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This article was originally published in PC Gamer issue 297. For more quality articles about all things PC gaming, you can subscribe now in the UK and the US.

Deus Ex opens on Liberty Island pier. Under the nighttime glow of New York s skyline, JC Denton gets to work, first making his way across the island, then infiltrating the statue and taking out the NSF terrorists inside. As an intro, it s indicative of the game to come: large, open and potentially alienating. No concessions are made. Deus Ex throws you straight into the deep end and challenges you to swim.

By comparison, the opening of Deus Ex: Invisible War is a paddling pool. Alex D gets to work, walking through a blue-grey corridor not yet trusted with the tools that would allow her (or him) to break into the rooms of her fellow Tarsus recruits. She enters an elevator, triggering a loading screen. Playing now, on Windows 10, that loading screen forces a quit to desktop. Moments later, Invisible War lurches back to life, and the loading bar completes.

It s bizarre, and it happens on many occasions. Invisible War has many loading screens. Like Liberty Island, the intro is indicative of the game to come: condensed and constrained. Invisible War is not a bad game would Kieron Gillen have given a bad game 92% in his PC Gamer review? but it s not a good sequel. It takes Deus Ex s wide open spaces and reduces them to a console-friendly size. Normally I wouldn t blame consoles for dumbing down a PC game.

In this case, however, it s impossible not to see the compromises created by its Xbox release. Deus Ex is able to use its large spaces to create a sense of realism through sparse but effective environmental detail. The streets of Hell s Kitchen are wide, and littered with barrels, crates and garbage bags. In Invisible War, the locations feel cramped and chunky. Seattle the first hub feels more like a mall than anything else. What should be a major US city is instead an underwhelming series of cramped corridors and staircases. The first time I played, I didn t realise I was outdoors. It s about as underwhelming a cyberpunk dystopia as I ve ever experienced.

Other locations, Cairo and Trier, Germany, are more recognisably urban, but still just narrow streets for NPCs to stand in. When I replay Deus Ex, I still feel immersed by the environment. That s not the case in Invisible War. Despite the graphics looking better than in Deus Ex, it s aged worse. The problem is compounded by the number of NPCs able to exist in each environment. Seattle s Club Vox seemingly one of only two businesses operating in the upper city limits has more staff than patrons.

Nevertheless, Seattle is an enjoyable slice of intrigue and backstabbing. Ion Storm makes effective use of limited space by offering a nested stack of sidequests each contact simultaneously someone else s target. It starts when a WTO employee tells me to infiltrate Club Vox and find proof of the owner s tax evasion. While there, the owner asks me to assassinate a lawyer in the nearby Emerald Suites. Tracking down the lawyer, I impersonate an arms dealer, swindling him out of a few hundred credits before killing him.

For completing the job, I m given access to the VIP area. Inside, I meet an Omar trader who asks me to break into the cellar to scan some alien DNA. (What? Your local nightclub doesn t have a cryogenically frozen alien corpse?) As a final twist of the knife, I have the option to reveal the Omar s presence to NG Resonance the club s AI hologram, and a surveillance tool for the WTO. This last act proves a backstab too far for my morally flexible Alex. The latex-encased hive-minded traders appear throughout the game, and the discount I ve earned is far too useful to squander.

Decisions, decisions

For all of Deus Ex: Invisible War s failings, it s still fun to explore its possibility space reduced though it is. Do you enter a locked room by using bio-augmented legs to jump into a vent? Do you disguise your thermal signature to sneak past a robot? Do you bribe the custodian into giving you the master key? At its heart, Invisible War is a game about these decisions, and how they re informed by your specific build. Invisible War jettisons skills, meaning you can t accidentally waste your points on swimming. Instead, augs handle both active and passive bonuses. You can pick from three per body part two legal, one requiring a special black market canister and the selection is varied enough to enable a diverse set of playstyles. This time, I went for a more lethal build, and got a morbid kick out of using a vampiric black market perk to absorb corpses for health.

In terms of gunplay, Invisible Warmanages to outperform its predecessor. It s a testament to how good the best parts of Deus Ex are that it s still lauded, despite the fact that shooting accurately requires you to stand completely still while the crosshair fixes into place. This is a terrible system, and Invisible War was totally justified to do away with it. It s not a great shooter, but lethality feels more viable. It s harder to justify the other systemic changes, however small.

Where Deus Ex hides story in emails, Invisible War has none. Where Deus Ex gives you the tactile pleasure of typing a password or door code, Invisible War automates everything. Where Deus Ex forces meaningful inventory management, Invisible War thinks a health pack is as big as a sniper rifle. Ultimately I think this hurts it more than the size of the environments. Deus Ex s small, seemingly inconsequential details add to the sense of immersion making the world feel more believable.

By foregoing these tricks, Invisible Warseems sterile. At least Ion Storm attempted something different with the story, although, in true Invisible War style, it doesn t quite work. Throughout, Alex can choose to change her allegiance. But, whatever the choice, there s never any consequence to the point that the two initial factions are both puppets of the Illuminati. It s a twist that s mirrored within an excellent chain of sidequests about warring coffee shops. Both are, in fact, owned by the same corporation. A fitting end for a series in love with conspiracy, but such narrative nihilism ultimately renders your corporate espionage meaningless (albeit enjoyable).

Eventually, the real players are revealed The Templars, Illuminati and ApostleCorp, led by Paul and JC Denton. It s a reprise of Deus Ex s ending, but fleshed out. The consequences are darker, and every option feels like a compromise. It s to Invisible War s credit that, despite all of its problems, it does manage to expand upon the story beats of Deus Ex in some thoughtful ways.

Invisible War also deserves recognition for setting the template for Eidos Montreal s more successful sequels. Deus Ex is a singular game, one that excels despite (and, some might argue, because of) its idiosyncrasies. Invisible War is the first, failed attempt at taming the formula and in the process making it much more accessible and mainstream. But Ion Storm was ahead of its time, and the technology of 2003 wasn t up to the task.

Luckily for Deus Ex fans, the technology of 2011 was. Human Revolution was able to build upon Invisible War s structure and refinements, while restoring some of the size, freedom and complexity of the original Deus Ex. Maybe that doesn t excuse Invisible War, but it does, I think, justify its existence.

PC Gamer

See the full album here.

There's been a severe lack of videogame spooks, thrills, and chills online, but Reddit user Weeperblast has us covered. This Halloween he's dressing up as the Jailer enemy from Dark Souls 3's Irithyll Dungeon area. Besides looking deeply unsettling with that blank mask and bizarre peace-sign brand, the Jailer will scare Dark Souls players by recalling their first encounter with this particularly creepy enemy. Not only is the Irithyll Dungeon damp and dark, but Jailers are patrolling all about and have the unnatural ability to temporarily lower the player's max health just from standing in their line of sight. And once they spot you, they'll scuffle your way and laugh. It's not cool. (It's cool.)

Weeperblast put the costume together for around $80 using a robe, gloves, balaclava, paint, and no short amount of fabric. He's not just wearing it for a party or to grief unsuspecting Dark Souls players either. It's for a comedy show, which he's hosting and performing in.

My immediate reaction to seeing someone dressed like this on stage would be to duck beneath the chairs in front of me and make a new life there, but having sampled Weeperblast's comedy, I'm sure I'd eventually emerge chuckling. It's heavy stuff, the "product of three years of refining pain and grief into stand up comedy," so if you decide to give it a listen, be warned. But if you do, close your eyes and picture the Jailer, waving around a lantern and cracking jokes about deep, abyssal sadness. That's my new headcanon, and I think the Jailer is a better, more sympathetic character for it.

PC Gamer

Brutal Doom 64, the brutalification of the Nintendo 64 version of Doom (ported to the PC) by Brutal Doom mod maker Sergeant_Mark_IV, was revealed to the world back in March. It "revitalizes the old Doom 64 with new special effects, particles, lightning, gore, new sounds, more weapon animations (shotgun reloads, smoother minigun barrels, etc.) and monsters and stuff cut from the original Nintendo 64 version," and of course it ramps up the violence by a factor of about 100, too.

The work isn't finished, but the "first version" of the mod has been set for release on October 30. It will include "all the original 32 levels, enemies removed from the original game (Chaingunguy, Revenant, and Mastermind confirmed so far, Archvile and Hellhound are still planned), as well as an alpha version of the Unmaker shown in the video that can be found in a secret level," the Sarge wrote. "I also have talked to the owner of the VGP servers cluster, and we will be hosting a survival co-operative multiplayer game of Brutal Doom 64 when it comes out."

The announcement comes along with a new trailer, and it is, as promised, very brutal indeed. And quite pretty, too, at least as much as you can say such a thing about watching people and monsters being turned into high-velocity stucco. The audio is awful, which is unfortunate, but you can take a listen to the remade theme song by Andrew Hulshult, who also did the tunes for the original Brutal Doom mod and is currently working on the old-school shooter Dusk, right here.

Thanks, VG247.

PC Gamer

League of Legends is a growing, organic game which makes the plants problem a bit of an ironic one. The game is constantly patched and updated, and usually this is considered to be a good thing. Sion went from a badly-aged green zombie with a clunky kit to a well-designed and thematically cool juggernaut of war who found a place in the competitive meta. Old champions get brushed up to be more polished and look sharp, new voice lines are recorded, and even the map itself has been overhauled, given a fresh coat of paint, and cleaned up to look like a game that can stand out in 2016.

These changes are more than just aesthetic: new mechanical changes are added regularly. Most recent was the tower changes that made the top/bottom lane swap impractical. Another was the dragon change that turned the map objective into a RNG-controlled boss that could emerge as one of four elemental variants. These changes are sprinkled throughout the season, with two main clusters of big evolutions: the mid-season and the pre-season. Now that Worlds is wrapping up, we re heading into the pre-season, and that means that there big changes to come. Among them is the jungle plants system, but what should be a natural-feeling change is causing quite a furore. The 'plants debate' exposes some of the problems between Riot and the community, and it can easily branch out into other discussions.

What are plants, anyway? 

Plants were originally introduced in the Road to Preseason update, and then expanded on in a post the next day. The TL:DR is that plants are a random spawn of small, single-use powerups that bring dynamic effects to the board. One plant provides vision, another gives a short jump, and one explodes into health packs. The idea is that plants can shake the jungle up and make things a little more interesting, while forcing players to think on their feet around a dynamic map.

The original feedback from fans was uncertain, with a few phrases that popped up again and again: this feels like a gimmick. This feels forced. This feels random.

There was more focused feedback beneath the kneejerk reaction: each clip showed a player who played badly and should have been punished escaping their fate thanks to a plant. A Jayce is chased down by a Graves in the jungle - he likely hasn t warded and dove too deep and greedily to chase a kill. Thanks to a plant, he escapes. A Gnar in top lane has hung around too long, and Karthus is ulting. Luckily, a Honeyfruit lets him heal through the damage and deny Karthus that gold. The vision plant allows a Lee Sin who hasn t warded the dragon objective to see that Nunu is attempting to steal it and pick up a kill. These players, without plants, would have failed. Plants allow them to succeed according to a random bonus.

Another issue? Plants favour ranged characters, shoving melee characters out by being able to use their range to snipe the plant objectives from afar. Melee characters are often buried under an avalanche of small advantages granted to their ranged competitors, and this is just another one.

A matter of trust

Okay, so, Riot have introduced all kinds of systems, and the preseason is a time for experimentation. So, what s the issue? The problem is that players often do not trust Riot to walk an idea back. There s a perception that Riot will sit on an idea and stubbornly let it wither, staring the community down and daring them to go play Overwatch instead. This perception isn t necessarily true, but in a way, it doesn t matter. As popular TV talk show therapists like to say, perception is reality, and Riot has to deal with the fact that their fans see them as tyrants who are willing to die on the smallest of hills.

Sure, the controversial dynamic queue system got rolled back in favour of the more competitive solo queue... but it took a year of protests, memes, jokes, and listless sobbing. Even something so small as Twitch s ult name sat for a long time as the inferior Rat-a-Tat-Tat, as fans bemoaned the loss of the superior Spray and Pray. Obviously, Riot will and has compromised before (just look at Fiora s face if you re in doubt), but the perception is that they will dig their heels in. As such, the fanbase quivers in fear that Season 7 will be dominated by plants until Season 8 rolls around and they re finally uprooted. That s why there s such an outcry over such a temporary measure - there s the fear that at any time it ll become permanent, with a minimum of communication.

What’s the solution? 

Riot once tested some insane items in a custom game mode called Black Market Brawlers. One of them let you assume the form of another champion, so a support roaming into your lane would suddenly turn into a fed LeBlanc, hungering for a double kill. People still bring Black Market Brawler s items up today wistfully. Would they do that if these items had been dropped during the preseason?

Why do I bring this up? Riot has been adamant that plants have tested very well internally, making the game a blast and adding new depths of strategy. They admit that they may be wrong, but they suggest that the players are determined to hate plants, and so they won t give them a fair shake. Maybe a custom game mode would help players get their heads around these new concepts, like blending cauliflower into brownies to get a good mix of fun and new nutritional concepts into the game.

Riot is aware that they need to build trust with the community, and say that they intend to do that by making good stuff. They clearly have some faith in plants, as they re still testing the system. The question is less whether plants are a good mechanic, and more whether players are willing to trust Riot with experimental changes. The fate of plants could sway the playerbase one way or another; I ll be watching the patch notes on plants with growing interest.

PC Gamer

A few years ago, Valve rolled out a community-run tool for judging unwanted player behavior for the online FPS Counter-Strike: Global Offensive called Overwatch. Unrelated to the Blizzard FPS of the same name, Valve's Overwatch system gives select players the ability to watch replays of bad behavior reported by other players and impose penalties "proportional to" the offense: "Suspects who are convicted of griefing are given a moderate cooldown, whereas cheaters are removed from the game entirely," the CS:GO Overwatch FAQ explains. But the update released yesterday takes some of that discretion out of the hands of judges, and imposes significantly harsher penalties on repeat offenders.

Along with a small number of fixes, tweaks, and a wish for a happy Halloween, the October 25 patch notes states, "A temporary griefing conviction assigned by Overwatch will now be elevated to a permanent conviction if the suspect had a previous temporary griefing conviction." Two strikes and you're out, in other words, and even as someone who enjoys watching cheaters eat a hard swing of the banhammer, that seems a bit harsh.

Not everyone thinks so, though. This guy expressed his displeasure with his cooldown becoming a permaban, but most of the commenters in the follow-up thread, and quite a number of people in the CS:GO subreddit, seem to be in favor of the change and have little apparent sympathy for anyone who falls victim to it. The trouble, at least potentially, is that players who happen to be caught up in a false positive are faced with a real hassle: The "Competitive Cooldowns and Bans" FAQ opens with a stern warning, outlined in red, that "cooldowns and bans are non-negotiable and cannot be removed or reduced by Steam Support."

Watch your step, kids.

Thanks, Kotaku.

PC Gamer

Golden Axe was already an old game when I found it at the back of an arcade in the 1990s. The dusty cabinet only cost 20 cents per credit while shiny new games demanded a whole dollar. It was good value: only 20 cents to become a dwarf who could ride dragons or weird chicken-leg creatures, bash up tiny gnomes for their magic potions, and sometimes summon lightning from the sky.

Even at that price I could never finish it, and playing it years later on Steam as part of the Sega Mega Drive & Classics Collection it's obvious why. The boss fights are cheap, enemies burst out of doorways to hammer you on the head, the difficulty spikes are entirely random, and ledges are precarious. It has all the hallmarks of arcade games designed first and foremost to vacuum coins straight out of childrens' pockets with maximum efficiency. But thanks to a Steam Workshop modder, it no longer has to be that way.

Tucked away among the mods in the Steam Workshop, behind the ones that inserted Knuckles into the original Sonic the Hedgehog or played the weird noise Tim Allen makes whenever someone dies, I found the Chill Editions. These personalised tweaksets alter arcade classics, some of them adding infinite lives or unlimited time, level selection, or protection from death when you fall off the edge of the screen.

Games from Altered Beast to Vectorman 2 had been given the Chill Edition treatment. They took the rage out of Streets of Rage 2, and made even frantic games like Gunstar Heroes into relaxing experiences you can zone out to while listening to a podcast. At first I thought that was all there was to it, and then I looked into the identity of the blessed saint of a Steam user called xONLYUSEmeFEET responsible for these mods.

Turns out he's AJ Ryan, who has a condition called Arthrogryposis that restricts the use of his hands. Ryan steers his wheelchair, types, and plays games using his feet hence the username. You can check him out on YouTube playing arcade games and playing them well, and he s able to type at 50 words-per-minute and use a mouse with his feet as well. Though he can play with controllers the triggers can be hard to depress with his toes and he s switched to PC gaming for his favorite first-person shooters. I'm glad I did because I can hold my own against my friends now! he says. But Ryan's keenly aware that not everybody is capable of doing what he can.

"Many Sega games are difficult to beat even for the most seasoned gamer and more people should be able to see these games through," Ryan says, explaining the impetus behind his project. "I began work on a few games before Workshop support released so I could have my mods on the store as soon as possible. I started making one of my favorite games, Streets of Rage 2, more accessible by adding in Infinite Lives and enabling additional features in the options menu. Upon completion of the mod, I decided I needed a name for my work. I didn t want to call direct attention to the fact my audience was those with disabilities so I decided on the Chill Edition moniker as I believed these Chill Editions could be enjoyed by anyone."

He was right. There were 34,143 players subscribed to various Chill Editions, and most of them had no idea who is responsible for them or that their creator has an even nobler motivation than saving modern players from ragequitting. His most popular mod is for Comix Zone an innovative but bastard-hard beat-em-up about an artist trapped in a comic who can traverse levels by ripping a path through the panel dividers which had 2,677 subscribers. The Chill Edition of Comix Zone made enemies weaker, adds infinite energy, and when you use the ability to rip a chunk of paper off the page and make a plane out of it, you now get health back instead of losing some. Each Chill Edition's modifications were chosen to suit the difficulties of that particular game.

"The experience I wanted for each Chill Edition game was to allow the player to go through the game at their own pace without worrying about a game over," Ryan explains. "So infinite lives/health were always my top priority for each Chill Edition game as if I could do that, any player could eventually beat the game. I also tried to enable stage/level select for every game to allow players to start the game from any level of their choosing. From there, I added features specific to each game that had a minor impact on difficulty such as infinite shurikens in Shinobi III or infinite time in Sonic."

Ryan started modding seven years ago, creating Doom maps when he was in high school, but his first Chill Edition for Streets of Rage 2 presented a new kind of challenge. "I was not familiar with Hex Editing or the workflow I needed to create in order to make my mods," he says. "The biggest obstacle for me was figuring out I needed to modify Sega s code protection in order to get any of the games to boot."

Though the process got easier once Ryan cleared that obstacle, his later work on the Sonic trilogy turned out to be "a nightmare" as he puts it. "All three games are structurally very different from each other so I was unable to get the same exact features across all of them which was always my goal for series of games." Sonic 3 & Knuckles was the Chill Edition fans requested most frequently and is currently the most popular one, but getting it to work took a lot of trial and error. "Additionally, getting complete hazard and drowning immunity in Sonic 3 & Knuckles to work without having the game lock out took forever to figure out."

A new obstacle stands in front of the Chill Editions right now, however. This week, dozens if not hundreds of mods have been pulled from the Mega Drive & Genesis Classics Collection, removing those that sneakily uploaded entire games as well as perfectly legit mods like Ryan s. Because of how many mods I uploaded I'm currently banned from the Workshop for 28 days! he says. Since the mods were first taken down, four Chill Edition mods have been reinstated, but that still leaves many more unaccounted for.

Even mods created by Simon Thomley, aka Stealth, the modder hired by Sega to create Sonic Mania, have been caught in the mass ban. Ryan s hoping to get his mods reinstated or hosted elsewhere, but at the moment they are frustratingly unavailable on Steam, and modders are struggling to get more than stock answers from Steam support.

Ryan plans to continue working on the Chill Editions in the future, bugfixing existing ones while deciding which game to Chill next. He's hesitant to double up on work being done by other modders a lot of players request the JRPG Phantasy Star II, but there's already an Easy Mode out there for it. He's also considering modding other mods, like the original Japanese edition of Streets of Rage 3 which fans can now find under the name Bare Knuckle 3 Translated, although he wants to make sure the previous modders receive appropriate credit for their work. "I m always looking for suggestions on Chill Edition mods so always feel free to let me know! I ll make Chill Editions for as long as players ask me to."

The Chill Editions have proved worthwhile for both to disabled players who can now experience games that previously relied too much on fussy precision and tight reaction times, and anyone who never saw the end of Alien Soldier because it was just too hard. There are even commenters on Steam popping up to say how happy they are to be able to play games games they remember from their youth like Golden Axe alongside their own children, no matter what age they are.

Sometimes players are critical of the Chill Editions for being too easy, but that's the point of them. Arcade classics in particular weren't designed with accessibility in mind, and that's a shame. Video games all of them, including these historical artifacts of the coin-operated days should be for everyone.

PC Gamer

Update: Earlier this week, dozens of Steam Workshop mods vanished from the Sega Mega Drive & Genesis Classics Hub without explanation. Sega has now responded, suggesting neither it nor Valve have removed mods that do not fall foul of Steam's terms of service.

According to Sega, this process has occurred automatically and both it and Steam are actively working to resolve those affected. The statement in full reads as follows:"SEGA would like to reiterate how delighted it is with how the Mega Drive/Genesis Collection community has self-moderated content on Steam Workshop. We've seen some fantastic mods created and released on the platform and want to encourage the community's continued creativity by helping to curate a library of outstanding mods.

"However, due to some erratic user behaviour over the last few days, many mods which didn't breach Steam's terms of service were automatically removed from Steam Workshop. SEGA and Valve are working together with the affected modders to reinstate their work as soon as possible and have already reversed a number of removals.

"SEGA and Valve are not actively removing mods that do not violate the terms of service, only those that do. We appreciate the help of the community's self-moderation in removing illegal or offensive content to maintain the high standard of legal mods on the platform. If you feel your mod does not breach the Steam terms of service but was removed, please contact community@sega.co.uk and SEGA will investigate."

Original story:

Earlier this year Sega opened a Steam Workshop section for their Sega Mega Drive & Genesis Classics Hub, allowing modders to tinker with emulated versions of games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage. On Tuesday, dozens of those mods were removed without explanation.

Modders asking why their creations were taken down have received a stock reply from Steam Support: Due to reporting of content that violates the Steam Terms of Service, the content in question has been removed from the Steam Community.

Among the mods removed are some that violate copyright by uploading entire games including NBA Jam and Mutant League Football, but also many that are entirely within the Terms of Service. These include 'Sonic 1 Megamix' and 'Knuckles in Sonic 1' by modder Stealth, who was hired by Sega to create Sonic Mania on the strength of ROM hacks like these, as well as over 20 'Chill Edition' mods created by xONLYUSEmeFEET to make games more accessible for players with disabilities.

After lodging a support ticket, modder Tiddles managed to get 'Sonic 3 Complete' reinstated, a collection of tweaks that include bugfixes and the option to hear the original PC version's music. Other modders are still waiting and have received nothing beyond Valve's standard response: It is our policy not to provide specific feedback on removed content.

As of press time, some of the mods have been restored, but not all.

Sega has not replied to a request for comment.

PC Gamer

Dark Souls expansions have to work harder than most. It s everything to do with how Souls worlds are constructed: witnessing how From Software s environments fan out from a central hub, and tracing the ways landmarks interconnect, is one of the core pleasures of the series. When an expansion shuttles you off into a whole new area, such as Ashes of Ariandel does, it helps for that environment to feel unlike anywhere the series has visited before in order to compensate for the lack of a bigger picture. And while it s not damning necessarily, Ashes of Ariandel fails on that count.

Returning to the painting-come-to-life motif, Ariandel follows in the footsteps of the original game s Painted World of Aramis. It s a miserable mountainous sprawl beset by snow and frost, where a ransacked settlement rests among the dilapidated grandeur. It s beautiful in that utterly despondent From Software way, but I never felt compelled to stand still and behold a particularly wretched landscape for moments at a time. Ariandel is very white, except when it s very dark, and while I wasn t especially taken by the environments, I still felt enthusiastic about pushing through.

I played Ashes of Ariandel at soul level 111, which is arguably over-leveled others have suggested around 80 is the sweet spot. Even at 111 I encountered challenges, though. Enemies are varied, both in form and strength, with tall javelin-wielding knights rubbing shoulders with disease-ridden bird mutants. The enemies present a stiff challenge, but there aren t any tricks to navigating the world itself: don t expect environment puzzles ala Crown of the Sunken King, though the map is more open than usual, and it s easy to get lost in the same-y whiteness of it all. Wandering Ariandel s snowy plains goes down as one of the few instances where I ve longed for a map in the Souls series. The presence of collapsible ice sheets and snaking mountainside paths suggests disorientation was the intention.

The lay of the land is far from surprising. Ariandel dutifully plays out like a textbook example of From Software s interconnected level design. Bonfires feel scarcer than the main game but shortcuts are abundant, meaning you re never far from the gratification of being able to swear off a well-trodden path permanently.

And you will swear them off, because Ariandel is full of enemy chokepoints, areas where crowds of fetid undead roam the ruins of their townships, harried by (mercifully rarer) tougher enemies. As in Dark Souls 3, much thought has been put into enemy placement knight sentries stalk their territory with pets, hapless undead pilgrims march in masses, and bloated flies tend to hang out in the dark.

Still, Ariandel feels like a diversion more than a new adventure, kind of like a secret area that you might choose not to visit on subsequent playthroughs. It s possible to knock it over in around two hours (more if you re thorough with your exploration), and perhaps inevitably at this point for the series there s nothing especially memorable about it. The weapons, spells and attire are more likely to provide ongoing interest among Souls fashionistas, because Ariandel s biggest addition is probably the new Undead Match PvP functionality.

Reached at the Firelink Shrine bonfire after beating a certain Ariandel enemy, this is the easy-to-use matchmaking suite From Software has always shied away from. There s a handful of match formats, ranging duels through to 3v3, as well as free-for-alls for up to six players. The arena is set in Kiln of Flame, and password-locked matchmaking is available. Interestingly, it looks like new arenas will be forthcoming judging by the matchmaking UI, though only one is available at present.

I do worry that Undead Match will detract from the improvisational spirit of Dark Souls PvP it s fun to set up makeshift arenas in the game world, and Kiln of Flame is a fairly straightforward expanse with a single, upward protruding column from which to dive stab. Still, I asked for something like this months ago, and it s nice to finally be able to sit down for some Dark Souls PvP without having to trek to a location and hope for the best. It s also being embraced by the community I had no problem getting immediate games across all modes, and there are certain limitations that make the competition a bit more fair. For instance, most modes limit the amount of Estus you can chug (if any). So far the community is hellbent on bowing before each round, which is terribly nice.

From Software has set a high bar for its DLC, so it s probably asking too much that Ashes of Ariandel should surpass the likes of Artorias of the Abyss or the Crown of the Old Iron King. By the same token, we re three installments into the Souls series and, while the formula is still compelling, it s very far from fresh. For those determined to return to Souls for any reason whatsoever, Ariandel is definitely satisfying, and the PvP functionality will ensure the game is played for years to come, but I have my fingers crossed that the second scheduled DLC pack will hide some nastier and more surprising tricks up its sleeves.

PC Gamer

Considered a "rogue success story" by Digital Extremes' Rebecca Ford, Warframe has went from strength to strength over the past four years by way of continuous iteration. First teased at this year's inaugural TennoCon, the free-to-play third-person shooter's latest major update named The War Within will launch on November 9.

Following on from last year's The Second Dream, The War Within requires you to have played its forerunner quest and to have unlocked the planet Sedna by way of completing the Pluto-Sedna Junction.

"Digital Extremes is also encouraging players to ready their loadouts and don their best-dressed Warframe and Operator prior to the update as both will be incorporated into the cinematic journey, personalizing the experience," reads an update which accompanies the following trailer:

As for the quest itself, here's the official word from Digital Extremes:

"The War Within Quest, will have players embark on a chilling journey to the Grineer Queens' Fortress, where both their Warframe and Operator will be pushed past their limits as they slowly unravel mysteries about the Tenno s past and their true capabilities. In addition to the cinematic quest, The War Within update also includes new weapons, enemies, and a few secrets that will be revealed closer to launch."

Ahead of The War Within's release two weeks from today, Digital Extremes plans to run bonus weekends which will offer players double resources, credits and affinity. More information on all of that can be found via the game's official site.

Warframe's The War Within quest is due November 9 check out Tom's conversation with Rebecca Ford at PAX West in the meantime.

PC Gamer

In the original Half-Life, as Gordon Freeman makes his way to work on that fateful day in the Black Mesa Research Facility, you find a break room. A scientist sits at a table drinking from a coffee cup, and another paces the room. Then you see it. A microwave with a container of some unidentifiable food within, begging to be interacted with. There s no button prompt on the screen telling you to do so, but you just know that if you press the use key next to it something will happen. Something incredible. Something messy.

So you press it, and it beeps. Nothing. You press it again, and this time it beeps at a slightly higher pitch. A clue that you should keep pulling this thread, even though it looks like nothing is going to happen. So you hammer the use key until, suddenly, the dish explodes. The microwave is covered in yellow gunk and the pacing scientist rushes over. My God! he exclaims. What are you doing? He sadly observes the mess you ve made, but Freeman says nothing. You walk away, no apology, no remorse. Classic Gordon.

Valve knows what we re like. If we see something, we re going to try and interact with it. Doubly so if it looks like it was never meant to be interacted with, or if it s out of reach. And it s great that games like Half-Life reward this very human curiosity. There are few things in videogames more satisfying than hitting the use key next to some prop, and something happening in response. When it doesn t, it s always a disappointment. It makes the game world feel somehow more lifeless, more artificial. Like you re in some kind of cardboard film set rather than a real place. If I ever move near a hand dryer in a videogame bathroom and it doesn t roar into life, my immersion shatters into a thousand twinkling pieces.

I feel for the developers, though. They have to dedicate time and resources to modelling, texturing, animating, and creating sound effects for the most mundane objects. But it s work that s always appreciated. In the latest Deus Ex game, Mankind Divided, Adam Jensen s apartment is a funhouse of stuff to switch on and mess with, from the flushing toilet to the washer and dryer that start rumbling when you power them on. Eidos Montreal didn t have to do any of this stuff, but it makes all the difference that they did.

Flushing toilets, incidentally, have become the go-to test of a game s interactivity. There are even websites cataloguing all the games that feature them. Because it s the internet, and of course there are. Be honest: the first time you encounter a toilet in a game, you try to flush it. You probably even do it without thinking, instinctively hitting the use button when you re near one. And if nothing happens, and you don t hear that familiar rush of water, you wonder if the game s even worth your precious time.

In the years since Half-Life was released, the exploding microwave is still perhaps the best example of this kind of interaction. But there are others. Human Head s 2006 shooter Prey opens in a brilliantly interactive bar, boasting a TV with channels you can switch, playable gambling and arcade machines, and a jukebox with tracks by Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult and other classic rock groups. It s completely unnecessary, and doesn t reflect the rest of the game, but it speaks volumes that people still mention it now. In fact, I can t really remember anything about Prey except the bar scene.

Some games even make a feature out of switching things on. In Hitman, turning a radio on or getting a sink to overflow is a frequently invaluable way to lure a guard away from his post. But often you need a certain item to turn said thing on, such as a wrench or a screwdriver. IO Interactive has cleverly looked at how people love interacting with objects in games and designed a system around it.

Environment artists are doing incredible work these days, giving you increasingly detailed, atmospheric worlds to exist in. But no matter how complex the geometry is, how high-res the textures are, and how gorgeous the skybox is, it won t matter if we approach that toilet, press the use key, and it doesn t flush. As games get more expensive to develop and assets get more time consuming to make, I hope developers never forget that, above all, people just love turning things on. The toilet must always flush.


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