PC Gamer

It's a sequel hype-up weekend on Steam: Borderlands and its GOTY edition are both 75% off, as is Orcs Must Die! (There's also an Orcs Must Die! 2 demo available now, so have some of that.)

75% off Borderlands: Game of the Year - $7.49
75% off Orcs Must Die! Game of the Year - $3.24
82% off Civilization Collection - $24.99
66% off Ys The Oath in Felghana - $5.09

Amazon is running the same Borderlands deal as Steam, and many of the usuals are on sale as...usual.

75% off Borderlands Game of the Year Edition - $7.49
80% off Burning Hot Bundle - $7.99
72% off Mount & Blade - $4.17
50% off Mount & Blade: Warband - $10.03
61% off Dragon Age 2 - $7.81
25% off Mass Effect 2 - $14.92
71% off Trine - $5.83
50% off Mount & Blade: Warband - $9.95
27% off Dungeon Siege 3 - $14.68
52% off Tropico 4 - $19.17
26% off Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - $14.84
More Amazon PC game downloads

GameFly returns to the list this week with 50% off Max Payne 3 and 75% off Mirror's Edge. Nice!

50% off Max Payne 3 - $29.99
75% off Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction - $5.00
75% off Mirror's Edge - $5.00
50% off Nexuiz - $5.00
More GameFly deals

Bethesda games are up to 50% off this weekend on GameStop.

33% off The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - $40.19
50% off RAGE - $9.99
50% off Hunted: The Demon's Forge - $9.99
50% off The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind GOTY Edition - $9.99
50% off The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion GOTY Deluxe Edition - $12.49

"Awesome Adventure Games" are 50% off on GOG this weekend. The list includes some personal favorites: The 11th Hour, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, and Little Big Adventure (a.k.a Twinsen's Odyssey).

More game deals

Green Man Gaming's Summ...oh wait, Winter Sale
Update: I don't usually add pre-order deals, but it has come to my attention (thanks commenters!) that Green Man is offering Borderlands 2 pre-orders for $40 with the voucher: PARTP-ALCNO-TIESU.

If you find any great deals we missed, the comments are a lovely place to share them.
PC Gamer
Rohan Dwarf

"Now for wrath! Now for ruin! And the red dawn!" The words of King Théoden spurred me on this week when I got a chance to take the reigns of LotRO's mounted combat system, coming in the Riders of Rohan expansion on September 5th. You may have caught the video we posted lasted week showcasing the new mechanics. Read on to find out how it feels in action.

The thing about LotRO's mounted combat (unlocked at level 75) that impressed me immediately is that it's the first time I can think of that riding a horse in an MMO actually feels like riding a horse. You build speed gradually from a dead stop, going from walk, to canter, to gallop. You can't strafe side-to-side, nor can you turn on a dime, with your turn radius based on your current speed. In the current beta, pressing W increases your speed, S slows you down, and the mouse is used for turning. There is also a very useful hotkey that, when pressed before one of your hotbar abilities, will automatically execute a turn and put you on a direct charge to your targeted enemy.

You still execute attacks and other abilities in typical tab-target MMO fashion, but movement is much more important as both you and your enemies are constantly in motion, and you have to be pretty close to execute most attacks. This creates a joust-like dynamic that encourages riding away, making a sharp turn, and charging in for another few blows, before repeating it all again. Maintaining maximum speed builds Fury, a mounted combat-specific resource used in some of your more powerful attacks. In addition to Fury and your normal class resource, you also have an Endurance bar for your mount. If depleted, you are dismounted, which the devs describe as "very bad" when facing mounted opponents. A new remote looting system ensures that you won't have to go back and find the corpse of that goblin you skewered half a league back.

Your mounted skills are fewer in number than the array open to you on foot (which I think is a wise choice, considering the added complexity of speed and positioning you're having to worry about), and are "inspired by" your base class. In addition, each player has access to three stances while mounted--Red Dawn for DPS, Rohirrim for survivability, and Riddermark for utility--that add unique secondary effects to your mounted abilities, allowing you to fill flexible roles in the new system regardless of class.

On top of all of that, you can choose to specialize in one of three types of steeds: the durable but sluggish Heavy, balanced, Medium, or swift but fragile Light. This, the devs say, will have more of an impact on your combat role than your base class. For example, a fragile Loremaster mounted on a Heavy steed will be able to tank, a feat that would be folly on foot. Likewise, a tanky Guardian can choose a Light steed and focus on DPS, though their threat-generating abilities will be somewhat wasted. Each warsteed levels up and can specialize in one of three trait trees (equivalent to the stances mentioned earlier: Red Dawn, Rohirrim, and Riddermark.) You will be able to purchase and save multiple trait "specs" for your steed. Warsteeds also have several dyeable gear slots--Head, Body, Legs, Tail, Saddle, and Armor--but they are all purely cosmetic.

Riders of Rohan is an ambitious thing for an established MMO to attempt, but that's exactly why I like it. In addition to mounted combat, Turbine is adding an area about three times the size of the Mines of Moria expansion that includes Eastern Rohan (no Helm's Deep yet, unfortunately) and parts of Fangorn Forest. Possibly the most intriguing new quest is one that allows you to gather resources from across Rohan to rebuild a ravaged city, phased to each individual player, and reap the rewards once it's restored. You can leap into the saddle yourself on September 5th.
PC Gamer

The War Z is giving me mood swings. I feel like I have a pair of contradictory spirits on my shoulders; Yes, I would like another open-world, PC-exclusive survival game, Shoulder Ghost #1. Duh. But the promises made by the game's creators (who are so newly-established that they don't have a website) invite arm-crossing and skepticism. Can these guys really execute the tremendous list of features they’ve laid-out? 250-player capacity, PvE/PvP, unrestrictive-but-accessible gameplay, multiple open worlds that will rival or exceed the size of DayZ’s, free content updates, player-owned servers, and stuff like bounties and vaccination?

I got Executive Producer Sergey Titov talking about his studio's lofty promises for The War Z, and poked him for hard details on its systems and what sort of shooter it’ll be.

PCG: The War Z seems an extraordinarily ambitious type of game to design so quickly. Is it accurate to say—from start to the planned release later this fall—The War Z will have taken about a year to make?

Sergey Titov, Executive Producer: Well, actually there is a little more to it. It’s true that The War Z specific features, characters, art, animations, etc. have come about over the past year, however the evolution of the game has really been in process for quite some time. We’ve actually been thinking about and drafting the design for a large, open world, zombie-survival game for the last couple of years. We also already had the technology, solutions and expertise that had been developed over the last few years with our game engine, licensing that engine, and developing/operating War Inc. Battle Zone. So we literally spent several years prepping ourselves for this production cycle.

Is The War Z more of a shooter or more of an MMO?

ST: The War Z is first and foremost a game of survival. Your goal is not necessarily to hunt zombies, or unlock achievements, or shoot anyone. Your goal is to explore the world and survive. It’s up to you if you want to work to rebuild society or destroy it and we really don’t set hardcore goals for you to achieve. As for the game controls and the game feel, it’s more of a shooter. You have a choice between first-person or third-person perspective and you’ll have very tight and direct control over your character and actions. The MMO aspect comes into play because the world will be persistent and populated with many other players besides you.

Will The War Z have traditional quests?

ST: There are no quests or missions in the traditional gaming industry sense of the word. We’re not building an objective based game, but instead building a sandbox with lots of tools that will allow players to create their own experiences. We took a basic theme that we love—the zombie apocalypse/survival genre—and asked ourselves what the world would look like in this scenario? What means of interacting with the world or other players would be available? What would the world economy look like? We built the game design around that. If you think about our feature set with that perspective it makes more sense. For example, we have what we call “safe settlements,” that are really not completely safe at all. They are built by people that survived the infestation and are working to rebuild civilization, so they are taking precautions to make sure that their home remains safe. If you obey the rules, there’s no danger for you, but it’s not a place that you can go anytime and expect you’ll be 100 percent invincible.

The same thing goes for currency. We’ve seen some comments that “gold coins” takes away from the realism. But, if you think about it—gold has been around for ages and, until very recently, it was the ultimate measure of wealth. In the game, Wall Street and other financial institutions have collapsed so we’ve reinstated gold’s value as a universal currency. That said, it is not the only currency in the world and, more importantly, we’re not forcing it on the players. We’re not saying “you either look for gold or you can’t buy anything.” Nothing prevents you from taking ammo for guns and using it as currency when bartering with other players. I don’t even actually remember using gold in the alpha version of the game. I think I used M16 ammo more often as a way to barter with other players for food

One thing that’s unclear to me is how much of—and what sort of—shooter The War Z will be. What will your guns feel like?

ST: Think of Battlefield 3 and think of War Inc. Battle Zone. I think those two examples best depict what the shooting and gun handling experience will be.It’s taking the reloading realism of War Inc., for example, where if you drop a half emptied clip and put in a new one, you effectively just lost all the bullets that were left inside the old magazine. Firing will have similar ballistic characteristics as you see in Battlefield—that is, if you shoot at longer distances, you’ll have to take distance and bullet drop into account.

One thing that I think is quite different is weapons stats. In most games (including our own War Inc.), you have to compromise between reality and gameplay fun. That is, your guns should feel different and fun, even though it doesn’t make much sense in the real world—after all you don’t really expect that two guns built on the same platform and using the same bullets will do dramatically different damage. So this is what’s different between War Z and other shooters—weapons stats are much more in line with the real world. It’s more simulation than just a fun shooter.

That’s pretty ambitious. What weapons specifically are you putting in the game?

ST: All sorts of things you can expect to see in a real world. Starting with “classics” like baseball bats, knives and crossbows and going up to light machine guns and grenade launchers. Yet—gun availability will depend on how hard it is to obtain them in the real world. For example, you can’t expect just to go into any house nearby and find an M16 lying there. You may be lucky and get your hands on a shotgun or handgun there, but stuff that is military grade can only be found near military installations, police stations, military roadblocks, etc.

Same goes for gun attachments—grips, silencers, different types of options—there are dozens of real world modifications available for your gun. Some will be relatively easy to find (forward grip for M4 for example or flashlight), but some—like high quality military grade optics—will be really rare.

Also just to clear any doubts—unlike the War Inc. attachment system, we’re not going to modify weapons stats for “gamification” purposes (i.e., a scope won’t improve a gun’s spread or anything like that). Some attachments like silencers and grips will affect stats: a silencer will slow down your bullet, grip will help you control recoil. Like they do in real life.

Are you using your own engine technology?

ST: Yes, the game is using our own online game engine called Eclipse. It’s been in development for a while and has been tested by millions of players worldwide, so we’re pretty happy with what we have.

About the skill system: will it feature any active abilities? In the IGN interview, you described them as enhancements—unlocks that boost your stamina or the health restored by bandages.

ST: Haha. I’ve actually been criticized over last few days for calling our system a “Skill Tree.” Turns out it resonates well with traditional WoW style MMO players, but everybody else is thinking—okay this must be an MMO with quests, raids, level ups, grinding and a skill tree that will mold you into one of the “professions” available in the game.

This is as far from the truth as The War Z is far from being a traditional MMO RPG game. What we have in the game is a set of “training skills” available and as you progress through the game, you will decide what you want to train. Do you want to spend more on physical training to be able to carry slightly more weight, sprint for a longer time, etc. Or do you want to do more gun training, allowing you to aim better, reload your gun faster, etc. The point is—this is something you would expect from people in this situation in a real world—that they would train themselves to improve certain skills. So in the game, you accumulate “experience points” that you can spend on learning those different skills.

How are you handling maps and navigation within the world?

ST: From the start you will have access to the world map and be able to mark waypoints to assist with navigating. Other than that—it’s up to you to find the best route to your destination wherever that may be.

Will The War Z feature proximity-based voice chat?

ST: As of now, we don’t have solid plans for VOIP communication built into the game. This may change based on feedback we get from the closed beta test, but so far universal feedback we’re getting is “don’t worry, we’d love our teamspeak, we don’t need anything else.”

What do you see as The War Z’s endgame? This is arguably one of the shortcomings of DayZ currently: once you get gear, killing other players for sport is the natural thing to do.

ST: Ultimately we hope that there won’t be an endgame. Our DNA as a company is not to produce “packaged” games. What we’re making is a sandbox service for our players. We create the toolset and set the theme for players to use and build their own individual game experiences. We don’t have a goal like “okay unlock all achievements” or “find all guns.” We’re saying, here’s a world that just survived a viral outbreak that took the lives of most of the population and left a world full of brain-hungry zombies. This is also why we’re allowing players to rent their own servers and create their own private worlds with their own rules. Some will do just that—building their own virtual “strongholds” so to say and inviting other people to join as long as they are going to follow their rules. Some will band together into clans and will fight other clans—either on public or private servers.

So, with that focus on PvE, how are you going to promote something that doesn’t feel like a conventional FPS deathmatch in an open world? What are you doing to build opportunities for cover and concealment, for example?

ST: Find Ghillie suit. Hide in bushes. I think that two things will affect this most—your posture, how you move and lighting conditions. I don’t want to say we’ll be the first game that’s doing this right, but we’ve spent the last couple months perfecting our light adaptation system to mimic how the human eye works in real life. For example, unlike traditional “gaming” implementation of this feature (often called “HDR lighting”) we’re not just making things brighter or darker instantly based on how well the scene is lit. Depending on what’s happening, we simulate real human eye response. So for example if you get out of a dark space into sunny bright day, you’ll only be blinded for a second or so. Yet if you get into a really pitch black dark space—it’ll take up to 10-15 minutes for your eyes to adapt so you can see what’s going on around you. This can give you some advantage at night. Yet if somebody blinds you with a flashlight or flare—you’ll pretty much be a sitting duck…

Tell me more about the significance of the stem cell-carrying zombies mentioned in your first interview.

ST: Oh, they’re pretty special to me and we’re going to uncover more about them in the coming weeks, but let’s just say for now that they hold a key to what happened to the world. More importantly for the player, though, they hold the key to the cure for the virus that nearly destroyed civilization. Visually they’ll look very different from other infected, they’re much more aggressive, fast and agile. They’re rare, they hunt only at night, so the best place to find them will be larger cities at night time.

Gameplay-wise, you can hunt them down, kill them and extract their stem cells, which can then be used to create an antivirus for the zombie virus. This so called vaccine is used to heal you in case you are bitten during a zombie attack. This is why those cells are really worth a lot—and effectively your best, yet super dangerous way to get gold coins. It probably will require a team effort, so the whole thing alone will create lots of interesting interactions between players.
At the same time—finding these zombies will not be your primary goal. As I mentioned before—this is just one of the tools we give you to build your own game experience. Players will decide if they want to go this route or not—it’s totally up to you.

How do you feel about Dean Hall’s comments about The War Z, specifically that you might be making a lot of promises about features that aren’t necessarily developed yet?

ST: Over the last week, since we announced the game, thousands of players have posted comments on various forums, blogs, and gaming websites as to why they think the game will be great or not. We love to read the comments, but in the end it really doesn’t affect our development in any way. When we announced certain features publicly, it was not a wish list that we thought would sound cool in a press release; it was an action list for us. These are things that we are working on and that are concrete enough today that we feel comfortable saying, “Yes this will be part of the game release.” Most of our team members come from very large projects and companies with very strict policies about the announcement of features—so that carries over into how we talk about features for The War Z.

Thanks for your time, Sergey.
PC Gamer

Which PC franchises are getting worse, and which are getting better? We have almost 15,000 unique responses already, but we want more! You can vote right here on this page after the jump. We'll be publishing the results this coming Monday.

View Survey
PC Gamer
Dota 2 - nyx assassin close up

As expected, Dota 2 received a bumper round of hero additions this week! Nyx Assassin, Keeper of the Light and Visage the Necro'lic all caught their buses on time and are settling in nicely with their team mates/mortal enemies, depending on how the picks play out. I like to think the Dota 2 heroes are set up in a small town of lodges akin to the Olympic village, where small dramas and rivalries play out with the melodrama of a long running soap opera.

That makes Nyx Assassin the new big bruiser in town, you know, the one with the dark past and a bad attitude with a hidden sensitive side that's gradually teased out as he forms new friendships, like a flower blooming tentatively for young spring sunshine. Except that last part will never happen because he is a GIANT EVIL SCARAB MONSTER. Want to see what he can really do? Let's get into this.

Nyx Assassin
Roses are red, violets are blue, Nyx likes to gank and is right behind you

His bio currently just says "bio" on the Dota 2 official heropedia page, but Dota 2 wiki describes him as a telepathic "zealot scarab." If you want a sense of what he's all about, he has one attack called "impale" and an ultimate called "vendetta." It doesn't matter how you mash the words "zealot scarab vendetta impale" together, you get a recipe for a pretty horrible death. Nyx can mana burn foes to defend or limit their escape powers, coat himself in an array of spikes to reflect damage and stun, and can turn completely invisible for lengthy periods and deal massive damage when springing out of stealth. In short, he's a competent killer with terrible table manners. Here's Dota Cinema's demo showing off his skills.

Keeper of the Light
Pushes lanes with glowing balls of love, is Gandalf

You're a creep, say. That came out wrong. Imagine you're a creep. You're halfway there. You've fought tooth and nail to get past the last wave. The hero supporting you has vanished into the jungle. You make your way forwards with your few remain allies, you turn the corner and suddenly you're obliterated by a wall of HORSES MADE OF LIGHT. Keeper of the Light's illuminate ability is the bane of small-fry lane baddies. He can scrub a path clean as well as any contender, which makes the power that allows him to summon an allied hero from anywhere on the battlefield an extremely useful bonus. Factor in his spirit form, and you have one tough addition to the Dota 2 roster.

Visage the Necro'lic
Glowing blue support gargoyle, comes with goons

If Keeper is Gandalf, Visage is a big, blue Balrog. A slightly tentative Balrog, who doesn't really want to cross that narrow bridge protected by a mad wizard. He'd rather sit back, lay down a few debuffs and then send two flying familiars ahead to deal with the situation. He's pragmatic like that, Visage. There's some resource management involved in keeping him operating at peak efficiency, though. He can layer Gravekeeper's Cloaks to fend off damage, and dish out punishment with stacks of soul charges using his Soul Assumption ability. The ability to throw out gargoyle minions lets him linger near the carnage while hopefully staying out of too much trouble. That's just his style. Some would call it cowardice, but they're all dead now, carrion for his hungry, hungry goons.

The International is coming

We're just weeks away from Valve's second big Dota 2 invitational event, The International. As a result, it sounds as though we won't be getting many new heroes in the coming weeks. According to the latest post on the Dota 2 blog Valve will be "clamping things down a tad, focusing on getting the existing feature and hero set polished to a high sheen."

"Fear not, we will continue to work on new heroes internally, getting them ready for a release once The International is over."

You'll find the full list of teams involved on the International site. It's all kicking off on August 31 in Seattle. For more on the latest additions to Dota 2, surf recent posts on our Dota 2 tag.
PC Gamer
The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim Dawnguard - the return of surprised skeleton

It's been a month since Dawnguard arrived on the Xbox 360, which means the typical length of your average Microsoft exclusivity deal has expired, but there's still no news of any further release dates. So ... when can we expect Dawnguard on PC?

"We have not announced Dawnguard for any other platform, nor given a timeline for any such news," says Bethesda maketing VP Pete Hines in a tweet spotted by IGN. "If we have news, I promise I'd tell you." Oh.

Dawnguard is surely coming to PC, though, right? "I was simply stating that expecting/demanding something today is unfounded. Not that news is never coming," said Hines coyly in a follow-up tweet. "Sometimes it's better to say nothing until you can provide solid info than say something before you can," he adds.

Bethesda have been very quiet about the PC and PS3 versions of Dawnguard, but it's hard to imagine them keeping it back for Xbox 360 players when Skyrim is doing so well on PC. It's barely dropped out of the Steam top-ten most played games list since it launched in November last year. Hines' comments suggest that we'll have to wait longer than expected for more Dawnguard PC info, which is sad.

We couldn't stop ourselves from getting a peek at Skyrim's first expansion, we picked out ten reasons to be excited about Dawnguard's eventual arrival on PC. Take a closer look in the Dawnguard trailer from E3.

PC Gamer
Need for Speed Most Wanted

Criterion's reboot of 2005's Need for Speed: Most Wanted will mesh players together with an upgraded version of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit's Autolog system. It tracks your every start finish time and then lets your friends know whenever you beat their time, but also acts as a fluid matchmaking system that'll let you start events on the fly in Most Wanted's open world city. The latest footage over on Evil Avatar shows such a session in action, with video of a race and a hairy escape. It feels, if anything, a lot like Burnout: Paradise, which is no bad thing, but will it have the original Most Wanted's level of car customisation? And will we get to play as the cops?

PC Gamer
Battlefield 3 Aftermath

Battlefield 3's December DLC pack, Aftermath, will contain four maps set in and around Tehran. A devastating earthquake has shattered the city, but remnants of both occupying military forces do battle among the ruins using some heavily converted civilian vehicles to gain an edge.

"With operational capacity severely compromised the opposing forces must adapt and engage in vertical and horizontal urban combat amongst the dust and rubble with cracks and fissures in the terrain providing unexpected cover and paths to objectives," DICE explain on the Battlefield site.

"Additional support comes in the form of heavily modified troop transports and civilian vehicles specially adapted to deliver deadly force to the enemy."

Aftermath will also add a new game mode, though DICE don't give any further details on what it'll be. The pack will also introduce new assignments, achievements and dog tags. Aftermath is due at the end of the year. Before that, we can look forward to Armoured Kill in September, which promises to add the biggest Battlefield map ever, as well as snowy environments and AC-130 gunships. It'll look a bit like this:

PC Gamer
Orcs Must Die 2

Some, but not too many Orcs Must Die! A demo is now available for Orcs Must Die! 2, through Steam. It offers two levels of solo and co-op Orc melting that'll introduce a few new traps and let you run around as new character, The Sorceress. The game will be properly released next week. To celebrate, the original Orcs Must Die! is available now for a quarter of its usual price. Buying it will unlock "10 classic maps" in the sequel.

For more, have a look at our Orcs Must Die! 2 preview and check out the trailer below.

PC Gamer

Join Tyler, Logan, Evan, and T.J. as they stab silence in the heart with talk of PlanetSide 2, KOTOR II modding heroes, Steam's dominance, Windows 8, and the possibility that Gabe Newell is a time traveler. Plus, T.J. breaks up with WoW, Evan explores the fun mechanics of Counter-Strike, and new voices join in for a special edition of DayZ storytime.

PC Gamer US Podcast 323: Newell News

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

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Follow us on Twitter:
@elahti (Evan Lahti)
@logandecker (Logan Decker)
@tyler_wilde (Tyler Wilde)
@AsaTJ (T.J. Hafer)
@belsaas (Erik Belsaas, podcast producer)

Full links to what we talked about:
PlanetSide 2 beta incoming
KOTOR II restored
Why Minecraft isn't on Steam
Windows 8 Gabe hate
Mists of Pandaria
Tyler's Planetside preview
Braid dev interview
Cute Things Dying Violently