PC Gamer
Dark Souls

Dark Souls II is busy completing its summoning ritual over at developer From Software, but among the few details we know about it is the bequeathing of the director's crown from series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki to fellow Fromers Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura. Speaking to Edge, Miyazaki said he feels confident of the new leadership so long as delivering what gamers want from the death-dealing RPG franchise takes priority.

"It’s true that I’m sad about not being involved in the development of Dark Souls II, because I’ve worked on Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls’ development for the past five years," Miyazaki said. "I really love those two titles; however, maybe this is the time to have new inspiration, so I’m fine about that. I’m looking forward to playing Dark Souls II not as part of the development team but with a little bit of distance. I really care for Dark Souls VIII to come out. That’s not the point. It’s more, ‘What do the fans want?’ We want to stay true to what they expect.”

From Software's biggest challenge for Dark Souls II lies in refining the attractive formula of the series' steep challenge curve with more accessibility. Shibuya envisions a "more straightforward and understandable" sequel to accomplish this, but with Miyazaki's guiding hand no longer directly shaping content, we're sure to see some significant differences in design.

Check out the rest of Edge's interview with Miyazaki here.
PC Gamer
game violence

The debate over the relationship between violent games and violent behavior continues inside and outside the United States. In its initial response to the tragedy in Newtown, CT, the US government said it intends to ask the Centers for Disease Control to “study the root causes of gun violence, including any relationship to video games and media images.” Critics cite studies that link aggression and violent games, claiming that interactivity as a component of games makes them unusually potent. One politician labeled games as "electronic child molesters."

It's an enormous and serious topic—one that we believe gamers shouldn't shrug off, but take it upon themselves to engage critics and fellow citizens on. In the interest of that, Logan, Evan, and Tyler hopped into our podcast studio (inappropriately, the room that most makes it look like we're inside an insane asylum) to talk about their personal relationship with violence in games.
PC Gamer
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

StarCraft II Lead Producer Chris Sigaty has both an epic mane of hair and quite strong opinions on the future of eSports. In an interview with Eurogamer, he insisted eSports "absolutely can" emerge as a powerful component of American mainstream media, and he suggested a possible winning format for that accomplishment lies in reality show style TV programs.

"Ultimately, what needs to happen from my perspective for eSports to take that next step or hit the tipping point is the realization by advertisers that it does have the viability of other sports, that it's worth putting the same sorts of investments they do into other sports into this," Sigaty said. "I feel we've been extremely close. It's done much better than I had hoped with StarCraft II, but there's still an additional tip that can happen."

Sigaty cited The Ultimate Fighter, shown on the FX channel, as an example of drawing attention to a niche sport by recording the social dynamic of a professional team living and training under one roof. "Getting these fighters together in a house and watching them learning their martial arts and trials they have to go through to get to their fight, to make it to number one, that sort of programming, people would eat it up about a pro-gamer and StarCraft II or whatever," he explained.

I can definitely see the allure of tuning into a show where pro teams settle dishwashing duty drama with League of Legends skirmishes. But eSports as a whole has a lot more going for it beyond the personal lives of players. Here are a few more reasons why you should get into gaming's competitive scene.
PC Gamer
STOP... Hammer time
STOP... Hammer timeYou like free things, right? Well good news – we’ve got an Alienware TactX mouse and keyboard to give away, and all you have to do is show us how awesome your personalised PC rig is. It’s all to celebrate the announcement of new god Vulcan in up-and-coming MOBA, Smite. Turns out Vulcan, the Roman God of fire, was pretty handy at knocking up powerful, bespoke stuff.

If you want to be in with a chance of winning the keyboard and mouse, all you need to do is send us pics of your custom rig (and tell us your spec) to pcgamer@futurenet.com and mark your mail ‘Vulcan Craftsman Challenge’. The PC Gamer team will pick and announce the winner on Tuesday 5 Feb, and choose four runners-up to receive Ultimate God Pack codes for Smite (which give you access to all 28 Gods in the game). Those chosen will have the pictures of their set-ups featured on this site, so the whole world can admire your creativity / madness.

So get snapping. If you want to know more about Vulcan, here’s a video Hi-Rez Studios made about him. He’ll be patched into the game later this week, and if you haven’t tried Smite… well, it’s free-to-play so you can get involved right now.

Jan 30, 2013
PC Gamer

A Knight, a Scientist and a Time Traveller walk into a cave. Somehow, that feels like it should lead to a joke - especially in a game by Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert. It doesn’t, but that’s not in itself a problem. The Cave has a definite dark sense of humour, but it’s not a comedy. Instead, it’s a laidback tragedy about seven sinners on a search for their deepest desires, only to find their fatal flaws waiting for them instead. A series of light morality plays written to educate and entertain.

And, sadly, a really quite dull platform game.

Focusing on that bit feels mean, but it can’t be helped – not least because there’s little that’s more depressing than playing an obvious labour of love that doesn’t pull it off. The ideas behind The Cave are great, it looks delicious, especially in motion, and no creative expense has been spared in charting this allegorical labyrinth. Even with its flaws, calling it ‘lazy’ is to openly summon Gilbert to come slap you in the face – and with good cause.

Nevertheless, The Cave shows no sign of having learned from other side-scrollers like Limbo and Trine or even The Lost Vikings, with its puzzles built on tedious lever pulling and repeatedly backtracking over whole levels with newly acquired items. At one point it even copies a ‘fill this six gallon jug with two other jugs’ sequence from the dusty Book of Elder Puzzles, which is unforgivable in a game committed to imagination - as is then assuming you had to cheat to solve it.

Worse though is how it wastes its characters. For each run through The Cave you get to pick three of the seven, much like the game that made Gilbert’s name, Maniac Mansion. Each has a special skill – the Time Traveller can phase through some walls, for instance – and an otherwise locked-off area. That means three playthroughs to see all the stories, and six to see all the endings (though the Achievement for that should be called ‘Never Heard Of YouTube’).

Except in each character’s own area, their abilities are almost never used. Very rarely there’ll be something like a hook for the Adventurer to swing from, but with no combat, a completely linear path and no choices to make, in practice everyone spends most of the game consigned to trudging along in silence, pulling levers and being ballast for pressure pads. Weighted Companion Rubes, if you will.

Most of the story areas are no more interesting from a design perspective either, with the worst being the three dull ones that you have to replay and are unchanged regardless of your character line-ups. Areas devoted to the characters’ lives are much better, with each telling their story through setting and puzzles, backed up with a series of cartoon stills.

Even so, there’s depressingly little emotional resonance. Much as The Cave as a whole would be more impressive in a world without other puzzle platformers, these would be better in one without Double Fine’s own Psychonauts – a game that used exactly the same tricks to far better effect back in 2005, as well as having more humour and heart. There's nothing as hard hitting as Milla's secret room here, with the stories being just too on-the-nose to blossom into much more than they initially appear.

That’s the biggest disappointment here. The Cave isn’t bad, but it is mystifyingly bland for what it sets out to be – and that ends up being worse than a glorious failure. We need more games like this, with this much love on display. With its actual adventure bits lacking the spark of its concept and artistry though, The Cave ends up sending you on an ill-fated trudge through platform purgatory in more ways than one.

Expect to pay: £10
Release: Out now
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Multiplayer: 3 player co-op
Link: www.sega.com/thecave
PC Gamer
Prison Architect thumb

Introversion have released a new build of Prison Architect, implementing a categorisation system to let you know who's naughty and who's not quite as naughty. But still pretty naughty in the grand scheme of things. This is a prison, after all.

Coloured uniforms have been introduced to mark a prisoner's risk level, with grey signifying low, yellow for medium, and red for "grade A bat-shit lunatic". While this lets you house the most violence-prone inmates in a separate wing of your prison, Introversion's Chris Delay explains that there's some nuance to how the system works.

"As in life, prisoners are sometimes mis-classified and we thought it would be cool to have some doubt about whether a prisoner really is as dangerous as he first seems," Delay writes on the update's forum page.

"To achieve this we have implemented an internal "traits" system of which you have no visibility. These traits determine if a prisoner is violent, or murderous, or destructive, or all of the above and more. They determine how the prisoner behaves when he is angry or when a fight breaks out nearby. This system is totally internal and you never get to access it, so the only way to really see whether you have a pussy-cat or a Bane is to watch how they behave."

While traits are the determining factor of an inmate's behaviour, it's their rap sheet that decides their risk classification. Every prisoner now has a criminal history, but just because an inmate has been prosecuted doesn't mean they're actually guilty.

"A Prisoner who has been convicted of Murder may have pleaded Not-guilty and may, in fact, by innocent of the crime. This poor soul would pose no threat, and a miscarriage of justice has caused him to be surrounded by thugs and murderers - he would rapidly become a target and if you don't notice."

Currently there's no way to reclassify prisoners, but Delay notes that the feature is incoming as part of the inmates' journey from incarceration to parole.

You can read the full patch notes here, and buy the game from the Prison Architect website.
PC Gamer
Feed three skulls to the same unit and they'll get an extra attack per turn.

Imagine being Jake Kazdal. You're an industry veteran, and after stints with Sega in Japan and EA in Los Angeles you set up your own studio, 17-Bit. You begin work on your first project as an indie - a quirky turnbased tactics game with a supernatural samurai theme - and Microsoft loves it. They want an exclusive. And then you find out that the PC version of Skulls Of The Shogun is going to be exclusive to Windows 8 at launch.

It's an odd sight, this very PC-ey indie strategy game, sat on the Windows Store with the pricey ports of mobile games Microsoft thinks you might like to play on a 40" monitor with a mouse, but Skulls Of The Shogun’s benefit is asynchronous multiplayer across all Windows 8 devices.

The dotted line denotes a unit's movement limit.

You're General Akomoto, a mighty Shogun warrior stabbed and killed in battle by your trusted lieutenant Kurokawa. He's soon dead too, as it goes, so off you set through a surprisingly verdant afterlife in search of revenge and the acclaim that's rightfully yours. Each battle ends when either Akomoto or the enemy team's general is defeated, and it's the novel ways Skulls Of The Shogun helps you stave off that threat that makes it more than a cheerily nostalgic turn-based strategy game.

Akomoto heads into battle with an assorted band of fellow fallen samurai, and while your starting crew changes every level you can expect to set out with an assortment of infantry, cavalry and archers. You can spawn more units, by first ‘haunting’ - the ghost version of ‘capturing’ - paddy fields to produce rice then offering it up as sacrifice to the gods in exchange for an extra pair of hands. You can only give five orders per turn, though, so don’t expect to overwhelm the enemy through pure weight of numbers. Select a unit and a white circle denotes how far it can move in a single turn; it can move freely within that dotted line, meaning you can attack enemies from any angle. That’s no gimmick: position yourself correctly and you can knock foes off ledges and into rivers to their instant doom. Where possible, though, you want to keep them on terra firma - because when an enemy is dispatched, it leaves its skull behind.

Attacks are likely to miss distant enemies.

Eating one such skull restores a unit's health and raises its maximum HP. Feed three to the same unit and it gains an extra action (here called 'orders') each turn; handy enough for the standard infantry, cavalry and archers at your disposal, but essential for Akomoto, who thanks to his twin blades can already attack twice. But eating a skull uses an order, and powering up your general is a delicate balance of risk and reward, and certainly something you don't want to do too soon - at the start of the battle Akomoto and his opposite number stand immobile, meditating, their maximum HP increasing every turn until they're called into action.

It's clever stuff, and things improve further when magic-wielding monks arrive, with munched skulls unlocking more powerful spells. It's wittily told, too, with the warring generals' sassy exchanges recalling Double Fine's brighter moments. It's not without its faults - busy environments and bulky unit designs mean the battlefield gets a little cluttered at times, while a fixed limit of five orders per turn feels stingy when you've got enough units to turn a battle in your favour - but these are minor complaints. Skulls Of The Shogun's biggest problem is that, for its first few months at least, it's only going to reach a fraction of the PC audience it deserves.

Expect to pay: $15 / £9.50 ($10 / £6.50 at launch)
Release: Out Now
Publisher: 17-Bit
Developer: 17-Bit
Website: www.skullsoftheshogun.com
PC Gamer
Star Trek Online Tasha Yar

Star Trek Online is about to boldly go into its third year since engaging back in early 2010, and from January 31 through February 14, players can take part in a celebratory episode called "Temporal Ambassador" where they'll cross paths with the late Enterprise Chief Tactical Officer Tasha Yar, played in-game as she was in The Next Generation series by Denise Crosby.

Yes, Lieutenant Yar was cruelly offed at the end of the first season by the mean tar monster Armus in "Skin of Evil," but we're guessing her appearance has something to do with "Starfleet transponder codes dating back to the mid-24th century" emanating from a temporal anomaly created by the highly territorial Tholians.

Stick around, and you can also expect to be partying with no less than the omnipotent space troll Q, who'll be hosting a special in-game event that will bag you a special Federation Ambassador Class or Klingon Kamarag Class ship.

Crosby's appearance in Star Trek Online will follow other appearances by veterans of the series, including Leonard Nimoy (Spock from the original series), Chase Masterson (Leeta from Deep Space 9), and Zachary Quinto (Spock from J.J. Abrams' Star Trek film) who have lent their characters' voice and appearance within Perfect World's space-voyaging MMO. Still no sign of Wesley, but considering the ensign earned his own death parody video, we're probably better off not letting him on our bridge.

Star Trek Online saw a fair bump in player count since going free-to-play in January of last year. Earlier this week, Executive Producer Dan Stahl announced that more than 2 million captains are continuing to ply the galaxy's warp-ways after the transition. But that's just a fraction of the 4 billion Tribbles stowing away on everyone's ships, as shown in the milestone infographic below.

PC Gamer
Defiance thumb

I understand that Defiance is meant to be a "transmedia experience" - combining the co-op MMO shooter with a SyFy TV show - but with their new trailer, Trion Worlds are taking things to the extreme. It's a live action teaser for the game portion of the project, complete with some very CGI bug monsters for the Ark Hunters to battle. Maybe next we'll see an in-game trailer for the TV series, thereby completely blurring the media divide.

Trion have also announced April 2nd as the date for the game's global release. Defiance will cost from $60/£35, with standard, collector and ultimate editions planned.

Before that, the closed beta will continue to run. The next test is due to start February 8th, and will allow participants to explore the San Francisco Bay area and play through new co-op instances. You can sign up for that at the Defiance beta page.

You can see trailers for both Defiance projects, each conforming to their respective media, right here.
PC Gamer - PC Gamer

This week, Chris and Toms Senior and Francis talk Teleglitch, SimCity, Crysis 3 multiplayer and more. Includes our thoughts on the troubles at Gas Powered Games, Jon Blow's next game, and your
questions from Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or download the MP3 directly. The YouTube version will be going up early next week as I've, er, got a train to catch.

Follow PC Gamer UK on Twitter to be informed when we're putting the call out for questions. Here are our individual accounts:

Chris - @cthursten
Tom F - @pentadact
Tom S - @pcgludo

Show notes

Gas Powered Games' Wildman Kickstarter and Matt Barton's interview with Chris Taylor.
Our collected thoughts on Crysis 3 multiplayer, plus The Hidden: Source mod.
/r/GuildWarsDyeJob, the Guild Wars 2 dress-up subreddit that Chris is weirdly excited about.
The Dota 2 character art guide.
The nascent Twitter feed for the Absolute Bedlam Dota 2 tournament.
Try a round or two of Cheese or Font.