PC Gamer

Image by cuttingthebullet

PC games have produced some beloved music, but there's a tiny irony in the fact that the technological advantages that the PC held over other platforms in the 1990s have actually hindered a music scene from forming around that original work.

We had CD-ROM, hard drives, and discrete soundcards years before anyone else, and those advances pushed many studios toward not only full-motion video but elaborate, orchestral music rather than the chiptunes possible on the NES, SNES, and other sound palettes—a sound that has become a beloved aesthetic and genre in and of itself. Nintendo s (and even Sega s) platforms inspire a ton of affection, but there s still a lot of worthy professional and amateur PC gaming floating around the web.

Mines, Spelunky

Songe is an unbelievably talented multi-instrumentalist, mixing everything from flutes, drums, and ocarinas (when appropriate) to multiple guitars and piano, to his own vocal backing, like on his terrific takes on Warcraft II s Orc theme or the Skyrim Dragonborn theme. Among his dozens of tracks, his Spelunky Mines Medley stands out as a reverent interpretation of a song heard thousands of times by any dedicated Spelunker.

Performed by: Songe Original composer: Eirik Suhrke Buy on  Loudr.fm

Baba Yetu, Civilization IV

The only piece of game music to win a Grammy, this performance by a Los Angeles choir is my favorite among the many that have been recorded. Composer Christopher Tin was, interestingly enough, the roommate of Civilization IV lead designer Soren Johnson.

Performed by: Angel City Chorale Original composer: Christopher Tin Buy on  Amazon

UNATCO, Deus Ex

This rock-metal cover of UNATCO (the organization of which Deus Ex s JC Denton is a member) was one of the favorite things I found online, mainly due to how restrained it is. So many of the metal covers of game music fall drift dangerously close to parody with over-applied kick pedaling and overlong guitar solos. Skilton keeps it simple here while producing an exciting take on what was a pretty sedate, austere tune originally.

Performed by: Tim Timofetus Skilton Original composer: Michiel van den Bos

FTL Theme Epic Rock cover, FTL: Faster Than Light

We really like Ben Prunty s stuff around here—so much so that we asked him to compose an original song for our podcast—so it s great to see an FTL track covered so well by Canadian guitarist James Mills. Give Mills System Shock 2, Hearthstone, StarCraft, and Dragon Age: Inquisition tracks a listen too.

Performed by: James Mills Original composer: Ben Prunty

I m Your Medic, Team Fortress 2

From the Weird Al genre we have this rap from Captain Spalding, a regular on the PC Gamer TF2 server circa 2008-2010.

Doom: The Dark Side of Phobos

Way back in 2005 OCRemix, the web's biggest game remix community, assembled a team (that included Super Meat Boy composer Danny Baranowsky) to produce a massive two-disc, 23-track tribute to Doom. The best way to get it is by downloading it through OCRemix's official torrent.

Performed by: various Original composer: Bobby Prince

Suicide Mission, Mass Effect 2

There s an insane amount of Mass Effect covers out there paying homage to Jack Wall (and others ) incredible work. Sadly, an uncomfortable amount of it is dubstep. Tim Skilton s take on the wonderful Suicide Mission theme isn t, thank goodness.

Performed by: Tim Timofetus Skilton Original composer: Jack Wall

Hunt or Be Hunted, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Tidwell is well known to fans of game music covers (you can find a lot of his stuff on Spotify), but he rarely covers songs from PC games.

Performed by: Daniel Tidwell Original composer: Marcin Przyby owicz Buy on iTunes

Super Meat Boy! - Choice Piano Cuts

Danny Baranowsky is absolutely prolific, having most recently composed for musical dungeon crawler Crypt of the Necrodancer. With his style of mixing modern composition with instrumentation from the 8- and 16-bit era, it s no surprise that Baranowsky got his start on OCRemix. Super Meat Boy remains his essential work and while the official Super Meat Boy album contains a bunch of covers, I love the official piano collection by Brent Kennedy, a 10-track set that can be had for $5.

Performed by: Brent Kennedy Original composer: Danny Baranowsky Buy on Bandcamp

"Act on Instinct," Command & Conquer

A list of PC gaming music wouldn't be complete without Frank Klepacki. Almost two decades after its release Red Alert's "Hell March" track gets the most play, but rather than recommending one of many, many takes on that boot-stomping classic, I think stuff like "Act on Instinct" represents Klepacki's grinding, industrial oeuvre much better.

Performed by: Tim Timofetus SkiltonOriginal composer: Frank Klepacki

X-COM: UFO Defense theme

You won t see X-COM getting a lot of recognition for its music in remixing communities, but this track from Fnotte manages to make something good out of the memorable intro sequence to UFO Defense.

Performed by: Fnotte Original composer: John Broomhall

PC Gamer

We like cheap PC components and accessories. But you know what we like even more? Expensive PC components and accessories that are on sale! We ve partnered with the bargainmeisters at TechBargains to bring you a weekly list of the best component, accessory, and software sales for PC gamers.

Some highlights this week: Western Digital has a dual SSD/HDD for only $120 on newegg. Green Man Gaming and GamersGate are both having large New Year sales, and we have a code to bring Green Man Gaming's $5 games down another 22%. Lenovo's y40 laptops are a few hundred dollars off for each model. You can get a EVGA GTX 980 for $550 that comes with a free Ubisoft game or, if you are looking for a slightly more modest GPU upgrade, the MSI GTX 650Ti is all the way down to $60.

— The NZXT Technologies Kraken G10 Liquid Cooled GPU fan is only $9.99 on TigerDirect after a $10 rebate.

— The Ultra Gladiator Mid-Tower ATX case is $19.99 on TigerDirect after a $20 rebate and with the code BFG150772

— A stick of PNY Optima 4GB DDR3-1333Mhz RAM is $29.99 on TigerDirect after a $10 rebate and with the code OGW150793

— The Dell UltraSharp U2713HM 27in 1440p monitor is $521.99 on Dell s site with the code 78M4SHHJ4JC9WW

— The Lenovo Y40 14in laptop with an Intel i7-4510U CPU is $699 on Lenovo s site with the code DRBUSTER22

— The My Passport Ultra Anniversary Edition 1TB Portable hard drive is $59.99 on newegg with the code EMCAKAS26

— The Western Digital Black Dual Drive 2.5" 120GB SSD/1TB HDD kit is $119.99 on Newegg with the code ESCAKAS25

— The Kingston HyperX Fury 120GB SSD is $57.99 on Newegg.

— The EVGA 04G-2983-KR GeForce GTX 980 is $549.99 on Newegg after a $10 rebate and comes with a free game: Your choice between Assassin s creed: Unity, Far Cry 4, and The Crew.

— The ASUS R9290X-DC2OC-4GD5 Radeon R9 290X is $280.19 on Newegg after a $30 rebate and with the code EMCPWPW37

 The MSI N650Ti-1GD5/OCV4 GeForce GTX 650Ti is $59.99 on Newegg after a $30 rebate.

 Green Man Gaming is having a sale with a selection of EA games for $5, including Crysis 3, Mirror s Edge, The Command & Conquer Ultimate Collection, and more. You can take another 22% off with the code HAPPYN-EWYEAR-22OFFG

— GamersGate s End of Year Sale has massive price cuts on games from Square Enix, Deep Silver, Nordic Games, and more.

— FTL: Faster than Light is 75% off for only $2.50 on Steam. Another dollar will get you the soundtrack as well.

— Rock of Ages is 80% off, down to $2 on Steam all week.

For more tech deals, visit techbargains.com.

A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to online stores. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which help support our work evaluating components and games.

PC Gamer
Sheltered


Time to take a break from hyper-expensive, lavish games, and come back down to earth. No, further than that. We're going down under the earth, deep into a seemingly impenetrable nuclear bunker. Okay, we should be safe here. Except, do we have enough food? Are those air filtration systems on the blink? Oh gods, there's someone outside! Do we shoot them in the face?

These questions and more form the basis of Sheltered, a new project that combines FTL-like disaster management with a post-apocalyptic twist. It's on Kickstarter now.

For a look at the project, check out the developers' quick and to-the-point Kickstarter video.



The concept holds some fantastic potential for recreating apocalyptic despair. There's always a moment in such fictions, when the gnarled hero, while travelling the wasteland, comes across the tale of a family driven desperate by fear, paranoia and tragedy. It'll be nice to see their story for a change.

The developers are looking for 15,000 to make this project a reality, and still have 23 days to raise the remainder of that total.

For more info, check out the Sheltered Kickstarter page.

Thanks, Kotaku.
PC Gamer
suyr-prunty-top


Composer Ben Prunty created the soundtrack to FTL: Faster Than Light (and the new music in FTL: Advanced Edition). He worked on music for Gravity Ghost and StarCrawlers, too. He's also a PC gamer, which means he has to maintain both a music rig and a gaming rig two very different beasts. So I asked him to show us both setups, and tell us how he approaches PC gaming in the living room and what his favorite games are.

I also asked him to teach me how to play the banjo, but he didn't respond to that part.



What's in your PC?
Both my work PC and my gaming PC are custom built by me. I love building my own rig. The two machines have a lot of the same hardware, because I built them around the same time:

Motherboard Asus Sabertooth z77
CPU 3.4Ghz Intel Core i7
Heatsink Cooler Master Hyper 212 plus
HDD Two 1TB Seagate Barracudas
Memory 16Gb G.Skill Ripjaws X Series
Video Gaming rig: GeForce GTX560 (it's about time to upgrade!) Music rig: MSI Radeon HD 6570 (nothing fancy.)
Power Supply PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk II
Case Gaming rig: Cooler Master HAF 912, Music Rig: Fractal Design R4. This case has foam padding to keep it quiet. Perfect for a studio environment.

The music rig has a Komplete Audio 6 audio interface hooked up to it, along with those big studio speakers and a Novation Launchkey 49 MIDI controller. For more information on my music hardware, check out my blog.



What's the most interesting part of your setup?
Possibly that I have two rigs! This helps keep work separated from play; it's very hard for me to get distracted when I'm in the studio. The PCs themselves are pretty straightforward. I have my gaming rig hooked up to my TV and stereo so I can switch to couch gaming seamlessly, which I take advantage of often.



What's on your desk?
My banjo picks and tuner tend to always be at my gaming desk. You never know when you're going to spontaneously play the banjo. You can see I have a couple Mario figures on my speakers, but in general I hate having stuff on my desk.



What are you playing right now?
Right now my time is divided between Titanfall, Nuclear Throne and the first Dark Souls. Life is good.

What's your favorite game and why?
My favorite PC game is possibly System Shock 2, though the original DOOM or Half-Life 2 is pretty close. System Shock 2 was just a mesmerizing and deep experience, filled with tough decisions and free form exploration. I think it has more in common with the classic Ultima Underworld than most people realize. Plus I just love space horror.

PC Gamer
faster02


FTL: Advanced Edition is free. The goodwill of that gesture to fans, to expand the hit space sim's feature set and narrative possibilities for nothing, is a neat way to get people talking about the game just as it emerges on iPad. For me, FTL has been a go-to game, something I've played every day for as long as I can remember. The additions to the combat feel generous, and certainly justify picking up the game again even if you've logged tens of hours with it previously.

The basic principle of crossing the game's eight sectors is unchanged. One nerdy tweak to the interface I quite like is a heavier use of symbols in dialogue boxes, so you're not always staring at white text on a beige background. But why am I talking about UI and not the new space combat bits, which are clearly the more interesting addition?

The biggest additions are the Clone Bay, Mind Control, Backup Battery and Hacking systems. Hacking mucks up one of the opponent ship's systems, Mind Control grants a temporary ally among the enemy crew and Backup Battery offers a finite power boost.

The Clone Bay is the one I'm most engaged with, a system that removes the Med Bay from your ship but replaces crew members who die in battle, providing the bay itself isn't damaged. I can't really work out if it makes FTL easier or not it certainly lowers the stakes in those scenarios where you send someone to a burning ship or dangerous planet, only to have them die, but it's a very small price to pay for something that considerably expands your tactical repertoire.



My proudest moment so far in using the Clone Bay came when three rooms in the middle part of my ship - including weapons - were on fire, and my remaining crew struggling to fight the flames. With their health bars on the blink and the Clone Bay itself about to be destroyed by the inferno, I opened all the airlocks, draining the atmosphere and consequently stopping the fire immediately. I purposefully murdered my entire crew as a strategic manoeuvre, but I minimised damage to the ship and 15 seconds later they started reappearing, minus their experience stats. Tactical firefighting.

This is just one way to use the Clone Bay. Clones also make it a lot easier to deal with enemies boarding your ship or you boarding theirs, since you can throw waves of less experienced crew at them without any long-term consequences. That kind of option makes the Advanced Edition an essential add-on to FTL for me, and there are still loads of possibilities I'm sure I haven't come across, roughly eleven games later.

Advanced completely opens up your strategic options by adding just a few features. I've only just got to grips with mind control, which temporarily turns one member of the enemy crew against the others. You can turn boarding soldiers against each other, or even have them help repair parts of your ship temporarily.

The changes aren't limited to the make-up of your ship, either - there's a conscious effort to expand FTL's fiction, as well. A new alien race comes in the form of the Lanius, who suck oxygen from wherever they're positioned and have their own type of starship. Their presence adds variety to the kinds of foes and potential crew mates you'll meet out there, which only helps when you've spent countless hours among engi and slugs.

Helping to mitigate repetition are the new story scenarios, thrown into the pot with the existing ones in Advanced. Obsidian's Chris Avellone has written some of them alongside narrative designer Tom Jubert, and when you've dealt with slaver ships and Tuco the pirate countless times before, having that fiction expanded makes FTL feel more complete.



Easy mode feels a bit softer now, too. Every time I do an easy run through I've breezed to the last sector in the Kestrel without taking more than half hull damage, and that's rarely avoiding conflict. With a newly added hard mode, it's tough to work out if Normal has changed or not discussing it with PC Gamer's Chris Thursten, he's found a couple of games to be fairly easy until he hits an enemy ship with a hacking drone, when the journey comes to abrupt end. I've had the same issue, and it seems to always come down to hacking drones putting you at an immediate disadvantage by targeting a vital room on your ship. They've got access to the same new toys as you, of course maybe this is just a balance check I have to be better prepared for.

Yet I'm pleased that almost two years on, FTL has given its fans a load more outcomes to be wary of as they crawl to sector eight. This is surely the best kind of expansion, one built without a business model in mind that only enhances the original game and rewards long-term players. With Subset Games having now created a basically definitive version of FTL, minus maybe a couple of possible tweaks in future, I can't wait to see what they move onto next.
PC Gamer
After Action Report FTL


Welcome to the After Action Report, an account from one of PC gaming's varied, exciting battlefields.

FTL's creators wanted to make a brilliant Captain Picard sim, but Picard doesn't tend to die in a fire half-way through an episode of The Next Generation. Instead they've created a terrific roguelike that almost always ends in horrible death, but always spawns a neat little story every time you play. You control the crew of a spaceship as it zips across the galaxy trying to escape the laser beams of a pursuing rebel fleet. You meet pirates, recruit strange aliens and upgrade your ship to match increasingly deadly enemies. A juicy free update is about to add a load of new features, so I paid one last visit to the original version, to rediscover its brilliance, and try to reach the final boss.

First I need a ship. I choose the default layout, which I'm quite familiar with, and name it the Vagrant Badger, the ragged successor to previous vessels, which included the noble Space Badger (my most successful run), and the PCG Party Bus, among others. Next, I need to pick a crew an easy task. At the helm, captain Samuel Roberts, editor of PC Gamer UK. On shield-management duty, dutiful section editor, Andy Kelly. Finally, on weapons, deputy editor Chris Thursten. Who will die first?

You have to move from left to right in each sector, hopping from beacon to beacon to reach the exit point. I spy a useful route across the top of the sector, which ought to take me through numerous planets before the red wave of the rebel fleet starts advancing from the left edge of the map.

Jump one. I fly into an automated ship flying patrols around a long-range sensor station. I attack it immediately, disabling its shields with a rocket and a triple-blast from my laser cannon. I salvage the machine's guts for ten scrap FTL's currency and discover a map of the system in the sensor station. I learn that the system is full of alarming yellow triangle icons, each indicating a potential combat encounter. One is positioned right next to a huge sun. That could be trouble.

Jump two. An Energy Bomber tries to charge me a fee to use the beacon. They want 15 of my 20 scrap. I respond with a polite missile to their shield generator, and follow up with a courteous triple-tap from my trusty laser. They respond with surprising rudeness, destroying my engine and setting fire to the ass-end of my ship. I open the rearmost doors and vent the flames into space, performing a petulant cosmic fart as my foe explodes. More scrap for me, and an extra missile. Onwards.

Jump three. "This beacon has been placed too close to a super-giant class M star!" Apparently the searing pain and massive doses of gamma radiation failed to deter the determined and insensible builders in this corner of space. The same poverty of self-preservation applies to the pirate ship that lies in wait near the beacon. It rakes my hull with a pair of sustained laser attacks, setting fire to my shield generator, taking out my oxygen supply and damaging my engine. I take the pirate's shields down moments before a solar flare tears through both craft. The pirate ship explodes and the Vagrant Badger massively catches fire. Chris repairs the oxygen supply and the engine, Andy repairs the shields and Sam stares vacantly out of the window, because I forget to give him orders. I jump out to avoid another flare as soon as the engine is repaired.



Jump four. The Badger is still quite on fire. I open all of the ship's side-doors and starve the flames of oxygen. Meanwhile a merchant is hailing us with a mission, apparently unperturbed by the panicked screams and sirens he must be hearing over comms. He wants us to take some drone parts to another part of the system. I accept with the imagined scream of "AAAaargh yeswhatever nyaaaarggh".

Jump five. Ship repaired, I sail to the next beacon and receive a distress signal from the heart of an asteroid field. I can try to help, or abandon them to certain death. I select the "try to shield their ship with yours" option, but they die horribly anyway. At least this way I get to loot the corpse. The Vagrant Badger hungers for sweet scrap.

Jump six. I've reached the nebula. Sensors are affected by the environment, which means I lose visibility of any part of the Badger not occupied by a crew member. I encounter another automated scout, who I dispatch easily after a brief laser exchange. After the fight Andy starts repairing some minor damage to the shield generator and I take a quick look at everyone's stats. Your crew gain experience in the systems they use, unless you're Andy, who has refused to learn anything about managing shields despite being in the same room as the shield generator for the entire adventure thus far. I start to see his refusal to learn as a form of passive-aggressive mutiny, but find myself distracted by the co-pilot section of the cockpit, which has miraculously caught fire.

While Sam flaps at the flames I send Andy into the dark area of the ship to investigate, and he almost dies in a hidden inferno in the neck of the ship. Both sections of the cockpit are now on fire, and Sam is not having a nice time. Andy and Chris do their best to stamp out the blaze, and eventually succeed, but the Badger is a wreck. The hull only has six points of health left.



Jump seven. An "especially well-armed pirate ship" approaches. They're slavers. They want one member of my crew, randomly selected, or they'll blast me apart. My mouse lingers over the "we will never surrender one of our crew to slavers!" option, and then look again at my ship's miserable health bar. Sorry, crew. It's time to roll the dice.

And so it came to pass that Andy Kelly, former officer and shield-managing-dude of the Vagrant Badger, entered a life of ruinous servitude. Sam and Chris live on, but what kind of life will it be without Andy's dry wit and giant hands, so useful for putting out fires?

Jump eight. There's an asteroid field near this beacon which I choose not to explore because, knowing my luck, there's a giant fire-breathing magma worm in there waiting to turn the Vagrant Badger into a funeral pyre.

Jump nine. There's a space station, mysteriously silent. Do I explore? I estimate that my odds of catching fire during this exchange are probably lower than the asteroid field, so I dock. There I see a "frantic person banging on the airlock door." He enters my ship and says "My... friends... They've gone insane... They're coming!" Then the rear of the ship is invaded by three foes with pistols. I think I'm outnumbered, but suddenly realise that the "frantic person" has joined my crew, and isn't a person at all. It's a Mantis warrior, a fast green alien that's excellent at fighting. I get everyone to hide in the medbay together and open all other doors on the ship. The invaders respond by taking out my O2 supplies, and then nearly asphyxiate to death reaching the only safe room on the ship. There Chris, Sam and the Mantis man called Dengler bond over a brief combat that eliminates all attackers.





Jump ten. I have FINALLY reached the exit to the sector. I wait for my FTL drive to spool up and dive into a Zoltan sector. I'm told the Zoltan are busy bracing the region for the coming war. I can expect to face tougher ships soon.

Jump eleven. I encounter a planet populated by "small, brightly colored, six-legged, horse-like animals". I could take them aboard the ship and sell them off to slavers, but I still feel a bit guilty about letting Andy go. I choose to "communicate peacefully." One of them responds by nudging me towards a crashed ship, where I gain some much-needed fuel, a missile, more scrap and an Engi crewmember. Yes! The Engi are cybernetic beings that are rubbish at fighting, but excellent at repairing things. Let it never be said that the tiny horse dudes of Random Backwater Planet 28A aren't a gentle and honourable folk.

Jump twelve. For the love of all things flame-retardant, I have found a shop. I blow all of my scrap on repairs and then feel sad that I'm 150 scrap short of a useful cloaking module, and 75 short of the crew teleporter. I'm not in bad shape, exactly, but I should really have more weapons, and perhaps an extra shield segment by now. If I hadn't spent 90% of my time on fire, things might be different.

Jump thirteen. Ugh, an asteroid field. Here constant pebble bombardments whittle down shields in seconds, and can take out vital systems if you suffer an unlucky hit. "A pirate ship hiding behind one of the larger asteroids attacks you!" Of course it does. I lose a few points of hull health defeating the pirate scum, and suck up more scrap from the wreckage. I'm still poor, and the game seems to be taunting me by placing two stores right next to one another. If only I could raid them. Instead, I must move on.



Jump fourteen. I detect a lone life form in a recently attacked colony. Magma worm? No, it's a lone survivor. I invite them to join my crew, and they gladly accept. I now have a crew of five. Not bad at all. Looking back, everything seems to have gotten better since Andy left. Sorry, Andy.

Jump fifteen. A slaver ship offers me the same choice as the one I encountered in sector one. Give up my crew, or be attacked. This time I have most of my health, four missiles, and five kick-ass crew members. I obliterate their weaponry with missiles and take them down to a sliver of health. They attempt to surrender, offering me a crew member for a moment of mercy. Instead I pick the "Surrender is not an option" option, and enjoy watching the slaver ship explode.

Jumps sixteen, seventeen and eighteen. A string of similar encounters follow. A rebel fighter confronts me, dealing a little damage to my hull. They try to surrender on the verge of destruction, but I say NOT TODAY, and destroy them for the extra scrap. Next, a rebel scout attempts to flee, but I missile his engine, then his shield generator, and dispatch him with a laser volley. On the third jump, I reach the exit, and plot a course into new a new sector, also owned by the mysterious Zoltan.



Jump nineteen. I'm desperately underpowered. The Vagrant Badger has been brawling beyond its means for the past few fights. Missiles have sustained me until now, but that surely can't continue. I need to kill as manty things as I can before the difficulty curve escapes me.

Jump twenty. My ship is swamped by ads offering fuel for missiles. I pass, and jump on.

Jump twenty-one. I find a refuelling station offering fuel for scrap. I'm running low, so I buy some up. I jump on.

Jump twenty-two. I find a Zoltan shipyard and "admire the display of hundreds of glowing Zoltan performing delicate exterior work on a massive transport ship." There's nothing else to do here. I jump on.

Jump twenty-two. "There is nothing here, save for vast swirls of gas reflecting rays from a distant sun." What is going on? I seem to have found the most peaceful sector in all of FTL. It's a sector of beautiful views and merchants, and no evil bastards at all. I need conflict. I need scrap. I need weapons and more shields and a teleporter. I curse the beautiful reflective gas-ray things. I curse them and jump on.



Jump twenty-three. I find a secret planet in a nebula. The surface boasts a "huge monolith visible even to the naked eye." This is weird. A Zoltan elder hails. "Through luck or intent, you have discovered the Great Eye. Look into its depths and receive your just dessert". This is really weird. I pull the ship in closer and a ship approaches. "And in the coming times, when the monolith speaks not with a man he has no future and must be left wanting." I have no idea what that means, but the ship has turned hostile. I fire off a few blasts at their shields, but they're an Energy Fighter. They have two barriers and a third shield with a bar that I have to whittle down before I can attack the hull. Before I even get started they disable my shields with an Ion blast, and then hammer me with the one thing I feared most: a really massive laser.

Things are on fire again. It's been a while since things were on fire, but my crew seem to know what to do. Sam battles the flames in the cockpit. Dengler does his part in the shield room. Chris and Charlie start mending the weapons bay. My shields are down. I can't shoot. I order Sam to the back of the ship to help out, but the neck of the ship is completely ablaze, and he dies on the journey. Editor down! Chris, Dengler, Charlie and my Engi repair as fast as their tiny forms allow, but it's too late. My hull is breached and the Vagrant Badger cracks apart. The voyage is over. It occurs to me that somewhere in this godforsaken galaxy Andy Kelly is probably still alive. Perhaps he is the real winner.

Bum. That's two losses from two After Action Reports so far. Maybe I'll have more luck with FTL Advanced goes live shortly.

PC Gamer
FTL advanced edition

Subset Games has announced on Twitter that FTL: Advanced Edition will release on April 3. The new edition of the game will release on iPad for $10 on the same day, but will be offered as a free upgrade to those who already own the original game on PC. As you should.
FTL: Advanced Edition adds new ships, weapons, event and environments. Some of the new additions include a cloning room, which, in exchange for your medbay, will allow you to create clones of dead crew members at a cost to their skills. Another addition, a mind control system, will force enemies to sabotage their own ships.
The update will also include new music by composer Ben Prunty, and new sectors and events written by FTL writer Tom Jubert and Wasteland 2 scribe Chris Avellone.
As you can imagine, we love FTL already. These additions will give us yet another reason to jump back into the cockpit.
PC Gamer
FTL


Subset Games have revealed some more information about their upcoming free update for FTL. In a new blog post, the team run through some of the subsystems that the Advanced Edition will bring. The expansion - due early this year - will introduce the ability to clone crew members, hack enemy ships, and use mind control. This will basically make the game 30% more sci-fi - a figure that will rise dramatically should they announce a constantly malfunctioning holodeck room.

The cloning room is a medbay that, as the name suggests, provides clones of dead crew members at a cost to their skills. The downside, rather obviously, is that you don't have that medbay, although the clone room does slightly heal all crew with each jump.

"The goal of the Clone Bay was to really disrupt the core way you play the game," write Subset. "You ll be able to send crew off into dangerous situations without fear of death. Giant alien spiders will no longer be the terrifying, unstoppable force that you re used to, since the system can simply revive your crew after the event. But, if a stray missile takes out the system mid-clone, you ll find death can still be quite permanent."

For hacking, players can fire a drone that attaches to an enemy system. Each system will produce a different event, for instance hacked Teleporters will instantly recall boarding invaders - giving players another option against invaders.

Head over to the full post to learn about the self-explanatory mind control, and the backup battery - designed to provide a short burst of extra power at crucial moments.
PC Gamer
Civilization 5


By Chris Kinniburgh.

It was supposed to be a short break. I told myself Civilization V wouldn't suck me in when I began playing on the big screen. The game will be too tedious. The text will be too small. I was wrong.

I've spent the past couple days going through every game I thought would be interesting to play, and Civilization V on a couch, staring at a big screen TV is among most engaging, relaxing gaming experiences I've ever had with a game.

There were a few hurdles to jump before I began. I chose to decrease the resolution to 1360x768, giving me a 16:9 resolution that looks fine on the big screen while giving me slightly larger text than 1920x1080.

There are two comfortable configurations for the trackpads. First, you can set the left trackpad to control moving the map while the right trackpad controls the mouse. Alternatively, you may choose to use both trackpads to control the mouse (as shown in Valve s Steam Controller demonstration of Paper's Please).

My preferred setup has the left trackpad move the camera while the right controls the mouse. Left and right triggers correspond to right and left clicks respectively. The flipped mouse buttons feel intuitive while playing, though causes a bit of cognitive dissonance whenever a game directs me to click with the left mouse button and I use my right hand. I'll report back in a few months if I've completely lost my sense of direction.



Using the dual mouse method feels quick, but the trackpad allows me to move fast enough through the screen that I only need to lift my thumb once to get from the top left corner to the bottom right. While that 10th of a second speed increase is nice, it's outweighed by the speed gained through quick control over the map.

Moving through Civ V's menu screens is effortless. The Advisor Counsel, Overview Screens, Social Policies, and Era Map are all bound to keys, and there are a few left over to handle zooming in and out, and Next Turn. With these bound, I found myself more quickly navigating the Civilization user interface than I had in my previous couple hundred hours with a mouse and keyboard.

It's also surprisingly easy to move the cursor quickly with precision. While I don't expect to be effectively splitting my Marines in StarCraft any time soon, I can certainly play a turn-based game without frustration.

Sitting 17 feet away from a 50-inch television, the relatively small text is easily parsed. With responsive controls, a comfortable seat, and a large television, I found myself able to quickly enter the flow state that Civ V does so dangerously well.

Along with Civilization V, I've spent a bit of time trying out FTL, which was similarly simple and easy to enjoy. While you won't be able to bind every hotkey available in the game, the overall experience of boxing and moving your crew feels natural and quick. The ability to pause the game while playing also enables players to slowly familiarize themselves with the controls.



I also decided to try my hand at StarCraft II. After taking some time to think through any reasonable hotkey layout and determining there was none, I proceeded by playing with the controller's default keybindings when plugged into a PC: the mouse controlled by the right trackpad, map with the left trackpad, and mouse buttons mapped to the triggers. The games were difficult. I eventually mapped the attack-move command to the right bumper, and S and D to the left and right half of the trackpad. With these commands, I was slightly more able to macro while playing. The game was still tedious. I considered investing another hour into coming up with a way of mapping a couple control groups and re-working StarCraft s grid system to use fewer keys, but I thought better of it.

While the steam controller has the ability to control most games, the effort required to enjoy real time strategy games is great. First you have to spend time finding a comfortable mapping of controls. Next, the effort required to relearn a new control scheme, a process made more difficult by the lack of onscreen button prompts and reminders. Only then can you forget about the controller and just enjoy the game. Increasingly I'm finding myself more and more interested in playing games that quickly move over those first two steps. Platformers are easy to map to a controller, and have generally felt great while playing. Slow paced games like Civ V, FTL, or Hearthstone are relatively easy to map and their slow pace allows for the time needed to come to grips with a new control scheme.

Chris' Steam Controller tests continue, what would you like us to take a look at next? Let us know in the comments.
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Before running away for a few days to visit family and then de-stress in DayZ, Evan, Cory, and Tyler gathered to reflect on the biggest surprises of 2013. Watch the whole five-video series on the PC Gamer YouTube channel, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more regular content, gameplay footage, and conversations.
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