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Sometimes it s good to go back to where you came from in open world games. When the content is the world, travelling through it can often feel like you re gobbling it up, every virtual kilometre a chunk of media you ve greedily consumed rather than occupied.
But they rarely give you much reason for retracing your steps. Levelled rewards are rarely worth the journey; storylines and quests are often all used up. Towns, jungles, villages are left frozen in time, a snapshot of less sophisticated times. Now their challenges are less keen, their demands on your expanded skillset simplistic. Their NPCs repeat the same declamations as they ever did, ignorant of your world-spanning achievements.
While these worlds are physically non-linear, they often feel the opposite, locations standing as staging posts on a winding trail rather than interconnected places. Then I played Assassin s Creed Origins, which goes out of its way to seed the places you ve barrelled through with reasons to return. (more…)
Every year we round up our favorite screenshots, with preference to those taken at ultra-high resolutions with custom camera controls for beautiful HUD-free compositions. Previously, we've mainly included shots of our own, but this year I asked the community to submit their own. Special thanks to Larah Johnson (aka HodgeDogs) and Andy Cull who've lent us their collections for the year, as well as Cinematic Captures and The Gamers Zone for their great Battlefront 2 shots.
For the sake of space, we haven't included every screenshot submitted, but do check out these comments for more, and leave your best in the comments here.
More on the next page!
More on the next page!
Chris Livingston: I initially had reservations about how the world is divided up into level-appropriate areas that mean you'll get instakilled if you stray across the wrong border. It has a very MMO feel to it, where a common soldier in one part of the world is an easily-killable goon, and the same soldier in a different region is a nigh-invulnerable war machine. The splendor of Origins' Egypt, however, and the staggering breadth of its world, is enough to overcome the limitations of this kind of design. At any given time there are plenty of level-appropriate areas to explore, and even if you blunder into a zone where you're outmatched, with a bit of caution you can usually still see all the sights and visit the landmarks you're after.
Tom Senior: I'm still playing Assassin’s Creed Origins even though there’s so much in it that I actually dislike. I don't like the fighting; I find the levelling constraints restrictive outside of the fast-moving opening ares; the crafting system is wearying and familiar. But I happily put up with it all because Egypt is a huge, gorgeous space to explore, even on a horse that loves to ram pedestrians as it tries to auto-path through the game’s dusty little villages.
Fly over the realm with your eagle and you see deserts, farms, mountains, and Egypt’s extraordinary historical monuments scattered across the horizon. What other Assassin's Creed game has this variety? Then with a button press you drop back into Bayek and realise that every inch of it is packed with detail, right down to the flaking painted designs on every pillar.
Andy Kelly: It was clever of Ubisoft to set Origins in the twilight years of Ancient Egypt, rather than the romantic golden age we all imagine when we think of pyramids and pharaohs. This is arguably a more interesting period of history, with Greek and Roman influence sweeping in and changing the culture. And it makes for a stunning open world, with fading Egyptian cities like Memphis contrasting with the gleaming, statue-lined streets of newer settlements such as Alexandria. Origins' world is vast, offering a greater sense of adventure and exploration than the closed-in cities of other Assassin's Creed games, and it never stopped amazing me across the 30 hours it took me to finish it.
Samuel Roberts: I've always felt Assassin's Creed has had impressive settings, but not particularly distinctive ones—they trailed far behind the likes of Rockstar and Bethesda's open worlds for me, with streets that felt like they were repeating themselves. Like Andy says, maybe it's the closed in cities of previous games that created this impression, but by comparison, Origins' setting is staggering—the variety across the world, and that feeling of vastness, is unlike anything Ubisoft has brought to life before. It's so rare to find games that have a real sense of journey to them. While the series' trademark busywork remains in Origins, it's worth playing just to experience this setting.
Check out Chris's review of Assassin's Creed Origins.
It's the PC Gamer Q&A! Every week, our panel of PC Gamer writers ponders a question about PC gaming, before providing a short and informative response. This week: which game did you miss in 2017 that you're saving for the holidays? We'd love to hear your answers in the comments below, too.
I enjoyed Regency Solitaire, which was Grey Alien's previous reskinning of solitaire as a Jane Austen-style period drama. And I liked Faerie Solitaire too, which was a different studio called Subsoap basically reimagining solitaire as a cute Popcap game. What I'm saying is, if you can turn playing cards by yourself into some kind of saga then I am your audience. But I didn't even get past the tutorial of Shadowhand before I had to put it aside and play other things I needed to write about more urgently.
From what I saw it's a more thorough twist on solitaire than they've tried before, one that uses it as the randomizing factor for RPG combat in the same way other games use dice. You play a highwaywoman, and there's swashbuckling, romance, and pirates involved. In a way it reminds me of a tabletop RPG called Castle Falkenstein, which also used cards instead of dice and a period setting where people said "indubitably" with a straight face. I'm looking forward to giving it a proper chance when I can play it on a laptop balanced on my stomach which will be full of Christmas ham.
I've been trying to find the time to play Night in the Woods all year. I definitely have some pent-up feelings about small town America (and maybe a latent fear of having to return to it one day), and a smart, funny game built around that setting is something I know I'll love. Earlier this year my girlfriend and I played Oxenfree together and had a great time, so I've had Night in the Woods pegged for our next game. We just never got to it, and in October the developers announced an expanded version was in the pipe, so that felt like a good reason to wait. Weird Autumn edition is out just in time for the holidays, so I've got Night in the Woods pegged for a post-Christmas game. I can't wait to laugh, and also probably be a bit depressed.
When it comes to survival games I tend to overdo it, playing a bunch of them in a short period of time before getting so sick of chopping down trees and cooking at campfires that I can't bear to play another one for months. Then, eventually, I get back into them again for a while. The first time I played The Long Dark, then in Early Access, I was at the tail end of storm of survival games and I bounced right off it, unwilling to mope around freezing and starving and wondering where my next meal would come from. It left Early Access this year, and I would like to finally give it a proper look. Maybe when my belly is full of Christmas ham and my feet warm in new socks, I'll finally be in the right mood to put some real time in it.
I didn't exactly miss it—I was actually down to review it at one point—but various other features conspired to move Okami out of my grasp when the HD version came to PC. I actually played it on console back in 2007 but hit a bug over halfway through rendering progress impossible but being unable to reset to a point before it had bugged. Faced with losing more than a dozen hours of progress, I couldn't face going back. About a decade later the irritation of that bug has abated just enough for me to consider returning to the inky world and trying all over again. Fail me again, though, wolf, and I'll be ditching you for Slime Rancher quicker than you can whip out a paintbrush.
Since it was released, Wolfenstein II has been sitting unplayed in my Steam library, staring at me, wondering why I don't want to load it up and kill Nazis. So I reckon the holidays, when I have an abundance of spare time, is when I'll finally give Blazkowicz the attention he probably deserves. I didn't love the original, though, so I'm a little wary of this one. I hear it's difficult, and I don't have the patience for hard games these days. So we'll see how that pans out. If I can't get on with it, there are a dozen other games I didn't get around to playing.
I've been abstaining entirely from digital cards for the past four or five months so I could dive elbows-deep into the new Elder Scrolls: Legends set, Return to Clockwork City. Thematically, it's focused on the mechanical creations of the Dwemer (and those who'd hope to steal from their ancient vaults), with a new singleplayer campaign and a bunch of new cards. Competitively its impact has apparently been a bit underwhelming, but I'm still looking forward to reacquainting myself with the meta. Unlike the FPSes I play, one of the things I've always loved about Magic: TG and other card games is that their landscapes can shift so quickly and dramatically, even as players simply discover new synergies. I mean, that's part of the business strategy. I like observing the shifts in "what's in style" on sites like betweenthelanes.net (co-run by the excellent TESL streamer CVH), picking out a new deck that suits me, building it, then modding it further based on my preferences.
I'm not sure if this counts, since technically I've already put many hours into it this year, but Nier: Automata. I finished my first playthrough of the awesome action-RPG about robots with feelings earlier this year, but as (most) people know, the game has multiple (26, to be exact) endings and is meant to be replayed several times. I'm looking forward to starting my "route B" playthrough, but I've been holding off for the last few weeks, saving it for holiday time when I can really dive in.
I'm one of the shameful few who never touched Cuphead on launch. It's not that I don't find the game appealing (I do), just that when everyone praised it at release I felt like I was at a breaking point in how many games I was trying to juggle and complete. Adding a excruciatingly tough boss brawler to that pile would have surely driven me to madness. But what are the holidays for if not bashing your head against something repeatedly, sinking into the depths of despair as you realize you can't succeed, and then drinking in the dark until the wee hours of the AM? Oh, I'll probably boot up the new Path of Exile expansion too because the new league sounds like fun.
I've theoretically earmarked Assassin's Creed Origins as this year's 'big' Christmas game to wallow in. My worry here is that 1) each time I've tried to run it, it's had some pretty wild performance dips, and 2) I will almost certainly use these as an excuse to go back to Destiny 2 and grind for Masterworks weapons while watching old British detective shows. Last Christmas I ploughed through every Inspector Morse episode on the ITV Hub. That's a lot of dead professors. A question I can more confidently answer is what will I be drinking. And the answer is sweet sherry.
This piece contains spoilers for Assassin's Creed Origins.
Assassin's Creed has always had fun with nested narratives. The modern-day sequences get a lot of stick, and fairly: they often feel like awkward and unnecessary interruptions to the historical adventuring which draws many of us to the series. But they do make explicit the series' ongoing fascination with themes of historical memory - how we think about and remember our collective past. It's baked into the idea of the Animus: where other series might have gone for time-travel or done without the contemporary frame-stories altogether, Assassin's Creed bases its nonsense McGuffin on the idea that historical experiences are encoded in our DNA. For much of the series, the historical portions were explicitly labelled not as areas or time-periods, but as memories.
These themes have always been part of the series but the most recent entry, Origins, takes them and runs. There's the modern-day frame-story and the mainly historical adventure, as usual, but within the ancient Egyptian setting the game is particularly interested in the still more distant past. Ancient Egypt isn't equal in its ancientness. Its greatest icons and the central image of the box art - the pyramids - were more ancient in the game's Ptolemaic setting than that period is to us. The game's fascinated by this. Ruins are everywhere, ancient tombs punctuate the landscape and the game itself, casting hero Bayek as a Croft- or Drake-style tomb raider. Your reward for clearing a tomb: a stele inscribed with hieroglyphs. 'Ancient writing,' says Bayek, a note of awe as well as satisfaction in his voice, 'from the Old Kingdom.' The idea of ancientness-beyond-ancientness is there for everyone to hear.
Yesterday, the very fabric of society was threatened when some people disputed, with terminally dangerous inaccuracy, my 100% objectively and factually correct assertion that the currently-free Assassin’s Creed 4 is the bestest best Assassin’s Creed game of all time. Some of these anarchistic perverts argued that this year’s Egypt-set Origins was the better man-stabber, despite its complete absence of ghost pirate ships and Welsh accents, and rest assured they will suffer for this blasphemy.
But I am a merciful dictator of gaming opinion, so before they are all rounded up and fired into the sun, I shall first allow them to enjoy the bountiful contents of Asscreed Origins Update 6. Also known as patch 1.1.0, this 1.2GB bundle o’fixes includes significant graphical improvements and the aforementioned new difficulty mode. Enjoy it while you still draw breath, heretics. (more…)
In his review, Chris praised Assassin's Creed Origins' "brilliant" setting and new systems that combine well with the series formula. Naturally, there was room for improvement—which is something today's extensive patch hopes to address.
Due today, update 1.1.0 introduces a new Nightmare difficulty mode and adds a new NPC scaling option that lets enemies scale up to player's levels. Ubisoft qualifies this by saying enemies will only scale up to meet the player's level as they progress, and will not scale down. A new 'Horde' mode has been added to the Arena, while HDR display is now supported for PC players.
Moreover, tweaks have been made to the game's economy, while Trinkets and Animal Goods have now been capped at 999. Stuttering issues have also been remedied on Nvidia graphics cards when playing in borderless mode, which is something a fair number of players have faced before now.
A number of other fixes have been applied to graphics settings, UI, audio, the game's world and quests—not least how NPCs react to your presence.
Again, Assassin's Creed Origins' update 1.1.0 is due later today. Head in this direction for its patch notes in full.
I like the boat-centric Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag so much that I just went and added it to Uplay even though I already own it Steam. That’s right: an Asscreed I dig enough to voluntarily load up Uplay. Last week, Ubisoft were giving away the tragically de-Steamed RTS World in Conflict, and, as we promised then, here’s your nudge about this week’s Festivus freebie.
Assassin's Creed Oranges owners will notice a 3GB update being piped to their consoles and/or PC today. It contains a selection of handy updates and changes.
First up, for folk who've noticed the game has struggled loading textures at a distance (we're looking at you, 2D trees), there are various fixes on the way to hopefully make things prettier.
Among the detailed patch notes are points including "Improved texture streaming selection to allow for more high-resolution texture", "Fixed loading grid setups for tall palm tree fields to improve their view distance" and various improvements specific to certain in-game locations (Siwa, Alexandria, and more).