BioShock Infinite

Looking at places to live in games, it would be easy for the most magnificent, pompous and elegant palaces and castles to dominate any appreciation. But there is plenty of room to appreciate those residences that are tucked away, perhaps underrated, that are not major hubs or destinations and that are only subtle intrusions. Some draw a curious sense of attachment from players, eliciting a sense of pseudo-topophilia - a close relationship with a virtual land or place. The resulting effect is sometimes enough to cause the sentiment: if this place were real, I would live there.

Right in the corner of the Hinterlands in Dragon Age: Inquisition is the Grand Forest Villa. Its position in the landscape is not obtrusive or jarring, and in turn makes use of the surrounding Hinterlands as its grounds and gardens. Not only does it look fantastic in its geographical context, the residence fits the medieval-fantasy context, oozing grandeur and splendour. But it also serves a purpose: in the Dragon Age lore, it was built for a special friend of the Arl of Redcliffe to allow him to stay near Redcliffe Castle, but far enough away to not raise eyebrows or induce scandal. Designed to be elegant and bold, the Villa - which is a generous term - would have been a beautiful place to live. Even though there are no obvious living spaces on show to relate to they are there - probably within the thick stone walls that add a strange, yet weirdly complete juxtaposition of woodland villa aesthetic next to defensive fortress.

Its semi-open nature permeates its design. Opening up sides and boundaries has the effect of bringing the outside, inside - nowadays, think about homes that have entire walls made of glass to bring their garden 'inside' - blurring the boundary between indoor luxury and the pleasantness of nature, landscapes and plants. It also opens up expansive and brilliant vistas from the Grand Forest Villa, the importance of which is demonstrated by the design of designated viewing decks or points offering fabulous views over the lush and rolling Hinterlands landscape.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

"Come on. Lighten up. Have a whiff."

It's late into Cyberpunk 2077's demo when Dum-Dum extends a claw toward V, offering a hit from a skull-adorned inhaler. Perhaps sensing the veiled hostility behind the supposed peace pipe being thrust under her nose, she obliges. Arachnid eye implants shine through a red haze. Dum-Dum takes his own hit, and flared nerves settle. Between all the talk of cred chips and bots, the tension that fuels this choice stems from a ritual as old as time. Breaking bread. Chinking cups. Passing the proverbial Dutchie to the left.

Adult games, as a medium, are often enamoured with their own portrayal of taboo subjects, but there's a streak of silently judgemental conservatism dulling the libertine sheen. By confining their use to grim settings, these stories condemn altered states of consciousness as the territory of society's dregs. At the same time, they're perfectly happy to hijack their aesthetics when it suits. Unexamined praise can be as useless as uninformed panic, of course, but let's be clear here: games are, for the most part, shit at doing drugs properly. Here's a brief history of drug use in games.

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Eurogamer

Is there anything more spine-tingling than loading up Skyrim to hear those ominous chants? Now imagine that with a live choir, in London's Hammersmith Apollo, all in the name of charity. Oh - and with some epic Fallout music thrown into the mix too.

Bethesda is supporting War Child UK to put on a live performance of its biggest musical hits. This includes tunes from Fallout 3, Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and even the mysterious upcoming game Fallout 76. Personally, I can't wait to hear a preview of the soundtrack to which nukes will be dropping on my head.

The concert is due to take place on Saturday 3rd November at the London Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith. The music of composers Inon Zur and Jeremy Soule will be performed by the Parallax Orchestra and Choir, who are not new to more unusual classical concerts, having previously performed Bring Me The Horizon at the Royal Albert Hall.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Had enough of Skyrim ports? Can't quite hold on until the next Elder Scrolls game? Don't worry, modders have your back - and you can now play one of their best creations without ever leaving Steam. Hooray!

Enderal, developed by SureAI, is a total conversion mod that breaks down Skyrim and builds a new game using Skyrim's assets. We've previously published some Enderal gameplay impressions , but in brief it's an incredibly detailed and expansive mod which gives players a brand new world to explore. Oh, and it's critically acclaimed: Enderal won the Best Fan Creation category at the 2016 Game Awards. Not to mention it's been downloaded nearly 200,000 times on NexusMods.

So, what can you do in Enderal?

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

In the real world, house prices are so high that owning your own home is a pipedream for millions.

But what would it cost to buy a house in, say, Skyrim, if it were in the real world? Well, all of a sudden house prices get a bit more realistic.

Mortgage broker L&C Mortgages spent some time working out the real world cost of property in a raft of video games, including Skyrim, Fallout, Zelda and The Witcher 3.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda Games Studios, maker of The Elder Scrolls and Fallout games, tends to be a pretty secretive place. We won't hear anything for ages and then announcements for Fallout: 76, Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 come along at once and everybody frantically starts planning time off work.

The games are great but they're not, according to studio leader Todd Howard,
the greatest thing Bethesda Game Studios does. That honour belongs to something the studio doesn't shout about, a fairly private thing. Every so often Bethesda Game Studios opens its doors to terminally ill children who wish to see where their favourite games are made. It's part of the company's quiet ongoing support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"You want a reality check at work..." -Todd Howard.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

When Todd Howard announced The Elder Scrolls 6 at the end of Bethesda's E3 show, the message was clear: we're working on the game but it's a very long way away. We saw a very brief trailer of a mountainous, coastal environment, and then a logo, and that was it.

But what were we seeing? Was this the setting of the new game or a kind of red herring - a generic Elder Scrollsian scene made for the trailer? Has Bethesda Game Studios even settled on the region we'll play in yet?

I thought we'd wait yonks for an answer but as luck would have it I got one from Todd Howard at Spanish conference Gamelab this week.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Glaives, pikes, bardiches, halberds, partisans, spears, picks and lances. Javelins, arbalests, crossbows, longbows, claymores, zweih nder, broadswords and falchions. Flails, clubs, morning stars, maces, war hammers, battle axes and, of course, longswords. If you ever played a fantasy RPG or one of many historically-themed action or strategy games, you'll already be familiar with an impressive array of medieval weaponry. The medieval arsenal has had an enormous impact on games since their early days, and their ubiquity makes them seem like a natural, fundamental part of many virtual worlds.
These items are based on real weapons that have maimed and killed countless real people over the centuries, but even though we're aware of this, medieval weapons have become estranged and distant from their roots in history. Part of this is our short memory; the passing of a few centuries is enough to blunt any relic's sense of reality. Another reason is they were made a staple of genre fiction. In our modern imagination, the blade has become firmly lodged in the rocks of fantasy fiction and historical drama, and no-one will be able to pull it free entirely.
Today, these weapons have been refashioned to serve our very modern fantasies of power, freedom and heroism. There's the irresistible figure of the hero-cum-adventurer who sets out to forge their own path. From Diablo and Baldur's Gate to The Witcher and Skyrim, the fundamental logic of violence stays the same. Battles lead to loot and stronger equipment, which in turn allows our heroes to tackle more dangerous encounters. The wheel keeps turning, and we follow the siren song of ever more powerful instruments of destruction. On the surface, they're problem solving tools, but they also promise the excitement of adventure as well as the power to dominate and enforce our will on those fantasy realms. As such, they become fetishised. Extravagant visual detail and special effects signal a weapon's rarity and power, turning them into ornaments and status symbols.

While the actual violence in such fantasies is often justified by a struggle of good versus evil, the resulting gore and savagery has also captured our imagination. Most games, even mainstream RPGs like Skyrim or The Witcher 3, can't resist indulging in an aesthetic of cruelty and barbarism by showing us the grisly devastation caused by these instruments of murder. Blood spurting from wounds and clinging on blades, heads and arms being hacked off and tumbling through the air, special killing and execution animations captured in glorious slow-motion. Their gruesomeness markedly contrasts with the sanitised, often bloodless effects of modern guns as portrayed in games, disingenuously suggesting that modern violence and warfare is somehow more civilised than that of our ancestors.

Games like For Honor, Mount & Blade, Chivalry or War of the Roses celebrate medieval slaughter with grim nihilism as we hack and slash ourselves through hordes of enemies entirely without any ethical justification. Might makes right, and the means justify the end. The same can be said about the brutal spectacle of the Total War games, whose hordes of clashing soldiers tickle some deep-seated proto-fascist lust for demonstrations of power. These games paint a "grim and gritty" picture of historical violence, the "dark ages" of popular imagination. They're a half-leering, half-wistful gaze into a fantasy version of the past when the destructive urges of our collective Id have not yet been tamed by civilisation and violence was not yet regulated by the moral codes and laws of pervasive state power. In that regard, the butcher and the heroic adventurer use their weapons to pursue the same fantasy: unfettered will and agency, the freedom to follow your impulses regardless of their consequences.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda has announced that Skryrim VR will be coming to Steam on April 3rd.

Skyrim VR, which originally launched on PSVR late last year, sees Bethesda's classic open-world fantasy epic rejigged and reworked for virtual reality headsets. As was the case on PSVR, the Steam version of Skyrim VR will include the celebrated base game, alongside the newly VR-ified Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn expansions.

Skyrim is pretty ubiquitous at this point in time, having appeared on six different platforms and in three different guises since its release in 2011 - but Bethesda's thorough virtual reality update, which includes support for VR controllers, is easily one of its most impressive.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

It's been six months since E3 2017, when Bethesda announced its intention to add a Creation Club to Skyrim and Fallout 4, their massively-successful mega-RPGs known for their breadth of content and emphasis on player freedom. This club would task third-party developers with producing new pieces for the publisher's two marquee games, which players could then buy from an online storefront with real money. While some decried the service as yet another attempt to introduce paid mods to the single-player gaming ecosystem, Bethesda insisted the market for free fan-made content would remain unaffected. "We won't allow any existing mods to be retrofitted into Creation Club," reads the FAQ. "It must all be original content."

Following this, in late August Bethesda revealed the initial line-up for Creation Club, which included the Hellfire Power Armour and the Chinese Stealth Suit, both priced at $5 and inspired by similar items introduced in the various expansions for Fallout 3. There was just one little problem - if you searched the Nexus, the massively-populated home of free mods for Bethesda's games, among others, you'd find both the Hellfire Power Armour and the Chinese Stealth Suit already on offer for the low, low price of nothing.

A mild furore erupted. Press pounced on the revelation, which fed the already-boiling fan frenzy over what were considered outrageous prices for sub-par content. Paying $5 for a piece of armour was bad enough, but when the free alternative is superior, the bad deal starts to seem like an out-and-out ripoff. For Road to Liberty, the mod team behind the two projects, it was a confusing development, and one they worked with Bethesda to try to avoid.

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