PC Gamer
Rise of the Triad Drunk Missile

The morning after being visited by three specters (or perhaps three jackbooted Nazi-ish occultists), Apogee has posted an all-new holiday-themed trailer for its upcoming remake of Rise of the Triad. The cold-as-ice clip—called the "Deadly Gentlemen trailer"—features a number of explosive jump-pad leaping and shooting sequences set to a hard-rockin' electronica edition of the classic Christmas carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

Rise of the Triad is an Unreal Engine 3-powered remake of the old-school, run-and-gun 1994 shooter. Playing as one of five different members of H.U.N.T. (High Risk United Nations Task Force), you'll tackle a cadre of Nazis-who-aren't-called-Nazis and their supernatural demon buddies in 20 levels of goretastic single-player action. All the original multiplayer maps and modes, power-ups, and weapons are also set to return. And this time around, there won't be a Doom II dropped on our heads a few months ahead of RoT's Steam release in Q1 2013 to distract us from playing it. Well, not unless id has something they'd like to tell us...

Check out the ho-ho-homicidal mayhem here.
PC Gamer
Space Quest V

"BABY BORN WITH ONLY ONE HEAD!” screams the cover of the Galactic Enquirer. Fascinating. And it must be true! If you can’t trust the parody newspaper from a comedy sci-fi game, what can you trust?

I really miss the tchotchkes that used to come with games. The random crap you get in overpriced suckers editions today can never be as fun as something thrown in for no better reason than because the creators could, or wanted to make a big cardboard box rattle seductively when you picked it up in the shop. Novellas, cloth maps, replica Zorkmids: if the tchotchke sucked, it didn’t matter. When it was good, it was a nice surprise—like the first time you learned how to spell the word “tchotchke.” (You’re welcome.)

Galactic Enquirer was one of those: a 22-page introduction to Space Quest V’s story, universe, and characters that quickly set the tone of the adventure ahead. You get wacky pet pix of shaved Tribbles, spaced-out horoscopes, and best of all, there were zany transporter bloopers. The comedy didn’t come from the gags themselves, but imagining the awkward day some unsuspecting Sierra employee was thrown a pair of cheap plastic buttocks and told, “Put these on your face, you’re now the Rear Admiral.”

Yes, we’re in official guilty pleasure territory with Space Quest V ($5 on GOG with IV and VI), and yes, most of the jokes are, in themselves, pretty damn weak. Most work by being so geeky that you smile because you’re in on the gag, they're being delivered so shamelessly that they break through the crap barrier at warp factor 10. The villain is Captain Raemes T. Quirke. The love interest? Ambassador Beatrice Wankmeister.

But that’s okay. They’re cheap gags, and they don’t pretend to be anything else. Space Quest was always Sierra’s “throw-it-in” series, where you’d find the Blues Brothers on one screen and a Toys R Us parody next door, and usually getting away with it despite never being that great. SQ4 had some inspired bits, especially its central "time travel by visiting fake Space Quest sequels" gimmick, but the rest were better enjoyed for the idea of wacky space adventures than the actual adventuring.

Except Space Quest V. The plot remains simple—illegal toxic waste dumping leads to evil mutant Pukoids threatening the galaxy—but it's executed with surprising finesse. The puzzles don't rely too much on obscure solutions, the action is spread over multiple worlds (all tiny, but that’s okay), and for the first time, SQ bothered with a bit of actual character development to link it together. One of the early puzzles involves defeating a ruthless fembot assassin called W-D40 on the planet Kiz Urazgubi (say it out loud) by ramming a banana up her exhaust pipe. In Space Quest, normally that would be it, puzzle over, move on. Here, she gets reprogrammed to be a little less psychotic and sticks around until the end as an essential ally.

The most important change, though, was that while previous games had occasionally given you a ship to get from point A to point B, Space Quest Vfinally promoted its long-suffering janitor hero Roger Wilco to Captain (of a garbage scow, of course) complete with a crew, a mission, and a bright-red shirt to hide his inevitable bloody injuries. Sierra designers always did love their comedy death scenes.

Having a ship made the game for me. When it comes to space RPGs, Elitebores me about as much as trading fictional goods for fictional gold should bore anyone. I’ve always loved more narrative-heavy games like Privateer; with intrigue, characters, and freedom to explore. Here, it’s a weak illusion: if you go to places in the wrong order, you’re just told to go away; there’s absolutely no discovering of strange new worlds or teaching sexy aliens of this thing we humans call kissing anywhere to be found. Somehow though, it doesn’t matter as much as it might. Just having the option of pointlessly raising the shields, going to warp, and activating the self-destruct on a whim makes you feel far more in command than you actually are.

Really, most of SQ5's enjoyment is from wish fulfillment. Every nerd wants their own spaceship, but most of us admit we'd be an awful captain. Roger is in exactly the same boat—he’s in charge only because a rat chewed the wrong computer cable at Starcon Academy, and he gets about as much respect as Wesley Crusher. Yet he still wins the love of his crew, gets the girl, and saves the universe. He never becomes a great captain; but through luck and determination, and more luck, at least he ends up an adequate one.

I’d be okay with that. Just as long as I still get to sit in the big chair.

On the next page: More Space Quest V screenshots from our archive

PC Gamer

Christmas. Christmas never changes. Every day this week though, Fallout: New Vegas gets into the spirit of the season as a selection of mods make wishes come true... for better or worse. Today, the wasteland beckons, but not quite as the Courier and his partner Cassidy expect.

Previously: Part 1, Part 2

Morning there, Myriad Pro. Hand on fire? Guessing that means you found some new toys around town, or really need to put a few skill points into cooking, stat.

Was that a...

Pun not intended. What's up with that anyway?

Book of magic spells in Doc Mitchell's old place - "Vol 1: Hellfire". Gotta say, suddenly I find myself more ambivalent 'bout setting the world on fire. Not the only new toy I found either. Look at this here fellow from Trudy's place.

"Big Bomb"?



And that's the story of how we got chased right out of Goodsprings...


Think we can prob'ly take a breather now, don't you think? Hey, Nipton. You remember this place? Legion raided it way back when, stuck all the people up on crosses, burned it to the ground for sins committed. Ah, nostalgia.

Yeah. Think... think things might have changed a bit since, Arial Black.

Shiny new caravans? Pretty houses? A welcome banner over the town hall and not a single crucified townsperson? Tssk. Some places have no respect for tradition.

Don't worry, I won't have you forcibly sold cookies or made to attend a PTA meeting. It's useful that you happened by. I want you to witness the fate of the town of Nipton, to memorize every detail. And then, when you move on-

What do you mean, the fate of Nipton? Place looks Stepford new to me.

Indeed, Courier. This was a town drowning in moral sickness, cowardice, decay... but overnight, look! A wretched hive, stripped of all decadence, of all filth; rendered pure as the mysterious white snow all around. It is become... perfection.

The Legion's gone into the decorating biz now? Caesar's Legion?

That's 'Caesar'.


Was this our direct doing? No, but it is as I dreamed. Clean. Orderly. Quiet. A true civilisation of the wastelands, away from guns and fiends. There will be book clubs, Courier, and amateur dramatics every weekend. There will be salsa.


Still are, so quit your yapping. Had to be done, and you know it, for the thin end of the wedge and all good folks who don't need subjecting to the first all ghoul version of King Lear. C'mon, I reckon things may be worse'n we thought.

Don't know about worse there, Marker Felt, but definitely pornier and with a hell of a lot more guns and people wandering around to use those guns. Not one person out there wished for world peace or somesuch?

Extra lighting from those Electro-City folks is handy, mind, what with the nights suddenly actually being dark and everything. And at least we're not going to fall for that Door business again.

We agreed never to speak of The Door again!

Hey, look. A door in the middle of nowhere. Think we should open it?

Can't think of a reason not to.







Weirdest thing, portal to Hell ending up spitting us out over at a place called "The Bison Steve Hotel". Funny old world, 'aint it? Anyhoo, let's find us some good old walking music on this here PIPBoy radio, shall we?

Second thoughts, let's chat some more about The Door. Just saying, if I ever have to listen to Big Iron again I'm going to have to smash the nearest person with a PIPBoy's head in with a golfclub - then mine.

No, look, Cass. My radio's picking up all kinds of stations now. J-Pop, Christian Rock, old propaganda. Classic Christmas songs!

Suddenly Big Iron isn't sounding so bad. Hey, what's that? Is that an Enclave logo on that radio in your pack? Tell me you just picked that up off a corpse somewhere, or us two are going to have some serious Words.

Don't be silly, Cass, you know I'd have nothing to do with those incredibly powerful, genocidal zealots, most likely.

This is exactly why people hate travelling with amnesiacs. I catch you dosing my food with FEV or anything and you'll be singing Old World Blues from here to wherever I finally finish kicking your ass.

Never rightly said I had amnesia as I recall. Just don't talk much about the old days. Anyway, don't be worried. You'll never catch me doing that, pardner.

Well, good. That's... wait a minute, when you say 'never catch you', you mean-

What in the seven hells is this thing supposed to be?

No idea. Door's open though...

Today's Mods: Frozen World, Female Caesar's Legion, Increased Legion Presence, Increased Wasteland Spawns, Cortex Scrambler, The TARDIS In The Wasteland, Wacky Weapons, The 8 Books, Electro-City, Nipton Rebuilt, The Door, CONELRAD, Radio Free Wasteland
PC Gamer
Transformers Universe

This preview originally appeared in issue 248 of PC Gamer UK. Written by Alex Wiltshire.

A new Transformers war is dawning. A new struggle between good and evil. And this time it’s a conflict that once started, can never end – or at least, not until the servers close.

Jagex Games Studio are no strangers to long-running epic battles, having run the online RPG RuneScape since way back in 2001. Now they’re set to launch their second large-scale MMO. Transformers Universe describes the face-off between altruistic Autobots and sneering, pantomime villain Decepticons. It might be based on a toy property, and it might be a free-to-play browser game, but it isn’t just for kids.

Look to its influences. The MMO tag conjures images of a great rambling world of grinding mob-slaughter, with Optimus Prime and Megatron sitting static in their capital Transformers cities doling out ‘collect 15 Zanussi washing machine engines’ quests. But Transformers Universe isn’t that. It’s much more along the lines of World of Tanks and League of Legends: a series of tightly designed competitive PvP scenarios, pitting Autobot and Decepticon players against each other.

This one has trouble making soufflé.

At Jagex’s Cambridge HQ, producer Nick Cooper shows me a level set among the pine trees of a valley beneath a towering dam. Here, the challenge is to mine Energon, the game’s main resource, and deposit 1,000 units of it in a special hopper before the other team can. To do this, chief creative officer Alex Horton drops probes into the valley floor. He has to remain within ten metres of them in order to absorb the energetic booty: the closer he is to a probe, the faster he’ll absorb the Energon, so the battle is all about jostling for position. And, just to complicate matters, there’s the little matter of Terrorcons, undead NPC Transformers that the action of mining can inadvertently raise. Once transformed, they’ll attack both sides. The battling, played during my session with and against Jagex QA staff, is briskly dynamic, players balancing their need to mine with their hunger to despatch the enemy. Universe is, above all, an action game that emphasises player skill over statistics.

It wasn’t always this way. When Jagex started working on Transformers Universe in early 2011, they were making the standard kind of MMO that you might have expected. But that changed when Horton came on board. His background is not in online games, but in singleplayer action games – specifically Grand Theft Auto. He was lead animator on GTA III and Vice City, and went on to work on art and presentation for every other Rockstar game up to and including GTA IV. The carjacking animation? That was him. So was the GTA logo, cutscene direction and many other things besides.

Horton’s varied experience has given him an alternative perspective on what might constitute a Transformers MMO, leading him to look at what the giant robots-in-disguise themselves might bring to a game. “Transformers are about this war, they’re about action,” he says. “At the same time, they don’t carry gold, bake bread, catch fish, cut down trees. But for everything they take away, they throw open so many more opportunities.”

Hitting versus running.

Think of Transformer Universe’s robot heroes as toys. You’ll collect them, upgrade them with new weapons and equipment, and you’ll need to repair them, too, as they get destroyed in action. They also serve as your ‘lives’ in battle: although you control them one at a time, you’ll pick a roster of five to take into action. Selecting the right types for the scenario will be key, whether light and fast, ideal for negotiating tight city environments, or heavy and powerful for holding ground. Their vehicle modes will play a part, too – enabling access to different areas of the maps, for example – but Jagex are close-lipped about this for now.

So the concept plays directly to Transformers’ core identity, but it would be moot if the action itself wasn’t smartly designed. I watch Vanquish, a large, heavy Autobot that transforms into a digger, rolling out into the field. Like all Universe’s other playable bots, which Jagex have designed themselves, he packs three weapons: a massive hammer for melee, a minigun for short range and artillery for long range. Each deals area-of-effect damage, but of differing types: melee tends to be most effective against health, while ranged weapons are particularly powerful against shields.

Vanquish’s minigun – which shoots a cone of damage out in front of the beefy bot – and hammer are fairly conventional armaments, but his artillery adds a more tactical approach to his offensive capabilities. In order to fire, he takes a moment to robo-squat into place, rendering him immobile and vulnerable, and therefore in need of support from his teammates. Much of Universe’s combat design emphasises teamplay. Consider, for example, equipment such as the chaff cloud, which prevents enemies from getting the lock-on that rocket launchers and sniper rifles require to fire. Deposit that cloud in front of Vanquish as he hunkers and he’s got enough cover to loose off a round in relative safety. Other equipment will provide the ability to avoid radar detection, and invisibility.

The sense of scale between bots can be awesome.

Crucially, no one bot will be able to take on every role. Although the bots aren’t specifically class-based, some will be inherently better at support roles, while others will be better at taking on multiple enemies. That means you’ll need to think carefully about the capabilities of the bots you choose to take into battle, switching between them as occasion demands (though you’ll respawn at specific locations, rather than on the fly), and it means you’ll need to work with the team.

But, as I’ve said, Universe is principally an action game. The interface abstains from World of Warcraft-style tabbed targeting in favour of a more vigorous, FPS-inflected aiming system that locks onto any enemies in the central third of the screen. As it targets, it’ll zoom in slightly with reticle animations to provide what Horton calls a “Top Gunny vibe.”

Underneath it all, the combat is still run on RPG stats that you’ll raise over time through levelling and better weapons and equipment, but it leaves the overall impression of something more fluid and fast-paced.

A bot and his minigun are never separated.

Two extra weapon-specific gauges help. One is essentially a combo meter, which fills as you deal damage and unleashes bonuses such as additional damage and the ability to hit more targets. The other gauge charges up like a power bar in a golf game: Vanquish’s hammer only deals maximum damage if you let go at its apex, while some ranged weapons require time to lock on.

Transformers Universe has a fair amount in common with the new breed of hugely popular, competitive, short-duration online games: action-RTSes and the like. Where it diverges from them is in its reliance on story. “We can’t do this game without telling a story,” Horton says. His aim is to give a context to the game’s large suite of battlefields in a way that Quake and Call of Duty never try. When Vanquish helps to collect enough Energon for the Autobots to win the mining match, it briefly opens a portal for his side to proceed to the next level, set in a destroyed city. The battlefields, therefore, aren’t discrete player-versus-player maps, but part of a large set of interlocking scenarios that provide different challenges. You’ll also have access to faction-specific social hub areas where you’ll find familiar – although sadly not playable – bots like Megatron and Optimus Prime, who’ll help tell a story of conflict between
the two factions.

Transformers Universe is going to be produced in seasons, in the manner of US TV shows: Horton’s highfalutin example is The Wire. This is the war that never ends. In the future, Universe might go into space, introduce rafts of new vehicle modes and characters, and whatever else fits the audience and game as it evolves. They hope the story, which lies in the continuity universe of the animated CG series Transformers: Prime, will tie it all together. Quite what nasty Megatron’s up to will only come out closer to launch. Bet it’s something nefarious.

Levels span cities and mountains – expect future levels to go into space.

Transformers Universe is not the cheap tie-in that you might have feared it to be. And it’s backed up by some great new technology, which Jagex claim will ensure that their game looks good in years to come, even given its browser-based provenance. Certainly Universe is far beyond the usual level of 3D gaming in browsers, with flashing weapon effects and smooth animations as bots transform into their vehicle modes. Jagex are still in the process of locking down the minimum specifications for their game, but in its current form Transformers Universe’s look and feel suits a fast-paced multiplayer action-RPG. It’s not Crysis, sure, but the visuals are light years ahead of RuneScape, and they pretty much meet the intention of being ‘best in class’ in the field of browser games. And, less glamorous but probably more important, the networking systems that run under the hood benefit from Jagex’s considerable experience in making online games. Although they’re more used to coding the kind of technology required to run an RPG, the Jagex team have designed Transformers Universe’s engine and infrastructure to run FPS-fast. It will also run almost entirely on its servers, rather than via peer-to-peer networking, to make it more stable and secure.

Transformers Universe has one eye smartly fixed on the latest online gaming trends, and the other on ensuring the game lives up to the essential nature of its licence.

Will it manage to make good on those ambitions? It’ll certainly be worth trying out the beta, which is due to start in the next few months – you can already sign up. Jagex are adamant too that, as with World of Tanks, it’ll be possible to play at its highest levels without paying a penny – if you’ve got the time.

We’ll see.

Transformers Universe is rolling out with ambitions that suit the scale of its robots, to transform your expectations of what a browser-based MMO can be. It looks to be on the right road.
PC Gamer
Planetside-2 GOTY

Playing PlanetSide 2 is like being eight and riding a bike without holding on to the handlebars. Mum! Are you watching? Did you see that sniper shot? Were you watching when I jumped off the roof of that building, clamped C4 to a tank’s hull, jetpacked over a cliff edge, and pressed the detonator? Did you see the time I spawned a Liberator gunship and picked Chris up at a base south of a bio lab being taken by the New Conglomerate? He hopped in the gunner seat, mum, and together we destroyed the enemy’s only Sunderer! We blunted their advance mum! Mum! Are you still looking? Keep looking, mum, I’m going to do something cool now!

You’re never more than a few minutes from something cool in PlanetSide 2. Vehicle spawn delays mean you can’t spawn the same vehicle too soon after producing a previous one of the same type. Rather than frustrating, this provides me with an excuse to run the gamut of PlanetSide’s varieties of warfare. I usually start fights in a one-man Mosquito fighter, trying to swat enemy pilots out of the sky with air-to-air missiles. When I crash or get shot down, I change pace and climb aboard my Sunderer battle bus, providing a respawn point for my pals and healing any other vehicle that comes near with my engineer’s repair tool.

When that, too, meets an explodey fate, I retreat to the relative safety of my Prowler tank chassis, the thick armour offering some relief against boom-happy enemies. Until, inevitably, I get shot in the rear with a rocket and I have to begin the whole chain again. This time, maybe I’ll spawn a Liberator and try to cajole someone into gunning for me.

Other shooters do the best they can with one form of combat. Battlefield 3 tries mid-range vehicle fighting. Call of Duty does close-up reaction shooting. Only PlanetSide 2 offers everything. Most impressively, it does them all well. It’s a well-stocked tasting menu of a game: what would sir/madam like to try tonight? Some quad-biking with a base-capturing squad? Certainly, it’ll be right out. May I recommend the massive armour column? It’s really very good.

Read More: Planetside 2 review and our guide to how to conquer Indar

Runners Up: Tribes Ascend and Natural Selection 2.
PC Gamer
Dishonored 2 GOTY

One question above all others has dominated PC gaming this year. What in the name of smooth Jazz happened in Dunwall last night? It must have been astonishing, because every single guard in Dunwall is probably getting his own squad.

Did the entire guard populate undergo a singular, simultaneous act of cellular mitosis, splitting like dapper single cell organisms into identical duplicates in need of sudden leadership? Did the rat king emerge into the moonlight to be slain by the collective heroics of the entire city watch - an act of bravery so impressive that none of those involved could fail to be promoted? Or did Arkane, when setting the frequency of each bark, accidentally switch this one from "occasional" to "all the damn time forever."

Dishonored certainly isn't the only contender in this category. Over the course of 2012 soundbites have lodged themselves in the folds of our brains like audio shrapnel, playing on a loop and disrupting everyday conversation. Here's a conversation made up of a few of those quotes. if two NPCs from 2012 were to have a witter, it might go something like this. Can you guess the game each phrase came from?

NPC 1: Think you'll get your own squad after what happened last night?
NPC 2: Should've used a rubber.
NPC 1: Indeed, I believe so. Should we gather for whiskey and cigars tonight?
NPC 2: Oh fuck, a leopard!
NPC 1: Probably just rats.
NPC 1: Shake it off!
NPC 2: We're all gonna die! We're all gonna die!XX

Answers here, highlight to reveal: Dishonored, Far Cry 3, Dishonored, Far Cry 3, Dishonored, Chivalry, Guild Wars 2, XCOM
PC Gamer

PC gaming is in the middle of an avalanche. An avalanche of roguelikes where you Dig, Explore, have Accidents and Die, or DEADs, as I’ll henceforth call them.

A Game of Dwarves resides comfortably in that subgenre, along with Minecraft, Terraria, Dwarf Fortress, and plenty of others. Hell, you could even argue that Dig Dug is somewhere at the bottom of the DEAD pile.

A Game of Dwarves is on the management end of the spectrum. You have to look after a small collection of dwarves while hunting for treasure in the depths of the earth. You don’t have direct control over your charges – you just hint at what you’d like them to do by marking out areas for diggers to dig, crafters to build, warriors to fight, researchers to research and workers to grow food.

You gather resources, expand your fortress, kill aggressor monsters, level-up your dwarves and eventually find the objective room, which contains a boss you have to slay. At least, that’s if it all goes well. More likely, at least a few dwarves will die under your care as you delve deeper and more greedily. Not a grand death at the hands of an unspeakable hellbeast, but something more mundane. Something as simple as asking a dwarf to dig a hole underneath themselves but forgetting to put a ladder in it first.

The concept, like other DEADs, sounds like it has addiction carved into its rockface, but in actuality it’s strangely dull. The dwarves have no real personality, and while you can customise your environments, there’s no point to doing so. The only thing it boosts is the dwarves’ happiness – which merely changes the rate at which you can get new dwarves when they die. That doesn’t seem to happen that much unless you’re completely incompetent.

The game tried its best to stop me from finding out if the dwarf respawn rate becomes more of an issue towards the end of the campaign: after getting some way through, the completion of a level caused my machine to hang – one of those gut-wrenching hold-down-the-power-button-to-reset hangs. On reboot, my campaign save file had totally disappeared, and I was back to square one.

The game has other graphical and control glitches, and it’s a bit of a pain to move up and down between vertical levels. You’ll get lost from time to time in the bowels of the Earth, while the tangy odour of ‘was this actually finished when it was shipped?’ permeates your nostrils.

The best bits are when you’re just starting out on a level, picking how you’re going to strike out into the earth. The worst bits are when your fortress starts to sprawl beyond control, you lose track of things, and get bored because there’s none of Dwarf Fortress’s charm to distract you. A Game of Dwarves has a solid foundation, but you’re better off with other DEADs.

Expect to pay: $13 / £8
Release: Out now
Developer: Zeal Game Studio
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Multiplayer: None
Link: www.agameofdwarves.com
PC Gamer
Assassin's Creed III: The Text Adventure

Ever wonder what the PC games of 2012 would be like if they were text adventures? Of course not, no one in their right mind would ever wonder that. In related news: I wondered that! So, rip out your GeForce GTX 680, plug in your dusty 10" CRT monitor, and stuff your programmable eight-button mouse in a stocking, because this week we're going to imagine five of this year's games the way all PC games used to be: as text adventures.

This year, Assassin's Creed III took gamers to colonial Boston to unravel the ever-denser mystery of the Assassins and Templars, let us hunt, fight naval battles, and participate in American history, and exposed us to roughly 436 hours of cutscenes. Oh, it and occasionally let us assassinate someone! That was nice of it. Now, climb a church, stand on the steeple, and watch as massive expanses of words unfold around you in Assassin's Creed III: The Text Adventure!

PC Gamer

Christmas. Christmas never changes. Every day this week though, Fallout: New Vegas gets into the spirit of the season as a selection of mods make wishes come true... for better or worse. Today, the wasteland wakes up to an unusually snowy world - at least except the Jacobstown mutants, but it's not as if anyone was heading over there with a bottle of wine and seasonal good cheer anyway.

Previously: Part 1

Cassidy! Get yourself up, something amazing's gone and happened! There's snow everywhere and it's like Santa's been and everyone's woken up with something they most wished for last night. You'd better come out and-

What? Quit gawpin' already. Not like you've never seen me with bed hair before.

Aaah. Cass, you didn't... didn't go to bed last night wishin' for a better childhood or anything, right? No like, secret desire for a lost youth or nothing?

Yeah, those long days of not being able to drink are top of my nostalgia list. You been shot in the head again there, Haettenschweiler?

In that case, little lady, you better go find a non-broken mirror somewhere pretty soon. I'll be... you'll find me over here, by the tree. Behind the tree, most likely.

Jeez. Don't know what's up with him today, but...


Listen up, perverts. I am not some Lydia to play dress-up with. Lydia wouldn't start lopping off balls with broken whiskey bottles, and believe me, I have a lot of whiskey bottles going spare. This was your doing, you better pray it reverses right now or-

Aw, you looked so cute.

That never happened, you got it? Never happened. Now what the hell's going on? Where did the snow come from? Why's there dancing strippers outside? Where's my hangover? Why is no-one else looking like they want to scream?

It's a Christmas miracle, Cass! Everyone got what they wanted.

And you're saying that like it's a good thing? Your semi-amnesia stretched to where we live, Segoe UI? Don't see most folks round here asking for pre-war books or anything. We'd all better pray whatever happened didn't get as far as Caesar...

Hail Caesar!

That's 'Caesar'.

Whatever. Our scouts have verified the reports. The entire south-east of the Mojave is filled with Legionaries, none there yesterday, many in more accurate Roman armour. It's like we're an actual army instead of a small town Ren-Faire in skirts.

As a wise man named Aristotle once said, “Be not arrogant when fortune smiles, or dejected when she frowns.” If fortune is smiling, it behooves us to accept gracefully, wouldn't you say, Praetorian?

Great Caesar is forever wise.

Yes. Yes, indeed. That... ah... that rather reminds me. Some of your Frumentarii... not me of course, I would never presume to question such as yourself... have been wondering about the... uh... rather sudden change of staff around here?

The what, Lucius?

The... uh... the way your Praetorian guard rather seem to have been... replaced overnight with rather more... distaff counterparts. Modestly hot redhead ones, to be exact. It seems a little... out of... out of character for a misogynistic despot?

I like my new 'Vale' girls. Tell anyone who complains that we all have our crosses to bear in this life, and they shall find themselves bearing theirs all the way to a radioactive Golgotha if they do not remember their place.

Sir? You appear to have... a delivery waiting outside from a man named Boone. Note attached says "Happy Saturnalia from me and my dead wife, you fascist piece of-" and then it's all just crossed out. Shall I have it sent away?

Nonense! It must be tribute from an admirer of my attempts to civilise this wasteland. Bring it before me! Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's!


Praetorians! Defend me! Destroy this abomination!


Reckon you just might got a point there, at that. Going to be a lot of slavers and rapists and such getting their presents too, and while I'm guessin' we won't be seeing those for various reasons of good taste...


...stands to reason some folks might need defending from their neighbours' ideas of how the world outta be. What you say, Cass? Should we go see what's new out there? I reckon there may just be unfinished work for us yet.

Sure beats hanging around here waiting for aliens to attack or whatever. Say, if everyone out there got what they wanted, how's about you? What was your gift?

Aw, you know me, Cass. I'm just an old-style cowboy at heart. Always said, with the sun kept from my eyes, big iron on my hip and the horizon callin' me forwards, I got all any pilgrim could ask for in this life.

That's surprisingly mature.

Yeah, so I was surprised as hell to wake up owning some toy called a "Cortex Scrambler" that nerve-staples folks to be my slaves. Like this guy.


You are so losing karma points for that.

Suggest we spend some time looking round to see what else might be lying round town for us to use, then tomorrow, hit the dusty trail to go check out the big bad wasteland. You with me one last time, Cassidy?

Snowy trail. And at least you're still acting like I got a choice, even with you holding that thing, so I figure that's cause to stick around for a bit.

Aw, shucks, Cass, like I'd ever do a thing like that. I reckon we've been through enough for you to know your business as well as me.

Thanks, I guess. Means... means a lot.

Just make sure's you keep your distance, only use your ranged weapons, and open up that inventory - I got a whole heap of crap I been meanin' to unload.

...I am sworn to carry your burdens.

What was that there, partner?

Nothing. Probably nothing at all...

Today's Mods: Frozen World, Placeable Christmas Trees, Cass and Veronica Shojo Restyled, Female Caesar's Legion, Increased Legion Presence, Increased Wasteland Spawns, Cortex Scrambler
PC Gamer
Little Big Adventure 2

There are plenty of national gaming stereotypes. From the USA, you get explosions and Hollywood bombast. Germany gives us micromanagement. England’s the home of the quirky. And France? Along with Japan, it’s where the weirdness comes from. Case in point: Little Big Adventure—or Relentless: Twinsen’s Adventure, as it was called in the US.

What’s so strange about it? Everything. The rabbit people living alongside cloned elephants who shoot knock-out bombs from their trunks. A hero called Twinsen on a quest to save the world of Twinsun, no matter how confusing that is. You can even—on second thought, forget that stuff. All you need to know is that the series’ main villain is a twisted scientific dictator named Dr. FunFrock and you can buy it on GOG for a current price of $3. The rest? Merely detail.

Both LBA games were cult hits in Europe, and they still hold up reasonably well—though the fi rst is a much more fi ddly game (you even take damage if you run into walls). Most of it was spent exploring Twinsun itself, taking down Dr. DullPants’s evil empire with the help of a magic ball, a fl ying dragon creature, and one of those convenient prophecies that villains must really get sick of. LBA2picks up later on, as a simple hunt for medicine leads to the discovery that Twinsun’s wizards are disappearing. Could it have anything to do with the friendly alien race that just landed in their spaceships?

Welcome to Zeelich

While it’s nowhere near as free-form, there’s a distinct Zelda vibe to LBA’s world. It’s soft-shaped, with lots to poke and prod at, a steady stream of new toys like jetpacks and buggies to play with, scenery that dispenses coins, and a genuine sense that you’re exploring a world built with love. Like many sequels, it makes excellent use of familiar ground to let you see how things have changed from the previous game, from Twinsen’s now peaceful village on the once-fortified Citadel Island to a return trip through the dungeon called the Temple of Bu. But soon enough, you’re jetting off to a new world entirely: the gas planet of Zeelich.

The hardest thing to get used to is the control system. Twinsen moves fluidly enough for a 3D game released in 1997, but he has a tendency to get stuck on the scenery, and gets both frozen and thrown backwards when hit. He also can’t swim to save his life—literally. Roughly 70 percent of the deaths in LBA2 come from accidentally touching water and drowning instantly, and the other 30 percent from being trapped in a damage loop by even the weakest of enemies.

Most unusual is that all of Twinsen’s non-drowning-related abilities are split into four specific attitudes: Normal, Sporty, Aggressive, and Discreet. These days, we’d expect skills to be mapped to shortcut keys. Here, if you want to jump, you first need to switch to Sporty. About to start a fight? You can throw your magic ball in all the modes, and it handles differently in each, but you don’t get to throw punches if you’re not Aggressive. Be glad this idea died here.

A Hero’s Odyssey

There’s something wonderful about playing such a unique game. There are frustrating bits, such as struggling with the weak combat, but the adorable characters and goofy animations put a smile on your face almost from the start. It’s not really a comedy, but that doesn’t mean you won’t laugh at its absurdity on a regular basis. The undisputed highlight of the game comes from Twinsen’s first encounter with his nemesis, the evil Dark Monk, only to fire off the single most badass line in the history of gaming: “You suck big time, and I’m going to take you out, and I don’t mean for pizza!”

Even before that, it’s a game of memorable moments. My personal favorite is that after the aliens—called Esmers—land on the planet, their secret police try to keep a low profile by donning disguises, leading to cacti and garbage cans taking opportunistic pot-shots at you. There’s a secret you can only get by running into the women’s steam baths. Everywhere you look, there’s something cute, from getting the world’s most useless jetpack to seeing Twinsen’s sword-fi ghting technique. Also: Mecha-penguins! They explode, and you can buy them.

The only real downside, if you don’t have nostalgia on your side, is how long it takes to get to the good stuff. LBA started by throwing you onto a fortified island and stamping on your face until you learned the ropes. LBA2 is much more laid-back, to the point that it’ll likely take a couple of hours of play before anything much starts happening—and you spend those hours doing menial tasks, like healing a sick pet and running down an umbrella thief, instead of heroic deeds. But that’s fi ne. Sometimes you want high action. Other times, it’s enough to just sit back and let a work of art wash over you at its own pace. LBA2 will reward you if you do.