiators, and a "mystical new Gatekeeper" in the new zone's third level. 

New relics include The Charm of Fortune, Coin of Soldiering, Gauntlet of Thrusting, Tongue of Silver and Pads of Silence, all of which can be found scattered around levels or can be bought from store shop Genies. The update also brings with it a host of UI tweaks, difficulty adjustments, and more wholesome tutorial settings. Oh, and a new a trap named 'Maw of Howling' sounds pretty terrifying.

As you might expect, update 0.2 addresses a host of bug fixes and community bug fixes too—the sum of which can be found here

City of Brass' update 0.2 is available now. Here's a little excerpt from Tom's Early Access impressions

Combat is simple otherwise. Left-clicks swings your sword left and right; right-clicks crack the whip at your cursor. This is where things get interesting. You can whip different enemy body parts with the whip to trip them, smack a weapon out of their hand or stun them with a blow to the head—the latter attack causes them to clutch their faces and writhe, proving that skeletons in this world do feel pain. 

Some skellies wear cages on their heads and like to charge headfirst into you, which seemed unavoidable until I learned to take their legs out mid-charge so I could slash them in the back when they collapsed forward. I wish there was more to swordplay than relentless clicking. These moments are crying out for an execution move.

...

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