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When an update video for Dead Cells—the slick Early Access Metroidvania—popped up on Steam, I was hoping that we'd get a release date. But alas, no such luck. The Motion Twin team said they are still "far from finishing the game", which has been up on Steam since May. They also revealed that the game is getting a price bump after the Winter Sale to reflect the significant process they've made in development: it will rise from $16.99/£13.99 to $19.99 (probably around £16).
That makes the current discount, to $12.74/£10.49, even more attractive. The game is already pretty polished, and you won't find many players with a bad word to say about it—Steam reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
The price increase reflects the fact that, following the release of The Foundry Update last week, the major changes to the game's system have been made, and now the team will focus on adding more levels and content, as well as tweaking the UI. "The game now has tonnes more features, more content, less bugs, and there's less of risk taken by new players when they buy the game...as a result of this we're going to increase the price. We'll probably do that again at the end of Early Access."
The Foundry Update made a couple of major additions, namely a more customisable upgrade system that lets you re-spec your character on the fly, new custom difficulty settings and a revamped weapon upgrade system. You can read the full details of the update here , and click here for the blog post accompanying the team's end of year video, which you can watch at the top of this post.
When the game entered Early Access in May, Motion Twin said it'd be ready in eight months to a year. That window is not far off, so I'd expect to hear whispers of a release date in the new year.
Shadowverse is a great alternative to Hearthstone. Fans of Blizzard's mammoth CCG will find its mechanics familiar, but it's set apart by its distinct Japanese flavour and a neat 'Evolve' mechanic, which lets you buff and transform any of your minions. It's free-to-play and receives a constant stream of updates, the latest of which, Chronogenesis, came out this week.
As well as adding 138 new cards—some of which Andy took a peek at last week—Chronogenesis adds a new class called Portalcraft, led by Yuwan. His trademark mechanic is Resonance, which activates certain abilities when you have an even number of cards left in your deck.
On top of that, the update adds a new play format called Rotation, which only allows you to play with cards from the five most recent card sets, in addition to basic cards. You'll still be able to play with your entire deck in the Unlimited format. The expansion also adds a few chapters to the main story.
For the full change log, click here.
Yesterday we did the highs, and today we do the lows. These were the more disappointing moments of 2017, according to our PC Gamer global team. And yes, you'll find some loot crate chatter in here. Let us know your lows of the year in the comments.
I didn't like Mass Effect Andromeda for a lot of reasons, but the main one is that it utterly fails to make you feel like you're an explorer in some uncharted galaxy. The premise is perfect, voyaging through the stars to find a new home. But the execution is disappointingly inept and unimaginative, with nothing out there that feels truly alien.
Say what you will about Interstellar (I love it), but that film really nails the idea of the planets they visit being so wildly outside of the rules of Earth, making them as terrifying as they are awe-inspiring. The giant waves, clouds of ice, and so on. But the planets in Andromeda had none of that. A desert, a jungle, an ice world. Your classic sci-fi archetypes.
And the angara, the only real native race you encounter, have human-shaped faces and a relatable culture and politics. It cheapens the Mass Effect universe when you can travel to a new galaxy and it's basically the same as the Milky Way. BioWare wasted an opportunity here, and that's why Andromeda was a major letdown for me this year.
I thought I'd love Resident Evil 7. The demo suggested they were going for something a bit like PT—an original and shocking horror game. And it is for about an hour, even if it's never close to PT's levels of scares and invention. By the end of the game, though, as I shot a procession of goo monsters, and took down yet another boss by shooting the same weak points over and over again, I felt like Resident Evil was in the same shape as when I started. If anything, the boss fights and set pieces were less interesting than Resident Evil 5, which seems to have gained the reputation of taking the series in the wrong direction. But it's definitely a better, more entertaining game to me.
I think I'm among the few that didn't love it. The Baker family as a series of bosses should've been interesting, but I didn't find any of them that scary, except when you'd find the dad lurking in the corridors of the house after you thought you killed him. Resi definitely looked the part: the colour palette was nice and grimy, the VHS tapes were pretty cool—especially the SAW-style death trap one. But it didn't really reinvent the series for me. If it was in third-person rather than first, I genuinely think it'd be considered an average entry in the series, maybe slightly above the first Revelations game.
It doesn't help that the VR mode was launched exclusively on PlayStation. Hopefully we get to try it in January. It's not that Resident Evil 7 was the worst game I played in 2017—I enjoyed it a load more than Rime or Perception—but I thought it'd be a grand new chapter.
I'm not a huge Star Wars fan, but I enjoyed The Last Jedi. I like that it didn't play to the expectations set by The Force Awakens, which I think is the inferior film. So I have a hard time understanding why certain Star Wars superfans absolutely hated The Last Jedi—but I can sympathize. As a big Mass Effect fan, I found very little to like about Mass Effect: Andromeda. Many people I know enjoyed it just fine and probably look at me the same way I look at The Last Jedi discontents. Sorry! Though I waffled over my feelings about it for awhile, when I look back, I really didn't like it.
What begins as a story about, and potentially a critique of, colonialism instead backs the Milky Way's expansion throughout Andromeda—with an early nod to noted rich person Elon Musk, of course—so long as invading aliens can stand in as the true evil. Minor conflict with the indigenous angara is easily resolved by having that common enemy, and outside of the angara, the villainous Kett, and the ancient Remnant robots, no other intelligent aliens are found in Andromeda. Humanity (and its alien pals) thus becomes a savior of the locals, an ahistorical theme which skims over all kinds of ethical points: as the more technologically-powerful party, are the Milky Way settlers refugees or invaders? Why have the colonists chosen to replicate the old militaristic power structures they left behind? Delete the Kett and focus more on inter-alien relations—both between those from the Milky Way and the civilizations they encounter in Andromeda—and I think you'd have a much more interesting game. The Krogan rebellion and distrust from the angara are easily the best aspects of Andromeda, but are set aside to make way for war against Borg-like, done-before, alien monsters.
On top of that, I found the plucky 'Chosen One' protagonist dull, as well as most of the supporting cast (whose reasons for leaving their entire galaxy behind are largely ridiculous), and rehashing the original trilogy's focus on ancient aliens and their super-powered artifacts works against making Andromeda feel like a mysterious new frontier—same shit, different galaxy. And these are just criticisms of the story. I'd take over this whole article if I detailed my issues with the sidequests and combat.
While this one does have a happy ending, it was still a deeply unpleasant and easily avoidable mess. Back in May, the creator of OpenIV, a GTA modding tool, received an email from Take-Two Interactive requesting any further work on OpenIV be halted. When modder 'GooD-NTS' asked for more information on the matter, Take-Two's legal department mailed a cease and desist notice to his place of work, accusing him of violating Russian laws. GooD-NTS decided, after some deliberation, to stop updating the mod.
It's worth keeping in mind that, at the point of this C&D, OpenIV had already been around for nearly a decade, available for modders and mod-users to play GTA 4 and 5 with modded content. It was relied upon for dozens if not hundreds of mods as it allowed GTA game files to be edited. Its creators had also taken measures to ensure OpenIV couldn't be used in GTA Online, only in single-player.
Naturally, there was an explosion of outrage from gamers over the shutdown. A petition garnered tens of thousands of signatures and Rockstar's games were heavily review-bombed on Steam. One machinma maker created a video depicting Take-Two and Rockstar executing modded characters while others wondered how they'd be able to create new work without OpenIV.
After a tumultuous few days, Rockstar began talking directly to the modder and soon OpenIV was back and being updated again. Which is, frankly, what should have happened in the first place. Legal action should be a final step, not an opening move. Modders who spend a decade adding content to a game clearly have passion for it, and mods, as I've said before and will no doubt say again, add value to a game. Even if you don't actively support mods (Rockstar doesn't, hence the need for OpenIV in the first place), don't treat modders like enemies. Bringing the legal department of an enormous corporation to bear on an individual who simply loves to create new content for a game on a volunteer basis is a terrible, terrible look.
I think everyone is pretty tired of talking about, and hearing about, loot boxes, but they really are the biggest topic in gaming in 2017, and I think the industry's low point of the year. There are many reasons to dislike them, even cosmetic boxes like Overwatch's, and there are real concerns about how those systems lure in players with addictive tendencies. There are definitely people spending money on loot boxes who can't afford it—not all whales are millionaire lawyers with piles of cash to burn.
I'm thankful loot boxes don't have that kind of pull for me. But even if I don't spend money on them, they're in the games they play, making those games worse. Here's what I had to say about loot boxes on the PC Gamer Show a few months ago, about how they take some of the excitement and mystery out of games by making them too similar.
They're boring. Hopefully this year's backlash means we see far fewer of them in the new year.
This has been a strange year for certain segments of the computer hardware scene. Normally, the trend is for everything to get 'better'—faster, smaller, more efficient—while at the same time becoming more affordable. That state-of-the-art PC you bought in 2014 for $3,000 will be slower than this year's mainstream $1,500 system. But for GPUs, SSDs, and RAM, 2017 decided to go a different direction.
Cryptocurrency mining had a major impact on graphics card prices, peaking with cards like the RX 570 and RX 580 selling for more than twice their official launch price. Even now, nine months later, you can't buy an RX 570 4GB for under $200, and it was supposed to be a $169 card. Nvidia weathered the storm a bit better, though GTX 1070 is still nowhere near its all-time low of $350, and with Bitcoin flirting with the $20,000 mark, Ethereum at $800, and Bitcoin Gold at over $4,000, we're still not done.
DDR4 RAM and SSD prices meanwhile have remained high throughout the year. This is mostly thanks to the increased demand from the smartphone sector, where 64GB NAND is now common on high-end models like the iPhone 8 and Galaxy Note 8, the latter of which packs 6GB RAM. Increased supply is supposed to help reverse the trend in 2018, though you can't help but worry about the prices being kept high next year.
The moment I first clapped eyes on Destiny 2 at the reveal event in May, running in 4K at 60+ FPS, could easily have been my high of the year. But as we know, what followed has been something of a shuttle crash. It's not that Destiny 2 is a bad game when viewed in isolation. I completely agreed with Tom's verdict that there was an excellent 60-70 hours of grind to be had, and it's especially fun played with friends, as our awards noted. But Bungie's fundamental blunder—and the more I think about it, the more arrogant it looks—was the idea that the sequel could be tailored almost entirely for the casual audience, and the hardcore players would just suck it up and stick around because, hey, that's what they do. Or perhaps even more cynically, maybe the bean counters felt it didn't matter if nobody sticks around so long as enough of them bought the base game, season pass, and some of the baubles in the microtransaction store.
If the vacuum where the endgame should've been was the only issue, then that would have been bad enough. But Bungie compounded the issue with a string of mistakes, from a hidden XP throttling system, to an exotic weapon released seemingly untested, to a DLC expansion that locked vanilla players on PC out of stuff they paid for just over six weeks ago. It's been a baffling series of self-inflicted wounds, and I can't recall such a big studio having to issue so many apologies, so soon after launch. What's most frustrating is that I still love much about the game and still spend a lot of time—too much!—playing it.
The universe Bungie has built, how the weapons look and feel to fire, and the amazing experience of raiding with a team of friends are all things I don't want to leave behind. I think underpinning all the game's problems, though, is the studio's focus on scooping up as much Eververse store money as possible. Somewhere the path to what made the game fun in the first place has been severely strayed from. It's not understating it to say that the changes that need to happen in 2018 will make or break the game. I hope Bungie sees how seriously it needs to reconsider its current approach to making money from the playerbase. For the extended dance remix version of this discussion, here are my thoughts on Curse of Osiris.
It took our Bitcoin mining rig two weeks to spit out the solution to 'what is the hardest GOTY award to be mad about,' but our unscrupulous power consumption was worth it. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the first uncontroversial Game of the Year award we've given in years. We finally did it!
Of course it couldn't last, though. After just a few days of basking in positive reinforcement, we also published awards for PUBG and Destiny 2, prompting questions such as: 'Are you drunk?' The answer is: probably. But we must press on. The end of the year is for awarding awards, and no number of incredulous reaction gifs and all caps emails can stop us. So before calling it quits, we grabbed a handful of rejected award ideas from our award box (after paying our office manager $1.99 for the key) to bring you the 2017 Looties, our other GOTY awards.
Winner: Mass Effect: Andromeda
However you feel about Mass Effect: Andromeda, you have to admit that it's the best Mass Effect game that released this year, and at least the fourth best Mass Effect game of all time. Not too shabby! —Tyler Wilde
Winner: EA for Star Wars Battlefront 2
Wow! EA pulled off quite the marketing stunt for Battlefront 2: even politicians are talking about it. To make this word-of-mouth magic happen, the marketing savants at EA constructed a business model that it would be impossible to look at, even on paper, without saying: 'Excellent! Everyone is going to be very mad about this! In fact, even Disney will be mad. We'll definitely make Belgium's Justice Minister mad.' And like clockwork, that's what happened—literally anyone could have predicted it, which goes to show just how airtight the plan was. Nice one, EA! —Tyler Wilde
Winner: Dishonored 2: Death of the Outsider
It was a closely guarded secret all through the production of Dishonored 2: Death of the Outsider: The Outsider would die. The efforts taken to hide the death of the Outsider were extreme, with several fake endings to Death of the Outsider, in which the Outsider did not die, being fully produced and animated. The Outsider's voice actor spent days recording dozens of lines of dialogue intended to throw off any suspicions in case of a pre-launch leak, lines like "I am glad I did not die!" and "I, the Outsider, continue to live" and "There sure are a lot of deaths but thankfully none of them are of me, the Outsider." These efforts were completely worth it, because we were completely stunned when we got to the part of Death of the Outsider where we experienced the death of the Outsider. In fact, we feel a little bad not including a spoiler warning before this award, because now you know the Outsider, in Death of the Outsider, dies. —Chris Livingston
Winner: What Remains of Edith Finch
As evocative as the Finch's family home is, it's the realistic slice-of-life details that make it so compelling. For instance, there's the subtle inclusion of secret tunnels that only small people can fit through. We all know where ours are! (Though we must never find out what's behind them.) And rooms with entirely different colour schemes that perfectly show, down to the smallest detail, who lives there? These are the details I expect when I walk into a family home, not the unrealistic detritus you see in most so-called 'true to life' portrayals: mouldy pizza boxes stuffed down the side of a bed, embarrassing Star Trek tie-in novels in people's book collections, dad's copy of Band of Brothers on Blu-ray. As if we're not going to notice that the family dome is missing from that picture? Props to Edith Finch for getting it right. —Samuel Roberts
Winner: The Long Ark
Wait, what? A survival game left Early Access this year? Wait, again! And what, again? Two of them? Ark: Survival Evolved and The Long Dark both left Early Access? Holy crap. I didn't know that was a thing that could happen. I thought maybe Steam forgot to make a 'Leave Early Access' button for survival game developers to click on, or maybe that they had to cut down a real tree using an axe made from a stick, a stone, and 'plant fiber' before they were allowed to leave Early Access and no one could actually do it. Well, good for Ark 'n Dark! May your stomach meters be full and your supply of firewood be plentiful. —Chris Livingston
Winner: Little Nightmares
It's never been a better and worse time to be a sad child in a game, what with Inside and Rime showing that kids have it tough in service of entertaining players. Little Nightmares, though, offers the saddest child of 2017, as grotesque people regularly attempt to eat your character on a horror show of a boat while your character slowly starves to death. If it's not that, you have to avoid giant toy men who want to mess you up real bad. Will 2018 be another banner year for sad videogame children? I would expect so. This sub-genre is flourishing right now. —Samuel Roberts
Winner: Nier Automata
Have you met the member of the resistance group who reprograms a Yorha android because he's desperate to start a family? And then did you read the email afterwards that explains in cold detail how he and his new robot relations were killed? Nier features some deeply sad robots, all trying to figure themselves out in a box-y world where people no longer reside, but human feelings live on in their creations. Everyone's having a bad time. Except the robots having an orgy—they're loving it. —Samuel Roberts
Winner: Yosuke Matsuda, Square-Enix
It's rare to see major publishers behave with magnanimity when the big bucks are involved, so I was moved if not to tears, at least to substantial surprise when Square-Enix decided not to be jerks about the whole not wanting to make more Hitman games thing, and instead let IO Interactive walk away with the rights to their slap-headed, murderous creation. Credit for that has to go to big boss Yosuke Matsuda, who explained: "I believe it wouldn't be Hitman unless it was Hitman made by IO… I love the game, and I believe the fans of Hitman think it's only Hitman if it's made by IO. So I thought that was the best way for the game to continue, and that's why we were supportive of the MBO and of course didn't mind if they continued to use the IP." Imagine, Bobby Kotick at Activision saying something like that. You can't. Because he's buried under that pile of loot boxes. Shhh, Bobby. Let the darkness come. You're safe now. —Tim Clark
Winner: Also Yosuke Matsuda, Square-Enix
Goddamnit. No sooner had I hung the garland on Matsuda-san than I realised he was also responsible for this year's greatest single moment of villainy: Ignoring the noble and righteous campaign led by our own Wesley Fenlon to have Final Fantasy Tactics finally ported to PC. I mean, I can't be sure this is entirely Matsuda's fault, but I also can't be certain he isn't to blame. So here we are. I mean, c'mon Square. You've jammed every other Fantasy onto Steam except that one about the hot boys riding around chasing chocobo tail in a black cadillac, why the hell can't we have Tactics? It's literally one of the best turn-based strategy games ever made, and would be an absolute delight to play with mouse and keyboard. To be honest, if it was between this and letting the Hitman devs families' starve… —Tim Clark
Also, you can literally fight him in Nier: Automata, which makes him a true (but extremely cool, dammit) bad guy. —Wes Fenlon
Orwell: Ignorance is Strength, the second season of the surveillance-themed adventure, is going to feel quite different to the original, if a new blog post from the developers is anything to go by. Season one (which was pretty good), contained five episodes—the new season will only have three, but they will be more "complex" and hand the player more control over the game's story.
The first series was about spying on activists and uncovering secrets. The second will have elements of that, but you'll spend most of your time manipulating the public and changing the way events are reported. Because of that, you have a very real influence over which way the story branches, leading to a broader narrative filled with more options, developer Osmotic Studios said.
A new 'time of day' mechanic means that other characters have routines and will advance the story independently of the player, which could be interesting. And the story will be more "personal" than the first because it will "focus on three individuals and the complicated relationships they have with each other", the developer said.
The team had hoped to have the new season out by the end of this year, but it's taking more time to make final adjustments, it said. "Because of all this extra content—the story, the ideas, the narrative branches, the new tools—and the way that episodic content comes together, we’ve focused on getting it all just the way we want it and delivering the very best game we can."
It also promised "big updates" next month: I'm betting we'll get a release date fairly soon. Like the first, Osmotic Studios will release weekly episodes when it's ready to go. How would you like to see it differ from the original?
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!
Resident Evil 7 was a brilliant survival-horror game that, arguably, saved the series. It sold well, but not as well as Capcom hoped, reaching its 4 million sales target seven months later than expected. The developer has set an overall sales target of a whopping 10 million. Perhaps the fact that it's sliced the base price of the game in half for US buyers, and by just shy of 40% for UK audiences, might help.
The price cut, to £24.99/$29.99, happened without fanfare earlier this month alongside the release of the Gold Edition of the game, which contains all downloadable content for the game, including the Not a Hero and End of Zoe DLC.
The sale price of the base the game didn't actually change on Steam: it remains £20/$24 (that was previously a 50% price cut, and now it's just a 20% discount). That's still a great deal, but the permanent price drop surely means that future sales will bring the price down even further.
So yes, technically this is not 'new' news, but Capcom didn't actually mention the price cut anywhere as far as I can see. And if you're just interested in the base game without the DLC, it's worth knowing about. It's near its historic low at the moment, and if you're patient you'll probably be able to pick it up for an even better price soon.
In the PC Gamer Q&A, we ask our panel of writers a question about games. This week, the theme is neglecting loved ones. Which game have you snuck off from family to play during the holidays? Let us know your suggestions in the comments.
Terminal Velocity was one of the only shareware games I owned the full version of, thanks to a rich uncle who was my main source of videogames. (He also gave me a copy of the original Warcraft, which I still have in a jewel case somewhere.) It was a flight sim that played like a first-person shooter, similar to Descent but with more open levels where you flew through the sky over alien planets. After I unwrapped Terminal Velocity I spent the rest of the holiday ignoring the rellies to play it, and I still remember the way trees popped into sight before the ground they sat on, the way Target Destroyed appeared up in big white letters every time you turned an installation into a blocky explosion, and the sections where you flew inside the planet through hexagonal tunnels and I always hit the sides.I tracked down a digital copy a while back but still haven't played it again. It's enough to know that it's there in case I ever feel the need to get away from everyone. I bet I'll still get crushed by the steel doors that iris shut in the tunnels.
Spending time with family and all that other holiday stuff is fine, sure, for a bit. But sometimes I get the urge. The urge to truck. This festive period I'll be enjoying a bit of Euro Truck Simulator 2, which has recently been expanded to include Italy. So while people are watching films they already own on DVD on the telly, peppered with adverts for January sofa sales, I'll be delivering 16 tonnes of ice-cream from Rome to Milan. But because it's the holidays I'll be doing it accompanied by rich chocolates and luxury ales. Keep on truckin'? I never stop, mate.
Let me tell you about a small, obscure game you may not have heard of: Dota 2. A few years ago it was a far bigger part of my life. Writing about it as a freelancer helped me pay my bills and playing it with a regular crew helped me build up a framework of friendships, new and old, after a horribly drawn-out breakup. As a result it ended up as part of my new routine and I leant on it during newly solitary holiday periods. Playing Dota 2 on my terrible laptop over Christmas in 2012 during an in-game event called The Greeviling is one of my fondest memories in gaming. It was daft, it was funny and it was time with people I love.
Will anyone mind if I answer a console game? Probably, but on we go regardless. One Christmas I received Metroid Prime for the GameCube, and managed to make it to the first boss just as Christmas lunch was being served. Without being able to save before the boss, I refused to sit down and eat (bear in mind I would have been 26 at the time) until the fight was done. Somehow, despite the stress induced by my mother's obvious fury, I managed to down the boss with only a sliver of health to spare. But as soon as I entered the corridor leading from the boss room to the save point a small bat flew into my head and killed me. With it went several hours of progress. I sat silent for the most of the meal, cheeks burning with a mix of shame and resentment. The most magical time of the year.
A few Christmases ago, instead of politely talking to my parents while they were making dinner, I sat in my room and played the challenge rooms of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood over and over again. First, it taught me that this game has some amazing kill animations, and secondly, I learned that Assassin's Creed's combat really isn't the best match for score attack modes. Still, I appreciate that they tried.
Every week, we produce our Highs and Lows feature, rounding up the week in news, games and whatever else is drifting through our heads when we write it on a Friday afternoon. Since it's the end of 2017, we've produced a special round-up of the year, with contributions across our global team. Enjoy, and check back tomorrow for our lows of the year.
Here something I never would have predicted at the start of 2017: Microsoft bringing back Age of Empires. Not just with enhanced editions of the older games, but with a brand new fourth entry, made by the RTS specialists at Relic. Not loads is known about it, but at Gamescom it came out of nowhere with a trailer, and in 2018 we'll hopefully see a lot more of it.This is the first new Age of Empires in 13 years, which is crazy. Along with MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, it's cool to see series from that era of PC gaming return. It doesn't get more PC gaming than Age of Empires for me: that series was fundamental to my interest in PC back in the late '90s, after I sampled the first game on a PC Gamer demo disc.
I hope Age of Empires 4 comes with a scenario editor. Earlier this year, I wrote about how much I loved AoE2's scenario editor, and how it let you make 20 William Wallaces fight 20 Joan of Arcs. If we can't violate the truth of history with the most ridiculous large-scale encounters imaginable, it just won't be my Age of Empires.
Okami is one of my all-time favourite games, but for years I had no easy, convenient way to play it. I don’t own any consoles, so I couldn't even play the 2012 re-release, and I had trouble emulating it at a stable frame-rate. So I was delighted this year when it was finally released on PC with 4K support. It finally looks like it looked in my mind when I played it on a PlayStation 2 and a tube TV back in 2006, and I’m stunned by how beautiful those ink wash-inspired visuals still are, even at modern resolutions.
A lot of great stuff was released for PC this year, so it might seem odd that my highlight is a re-release of an 11-year-old game, but I think that proves just how fond I am of Okami. As well as looking gorgeous, it's a grand adventure in the Zelda mould, full of interesting characters, beautiful locations, and puzzle-filled dungeons. It’s just a lovely place to exist in, and I loved every one of its 30+ hours. Yes, it's a big game, and the pace can be incredibly slow, but I can forgive that. It's a game to be savoured, not rushed.
Hell, I don’t even care that it’s locked to 30fps. In light of the game's quality, I'm willing to sacrifice a few frames per second. And I think it's healthy not to let technical limitations dictate your enjoyment of a game every time. When I first played Deus Ex it was at 15fps on a shitty laptop with onboard graphics, and it's still my favourite game of all time. So yeah, Okami is amazing and I'm glad I can play it whenever I like now. I'm listening to the soundtrack as I write this and feeling a powerful urge to return.
This year I've been cheered by the gentle, ongoing presence of strategy games on PC. It's still rare to get a big blockbuster like Civilization VI every year, but War of the Chosen was brilliant, I had a good time with Dawn of War 3 before it seemed to falter after release, and Total War: Warhammer 2 is going to take over my Christmas gaming time.
It has been an interesting year for 4X strategy games as well. Stellaris and Endless Space 2 continue to grow, and I look forward to returning to both games next year after they have had more time to mature. Age of Empires Definitive Edition will provide a nice reliable hit of nostalgia in 2018, but like Samuel I'm most excited about Age of Empires IV, whenever that's due. I've been trying to second guess Relic’s approach since the game was announced. The scale of the setting might inspire a move away from the micro-heavy approaches to recent games, and I wonder if we will see a move away from complex progression mechanics and unit upgrade systems in favour of a more sweeping, accessible RTS without the esports pretensions. The future is bright for strategy fans.
None of my favorite games this year came from Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, Bethesda, EA, Microsoft Game Studios, Capcom, Take-Two, Warner Bros, or Sega. It's not that these publishers have stopped putting out games I enjoy—many of them published some fine games this year—but that the selection of great PC games is becoming more and more diverse and plentiful. My best of 2017 list includes Divinity: Original Sin 2, Night in the Woods, Rocket League (which didn't come out this year but is still my most-played game), Sniper Elite 4, Absolver, and Torment: Tides of Numenera, none of which were backed by a major publisher. I couldn't say the same thing five years ago. And ten years ago? Forget it.
This is a weird one for me, because among the PC Gamer staff I've perhaps been the most skeptical of VR (possibly because I lived through the first round of VR pie-in-the-sky promises in the 1980s). And by no means have I changed my views on it: it's simply not cheap or convenient enough to become a part of mainstream gaming. And won't, I think, for another decade. Still, I think (and have always thought) the technology is neat if impractical, and I was a bit worried that after it failed to truly catch on for the PC, it might simply wither and die.
So it's been great to see that some developers and publishers are still embracing it. Bethesda went all in this year, releasing a special episode of Doom plus the entirety of Fallout 4 in VR. Both games have their issues, but they're also both extremely enjoyable through a headset. Rockstar released a truncated version of LA Noire in VR, Croteam brought us Serious Sam VR, and there were some smaller games like Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality that use the technology astoundingly well. Gamers are still interested, too: a Kickstarter for an 8K VR headset asked for $200,000 and received over $4 million.
VR isn't dead, and that's good. There's a long road ahead, major advances in the tech needed, and way more games required. It just needs more time, and the more developers (especially big ones) that keep their hats in the ring, the more time it'll have.
Japanese game companies have been struggling for years, having to spend more and more money to developer big games that bring in less and less cash as their players switch over to mobile. For a long time, this was only a woe for console players—we barely got Japanese games on PC at all! But holy hell, has 2017 been a great year for Japanese games everywhere. Off the PC, the Nintendo Switch has been a phenomenal success, and it's a joy to play games on. Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the best games I've ever played. Yazuka 0 was the talk of the town for months, earlier this year. Persona 5 is the most stylish RPG in ages. Nioh revitalized Team Ninja.
And on PC, the story has been just as great. Nier: Automata proved to be a smash hit beyond all expectations, and it's still being talked about constantly after being out for nine months. Sega and Platinum games brought Bayonetta and Vanquish to PC after years of fans pining, and both look and play as smoothly on PC as they deserve—easily the definitive versions of those games. Resident Evil 7 made the series scary again, something it desperately needed. With every success, it feels like Japanese developers and emboldened to plan PC builds of their games right from the start.
The highlight of my year was tapping into the excitement around Japanese games with an entire week of features devoted to them. The ones I'm most proud of are How Japan learned to love PC gaming again, which tries to capture the how and why of PC gaming finally sticking for Japanese developers, and Phantasy Star Online will never die, a feature about the incredibly welcoming fan communities still playing PSO to this day. I had both of these stories in my head for years, and publishing them was true catharsis. It's hard to imagine Japanese developers topping their 2017 output anytime soon, but that's okay. 2017 was a year of resurgence and renewed confidence, and I think everyone's excited about what comes next.
This year has been insane on the CPU front, and while we didn't award AMD's Ryzen our Best CPU of the Year, it's chiefly thanks to AMD that Intel has pulled out the stops and actually released some compelling upgrades. Starting with the Ryzen 7 parts, and then moving through Ryzen 5, Ryzen 3, and finally Ryzen Threadripper, AMD has become a viable competitor in the CPU realm once more.
My hopes for Ryzen were perhaps too high, but Ryzen 7 is still a very fast processor. The 8-core/16-thread Ryzen 7 models compete well against Intel's i7-5960X, i7-6900K, and i7-7820X, particularly in professional applications. But most games don't utilize lots of cores, so Ryzen somewhat unexpectedly does a bit poorly in games. It comes down to per-core performance, where Intel's architecture is simply better tuned at this stage.
But choice is a good thing, and we should see new Ryzen processors next year that build on this year's successes. Using an updated Zen+ architecture and a 12nm process should allow for higher clockspeeds, and hopefully AMD has refined the core design to improve latencies as well, which would boost gaming performance. There are rumors of new 400-series chipsets, but the new parts should be compatible with existing 300-series AM4 boards. Ryzen was this close to greatness, and the update may actually push AMD over the top.
When we moved into our new office our bosses decided to liven up the place with some motivational slogans on the walls. One of these is positioned just behind Evan's head and reads: "Results matter and success feels good". I have had plenty of time to ponder it, it wasn't until my trip to China in the summer that I truly I understood the management inspo. I was there following Muzzy's bid to win the Hearthstone Spring Championship, and though he ended up having a rough tournament, it was fascinating seeing how these young players deal with all the prep and pressure. My feature on that experience is my favourite thing I wrote this year, and China only cemented my love of the tournament scene.
I also got a tiny taste of what it's like to compete. Between the proper matches, Blizzard organised a press tournament to keep us out of trouble. Over the course of multiple 3-2 series victories (two of which I fell 2-0 behind in), and one absolute stomp against a nice Japanese lady who didn't seem to have played the game before. The rush of relief I felt when I won the final—and with a Pyroblast to face, no less—felt better than probably anything I've experienced related to gaming. Plus it meant I got to have my picture take with Ant and (the actual winner) Hoej, both of whom are absolute sweethearts.
Generally speaking I avoid any sort of serious competition, and though this was of course supposed to be a bit of fun, you better believe I took it seriously, even going so far as asking Muzzy for pick and ban advice. So I guess what I'm saying is results do matter, success does feel good. I just needed a children's card game to teach me.
Update: KWCH News has reported that 25-year-old Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles has been arrested in connection with the swatting. This isn't the first such incident in which Barriss has been involved: In October 2015 he was charged with making two fake bomb threats against ABC Studios in Glendale, California. According to Central Track, he may also have been involved in multiple bomb threats made against a Call of Duty: WWII tournament that took place earlier this month in Dallas, Texas. Barriss isn't identified by name, but the report indicates that the Swautistic Twitter account claimed responsibility for "ruining the whole event."
28-year-old Andrew Finch of Wichita, Kansas, was killed last night by police in what appears to have been an incident of "swatting." Deputy police chief Troy Livingston told the Wichita Eagle that police were responding to a report of a murder and hostage situation at Finch's home when he came to the front door and was shot.
The report turned out to be false, however. More than a dozen people "who identified themselves as being in the gaming community" told the Eagle that it arose out of a dispute between two Call of Duty players, Miruhcle and Baperizer, who were actually teammates in a losing match with a $1.50 wager riding on it.
It's not clear what sparked the trouble but at some point in the argument, according to this tweet (via Dexerto), Baperizer enlisted the aid of another player, who goes by the name Swautistic, to actually initiate the swatting. Miruhcle effectively dared him to do it, but provided a false address (but one that was apparently near his own), which led the police to the Finch home.
Swatting is a "prank" in which an aggrieved gamer calls in a false police report, accusing a rival of violent crimes serious enough to trigger a heavily-armed response. The police show up at the rival's door loaded for bear, everyone gets taken down, it takes hours to sort out, and in some cases it's all livestreamed.
It is also, quite obviously, a wickedly stupid and dangerous thing to do, making it even more appalling that this is something Swautistic known for (which is presumably why he was asking to do it): After reports of the shooting became public, CoD pro ZooMaa of Faze Clan claimed on Twitter that Swautistic has previously swatted, or threatened to swat, multiple other people.
Finch's family said in a separate report that he was unarmed when he went to the door, and that he didn't actually play videogames himself. Livingston said the police are looking into reports that the initial call to police was a false report; the officer who killed Finch for answering his front door has been placed on administrative paid leave.
Note: This article was edited on December 31 to clarify that Swautistic, and not ZooMaa, has previously swatted, or threatened to swat, multiple other people.