PC Gamer
Battlefield 3 Aftermath

The gutted interior of a tower in Tehran's financial district and the shattered remains of a parliament building are two spectacles talked about but not shown in the latest Aftermath footage. We do get descriptions of the four new maps, however, which include "devastated financial district map Markaz Monolith, the heavily destroyed Epicentre map, the Talah market map, which is a mix of the old and the new architecture of the city, and finally Azadi Palace, a huge urban landscape with a massive parliament building at its core." Catch new moving pictures of dusty tussles in Tehran's tattered streets below.

Aftermath will $15 / £11 when it's released on December 18. Premium people will get it on December 4.

PC Gamer
Clockwork Empires house

When we last checked in on Gaslamp Games' steampunk sandbox Clockwork Empires, Technical Director Nicholas Vining spoke of such wonders as carnivorous birds blending hapless humans into edible giblets and the soul-searching presence of useless machinery. In a new entry charting the rise of Empires' endearing quirkiness, Vining exposed more of the cog- and steam-work guts powering building construction and plumbing, and a small invasion of plant-like humanoids.

Vining explained how interface wizard Chris Whitman implemented a new method for drawing out building blueprints directly onto a construction grid, allowing players to set custom layouts for modules and resource stockpiles. "We’re still trying to suss out the right interface for selecting wall stylings, but that’s on the to-do list," Vining added. "You can even decorate it with windows, lamps, and other useful features."

He also declared that "most of the exploding building bugs have now been thankfully resolved." Well now.

Descending into the spaghetti-bowl world of pipes gave Vining and the rest of Gaslamp's team a challenge over how much control to bestow upon the player when managing tangles of plumbing. "We’re actually in the middle of a knife-fight about exactly how much we want the user to plumb things in themselves, and whether or not giant cities full of terrifying amounts of piping are, in fact, fun," Vining wrote. "They’re certainly visually pretty."

Vining is also toying with a new water renderer because "the old, horrible one was annoying," an instantly relatable decision for most day-to-day purposes. "It looks much better," he continued. "We added ambient light—dynamic lights for lanterns and explosions are coming as soon as I have a spare day—and made the ambient occlusion term a little less moody so that humans were not surrounded at all times by terrible clouds of awful darkness. In general, the game sort of feels like, 'Oh, I might want to play this!' and not, 'Oh, dear, look at all the awful things.' That’s good news."

And yes, plant people. Vining only spoke in hushed whispers surrounding the enigmatic creatures, attributing their appearance to "a bad rewrite of the texture code." The subject was then promptly dropped. Why? Because it watches. Waits.

We've snipped some of the best screenshots of Vining's post for your perusal below, but be sure to have a look at his words for interesting technical tidbits on Empires' formation. We've also got our own word-pile right here in our extensive preview.

"Weird. I suddenly have this refreshing mint flavor."

PC Gamer

Good news, everyone! Steam, Amazon, Blizzard, and more have kicked off Consumer Season by booby trapping the web with potent spending bait such as 33% off XCOM: Enemy Unknown, 50% off The Walking Dead, and 66% off StarCraft II. We spent the morning stumbling through the minefield to compile a list of some of the best seasonal discounts, but stay vigilant: more surprise server-busters are bound to go live as we approach the spendiest weekend of the year.

Steam: Like the Summer Sale, the Steam Autumn Sale rotates deals daily, with even more fleeting Flash Sales lasting only 10 to 15 hours, so serious shoppers should check in at least twice a day. As a bonus, you get to follow Steam's adorable doodle story: currently, it seems a turkey is being forced to enter a Felix Baumgartner-inspired high diving competition.

But don't just look at the front page: Steam isn't promoting most of its deals, so scan the full list now and then. Here are some of the better discounts at the time of writing:

33% off XCOM: Enemy Unknown - $33.49 / £20.09
50% off The Walking Dead - $12.49 / £10.49
25% off Borderlands 2 - $44.99 / £22.49
75% off ARMA II: Combined Operations - $17.99 / £14.99
25% off Dishonored - $44.99 / £22.49
50% off Counter-Strike: Global Offensive - $11.24 / £8.99
33% off The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - $40.19 / £23.44
75% off Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - $2.49 / £1.74
75% off Limbo - $2.49 / £1.74
25% off Torchlight II - $14.99 / £11.24
75% off Cave Story+ - $2.49 / £1.74
More Steam Deals

Amazon: (Some deals are region-specific) Amazon hasn't been quite as liberal as Steam with the big games, but it has conjured a storm of Lightning Deals on desktop PCs, components, and peripherals. The scattershot selection below should give you an idea of what to expect.


17% off iBuyPower AM699 Desktop - $579.99
18% off CyberpowerPC GUA890 Desktop - $499.99
39% off Dell S2330MX 23" Ultra-Slim VGA Monitor - $139.99
40% off Samsung Series S24B30BL 23.6-Inch Screen LCD Monitor - $119.99
33% off Corsair Vengeance C70 Mid Tower Case - $97.45
31% off Logitech Optical Gaming Mouse G400 - $34.49
19% off Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse - $64.62


50% off The Walking Dead - $12.49 (Steam code)
80% off Dungeon Defenders - $2.99
10% off Hitman: Absolution - $44.99
75% off all Assassin's Creed games (excluding Assassin's Creed III)
More Amazon Deals

Blizzard: Blizzard has joined the party with Diablo III for $40 / £33 and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty for $20 / £17.

GOG: GOG's current sale nets you five games from a list of 20 for a mere $10 (just over £6). The list is loaded with some great indie adventure and puzzle games, so if you don't already own them, now's a good time to prepare for that "it's cold outside, so I'm going to drink tea (whiskey optional) and not leave my screen for the next forever hours" feeling.

Green Man Gaming: While Green Man doesn't celebrate consumerism with a morbid-sounding Friday, it is offering its usual voucher code. Enter GMG20-1FYLZ-EDG8R when purchasing a PC download for 20% off any game, except those already on sale. At the time of writing, GMG's daily deal (North America only) is Mass Effect 3: N7 Digital Deluxe for $15.99.

Newegg: (US and Puerto Rico only) Newegg has taken this whole "Black Friday" thing awfully far. Not only has it preempted Black Friday with "Black November," it's re-preempting it with a Pre-Black Friday Frenzy sale. How about a 500 GB Western Digital WD Blue hard drive for $50? A Samsung B350 Series LED monitor for $180? Keep in mind that if you visit Newegg from now until December 1st, you should not expect to then purchase other things, like food.

If you find any great deals as the weekend progresses, we'd love it if you shared them in the comments. And if all these sales combined with a poorly-timed lack of funds has you feeling down, remember that buying stuff is only briefly thrilling, while instead you could be continuously thrilled by PlanetSide 2, MechWarrior Online, Tribes: Ascend, or many of the other new free-to-play games we're thankful for this year.
PC Gamer

Double Fine's Amnesia Fortnight prototype jam, in which the gaming public get to vote on the game they make next, continues with the reveal of Brazen, a co-op brawler that combines the strategically-rich beast-slaying of Monster Hunter with the stop-motion creature features of yore. Hit the jump to see men punch a two-headed tortoise to death with oversized metal fists and admire project lead Brad Muir's modest but well-sculpted beard.

Brad Muir was also project lead on shooter-cum-tower-defence game Iron Brigade (previously known as Trenched) which was really quite good despite not featuring a single giant two-headed tortoise called Gorgoth. Muir aims to rectify this oversight with his new game, paying homage to the master of Hollywood monster movies, stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. Brazen looks for inspiration in Harryhausen classics like Jason and the Argonauts, Sinbad and Clash of the Titans, bundling these epic beast-battles into a cooperative online format forged by the mega-selling Monster Hunter games. There's not been a Monster Hunter game on PC since 2007, which is something of a tragedy given that those games are not only hugely badass, but built for an online experience that the likes of Wii and 3DS couldn't muster here in the western world. Double Fine's offering should do well to fill this very palpable gap.

As in the Monster Hunter games, Brazen's players pick from a number of specialised classes and collaborate in taking down skyscraping critters. According to the blurb, the choices here are "the stout defensive Stalwart, the agile and versatile Waracle, or the drunkenly unhinged Beerzerker". And what's more, you can play it right now!

"The prototype will be available immediately to everyone who has already purchased the bundle, and will be a beat the average offer going forward," say Double Fine. "Both direct downloads and Steam keys will be available."

You can download Brazen's prototype, donate and vote here.
PC Gamer

Ultra just can't be contained to a single vessel. Rivaling PlanetSide 2 in both vast vista count and "where the hell did I just get shot from?" exclamations, Far Cry 3 on the PC gorges on beauty with every single graphical setting cranked up. Sure, all video creator SiriuS does is wander around an island paradise and experience one freaky drug trip, but the all-German accolades serve as a neat linguistic bonus. Ich freue mich.

Far Cry 3 releases December 4 in the US and November 30 in the UK, but you can machete the remaining time with our review extolling the utter fascination of not finding a single bag on the islands.
PC Gamer
project godus

UK developer 22cans, an independent studio founded by Peter Molyneux in March, wants to create a spiritual successor to Populous. Project GODUS is "an innovative reinvention of Populous," the game's Kickstarter page describes.

If it reaches its £450,000 ($717,000) goal, GODUS will be developed for PC and mobile devices. 22cans says it'll take between seven and nine months to complete, with more time needed if additional funding piles on more features (and platform support) than initially planned. The game will "draw on the cunning battle-psychology of Dungeon Keeper, the living, changing world of Black & White and the instinctive, satisfying gameplay of Populous." You'll play as a god, we're told, and Molyneux hints at city-building and destruction in the video. But beyond that (and like many Kickstarter projects these days) details are scant. It's unclear exactly how the game will operate, what form your god-avatar will take within the world, and what actions you'll perform.

Backer benefit tiers for GODUS range from a £15 ($24) digital copy of the game to rewards that grant alpha access, T-shirts, a signed art book, naming rights to an in-game character, and even "a real, exclusive piece of hand engraved GODUS Titanium jewelery, hand made and beset with one sparkling real diamond." Romantic. Stretch goals aren't yet announced, but Technical Director Tim Rance hints in the video that it would be "more tricky" to go beyond eight-player multiplayer, but that it's a possibility.

I'd like to see more crowdfunded games take the approach that Grim Dawn and Planetary Annihilation did—lay out an explicit list of features, and give us something that at least approximates what gameplay will look like. Otherwise, we're simply being asked to support the ghost of an idea rather than a tangible product—being intentionally vague about how your game will work puts gamers in a position to fill in the gaps with their imagination and nostalgia (in this case: "modern Populous!"), which I see as a slightly manipulative practice. As game creator and Professor of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology Ian Bogost put it in July: "We don't really want the stuff. We're paying for the idea, not the product. For the pleasure of desiring it. For the experience of watching it succeed beyond expectations or to fail dramatically. Kickstarter is just another form of entertainment."

Nov 21, 2012
PC Gamer
Far Cry 3 PC review header

I don’t know what an Undying Bear is exactly, but I’ve vowed to kill it. I hope it’s just a name. This is a mission for the island’s Rakyat tribe, and Rakyat tradition dictates that I must defeat the creature with the infinite-ammo pump-action shotgun they’ve given me. A recent tradition, I would guess, but one I’m happy to honour. The truth is, I have an ulterior motive for finding and killing the legend: I’d really like a new rucksack.

A lot of what you do in Far Cry 3 raises perplexing questions: why would a rucksack made from the skin of the Undying Bear hold more than the one I made from four dead dingoes earlier? Can’t I just make one out of six dead dingoes? What is it about Undying Bear skin that facilitates a particularly capacious rucksack design? And more to the point: if it’s never died, how would anyone know?

But as I scramble away from it, panic-firing my traditional tribal pump action, what I’m actually wondering is this: when did Far Cry 3 become so good?

We’d been told it was an ‘open world’ game, but everything Ubisoft showed of it made it look like a monologue-heavy, tightly scripted adventure, its freedom limited to small mission areas. That is in there, it turns out: there’s an absurdly long series of missions about rescuing your friends from the pirates who’ve captured them. But it’s just one of the many different games you can play on this vast, freely explorable tropical island.

Hunting wild game to make bags out of their skin is another. Guns, money, syringes and all types of ammunition require their own special container, and every size of every container can only be made from the skin of one particular species of animal. And while guns, money, syringes and all types of ammunition are abundantly available on the island, its people have apparently never invented the bag.

So you, American tourist Jason Brody, must bring your container technology to the island by personally inventing and reinventing various types of harnesses, wallets and sacks, culminating in your magnum opus: the Undying Bear Skin Rucksack, a masterpiece of dermatological engineering capable of holding up to 96 leaves.

If you’re going to ask players to buy into a system so hilariously removed from its origins in real-world logic, it had better work. It does. Making the island’s wildlife the fodder for your personal upgrade system turns you into a hunter, forced to study and understand the jungle as you explore it. The place teems with life, to the point that you’ll often just sit in a bush and watch it. Check out the leopard stalking those boar! What are those dogs howling at? Ooh look, a Komodo dragon mauling a villager!

They don’t just fight amongst themselves: the island is dotted with pirate outposts, and the roads are travelled by trucks and cars full of pirates, Rakyat rebels, and civilians. Almost any pair of these have some reason to scuffle if they blunder into each other on their randomised routes, and hearing it happen around you makes the place feel alive. Distant gunfire or beast growls are never just ambience: something’s actually happening over there, and you can go and find out what. Maybe steal its skin.

Those outposts are what the game is really about, and conquering one demonstrates everything that makes it great. Your first job is to scout: you’ve got an entire island of free space to circle this small settlement, and the zoom lens of your camera to study it with. The first Far Cry let you tag enemies with your binoculars: once seen, they’re marked on your map in real-time. Far Cry 2 ditched that for being unrealistic. Far Cry 3 brings it back with a vengeance: not only does your camera mark enemies on the map, it lets you see them through walls from then on. As with the skin-crafting, the philosophy is clear: screw reality, this ability makes the game more fun. It does.

Once you’ve scoped and tagged the 5-10 enemies guarding the outpost, you have perfect situational awareness. You could open fire, but at least one of the pirates will make it to an alarm panel. That brings a truckload of goons to reinforce, and things get very messy. So priority number two is to disable the alarms, and the systems for this are deliciously clever.

You can shoot them. OK, that one’s not clever, but it has an interesting complication: only the panel you shoot is disabled, and even a silenced shot will make enough of an impact noise to send the guards running to the others. If it’s a small camp, and you’ve scouted it thoroughly, and you’re sure you have line of sight to every panel, you can speed-snipe them all before the guards can set them off. This is cool.

Trickier, but cooler still, is to methodically eliminate each pirate without alerting the others. This is tough, but your tools support it: you can lunge for any unwitting enemy nearby and impale them on your machete before they can call for help. A perk system lets you spend experience points to upgrade stuff like this, including a great trick that lets you steal the dying guard’s own knife and throw it at someone else for a second silent kill.

My favourite method, though, is often more practical. If you can get to one of the alarm panels in person, you can tamper with it to disable them all. It’s silent, instant and comprehensive. But the panels are always in the heart of the outpost, watched by everyone. Getting to one requires perfect scouting, obsessive planning and steady nerves.

That generally means creating a distraction, and that’s another thing Far Cry 3 is great at. You have a dedicated button for throwing a rock, and the sound will distract any idle guard in earshot. It’s not a new feature for the series, but short-sighted enemies, more predictable AI and the see-through-walls thing make it massively more useful this time. And those same factors apply to other distractions: a car-full of rebels showing up, a stray bear wandering past, or the pirates’ pet leopard suddenly finding its rickety bamboo cage shot open.

Last time I did the cage trick, the leopard savaged every pirate in the camp, waited for my Rakyat allies to show up and take over, then savaged all of them too. That camp is under leopard control now. I gave him sovereignty.

Part of what I love about all these systems in Far Cry 3 is the way they chain together. I find myself hedging my bets: I want to take an outpost down undetected, but I’ll try to sneak in and disable the alarms first in case I screw it up. And before I do that, I’ll drop some C4 under a nearby truck: if I’m close to being discovered, detonating that’ll take their attention off me. Often, halfway through carrying out my plan, the guards catch sight of something they want to attack outside the outpost walls, and rush off to shoot at it. So you have to be ready to restrategise on the spot, and sneak through any window of opportunity that opens up.

Once, when I couldn’t get to an alarm panel, I was rumbled halfway through eliminating the guards. I finished the rest off before the reinforcements arrived, but that left me trapped in an empty building with eight angry pirates hunting for me. It was heart-poundingly tense. I’d peek out of windows to tag them with my camera, then watch their silhouettes through the walls until one strayed close. I couldn’t risk leaving the huts, so I’d just throw a stone near the doorway. The sound would lure him inside, I’d impale him on my knife, drag his body out of view, then wait for my next target.

If you do manage to disable the alarms, your reward is an even more satisfying second phase to the fight. You still have to eliminate all the guards, and it’s still good to remain unseen, but now it doesn’t matter how panicked they get as their friends drop around them.

Far Cry 2 had outposts too, though they were smaller with fewer ways to approach. They were also the source of my biggest problem with that game: they repopulated. Far Cry 3’s solution to this problem is: they don’t. You can conquer the whole island, outpost by outpost, turning each into a rebel base with hunting and assassination missions to help secure the area. It’ll just take you a while, because it’s huge.

Taking over an outpost gets you a new safehouse with a built-in shop, selling a fairly ridiculous array of guns and attachments. These are unexpectedly satisfying to use, and Far Cry 2’s slightly tiresome habit of causing them to randomly jam is gone. It’s also very generous about which ones you can fit silencers to - I ended up taking a silenced SMG, a silenced sniper rifle, the silent bow, and a grenade launcher for emergencies (leopards, basically).

Yes, it’s a game in 2012, so it has a bow. Along with the endlessly distracting rock and the brutally effective machete, the bow makes you feel like a hunter, stalking and butchering teams of heavily armed guards with nothing but blades and guile. You’re never forced to get it, and it’s not actually as effective as a good silenced sniper rifle, but it gives you a sense of identity the other two games never had. As you walk through a silent town of corpses, pulling your arrows back out of their skulls, you can’t help thinking, “Christ, I’m glad I’m on my side.”

Your captured outposts become hubs for two types of missions: assassinations and hunting quests. Both are fun, but assassinations are the highlight: you’ve got to take out an enemy commander with only your knife.

I’ve been putting it off, but I should probably talk about the story missions. The pirates have captured - no kidding - you, your brother, your brother’s girlfriend, your girlfriend, your friend, your other brother, and your other friend. By the end of it I was surprised we didn’t also find my mother, niece and high-school English teacher somewhere in the compound.

It’s not all bad. About half of the Jesus Christ /thirty-eight/ missions give you enough freedom to have fun with the predatory combat systems that make the outpost fights so great. The other half... erk. They’re like a guided tour of all the clumsiest ways to mash story and videogames together until both of them break.

You left the mission area! Restart! You lost the target! Restart! You failed the quicktime event! Restart! A plot character got themselves killed! Restart! We spawned some enemies in a spot you knew was empty! Restart!

I don’t feel like you have to be that smart to predict this stuff won’t work. You don’t have to play a lot of games to see how it backfires. And you don’t have to talk to a lot of gamers to find out how much we hate it when you cheat or punish us to make a scene play out the way the story needs it to. It’s so painful to see clumsiness like that in a game that’s otherwise so elegantly designed.

The island itself is so rich and interesting to explore that it’d be a fantastic game even without any main story missions. So the question is, does the presence of a half-rubbish campaign hurt it? A bit, thanks to one unwelcome quirk of the level-up system: most of those neat perks, including the knife-throwing one, are locked off until you reach certain points in the plot. That pretty much forces you to play it, though thankfully not for long. Most of the good ones unlock at the same time as knife-throwing, a few hours in. You can safely stop there and get back to the good stuff.

Elsewhere in Far Cry 3’s efforts to be all things to all people, it somehow has four competitive multiplayer modes and a separate co-op campaign. Playing this pre-release, it’s too soon to review the competitive stuff. The co-op missions are a lot of fun, though: brisk, ridiculous shooting galleries about helping each other plant explosives and repair vehicles. There’s no server browser, unfortunately, but they’re best played with friends where possible. My favourite moment was taking a stealthy loadout and playing scout for a heavy-gunner friend in a dark cave: I’d ‘spot’ targets in the dark to highlight them on his HUD, he’d gun them down and draw all their fire.

Another caution about online stuff: Far Cry 3 uses Ubisoft’s Steam-like service uPlay, and if you play online, your game can get interrupted temporarily if your connection or their servers go down. It’s just a brief pause, though, and you can always start the game in offline mode to avoid it entirely. You miss out on uPlay achievements and a few lame unlockable rewards that way - I didn’t particularly care.

Other than that, it’s a nice PC version: responsive mouse movement, specific graphics and FoV options, tutorials reflect your custom controls, and it runs decently on Ultra-everything on a modest 3GHz dual core machine with a Radeon HD 5800. The engine doesn’t quite suit the jungle as beautifully as it did the African desert in Far Cry 2, but it has some beautiful views.

The original Far Cry’s developers Crytek used to describe that game’s philosophy as ‘veni, vidi, vici’: you show up, you scout out the situation, and you decide how to conquer it. Ubisoft kept the Far Cry name, and Crytek tried to stay true to its spirit in the Crysis games. But only Far Cry 3 really feels focused on doing that concept justice. You’ve got a huge island to explore, ridiculously effective tools for scouting every hostile situation, and so many clever intersecting systems to inspire creative ways to conquer them. It’s a better stealth game than Far Cry 1, set in an open world that feels richer than Far Cry 2’s. That’s an amazing thing to play.
PC Gamer
Firefall Fest

Red 5 Studios are based about forty-five minutes south of Los Angeles. They make games, but some of that city's preoccupation with movies has bled out: a few blocks from the building the company are making jetpack-toting MMO shooter Firefall in, they have their own TV studio.

The studio – christened Stage 5 – was the location for Firefall Fest: a week-long special event, streamed live with a revolving cast of Firefall fans, professional gamers, and celebri-nerds. Wil 'Wesley' Wheaton dropped in alongside Felicia Day, captured on TV-quality cameras as they played Red 5's game. Later in the week, I sat with Sean 'Day' Plott in the studio's green room as he waited to be taken through to makeup by a dedicated makeup artist. Later on set, flanked by exposed brickwork and sofas seemingly stripped from the front of cadillacs, the same makeup artist sprinted toward Sean's face, rustled around in her pouch for some powder, and jabbed it toward his cheeks. A producer at the back barked “thirty seconds to air”, and told everyone quietly talking to shut up.

Stage 5 isn't some side project. I scanned the room as I sat on set. Ignoring the monitors showing Firefall footage, the Firefall shirts the hosts were wearing, and the topic of conversation on camera (Firefall), a casual observer would've been hard-pushed to work out the link to a videogame developer. I've been to video studios and sound stages at other developer offices. They usually look and feel like afterthoughts. Stage 5 looks and feels like a fully-fledged TV studio.

Red 5's CEO, Mark Kern, is excited about Stage 5's potential. The day before Day visits, Kern's sitting in the same green room, a few feet away from the guests and the cameras through a soundproof wall. He's watching three of his community managers responding to a litany of requests emanating from their Twitch.tv stream chat, and cackling at the screen. The three have an easy chemistry. Community managers tend to be chosen for their forum presence and obsessive knowledge of the game in question; I'm told than one of Red 5's was picked specifically for his background as a stand-up comedian.

Kern's present for much of Firefall Fest, even stepping on camera to film a bizarre skit with “professional trolls” Mega64. The week-long event is an obvious attempt to generate interest in Firefall, but it's also something of a litmus test for Red 5's video capabilities. Mark describes his aims for the studio in the long run: he wants to provide network TV-quality videogame coverage on a scale several steps above that currently offered by bedroom casters and YouTube long-players.

I spent the first half of the week at Red 5's offices, alternating between Stage 5 and the company's offices proper, during which time I was witness to no major stream cock-ups: a distinct rarity when broadcasting largely uninterrupted, live video. The guests are understanding, engaged. When there are problems – Sean can't see the monitor he's playing on from his position on the couch – they're solved quickly, armies of stagehands and camera-people sweeping in to dig out a spare monitor and bolt it on to the table in front of him.

Kern and co don't want to keep Stage 5 as Firefall-focused as it is during the Fest: Stage 5 TV calls itself “an entertainment network dedicated to emerging trends in gaming and geek culture.” It's already provided home to a set of young filmmakers who've used both the Stage 5 studio and Red 5's in-house video studio to make CGI-heavy sci-fi and fantasy shorts under the Continuum banner (http://www.youtube.com/show/thecontinuum). The intention is to provide a hub for gamers and geek culture aficionados to find their televisual entertainment, or even produce it themselves with top-end hardware without needing to pay Hollywood prices.

Prior to seeing Stage 5, I'd have argued such an aim would be impossible. Gamers are surely too disparate in interests to align under one banner. Precisely the reason that casters such as Day have such a following is their focus on single, hyper-aware communities. But Firefall Fest shows an ideal middle ground: the loose jocularity and ease-of-swearing that bedroom shows allow married to the slick production and professionalism of proper television. Whether it'll work out is yet to be seen: Red 5 have Firefall to focus on first, after all.
PC Gamer
Legend of Dungeon

Wander dungeon -> stab bat -> find chest -> profit! The legendary dungeon-crawler formula is as effective as ever as Legend of Dungeon demonstrates with a new demo that'll run in your browser right now. RPS note that the team have turned to Kickstarter to crowd fund the $5,000 they need to make the remaining tile sets, monsters, weapons and set up a dynamic music system.

Legend of Dungeon is being developed by husband and wife team, RobotLovesKitty, who make games in their treehouse. It's a roaming bat-punching beat-'em-up with a bit of permadeath for added spice. Dynamically lit sprites strike bring an anachronistic vibe to its randomised dungeons.

The Kickstarter campaign has almost hit its target, but there are many stretch goals left to unlock, including extra player classes and tamable pets. If you want to show LoD a bit of support, you can always drop them a vote on the Legend of Dungeon Steam Greenlight page as well.

Nov 21, 2012
PC Gamer
Gone Home

Gone Home is described as a non-combat exploration game in a non-fantastical setting, which is not the sort of language you'd have to use in classifying a book. In games, combat and fantasy are so dominant that their absence is a quirk. But as we've been shunting sawblades into alien zombies and shooting weaponised bees from our rupturing flesh, the worlds we've been doing it in have become rich, interesting places with stories of their own.

When Steve Gaynor, Karla Zimonja and Johnnemann Nordhagen were building the Minerva's Den DLC for BioShock 2, they enjoyed working as a small team to tell a story through environmental details. So earlier this year, they left to form the Fullbright Company and make a game entirely about that.

Gone Home starts as you arrive back at your family home after a year abroad, only to find it conspicuously empty. It's a large, gloomy mansion on a dark and stormy night, so you're always half-expecting something to leap out at you. Even when you remind yourself it's not that kind of game, the edge it adds to the already ominous atmosphere is exactly the kind of irrational tension you feel exploring an empty house in real life.

After a few minutes of not being stabbed or shot, though, the details of the place you're in expand to fill your attention. You investigate it like a detective, deducing what's happened in the year you've been away. But while the atmosphere is spooky, most of what you discover is not. The notes, letters, diaries and visual clues that litter every room bring a whole family of characters to life.

Your teenage sister's story in particular is warm, funny and disarmingly tender - a smart girl on the cusp of discovering the mind-blowing scope of what the world has to offer her. The traces of her life are fleshed out with extraordinary richness, and bursting with clever, sweet, funny touches. Sam's the kind of girl to turn a homework assignment about the reproductive system into a World War II spy romance, and Gone Home is the kind of game to leave that entire three-page essay lying around for you to read.

If that's more detail than you want, it's easily skipped. Your progress through the mansion is a question of unlocking particular doors, and while the way forward is never signposted, it's obvious whether the clue you're looking at is relevant. The answer to getting into the library isn't going to be buried in Janice's forestry commission reports.

If you do read Janice's forestry commission reports, though, you might notice the scores she's given a colleague on their appraisal. You might recognise that name from another letter, and learn something interesting about her life that's never explicitly stated. The meat of the story is often between the lines, or in the connections between the clues you find. This half-written review of a stereo system isn't interesting, but the fact that Terry was writing it has a significance that's unveiled through other clues.

That's why Gone Home is a game and not a book. It can sketch a depth to these lives that would derail a linear narrative, and let you delve into it if and when your interest drives you.

It's due next year - keep an eye on it here.