After a save game mishap I’ve tagged in for the WIT of The Long Dark‘s [official site] second story mode episode. Don’t worry the save game thing was a review build issue, not a thing for regular game owners to fret over! But it’s meant I’ve needed to try to marshal my frustrations and pleasures with the game into something approaching coherence. Stay with me as I pick through Wot I Think:
Right now I think a bear ate my shoes. (more…)
The job of a concept artist is an important one. Before a single model or texture has been created, they’re responsible for establishing a game’s atmosphere and tone. The things they create might not even make it into the final game, but their work underpins the aesthetic of everything from incidental props to entire worlds. And so, to celebrate the work of these talented individuals, here are some of my favourite concept images from the last few years.
MachineGames has repeatedly proven itself to be one of the best world-builders in the business. Its vision of a 1960s America that has been conquered and twisted by the Nazis is hugely compelling, which this atmospheric concept art by Swedish artist Christoffer Lovéus helped bring to life.
Recalling Ron Cobb’s detailed, functional designs for the 1979 film, Creative Assembly’s Brad Wright produced some stunning concept art for Alien: Isolation. These evocative images of Sevastopol station and the Anesidora are particularly striking, capturing the cold, industrial atmosphere of the Alien universe.
At the heart of Giant Sparrow’s unforgettable journey through the lives of the Finch family is their grand, clumsily stacked house. These concept images were created by artist Theo Aretos early in development to get a sense of what the strange old house might look like, and are works of art in their own right.
The Creed series has always been more concerned with capturing the romantic image of its cities and time periods than creating perfect, historically accurate recreations. These images by Tony Zhou Shuo paint a vivid picture of Victorian London, using iconic landmarks to give them a rich sense of place.
Ninja Theory's post-apocalyptic epic remains one of the prettiest ends of the world we've seen on PC. Rather than being bleak and gloomy, this ruined Earth sizzles with colour. And it's perhaps no surprise that these pieces of concept art by Alessandro Taini are just as vibrant and evocative.
The mood of the Commonwealth is constantly changing as the weather and time of day shift in real-time around you, which these elegant paintings by senior Bethesda concept artist Ilya Nazarov capture beautifully. I especially love the subtle use of colour, reflecting Fallout 4’s brighter, livelier wasteland.
The grim dystopian future of Deus Ex was imagined by a talented team of concept artists who designed everything from entire cities to individual props. Art by Eidos Montréal’s Frédéric Bennett, including this dramatic image of Golem City, helped establish the game’s distinctive, recognisable visual style.
These remarkable images by BioWare concept artist Ben Lo perfectly capture the scale and majesty of Mass Effect’s grand space opera. Refined, understated art direction is one of the series’ defining features, echoing classic ‘70s science fiction: an aesthetic these paintings are wonderfully reminiscent of.
The unique painterly style of Dishonored’s visuals mean the game is a lot closer to its concept art than most. These exquisite paintings by Arkane concept artist Sergey Kolesov wouldn’t look out of place hanging on the walls of a lavish Karnaca apartment—particularly the image of Duke Abele on his palanquin.
Hinterland’s survival game just left Early Access, and although the visuals have steadily improved over time, its dedication to that gorgeous hand-painted art style has never wavered. These atmospheric concept images by Trudi Castle skilfully capture the lonely, melancholy atmosphere of the game.
Getting to work on a Star Wars game like Battlefront must be a dream job for any professional concept artist. These vivid, dramatic paintings by EA DICE’s Anton Grandert are reminiscent of Ralph McQuarrie’s iconic Star Wars concept art, evoking the chaotic, operatic drama of the films’ battle scenes.
Hello person reading this on the Steam update page for their favourite game! You can only read this paragraph introducing the Steam Charts right now, but I promise if you only click through to the full article you will read insights into this game of the sorts you could never believe! People, it’s the mother-stuffing Steam Charts. (more…)
The Long Dark came out earlier this week and Andy enjoyed it a lot , calling it "one of a handful of really great survival games on PC". He didn't particularly notice any bugs, but nevertheless developer Hinterland Studio has been working its winter socks off to fix a few things that weren't quite working as intended.
In total, there's been four patches since the game released: one on Thursday, two on Friday, and one early Saturday morning. You can tell the team are nearly getting there by the fact that the patch notes are shortening in length with every update.
Hinterland has fixed startup issues, replaced missing audio segments, ironed out the AI, and everything in between. Basically, if you were having problems with it on launch, check back in now and you should be good.
It's not quite finished — on the news post for the fourth patch the developer said it was "continuing to fix additional issues as quickly as we can". So, you can probably expect some more fixes soon.
Are you having issues with the game?
You look tired, traveller. Come in, sit by the fire and listen to the RPS podcast with us, the Electronic Wireless Show. It’s about comfort gaming this week – the things we play when we feel down in the dumps or ill with the flu or just a little cold and tired. Here, drink it all up with your ears, like a nourishing audio broth. Delicious. Adam likes to relax in his cabin in The Long Dark, Pip finds safety in the world of Zelda, while Brendan soothes his sick self with a bit of Final Fantasy IX.
But we’re not done here. Space-walking simulator Tacoma also came out this week and both Pip and Brendan have things to say about it. But so does Karla Zimonja, one of the game’s creators at Fullbright, who takes part in a round of Quickfire Questions. On top of all that, Adam has been putting ignorant cultists in charge of school lessons in The Shrouded Isle, and we also look at what our listeners consider their own go-to comfort games. (more…)
A geomagnetic anomaly has plunged the world into darkness and rendered all technology useless, including the plane you were flying over the vast, frozen wilds of Canada. You awake surrounded by flames and wreckage—badly injured and freezing to death—and find yourself in a battle to survive in one of the most inhospitable corners of the planet. It’s a hell of a place to spend the apocalypse, and death lingers around every corner of this deadly, wintry expanse.
There are two distinct ways to play The Long Dark. There’s Wintermute, an episodic story mode that follows bush pilot Will Mackenzie as he searches for his missing friend. This is a linear experience with stylish, melancholy cutscenes exploring his past and the state of the world. Then there’s Sandbox, which lets you tell your own stories and explore at your leisure. The only objective here is surviving for as long as possible, and how you do that is left to you.
Wintermute is a good place to start. It begins with a series of tutorials designed to drip-feed the game’s systems to you. You’ll learn about treating wounds, foraging for medicinal plants, building fires, and other essential survival skills. And you’re subtly guided from one moment to the next, which means you’ll rarely get lost. Sometimes you’ll meet survivors who need your help, forcing you to complete a series of thinly-veiled fetch quests, which grind the story to a halt and feel a little too much like busywork at times.
But it’s in Sandbox mode where The Long Dark’s survival knife is sharpest. Having the freedom to explore and travel between its large, interconnected regions is more compelling than following a prescribed path. Choosing how you spend each day is more engaging than ticking off objectives. This freedom, and dynamic, unpredictable elements such as the weather, make every Sandbox game fertile ground for emergent storytelling.
Some of my most vivid memories of The Long Dark weren't created by the developers, but emerged naturally. I remember the unbearable tension of being on the edge of starvation, one bullet in my rifle, and a skittish deer in my sights. Cowering in a cave at night, campfire about to burn out, listening to wolves howling outside. Limping half-dead and hypothermic through a blizzard, only to see the silhouette of a life-saving shelter through the wall of snow.
Wildlife is a frequent nuisance. Wolves will catch your scent and stalk you, and if they attack you’ll almost certainly be left with serious wounds. Honestly, they’re miserable to deal with, spoiling the pensive mood of the game. Surviving the elements is far more interesting to me, and I’m glad there’s a difficulty mode in Sandbox that disables animal attacks. But in story mode you have no choice but to deal with them, and they’re a real thorn in your side.
The weather is constantly in turmoil, which can change the mood of the game—and your fortunes—in an instant. One minute it’s a crisp, clear day with piercing blue skies. The next a stormfront is rolling in, wind blowing the falling snow so hard it moves horizontally. Watercolour skies shift from a blanket of looming grey to the dusky pink of early evening, painting the snowfields around you in vivid colours. It’s an incredibly atmospheric game, with a hand-painted art style that lends it a peculiar, ethereal beauty, despite how gruelling it is.
Like a lot of survival games, everything in The Long Dark boils down to managing a series of perpetually dwindling meters. Hunger, thirst, tiredness etc. But thanks to the elegant design of the simulation, and a slick, minimal UI, it’s not a game where you feel like you spend half your time buried in menus. The abundance of progress bars is slightly disappointing, however. Many actions, such as breaking a branch down for firewood or cooking food, happen off-screen, illustrated by a slowly filling circle. I would have liked to see my character interacting with the world a little more directly.
There are only a handful of really great survival games on PC, and this is one of them. The story mode has its moments, and does a decent job of telling you how the game works, but it’s when you’re creating your own stories in the sandbox that The Long Dark is at its most absorbing. Beautiful art direction and rich, nuanced sound design bring the deep forests, frozen lakes, and ragged mountains of the Canadian wilderness to life. And your endless struggle to keep the Grim Reaper at arm’s length is enormously rewarding, providing you have the patience to appreciate its slow, measured pace.
Before Pip sashayed down the RPS treehouse ladder (it can be done, trust me – she’s magnificent) and into the weekend, she left a series of Post-it notes highlighting a string of patches released for The Long Dark [official site] since the singleplayer survive ’em up left early access and launched this week. Having licked the spilt jam off the notes and removed the Derek Acorah-brand tarot cards from the stack, I can share with you the highlights of this week’s patches. Now that The Long Dark finally has a story mode, it’s a good time to start surviving (or just watch). (more…)