The week's highs and lows in PC gaming - PC GamerMon 7th Dec 2015 - 2:41am Gaming
Tom Senior: Dream team
We’re a two million dollars of generosity away from a sequel to the charming, colourful and extremely funny Psychonauts. The original was never an outstanding platform game, but the levels—each set inside a different mental realm—were imaginative and wonderfully varied. Some, like the Meat Circus, provided the game’s most frustrating moments, but even at its lowest points Psychonauts finds a way to surprise you with a sharp quip or a transition into a bonkers new world.
I remember it as one remembers a good children’s book, but I think there’s more to Psychonauts than nostalgia. There’s genuine warmth to the friendships that Raz forms at psychic camp—a bright, summery Hogwarts for insanely powerful toddlers. And it’s bursting with gags and characterful little moments. It’s great to hear that many of the game’s developers will return to work on the sequel, including co-writer Erik Wolpaw. I really hope the crowdfunding attempt succeeds.
Angus Morrison: Human resource machine
On Monday I had my hair cut for the first time in two months and bought a new pair of jeans. I was all for making a good impression, see, because somehow I’ve been made PC Gamer’s new staff writer—I’d have buffed my shoes if they weren’t the regulation Converses. I even managed to turn up in the same jumper as Chris, although I’m not sure whether that’s endeared me or made him wary of a coup.
Four days later, I have a hangover, look half hollowed, and I’ve learned that offering tea to the PCG team is met with the deepest fear and suspicion. Honestly, I didn’t think I was hired for anything grander (though I can understand Chris keeping me away from food prep).
All in all, however, I’m calling it a personal PC gaming high, as the leaning tower of PCG back issues in my lounge will attest to. After six months spent freelancing from the spare bedroom, it’s good to be back around people who agree that Dishonored is fantastic, Fallout 4 isn’t all that good an RPG, and call me out for foolhardy, ill-informed comments like “Stargate SG1 is the best sci-fi ever made”. For some reason I’ve been offered a shot at plying you people with news and Tweets, so let’s make the most of it before Samuel fires me on grounds of taste.
Chris Livingston: Settlers of Kablam
After a couple experimental characters (one built from charisma and luck, another who never left Sanctuary), I'm finally playing Fallout 4 properly. I spend my time exploring, completing quests that seem interesting, and building settlements. My main settlement is at Starlight Drive-In, and I've got fifteen residents there. While things are going well, one settler in particular was getting on my nerves. When I'd return after a long night killing mutants and monsters, I'd always find her sleeping in my bed despite there being plenty of extra bunks available. During the day she'd hang around my workshop, suspiciously close to my patchwork yet prized collection of power armor. When I'd assign her to a job, she'd never do it. Ever. It was bugging me. She had to go.
I wasn't sure what the etiquette was when it came to killing a settler—would the others revolt against me if I just shot her? So, when I saw her standing along in the middle of the parking lot one day, I dropped a bottlecap mine at her feet, climbed to the top of the drive-in screen, scoped in with my sniper rifle, and shot the mine. She died in a shower of caps, and perhaps since I didn't technically shoot her none of my other residents seemed to mind. What's more, when looting her corpse, I found it contained a synth component. A-ha! Retroactively, I felt completely justified in wasting her since she was a no-good android sent to infiltrate my camp.
Thing is, there are 14 other settlers living here, and a total of 43 among my other bases. Confirmation that I'd found an interloper hasn't made me feel better, just more paranoid that there may be others. Paranoia in games is fun, though, and it gives me a whole new quest: root out the spies. Better build some more bottlecap mines.
Tim Clark: The wind in the Witcher’s willows
Every year I like to save one of the biggest games to play over the Christmas period (which, like the John Lewis marketing department, I have already decreed is now underway). This year I chose The Witcher 3, which originally arrived at a time when I couldn’t give Geralt the full attention he deserves. My overdue hot take: It’s pretty good! The thing I like best isn’t the none-more-grey moral ambiguity, or the bleak sense of humour shot through it. No, what I like most are the trees. Specifically how they bend like an archer’s bow in the the seemingly never less than galeforce wind.
Wind is an underutilised weather effect in games, I guess because, audio cues and foliage aside, it’s sort of hard to show effectively. But the near constant storminess of The Witcher III makes me feel like I’m stomping around in a fantasy movie as made by classic era Hammer studios. Which, again, is my way of saying I’m liking it alot so far.
Samuel Roberts: Robin will remember that
What an odd week for Batman-related media. Last weekend I read a good Batman comic by Frank Miller for the first time in over a decade. Then on Wednesday, Warner released a trailer for Batman Vs Superman where Batfleck alternates between grimdark and goofing off with quips as well as loads of guns (I’ve since downgraded my opinion of it from ‘daft’ to ‘absolute garbage’). Then yesterday at The Game Awards, Telltale announced it’s making an episodic Batman series in 2016.
I’ve marked this as my high of the week because I think it’s a cool idea in some ways, but admittedly I have some reservations. Dampening the appeal of Game of Thrones and The Wolf Among us for me was that they had to be wedged around the pre-existing continuity of the more important source material. So, the stories end up being a bit inconsequential (that’s why The Walking Dead, with its entirely original cast, worked so well). In Batman’s case, I hope they go all out, and that the story choices focus more on detective work rather than choosing to save this person or not. Batman pretty much saves everyone, after all, Jason Todd and Rachel Dawes aside. I also hope they manage to improve the action in this series. After all, we have a Batman series with world-class combat and excellent Dark Knight stories buried within rich open worlds.
If I could, I’d make my low of the week having to endure every tired variant of ‘Joker will remember this ROFL’ on the social medias after the announcement. Please make it stop, please.
James Davenport: Ha ha heist
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is out now, and for free, onSteam. It's the first game from Crows Crows Crows, a new studio directed by William Pugh, one of the co-creators of The Stanley Parable. A self-professed short game, DLTTATTCE:AWH is around 15 to 20 minutes long (which is a trend I love), and if it was hard to gather from the loaded title, the narrative concerns a heist—sort of.
As is the trend with anyone associated with The Stanley Parable, there's more to this game than initially apparent, and that's where most of the charm lives. Things you can expect: goofs, spoofs, laughs, a disembodied narration (by Simon Amstell, who is a famous person, I think?), and first-person walking. I loved it. DLTTATTCE:AWH manages to be smart in meta-gamey ways without feeling like someone's elbowing you in the ribs whispering, 'Get it? Do you get it?' The game's first priority is to be funny (and pretty), so my attachment to the affable narration and tongue-in-cheek concept kept me focused enough to pick up on the game's clever insights.
For zero monies and 15 minutes of time, it's an easy recommendation to make.
Samuel Roberts: Crash Cause
I was pretty sad to hear that Just Cause 3, which a bunch of team PCG has been playing lately, is a little disappointing. We all hoped it would build on the second one more than it did, and the fact they haven’t done much to mitigate the repetition of this sequel is disappointing, though the wingsuit sounds like a lot of fun.
My biggest gripe with it, though? It’s 50GB in size, which is insane. This year games have been hungrier for hard-drive space than ever, but I’m not a big fan of reserving that much space for a game I won’t entirely be convinced by. ‘It’s not 50GB of fun!’ someone in the office said when I started moaning about that. When I can find a reason to delete Fallout 4 and MGSV off my PC to free up some space, that’s when I’ll get around to it. Just Cause 3 could be waiting years.
Angus Morrison: Feeling a million bucks
Something about the phrase “one million dollars” demands to be said in an excited, breathy tone. (Possibly its enormous financial worth.) But as I clacked out the announcement that Bethesda has seemingly dispensed with the services of its accountants and decided to line up a $1 million prize for one fortunate Elder Scrolls Online player, I just felt a bit sad.
I’ve never had the slightest desire to play ESO, and this from a man who dabbles often and inadvisably in grind-fuelled MMOs. All the same, I get a bit glum whenever any online world dies—and let’s be real, a sudden marketing stunt on this scale can’t mean anything other than there are too few warm bodies in Tamriel. It might be a middle-of-the-road MMO, but years of work went into building it and, to some at least, it’ll harbour many fond memories. That Bethesda sees the need for a fairly absurd cash incentive to lure back players is a sorry position for ESO to be in.
Chris Livingston: Not a-quiver
Phil got his hands on Far Cry Primal this week and it sounds like he mostly enjoyed his limited time with it. As I sat watching the footage, though, I just felt a slowly sinking feeling. I don't think this Far Cry game is gonna be for me. It's the bows and arrows. I just typically don't find bows and arrows much fun in games, and it looks like, in addition to clubs and knives, that's what we're mostly going to be using in Primal, this being super-olden-times and all. To which I say: ehhhh.
The only time I really remember liking bows and arrows was in Oblivion and Skyrim, and that was mostly due to the additional effects you could add to them. I had a bow enchanted with Shock magic, arrows imbued with a Frost spell, and I could dunk them in poison to boot. When fired at an unaware target they did those three types of damage, plus a bonus for sneak attacks. That's what made them fun, not the act of drawing back the bow and firing the arrow itself. I think it's a pretty bold choice for Ubisoft to eschew guns altogether in Primal, but personally I think it looks dull as hell. I guess we'll find out in March.
Tim Clark: A pinnacle I can’t climb
My sister came to visit this week. That isn’t my low, because my sister is lovely. (That's not her pictured above, I now feel awkwardly compelled to add.) But it did mean I took three days off work, which as it happened, was exactly the amount of time I needed to recover from seeing this video. I mean, what the hell? How is this an actual thing and not, say, the kind of witchcraft that used to get people burned quicker than you could say “well, she does own a lot of cats”. The Pinnacle of V modding project represents so much of the best of PC Gaming: taking an already brilliant game and making it look better than anyone (except the programming savants involved) ever considered possible.
It’s my low because I’m such a technical incompetent and I still know way too little about this stuff. Also because, glimpsing at how pretty a game like GTA could be, is like staring at a forbidden future in which PC development is entirely unconstrained by the needs of the current gen consoles. Finally, because I suspect that no frigging way can my rig run this kind of thing at anything above flickbook framerates.
Tom Senior: No-verwatch
Overwatch is vanishing until the new year—nyooo! Where else am I going to get colourful superhero fix? I’ll be interested to see what Blizzard does to tweak the design, but artistically it’s already there. The heroes are brilliant—colourful, individual and cleanly drawn. Some, like the samurai, cowboys and robots, are plucked from comics and pulp adventure stories, but others feel very different. Lucio is a skating musician with a sonic blaster and on-board speakers. Winston’s a great big ape who gets angry when his glasses are smashed. I love D.va, the mech pilot who can scramble seamlessly into her machine and fly around the map, or eject and turn the robot into a bomb.
I can’t wait to see how the roster expands when Overwatch returns. There might be a few new team shooters to compete with when it does, like Battleborn, which has its own colourful cast of lunatics. If both are fun, I can see myself warming to the heroes I like most, and Blizzard will be tough to beat in this regard.
James Davenport: A dark confession
I didn't last very long. Five minutes after tweeting that I was going on a Dark Souls 3 media blackout, I watched a new trailer and gameplay montage. This low is for me, a weak, sad man. I regret it. Sort of. The game looks beautiful and fast, borrowing some DNA from its PS4 exclusive sibling Bloodborne (a very good thing). My regrets come from the surprise Souls games hold. I don't doubt there will be plenty left in the final release, but the boss reveal in the gameplay montage seems like it'd be a pretty jarring moment to experience firsthand. One of Bloodborne's surprise moments (the Amygdala reveal) stands tall in my memory as one of the most Holy Shit moments I've ever witnessed in a video game. In most media, at that. It wasn't a surge of horror, exactly, but the overwhelming burden of everything I don't know crashing down on me all at once. There's curiosity and wonder accompanying the fear, and so the Souls series are the only games to feel genuinely sublime to me.
Learn from my mistakes, people. Just wait.