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PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Divinity: Original Sin review">Divinity Original Sin 1

Blood conducts electricity. Of course it does. My supposedly single-target lightning spell arcs from mage to skeleton and on to the ground, where it touches the splattered byproduct of the ongoing melee. From there it reaches my rogue, my warrior, my archer. My entire party is electrocuted in a single moment's miscalculation, and I learn another hard lesson about Divinity: Original Sin's commitment to its own brand of realism.

It's one of those "well, shit" moments that tell you everything you need to know about a game's designers. When you explore Larian's crowdfunded old-school RPG you're exploring a network of interesting, intricate creative decisions that comment on the genre's past and sketch out a new map for its future. That this is a throwback to Baldur's Gate and Ultima means more than the isometric camera, the fiddly menus, the sharp difficulty curve. It's about the freedom you're given to chart your own course through the campaign, freedom enhanced and sometimes swiftly curtailed, as per my blood-lightning accident by a sprawling set of readable, consistently-implemented rules.

Very early in the game your party reaches the city of Cyseal. There's shouting in the harbour. Choose to investigate and you'll see a group of dockworkers crowded around a burning barque, struggling to contain the blaze. This is a quest, but nobody tells you what to do. If you happen to have water magic to hand you can summon a raincloud to douse the flames, earning you a healthy experience boost and increasing your reputation in the town. The problem and its solution are presented to you without the hand-holding you might be used to. It's a liberating feeling, even when its implementation is this simple.

I've become accustomed to RPGs that lock away combat and magic within their own part of the game. I'm used to the idea that a fireball won't work unless it's aimed at an enemy, or that every environmental hazard will be placed such that I'm guaranteed to be able to get past it. I'm used to the idea that some characters can be killed and some can't, that some obstacles are destructible and others are 'just furniture'. Divinity shrugs off those assumptions. Combat might be turn-based when you're fighting an enemy, but there's nothing stopping you from waving your sword around in the middle of town. Fling a fireball at some innocent barrels and you'll start a fresh fire of your own, and this time the locals won't be applauding when you rush to put it out.

Your first task is to investigate the murder of local councillor, but how you go about doing this is largely up to you and the kinds of characters you've created. The story bottlenecks around certain key points, but, like a good pen and paper campaign, Larian provide a huge amount of room to experiment. You can kill key characters if you like, or break into their houses and steal their things. This gives you the power to discover plot points ahead of time if you're intrepid enough, and there's something satisfying about feeling like you've placed yourself ahead of the curve with a bit of enterprising sleuthing.

The counterpoint is that this is the first game where I've found myself genuinely stuck in a long time. It can be unforgiving, particularly as combat becomes significantly more difficult only a few hours into the game. Without clear directions, it's easy to find yourself playing the same battles over and over again without realising that you're marching in the wrong direction. Likewise, the freedom you're afforded to build your characters at the beginning means its easy to waste a couple of hours on a fledgling adventuring party that you subsequently fall out of love with. I had to restart a few times before I felt comfortable with my selection of classes and abilities, something I haven't had to do since Baldur's Gate.

I keep saying 'characters', and that's because Divinity: Original Sin doesn't have a single protagonist it has two, and you create both of them when you begin the game. You can choose any arrangement of gender and class that you wish, and during key dialogues you pick separate speech options for each character. This establishes the relationship between the two, which can be hostile or cooperative, even romantic. Your choices affect certain plot points and sometimes provide stat boosts, but are otherwise there to encourage you to roleplay.

When your characters disagree or when you fall out with your partner in online co-op you pick who wins the argument by playing rock-paper-scissors against yourself. When my archer was invited to join a creepy female-only cult by an imprisoned wizard, she refused. My rogue suggested that this might be a way to get access to the wizard's knowledge and resources and won the subsequent argument. The archer begrudgingly signed up for cult membership, and the characters liked each other less. A strange moment, as the person controlling both, but a story point that felt specific to me and my campaign.

The narrative is standard fantasy stuff, enlivened by Larian's knowing sense of humour and lively writing. Your characters are Source Hunters in pursuit of evil magic users called, er, Sourcerers, and that pun sets the bar for how seriously any of it should be taken. There are some really standout bits of dialogue, much of it hidden away. If neither of your characters have the 'Pet Pal' perk, for example, you'll miss out on being able to talk to animals including at least one brilliantly-written dog, and rats scurrying in every dungeon that offer clues and the odd bit of philosophical perspective. Sporadic voice acting adds life and variety but leaves serious bitemarks in the scenery. That said, one bellowing cheese merchant in Cyseal hawks his wares with such character that I'd probably buy a wheel from him in real life.

The tone of the game reminds me, more than anything else, of the pen and paper campaigns I've played particularly how even serious moments tend to get undermined by the players and their sense of humour. At its best, Divinity feels like sitting down to play D&D with its writers. The weakness to this approach is that it's unlikely to stick with you like Planescape Torment or Baldur's Gate II, and you're equally unlikely to fall in love with the setting over the course of the hundred hours you spend in it.

You should also expect to make unsteady progress in your first five to ten hours. The game is slow to provide geographical variety and slower to explain many key game systems. It can be fiddly and obtuse about simple things like trading and arranging each character's inventories, stuff that can hoover up your playtime if you're not careful. Another pass at the UI would have helped here, and is still possible given the game's active ongoing development.

Once you crack the surface, though, Divinity's combat system alone is enough to sustain long sessions. Every battle feels substantially different, a turn based strategy puzzle that challenges you to twist the terrain to your advantage. This might mean creating a chokepoint with crates or igniting poison gas with a fireball. It might mean using special arrowheads to disable particular enemies or beginning battles with an ambush from stealth. The RPG trinity of healers, damage dealers and tanks is represented, but you're forced out of your comfort zone regularly. When your tank is standing in a pool of fresh blood, electrocuting the skeleton next to them might not be the best idea as I learned to my cost.

One of the reasons the game is difficult is that enemies have access to the same abilities and items as you do. In most games, you know everything about a foe after the first time you fight them. Here, you have to be ready for potions, special arrows, healing spells, and so on, and for the most part these are used intelligently. You can sometimes back the AI into a corner with a well-placed environmental effect, like burning oil, but Divinity is generally good at providing you with the sense that you're fighting a living foe.

One of the joys of playing Divinity: Original Sin is rediscovering things that RPGs used to do well and eventually lost creating new experiences in an old mould. That's the nostalgic sentiment that drove it to success on Kickstarter. But what's really exciting about the game is that it proves that traditional RPGs have a lot to teach present-day designers. Freedom, simulation, depth, and respect for the player's choices. There's power in that old blood.


Expect to pay: 30/$40

Release: Out now

Developer: Larian Studios

Publisher: In-house

Multiplayer: Online co-op, 1-2 players

Link: www.divinityoriginalsin.com
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Pillars of Eternity beta for Kickstarter backers goes live in August">Pillars of Eternity

Obsidian's old-school RPG Pillars of Eternity is slowly but surely coming into the home stretch, and in fact the initial round of beta testing isn't much more than a month away but only for those who backed the game on Kickstarter.

Nearly 74,000 people backed Pillars of Eternity on Kickstarter, in the days when it was known as "Project Eternity," but only about 4200 of them actually pledged at one of the two levels that explicitly offered a beta key. Whether anyone else will be admitted to the club and how it will all come together with the planned Early Access release on Steam remains to be seen Obsidian said it will get into the specifics of the beta in its next update but for now, we at least have a date: August 18 is the big day.

Obsidian also announced a slight change in plan regarding the "making of" documentary DVD/Blu-ray that was intended for the Collector's Edition box. "In order to provide a physical copy of the documentary when the game shipped, we would be unable to show the final leg of production in order to have time to print all of the discs and packaging," the update says. "We want our backers to be able to share the entire experience of making this game with us - from the earliest beginnings to the very end. To do this, we've decided to forgo making a physical copy of the documentary, and will instead release a digital downloadable extended version."

It acknowledged that not everyone will be happy with the decision, but promised that the documentary disc will be replaced with a different reward that will be announced in the near future. It also said that updates will be coming somewhat more sporadically from now on, so the team can "focus as much of our efforts into putting out the best game we possibly can for everyone."

Pillars of Eternity is currently expected to be out by the end of the year.

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Twin Souls: The Path of Shadows video shows new footage, level editor">Twin Souls

It's the final week of Twin Souls: The Path of Shadows' Kickstarter campaign, and things aren't looking great for the Tenchu-inspired third-person stealth-'em-up. So far, the game has raised just $25,000 of their $70,000 less than that given to the potato salad guy. Undeterred, the development team have released the first in a series of video updates, showing new footage of both the game and its level editor.

In Twin Souls, you play a resurrected assassin with the power to control shadows. When hidden, you can teleport between dark spots or summon a clone using your powers to sneak past patrols and infiltrate buildings. An early version of the game was created as a student project, which you download here.

For more details on this expanded and improved version, head to the Twin Souls Kickstarter page.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Steelseries talk mouse design, sensors, weight and the wireless future">mOUSE

A good mouse is instantly forgotten. Whether you prefer a finger-grip or a flat-palm stance, once you've found a good mouse it seems to vanish from consideration the moment you touch it. It's just an extension of your will. A lot of work goes into the design and construction of the modern mouse to achieve this effect, so we asked Steelseries' chief technical officer, Tino Soelberg, what constructors consider when creating new designs, and to speculate a little on the future of these vital peripherals.

Wes Fenlon, PC Gamer: Technology for gaming mice has changed a lot over the past 10-15 years, when you're looking at sensors and on the software side. Do you think, in general, the design work that goes into how the mouse fits your hand, or the types of materials that are used to make it, has that stuff changed a lot?

Soelberg: Yes, there's a lot of changes. And it keeps evolving, right? There are always new materials coming out. For something like the Rival, one of the biggest changes has been the sides that it has. It has direct-injected sides. We had nice soft touch coatings on our other mice, but that's something we haven't done before. And it's something you some other manufacturers doing as well, now. No one did that 10 years ago, even five years ago. So there's development in all areas of mice, right? It's not just sensors.

PC Gamer: When you're making a new mouse and designing a new model, what is the process of choosing the right sensor for that mouse?

Soelberg:You have to start with the concept of the mouse. What is the end goal? What is the price target for this mouse? Sometimes the end goal determines the price target as well. It depends project to project. Sometimes you will go very aggressively after some specific price target, sometimes it's a little bit more of a holistic feature. For the Rival, we had a very clear goal to spend money on performance. And almost everything else, we almost didn't care about. The packaging isn't flashy, stuff like that.

From there, understanding what the whole concept of the mouse is, and then you get to choose. It's not like a kid in a candy store. There's a fairly limited number of sensors, at least in our case, that we actually feel are up to par with what we want, and specifically for something like . This is, in many cases, a hardcore FPS mouse, so tracking is more important than super high CPI. And then it comes down to a selection of what's trending in the market and what's upcoming. On this one, if I remember correctly, we were probably the first guys to use the 3310.

And then there's working with the sensor companies. You can't do anything with these sensors unless you work directly with Avago or Pixart. Then you just get vanilla components. And you have a lot of gaming mice out there, and gaming mice that actually have the same sensor, but there's a lot more than just fitting the sensor. You have to work with the teams to get the right firmware in the sensors as well. At least most of our mice have custom firmware in the sensor, so it might be the same number you see in another mouse, but the firmware is always custom.

PC Gamer: That was actually going to be my follow-up question. From the research I've done into sensors, it seems like the same mouse sensor can perform pretty differently depending on the mouse it's in. I assume that's mostly, or completely, due to the firmware. Can you talk about what goes into customizing that firmware?

Soelberg:There's lots of stuff that goes into performance. The sensor itself is a fairly simple thing. You have to design around that. Anything from the pure mechanical design of making sure you're actually designed to the specification, that's the mechanical engineering part. We all use more or less the same lenses. Then there's the LED choice as well. The illumination source, obviously, is very important. Controlling that LED, or controlling the illumination source, when you turn on or off and how much you're powered and how much you're willing to spend on that LED, has to do with performance.

And then there's the last part, which is firmware. That comes down to what you prefer for a mouse. It's like tuning cars. Is this car going to be really good at driving up hills, or is it going to be able to drive really fast on straightaways? The sensor performance definitely depends on how that firmware is tuned in those cases. It can be a very large variety.

Vanilla firmware on these sensors are normally pretty good. They perform pretty okay in most cases. But you can definitely tune these things so they are better at acceleration, or better at really high speed movements, or at very precise details. And sensor firmware has a lot to do with how the sensor copes with what happens when it's not really tracking. There's some guesswork that the sensor firmware has to do when it drops the tracking, and how that guesswork is done, some of the parameters around that, all goes into the firmware. You only get that by working with the sensor manufacturers.

PC Gamer: So they'll give you the vanilla firmware, and then you'll work with them, both your engineers and theirs, to collaborate and suit the firmware to your needs?

Soelberg:Yeah, we work closely with their guys. None of us actually have access directly to that firmware. But we work very closely with the team. Pixart is Taiwanese, and our main engineering team is in Taipei as well, so they work directly with these guys on a daily basis.

PC Gamer: Let's talk about mouse weight a little bit. How does your team choose how heavy a mouse is going to be? When I talk to a lot of casual PC gamers, they tend to prefer heavier mice. But pro gamers I've talk to always want their mouse to be as lightweight as absolutely possible. How do you make that decision?

Soelberg:We go as light as we can. We go as light as we can with the industrial design we want, the design features we want. So something like the Rival, some of the weight we get from the rubber side panels. But we have never, and you'll see this in any of our mice, we've never deliberately added any kind of weight in there. And most likely we're not going to do that. We come from a background of really working with the pro guys, and that's really how we develop everything. We have these guys on the sidelines at all times. I don't expect us to do anything with weight adjustments or something like that. We're trying to go as light as we can. We're not building carbon fibre stuff, but yeah. You won't' see weight adjustment stuff from us.

PC Gamer: I think that's a good thing. I know some people like those, but they seem like a gimmick, and some of the pro players I've talked to just say that just gives you an excuse to blame the mouse for something, like "oh, I had too many weight in there!"

Soelberg:It does seem a little bit gimmicky, and you know, it costs money, that stuff. If I put in a weight system, I'd have to take out cost in something else. And I'd rather spend the cost on getting the right sensor in there, or the right switches. Being able to use my own switches instead of buying something cheaper. I'd rather spend money on that than some gimmicky stuff like weight systems.

PC Gamer: What do you think is next on the horizon for gaming mice? What still needs to be improved?

Soelberg:One thing is wireless. I think we've all just gotten our toes wet. I think we're at a point now where the wireless performance of something like the Sensei wireless is at a level where we felt very safe and secure in releasing that. We get great feedback on it, so I'm sure you'll see more wireless stuff coming out, because the performance is there now. We don't have the performance issues that people had, let's just say, wireless mice that came out five, four, even three years ago. But now the performance is really there. If you look across the board, it's not just us I think wireless is picking up.

From the Steelseries side, if you look at our product cycles, the Ikari came out with all its tech and functionality, and then the Sai, and then the Sensei with its 32-bit ARM processor, all that tech and functionality, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that it's been awhile since the Sensei came out, and it wouldn't be strange to expect something coming out in that range of product.

PC Gamer: So you guys might be cooking up a follow-up, huh?

Soelberg:The Sensei has been around for a couple years. If you just look at overall specs, sensor choice, at least for the MLG version that has the 9800, and the whole onboard system, that's still virtually unbeatable right now. But you know, it's becoming an older product, so I wouldn't be surprised if you were going to see something there.

PC Gamer: When it comes to updating a design like that, what are the limitations on our mice currently that putting in a faster processor is going to improve? Or are there other factors you'll be able to improve?

It's other factors that we can improve. Obviously there's a little bit on the sensor. That was one has a 9800, so there's some stuff we can do on the processor...I can't get too much into it, but it's not just processor. Some ways around how you work with that system, that onboard system. There are different things. It's not just upgrading. The hardware itself is not that different. We have so much processing power in there. I mean, the ARM Cortex-M3 that's in the Sensei already, the thing can run Quake .

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Dragon Age: Inquisition second E3 video offers a further fourteen minutes of footage">Dragon Age

The first part of Bioware's E3 demo for Dragon Age: Inquision was released (in video form) two days ago. It featured a dragon fight and, as such, was exciting. The second part of that demo features a castle. Naturally, it's a little bit less exciting. That's not to say castles aren't still somewhat exciting, but dragons are huge and monstrous and fun to hunt. Luckily for anyone wanting to see fourteen more minutes of the game, inside the castle are bad guys, battles and dialogue choices.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is out October 7. We've just posted brand new, hands-on impressions of the game. Find them through this link.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The week’s highs and lows in PC gaming">ACU_High

Every Friday, the PC Gamer team pile into the war room to fight over the best and worst of the last seven day's in gaming. Up first, the best bits. Read them quick, before the bombs fall...


Tom Senior: Cutting the nonsense out of Assassin s Creed

Assassin's Creed is a series based on an ancient war between Templars and Assassins, relived through a magic machine that lets you run around in genetic memory imprints stabbing historical figures and having coda chats with them in a digital void. That's an acceptable level of strange if I still get to run around beautifully rendered bits of history, but after that great big guff-pill I'm invited to swallow a parallel plot involving a precursor race of powerful mega-beings destroyed by an ancient solar flare. It s too much. I am all guffed out.

Thankfully, Assassin s Creed: Unity will take another run at the modern-era metafiction bits that have haphazardly tied the series together since game one. Assassin's Creed 3 brought an ignominious close to Desmond's tale, and Black Flag, which I loved, revisited the modern world with a series of first-person sections that were at least short and intermittent. As much as I d quite like them gone altogether, I m glad Ubi are trying to reset the series and refine their ideas. Hopefully similar pruning will be applied to climbing and the Assassins mostly-redundant combat actions.

Wes Fenlon: Grim Fandango remastered is coming to PC

We knew it was coming there was just no way Double Fine's re-release of PC classic Grim Fandango would stay a Sony exclusive. Still, there was no better news this week than the confirmation that the remastered Grim Fandango is, absolutely, definitely, for sure coming out on PC. Even if Double Fine didn't touch up anything about the game, I'd be happy to see it pop up on Steam. eBay is currently the only way to buy the game, and it's not cheap. But it sounds like Double Fine plans to remaster the game to some extent. I say all it needs is support for higher resolutions and less awkward keyboard controls. Maybe they'll even throw in mouse support, like modders did a few months back. Then Grim Fandango really will be the greatest point-and-click adventure ever made.

Tyler Wilde: Humble 2K Bundle is nutty

For $20, you can get BioShock, BioShock 2, BioShock Infinite, Mafia II, Spec Ops: The Line, The Darkness II, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Oh, and The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. You get that, too. Way to one-up the Steam Summer Sale.

Phil Savage: Diving deeper into Dota

I've been watching The International. In itself, that isn't particularly notable, but this year I've been understanding The International too. Valve now run a newcomer's stream, and for those like me with only a passing understanding of the game, it's proven to be an invaluable resource.

Previously, all I knew about Dota 2 s e-sports scene was that when a player activated the ghost boat, it made me happy. Now I know that Kunkka's Ghost Ship is an ultimate skill that not only deals damage, but also provides a rum buff to allies. And I know that its speed makes it difficult to land. And I know that Kunkka pairs well with Shadow Demon, because Disruption complements the Admiral's casting delays. It's given me a deeper appreciation of the game, which further compliments the surface pleasure of seeing a ghost boat sailing across the screen. DIGITAL SPORTS!

Samuel Roberts: Alien resurrection

The news that Alien: Isolation will feature two additional episodes based on the 1979 movie is, I think, the only DLC announcement of the past year that has made (most) people genuinely excited. Reuniting key members of the cast, including Sigourney Weaver (!) who actually seems pretty impressed by the story Creative Assembly has created, it makes me wish the entire film could be adapted into Alien: Isolation s run-and-hide paradigm. Either way, with both episodes confirmed to be on-sale after release, whether you pre-order or not, the idea behind this shows Creative Assembly is on the right track in pleasing the film s massive audience.

Cory Banks: Microsoft Flight Sim and X-Plane coming to Steam

One of my first PC games was surprisingly realistic: playing Microsoft Flight Simulator on my uncle s blazing-fast 386. It was inscrutable: how do you turn the plane on? How do you make it go forward? He had a giant manual sitting on the desk, and I searched for every keyboard shortcut needed to finally get a Cessna up in the air. And then I crashed both the plane and the PC.

So it s a blast from the past to have Dovetail bring MS Flight Sim X to Steam. And even better for true flight sim fans, X-Plane 10, the newer, better flight simulation, will also land on Valve s service. The timing is perfect, since the recent surge in space combat sims has more and more PC gamers thinking about new flight sticks. I don t know if I ll ever master actually landing a plane, but I ll definitely spend a weekend trying.


Phil Savage: Hobby-grade word jumble

When a new lane-pusher is announced, the PC Gamer team reacts variously with indifference, scepticism and uncontrollable screaming. But for me, the low point of the week wasn't the reveal of Gearbox s Battleborn. Instead, it was what Randy Pitchford said about Battleborn.

Battleborn is: FPS; hobby-grade coop campaign; genre-blended, multi-mode competitive e-sports; meta-growth, choice + epic Battleborn Heroes!

I don't know what half of that means, but I do know that hobby-grade makes me angry. The whole statement says nothing. It's a mash of meaningless buzzwords; a grab-bag of Zeitgeist-chasing non-entities that capture little of what a game is or means or can be.

Also, in Battleborn's press release, Pitchford called Borderlands 2 a shooter-looter . Randy Pitchford has broken words.

Samuel Roberts: Kinect for?

I am baffled by the $199/ 159 price tag for Kinect 2.0 on Windows. To put it context, this is pretty much the same unit that Microsoft has made optional with Xbox One very recently, and is now being sold on eBay pre-owned for under 40. While I m really looking forward to seeing what developers do with it on PC based on hacks of the original Kinect, I can t help feeling like 100 would be a fairer price.

Cory Banks: Trolls kill Divinity: Original Sin s global chat

I ve played almost 60 hours of Larian s fantastic Divinity: Original Sin, and I don t feel like I m anywhere near the end. But I ve been stuck a few times, and it would have been nice to have a helping hand. Larian founder Swen Vincke, who I spoke to earlier this week, says the developer originally included a Global Chat feature in the game for just such a reason. But because people are awful to each other in chat rooms, Larian turned global chat off. After the surge of jerks dies down, the team may turn the feature back on, but right now it s still off. Thanks for ruining it for the rest of us, trolls.

Wes Fenlon: Alien: Isolation's VR support is only a demo

The best thing I played at E3 2014 was probably Lucky's Tale, the charming Oculus Rift 3D platformer. The second best thing I played, though, was Alien: Isolation, which becomes even more frighteningly claustrophobic and tense with an Oculus Rift strapped to your head. Our recent preview of Alien: Isolation on the Rift conveys just how much physicality VR adds to the experience. After 10 minutes, I was convinced that was how I wanted to play the entire game. So I'm bummed to hear Sega say that right now, the VR build is just a prototype, and there are no plans to fully support the Oculus Rift for the final game. Maybe that's just because the consumer Oculus Rift headset will launch sometime after Alien: Isolation. When that headset is out, I hope Sega and Creative Assembly update the game to support it. This is how horror games are meant to be played.

Tom Senior: Clueless about Dwartress

I am my own low this week, for not knowing how to play Dwarf Fortress. It's probably one of the best games on PC, and therefore one of the best games in existence a limitless story generator that simulates extraordinarily detailed fantasy worlds. It just takes a day or two to learn, and this week's update should make it more newb-friendly than ever, once the Starter Pack mods and applications have been updated to work with the 2014 build. I'm going to devote some time this weekend to finally learning how to play properly. Hopefully I'll be enjoying stories like this in no time.

Tyler Wilde: Potato Salad Simulator, anyone?

Crowds do weird things. For instance, a guy asked for $10 on Kickstarter to make a potato salad and raised $45,000 instead. And here s another one: Goat Simulator is the number two bestseller on Steam at 40% off. Goat Simulator is fine, and cheap right now, but for a joke that is kind of funny for a bit, number two on Steam is pretty incredible.

I expect Potato Salad Simulator will be announced any time now. Or has the Simulator joke run its course? What will the next thing be? I know I sound like an old man yelling at a cloud, or like I m mad at other people s success (maybe a little, sometimes), but ironic spending baffles me. If you want a cheap, funny game, grab Zork: Grand Inquisitor from GOG. You ll feel better about it, trust me.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Mount and Blade: Warband available to try free this weekend, gets Steam workshop support">Mount and Blade

Hold position troops! Before you go charging towards Mount and Blade: Warband's Steam page, at least finish this paragraph. The mostly excellent, somewhat rough-around-the-edges RPG is now free to try until Sunday, 1pm PDT. And for those intent on conquering its brand of questing, troop-management and tactical battling, the game is 75% off until Monday.

In addition, the game now offers Steam Workshop support hopefully meaning its wealth of great mods will soon be available for easier install. It's still early days, though, so for now we'll have to settle for ponies.

Warband is arguably the best of the Mount & Blade series so far. It's much improved over the original game, and also purer and less problematic than the With Fire and Sword semi-sequel. If you've not tried the series before, this really is the best place to jump on board.

Okay, all done. Now go pillage, brave warriors.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Is silicon doomed? IBM invests billions in quest to find alternative">NVIDIA Kepler GK110 Die Shot

The days of silicon sitting inside our CPUs and GPUs are numbered, according to a recent announcement by chip giant, IBM. They re betting a cool $3 billion dollars on being able to find a decent alternative before silicon starts to hinder hardware progress.

The problem is one of scale. The Moore s Law trend has been driving processor shrinkage as companies pack smaller transistors into our chips. Already those transistors are pretty darned small 14nm CPUs are coming in the shape of Intel s Broadwell at the start of 2015 and there s a pretty solid path all the way down to 5-7nm too.

Beyond that things get fuzzy. The problem is that with such teeny tiny transistors interference is a real issue. That could lead to genuine difficulty in keeping such minute-scale CPUs running stably. Graphics processors are also struggling with scale. We were meant to be seeing 20nm Maxwell GPUs from Nvidia this time around, but reportedly a problem with the 20nm production process and weak performance has encouraged them to stick with the aging 28nm process for now, and they could feasibly avoid the 20nm process altogether.

IBM has announced a $3 billion dollar investment in trying to find ways to get ever smaller chips to function effectively with or without the use of silicon. We really do see the ticking clock on silicon, IBM s Tom Rosamilia told Wired. As well as researching exciting materials like carbon nanotubes or light-based interconnects like silicon photonics, IBM is also investigating new ways to approach computing. How much of that $3 billion dollars is going to spent sticking cats in boxes and plugging them into graphics cards I m not sure, but quantum computing is definitely on their radar too.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Dragon Age: Inquisition hands-on: fighting dragons in BioWare’s biggest RPG ever">dai_teaser_still__25_

My Dragon Age: Inquisition demo was supposed to last 30 minutes, but it was clear after five that we would go way over. Just standing at the edge of its world, its scope and depth immediately started to suck me in, making time disappear in that way that makes immersive, sprawling RPGs so enjoyable and dangerous to productivity.

I started in a forest area called The Highlands, one of about ten in the game bigger than the entirety of Dragon Age: Origins. I was supposed to use my time to explore, and with guidance from BioWare Producer Cameron Lee, hit a few key locations and events, but I kept straying from the critical story path.

Even with much content still missing from the demo, The Highlands were densely packed with details and interesting landmarks in the distance I wanted to see up close. I wandered into the ruins of a castle, killed a few enemies, and found some chests as I was exploring an environment I was genuinely interested in, not because of a conscious decision to step off the story s yellow brick road and grind for loot or experience.

It s easy to get lost in Inquisition because of how beautiful it is. The sun coming through the trees, mythical critters (which you can hunt and skin for the game s crafting system) frolic through pastures, a little cave with creepy wood sculptures straight out of True Detective It s easily the prettiest game BioWare has ever made. It s the developer s first to use the Frostbite 3 engine (the same used in Battlefield 4), and the team is making it sing.

Frostbite lets BioWare create huge beautiful environments, but Lee told me one of the biggest challenges for the team is filling them with meaningful content. So far it seems that it's rising to the challenge. Nothing looked copy/pasted, or efficiently generated with tile sets. Every environment looks like it s handcrafted.

When I finally wandered into some Templars off the main road, I was also pleasantly surprised by how streamlined combat was without sacrificing its more complex heritage. It was straight forward and action-oriented, more tactical, or balanced between both depending on how I wanted to play. Lee said that the game won t be a cakewalk even on the easiest difficulty, but that harder difficulties are better if I wanted to dig into the more complicated aspects of combat, setting up behaviors for party members depending on what enemies we face, with what stats, etc.

Switching between my main character, a Qunari mage, and human archer, using their different abilities, and taking advantage of the pause and isometric view features were so intuitive that by the time I was done with the demo I felt like I knew what I was doing. I cast Haste with my mage, creating a bullet time-type effect. Then I spam freezing bolts and quickly switch to my brute melee character, who shatters the frozen enemies with his axe. It wasn t just good tactics, it felt and looked badass.

By cutting the clutter of menus, numbers, and other distractions, Inquistion leaves me to the fun, important choices: what character I want to use for what purpose, with what ability, and where?

Later in the demo, while exploring a dilapidated Redcliff Castle from Origins, I demolished a group of mages by placing my archer at the top of a staircase, using my heavy melee character to block the path and tank at the bottom, and my main character to cast area of effect spells on the crowd below. It made combat feel like it happened in a real place, as opposed to other RPGs where every encounter can feel like an abstract tabulation of character stats.

For a game with a dragon in the title, battles against those creatures need to be a spectacle. Thankfully, the one I fought was promising. As I approached the dragon down a valley, he flew above and bombed me with giant fireballs that sent debris flying, and streams of fire that were some of the best effects of that type I ve seen. I spent most of the battle dodging his attacks and firing spells and arrows at him in real-time without overthinking it, and paused the action occasionally to take advantage of Inquisition's new ability target specific body parts in order to hobble his rear legs, for example.

No demo would give us a thorough understanding of Inquisition's story, but I m intrigued by what I saw of its approach to storytelling. In addition to its colorful mythology, diverse cast of characters, and the dialogue options that are staples of BioWare RPGs, Lee told me that my decisions will have a physical effect on the world. He said I ll be able to build bridges that lead to new areas, drain massive lakes to reveal dungeons and destroy the fragile economy of a nearby fishing village, and other radical impacts I could have on the landscape and population.

I didn t see any of that myself, but I did see how the Inquisition I led was itself a kind of character. As I progressed through the demo, I claimed ground for the Inquisition and set up camps where I could craft, change party members, and do other maintenance. Once I did, the Inquisition forces followed. Soldiers showed up in the camp and the roads leading to it, and their appearance will change depending on my choices. It made it feel like I was not just a hero with a few fellow adventurers, but a part of grand army that is moving through and changing the world. You can also upgrade the Inquisition along military, political, or espionage strategies, each with its own gameplay benefits, so it s not just for show.

That s what impressed me most about Dragon Age: Inquisition. It s a huge game in scope, in size, and in budget, I'd bet. It looks like BioWare finally got the time and means to make the game that matched its ambitions, and none of it is being used frivolously. Every nifty visual effect and combat mechanic is in service of a greater vision, and based on what I played, it s all coming together nicely. Now that I ve played it, Inquisition is one of my most anticipated games of the year.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Alien: Isolation pre-order DLC will be available for purchase after release">Alien Isolation DLC

Alien: Isolation's pre-order reward is two bonus missions based on scenes from the original film. Since learning of those missions, fans have been in an increasingly sickly state made weak by the conflict between desirable extras and sensible pre-order scepticism. Now, bursting explosively from their chests, is the information that those missions which feature original cast members reprising their roles will also be released as DLC, to be made available after the game's launch.

"It's genuinely been great to see the reaction to The Crew Expendable and Last Survivor pre-order bonus content we announced yesterday and how excited you all are to re-experience those classic scenes from the original movie with our Alien," reads a statement on the Alien: Isolation Facebook page. "It's been absolutely amazing for us at the Studio."

"However, some of you have been asking if the two pieces of content are only available through pre-order or if we'll be releasing them at a later date as well. So, I can confirm today that we do plan to release both Crew Expendable and Last Survivor at a later date and we'll have more details for you guys on that shortly."

It's not the most surprising announcement: almost all pre-order 'exclusives' eventually emerge as separate DLC after a game's release. The difference here is that, unlike the majority of ill-thought pre-order guff normally offered by publishers, reliving key scenes from the original film sounds good. It's a thing that people will rightly want to do, and so credit to Creative Assembly and Sega for announcing their plans in advance.

Alien: Isolation is out on 7th October.

Thanks, Videogamer.

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