PC Gamer
Witcher 3 concept thumb

"People may ask if this is really going to be the last Witcher game. Yes, it is," said CD Projekt Red head Adam Badowski when The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt stepped forth earlier this week. But in a Eurogamer Poland report, CD Projekt Red CEO Adam Kicinski clarifies that Badowski's only meant the end of Geralt's saga, leaving the possibility open for future Witcher games in the franchise.

"This is the last part of the trilogy, in which there will be a great finale of the story," Kicinski says. "However, this doesn't mean the end of franchise. The franchise will continue."

The Witcher joins other popular RPG series such as Mass Effect in continuing on after the main character takes his or her bow. A Geralt-less Witcher doesn't sound like a too far-fetched idea, but whatever the new direction, here's hoping for a continuation of the dark and brooding themes that form one of the best mature RPGs we've seen.

The Witcher 3 gallops to the PC sometime in 2014.
PC Gamer
Impire Feat

We've all had those days when we're ruling over some infernal pit or another, only to be suddenly yanked away by a sorcerer who transforms us into a lowly imp. Such is the universally relatable situation of Impire's protagonist (antagonist?) Báal-Abbadon. As the once-great fiend, you're tasked with terrorizing the Kingdom of Ardania (which should be familiar to fans of the Majesty franchise) in a system that has been described as one part Dungeon Keeper and one part Dawn of War. I got my talons on Impire at Paradox's event in Iceland last week, and have emerged with chthonic wisdom.

The missions I played started me out in the corner of an underground complex where Báal is tasked with spawning workers and fighter imps to help him complete objectives. Workers are in charge of constructing rooms and hallways deeper into the dungeon, where enemies can be found for the fighters to beat up. All the while, the goal is to place rooms (which work a lot like buildings in traditional RTSes) to gather resources and unlock new units and traps.

Impire's campaign is simultaneously dark and funny.

But you aren't restricted to subterrania. Near the front of your dungeon is an entrance to a second, outdoor map which often contains objectives of its own. In addition to tunneling and building your lair, you'll often have to creep out into the battlefield and take the fight to the enemy. Meanwhile, adventurers will occasionally enter your dungeon from the outside (in balanced RPG parties, including tanks and healers) looking for loot and glory. It becomes a delicate balancing act of taking control of the dungeon itself, keeping your holdings safe from heroes, and venturing forth to cause havoc.

The individual demons you train can be grouped into squads of four, which will move and fight together as squads of infantry would in Dawn of War or Company of Heroes. The control scheme should be fairly familiar to RTS veterans, with most unit creation and actions selected from radial menus on individual units and buildings. The build I played was missing a few comfort features, such as being able to shift-click to add a second squad to your control group when you already have one selected. Control group hotkeys are also locked down to the numbered squad you place units in, so I wasn't able to create a single hotkey to select multiple squads without having to drag a box around them every time. Beyond this, however, most actions were streamlined and intuitive.

Zooming all the way out gives you a strategic view of your dungeon, with icons representing rooms and units.

One of the more interesting elements in Impire is that certain combinations of units will give the whole squad a synergy bonus. Creative Producer Yves Bordeleau told me that in the later levels, it will be "almost impossible" to win without making use of these. The primary faction, the Fiends, has about 10 units to pick from with three upgrade levels each. According to Bordeleau, this translates to over 200 possible squad compositions. A second, undead faction (the Soulless) has a similar number of units, and is available on some campaign levels and in multiplayer.

I wasn't able to check out Impire's multiplayer modes, but there are two of them. Capture the Dragon will give each player their own dungeon, built around a common battlefield with a dragon egg in the middle. Capturing the egg and bringing it back to your dungeon, CTF-style, will allow you to score. The other mode replaces this egg with a control point, which must be held in a King of the Hill mechanic to achieve victory. Up to four dungeon masters can compete, with AI heroes harassing everyone along the way. I'm not sure how well these conventional mode templates will line up with Impire's mechanics; I like the idea of an asymmetrical mode more than either of these, but we'll wait and see.

You can just box up all your units and send them to attack, but forming squads of four gives you significant benefits.

I couldn't conclude this preview without mentioning that Impire claims to contain "over 400 heavy metal references." I was able to pick up on at least 14 in the small portion we played. While non-metal fans may be scratching their heads at the random insertion of phrases like "Rainbow in the Dark" into NPC dialogue, the headbanging faithful will have plenty of verbal easter eggs to discover.

Impire is out next week. Pre-ordering will add an extra unit for each faction: a Vampire for the Soulless and a Medusa for the Fiends. Both will be available in a stand-alone DLC after release as well. For more information, tunnel over to the Impire website or check out a playthrough video of one of the levels I got to play.

Unlike previous dungeon management games, quite a bit of the action takes place outside your den of villainy.
PC Gamer
Dead Space 3 in spaaaaace

Circumventing the contentious inclusion of microtransactions in the day-old Dead Space 3, savvy players uncovered an exploit for farming up infinite crafting resources and health/stasis packs.

Encountered near the end of chapter 8, the exploit involves repeatedly entering and exiting a room which continually spawns the various frames, tools, tips, and attachments needed for piecing together deadlier weaponry. Both health and stasis packs also appear during the magic trick and can get traded in for yet more resources.

Such a bold circumvention of paying actual cash for an immediate resource boost probably means a quick patch by EA in the coming days, though this kind of oversight seems more like taking advantage of built-in mechanics versus an actual glitch. The trailer below (via GameFront) describes the steps you'll need to follow to arrive at the almighty item-laden room, at least until it's patched.

PC Gamer
counter strike maps
Another moment by the water in fy_pool_day. Click for download link.

More people—maybe twice as many—seem to be playing the original version of Counter-Strike than Global Offensive. Look here. Why hasn't CS:GO inherited its elders' popularity? I'd blame the map drought GO has experienced. New official maps have been hard to come by since the game launched in August, and the fresh ones introduced by GO were restricted to Demolition and Arms Race modes.

Adding CS:GO to Steam Workshop is one step toward a healthier multiplayer scene. Debuting today, the Maps Workshop has 157 entries at the moment, including remakes of stuff like de_piranesi, fy_iceworld, and fy_pool_day, which I have vague-but-fond memories of playing in LAN cafes.

Pop over to the CS:GO Map Workshop to start downloading directly through Steam. After that, you'll have to find a server hosting matches on the levels you've downloaded. Alternatively, you can take a map for a spin with bots by typing "map " in console.
PC Gamer
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Dragonborn DLC

On the scaled wings of yesterday's Dragonborn DLC release for Skyrim, the free HD Texture Pack from Bethesda has been updated with meatier visuals for all three DLC packs, including Hearthfire and Dawnguard.

Bethesda also reminds intrepid Thu'umers of the minimum specs needed to handle the boost: 4GB RAM, a DirectX 9.0c compatible Nvidia or ATI card with at least 1GB RAM, Windows Visa/7, and at least 4.7GB for the update. You can pile on a bevy of graphics mods to turn Skyrim into a truly spectacular experience, but to get started, Bethesda's offering is a comparably hardware-friendly way to make it shine.

Grab the HD Texture Pack off Steam.
PC Gamer
Age of Wonders III

Triumph Studios, the group of wizards responsible for the Age of Wonders games and wacky Overlord adventures, is pooling its mystical powers together after four years to forge Age of Wonders III, a "modern re-imagining" of the celebrated turn-based strategy series primed for a late 2013 release.

Accompanying a new engine and tactical battle system are "RPG-style leader classes like Warlord, Theocrat, Rogue, and Sorcerer, along with a wide selection of specializations." Your choice of class reflects your empire's social and cultural identity. A Goblin Theocrat, as Triumph describes it, can wage holy crusades for goblin-dom using "cute, winged goblin angels equipped with flaming weapons." Oh yes, this sounds pleasing.

Players can join either "the mighty Commonwealth Empire or the Court of the High Elves, founded after the reunion of the Dark Elves and Wood Elves" in the story-based campaign. I'm joining whichever side has the goblin-hell-flame-angels.

No word on a more specific release date beyond this autumn, but the game's official website and an announcement trailer (above) featuring overpowering music is up for viewing.

PC Gamer
Star Citizen

Star Citizen's huge ambitions haven't faded since the upcoming space sim warped past the $6 million mark during its twin crowdfunding campaigns. In a lengthy blog post, project head Chris Roberts shares his ideas for creating a "sense of living history" through a permadeath mechanic that underscores a character's legacy.

"I hate the current game trend in single-player games where the game auto-saves every two seconds, and if you die you just start a few steps earlier," Roberts writes. "This makes you a lazy and sloppy player."

Roberts cites the limited save points of Wing Commander and Privateer as examples of "creating a sense of anxiety" during a mission, particularly when shields run low and damage gets high. "If you managed to limp home successfully, you felt a sense of accomplishment," he states. "Without the risk of losing something you’ve worked hard towards, the sense of achievement is cheap."

For Star Citizen, Roberts envisions characters dying a limited number of times before finally succumbing for good, complete with a funeral jettison ceremony seen from the viewpoint of a beneficiary determined during character creation—in other words, your next pilot.

Death isn't necessarily a guarantee when losing a fight or hugging a friendly-looking asteroid, either. Successfully ejecting before your ship disintegrates saves your neck at the expense of your cargo. It echoes EVE Online's escape pod system for defeated fliers, but Roberts doesn't want a re-hash of that MMO's usage of clones as a ward against death's impact.

"If everyone can be cloned easily, it fundamentally changes the structure of the universe," he explains. "You now have a universe of immortal gods that can’t be killed. Death is just a financial and time inconvenience that has no further consequences. The life and death cycle of humanity is what has brought us our history, our need to 'make a mark' in our time, to push forward. If I want a living, breathing universe that has a lot of the dynamics of a real world and is inspired by the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, immortality for all is problematic."

Perhaps the coolest results of scraping by the space-reaper are permanent physical marks upon your character's body such as scars, cybernetic limb replacements, and presumably a "Death to Death" tattoo across your forehead. "I want to be able to walk up to another player in a bar and see that he or she is a grizzled veteran with the battle scars to prove it," Roberts enthuses.

Roberts has plenty more to say about Space Citizens' take on death, including a short FAQ for the TL;DR inclined.
Feb 7, 2013
PC Gamer
Wildstar 1

Carbine Studios' Jeremy Gaffney has huge expectations for the developer's upcoming game, WildStar. Though most seem to be gunning for second—or even third—place in the bloated massively-multiplayer online RPG genre, Gaffney isn't ready to settle for that. Several times during our demo of the game he made his ambitions clear: "We want to be the biggest game ever."

Though this might sound like a developer getting overzealous, Carbine has the industry clout to make it. The studio was formed by 17 former Blizzard employees, many of which worked on World of Warcraft—so it's no wonder that many of the trappings ring reminiscent of the game they helped make in 2004. It features two warring factions, a handful of colorful races, a grouping of archetypal classes, and a colorful, stylized graphical style.

Once we got past the basics, though, we began to see what makes WildStar unique. Set on the planet Nexus, a world where a conglomeration of displaced peoples called the Exiles are attempting to call home, two factions are engaged in an all-out war.

Continuing in the trend of recent MMOs, WildStar is action-packed, with real-time inputs being required to take down foes. Where it separates itself is in its abilities, all of which are executed with a visible area of effect. Whenever we hovered over an icon we saw the area where the highlighted ability would hit, letting us know exactly where we should move to in order to inflict maximum damage. That, alone, is far from groundbreaking, but WildStar doesn't only display the player's AOEs—enemies' and allies' AOE indicators are shown as well, totally changing the dynamic of traditional battles.

With one seemingly small change, things move from "playing the interface," as Gaffney described it, to actually playing the game. We were actively dodging enemy attacks, and using our indicators to return blows of our own. Already we were more engaged than we typically are in MMO combat, but Gaffney claims that the combat style really shines the more you play, making group battles—and even raids—more organic.

Instead of looking up a YouTube video of a boss, players can simply adjust based on the attacks, just as they would in a typical action game—WildStar's combat rewards reaction and teamwork instead of memorization and planning. It also allows players to come up with more interesting strategies. Since healing spells are AOEs, healers can set up healing stations of sorts, or have the tanks stand in a row as to maximize the efficiency of their mana.

Another key difference is in WildStar's "Paths." Separate from classes, players will also be tasked with choosing between Scientist, Soldier, Settler, and Explorer. Paths aren't meant to replace how we play MMOs—they're there to reward us for enjoying them the way we want to. Soldiers, for instance, will be given bonus quests to kill enemies, whereas Explorers can gain experience discovering secret passages to new areas that no other Path would be able to find. Settlers are in charge of rebuilding Nexus, and can take up social quests to buff allies by constructing camps and improving towns, rewarding players interested in role-playing or simply being social. Scientists are perfect for lore fiends, and are capable of finding out what happened to the world of Nexus.

There's plenty to discover about Nexus, too. The world is beautiful, and filled with unique locations that take advantage of the worlds' mystique as players fight to unearth the history of the strange locations. One goal Carbine Studios discussed was to make sure each zone not only looks unique, but feels that way, too. Giant blue crystals occupying one area might make it visually interesting and easier to distinguish from another zone, but it's even more alluring if said crystals create low-gravity zones. And if those low-gravity zones make for unique gameplay, and allow the Scientist to learn about the planet, and give Explorers new locations to discover, and the Settlers more people to socialize with, and the Soldiers more... well, more stuff to kill, then everyone is gaining a memorable experience.

Not every element of WildStar is wholly unique—some aspects are more iterative than innovative. Gaffney laid out the content plan for each type of gamer, explaining how the MMO will handle those interested in vastly different aspects of the genre. For the solo player, WildStar will have a progressive plot with frequent updates; for those interested in PvP the game will include a "Warplot" system to give players the ability to build their own battlefield; and those interested in traditional MMO end-game will find a suite of raids. These raids will change regularly, too, in order to give competitive groups new accolades to fight over after the "server fists" are all taken care of.

The Old Republic, Guild Wars, and Rift have all found convenient ways to sidestep actually competing with World of Warcraft in interesting ways, and it's somewhat refreshing to hear a developer admitting to, for the first time in years, attempting to build a "WoW killer." Will Carbine succeed? It's impossible to know, but with a clever mixture of new features and improvements over new ones we feel like it certainly has a shot at doing so, as well as being one of the most interesting MMORPGs currently in development. With a release window currently placing WildStar in 2013 (unless more time is needed, in which case Carbine is prepared to throw a "when it's ready" card) we won't have to wait too long to find out.
PC Gamer
Long Live The Queen

“Reader, I married the gross creepy dude to prevent a war.” This is probably how my crown princess’ diary would end. Also, she would say, “I am proficient at military strategy and swording people in the gut.”

This is a fantasy political intrigue spreadsheet where a number can kill your cursor; a sly and intriguing visual novel that weaves political narrative with stat skill-ups and assassination attempts. In other words, it’s Football Manager for people who prefer death-prone royalty to accident-ridden athletes.

Starting as teenage queen Elodie after the death of your mother, you take control of the Novan empire, settling disputes, learning mystical powers and taking classes in how to Be A Proper Badass.

At first I looked at the game with suspicion. The art is very girly, and looks like a thousand Japanese dating sims. It’s nice to play something that doesn’t stink of locker room towel-whippings, but I’m not keen to be smothered to death by hearts and pink ribbons.

The core of the game is your education: you take daily classes in physical, intellectual, social and mystical skills in order to negotiate the tumultuous narrative and survive until coronation. Over time you level up each of the many skills and skill subsets that will make you a royal success – be it court manners, battlefield medicine or ciphering. Mood is essential: choose an action during the narrative that makes you afraid, and you can’t train in swordplay efficiently; accidentally get lonesome and you can learn to decorate a dress like motherflippin’ Donatella Versace.

This game of thrones can end very abruptly: on my first playthrough I died by roadside bandit on the way to a birthday party. On the second I ate poisoned food sent by some pissed-off foreign confectioner. The third time, I died by the sword of a mop-headed nobleman who surprise stabbed me at a tournament. All were preventable: I could have avoided the events – or I could have trained myself in reflexes, poison, or magically burning the bollocks off Eton-educated ponces. The only way to learn what to learn is through trial and dying, though.

It’s refreshing to play a game that emphasises the difficult and complex lives of the lost heroines of history. There’s a Progress Quest-esque thrill I get from seeing those skill bars fill up golden, bringing my princess wisdom and grace. If you can get past the cliché gender-pandering veneer, it’s a good yarn and very satisfying to advance.

It’s like looking at the partial skeleton of a much bigger game, a sort of primitive Civ, though replayability is limited due to the set narrative and dialogue choices. The only lasting niggle was the penetrating piano music, so I replaced it with Dizzee Rascal’s Fix Up, Look Sharp and bodypopped my way through the history books to become the hip hop queen of Nova.

◆ Expect to pay: $12.30 / £8
◆ Release: Out now
◆ Developer: Hanako Games
◆ Publisher: In-house
◆ Multiplayer: None
◆ Link: www.hanakogames.com

PC Gamer
Project Holodeck

The world just moved one step closer to every Star Trek fan's dream. Project Holodeck uses off-the-shelf DIY components, custom software and peripherals like the Oculus Rift to create a full VR "play space". Hopefully they think of a better use for the tech than as a "being on a ship" simulator.

According to its creators, "The goal of Project Holodeck is to bring 360-degree full-body virtual reality out of the research lab and into a fun, accessible consumer gaming platform." Right now they're teasing Wild Skies, a co-op game in which you must work together to navigate a nuclear-powered airship through "an exotic world of floating islands and dangerous adversaries."

The plan is for the tech to recognise full-body movement - effectively motion capping your actions in the game, and then displaying them through the Oculus Rift, peripheral vision and all. "To dodge bullets you’ll actually have to move your body," explains Nathan Burba, project director for Holodeck. "You’ll have to actually duck down inside of the ship and react to things. You’ll have to look over your shoulder to make sure something isn’t coming after you. You’ll actually have to look around as if you were in reality. This is full-blown virtual reality - this isn’t just a first-person shooter with a heads-up display."

Based on the above video, there's a way to go before it hits its potential, but it's exciting nonetheless. You can keep track of Holodeck at the project's website.

Thanks, PCGamesN.