PC Gamer
XCOM GOTY


I knew the moment the tide had turned. It was 15 hours into my first XCOM: Enemy Unknown campaign, and I’d just outfitted my squad’s psychic soldier with psi armour. I’d only discovered Major Tom’s latent mindbending abilities a few missions before, but he’d already proved himself a devastating anti-alien defence in the field. Kitted out in this gear, he was near unstoppable.

Earlier in the game, I’d hung back. I’d waited it out, luring aliens into laser crossfire, overlapping vision cones and overwatch orders, patiently, eventually clearing out XCOM’s alien infestations. Now, I could sprint psychic Tom out into the open, call out those unknown enemies in droves, and melt their puny brains. I revelled in it. I started talking at the screen. “You think you can run, you horrible bug? I’ll make you eat your friends. I’ll make you stand in the open, rip your disgusting body open with hot plasma. I’ll make you die. I’ll make all of you die.” Then I’d start cackling.

I’d invented a fiction. My soldiers were my action figures, I’d made them run and hide and shoot and watch their friends die, and I imbued them with the heroism and pathos of those events. Graham Smith had been impetuous and aggressive. He died when he strayed too close to a burning – later exploding – car. Owen Hill, once carefree and cheerful, was calcified by his death. He became a dead-eye sniper, silent and stoic, and able to lance a Muton through the eyes with a snapshot from half a map away.

Marsh Davies was relentlessly helpful. My team medic never missed a mission, and reinvigorated everyone else when their resolve slipped or their blood drained out. He never once panicked. Richard Cobbett was insane: a close-range monster, he’d hurtle into combat, heavy alloy cannon acting as far-future shotgun and drawing enemies out for easy shooting. He somehow survived the entire campaign.

Until the turning point, I imagined my women and men daunted by the task of saving humanity. After, with the psychic in their midst, I imagined them standing in XCOM’s home base, grinning. They had it in the bag. They were too powerful, too well-equipped, knew too much about their enemy. Enemy known, now.

I’d led them all the way, but I didn’t feel like it was my victory. It was theirs as much as mine. These action figures were alive. XCOM: Enemy Unknown seduces players with attachment, making you know and care for your soldiers. When they die, a tiny part of me dies. Sometimes they live. I love it when they live.
Without that attachment, XCOM is merely a mechanically superb turn-based strategy game that I’d suggest everyone plays. With it, XCOM elevates itself even further, forging player memories that’ll live as long as you play and care about games.

Read More: XCOM review.

Runners Up: FTL, Sins of a Solar Empire.
PC Gamer
FTL GOTY


The fact that FTL lets me command a craft called The Space Badger with Don Draper at the helm isn’t the main reason I love it (although it is a factor). Ever since I saw Firefly, I’ve been eager to take charge of a crew and lead them to almost certain death. FTL lets me do that, over and over again.

Your primary objective is to outrun the rebel fleet, which advances like a red wave across every sector. Dozens of jump points form an explorable web in each system. You can encounter anything from a drone guarding treasure to a planetary distress signal or a secret space shop. These quick interludes offer a short list of choices, which may result in a fight, a reward, or nothing at all.

For the first few playthroughs, these little choices formed the narrative of my ship’s journey, but that novelty began to wear off as I saw the same choices repeating. Then I started to game the system. I would always ruthlessly destroy pirates even if they tried to surrender, knowing that the more resources I earned from early sectors, the better my long term chances would be. It soon became obvious that FTL isn’t a game about canned stories or alien encounters, it’s about survival.

Then the important decisions came to the fore. Should I spend precious resources on upgrading my energy drive? Should I repair? Should I buy fuel? FTL’s upgrade systems present a fascinating ongoing conflict between the need to keep the vessel ship shape and a desire to make it better.

It helps that FTL’s most devastating weapons are a joy to use. They let you sketch streaks of laser death across the hulls of your enemies. They can teleport bombs right into your enemy’s engine room. They let you order drones to surgically slice up your enemy’s oxygen supply. You can even see the doors on their ship opening and closing frantically as the crew dash to repair what remains of their vital systems.

Everything you can do, however, can also be done to you. FTL’s campaigns are often tales of continuous, worsening crisis. Like the hero of a hardboiled detective novel, your ship becomes more battered and bruised with every encounter, limping towards the distant final boss with a naïve sense of hope.

FTL’s finely balanced systems deliver great strategy, but it’s in the slow demise of your craft that the game finds its drama. That it manages to do so much in such short bursts of time is remarkable.

Read More: Our FTL review and Tom F's FTL Diary.

Runners Up: Hotline Miami and Thirty Flights of Loving
Product Update - Valve
FTL Version 1.03.1

Changes:
-Colorblind mode (available in options) makes many color pallette changes and adds additional symbols to help out our colorblind players.
I apologize for the delay in getting this into the game!
-Hotkeys added for many actions in the game, customizable from within the Options menu -Indicator for when the enemy is attempting to jump away (and if it's able to) -Cloaking will automatically cooldown in non-danger situations -You can now pause using the middle mouse button -Orange room borders for very low O2 have been replaced with hazard stripes on the floor
-Ctrl+click (customizable in Options) when aiming will allow you to
specify a single weapon to auto-fire (or not auto-fire if auto-fire button is toggled) -Minor balance change: System Repair drones power requirement reduced to 1

Major Bugs:
-Cloaking will provide the +60 evasion even if you don't have a pilot -Beams will correctly damage crew (and start fires if the Fire Beam) -Odd numbered Shield Systems will now properly repower after ionization -Tough Little Ship, Astronomically Low Odds, and all of the Crystal Cruiser achievements fixed -Repair/Anti-Personel Drones will always properly disappear whenever unequipped (or sold) - this will let you unequip them to make room for repair men if you system is destroyed -Potential fix for rare crash when selecting weapons

Minor Bugs:
-Fixed: Zoltan Bonus power wouldn't update while paused for drones -Federation Cruiser Artillery cooldown imagery properly updates during pause
-Fixed: Sometimes incorrectly displays the teleporter/shuttle text when your crew dies after battle -All enemies (including boarders) will now have names -Tooltips will properly clear when events/sub-windows open -System limits/effects caused by events (or nebulas) update upon arrival, not after the event -Cloaking system glow fixed -Zoltan Trade hub event fixed - blue option will actually do something now
-Fixed: Quest beacon tooltips were sometimes innacurate -More Typos/Grammar Fixes
PC Gamer
PC Gamer GOTY Nominees


At the end of each year we hand out awards to honor the experiences that live in our best memories of the preceding months—the games that moved us with their ambition, quality, and pioneering spirit. None of the decisions are ever easy, and there's no secret formula: we pit opinion against opinion with straightforward, old-fashioned arguing until one winner is left standing in the GOTY battle cage. Look below for the first landmark of that exciting week-long debate: a list of our eligible winners in 11 categories, including Game of the Year.

Beyond recognizing what games we loved most this year, though, it’s crucial to call attention to a truth that connects them all: PC gaming is exploding. Our hobby is many-tentacled and unbridled—practically every niche, genre, and business model mutated in a meaningful way this year. Two shooters built on new, PC-only technology released (PlanetSide 2 and Natural Selection 2). Dota 2 grew into its adolescence. League of Legends’ Season 2 Championship drew an audience of 8.2 million—the most ever for an eSports event. Modders resurrected content that was thought to be lost. So many remakes and spiritual successors to old school PC games got crowdfunded that we're sure we’d miss some if we tried to list them all.

That said, the following list marks the peaks of this mountainous year, and you'll find out which games won in the next issue of PC Gamer, and here on the web soon.



Dota 2
Dishonored
Mass Effect 3
PlanetSide 2
The Walking Dead
Tribes: Ascend
XCOM: Enemy Unknown



Crusader Kings II
FTL: Faster Than Light
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion
XCOM: Enemy Unknown



Guild Wars 2
PlanetSide 2
Rift: Storm Legion
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria



Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
Diablo III
Mass Effect 3
Torchlight II



Borderlands 2
Dishonored
Far Cry 3
Max Payne 3
Spec Ops: The Line



Hawken
Natural Selection 2
PlanetSide 2
Tribes: Ascend



Dota 2
League of Legends
StarCraft II




Black Mesa: Source
Crusader Kings II: A Game of Thrones
DayZ
The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod



Lone Survivor
The Walking Dead
Thirty Flights of Loving
Resonance




FTL: Faster Than Light
Hotline Miami
Legend of Grimrock
Thirty Flights of Loving



Euro Truck Simulator 2
aeroflyFS
XPlane
Football Manager 2013
PC Gamer
Hotline Miami thumb


Super Hexagon may have become our fast, frantic and brilliantly soundtracked game of choice, but Hotline Miami remains an excellent acid trip of revenge, violence and talking owl masks. It makes the 80s look cool, which is an impressive achievement in itself.

If you've yet to experience Dennaton Games' brutal top-down murder-ballet, now's the time to take a look. Steam have gone and chopped its price in half, cutting it down to a criminally cheap £3.49/$5.

The store have also got a 40% deal on the marvellous FTL, dropping its price to £4.19/$6. It's a decidedly more strategic affair than Hotline's hyper-kinetic ode to viscera, but still a panic-inducing experience in its own right.

Both sales will run until Monday.

That's enough exceptionally cheap indie games, now let's have an ultimately pointless argument about which song from Hotline's amazing soundtrack is the best. My vote's for El Huervo's Turf. Or maybe Sun Araw's Deep Cover. Ah, they're all good.
Announcement - Valve
Save 40% on FTL: Faster Than Light as part of this week's Weekend Deal*!

In FTL you experience the atmosphere of running a spaceship trying to save the galaxy. It's a dangerous mission, with every encounter presenting a unique challenge with multiple solutions.
This "spaceship simulation roguelike-like" allows you to take your ship and crew on an adventure through a randomly generated galaxy filled with glory and bitter defeat.

*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Jim Rossignol)

That headline doesn’t refer to the times when games break and throw up oddball bugs for our amusement, but rather when games throw so many problems at the player that they become a sort of jeopardy-based experience in crisis-juggling. Earlier today I was running through my game collection and thinking about what I might like to play. It wasn’t Dishonored. Three things other stood out: Day Z, FTL, and X-Com. I began to think about what those had in common which, and what that said about my enjoyment of this year’s immersive masterpiece.

And I realised it was this: peril>. (more…)

PC Gamer
FTL-star-destroyer-web


Spaceship management roguelike FTL is one of this year's standout games, and also one of the first Kickstarted projects to result in a playable product. Its modding scene centers around new ships, tweaked mechanics, and updated graphics. We've picked out three ship replacement mods by hellcatv, with art in the case of Serenity and the Enterprise provided by MattsterT. Each of these mods swaps out one of the default ships with a new model complete with new equipment and a custom load-out.

Download links can be found below. Check out our FTL review for more on the game.




Grognak's Mod Manager
USS Enterprise ship mod (replaces Kestrel)
Star Destroyer ship mod (replaces Engi ship)
Serenity ship mod (replaces Kestrel)
PC Gamer



Tyler, Omri, and T.J. discuss what a wonderful time it is for PC genres that were once considered forgotten. Dishonored brings back stealth simulation, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a sleep-depriving boardgame, Star Citizen asks why resource-intensive PC space sims ever left us, and Project Eternity takes a pre-rendered isometric point-of-view on the whole modern RPG situation.

All that in PC Gamer Podcast 332: Yo genre so old...

(Plus more weird tangents. Like Garfield.)

Have a question, comment, complaint, or observation? Leave a voicemail: 1-877-404-1337 ext 724 or email the mp3 to pcgamerpodcast@gmail.com.

Subscribe to the podcast RSS feed.

Follow us on Twitter:
@tyler_wilde (Tyler Wilde)
@omripetitte (Omri Petitte)
@AsaTJ (T.J. Hafer)
@belsaas (Erik Belsaas, podcast producer)
PC Gamer
FTL Faster Than Light review


The fellow nursing the mug of Roc ale in the corner of the cantina doesn’t have to tell you he’s an FTL captain. The laser burns on his jacket, the monkey wrench in his belt, and the broad grin creasing his craggy, careworn face give him away.

Sit down opposite him and you invite a torrent of torrid tales.

“See this scar? I got that when I targeted my own bridge with an incendiary missile. Had some Mantis boarders running amok – it was the only way to take them down.

“Buy me a pint and I’ll tell you about the time my ship, the Belle Guano, tangled with a pirate cutter twice its size near the Slug homeworld. Trust me, you don’t know fear until you’ve had to shut down your own shields, life-support system, and sensors in order to summon the power necessary to launch an anti-ship drone.”



Every one of FTL’s evening-sized odysseys bulges at the bulkheads with dramatic dogfights, tough trading decisions and bittersweet twists of fate. If you’ve ever yearned for a randomness-heavy 2D Firefly game – a top-down Star Trek or Blake’s Seven turn-based strategy game – then yearn no longer.

Adventures begin with ship selection. Initially there’s just one vessel type available. Completing enigmatic quests widens the choice on subsequent playthroughs.

Whatever craft you’re captaining, the ultimate objective is always the same: deliver a vitally important message to the Federation fleet by battling, trading, and upgrading your way through a randomly generated web of sectors. Every sector is its own navigable web of unscripted surprises.



Because a powerful rebel armada is always hot on your heels, you can’t linger in any sector indefinitely. Speed is of the essence, but so too is scrap – FTL’s precious currency. Knowing that resistance stiffens the closer he gets to his goal, the sensible skipper loiters for as long as possible in order to maul and recycle the maximum enemies.

It’s rare that a turn passes without a hard choice or a satisfying skirmish. One minute you’re looking on as your lasers and missiles steadily savage the systems and unstitch the hull of an outfought/out-thought foe, the next you’re deciding whether to intervene in an intergalactic mugging, rescue a mad castaway, or send crew to investigate an eerie space hulk. Pauseable combat and multiple-choice event texts mean there’s always limitless time for mulling over options.



There are hundreds of possible encounters, and countless ways of improving your ship. Bad luck and poor decisions regularly lead to heartbreaking setbacks and sacrifices. So far I’ve refused to hand over any crew to bullying slavers, but have on several occasions had to sell indispensable kit in order to finance essential repairs or fill an empty tank. Running out of fuel is one of the game’s scariest situations. You’re forced to drift forlorn and regret-wracked waiting for either a good Samaritan or a rebel coup-de-grace.

FTL feels like a project that’s been thoughtfully tweaked over several years. Features work hard and are well meshed. Texts are trim and nicely phrased. Even Ben Prunty’s twinkling soundtrack fits beautifully. Scanning the game’s impressive superstructure for vulnerable exhaust ports and shot traps, just about the only weakpoints I’ve managed to identify are the lack of personnel histories, and the painfully slow rate of vessel unlocks. A few lines illuminating the backgrounds of new crewmen, and some more generous blueprint dispensing would nudge this unmissable sci-fi story generator even closer to perfection.


Expect to pay: £7 / $11
Release Out: now
Developer: Subset Games
Publisher: Steam
Multiplayer: None
Link: www.ftlgame.com
...

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