PC Gamer
face off

Tyler Wilde, executive editorTyler thinks he's too cool to combine sticks with other things.

Chris Livingston, staff writerChris Livingston thinks the more survival games, the better.

In Face Off, PC Gamer writers go head to head over an issue affecting PC gaming. Today, Tyler and Chris argue over the state of survival—is it just an oversaturated mess of clones, or are there good new ideas yet to be explored?

Tyler Wilde: YES. Watching games grasp at the success at Minecraft and DayZ has become exhausting. I m not saying online, open-world survival games should go away, but this constant stream of glitchy Early Access me too games feels like a lot of wasted talent. There are so many clones to sift through that I've lost faith in the whole genre. Please, Chris, don t make me cut down any more trees. My arms are tired.

Chris Livingston: NO. The survival genre is still exciting and promising and I ll play as many buggy half-finished tree-choppin simulators as I have to until I find the next great one. There are definitely a lot of unfinished shoddy survival clones out there, and trust me, nobody is more tired of cutting down trees than I am. Nobody. But I'm still interested in the genre, and clearly I m not alone.

Tyler: What does it even mean to be great in the genre? Minecraft is an anomaly. DayZ is a novelty. H1Z1 is a slightly more accessible DayZ. You have crafting, eating, and some amount of combat. Is it just that, but not broken as hell? And if so, why do we need 100 iterations of it? There must be ways to 'survive' that break out of the existing template.

Chris: Part of it, I think, is that survival fans don t entirely know what the next great survival game is, we just know it s out there somewhere and will have a certain combination of familiar elements. Yes, the scrounging, crafting, eating, not-dying, hunting, exploring, fighting, and so on. And then a certain something else that elevates the game beyond the survival framework. Minecraft obviously allows a ridiculous amount of creativity, DayZ provides paranoia, tension, and a nice mixture of solo-play and interactions with other players. I dunno what the next great survival game will have to set it apart; maybe that s part of the draw.

Tyler: It s like the genre has spawned its own meta game, and that game is: find a game in the genre that s good. Sift through Early Access releases, watch YouTube videos, wander the ruins of unfinished games looking for the one we ve been waiting for, occasionally getting burned by a WarZ or Stomping Land. I think I ll stay home. It s warm here and I don t have to scrounge for anything except for more crackers. Plus, I have unlimited access to potable water (for at least a year).

Chris: You can stay home. I ll build a home, out of, like, twigs and bark and shit. Anyway, buying a bunch of survival games, playing them for a bit, and then abandoning them, how is that different from buying an FPS, playing it for 20 hours, and then moving on? Just because a survival game isn t perfect and doesn t lead to months of play doesn t necessarily mean it s failed. I ve had hours of fun even in unfinished, less-than perfect survival games like The Forest, Stranded Deep, Rust, and H1Z1. None of them were what I d hoped for, and they re not done, and for all I know they may never be done. But they still provided some enjoyment.

Tyler: Let me huff and puff and blow your twig house down, because it s totally different. Titanfall didn t have much staying power, for instance—I did probably play it for 20 hours and then put it down—but I didn t spend that time poking around trying to figure out why it should exist, wishing it had this or that feature, lamenting the bugs. It was just a good shooter that couldn t hold onto an audience. It had a cohesive vision. It was a completed game. Outside of Minecraft, the survival genre doesn t have a single game like that. Instead, everyone s trying to win the lottery by putting a twist on DayZ and dumping it on Early Access, whatever state it may be in. Right now, making something like an Early Access arena shooter is actually riskier, and more interesting, than making a survival game.

Chris: If Early Access was saturated with half-made arena shooters I think we d still be having the same conversation. And holding up Titanfall as a shining example probably isn t fair: Electronic Arts and Respawn aren t two guys coding games on their laptops while sitting in a Starbucks. I do see what you re saying, though, and there is a definite flood of half-baked ideas stapled to survival mechanics, but for indie developers trying to get something made, a survival framework, an open world make your own fun model, and Early Access may be their best chance.

Tyler: Even a big developer like SOE—sorry, Daybreak—hasn t meaningfully changed the genre with H1Z1. I think I recall the most fun you had with it was in Battle Royale, originally an Arma 3 mod. And I thought EverQuest Next Landmark (now just Landmark) was going to be huge. It's still growing and changing, to be fair, but it's been way at the back of my mind for months after launching without many of its planned features.

Back when it first started, DayZ was a crazy idea that incredibly worked. It was something we didn t even know we wanted until we had it. The same goes for Minecraft. Sure, something else like that is going to come along, but it s not going to start with it s like DayZ but with dinosaurs or it s like DayZ but medieval or it s like DayZ but you can put a rock up your butt or It s like DayZ but I m going to abandon it after a year. It s time to wipe the slate clean, Chris. No more lumberjack simulators, no more bad melee animations, no more munching on berries, and for crying out loud, no more zombies.

Chris: I m picking up what you re putting down, and I m crafting it into planks so I can build a shack. Look, the basic formula is definitely wearing thin, but clearly survival fans aren t entirely sick of it yet. Reign of Kings, which I played this week, has been on the Steam top seller list since it arrived in Early Access despite being buggy, ugly, filled with exploits, and made by the same developer who made another Early Access survival game, StarForge, that most players on Steam wound up hating. H1Z1 has sold over a million copies despite the fact that it ll be free someday. Some might say that means survival fans are gullible, but I think we re just hopeful. We re hungry for the next great survival game, so we re willing to throw some money at newcomers with no track records or devs with poor ones, just to jump into a new game and do the same old things. It s hope!

Tyler: As a Star Citizen hopeful (and skeptic), I suppose I can t find fault in that. I don t want anyone to stop making games just because I m tired of them, obviously—that s very narcissistic and I m only mildly narcissistic. I just don t think I can stomach the disappointment of yet another game with 30 bullet points that sound brilliant, but still amount to hitting trees. At least something like No Man's Sky seems to break the mold (perhaps without being classified as 'survival'), but I remain skeptical of it too. For now, I ll stick to reading your diaries, admiring all the dumb stuff that happens in these games from afar.

Chris: And I ll chop down some trees, make logs into planks, and make planks into an ugly little house for you to sit in until Star Citizen comes out. Help yourself to some berries.

PC Gamer

It's been an extraordinarily great week for RPGs, and a good couple of weeks for their roguelike offshoot too—March played host to the annual 7-Day Roguelike competition, which wrapped up recently. I've collected a few highlights below, along with a curio called It'll All Be OK—a music video cat-based thing about loss. Enjoy!

Garbage In Garbage Out by Jonathan Whiting

It might not look much like a roguelike, but it plays like a roguelike...sort of. Garbage In Garbage Out is turn-based Broughlike (I love typing that word) about "steering robots inadequately" around a grid. You do this with a bunch of randomly distributed cards, every go laying turn, movement and shoot cards in sequence to awkwardly navigate your chosen letter around. However, when you move, your enemies move too, the robo-jerks. This is a wonderfully unfriendly, slickly made game, and one that will require much brow-furrowing before it will allow you to succeed.

Void Sanctum by P. Trefall

Another, much more traditional roguelike, Void Sanctum differentiates itself through its evocative (if verbose) area descriptions, and its soothing music, which both do great work in setting the scene. It's worth an explore, even if it's not entirely finished—the health and mana displays don't appear to do anything, and every enemy/yourself is dead in a single hit.

It'll All Be OK by James Earl Cox III

"It'll all be OK" continues to be a terrific thing to hear, in pretty much any circumstance, no matter how little the person quoted knows about your circumstances or your future. Appropriately, it's also the name of James Earl Cox III's game about the loss of a loved one, the loss of a beloved cat, and one person's heroic efforts to reach them after they're gone. If it sounds a bit maudlin, know that it's accompanied by some lovely, mostly happy music—oh and look up there, it's Jesus with a kitty's head. (Via IndieGames)

Malleus Goblinficarium by NikB

Malleus Goblinficarium is a game about RNG, albeit in a different way than you might be expecting. Every round (it's all battles), you pick a randomly rolled die, then use it to plump up a statistic such as speed or accuracy to make you more powerful than your enemy. They pick one too, and when you're both done you attack. The outcome of these attacks depends on your stats, in a vaguely Top Trumpy way. It sounds complicated, good gravy it looks complicated too, but it's not that tricky once you've figured out the controls and interface, and waded through the will-sapping info-dump in the tutorial. Malleus Gob...well, you get the idea desperately needs an on-screen legend indicating what all coloured stats mean; regardless, this is a well-realised implementation of some good ideas.

Phage by Risto Saarelma

Look at that colour palette! This is a gorgeous, vaguely Q*bert-looking roguelike about a thing on an alien planet. As said thing, your hobbies include walking isometrically and assuming the form of the creatures you kill, including space monkeys, spidery things, and space monkeys again, because space monkeys are amazing. Space monkeys! Unlike many roguelikes, Phage boasts an open, biggish world to traverse, and alarmingly no kobolds that I could detect. It does, however, contain space monkeys. I may have mentioned that already. (Via Warp Door)

PC Gamer

Veeve? Vyve? I still haven't figured out how I'm going to pronounce it, but I do quite fancy having a go on Valve and HTC's VR thingamajig. One way to do that for free would be to become an indie developer, then apply to Valve for a Developer Edition of their headset—they've just announced that they're going to be providing them (and the peripherals) to qualified devs sometime this Spring, in an effort to ensure that there will be plenty of games available at launch.

Valve's Doug Lombardi revealed the news to Ars Technica, stating that the developer kits "will be free, at least initially". He added that "More info and 'sign up' forms will be available to all interested developers, big or small, via a new site coming soon". That's "coming soon" meaning likely next week.

There's no word on what it will take to qualify for Vive's Developer Edition, but I'm guessing it will involve more than a simple "i make gam send me vive pls" email. *frantically deletes email draft*. So far, Valve have provided Vives to a select few developers including Bossa Studios (Surgeon Simulator), Owlchemy Labs (Aaaaaa! For The Awesome), and Fireproof Games (who made The Room).

PC Gamer

I'm barely out of the character creator in Pillars of Eternity, but I'm looking forward to diving back in, perhaps after restarting seven or eight times until I'm happy with my choice of avatar. Others are further into Obsidian's nostalgic fantasy adventure, and may be wondering when the first post-release patch will arrive to iron out any wrinkles they've encountered along the way. Wonder no more (well, maybe wonder a little bit): Patch 1.03 will likely be with us sometime next week. In the meantime, a developer has taken to Reddit to keep players abreast of the situation, and to answer any questions they might have.

Here's a quote about the patch, taken from the Pillars support FAQ. "Yes, we're currently working on patch 1.03, which we hope to release during the week of March 30. We are actively monitoring the Technical Support forum and pulling issues out into our internal bug database." If you're having any issues, both those links should sort you out, or at least let you know that you're not alone.

Pillars of Eternity, by the way, is really bloody good, according to Andy. If you're having any non-bug-related trouble with it, Tom recently wrote a beginner's guide that will hopefully stop you dying quite so much.

Meanwhile, if you haven't seen the splendid launch trailer, you can find it below. (Ta, Blue's News.)

PC Gamer

Yesterday's PC Gamer Show featured our first-in-the-world hands-on with Killing Floor 2 alongside our interview with two of the people making it, Tripwire's John Gibson and Bill Munk. Today, we're sharing a full, seven-wave match of Killing Floor 2 on normal difficulty from that session that includes our in-game voice chatter, rendered in glorious 60fps.

Our video jumps between three different perspectives to show as much of the different weapons and perks as possible. Watch until the end for a clue about the identity of one of Killing Floor 2's bosses. If you need more, come back tomorrow for another two KF2 videos—one of our Hell On Earth difficulty round, and another of the Biotics Lab map from a single perspective.

Who's playing

KFTester1 - Evan Lahti (Commando) KFTester2 - Wes Fenlon (Berserker) KFTester3 - John Gibson (Field Medic) KFTester4 - Bill Munk (Commando) KFTester5 - Lucas Sullivan (Support) KFTester6 - Mike Schmitt (Berserker)

PC Gamer
critical paths

Every week, Richard Cobbett talks about the world of story and writing in games.

While I won't spoil what leads up to it, the latest episode of the adventure game Life Is Strange features something I don't believe I've seen in a game before - contact information for a suicide hotline. It's an inclusion that I'm sure some people out there are mocking right now, but one I entirely applaud. Mental health issues are often shrugged off as simply being whiny, attention-seeking, self-indulgent or no big deal, and all of that is, pardon my French, complete bollocks. Depression, anxiety, isolation and despair are very real problems, and they kill. They kill a heck of a lot of people, in no small part thanks to false perceptions that they're something that can simply be walked off, that 'go make some friends' is a helpful suggestion, and a worryingly persistent view that mental health issues are nothing but the fucking gom jabbar from Dune; an illusory pain to 'beat'.

(Yes, I am aware that the gom jabbar is the needle, not the box. Sssh.)

The plot involves bullying, tough choices, and not a lot of cheer so far.

Again, I won't go into the plot details behind why Life is Strange felt the need to display what it did, but it's worth addressing a very important reason why such things are entirely worth doing - not that players are likely to jump out of a window while the credits are rolling, not that the moment is so emotive that they'll need to speak to someone... though if either of those facts are true, I of course hope that it helps. Instead, its benefit and all the justification needed for its inclusion is to push the single most important, most life-saving message in mental health: You are not alone.

What's often interesting about how people connect to this message is that it doesn't necessarily matter how the specific situation resolves itself or whether it's wrapped in a fictional context; the sense that connection is even possible can be meaningful. Pondering this column, something I quickly noticed was that very few game characters I can think of who suffer from depression and related issues actually solve it, and that in most cases them doing so wouldn't ring true - as tends to be the case in reality, it tends to be embedded deeper down than that. Even something as bluntly written as Squall's monologue in Final Fantasy VIII has profound layers to it, from his painful awareness of his own irrationality, to his fear, to its root in self-hatred. These are not personal issues that can be solved by beating up a half-naked witch.

Interesting how often games headed by writers go into this territory...

Generally though, narrative is best when it uses the old rule 'show don't tell'. Zoe Castillo from Dreamfall is a pretty good example there. On the surface, she seems to have it all - smart, talented, sexy, well off family, has friends, cracks jokes... but much like real world depression, none of it matters. The spectre of the black dog hangs over her from her earliest conversations, sapping her resolve, turning the world grey. 

Now, as is often the case, when destiny calls she is indeed fired up and ready to be a heroine, finding meaning in saving the universe. Like her Longest Journey predecessor April Ryan though, that's only part of the story, and she also has to deal with what happens when the quest ends and there is no more destiny to have (at least until the sequel finally showed up, but we'll get to that.) Her reward for saving the world is... to simply end up back where she started, once again just walking the streets of Casablanca with no plan, no purpose, while this melancholy tune plays in wistful reference to everything and nothing.

Did you hear me whispering hello?

Did you see me waving goodbye?

Did you notice... that I didn't cry?

Not exactly a heroine's return, even ignoring the cliffhanger. Despite that though, it feels right... and it feels right because anyone who can identify with Zoe in the first place also knows that distraction isn't necessarily a fix, and that not even being able to save the world guarantees being able to vanquish the black dog.

Needless to say, Dreamfall Chapters picks up on this when we finally return to her, in therapy and on the surface, doing much better. It very quickly becomes clear that she hasn't been magically cured though, with her journal showing her desperation to so much as find a proper friend, her attempts to get involved with politics more about convincing herself that she's helping than any heartfelt belief in her chosen candidate, and her relationship with her boyfriend Reza an extremely awkward romance that she seems to be like she's clutching to because... well...  that's the kind of thing people do if they want to to be happy, right? Right? It remains to be seen how the series continues, especially given A Certain Thing in the second episode, but it's already a continuation of the series' excellent exploration of these problems.

Not everyone with problems is sympathetic and likeable. Case in point, Velasquez...

Adventures are generally very very well suited to explore this territory, though of course that's not to rule out other genres. I can already hear people shouting about the good Silent Hill games for instance, and can think of moments in quite a few others myself - the mental breakdown of Lt. Marta Velasquez for instance, star pilot and scourge of Traffic Department 2192, or the showy but still effective Spec Ops: The Line. (What I can't think of are any good examples of where it's been done as something like a 2D platform game, no matter how many of them are splattered over Newgrounds and related sites. But hey, keep trying!) One very effective one I'd highlight is Cart Life, which features narrative, but primarily grinds in the mood through its mechanics and moments of empathy both for your character directly and others in equally bad situations. (Papers Please too, though less so due to its focus. Also This War Of Mine, of course, where failure isn't the only option, but it often feels like it.)

Despite this, it's really been since the launch of Twine that we've seen a surge in games exploring this kind of subject, and I doubt there'd be much argument that a big reason is the catharsis factor - people suddenly having the tools to express themselves, along with the shielding element of being able to step aside, present it as a story, be able to have characters express what might otherwise be impossible. This is not even remotely intended as a criticism. What is horror if not an exploration of what scares us? What is fantasy if not on at least some level wish-fulfilment? Fiction has power.

Of the Twine games, Depression Quest is of course the most infamous, but if it's a bit on-the-nose for you, try Richard Goodness' Zest - an acidic game about the days just grinding past, day after day after day, broken only by occasional bursts of frustration, drugs and futility. Other indie authors of course have used other tools, creating the likes of The Cat Lady with Adventure Game Studio - a game whose pitch begins "The Cat Lady follows Susan Ashworth, a lonely 40-year old on the verge of suicide. She has no family, no friends and no hope for a better future," and then promises things aren't going to get much cheerier. Another technical step up, you'll find games like the collaborative project Serena, which wraps everything in a mystery, and Gone Home, in which the depression aspect is witnessed rather than felt by the lead character.

There's an Achievement for getting through the game with fewer than 20 smoke breaks.

Easily the best portrayal of depression, isolation and anxiety that I've seen in an indie game though is in Wadjet Eye's Blackwell series. Much like Dreamfall, it's a lingering presence that rarely becomes particularly overt, but written with a generally more optimistic touch. It's the story of Rosa Blackwell and her ghost partner Joey Mallone, as she helps lost souls find their way to the next world from the streets of New York, and a little like Zoe Castillo, she starts the series in a bit of a state. She has no friends, she's so isolated that she can't even talk to her neighbour in the park, and work isn't exactly going to plan. On the one hand, her destiny absolutely ruins her life. She's seen as crazy, a suspect rather than a saviour, the relatives of the people she helps are more likely to send her a restraining order than a thank you card, and she literally can't get more than a few feet away from Joey due to their spiritual link.

I said optimistic, right? I'm getting there. Because the second game, Blackwell Unbound, is a side-story about Rosa's aunt Lauren. Lauren is a wonderful creation, and quickly became a fan-favourite character, but her primary role in the story is to be Rosa's mirror. Unlike Rosa, we meet her as an experienced medium, and one whose snark and greater assertiveness can't hide the fact that the job is crushing her. Whatever she might have cared once, it's gone. "Life. Death. Tormented souls. It's all the same to me," she muses, using the series' gateway to infinity as nothing but a quiet place to take an illicit smoke break and a few seconds peace and quiet.

Although Lauren only stars in one game (and appears in one other), she proves very important to contrast Rosa's development. Rosa doesn't have an easy time of it... ever, really.. but over the series we see the slow but steady defeat of her black dog as she comes out of her shell, becomes more assertive, and ultimately takes control of destiny instead of simply being dragged along by the hair. What marks the Blackwell series though is how well, and how believably this is handled over the series. There's no bit where Rosa has a moment of self-realisation and actively decides to change things, or even particularly notices. Nor does it simply happen with the wave of a magic wand. Instead, it's shown through both spoken and unspoken dialogue, details and little moments, that the key difference between the two women is that Rosa is able to turn her attention outwards, to show compassion and embrace her duty as a calling. Lauren instead turned inwards, building walls and hiding away to the point of being incredulous when another character tries to tell her "You are loved." 

The game doesn't need to add that it's by Joey, any more than he'd ever tell. Nor does it blame her for any of this, being both smart and compassionate enough to accept that it might be her curse (and it doesn't get much better), but it's not her fault.

I want a second opinion on that.

All of these games take very different approaches to these issues, with different degrees of fantasy, alternate outlooks, and philosophies that range from hopeful to bittersweet to downright depressing. It's not necessarily that that defines how they land though, with some happy endings ending as sad as a summer's day without friends, whether by seeming impossible or dangling the possibility on an unreachable chain, and some seemingly tragic ones blooming like beautiful wildflowers.

As stories get deeper, and the instruments of narrative grow more subtle, it's things like this that will allow for both deeper characters and more emotionally affecting stories - not simply depression, but a whole spectrum of joys and sorrows that turn polygons into people we can feel sorry for, think of friends, and maybe through VR, finally reach out and give the hug that they need. As much as people write off diversity as simply political correctness, it's always been about more than that. Games, more than any other medium, can build direct emotional connections through words and actions and choices made, and the wider the palette, the more exciting the possibilities. For those lucky enough not to be affected, that's important. For those who are, and especially those who are isolated for whatever reason, it could be a life-saver. It may seem like a small gesture, a pointless gesture, even a silly gesture, but it's not. Sometimes, for whatever reason, everyone just needs to be told "you are not alone."

We are not alone.

PC Gamer

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is being billed as "the most complete version" of the game by Bandai Namco Bandai. It collects all of the content previously released as DLC, as well as enhancements for DirectX11 including improvements to graphics, sound, and performance, an increase to the maximum number of online players, and new weapons and armor. It all sounds very good—and then you get to the pricing strategy.

The DirectX9 version of Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin will sell for $40, while the DirectX11 version will be $50. If you already own Dark Souls II on Steam, you can upgrade to the DirectX11 edition of Scholar (since the current version is DX9) for $30; if you own Dark Souls II and all the DLC, you can upgrade to the DX11 version for $20.

Got it? I hope so, because we're not done yet. The DX9 and DX11 versions will have separate pages in the Steam store, so you'll want to be careful about which one you buy to ensure that you don't either shortchange yourself, or end up with a version you can't run. Furthermore, the two versions of the game are not compatible for multiplayer action: If you upgrade to the DX11 version and all your friends stick with the original DX9 release, you'll be playing without them.

"The difference in the DirectX11, Xbox One, and PS4 versions of Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin pertaining to where enemies spawn, items are located, and other environmental differences will not allow players running newer hardware versions to connect and interact with players experiencing the game on older hardware running DirectX9, Xbox 360, and PS3," Bandai Namco explained.

And now, to help you figure out which one you should buy, some system requirements:

DirectX9 Minimum System Requirements:

OS: Windows Vista SP2 / Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8 CPU: AMD Phenom II X2 555 3.2GHz / Intel Pentium Core 2 Duo E8500 3.17GHz Memory: 2GB RAM GPU: Nvidia GeForce 9600GT / ATI Radeon HD5870 DirectX: 9.0c Network: Broadband Internet Connection Hard Drive: 12GB available space Sound Card: DirectX9 sound device Additional Notes: Controller support: Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller for Windows (or equivalent) recommended

DirectX 9 Recommended Specifications:

OS: Windows 7 SP1 / Windows 8 CPU: Intel Core i3 2100 3.10GHz / AMD A8 3870K 3.0GHz Memory: 4GB RAM GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 / ATI Radeon HD 6870 or better DirectX: 9.0c Network: Broadband Internet Connection Hard Drive: 15GB available space Sound Card: DirectX9 sound device Additional Notes: Controller support: Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller for Windows (or equivalent) recommended

DirectX11 Minimum System Requirements:

OS: Windows 7 SP1 64bit / Windows 8.1 64bit CPU: Intel Core i3 2100 3.1GHz / AMD A8 3870 3.6GHz Memory: 4GB RAM GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 465 / ATI Radeon HD 6870 DirectX: 11 Network: Broadband Internet Connection Hard Drive: 23GB available space Sound Card: DirectX11 sound device Additional Notes: Controller support: Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller for Windows (or equivalent) recommended

DirectX 11 Recommended Specifications:

OS: Windows 7 SP1 64bit / Windows 8.1 64bit CPU: Intel Core i7 2600 3.4GHz / AMD FX 8150 3.6GHz or better Memory: 8GB RAM or better GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 (700 series) or better / ATI Radeon HD 7850 (7000 series) or better DirectX: 11 Network: Broadband Internet Connection Hard Drive: 23GB available space Sound Card: DirectX11 sound device Additional Notes: Controller support: Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller for Windows (or equivalent) recommended

The pricing scheme is unnecessarily complicated—borderline bizarre, even—but it's not a bad deal for anyone getting into the game for the first time. Currently, Dark Souls II is $40 on Steam, and the three DLC packs go for another $30 combined, so $40 for the lot is quite fair. Spending $10 more for the DX11 version doesn't really sit right with me, but even that still beats buying it as-is. If, on the other hand, you recently dropped that $70 for the bundle—or worse, purchased the first two DLC packs but haven't yet snagged the third—you're going to get a little hosed if you want to upgrade to the new hotness.

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin hits Steam on April 1. (And no, we're not joking.) Are you in?

PC Gamer

THE HIGHS

Phil Savage: Avvar wordI'm relieved to hear that Chris likes Dragon Age: Inquisition Jaws of Hakkon. DLC seems to be Bioware's most inconsistent output. You never know whether you're going to get a Citadel, or, god forbid, a Darkspawn Chronicles. Jaws of Hakkon may not be either, but a new zone with a strong through line is a fine thing to extend an already massive adventure. That it also ties into Inquisition's ace crafting system is no bad thing; and extra companion dialogue is an added bonus.

I do still hope at least some of Inquisition's future add-ons will more closely mirror the game's main missions. Its campaign quests are sumptuous things; each dramatically progressing the story and offering new and surprising objectives and plot progression. For now, Hakkon sounds like a strong start to Bioware's post-Inquisition plans.

Andy Kelly: Pillars of NostalgiaYesterday my review of Pillars of Eternity went live on the website. But while I often cast games aside once I ve reviewed them, I m still deep into this one. Now I can mop up all those side quests without worrying about a deadline looming over my shoulders.

There are a lot of obvious similarities between Pillars of Eternity and those Infinity Engine RPGs that inspired it, but one of the most pleasant, on a personal level, is that it s reminding me of the time I spent playing Baldur s Gate II. I was at school, and every evening I d rush home to continue adventuring in Amn.

I m getting the same feeling from Pillars setting, the Dyrwood. It s a place I can put my headphones on and escape to. Fantasy is all about escapism, and Pillars of Eternity is the perfect way to unwind in the evening. Even though there s a lot of fighting ogres and wolves, it s a weirdly tranquil, relaxing game. Obsidian didn t just nail the look and systems of the games that inspired them: they nailed the feeling too.

Tyler Wilde: A katana in Killing Floor 2I got to play Killing Floor 2 earlier this week—watch Evan and Wes chat about it with Tripwire in the latest episode of our show—and it was delightfully gruesome. The highlight, for me, was finding a katana. Did it make me an asset to the team? Not really. My kill count was modest. But was it very, very fun to slice the heads off of rampaging monstrosities? Absolutely. Look for footage from a complete match on Saturday. I think you ll find it hard to take your eyes off.

Samuel Roberts: Renegade, years laterReading PC Gamer in the 90s, I grew up expecting Command & Conquer: Renegade to somehow transfer the scale of C&C to a ground-level, thrilling FPS, rather than being the pile of ass that we all tried to forget (I never bought it in the end, heeding the magazine s advice: 47% is no endorsement). Here we are, years later, and a new beta for the free project Renegade X has launched along with a pretty amazing trailer that makes it look a lot like a decent Halo game.

Tim Clark: Life adviceThis week I took a terrible beating. And I loved it. My punishment was inflicted by Snowchuggers rather than stilettos, and came from none other than Adrian Lifecoach Koy, the ex-poker player turned Hearthstone pro currently who s ranked number 1 in Europe by GosuGamers. I d like to tell you it was a close fight, or that I misplayed out of excitement— between his lustrous beard and brilliant, if painstakingly methodical, brain, Lifecoach is one of my favourite players—but the truth is it was a total mismatch and my combo Druid got caned in seven turns. I shot him over a friend request afterwards, but he understandably ignored it because 1) he must get this all the time and 2) most Hearthstone friend requests come accompanied by an invitation to fight IRL or an exhortation that you get struck down by a debilitating illness. Anyway, GG Lifecoach. I m pretty sure it was you. The username was definitely yours, and you still roped a couple of times even though you were miles ahead, which is surely all the evidence anyone needs.

Chris Livingston: Support mod supportWe know mods extend the life of a game by providing new content, new activities, and new tools so players can continue squeezing enjoyment out of games long after they might otherwise have moved on. But games that provide official mod support reap another benefit: free PR.

I have no doubt that people would still be playing Cities: Skylines even if it didn't have mod support: I played it for a week pre-release, before the Steam Workshop was filled with thousands of free player-made goodies, and I still enjoyed the hell out if it. But even if people were still playing it, they might not be talking and tweeting about it so much if not for the mods. I can barely go a day without finding some new mod or asset to tweet about, and I see tons of tweets about C:S mods every day. Often, those tweets pull me back into the game just to check them out (like the Stargate that works as a metro station pictured above). Games can drift out view quickly after release, but mods can bring them back into focus and keep people talking about the,

So, mod support is great for games. And supporting modders is great too, as we saw this week with Bohemia's Make Arma Not War contest results, where modders won actual some nice cash prizes for making mods. Half-Life 2 Update, a mod released today that brings improvements to the 2004 game, was supported by Valve, Origin PC, Nvidia, and others. And, Techland recently offered an invitation into a closed beta for modders to develop mod tools for Dying Light.

THE LOWS

Andy Kelly: Broken AgeBroken Age episode 2 isn t here yet. It s coming on April 28 according to Double Fine. But that s, like, not now. I m not playing it right now. I want it. NOW. To tide me over I ve been watching the excellent making of documentary on their YouTube channel, which makes Double Fine look like a really fun, creative, exciting place to work. But if I don t get closure for that cliffhanger at the end of episode one soon, I m going to snap. Give it to me. GIVE IT TO ME.

Samuel Roberts: Discount zombiesResident Evil 5 made it to Steam this week, escaping its previous home at the bottom of the ocean, trapped in GFWL. This is a good thing! Also joining it on PC is the excellent DLC that the console version received years ago, including the two chunky story chapters Lost In Nightmares and Desperate Escape, which tap into different elements of Resi s history—survival horror and relentless action respectively—proving to be valuable add-ons. This is also fine news. That s a nice gesture, and Capcom didn t have to bring it to PC at all. The price is the only negative thing, for me.

If you re releasing DLC for a game that came out in 2010 (or 2009 on consoles), maybe it wouldn t be the worst thing to give existing owners of the game some kind of discount. Right now, all of Resi 5 s DLC is on-sale for $15/ 12, only a few dollars or pounds short of the excellent Resident Evil 4 HD port released last year. I m glad to see the complete version of Resi 5 make it to Steam, but I d rather not pay a load more money for something I bought on Xbox Live for a similar price years and years ago. I think half off if you already own the game isn t too much to ask for a limited time.

Phil Savage: Good work GOGGOG is displaying its refund and customer service policies proudly for all to see. And why not? Well done them for offering excellent (and consistent) post-sale support to all of their customers worldwide. My low isn't that—that would be absurd—it's that we feel it necessary to celebrate a company doing what should be basic consumer protection.

PC's biggest digital distributor doesn't do this. In fact, Steam requires EU customers waive their legal right to a 14-day refund period whenever they buy a game. Let's not mess about: that's shit. It's an appalling way to treat the people are ensuring your place at the top of PC-game-buying pile. Sure, refunds can be abused—but they can also save people from dishonest marketing. If distributors want people to buy into ideas like 'Early Access', it seems important to offer protection from those that would exploit that generosity.

Chris Livingston: Ask Me About My BearI've started playing Pillars of Eternity. I chose to play as a human ranger, which is probably not the most creative or interesting choice, but to make up for it I chose to make her animal companion a bear, because bears.

I don't know about you, but even if I lived in a fantasy world where there were ghosts and monsters and magic and weird-headed beings, if I ran into someone who was being followed by a bear, I'd probably say something about it. I'd probably say something like "Look out, there's a bear after you!" unless I'd determined the bear was their companion, in which case I'd probably say "Hey, cool bear!" At the very least, after a few opening pleasantries, the exchange of rumors, or the offer to trade goods, I'd cautiously ask: "Sooooo. What's with the bear?"

No one has mentioned my bear in the game, yet. I've talked to villagers and guards and tavern-keepers and villains. There has not been a single question, remark, or even acknowledgement of the giant bear standing behind me at all times. I had a long discussion with an elf who had a number of things to say before joining my party, and none of his observations or questions were bear-related. I even ran into someone who owned a cat, and I was given a dialogue option to ask them about their cat. Yet no one has asked me about my bear!

I don't think it's unreasonable to be annoyed at people completely ignoring my bear. Frankly, it's immersion shattering. If you disagree, take into consideration the fact that while I was playing, my wife walked into the room, peered at the screen for a few seconds, and then immediately asked: "Is that a bear following you?" It's a logical, human question. Asking about bears is what sets us apart from the animals.

Tyler Wilde: Halo, goodbyeFor a second there, I thought we were getting a PC exclusive Halo game. I mean, we are, but only if we refers to the people of Earth. Halo Online will launch in Russia, and at least for now, only in Russia. "Any expansion outside of Russia would have to go through region-specific changes to address player expectations," they say. Like, it not being in Russian, I guess? Just run it through Google Translate or something. That s how that works, right?

Tim Clark: Moar MordorI m going to invoke Savage s Law, first formulated by Phil, which enables the ol switcheroo when it comes to highs and lows. Just as my high involved something bad happening to me, so my low is something I ve been enjoying. Deal with it, as the guy who got fired from Microsoft a day later definitely shouldn t have said. 

This week I ve been back in Mordor, because, essentially, I m an idiot. I gave up on Shadow Of Mordor too swiftly the first time, writing it off as an admittedly excellent combat engine with a cute gimmick in the Nemesis System and not much else beyond racking up monster combos. Tony Hawk s with swords, kinda. I ventured back because I wanted to play something pretty on my new PC, (now named The Black Knight), and found there s considerably more meat than I remember. Partly, I just had to get over the five-hour hump where you ll still bedding in abilities. But where once I was skulking around between messed up urk assassinations, now I bestride the landscape like, well, still like Tony Hawk s with a sword, but also with a shitton of new tricks. It really is an excellent game and I m curious to say where the series goes next. Readers, what game do you fear you might have given up on too soon?

PC Gamer

The Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove Kickstarter actually nailed its $400,000 funding goal a couple days ago, but we decided to let it slide until everything was wrapped up, just to see how far it could get before the curtain fell. And it turned out to be surprisingly far: The final amount raised came to $508,637, enough to add on some old-school skins, more playable characters, and the Hyperfunk Zone. Imagine a world without the Hyperfunk Zone. The living would envy the dead.

"We went into this thinking we were just raising money to make a new game, and what we discovered is a tremendous connection with people; connections from past stories, from current passionate support and creativity, and future hopes and faith. This is the real gold. The best gifts are the ones you don't expect to get," the developers wrote in their message of thanks to backers. "So from here, we shift gears and collect ourselves and continue on with a new awareness that it's the journey in life that matters."

It's not exactly one of John Carmack's famous plans, but I suppose that's to be expected at this early stage of development. A website has gone up at tjebackinthegroove.com, but at the moment there's nothing to it but a note that it's the "future home of Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove," and a song that doesn't seem to want to play in Firefox. Naturally, there's also no suggestion of a release date either; the Kickstarter lists November of this year as a delivery date for physical rewards, but project creator Greg Johnson said when the campaign began that the game itself will take much longer to deliver.

PC Gamer

Update: The livestream is over folks, but you can watch the entire thing right here on our Twitch channel.

Original: We've got an early look at Titan Souls, an indie adventure game where everything comes in ones: you can only take one hit, only have one arrow, only fight one enemy at a time. That enemy, however, usually happens to be a giant boss.

We'll be livestreaming Titan Souls from our Twitch channel today from 3-5pm PDT, come watch!

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