PC Gamer
PC Gamer
PC Gamer

The second part of Pillars of Eternity's White March expansion is out February 16, and if you reckoned Obsidian would add an extra companion or two, then well done, you're right, here's a trophy, it says 'Wolverhampton Cricket Club Champion 2006' on the side but it was the best I could do at such short notice, sorry. That new companion you were so right about is Maneha, a barbarian with a pleasant smile and a benevolent nature, looking for an ancient temple for mysterious reasons.

Here's narrative designer Carrie Patel introducing the Aumaua Barbarian, courtesy of PCGamesN:

Oh and here's a new location from The White March Part 2 that we took a look at last month. Are you excited about Pillars of Eternity's imminent conclusion?

As someone still only a few hours into the game, I'm particularly looking forward to the promised 3.0 update, which adds a new Story Time mode, player housing, and mucks about with the RPG's third act.

PC Gamer

The Ship: Remasted is docking (you know, like a ship might) on Steam Early Access this coming Monday. If you're knot in the know, it's an HD remake of the novel 2006 multiplayer murder mystery set on a big old Agatha Christie-esque cruise liner. We already knew that release date, of course, but in these worrying Early Access times where developer communication, and indeed progress, can often be disappointing, you'll be pleased to hear that developer Blazing Griffin plans to be as transparent during the Early Access period as possible.

The dev has outlined its plans for Early Access here, stating that the team will be regularly chatting with the community about the game, releasing frequent updates, and publishing a weekly Weather Report saying what they've been up to for the last seven days. There's also a roadmap here, detailing extensively which features have been implemented, which are currently in development, and which are on hold for the time being.

The Ship: Remasted will be LAN-only for at least the first few weeks, so you'll have to wait a bit for online multiplayer—there'll also be a temporary 25% "loyalty discount" for folks who own the original Ship on Steam, available for a "short period" after the Early Access launch.

PC Gamer
need to know

What is it? A puzzle-platformer starring an adorable yarn creature. Expect to pay $20/ 15 Developer Coldwood Interactive Publisher EA Reviewed on Laptop with Windows 10, Core i5-6200U, Intel HD Graphics 520 (It ran sluggishly at 1080p, but fine at lower resolutions. We also played on a proper gaming PC.) Multiplayer None Link Official site

Unravel renders the little world under our feet with dazzling fidelity and grace. It zooms in on sticks and stones and rust, mushrooms, berries, dirt, saltwater-crusted piers, thick snow that bunches and billows around the little yarn figure trudging through it. It reminds me of all the summers I spent sat on the ground playing, following ant trails, poking at mushrooms, ripping out blades of grass to see if I could whistle with them. Unravel is at times a stunning trip to wide-eyed childhood, so it was disappointing to discover how mopey and mean it can also be.

As the cute little Yarny, a crude yarn-based lifeform, you ll enter photographs (really sidescrolling puzzle-platforming levels) placed around an old, dark home. You re exploring a lifetime of memories: playing in a berry mire, taking a trip to the beach, seeing the place you lived change and grow and die. Longing, melancholic strings cry all the way through, and while it s ultimately meant to be schmaltzy and uplifting—the bonds of love and family that tie us together through lifetimes and all that—it often feels like an austere take on the brutality of life. Yarny is crushed and drowned and gobbled up by cockroaches, and the earth is scorched by cartoon-green toxic sludge. It s hard at the end, when everyone has left and they never write anymore. It s hard for Yarny when he s eaten by a rodent. It s hard for me to stomach all this morose platforming while I wait for the sentimental part, which isn t a whole lot better.

Knot fun

I like the basic components of Unravel s puzzles, though, and there are some good—but never too tricky—spatial challenges to solve. As Yarny runs, he unspools, leaving his body of yarn strewn across the ground (the beautiful, beautiful ground!). You can tie knots around specially-marked hooks, stringing your body between two points to create new platforms to bounce on. Or you can throw out a string to grab onto a tack and swing or climb. Yarny can t jump very high, so the only way to get around the often tall levels is to Tarzan over gaps, climb his rope-body and push tin cans and boxes around.

Each little area is scattered with connection points and pushable objects, and I liked swinging back and forth to see the big picture before building a modest web of string to elevate me to the next challenge. The simple puzzles—like tying a yarn ramp between the ground and a ledge and pushing a box up it—aren t satisfying after a while, but Unravel iterates cleverly. In one puzzle, I had to raise a downed tree by pushing a rock into it, but it took me a minute to realize I had to first tie my yarn to a point below the tree, and then the top of the tree so I could climb up it once it was raised. The complexity increases just a bit from there: other puzzles make you conserve your yarn—unspool too much and Yarny becomes sluggish and skeletal until he can t go on—or operate machinery by pulling on levers or prying open junked old cars.

It s the objects imbued with physics—rolling tires, see-saw trees, floating ice—that can make Unravel dismal. Yarny s pathetic hops aren t very precise, and it s infuriating to have a puzzle solved, but to have to do it again and again because I keep capsizing a bottle floating in toxic goo. And worse, Unravel throws death at you from off screen. I m just skipping up a mountainside when—rumble, rumble—a giant boulder crushes me to death. Turns out I was supposed to know to run back the way I came and hide beneath a specific ledge. No, not that ledge, the other one. A decent chunk of Unravel is trial-and-error yarn murder—like a toned-down, less clever Limbo—with birds swooping down to grab soft nesting material, falling barrels smashing me into felt, and deadly water sloshing beneath unstable boats. Misjudging Unravel s bouncing, tumbling, stupid physics doesn t usually set you back far, but toss a ball of headaches between only moderately good puzzles and nothing seems very good at all.

Heartstrings

When Unravel is really good, it s creative and playful and friendly: I m pushing an acorn down a snowy path to build a giant snowball, hooking a fish and speeding across a lake in a toy boat, spelunking down a well to find a secret. I complain about the hungry roaches, but there s actually a pretty clever segment in which you flip on lights and pull them around to scatter the critters, and it s not really hard, but fun to sort out. Being ground into lint because I didn t make a perfect jump isn t, and neither is struggling against gusts of frigid wind. I can love that sort of thing in a rigidly controlled platformer like Donkey Kong Country or Super Meat Boy, but throw in Unravel s swinging physics and it s just a pain in the ass.

Good thing it s gorgeous. With its natural dioramas, Unravel succeeds at magnifying the sweet sadness I feel when I reminisce about old friends and long days of exploring. Every leaf and stone shines just right, the water ripples and sparkles, the snow piles up and drops from ledges in chunks. The animations are exceptional, especially Yarny s—he s delightfully expressive in the way he shakes off water after a dip, shivers in the cold, and looks up in wonder at a great beast.

I could ve done without the meta story: a dusty old photo album, a pair of abandoned crutches, a piano no one plays. We get old and things change and our stories fade—but gosh, we sure do share our lives and love with people who will go on, don t we? Blech. To evoke so much with the beauty of a mossy forest floor and then summarize it with pithy sayings and faded photographs undersells the real achievement. Survive the annoying falling rocks and mute the mopey music, though, and there s joy in reminiscing with Yarny about all the living we ve done so far.

PC Gamer

The reference Nvidia GTX 980 Ti is a powerhouse graphics card in an unassuming shell. Like the rest of Nvidia s recent barebones cards, it has a simple silver body and a single fan that keeps it reasonably cool. Inside that body is a $650 card that can go toe-to-toe with the $1000 Titan X, but you wouldn t know it by looking at it. It s up to the hardware vendors to pimp out their own versions of these cards, with factory overclocks, special coolers and some flair that says Look at me: I m worth a lot of money.

The Asus Matrix 980 Ti doesn t just say look at me: I m worth a lot of money. It screams it while flexing the graphics card equivalent of its biceps so hard it threatens to rip its shirt. The Matrix is Asus s roided out top-end version of the 980 Ti, factory overclocked well beyond the average card with more headroom above that. And it s a massive card by modern Nvidia standards, three slots wide and 11.5 inches long.

Unlike some oversized aftermarket cards that use all that space for three air coolers, the Matrix 980 Ti sticks with two fans and Asus tried-and-true DirectCU II copper heatpipe system. After spending some time testing the Matrix 980 Ti, I can imagine hardcore overclockers having a field day with this thing. It easily blew past my EVGA 980 Ti SC Gaming ACX 2.0, which is already overclocked at 1102 MHz (that s 102 MHz faster than the reference card s GPU) and turbos to 1190 MHz. Out of the box, the Matrix s base clock is set at 1190 MHz and it turbos as high as 1317 MHz.

The Matrix also piles on features that you ll never need in the average rig, like a memory defroster that will melt frost off the card at the touch of a switch (only significant for overclockers using liquid nitrogen to get really cold) and a VBIOS clear button that will reset the card to defaults in the case of an overclock gone awry.

To see what the Matrix 980 Ti could do on quick and dirty overclocking, I did some basic benchmarking on the EVGA SC Gaming and then used EVGA s PrecisionX to adjust voltage, power, and clock speeds. I did the same with the Matrix 980 Ti and compared the results.

In the Tomb Raider benchmark, with everything maxed and SSAA cranked to 4x, EVGA s card turned in an average 55.3 fps at 1440p. On the same settings, the Matrix 980 Ti delivered 61.3 fps. That was with no overclock on either card.

System specs

Motherboard: Gigabyte-X99-Gaming 5CPU: Intel Core i7 5960X Cooler: Enermax Liqtech 240 closed-loop liquidRAM: 32GB Crucial DDR4-2133Storage: Plextor M6e SSD, OCZ Vector 180 SSDPSU: Enermax 1500 watt power supply

In GTA5, the EVGA card turned in an average of 35.9 fps at 1440p with every graphics setting and advanced graphics setting turned all the way up, including 8x MSAA. The Matrix again did a few frames better at 39.6 fps average.

In the Unigine Heaven benchmark, there was a more pronounced difference: 48.8 fps for the EVGA, 56 fps for the Matrix 980 Ti.

Then came the overclocking. With about an hour of tinkering, I got the EVGA card to a stable overclock of +100 MHz on the GPU and +400 on the memory, with 56mv of extra voltage. That upped performance in the Heaven benchmark to an average 58.6 frames per second and a maxed turbo clock speed of 1433 MHz.

Do you think the Matrix 980 Ti could do better? You bet it could.

I managed to add 75 MHz to the GPU clock and 100 MHz to the memory speed on the Matrix, topping 1500 MHz, although the average fps was negligibly higher at 59.8.

Most impressively, both cards stayed comfortably cool. Even overclocked the Matrix hovered around 65C, and while the EVGA card ran much hotter at idle (around 50C with the fans not even running), it only got up to the low 70s under full load. And with the side panel off my case, I couldn t hear either card unless I stuck my head right up to the system. Whisper quiet.

The Matrix 980 Ti is begging to be shown off in a flashy case with a window, assuming you dig Asus s look. At $720, it s priced at a premium over most 980 Tis; the EVGA card is only $650, and some of the Matrix s features won t mean much for you if you don t obsess over every percent gained in manual overclocking.

Then again, you re also paying for the convenience of this thing totally cruising out of the box. If money s no object, you re going to get a hell of a high performance card, no tuning required. Just make sure you have a case that can hold it.

PC Gamer

Some game mods are purely cosmetic because, let's face it, we all like hats. Some overhaul games entirely, in dramatic, sweeping fashion. And others do one small, specific, and incredibly useful thing that makes a game so much better that you wonder how you ever got along without it. The Stop Wasting My Time mod for XCOM 2 sounds like it's very much the latter of the three: It speeds up the game without messing with the experience, by simply eliminating most of the pauses that happen after certain actions take place.

Combat changes:

  • Removed 1-3sec pause after shooting, throwing grenades, abilities, etc.
  • Removed 1 sec pause after getting a kill
  • Removed 2.75 sec pause after going into cover
  • Increased unit movement speed by ~20% (This is much less than other mods, it doesn't break immersion by turning every unit into Sonic the Hedgehog)
  • Removed slowdown of non-attacked enemies during overwatch slow-mo

Non-combat changes:

  • Increased the speed of the Avenger on the global map
  • Reduced the fade-in time of the horrendously slow color picker

The mod maker, BlueRaja, says there are two pauses he can't remove because they're hard-coded into the game, one after a unit becomes panicked, and a second at the end of every turn. And while it sounds like a relatively trivial thing he's done, SWMT has earned itself five-stars across 276 ratings on the Steam Workshop.

Some users of the mod say it works perfectly, while others have run into technical issues related to keyboard controls, character voices, and even hangs. SWMT is still pretty new, and there may be compatibility issues with other mods, so as always you use it as your own risk; fortunately, BlueRaja seems very responsive to comments and committed to working out the bugs. I'd try it myself, but I don't have XCOM 2 yet, so if you give it a shot let us know how it goes. Other writers on the team will be field testing it this weekend. And if you're curious about the strange and wonderful world of mods but aren't sure where to begin, our handy beginner's guide will tell you everything you need to know.

PC Gamer

THE HIGHS

Phil Savage: A break from tradition I'm not sure if I'm excited for Quantum Break, but I'm definitely a fan of Microsoft's decision to release it simultaneously on PC and Xbox One. Microsoft has been saying for a while that it plans to more fully support PC gaming, but, until now, that claim hasn't amounted to much. A day-and-date launch is a big deal, and, if it goes well for Microsoft, it will hopefully persuade them to transition towards supporting both platforms equally.

My only real concern is the Windows 10 exclusivity. And even then, it's not so much the exclusive as the possibility that—like Fable Legends—it'll only be available through the Windows Store. The Windows Store, if you haven't used it, is an awful mobile-esque wasteland of clones and low effort trash—with only the occasional gem buried within. If Microsoft expects people to buy full PC games through there, it's going to need a serious overhaul.

Chris Livingston: Rot rod Dying Light already felt a bit Far Cry-ish, a bit Ubi-esque, what with the climbing of towers, the looting of bodies for small amounts of cash and packs of smokes, and the unlocking of safe houses. With the addition of the countryside map and speedy, ramshackle car, Techland's The Following expansion makes it even more like Far Cry. Which is totally okay because I mostly like the Far Cry games.

I also liked the Dying Light expansion, actually more than the original game, and in addition I'm just genuinely impressed that Techland really went for it. I know there were a lot of requests from players for a car to be added to the game, but it's one thing to indulge a request and another to really put in the time and effort to build a huge chunk of game around it. I'm sure it would have been easier to just add another section of city, but props to them for taking the harder route.

Andy Kelly: Snap happy About an hour into Firewatch, Henry finds a disposable camera in a lost backpack. Brilliantly, you can order prints of the photos you take with it after you ve finished the game. Once the credits have rolled a link will be generated for Campo Santo s firewatch.camera website, and you can order them from there. I did when I finished the game, and they arrived yesterday from Portland, Oregon. The prints are really glossy and high quality, and there are a few extra snaps in there that will have a special emotional resonance for anyone who s finished the game.

This is a really cool idea, and I love the idea of having a physical, permanent memento of the time I shared with Henry and Delilah in that stunning Wyoming wilderness. And for someone like me who spends a lot of time taking screenshots of games, it holds a particular appeal. I really enjoyed Firewatch, and it s given me itchy feet. I want to go for a long hike somewhere beautiful and remote, although the idea of being eaten by a bear makes me wary of venturing into the wilds of North America. Maybe I ll just go for a walk in the park instead. Much safer.

Tim Clark: X marks the spot I ve become a total XCOM 2 bore this week. Each morning when I get into the office I regale poor Wes and James with tales of how I ambushed a Sectopod with balletically choreographed overwatch attacks, or why Penelope Cruz, my fully trained Psi-Ops soldier, is now essentially a living goddess with a Plasma Rifle. They nod and smile and keep typing in the way I would expect someone intelligent to do while you re telling them about your dreams. But honestly, what a game XCOM 2 is!

After reading Tom s superb review I was itching to get started, and if anything it s exceeded my expectations. I m no turn-based strategy expert, (although Final Fantasy Tactics is one of my favourite games ever—good grief Square, why is that the only thing you aren t porting to PC), but, 25 hours in, XCOM 2 already feels like a masterpiece. The only caveat is that there are some performance niggles, so I m glad Evan is trying to get answers from Firaxis on when those will be fixed. Oh, and I also strongly recommend Beagle s soldier build guides. They ve been absolutely invaluable to my team of slightly faded actors. RIP Beat Takeshi.

James Davenport: Bonfire lit The Dark Souls 3 opening cinematic was released, and so were a thousand silent (giddy) screams from me. It s the one piece of media I can watch without fear of spoilers because it s the first thing I ll see when I can finally play. But watching the cinematic has me wondering how exactly the Dark Souls series will wrap up. The ties between games are vague and thematic, hinting at alternate timelines and worlds. But it s never the intricacies of the story that have intrigued me most. It s how the disorientation and design come together to make me feel like I m an equally confused character in a demanding fiction.

In this reassuring GameSpot interview, Miyazaki maintains that the details of the story will remain unclear, but ...there is the conclusion to a large theme that has continued through the entire series, something that will leave you with the impression of what Dark Souls was really about, tell you about the overarching theme. I can see it now, you defeat the final boss, the screen dissolves to black, and my dad s face emerges out of the darkness. U got gud, son. I luv u lol. If anyone can pull it off, From Software can.

Angus Morrison: All fired up Rocket League Season 2 has begun, and with it comes the most comprehensive set of patch notes I ve had the pleasure to read in my eternal quest for news. I play a lot of Rocket League, and as you might expect from someone who rubber-bands between competent player and sore loser, I had a veritable book full of gripes over Rocket League s rough edges. I ll need a few weeks play to get a proper feel for Season 2, but Psyonix has addressed almost everything.

The maddening ranking system of Season 1 has been obliterated. The UI is scalable. Maps have been optimised. A new mode for fun, experimental pitches (like one in the shape of a doughnut) is in place. The framerate has been uncapped. You can report dickheads. These are substantial, welcome changes, and it shows that Psyonix, despite now having more cash than the Queen, is listening intently to players, and that s how you foster an enduring community.

In this week's lows, Chris makes sad truck sounds, XCOM 2 shows Andy no mercy, and Tim finds a ghost in the machine.

THE LOWS

Andy Kelly: Tough break I ve been playing XCOM 2, and as Tom s review correctly pointed out, it s bloody brilliant. But one thing that has soured the experience is that it highlights my complete inability to competently play strategy games. You always feel like you re on the back foot in XCOM 2, which fits the fiction of being the commander of a scrappy group of rebels, but it also means the game is really difficult. Some people love this, but I can t enjoy games if they re too challenging. It s why I hit a brick wall with the first two Dark Souls, and probably will with the third too.

I m still playing XCOM 2, because it s fundamentally such a well-designed game, but I ve rage-quit and restarted my campaign so many times. The reason I don t get on with tough games, I think, is patience. I don t have the mental discipline to fight the same Dark Souls boss multiple times to learn its weakness. To some of you—especially here on the internet where people love flexing their virtual muscles—this will be a shameful admission. But some of you will be quietly agreeing with me that hard games aren t much fun. Don t worry. I get it.

Angus Morrison: Damp squib Sorry, Andy, Firewatch is my low of the week. I bought it on Tuesday, and played obsessively through to completion. My God, those opening hours were good. The colours! The heavy set-up! The oh-so-believable voice acting. Despite being a little more prescriptive than I was expecting, I became helplessly caught up in its mystery. I ve even ordered the prints from my disposable camera.

But the unremarkable, almost bland way the story wraps up is heart-breaking. Such tension built up in such style, dispersed in mere minutes as the story is explained without ceremony through a lone audio log. It feels like a third act is missing, and instead of taking the time to set up a conclusion that could have established it as a seminal work of short fiction, Firewatch delivers a mundane, low-stakes shrug. The fire gutters and dies as quickly as it began.

Chris Livingston: Off the map As people who live in California can attest to, people who don't live in California often have the idea that California has two cities: San Francisco and Los Angeles, and that you live in or at least very close to one of them (despite the fact that California is so big you can start driving at dawn and stop driving at dusk and still be in California). I live in a city that's neither San Francisco nor Los Angeles and is thus typically ignored, so when American Truck Simulator was announced I was hopeful that my city was actually represented since the game takes place (in part) in California.

I just had a quick drive in the demo, and my city is in there! Unfortunately, my exit off the Interstate—which is a major exit!—isn't. My dreams of driving past my house have been dashed. In fact, the entire area I live in, which is part of the city in question, is completely missing. Oh well! I guess I can always walk down my street on Google maps and make truck sounds.

Phil Savage: Self-destructive habits I'm writing this here in the hope that a doctor or therapist sees it, because I think I need some help. This week, I saw an article about The Elder Scrolls Online. My reaction? "Oh, I should try that again."

This desire makes no sense to me. I played the beta of TESO, and didn't enjoy it at all. But even if it had been good, I don't want to be drawn into another endless, repetitive timesink. My New Year's resolution—prompted by last year's twin Destiny and Guild Wars 2 obsessions—was to sample more games in 2016. So far, it's worked—I've played eight of this year's new releases, and completed five of them. It's been brilliant, because it's given me the chance to experience small, strange little games like Oxenfree and Pony Island. I'm not going to give that up for hundreds of hours of a disappointing MMO, not matter what my brain thinks it wants.

James Davenport: No-verwatch The Overwatch beta has kicked back in, but this time Blizzard s integrated some light progression systems. Level up, get a loot chest. I didn t care initially, but then I saw the loot chest animation. I saw the loot rarity levels. I felt the pull. Damn. I m fairly certain I wrote an angry low about how the majority of a Blizzard game s fun is in it s focus-tested reward systems and extravagant UI flourishes. But I am a human, and susceptible—willing, even.

And so now I m reduced to a quiet pouty state, waiting for my beta invite like a letter from a loved one. I m checking my inbox more than normal, seeing Overwatch characters in the clouds, and dreaming about my buddy, Watson, the talking gorilla who most definitely is not real. Guess I ll have to spend another few weeks while Tom Marks flaunts his legendary skins (look at these damn things) and talks about a meta I can t even comprehend. There are guns, cool looking characters, and now there s loot and a shiny animation one circle away from the god's eye. My non-watch resumes.

Tim Clark: Masochistic design Yesterday I found a .txt file on my desktop named you should read me . Immediately fearing I had a particularly ostentatious virus, I did exactly what you probably shouldn t and double-clicked it. The text inside read:

Hello friend,

Who am I?

I'm your friend. You remember me, don't you? You've been playing my game. Discovering my story.

I'm so glad that you're interested in learning about me. I'm very keen to learn more about you as well. I decided to take the time to write you this letter because I want you to know that--

I'm watching you play this and-- I'm wondering...

What kind of person are you?

I suppose we will both get to find out soon enough...

-Hamilton

Huh. A quick trip to uncle Google s house reveals the note is generated by the game Masochisia, in which, according to the Steam description, a young man discovers through a series of hallucinations that he will grow up to become a violent psychopath . Here s the kicker though: I have never played Masochisia. Dun dun dun.

It turns out my girlfriend has though, and I guess that s how it got there. We share Steam libraries so it must be something to do with that, though she insists she didn t play it on my profile. (She also tells me it s a neat spooky premise that the gameplay doesn t quite deliver on.) Still, I m intrigued enough to try it. Cute design either way. But a low because, for a moment, I thought my PC was infected. And now it might be haunted.

PC Gamer
This is how we rolled back then.
This is how we rolled back then.

The Internet Archive, which brought nearly 2400 MS-DOS games to the convenience and comfort of your browser last summer, has expanded its collection with programs from the Windows 3.1 era, including more than 1000 games.

A lot of the games in the collection are shareware releases, which is why you see things like the Taipei exit message asking you to send five bucks to the author if you like the game. Much of it is proto-indie stuff you've never heard of, but there are some names in here you may recognize, too, like The Even More Incredible Machine, Sim Earth, American Civil War: From Sumter to Appomattox, Hoyle Solitaire, and even Out of This World, the Americanized version of the groundbreaking platformer Another World.

It's not what you'd call a tightly-packed collection of super-smash hits, and some of it is just silly—witness Trash, pictured, which is literally a (very amusing) cheap shot against the Apple Macintosh, a relic of the war before the Console Wars—but also a fun slice of history, from a time when Windows hadn't quite evolved into a full-blown operating system.

The colorful and unique look of Windows 3/3.1 is a 16-bit window into what programs used to be like, and depending on the graphical whims of the programmers, could look futuristic or incredibly basic, archivist Jason Scott wrote. For many who might remember working in that environment, the view of the screenshots of some of the hosted programs will bring back long-forgotten memories.

Thanks, Gamasutra.

PC Gamer
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