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News Game, 29 Jan 2016 02:44:52 +0000yes and Soul's excellent PVP is buried beneath a mountain of tired MMO tropes that are sometimes frustrating and rarely innovative.Fri, 29 Jan 2016 02:44:52 +0000 & SoulFightingMMOReviewsRPG <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">need to know</h5> <p> <strong>What is it?</strong> An MMO about&nbsp;Chinese martial arts with fighting game inspirations <br> <strong>Publisher:</strong> NCSoft <br> <strong>Developer:</strong> Team Bloodlust (NCSoft) <br> <strong>Reviewed on:</strong> Core i5-3570K, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 670 <br> <strong>Expect to pay:</strong> Free-to-play <br> <strong>Multiplayer:</strong> MMO <br> <strong>Link:</strong> <a href="">Official site</a> </p> </div><p> It's been four years since Blade and Soul first launched in Asia. For western fans of the game, the wait has been torture. But now that it's&nbsp;finally here, it's hard to see what all the fuss was about. Blending the traditions of fighting games and MMOs is a great idea, but Blade and Soul's smart combat doesn't propel it&nbsp;out of the shadow of other MMORPGs. It has&nbsp;too few surprises and lacks too many features. Compared to its free-to-play peers&mdash;especially NCSoft's own&nbsp;<a href="">Wildstar</a>&mdash;Blade and Soul is a hard game to recommend.</p><p> If you've played any MMO in the past decade, you’re likely already familiar with every activity Blade and Soul will occupy you with. On your quest to reach the level cap and open up the endgame activities, you'll journey through fantastical mountains and jungles, run dungeons, and, if the fancy strikes you, dabble in crafting and gathering skills.&nbsp;Blade and Soul rarely endeavors to do anything original with this formulaic structure, and what few deviations it makes have middling results.</p><h2>Kicking everything but tradition</h2><p>Your quest to avenge your friends and master after they’re murdered by the mysterious Jinsoyun has the weight of a Saturday morning cartoon. It's good fun, but not exactly gripping stuff. And though there are charming moments, they’re stretched over the PvE campaign and&nbsp;getting to them felt like sitting at the dinner table while my mother threatened to withhold dessert until I finished my vegetables.</p><p>It’s a ceaseless barrage of 'go here and kill X of Y' quests mixed with a few variants that always fail to mix things up. Escaping from these quests is nearly impossible as they're the only way to level up at a reasonable pace. Dungeons and PvP might suffice for more patient players, but the paltry experience points earned in either means it would take much longer to reach the same destination.</p><p> There's also an annoying lack of quality-of-life features. Monsters or objects that you need for quests are available to everyone, not just you, which can make questing in crowded zones a nightmare as there’s no way to share the progress you earn from killing monsters with other players unless you group together. You can switch between "channels" in hopes of finding an instance of a zone that isn't as populated, but it's an inelegant solution to a problem that was solved years ago, made even more puzzling when you realize that the many bosses found wandering the zones will share their rewards equally whether you kill them as part of a group or not.</p><p> Dungeons are typically a welcome distraction from the bread and butter questing in other MMOs, but I found many to be unimaginative and short&mdash;most are barely&nbsp;dungeons in the traditional sense. Instead, they’re five minute romps through one indistinguishable cave or another with an anticlimactic boss waiting at the end. Instead of demanding teamwork or mastery of your class, even the bigger, more elaborate dungeons feel like a breeze. I never struggled to beat them as an incomplete party well beneath the recommended level.</p><p> Gathering and crafting are underdeveloped, too, requiring nothing more than time and money. You can join two crafting and two gathering guilds, but the process of acquiring resources feels is just a money sink, not a rewarding investment. You simply select what item you want to craft or gather, pay the fee, and then wait a certain amount of real time (around 20 minutes) and collect the item.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="There's a huge variety of costumes to find and collect. They’re very tasteful. " class=""> <figcaption>There's a huge variety of costumes to find and collect. They’re very tasteful. <br> </figcaption></figure><p>Like most free-to-play games, Blade and Soul has an in-game cash shop for you to spend real money or a special in-game currency on. Fortunately, those who choose to ignore the cash shop won't be at any real disadvantage as the items are either cosmetic or for convenience, like keys that guarantee the weapons found in a chest can be used by your class.</p><p>If there’s one aspect of the PVE experience worth recognizing, it's that Blade and Soul's environments are gorgeous. They don't necessarily feel cohesive, and there's very little convincing you that you're exploring a living world, but the backdrop and flavors of each zone are wonderful to look at. Sadly, performance was somewhat uneven as frame dips and hitches were common and unaffected by tweaking the graphics settings.</p><p>The art design will be contentious, however, as it insists nearly every woman be scantily clad, busty, and tiny-waisted. The character creator has a good degree of flexibility, but it's obvious what it’s going for. I had a great time hunting down new costumes, for instance, and all have elements of true artistry that I adored, but it's disappointing that many feel like they were fully designed before someone sneaked in&nbsp;with scissors one night and snipped breast holes into them. At least the&nbsp;race you choose makes a difference&mdash;the Yun and the cat-like Lyn both seem to have more sensible portrayals compared to the Gon and Jin.</p><p>What ultimately turned me off about&nbsp;the characters was the embarrassing breast physics that caused every woman's chest, big or small, to bounce around like two helium balloons on a windy day.&nbsp;I realize that skimpy costumes and absurdly bouncy chests are par for the course in anime, but the adolescent fantasy detracts from the whole thing&mdash;I want to play as a badass fighter, not a hypersexualized doll.</p><h2>I know kung fu</h2><p>All of this would paint Blade and Soul as another 'been there done that' Korean MMORPG if it weren't for one thing: the excellent player-versus-player combat that feels more like&nbsp;playing a fighting game than an MMO. It's already a popular esport in the East, and I suspect it'll only continue to grow as western competitors join the ranks.</p><p>At any time, you can hop into an arena lobby and get matched against another player. In these duels the stats of your gear are equalized, making victory entirely about raw skill rather than who has the better equipment.</p><p>But there's a big problem with the PvP: It can't truly be appreciated until you've already pushed through the dreadfully dull PvE and leveled your character up to the cap. While arena matches equalize gear, you won't have access to all of your abilities until you've unlocked them through leveling. Even worse, from what I could tell, little attempt is made to pair you with opponents of similar levels. Early on I was frequently matched against players 20 levels higher than me, resulting in a huge disadvantage when I hadn't even unlocked my most powerful skills.</p><p>Each of the seven classes has their own unique approach to combat that feels highly distinctive. Though I initially fell in love with the kung fu master's reliance on combos and counters, I quickly came to prefer the sheer brutality of the destroyer, who wields a massive axe and can chokehold opponents while smashing their face repeatedly.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dodging boss attacks requires careful timing." class=""><figcaption>Dodging boss attacks requires careful timing.</figcaption></figure><p>Instead of mashing complicated hotkey rotations while relying on auto-attacks to fill in the blanks, combat in Blade and Soul lets you take direct control of your character.&nbsp;There's a satisfying complexity to the way your abilities branch out over the course of a fight depending on what state you and your opponent are both in. Getting grabbed or knocked onto your back will swap the skills on your hotkey bar for situational abilities that can be properly timed to help swing the fight back in your favor. Playing as my destroyer, a well timed counter could send my opponent flying, opening them up to the punishment of a pile&nbsp;driver.</p><p>This fluid approach to combat creates a tense give-and-take that looks elegant while rewarding skill and timing. Even against an obviously better opponent, I never felt completely outmatched in a fight when one well-timed counter could swing the odds back in my favor. I threw my hands up in victory more than once.</p><p>Sadly, outside of the arena, combat doesn't have nearly the same effect&mdash;especially against the countless monsters on the journey to the endgame. Though most will make some attempt to mimic the abilities used when fighting other players, they're hardly a substitute. I found the general difficulty of most of the PvE combat to be disappointingly easy. Instead of dynamic and challenging combat, fighting most of the computer controlled enemies became a boring routine. Like other MMOs, I spammed the same rotations of abilities over and over again as I cleaved my way across the world while eying my experience bar as if it were the hands of a clock on the last day of school.</p><p>This is where the tension in Blade and Soul's aspirations to be an MMO and a highly competitive fighting game is at its worst. And where I wish that the entire MMO aspect could be made optional or done away with entirely. If the PvE and leveling were actually fun, I might be more forgiving of the way PvP is held hostage until you've invested several dozen hours grinding your character to level 45. But as it is, I just can't imagine many of the competitive players Blade and Soul could attract are going to look kindly on investing that time before they can even get to the good part of the game.</p><p>Without other distractions like housing or more in-depth crafting, Blade and Soul feels pretty light. Outside of the PvP, it's&nbsp;just the same grind that's already&nbsp;done much better in other games. If the PvP were more immediately accessible to new players, I don't think that'd be nearly as big of a problem, but Blade and Soul insists on being a derivative MMO first and a great competitive fighting game second.</p> Rogue was a critical hit, but nobody's buying it.Fri, 29 Jan 2016 00:32:50 +0000 GamesNewsRoguelikeStarward Rogue <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Starward Rogue"></p><p> Arcen Games released the roguelike bullet hell <a href="">Starward Rogue</a> last week to near-universal acclaim: As I write this, there are 97 user reviews on Steam, and all but one are positive. But studio founder and CEO Chris Park said in a <a href="">blog post</a> today, roughly a week after the game was released, that the positive response has not translated into sales. So even though Starward Rogue is “possibly our best [game] yet,” Arcen is going to lay off almost its entire staff.</p><p> “We’re lost in a sea of other titles,” Park wrote. “About 9,000 people on Steam have wishlisted the title, which is awesome&mdash;next time this goes on discount, hopefully they’ll pick it up (but I mean, it’s only $11.99 USD and it’s 10% off already!). By contrast, about 2,100 people have bought the game across Steam and Humble.”</p><p> Arcen was actually “relatively cash-rich” when it started work on <a href="">Stars Beyond Reach</a>, the 4X game it announced in mid-2014. But that evolved into a bigger and more demanding project than anticipated, eating up extensive R&amp;D time and beta testing, and the extra time spent in development more than doubled the cost of making it. At the same time, revenue streams from Arcen's previous games began to dry up, thanks in large part to changes in the Steam store that drastically reduced their promotional income&mdash;“our main source of income,” Park said.</p><p> Eventually, the decision was made to push Stars Beyond Reach into 2016, and to go all-out on Starward Rogue instead. “October rolled around, and we were basically hitting a point where my projected income put us running out of funds just prior to the end of December. IF things went really smoothly with SBR, which seemed unlikely, then we might be able to release it into the maelstrom that is the November release schedule. That would have been suicidal, and so that would mean releasing SBR in the new year,” Park wrote. “But that would be really putting ALL our eggs in that one basket, and if we couldn’t release anything until January anyhow&hellip; well, that might just be enough time to make the game that went on to become Starward Rogue. Going for that, and taking on some debt to accelerate the project and thus get it out faster, seemed to make more sense.”</p><p> Even now, he maintains that it was the right decision, and things from that point on actually went entirely according to plan. The accelerated development schedule was too tight for a proper PR campaign, but some attention was drummed up through a <a href="">Bionic Dues giveaway</a>, and Park “couldn't be more proud" of the final result. “It’s such a cool game! It’s possibly our best yet, and certainly better than anything other than <a href="">AI War</a>. Players seem to agree. Our beta testers had started out iffy in late November, and had really helped us shape this into something they were all hopping around excited about. Threads were popping up all over our forums about 'I love this game!' and 'Where did this come from?' and so on.”</p><iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> But it didn't sell. “In the past when we have done a launch, generally we wind up on the Steam top sellers list in the top 40 at around the low side, and peak somewhere in the top 10... Usually we hang out in the teens for a few days and then drop off,” he wrote. “That’s where we make our money.”</p><p> With Starward Rogue, on the other hand, “we have mostly hung out in the 200s instead of in the teens, and mostly in the 250s at that, top-seller-chart-wise,” he continued. “We peaked, briefly, at #98. That lasted under 3 hours.” And so instead of a month of relatively high earnings that would cover previous losses and build up a cash buffer for the next project, Arcen is likely going to take another loss in January, and will lay off almost its entire staff on Monday: Only Park, Lead Programmer Keith LaMothe, and Art Director Daniette “Blue” Mann remain, and Mann will be laid off as well if things don't improve within the next few months.</p><p> Park is open and&nbsp;unequivocal about accepting responsibility for the decisions that led to this point, although he says he holds out hope that Starward Rogue will eventually find its audience. Regardless of how it ultimately works out&mdash;and hopefully it will work out well in the end&mdash;it's a cautionary tale about just how fragile and fraught indie game development can be. Two years ago, Arcen was riding (relatively) high; today, despite creating a game Park thought “would be a new chance to live life properly and not run around with my hair on fire all the time,” his studio has been gutted.</p><p> Park's full blog post isn't the happiest thing you'll ever read. but it's well worth the effort for anyone interested in what goes on behind the scenes at an indie game studio. His follow-ups in the comments are informative, too. Get the whole story at <a href=""></a>.&nbsp;</p> grinding for the new expansion.Fri, 29 Jan 2016 00:32:06 +0000 Six Siege <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rainbow Six Siege"></p><p>If you've been playing&nbsp;<a href="">Rainbow Six: Siege</a> since launch, then you're probably swimming in renown at the moment. Still, one can never have enough renown,&nbsp;and leading up to the imminent release of the first DLC pack, it's probably wise to have a tonne in your bank. Thanks to the success of a recent community challenge, Ubisoft has announced that every Siege player will get a 50 percent renown boost this weekend. Cancel everything else you had planned, obviously.</p><p>The publisher has yet to officially confirm details on the new operators and map coming on February 2, but&nbsp;<a href="">these recent leaks</a> look pretty authentic. Obviously, there's no word yet on how much renown will be required to unlock these new operators, but my gut feeling is: probably in the tens of thousands. I play the game for an hour every evening and have over 20,000 racked up.</p><p>If you have the season pass, those operators won't cost renown, so you can spend it on attachments and skins instead. Or you could just leave it unspent, because, you know, it's nice to have tonnes of renown.</p> at 2560x1440, if your bandwidth can handle it.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 23:09:02 +0000 of the Tomb RaiderVideo <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p> The 2013&nbsp;<a href="">Tomb Raider reboot</a> is still one of the best looking, well-optimized PC games available, and its&nbsp;sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, follows in its footsteps. Hell, it looks even better, especially on a powerful rig and nice monitor. So, to celebrate gorgeous PC games, and to give folks a taste of what ancient ruins and their spelunkers can look like at&nbsp;2560x1440,&nbsp;we turned up everything we could and grabbed some footage from a short segment at the very beginning of the game. Turns out, the&nbsp;<a href="">game is pretty good too</a>.</p><p> I’m playing Rise of the Tomb Raider on a PC decked out with two 980 TIs, 16GB of RAM, and an Intel Core i7 6700K CPU, so, yeah, it runs pretty well. But I’m curious! Let us know your specs, and how it’s running in the comments.</p>, 28 Jan 2016 22:50:44 +0000 GamesFPSNewsWarhammer: End Times – Vermintide <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Warhammer: End Times&mdash;Vermintide Schluesselslcosdflsjdfadshfadf"></p><p>Having apparently decided that <a href="">Warhammer: End Times&mdash;Vermintide</a> was not a sufficiently lengthy title on its own, Fatshark has announced that the game's first paid DLC will be a new map entitled <a href="">Schluesselschloss</a>. <em>(Gesundheit.) </em>Another piece of free DLC is in the works as well, in the form of a new game mode called Last Stand.</p><p>Last Stand, in which players square off against endless hordes of Skaven, will include a single level set within Ubersreik, the overrun town at the center of Vermindtide. Schluesselschloss will enable players to take the fight beyond its walls and into the surrounding Grey Mountains&mdash;and because Fatshark doesn't want to “split up the community,” players who don't own the new map will still be able to join and play with someone who does. That's a nice touch.</p><p>The obvious downside to all of this is that Schluesselschloss is an absolutely awful name, and so Fatshark is holding a little contest. Pop over to <a href="">; and give them a suggestion for a smooth-sounding nickname; the 100 best ideas will get the Schluesselschloss DLC for free.</p><p>One point that isn't entirely clear is whether non-owners of Schluesselschloss will be able to move into the locations included with the DLC, or if the cross-compatibility is restricted to the single level that's included with the new game mode. I've emailed Fatshark, and I'll let you know what they have to say about it.</p><p>Warhammer: End Times&mdash;Vermintide&mdash;Schluesselschloss, and the new Last Stand game mode, are set to come out at the end of February. Schluesselschloss, by the way, means “key lock” in German. I have no idea how that relates to killing Skaven.</p><p><em>Schluesselschloss!</em></p> block shooter is themed around classic FPSs.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 22:48:24 +0000 <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Several games have taken the Minecraft approach to world building and slotted it into an FPS setting: the quite decent&nbsp;<a href="">Blockstorm</a> and the helpfully titled&nbsp;<a href="">Guncraft</a> are two examples that spring to mind. Now there's Gunscape, an 'FPS construction kit' which has been in Early Access for a while now, but is poised to launch proper this March.</p><p>The Minecraft-esque FPS is a crowded niche, but Gunscape comes with the benefit of being free-to-play. Deathmatch map creation will probably be the core of the game, but single-player and cooperative PvE design is encouraged, too. The game's skins are themed around FPS classics such as Wolfenstein and Quake (to name just two), and each theme features its own textures, enemies, weapons, skyboxes, guns and obstacles.</p><p>Gunscape launches March 2. If you'd prefer to jump into the Early Access build, it's available right now&nbsp;<a href="">on Steam</a>.&nbsp;</p> on the dozen VR games at Valve's developer showcase in Seattle. It's a strong lineup.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 22:25:56 +0000 realityVive Space is yours to keep if you grab it during the free period.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 20:35:11 +0000 Case GamesFailbetter GamesFractured SpaceNewsSunless Sea <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Sunless Sea"></p><p>If you've got some free time this weekend, then Steam has a couple of free games you might be interested in: the team-based space combat sim <a href="">Fractured Space</a>, and the pseudo-Lovecraftian naval exploration game <a href="">Sunless Sea</a>. Both are available now at no charge, and if you grab Fractured Space while it's free, you can keep it forever.</p><p>First up, Fractured Space: It's a five-on-five game of capital ship combat in space, being developed by the team (working under a new name) that made <a href="">Strike Suit Zero</a>. It's been kicking around on Early Access for more than a year, but development hasn't stalled&mdash;in fact, a fairly substantial <a href="">patch</a> was released today. We haven't looked at it in awhile, but Tyler took an earlier build <a href="">out for a spin</a> in December 2014, shortly after the Early Access release, and said it was “a good amount of fun” despite some serious issues.</p><p>Sunless Sea, developed by Failbetter Games, actually left Early Access a year ago. It puts you at the helm of a Steampunk steamship and sets you off to explore a great, dark, top-down sea in the faux-Victorian universe of Fallen London. The Steam description is succinct: “Lose your Mind. Eat your crew. Die.” Despite some flaws, it pulled in a very healthy score of 80 in <a href="">our review</a>, and we recently got our <a href="">first look</a> at the new Zubmarine DLC that's in the works</p><p>Sunless Sea will be playable for free until 5 pm EST on January 31&mdash;that's Sunday&mdash;while Fractured Space, as mentioned, is a keeper as long as you pick it up before 7 am EST on February 1. If you like what you see, they're also on sale for the weekend: The Fractured Space Forerunner Pack is half-price&mdash;that's $5/£3.50&mdash;while Sunless Sea is 40 percent off, taking it to $11/£8. Both sale prices are on until February 1.</p>, chests, and best of all: communication from Valve.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 20:00:00 +0000 2MOBAProThree Lane HighwayValve <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dota 2 Winter Battle Pass"></p> <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">Three Lane Highway</h5> <p> Every week, Chris documents his complex ongoing relationship with Dota 2. To read more Three Lane Highway, <a href="">click here</a>.&nbsp; </p> </div><p> They've finally done it. The maniacs, they've finally done it. Valve have launched a community Dota 2 event that<em> really works</em>. The <a href="">Winter 2016 Battle Pass</a> came out yesterday with no warning whatsoever and has, so far, avoided making almost all of the mistakes that Dota 2 events traditionally make. If you've not been playing for long, let's recap the traditional problems:</p><p> <strong>It's a separate game mode that doesn't really work half the time</strong></p><p> <em>eg. New Bloom 2014, New Bloom 2015, Diretide 2012, Diretide 2013</em></p><p> <strong>It changes the way people play regular Dota 2</strong></p><p> <em>eg. Nemesis Assassin</em></p><p> <strong>It's about abusing a system until you get free stuff</strong></p><p> <em>eg. New Bloom 2014, New Bloom 2015, Diretide 2012, Diretide 2013</em></p><p> <strong>It's fun but a grind</strong></p><p> <em>eg. Wraith Night</em></p><p> <strong>It's basically gambling with real money</strong></p><p> <em>eg. New Bloom 2015</em></p><p> <strong>It didn't happen</strong></p><p> <em>eg. Diretide 2014</em></p><p> Only one other event that I can think of dodges most of these pitfalls&mdash;the wonderful Greeviling, vanished never to return along with Valve's deep but fleeting obsession with dinosaur gremlin muppet creatures, alas.</p><p> The Winter 2016 Battle Pass is a lot of things in one. It's this year's replacement for New Bloom, which traditionally ran&mdash;as this will&mdash;through spring. To that end it introduces a new time-limited quest system, community-spanning meta-objectives, and a bunch of achievements and trophies and so on.</p><p> It also includes the compendium for the Shanghai Major, which encompasses the traditional esports tie-in booklet that somebody presumably reads along with a leveling system, temporary in-game rewards, and a lot of new chests and sets. With the exception of a new custom game mode&mdash;they've become the exclusive preserve of the 'Arcade' tab&mdash;the Battle Pass incorporates almost every idea that Valve have had over the last three and a bit years of running these things.</p><p> <em>Except they all work in harmony with each other</em>. And with the exception of a day one duping bug, nothing is terribly broken. And it's not terribly expensive. And it doesn't invite you to sink lots of money after your initial purchase. And it's more about engaging with the game than grinding for specific rewards. And the interface doesn't take thirty seconds to load for no discernable reason.</p><p> This provides a kind of compound relief. One, it's a substantial update in its own right, something that Dota badly needs given the long wait between patches and heroes. Two, it's a great use of the Reborn client that makes me glad that we got through that long, messy relaunch. Three, it's a live event that doesn't feel like a funfair being operated as a social experiment by a haywire AI. At least, <em>not as much as usual.</em></p><p> I can list off my 'serious' problems with the update on the fingers of one hand:</p><ul> <li><a href="">This Skywrath set</a> shouldn’t be red I guess.</li> <li>They shouldn't have nerfed Skywrath's <a href="">incredibly lengthy 'in the bag' line</a> by making it less likely to play. From my high horse I can see to the ends of the world, and from this vantage point I declare with utter certainty that this is a terrible decision and the game is dead.</li> <li>If they're going to make Skywrath red, at least make him shout his 'in the bag' line over and over so that I know that Legion Commander and Beastmaster's hawk haven't had a baby or something.</li> <li>Pouring money into a compendium that doesn't increase the associated prize pool is still weird.</li></ul><p> That's basically one problem and three lots of nonsense! Good job, Valve!</p><p> Through all of this, however&mdash;the well-implemented quest system and the daily challenges and the gambling and the new sets and the great terrain and the cool seasonal effects and so on and so on&mdash;there's one thing that really makes me happy: Valve are talking about player behaviour again.</p><p> Tucked away among the new additions is the 'conduct summary', a one-sheet review of your behaviour over the last 25 games that you've played. In the associated <a href="">FAQ</a>, Valve explain that they want to make the way the game keeps track of player conduct much more transparent. Your report is designed to let you know that, actually, 77% of players don't incur reports. That assholes are outliers. That a single match isn't enough to get you committed to the low priority queue, and that&mdash;through all the strife of matchmaking&mdash;a handful of people liked you enough to commend you.</p><p> This is a positive change in and of itself, but it's the increased communication that clinches it for me. When I spoke to Valve's Erik Johnson <a href="">last year</a>, he didn't regard player behaviour as a major issue for the game. This is likely because, if you have all of the data in front of you, the amount of players that cause enough trouble to be worth punishing is actually relatively small (the new conduct summary attests to that.) In the intervening time, however, it seems that Valve have realised that they need to open that data up to the community: it's not enough to say 'this isn't a priority' in private and leave people to get frustrated with what they perceive as a toxic player base.</p><p> The conduct summary FAQ puts to rest a bunch of urban myths regarding the report system: that you can be bullied into low prio by an ill-meaning party of players, or that the system is rendered ineffective by 'noise'&mdash;players filing reports for the wrong reasons. I don't know that the players who most need to read this FAQ will do so, and I suspect that the most serious offenders won't care when their conduct summary flashes up a run of red icons&mdash;but it's progress, and it speaks to increased openness on Valve's part.</p><p> I'm really pleased with the Battle Pass system, and it has me excited to try and complete all of the objectives before the event ends, but it's this single simple thing that has me hopeful for the future of the game. Valve's long run of experimental community events has finally borne fruit. If they go on to figure out how to encourage better behaviour from the average Dota player, and do so while writing more openly about their working, then I can’t think of a better start to 2016.</p><hr><p> <img class="pulled-image pull-left" style="margin: 0px 10px 10px 0px;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Pcgp Logo Red Small"> <strong><a href="">PC Gamer Pro</a></strong> is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!</p> gets knocked down, but he gets up again. You aren't ever going to keep him down.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 20:00:00 +0000 Gear GamesNewsPath of ExileRPG <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> The latest <a href="">Path of Exile</a>: Ascendancy character class has been revealed as the Berserker, a Marauder specialization who's all about reckless disregard for personal safety. The Berserker moves fast, hits hard, and doesn't mind taking a few shots in return. In fact, he's often at his best when he's getting mugged.</p><p> Many of the Berserker's passives&nbsp;rely on being in the middle of a fray, or are meant to get him to one as quickly as possible. Rite of Ruin, for instance, reduces damage taken by five percent if you've killed something within the past four seconds, while Crave the Slaughter confers either a ten percent increase in movement speed if you haven't been hit within the past four seconds, or a 25 percent increase in attack speed if you have.</p><p> Ascendancy classes are unlocked the first time you complete the Lord's Labyrinth, a new dungeon in the expansion that's both very challenging and greatly rewarding. Each new class has its own skill tree, which is grown with Ascendancy Points earned by completing the Labyrinth at each of its three difficulty levels: Two points per level, six points in all. That necessitates careful consideration of the path you wish to pursue, because there simply won't be enough points to acquire every skill.</p><p> We actually took a closer look at the Lord's Labyrinth <a href="">in November</a>, and while it clearly isn't the friendliest joint in town, developer Grinding Gear Games is working to ensure that it's balanced for players of all levels of skill and free time. The dungeon will change every day but its layout will be identical for everyone, which the studio hopes will lead to players sharing information about how to beat it on user forums. It will maintain the same between difficulty levels as well, but with some traps and hazards disabled at the lower difficulties, so players won't be caught entirely by surprise when they take it on at a higher level.</p><p> Path of Exile: Ascendancy is tentatively set to go live on March 4, a date that's not carved in stone but “pretty solid,” the studio said. At the same time, the currently-running Talisman challenge leagues will come to an end, and a new one will begin. Grinding Gear is keeping details about the upcoming league a closely guarded secret, but the word on the street (wink, wink) is that it will be themed to tie in with the Ascendancy expansion.&nbsp;</p><p>More information about Path of Exile: Ascendancy is up at <a href=""></a>.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Path of Exile Ascendancy Berserker"></p> to PAX South? Join us at the AMD booth hosting the PC Gamer StudioThu, 28 Jan 2016 20:00:00 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="AMD Booth"></p><p>PAX South 2016 is just around the corner! This week, we’ll be heading to San Antonio to kick-off the first PAX of the year. We’re also super excited to announce our partnership with AMD once again. In case you missed it, here’s a look at our partnership last year at <a href="">The PC Gaming Show at E3</a>.</p><p>“We’re delighted to be back at PAX this year,” said Gerald Youngblood, Director of WW Channel Marketing and Communications at AMD, “AMD and our partners are showcasing groundbreaking technology, including the latest VR experiences, gaming products, and top system designs.”</p><p>What amazing new experiences will the upcoming PC games and emerging technology bring us? Come check out the AMD booth (#12065), featuring incredible PCs, VR experiences and LAN tournaments, to find out. Not to mention, we’ll be hosting interviews with game developers, industry influencers, cosplayers and more, right from the AMD booth at #PAXSouth.</p><p>See you all there!</p> only pictures, leave only solved puzzles.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 19:55:06 +0000 BoostPuzzleThe Witness Clancy's The Division comes out in March.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 19:31:28 +0000 DivisionThird Person ShooterTom Clancy's The DivisionUbisoft <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Division"></p><p>Ubisoft says it has a “complete post-launch plan” for <a href="">Tom Clancy's The Division</a>, the upcoming open-world RPG/shooter, which includes free updates, new features, and a trio of “major expansions” that will make up the Season Pass.</p><p>The first expansion, Underground, “opens a new territory to players as they explore the uncharted underworld of New York City.” I'm guessing subways will be involved somehow. The second, Survival, turns the entire map into a Dark Zone&mdash;Dark Zones being the competitive PvP element of the game, which stands separate from the main campaign and has its own progression system. Finally, there's Last Stand, details of which will be announced later.</p><p>Owners of The Division Season Pass will also unlock a sawed-off shotgun sidearm and receive “exclusive” outfits and weapon skins, and get special “monthly benefits” like special content drops and events. The cost of the Season Pass wasn't revealed, but the standard edition of the game is $60/£40, while the Gold Edition, which includes the Season Pass, is $100 and apparently not available <a href="">on Steam</a> in the UK, for some reason. <a href="">Game</a> has it for £65, though.</p><p>Tom Clancy's The Division comes out on March 8, but we've got some early impressions of the PC edition that you can <a href="">dig into here</a>. </p>'s heard ofAbbey of the Fallen Moon, they just can't remember where it is.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 19:23:07 +0000 of EternityRPG <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="36"></p><p> The&nbsp;second expansion for Pillars of Eternity,&nbsp;The White March Part 2, is&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">nearly here</a>. We&nbsp;liked Part 1 well enough, though it was a bit&nbsp;light on story&mdash;Andy said it was "a reasonably entertaining chunk of new quests, and a nice change of scenery" in&nbsp;<a href="">his review</a>. Maybe Part 2&nbsp;will tell a beefier tale as it concludes the story, though we've learned today that&nbsp;our characters&nbsp;might have trouble remembering the ordeal anyway. Obsidian has sent over&nbsp;a description of one of the new locations in Part 2,&nbsp;Abbey of the Fallen Moon, and it has some peculiar effects on the mind.</p><p>The&nbsp;Abbey is believed to be a sacred site of&nbsp;Ondra, goddess of the sea, who specializes in Eternal Sunshining away undesired memories. Given her nature, it isn't easy to find the place&mdash;everyone's heard of it, but no one knows where it is&mdash;though we'll apparently be stumbling into it, perhaps in search of its fabled "Salt Well."</p><p>We'll get to poke around Ondra's memory palace, and presumably some other new locations, when&nbsp;White March Part 2&nbsp;is out on February 16th.&nbsp;Below is the full description of the Abbey of the Fallen Moon from Obsidian&nbsp;as well as a couple more screenshots.&nbsp;I think I'd remember the location of a giant, frozen skeleton, personally.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> <em>Ask the denizens of the White March if they've heard of the Abbey of the Fallen Moon, and they will tell you they have. Ask them for directions to it, and you'll be met only with blank stares.<br> </em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> <em>When someone wants desperately to forget something, they pray to Ondra, goddess of the sea, to take it from their memory. The abbey is thought to be one of Ondra's most sacred sites and to be home to some of her highest ranking clergy, but so little about it is known to outsiders that many have supposed the goddess has used her dominion over memory to protect knowledge of its whereabouts and activities.</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> <em>The abbey's name is thought to originate with an old folk legend. The story tells of Ondra's unrequited love for the moon, and how in her frustration, she once reached out to touch it, causing a piece of it to fall into her, and resulting in widespread catastrophe. It is said she continues to pursue the moon, and this serves as the most common explanation for the tides.</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> <em>One persistent rumor among lower level Ondrite clergy is that the abbey houses a number of important and powerful holy relics. Of particular appeal to Ondrite Giftbearers is a pool known as the Salt Well. Giftbearers are faithful servants of Ondra who travel from village to village, helping people to forget painful memories. They accept memento objects that represent these memories, and deposit them into deep water for Ondra to accept into her keeping. Bearing these memories, while a relief to their original owners, takes an emotional toll on the Giftbearers over time. It is said that if one is to bathe in the Salt Well, however, then they have their burdens washed clean&mdash;even Giftbearers.</em></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="30"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="17"></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"></p> Heroes of the Storm collegiate esports tournament begins in February.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 18:24:09 +0000 of the StormMOBANewsPro <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> Blizzard has announced that registrations are now being taken for the 2016 edition of <a href="">Heroes of the Dorm</a>, the <a href="">Heroes of the Storm</a> competition that pits student gamers from across the US and Canada against one another in “the ultimate collegiate esports tournament.” More than $500,000 in tuition and prizes are up for grabs, and the action will once again be broadcast live on <a href="">ESPN</a>.</p><p> “Last year's Heroes of the Dorm was an amazing experience for the students playing and everyone watching, and we're excited to again offer college athletes an epic opportunity to team up and compete for scholarships in 2016,” Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said. “It's inspiring to see players from last year's championship team, the UC Berkeley Golden Bears, now thriving in pro esports careers&mdash;we look forward to seeing how this year's competitors shape the future of competitive gaming.”</p><p> Heroes of the Dorm registrations will be open until February 18, with online qualifiers beginning on February 20 and running until March 6. The first tournament stage, featuring the top 64 teams, will take place on March 19, followed by the “Round of 32” on March 20, the “Round of 16” on March 28, and the “Round of 8” on March 27, all of them broadcast live on Twitch, YouTube, and ESPN3. The Heroic Four will run on April 9, leading into the Grand Finals on April 10, both of which will be carried exclusively on ESPN2. ESPN coverage will also be available through the WatchESPN mobile app.</p><p> Non-students will be able to get in on the action as well by predicting the outcomes of the tournament in the Heroes of the Dorm Bracket Challenge. Full bracket rules and prize details will be announced closer to the beginning of the Round of 64, but the most accurate bracket will claim a top prize of $10,000. Signup links for Blizzard's 2016 Heroes of the Dorm esports tournament and other details can be found at <a href=""></a>.</p> of the Singularity uses DirectX 12 to create RTS battles of unprecedented size. Thu, 28 Jan 2016 17:00:00 +0000 of the SingularityNewsRTSStardock <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> <a href="">Ashes of the Singularity</a>, Stardock's 64-bit, DirectX 12-native sci-fi RTS, has been on Steam Early Access for a few months now. But today it took a big step toward becoming a fully-fledged game with the release of its first public beta.</p><p> The big hook in Ashes of the Singularity is its ability to support battles of unprecedented size, with thousands of individual units taking part. This is accomplished via the native DirectX 12 support in the new Nitrous engine it's built upon, which enables each CPU core to send instructions to the GPU simultaneously, allowing “for more rendered units to be displayed on screen at the same time&mdash;by an order of magnitude&mdash;than in any previous RTS game to date.”</p><p> Managing those armies is simplified through the use of “meta units,” which are essentially massed formations of multiple unit types that will organize and take care of themselves. Big armies means big battles&mdash;a one-on-one match on a small map can be wrapped up in 20 minutes or so, but large-scale encounters with multiple AI enemies could run for several hours&mdash;but the actual mechanics are designed to be straightforward and simple to pick up.</p><p> “Our goal with Ashes of the Singularity is to help introduce a new generation of gamers to real-time strategy games,” Stardock CEO Brad Wardell said. “We want to make a game where players can invite their friends in and be up and playing relatively quickly, without a lengthy explanation about how to play.”</p><p> We had a look at the game ourselves, and the multi-core loading was exceptionally fast&mdash;so quick that there wasn't enough time to read the gameplay tips on the loading screen. The “meta units” also did a reasonably competent job of handling their business autonomously: Medics moved to heal assault units without waiting for orders, while artillery units held to the rear of formations, from where they could dish out punishment without putting themselves at unnecessary risk.</p><p> The Beta 1 release of Ashes of the Singularity, with single-player skirmish, co-op multiplayer, and ranked multiplayer modes, is available now from <a href="">Steam</a> and <a href="">GOG</a>. Stardock said Beta 2 is expected to be released next month, and that should make things even more interesting, with DirectX 12-enabled multi-GPU support, including mixes of AMD and Nvidia cards&mdash;something we learned a bit about <a href="">last year</a>. You can find out more about the game at <a href=""></a>.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ashes of the Singularity"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ashes of the Singularity"></p> to make it a carefully curated storefront.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 16:37:50 +0000 AccessGOG.comNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GOG in development"></p><p>I tend to suppress a howl of frustration and rage when confronted with Early Access games. There are some projects for which it makes sense&mdash;the modular, the ongoing, the otherwise un-fundable&mdash;but these are accompanied by people trying their luck flogging repackaged junk.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">GOG</a>'s new storefront for in-development games is aiming to solve that problem through uncompromising curation.</p><p>The store launches with five games of some repute:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Starbound</a>,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Ashes of the Singularity</a>,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Project Zomboid</a>,&nbsp;TerraTech and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Curious Expedition</a>. If you still feel let down by the experience, however, GOG is offering 14-day,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">no-questions-asked refunds</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>Quite the most exciting feature&mdash;and I don't often use that phrase in connection with a proprietary launcher&mdash;is the ability to roll back patches in GOG Galaxy at your discretion. If an update borks the half-finished game, you can play an old version till it's knocked into shape.</p><p>"We've always been about offering a selection of noteworthy, carefully evaluated games. In short, we're about quality over quantity,"&nbsp;managing director Piotr Karwowski told&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Gamasutra</a>. "We look at many factors when making the final call, things like the development roadmap, what the game offers to players in its current state, the developer's track record or experience where applicable and so on."</p><p>Promising, no?</p> barbaric.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 15:59:32 +0000 ExilesNewsSurvival <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>In a flurry of business-speak, Funcom&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">announced in December</a> that Conan Properties had&nbsp;made it&nbsp;"preferred partner"&nbsp;for all&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Conan the Barbarian</a> videogames. Three are thought&nbsp;to be in the works, and the first has now been revealed. Conan Exiles is... a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">survival crafting</a> game?</p><p>Tenuous but fitting, I suppose. Where better for scratching out a miserable existence&nbsp;than the Hyborian age, clubbing your&nbsp;enemies with axes&nbsp;and hearing the lamentations of passing man-serpents? Still, the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">official description</a> contains little that we haven't heard before, aside from the nifty&nbsp;human sacrifice angle.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Conan Exiles"></p><p>"Hungry, thirsty and alone, your very first battle is that against the harsh environment. Grow crops or hunt animals for food. Harvest resources to build weapons and tools. Build a shelter to survive. Ride across a vast world and explore alone, or band together with other players to build entire settlements and strongholds to withstand fierce invasions.</p><p>"When strong enough, march forth into battle and wage war against your enemies as you fight to dominate the exiled lands. Sacrifice enemy players on the altars of the gods and shift the balance of power your way."</p><p>Apparently there's a single-player mode on the cards too, so perhaps there's some undisclosed endgame of the sort not often seen in survival.</p><p>Conan Exiles is&nbsp;due to hit Early Access in summer. Tradition is tradition, right?</p> money off one of 2016's GOTY contenders.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 15:33:34 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="XCOM2 Soldier-Sniper bmp jpgcopy"></p><p>When <a href="">PC Gamer spent a couple of hours with XCOM 2</a> back in December we described it as “XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but better in every possible way&hellip; they took everything that you would love about the first game and made it better”.</p><p>The game comes out on February 5 but if you <a href="">pre-order at the Golden Joystick Store before then you can save 20% on the price</a>.</p><p>That leaves you paying $47.99 in the US, £32 in the UK, and €39.99 (or less, depending on local tax) in Europe.</p><p>Everyone who pre-orders will also receive the Resistance Warrior Pack, which allows you to instantly unlock a survivor of the old war as a recruit in your barracks, as well as customize your squad of resistance fighters with bonus outfits, headgear, and custom facial war paint.</p><p>The XCOM 2 Steam key sale will run at the Golden Joystick Store until the game launches on February 5.</p><p><em>Run by Future Publishing, the Golden Joystick Store aims to give players the easiest way to buy games yet, with a simple interface and recommendations from PC Gamer and GamesRadar to help you make your buying decisions.</em></p> get the feeling you're being watched?Thu, 28 Jan 2016 14:48:38 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Twitch"></p><p><strong>Edit: </strong>Okay, so it turns out I've been living with my head under a rock for the past few months and there are already gadgets that let you grab Twitch highlights on the fly.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Oddshot</a> is one, and it captures a whole <em>40 seconds</em>. Re-read my naive, wide-eyed encounter with new tech replacing "" with any stream capture of your choice&mdash;still cool!</p><p><strong>Original:&nbsp;</strong>Here's a pretty trinket. The newly released Chrome extension lets you capture 30-second source-quality clips from&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Twitch</a> streams&mdash;any Twitch stream. I've dabbled in streaming and even with 10 people watching (blood relations all)&nbsp;you get requests for highlights that you acknowledge in a vague sort of way before forgetting all about because you've been going for eight hours and you can't remember what plane of reality you're on. Now viewers can do it themselves and neaten them&nbsp;up with rudimentary editing tools.</p><p>Considering how hard it is to get hold of the actual video files behind&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Twitch streams</a>, it's a handy piece of kit. Clips are&nbsp;hosted on the sharing site, but&nbsp;while you can link your Twitch account and become some sort of almighty highlight curator,&nbsp;it's also&nbsp;content&nbsp;to sit quietly and be the&nbsp;Imgur for bits of Twitch.&nbsp;Look,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">here's a recording I made</a> of some guy having the time of his life in&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Darkest Dungeon</a>. That it gives credit to the streamer is a nice touch&mdash;thanks, Fand42.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Here's a link</a> if that sounds useful.</p>'s worth getting excited about inXile's new RPG, but don't jump in yet.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 14:41:20 +0000 Tides of Numenera <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Tides of Numenera"></p><p>You are the Last Castoff, a body discarded by a self-made god that leaves newly-self aware selves behind every time he or she decides that they fancy a new form. In the opening seconds of Torment: Tides of Numenera you come into being just as you finish falling to your death, which is unfortunate, and what follows is a sequence that sees you rebuild yourself, personality-quiz style, from within your own infinity-variable consciousness. With me so far? Good&mdash;because then you've got some memory-spelunking, body-switching time travel to do. And then the tutorial ends.</p><p>Once in the world proper, your quest is to free yourself from the Sorrow&mdash;a formless beast tracking you and your kind through history. You're immediately given a choice of companions and approach, and no, combat isn't mandatory. My own journey began with half a battle and a stint spent impersonating a city official to spare a man from being strangled by a flesh cord spun out of his own drug-induced nightmares (don't ask). Yours can, and hopefully will, be different. This is a promising start to a long-awaited RPG, and one I don't want to spoil. </p><p>Torment: Tides of Numenera is a return to the past in a number of ways. It's a spiritual successor to one of the deepest and most beloved CRPGs ever made, Planescape: Torment. It's isometric, partly turn-based, and heavy on detail-rich pre-rendered backdrops. The age of Kickstarter has already recovered apocalyptic black comedy and traditional fantasy from their time-locked 90s prisons: now it delivers the third and final part of that classic RPG triumvirate, 'existential sci-fi-magical psychofantasy where lots of stuff is purple'.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Tides of Numenera 2"></p><p>Tides of Numenera is also something new, however. This is the first time Monte Cook Games' Numenera setting has been adapted to the PC. I've been playing the pen and paper game for a few years, and this is a thoughtful digital translation of the system. The broad strokes are this: instead of a health bar, you have three pools&mdash;Might, Speed, and Intellect. These can be damaged by enemies, but you also spend from them in order to increase your chances of success in every action you take: this is called 'expending effort'.</p><p>Example one: I am punching an attacker in the face. I can take my chances, or I can expend a little Might to ensure the attack connects. Example two: I am now explaining to the same attacker, moments later, that this was all a huge mistake. This time, I can invest Intellect to convince him that, nah, it's not worth it&mdash;potentially saving myself the Might I'd lose if he continued whacking me. This is an actual example from play (see above) although I've dialled back the details to spare you spoilers.</p><p>Enthusiastic readers of high-concept sci-fi will get a huge amount out of Torment, I think, but the emphasis here is on 'readers'. Like its cousin Pillars of Eternity, this is a game that wants you to take the time to read and absorb everything it's telling you. This isn't backmatter in the sense that implies 'skip this bit to get to the fighting and kissing'. The writing is the important stuff, the meat of the game, the detail that brings a capital-W Weird world to life. For as long as the rest of the games industry has marched under the banner 'games can be like films', traditional CRPGs like Torment have stood holding the placard marked '...and also like books.'</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Tides of Numenera 3"></p><p>Unlike Pillars of Eternity, however, Tides of Numenera offers few traditional fantasy footholds. The Numenera setting delights in unsettling expectations, and while there are analogues for monsters and magic they never match up perfectly. The game is set in Earth's far far future, and civilization has done a few billion laps around Clarke's third law in that time. Magic is science, science is thought, thought is matter, and every grain of matter is imbued with magic. I've run pen-and-paper campaigns in this world for almost two years and I found myself pausing to make sure I understood all of the ideas that Tides of Numenera throws up in its first hour. This is a caveat, but also an endorsement: every old-school Torment fan who worried that their favourite RPG might lose its sense of strange in the absence of the Planescape license can be reassured that this isn't the case.</p><p>It's possible to pay for access to the beta, but Torment is currently in an extremely raw state. I experienced crashes, loss of progress and bugged quests in my time with this early version, and entire features and plot points are absent. Invest if you'd like to be involved in testing the game, but hold off if you want the best possible experience of this story. inXile tout the game's replayability, but you only get one first run: at present, you'd thank yourself for waiting until the game is further along.</p> the creators of Spyro the Dragon, comes an underwater Metroidvania.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 14:30:00 +0000 of the Deep <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Insomniac Games (Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet and Clank) is on its way to the PC proper with the announcement of a new game, Song of the Deep (unless&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">their Oculus game</a> arrives first). It’s an underwater metroidvania&mdash;you explore an open, maze-like 2D environment in a shoddy submarine while shooting underwater monsters, upgrading abilities, and discovering secrets. I was able to play some of it at Insomniac last week, and while I don’t think Song of the Deep introduces any new puzzles or flourishes&mdash;nothing the genre hasn’t seen before&mdash;the (potentially) dynamic combat system, involved narrative, and detailed artistic direction are intriguing enough for me to pay attention in the long term.</p><p>You play as Merryn, a 12 year old girl who spends her days on the sea fishing with her father. One day, he doesn’t come home and Merryn sets out to find him. The setup is storybook simple, and that’s wholly intentional. The narrative plays out in short storyboard sequences, ripped straight from the pages of a picture book. And, in a strange twist, GameStop (yes, the US retailer) is publishing. In conjunction with the release of Song of the Deep, which will have a physical edition in its stores, Insomniac is putting out a book that ties into the game’s story. They’re intentional companion pieces, aimed for a younger audience that might identify more with Merryn’s struggle to find her father and overcome the ocean’s obstacles. I haven’t had eyes on the book, but the idea is pretty novel (ha ha) at least. My primary concern is that they’ll depend too heavily on one another, that the game’s narrative will expect the book to fill in the blanks. The small segment I played had a few gameplay voiceover sequences, but those were mostly about what Merryn was seeing in a given moment. </p><h2>Axiom Submerge</h2><p>Merryn sets of in search of her father in a homemade submarine that, through some story events, gets imbued with magical energy called Tyne. Since Song of the Deep takes place underwater and no traditional platforming is required, the free-floating locomotion lends itself to a looser brand of puzzles than you might find in a gravity-bound metroidvania. Think <a href="">Aquaria</a>, instead. In one puzzle, I had to use my submarine’s claw to pull a lever which opened a gate across the screen. Beyond the gate was a headless statue. Before the gate descended, I had to throw the statue’s head onto the statue in order to complete a magic circuit. It was a relatively simple puzzle that tested my timing, accuracy, and a tiny fraction of logic. If the ideas stack without becoming convoluted, Song of the Deep has potential to be a great, albeit familiar puzzle game. Maybe too familiar.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SOTD BoneVault"></p><p>In the latter half of the demo, I was given the ability to leave my sub and scuba dive as Merryn. Doing so made me more vulnerable, but also let me slip into smaller underwater tunnels to dig up secrets, most of which were an in-game currency that fed into ship and weapon upgrades. But the scuba diving segments quickly devolved into a series of well worn laser and mirror puzzles. In order to progress, I had to rotate mirrors, redirecting a series of colored lasers through and into one another. There might be a purple laser receptacle, but a blue and red laser shooting off in wild directions from the ceiling and floor. Rotate a few mirrors, combine the streams, and redirect them into the receptacle. Sure, these puzzles required some thought and tinkering, but I can no longer count all the mirrors I’ve rotated, the lasers I’ve redirected. </p><p>It’s a shame the puzzles are so tame, because the art is beautiful. Layers and layers of parallax ocean and Gaelic imagery tell their own story about a civilization long lost and nature’s slow reclamation. I really enjoyed puttering around the detailed environments like a fat trout in my little submarine, dancing around dangerous jellyfish, or shooting torpedoes at mutated sea urchins. The combat is where I hold most of my faith in Insomniac. Their games are characterized by bizarre, creative weaponry, and Song of the Deep seems to tap into that playbook so far. I could shoot a torpedo and then immediately catch it with my sub’s hook. The torpedo continued its thrust while grappled and circled around the sub indefinitely. It served as an impromptu forcefield, something to take a hit if a cloud of jellyfish or urchin spikes flew my way. How far that kind of creativity extends remains to be seen. </p><p>And it’s creativity that has me most worried about Song of the Deep. Insomniac, known for its character and independence, seems to be playing it safe with this one. The combat could be great (maybe), the story has potential to grow and resonate with a younger audience, and the art evokes a submerged Miyazaki from time to time. I’m just not sure it’s enough to save Song of the Deep from drowning in the familiarity of its tired progression and puzzle design. But until I see how it all evolves over the course of play, I’ll hold out hope.</p><p>Song of the Deep is due out later this year.&nbsp;</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SOTD MerrowRuins Statues"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SOTD SeaGarden"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SOTD MerrowRuins Action"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SOTD BoneVault Torpedo"></p> wandering is overrated.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 12:47:19 +0000 New VegasNewsRPG <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Multiplayer variants of Bethesda RPGs are modders' Everest. Almost insurmountable, but oh so in demand. Imagine it&mdash;wandering the Wasteland with companions who don't get stuck in doorways. The stuff of fantasy.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Morrowind multiplayer</a> is making headway, and now a mod for&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Fallout: New Vegas</a> is seeking beta testers to quest together.</p><p>Developer&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">nvmp_corporal explained</a> how NV:MP works on Reddit. Quests are still handled client-side; that is, each player retains&nbsp;their own quest log. However, NPCs are synchronised to a host player in any given region&mdash;if the host&nbsp;caps a quest giver, he'll be dead for everyone else in the area, forcing relevant quests to fail. This could break friendships. Once they leave the area, a new player becomes host and NPCs re-sync. It's messy, but clever nonetheless.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Falloutnewvegas"></p><p>VATS is disabled outright (slowing time for one player would cause the&nbsp;server to wet itself), but the&nbsp;inventory works almost as normal, with the exception that items are stored server-side and you become invulnerable while it's open. As this is beta, you should expect saved states to be wiped now and again.</p><p>More interesting still, mods that don't add new regions or items to the game ought to be compatible with NV:MP, although the New Vegas DLC won't function as yet.</p><p>The next test is in two weeks time, and you can sign up&nbsp;at&nbsp;<a href="">this flashy site</a>.</p> new details of your unfortunate predicament.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 11:59:34 +0000 Souls 3NewsRPG Team Fortress but angrier.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 10:54:00 +0000 Fortress 2 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Team Fortress 2 roster"></p><p>The longevity of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Team Fortress 2</a> continues to astound me. It became free in 2011, but still Valve is grinding out updates (<a href="" target="_blank">494 patches</a> as of May 2015), reaping the benefits of the virtual hat trade. The coming months will be huge for Team Fortress: the long-rumoured competitive matchmaking has&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">been confirmed</a>, and a Steam group has been set up to coordinate beta invites.</p><p>Matchmaking was brought up in a visit to Valve HQ by the community at&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"></a> in April last year. To their surprise, Valve was right onboard with the idea, but this is the first official confirmation of impending change.</p><p>As to the group, Valve says it'll "be using this group to send out announcements related to the competitive beta as well as seed beta invites for the expansion of the closed beta".&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Get on in there</a>.</p> favorite books on gaming culture, development, history, and more.Thu, 28 Jan 2016 00:04:53 +0000 Guide <p>Videogame books are edging towards a golden era. People are writing about everything under the sun: travelogues, deep analyses of EVE Online, sociocultural inspections, and narrative dissections. For those passionate about the medium, there’s been no better time to learn about it.</p><p>In this buyer’s guide, we’ve assembled a sampling of the best videogame books we’ve read. The books listed are not necessarily PC gaming specific, as that would&nbsp;exclude an arbitrary portion of good writing for no good reason&mdash;all things in the games industry and creative culture influence one another.&nbsp;Included are links to where you can purchase the publications, with a brief summary of each.</p><br/> <h3>Masters of Doom</h3><p>It’s impossible to ignore the impact Doom had on video games. But it’s difficult to truly understand the impact without proper context. Masters of Doom is one of the most complete inside looks at what went into classic FPS from the get-go.</p><br/><p>The original id Software chaps, Carmack and Romero, feel like characters experiencing new, astounding circumstances for the first time. Their methods for distribution, community building, and the technology of the game itself were all groundbreaking for the time, and set the stage for the industry as a whole for the foreseeable future. Take the safest, most interesting trip to hell while learning a thing or two in Masters of Doom.</p><h3>Embed with Games</h3><p>Videogame and travel writing mix like beer and whiskey, except the whiskey is Wild Turkey and the beer is a $20 bottle of the latest craft sour named after a dead dog. It tastes alright, a bit off, and is does a number on your gut. Ellison’s global game developer couch-surfing adventures are travelogues in the same feel-good-but-bad-for-you vein.&nbsp;</p><br/><p>She sets out determined to see the industry from a bird’s eye view, and to figure out a bit about herself on the way. Her quick-witted, casual, yet deeply aware writing is an affable companion on a troubling journey through London, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and more. She eats, drinks, and dances with some of the best developers in the scene, from Terry Cavanaugh of VVVVVV and Super Hexagon to Ojiro Fumoto of the recent hit, Downwell. It’s an intimate inside look at what drives these people, and what drives Cara. As it turns out, they’re all a little lost, and as a result, a little driven to find their way. Games (and books about games) are the impromptu compass. </p><h3>10 PRINT CHR$(205.5 + RND(1)); : GOTO 10</h3><p>Despite having the hardest title to Google, 10 PRINT is a fascinating analysis of written code as a cultural object. The entire book is a series of essays that delve into aspects of a single line of BASIC that generates a maze-like image when executed. While examining something that is typically observed as purely functional&mdash;it works or it doesn’t&mdash;code contains a ton of clues into the personality of its writers, the time period of its writing, the implications of its function, and on and on.</p><br/><p>The book title is actually a line of code that generates a maze-like image. From here, the team of authors take a stab at different angles of the seemingly insignificant line. There's an examination of every symbol in the code itself, there's a look at its utility, and there's even a short history of the cultural implications of mazes. The book may be small, but for the size of its subject matter, the breadth is astounding. An understanding of code isn’t necessary to appreciate the insights put forth, just an open mind.</p><h3>Unwinnable</h3><p>If you want to read a dissection of why the Iowa Caucus is one of the worst games ever and wash it down with a detailed list of valuable life lessons we can learn from Godzilla, then subscribe to Unwinnable. A weekly (now monthly) publication, Unwinnable examines both familiar and obscure pockets of game culture from diverse perspectives.</p><br/><p>Insightful, funny, and accessible, the publication covers the breadth and depth of games and digital culture through three distinct sections: Thoughts, Theme, and Variation. Thoughts are columns from staff writers, Theme are longer essays that revolve around the month’s, well, theme (Women abroad, RoboCop, death, cities), and Variation is a “potpourri” of essays unconnected to the theme. It’s one of the more diverse, dependable doses of high quality games writing you can get each month.</p><h3>Uncertainty in Games </h3><p>What will this paragraph be about? Who knows? Maybe you’ll find out if you keep reading. Here’s the answer: fooled you. That wasn’t the answer. Here’s the real answer: just kidding. That was another fake answer. The real answer? This paragraph is about uncertainty, an integral factor in good game design, or so argues Costikyan</p><br/><p>In his book, he takes a look at a single, integral component of game design. The big starter question: what motivates us to play games? In an assemblage of otherwise abstract systems, what keeps a player invested, interested? It's usually some form of uncertainty, and Costikyan breaks down different kinds of uncertainty found throughout a few prominent genres. In FPS games, the uncertainty is tied to player performance or 'athleticism'. In an adventure game, it might be a narrative uncertainty. By taking a close look at game design mystery, Costikyan makes a clear and compelling case for what makes us play time and time again.</p><h3>How to Do Things with Videogames</h3><p>Bogost’s broad examination of the utility of video games will teach you what to play to prank your friends, whether or not a game can teach you how to do your taxes, and may instill a curiosity for how games translate the experience of travel and relative space&mdash;and, of course, he also touches on the entertainment utility.</p><br/><p>Point is, games are often a set of systems and variables that can do so much more than entertain. Games can be used to make art, to express empathy, reverence, to make music, to build a brand, for political sway, to communicate abstract texture, to promote exercise habits, to practice otherwise inane tasks, and more. Bogost breaks down twenty different uses for games, explains the uses through example games, and pokes at the unexplored potential of each. It’s the perfect book to broaden one’s knowledge of the medium, and asks you envision games where they might not immediately fit.</p><h3>Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World</h3><p>McGonigal, a game designer, also writes about the utility of games, but specifically as vehicles for self-improvement and philanthropy. She takes similar ideas introduced in How to Do Things with Videogames and applies them to social problems, like depression, obesity, poverty, climate-change, and more.</p><br/><p>MMOs and alternate reality games are the primary subjects here, though games as a wider medium are posited as good ways to promote happiness, motivation, and to build community. Obviously, none of it as simple as playing miracle games that solve the world’s problems with a simple button press, but McGonigal offers up some healthy methods for indulging in a hobby while also pulling yourself, or others, out of the muck bit by bit. For some feel good reading and challenging prompts, this book comes with a healthy, hearty recommendation.</p><h3>The State of Play</h3><p>With the ease of access to game development and learning tools, it’s no surprise that videogames are one of the most popular mediums around today. More games are being made than ever before, and more people are playing them than ever. But with the medium’s new reach, come some growing pains.</p><br/><p>No longer are games strictly a novel form of entertainment, they’re vehicles for social and political commentary, utilities for expression and advertising. And with the new potentials come new responsibilities. State of Play is a collection of diverse voices speaking to some of these new truths. No two essays are alike. In one, race politics ignite in a lightsaber battle as the author reflects on his Jedi avatar, his own identity, expression in games, and the juxtaposition between a futuristic space battle and tired racism. In another, the author writes a nonlinear essay to show off their development platform of choice, Twine, and the capabilities of the lo-fi text design space. State of Play is a snapshot of the industry in all its forms, playful and pretty, old and ugly. For that alone, it's worth a read.</p><h3>Extra Lives</h3><p>Depression, cocaine, and Grand Theft Auto go together like peas in a pod&mdash;a withered pod, sure, but a few things can happen when they’re thrown together. You can keep doing cocaine, stay depressed, and keep playing Grand Theft Auto, or you can, in a spout of desperate invigoration, start to question exactly why you’re depressed, doing a ton of cocaine, and hopelessly addicted to Grand Theft Auto. </p><br/><p>Tom Bissell tackles the topic in his semi-academic critique of video games as a medium. There’s no filter here, and it can be a bit oblique (it feels like he’s working through his own understanding as he writes instead of presenting the final truth nuggets up front) but Bissell spits grand truths about the massive achievement of games like GTA IV, while also acknowledging what a brain dead time sink they can be. It’s a book about a man at odds with himself, trying to pin down a medium that’s taking over faster than anyone can quite comprehend.</p><h3>The Arcade Review</h3><p>The Arcade Review is a quarterly publication that assembles essays, reviews, criticism, and interviews on experimental videogames and the digital arts into a digital collection. A given issue’s subjects might include the engagement of poetry through 3D space, how Her Story is in conversation with Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress, or good old fashioned robot erotica.</p><br/><p>The Arcade Review is an intricate collection of the most in-depth, funny, intimate games writing bolstered by essays that examine old and emerging digital cultures. For those who want more from their media than what they see on the surface or find in stores, The Arcade Review is an easy recommendation.</p><h3>Killing is Harmless</h3><p>Spec Ops: The Line surprised a lot of people. It was an entry in a franchise that had been dormant for about 10 years, and used the expectation of ‘realistic’ tactical combat to sneak in a biting narrative, a near future take on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The game is an attempt to comment on the consistency with which players commit extremely violent acts in games, and Heart of Darkness’ journey upriver serves the video game format well.</p><br/><p>You’re asked to do terrible things, then forced to visit the consequences of your violence, over and over again. Keogh takes the journey upriver, magnifying glass in one hand and a pen in the other.</p><p>He doesn’t lay down any hard truths from the get go. Instead, Keogh invites the reader to analyze the game with him. He reads into everything he can, sometimes to a seemingly absurd depth, but it’s from such scrutiny that his greatest insights emerge. Killing is Harmless is an amazing companion piece to Spec Ops: The Line, and compelling motive to examine every game with a comparable intensity.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Reading ahead</h3><p>The books here won't fill up your library, but don’t worry, the list isn’t final. We’ll keep reading and updating until our organic eyeballs are replaced by whatever Google comes up with that aren’t embarassing cyber goggles. In the meantime, enjoy.</p><p><em>A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to stores like Amazon. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which helps support our work evaluating PC components and other products.</em></p> Design says Samorost 3 will be its biggest game yet.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 22:31:05 +0000 DesignNewsSamorost 3 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Samorost 3"></p><p>The whimsical point-and-click adventure Samorost, released in 2003, and the 2005 sequel Samorost 2, were “small web games,” developer Amanita Design explained on the newly-live <a href="">Steam page</a> for the upcoming <a href="">Samorost 3</a>. The third game in the series, however, “is our biggest and most ambitious project up to date.” Given that its past work includes the delightful <a href="">Machinarium</a> and <a href="">Botanicula</a>, that points to some pretty big changes on the way.</p><p>But while the scale of the game will be dramatically increased&mdash;it's been in development for five years&mdash;the basic premise is essentially the same. You, a little space gnome, discover a magical flute that fell from the sky, which you'll use to build a spaceship, fly to and explore five planets and four moons, and solve various sorts of puzzles and mysteries, including where this crazy flute came from. </p><p>The system requirements are, predictably, quite light. This is the minimum requirement, but no recommended specification is listed because, simply put, if you can play it, you can play it.</p><ul> <li><strong>OS:</strong> Windows XP, 7, 8, 10 </li><li><strong>Processor:</strong> 1.7 GHz Dual Core </li><li><strong>Memory:</strong> 1 GB RAM </li><li><strong>Graphics:</strong> Intel HD 4000 </li><li><strong>Storage:</strong> 1 GB available space </li><li><strong>Additional Notes:</strong> Mouse recommended </li></ul><p>There's currently no release date for Samorost 3, but if you haven't yet sampled its predecessors and want to get a feel for what it's all about, the original Samorost is still <a href="">playable online</a>, as is a <a href="">demo</a> for Samorost 2.</p>'s prettier on the PC.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 22:30:21 +0000 DynamicsNewsNixxesRise of the Tomb RaiderSquare Enix <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> <a href="">Rise of the Tomb Raider</a> will be here soon, and based on <a href="">our review</a> it's pretty good stuff: not revolutionary in any way, but “an incredibly competent action-platformer.” And as this new “PC Tech Feature” video demonstrates, it's also been improved in a number of ways from the Xbox One edition that came out last year.</p><p> “Lara's epic journey becomes even more immersive on the PC version of Rise of the Tomb Raider, as Crystal Dynamics and Nixxes introduce several new technical features to the game, and push the boundaries of next-gen visuals,” the smooth-voiced narrator intones in the video. Those features include HBAO+, 16x anisotropic filtering, hardware tesselation, high-velocity muffler bearings, dynamic foliage, and a significantly improved level of detail.</p><p>One of those terms I just threw out may not actually be a real thing, but the point is that if you have the hardware, Rise of the Tomb Raider will deliver a dramatically improved visual experience when compared to the Xbox edition. And as we noted in our review, there's a large number of other graphical options on the table as well, including depth of field, bloom, screen space reflections, motion blur, and, most importantly, PureHair.</p><p> Rise of the Tomb Raider hits the PC tomorrow.</p> X Master supports PvP and a four-player co-op story mode.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 21:06:24 +0000 <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> NCsoft has announced a new “action MOBA” called Master X Master, which will give players control of not just one but two characters, who can be swapped, tag-team style, during fights. The game has actually been in beta testing for awhile in South Korea, according to <a href="">Polygon</a>, but was just recently confirmed for release in the West.</p><p> The Master X Master lineup will feature 30 characters, some taken from existing NCsoft games like <a href="">Blade &amp; Soul</a> and <a href="">Guild Wars 2</a>, and others who are entirely new. The many possible pairings opens up “a new level of strategy and tactics not seen in other MOBAs” in both the PvP modes and the co-op Story mode, which supports a more action-RPG style of play for up to four players. Players will also have greater control over their characters than in traditional MOBAs, including the ability to jump and dodge attacks&mdash;hence the “action MOBA” designation.</p><p> NCsoft hasn't announced a payment model for Master X Master as of yet, but it's slated to come out in North America and Europe sometime in the second half of 2016. Find out more at <a href=""></a>.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Master X Master"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Master X Master"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Master X Master"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Master X Master"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Master X Master"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Master X Master"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Master X Master"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Master X Master"></p> the health of the eastern scene.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 20:00:00 +0000 of LegendsMOBAPro <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="LOL 2015 Worlds Finals"></p><p> While the western scene scrambles to make up for a wave of controversial visa rejections, Asian hemisphere League of Legends is already operating at full throttle. Of course, some engines are better than others at handling that much torque. China's top teams of yesteryear, for instance, already seem like they're out of gas.</p><h3>China</h3><p> It's hard to cover China. Their broadcasts overlap with the other eastern hemisphere circuits, they have an absurd number of games to play through, and worst of all: there's no consistency to be found amid the chaos that is the LPL. The split-groups format also makes it difficult to gauge just how good Royal Club and Qiao Gu Reapers actually are&mdash;in the wake of LGD's collapse, the utter nightmare that is OMG's roster situation, and Edward Gaming's insistence that Fireloli is actually a pro-tier player, it could be that the rest of China just sucks too much to give them a real test of their capabilities.</p><p> Take note that these are also the teams that performed best all last season, and were even compared favorably to top Korean teams. Even I bought the hype, leading up to that fateful October&mdash;only to be disappointed massively when just one of them managed to make it to the quarterfinals (and was subsequently disgraced with a 0-3).</p><blockquote>What does it take for a Worlds finalist region to degenerate so rapidly?</blockquote><p> It's been a tough year for Chinese esports overall, actually. Europe's got their number in Dota 2, North America slapped them down in Smite (who saw Enemy taking second at Smite Worlds? Nobody? Nobody), and they have no presence in any other event. For whatever reason, the second-most prestigious region in esports is looking like a paper tiger this spring. Or, to switch metaphors, their lavish spending and obsession with imports is looking more like a cargo cult than a legitimate infrastructural investment.</p><p> What does it take for a Worlds finalist region to degenerate so rapidly? Money isn't necessarily the root of the problem&mdash;but the problem is that China has proven that spending doesn’t necessarily lead to success. By treating talent as a discrete commodity to purchase, a fundamental point has been missed, I think, in regards to the care and nurturing needed to make it thrive&mdash;and questionable staffing decisions (like, to beat a dead equine, freaking Fireloli being anywhere near the stage) suggests that Chinese managers and coaches haven't yet gotten the point.</p><p> League of Legends is not a game where you can just hire DanDy and Mata and expect them to bail you out.</p><h3>Taiwan</h3><p> It is, however, totally the sort of game where smart substitution strategies can wreak utter havoc through the standings. I admit skepticism when Westdoor announced that he wasn't retiring&mdash;though I'll defend his legacy at the drop of the hat, it's been obvious for a long time that he's too narrowly focused as a player to avoid getting banned and focused out of games.</p><p> The good news is that AHQ was well aware of that too, and planned accordingly. Chawy, formerly of the Taipei Assassins (and before then, fellow GPL 2012 rivals Singapore Sentinels) is unbannable. He especially likes playing an unorthodox pool of control mages&mdash;his mid lane Zilean, repeated only once so far by any other region, had terrorized Taiwanese solo queue to the point that it's an auto-ban. The one time it leaked through, its area control utterly shut down any attempts to stall out or even fight against AHQ's tower-pushing. His only problem is that control mages rarely single-handledly shut out a game like Westdoor's assassins.</p><blockquote>Taiwan's inability to pay for stellar talent works in its favor</blockquote><p> That means Chawy can play all the red side games, and Westdoor plays all the blue siders. Between the preferential bans, the first-pick flex options, and the fact that both Ziv and Albis have been outright carries as well, Westdoor's champion pool weaknesses are neatly covered. As of yet, not a single LMS team has figured out how to break through AHQ's strategic shield&mdash;they've come close a couple times by throwing everything they've got at disrupting mid lane, but AHQ's integrative strengths both in and outside of the game itself has proven a daunting challenge.</p><p> If there's any region that can (eventually) produce the necessary teamwork to overcome that challenge, it might actually be the LMS. Regardless of whether or not they're still Worlds-quality, their talent-fostering has been producing serious fruit. They've reformed old bad players (REFRA1N is actually amazing now, but I remember him mostly being Karsa's lackluster predecessor), and their newer players like FW top laner Rins and Machi mid laner Apex have proven not only mechanically adept, but adept at teamplay as well.</p><p> If anything, it's almost as if Taiwan's inability to pay for stellar talent works in its favor. Trainee advancement through its farm teams to LMS level is actually common enough to be expected now&mdash;only Hong Kong Esports, privately funded by CEO Derek Cheung, is doing anything like the mainland circuit's talent acquisitions. Gash Bears, Gamania's attempt to re-enter the League of Legends scene, famously bought out a star roster, including Japan's Rokenia (who, in actuality, is a South Korean native).</p><p> Gash Bears were made a throw rug by YoLMS, a team consisting of a former Taipei Snipers vet and four untested rookies. YoLMS rebranded as HeatWave, got themselves sponsored by XGamers, and took a game off Worlds quarterfinalist Flash Wolves to make themselves the most successful rookie team since the start of the LMS.</p><p> Of course, they need to prove they can stick it out. The last successful rookie team got half their roster banned by stupid contract breaches: alas for Midnight Sun.</p><h3>South Korea</h3><p> If you want to see beautiful League of Legends played, it's not Taiwan or China you're looking at. It's still, and might always be, South Korea. The most recent game between ROX Tigers and SKT T1 was yet another apt demonstration why it was these two teams that deserved their respective finalist finishes at Worlds last season&mdash;a dance of strategy and guile that has not yet found a rival or equal anywhere else in the world.</p><p> Maybe that sounds like excess praise. And it certainly isn't as if they're immune to mistakes. SKT T1 alternate jungler Blank's single-man dive on Smeb raises all sorts of questions (he went in even after top laner Duke was sent flying a full screen away). But Korea didn't just survive China's poaching&mdash;they shrugged it off, won their third Worlds title in a row, and came into the spring split looking entirely unfazed.</p><blockquote>"We can make another Pawn. We can maybe even make another Faker, if we had to."</blockquote><p> Okay, fair. Afreeca Freecs and SBENU Sonicboom are pretty awful&mdash;their players have mechanical capabilities, but they play with all the coordination of a drunk duck. Longzhu IM isn't quite as good as people expected them to be, given the stacked deck they managed to build at the start of the split. But the fact remains that the Korean scene's only gone from strength to strength. Given the last couple years, they've retained the impression that there's going to be yet another superstar rookie just around the corner, or hidden in a lower-tier roster, just waiting to be recognized and picked up.</p><p> That sort of depth implies all sorts of things about their esports culture&mdash;the skill of its talent scouts, the dedication of its practitioners, and, ultimately, the expendability of even its best aces. Counter-intuitively, that last one is a good thing. Korea's high export rate of esports pros may have made the other circuits more exciting, particularly the NA LCS, but it's also a show of power. "We can make another DanDy at any time," it suggests. "We can make another Pawn. We can maybe even make another Faker, if we had to."</p><p> If they day ever comes when South Korea loses its vise-grip on the crown, it'll be when another region can finally say "we can too."</p><hr id="horizontal rule"><p> <img class="pulled-image pull-left" style="margin: 0px 10px 10px 0px;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Pcgp Logo Red Small"> <strong><a href="">PC Gamer Pro</a></strong> is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!</p> modder cracked openthe FFVI PC port, and found a surprise waiting underneath its 'remastered' surface.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 19:47:52 +0000 Fantasy VImoddingRPG <figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="FFVI Defilter mod by Nyxo." class=""><figcaption>FFVI Defilter mod by Nyxo.</figcaption></figure><p> Final Fantasy VI is a remarkable game. Ambitious and sprawling for a 1994 Super Nintendo RPG, it’s funny and charming and one of the most open-ended adventures Square has ever made. The Final Fantasy VI released on PC in December isn’t quite that game. It may play the same, and boast the (mostly) improved translation of the GBA port, but it also comes saddled with discordant graphical updates and a UI built for cell phones. But the PC version may end up being remarkable for another reason: its moddability.</p><p> Final Fantasy VI’s PC port was definitely not built to be fiddled with. Modders are doing it anyway. And unlike the typical PC port, Final Fantasy VI contains a surprise secret: a pristine copy of the Game Boy Advance ROM buried in its source code.</p><p> "Final Fantasy VI is sort of unique compared to the other Final Fantasys on Steam," said modder Christopher Cooper, who goes by the handle Krisan Thyme online. "Square actually have a copy of the original Final Fantasy VI inside the Steam release of Final Fantasy VI, and what they do is reference the original copy as a database to pull information such as cutscenes, where sprites are located, how the map is constructed, item stats, AI. It references all the stuff out of the original game, pulls it out, and constructs it in the new engine. It's pretty cool stuff, honestly. From a programming perspective it's a really clever solution to remastering the game, as opposed to remaking everything from the ground up. They just take the data from the old version, and render it out in a supposedly prettier way."</p><p> Modder <a href="">Jed Lang</a>, who goes by the handle Nyxo, has been leading the charge for VI modding with a tool he calls FFVI_Explore. Lang is the reason modders know about that ROM buried at VI's core. FFVI_Explore, which he released the first version of 12 days after the game hit Steam, was the breakthrough that allowed other modders to start digging into FFVI’s files. Lang’s tool extracts the game’s .obb container into its source files, laying bare sprites and tilesets and music and all the rest to be modified.</p><div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">FFVI_Explore</h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="FFVIExplore0"></p></div><p> “I want to crack the game open and provide the tools for somebody else to do the mods,” Lang told me when we chatted over Skype. “I have a keen interest in the data and how it's structured and abstracting that for the modders so they can get to the modding. I don't want them to have to know the nitty gritty details of where the byte goes and that sort of thing. I don't really have that much of an interest in doing the modding myself.”</p><p> Lang is unusual among modders&mdash;he has no great ambition to change Final Fantasy VI to meet his own vision, but simply enjoys the challenge of understanding how the game works. By day he works as the lead developer at <a href="">XGen Studios</a>. In his spare time, he’s improving FFVI_Explore to make it easier for modders to tinker with the game.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The original sprites mod is a work-in-process by Saftle." class=""><figcaption>The original sprites mod is a work-in-process by Saftle.</figcaption></figure><h3>Putting the pieces together</h3><p> Decoding FFVI's .obb container took some work. All of its data was stored as hashes, and Lang needed to uncover the true filenames to be able to extract the files. Digging around the executable, he figured out how the game was converting each file name into a number, then wrote a script to log each file name when the game ran. Playing for a few hours hours netted hundreds of file names, but only when the game called for them. He also googled for the filename list of the Android version of the game, which netted most of the rest. Eventually, Lang had determined 4983 filenames&mdash;only three eluded him.</p><p> Since his first release of FFVI_Explore, Lang has updated it with what he calls “modding mode,” which extracts all the files from the archive to your hard drive. “It changes the archive into a special format so that, basically, the end result is the game will stop looking for the files in the archive and instead will look for them on your hard drive,” he said. “But I can't realistically expect everybody who wants to play mods to switch their installation into this modding mode. So this is for people making mods. That gets into the last major feature, the patching feature. In modding mode it makes it easy to change a graphic, save the file to your hard drive, and see how it works. You don't have to put it back into the archive and tell FFVI to save the archive.”</p><figure><img class="" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lang's debugger, which he used to interpret and name files as he determines what they are."> <figcaption>Lang's debugger, which he used to interpret and name files as he determined what they were.</figcaption></figure><p> Lang said that reassembling the archive can take as long as five minutes on weaker systems; it takes 30 seconds on his speedy PC, but that’s a long time to wait to check out a sprite swap in-game. The modding mode avoids that problem. FFVI_Explore also allows mods to be distributed in two ways: as a stand-alone .fep file that requires users to have FFVI_Explore installed to manually patch their game, or as a self-applying .exe.</p><p> “I wanted to make it as easy as possible for anyone who wants to use mods, so I added a feature that lets you create a self-applying patch,” he said. “It actually creates an executable file that has the .fep file inside it. It says where's your FFVI installation and says okay, I'm applying the patch now. You just run this executable.”</p><p> As it stands now, FFVI_Explore only allows for replacing files. Modders can use it to completely overwrite the game’s sprites and backgrounds, for example, but they can’t use it to change game logic or rework the functionality of the UI. That degree of modification is more complex than a file explorer can support. But that GBA ROM nestled inside Final Fantasy VI’s port may be key to deeper modifications&mdash;even opening the game up to new player-crafted story and gameplay within the Final Fantasy VI engine.</p><p> Lang has been working with another modder, who goes by the handle Madsiur, to look into how the PC version of Final Fantasy VI uses that nestled GBA ROM. Madsiur is actually a console modder, with less experience on the PC but years of experience specifically modding the SNES and GBA versions of FFVI.</p><div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">HEx editing ffVI</h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="010 Editor"></p><p>Top: the main.obb file. Bottom: a template applied to the file to interpret it. </p></div><p> “So far from what we've seen, the ROM file is basically being used as a superdatabase,” Lang said. “All of the relationships between items and characters and maps, all of that actual data of the game, the executable just reads the data from the ROM file and applies it to its new graphics. That guarantees the integrity of the data. You're never going to have human error where you put the wrong item in a chest or something like that. You're using the exact same data as the GBA version.”</p><p> Once they’ve fully mapped out how the PC game interacts with the ROM file, Lang hopes to write an editor to do the same thing. Madsiur has <a href="">already written just such a tool</a> for the GBA version of VI. And that’s when modding will get really exciting.</p><p> “We can change what items are in a chest, where a chest is, make a new layout for a map. Things that aren't just graphics, just audio. To that point, some of the data read from that ROM--what they call event code, the way the game handles ‘cutscenes’ sort of, where the characters walk somewhere and talk to someone--all of that is handled through this event system. It looks like that is being read verbatim from the ROM. With that in mind we could write an editor for that. So players could theoretically write their own cutscenes.”</p><p> That breakthrough is hopefully on the horizon, and it’ll be a great day for Final Fantasy modders. But for most players, it’s safe to say interest in Final Fantasy VI modding lies with nostalgia, not a fan-made Final Fantasy VI-2. There are already a few graphics restoration projects underway for that very purpose.</p><h3>Final Fantasy VI mods in action</h3><p> If there’s one mod that nearly every Final Fantasy fan will be glad to see, it’s <a href="">Saftle’s FFVI with original sprites</a>. This project is far from finished, but modder Saftle has spent the past few weeks replacing the new sprites with their originals up through Figaro Castle. The sprites do noticeably stand out against the new high resolution backgrounds, but for anyone who’s played Final Fantasy VI before, they just feel right.</p><p> Here’s a video of Saftle’s mod in progress.</p><iframe src="//" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" width="500"></iframe><p> Some purists may also be happy to see a sprite mod that changes the Siren and Goddess espers to look like the original Japanese versions, which were <a href="">altered</a> for modern releases. Another modifies the new male character sprites to make their chests flatter, less puffed out. Both of those, along with the rest of the FFVI mods created so far, can be found <a href="">in this collection in the Steam community</a>.</p><p> Christopher Cooper deserves much of the credit for the well-organized Final Fantasy mod scene on PC. He established the <a href="">FF-Modding community</a> when he began modding Final Fantasy XIII-2 in late 2014. Each game has its own sub-forum, and for most of them Cooper or Saftle compiled a list of the available mods like the Final Fantasy VI one above.</p><p> He’s also released quite a few mods himself, though none for Final Fantasy VI yet. When XIII-2 was released, Cooper set out to make more monsters playable in the game. There wasn’t much community interest in modding the XIII games, but with VI, things seem to be on an upswing. It already has the most popular forum within the mod community, a month after release. And the mods are already pouring in.</p><p> While Lang was in the early stages of development on FFVI_Explore, he was sidetracked by the ugly bilinear filter used on the new sprites. It took him a couple hours to find every instance in the executable that referenced the filter and set it to ‘off’ instead of ‘on.’ <a href="">Its release</a> marked the first significant Final Fantasy VI mod. Shortly after, Cooper ported the same filter removal <a href="">over to Final Fantasy V</a>.</p><figure><img class="" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Left: Bilinear filter enabled. Right: The defilter mod in effect."> <figcaption>Left: Bilinear filter enabled. Right: The defilter mod in effect.</figcaption></figure><p> "It really didn't take more than like, 10 minutes to tell you the truth," Cooper said. "The engines are practically the same. I had looked into it before, but it's a little difficult to find every instance of the filtering inside the engine. Fortunately Nyxo, he's a beast for these types of things. So I looked at that and said oh, I know what to do now."</p><p> Lang is still chipping away at two filetypes in FFVI that he needs to fully understand before his tool will be able to extract them: audio .akb files and graphic .flb files. He’s working to make the .akb wrapper extractable so that modders can get to the familiar file format inside it&mdash;ogg vorbis&mdash;and modify it. Once FFVI_Explore can handle those files, we’ll start to see even more graphics and audio files modded into the game. The most ambitious project currently is a full-on respritening by modder pluckylump, who wants to recreate the characters to more closely resemble Yoshitaka Amano’s original concept art and character portraits. <a href="">His first efforts look great</a>, but drawing the entire game in Amano’s style could take years.</p><p> It's easy to be impatient when promising mods are in development, and easy to forget that modders are ultimately in it for fun, not money. Cooper, who's watched his community grow to more than 1800 members in the past six months, couldn't seem more pleased.</p><p> "Since I've started modding these games I've just had a blast talking to the community, hearing their ideas, testing out different things," he said. "It's been some of the most fun I've had modding in ages. I've had greater motivation to keep going than I ever have before as well. Most of my projects are pretty short-lived, but this is one that just keeps going and flourishing...&nbsp;VI only just came out and the modding tools have only started to get rolling. It's still a little early, but I think it's pretty obvious that the interest is there."</p>'s go back to Bezoar!Wed, 27 Jan 2016 19:25:49 +0000 Wild HogFPSHard ResetNews <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> I like Hard Reset, the 2011 FPS from Flying Wild Hog, and the first two sentences of <a href="">our review</a> explains why: “Bezoar isn't a city. It's an explosion with streets.” It's a silly game, with an inexplicable dedication to an utterly incomprehensible story&mdash;I know what it's about, but I'm still not entirely sure what actually happened&mdash;and, as we said in the review, the gameplay slides into a “wash, rinse, repeat” exercise in repetition in fairly short order. But by gosh, the stuff in it blows up real good, and sometimes that's enough.</p><p> All of which leaves me happy to say that an updated version of the game, called Hard Reset Redux, is now in the works. It's being built on the latest version of the Roadhog engine (which is also being used for <a href="">Shadow Warrior 2</a>) and will include all of the content in the original Hard Reset as well as the Exile expansion. The overhauled edition will feature improved graphics, new enemy variants, and changes to pacing and balance intended to smooth out some of the spikes in difficulty that cropped up in the original release. There's also a new dash movement option, and a “cyber-katana” melee weapon.</p><p> Neither a price nor a release date was announced&mdash;“coming soon,” as the trailer says, is all we've got to go on&mdash;but the original Hard Reset, packed with the Exile expansion into the Extended Edition, is currently on sale <a href="">on Steam</a> for $3/£2, if you want to see what it's all about. Alternatively, you can snag the demo, which includes the first level and a decent selection of enemies and weapons, for the low, low price of free.</p> Gothic Sector is not a happy place.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 18:37:34 +0000 Gothic: ArmadaFocus Home InteractiveNewsRTSTindalos Interactive <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> The <a href="">Battlefleet Gothic: Armada</a> narrative trailer is, as the name suggests, all about the story. In short, it goes like this: A huge Chaos fleet is massing, and you are the one tasked with doing something about it, even though your bosses don't seem to have a whole lot of confidence in your ability to get the job done. “Are you sure of this man?” the Supreme Grand Admiral asks his most trusted adviser. And the answer comes back, “Well, you know, not really. I guess we'll see how it works out.”</p><p> It all looks very gothic, in the pre-Renaissance sense, and so I like it (I dig archways and towering spires) even though there's nothing to see in the way of gameplay. Focus Home Interactive said cinematics like these, “astutely mixing game sequences with artwork created by talented artists,” will depict the progress of the game through good times and bad, which you will have to deal with as simultaneous events (and let's be honest, they're all bad) demand your attention and your effort.</p><p> Battlefleet Gothic: Armada preorders went live today <a href="">on Steam</a>, at ten percent off the regular $40/£30 price. The preorder bonus is interesting: “Early adopters” will get the Space Marines faction, playable in multiplayer modes and Skirmish mode against the AI, which will be available a few weeks after the game comes out. What makes it unusual is that the “<a href="">Early Adopters Edition</a>” will continue to be offered for two months <em>after</em> the game launches. In other words, you can wait for it to come out, see how it fares in reviews, and if you like what you see, still take advantage of the extra faction.</p><p> Preordering will also net access to the multiplayer beta which will take place a few weeks ahead of launch, so obviously you'll miss out on that if you wait. Even so, it seems to me like a pretty solid deal. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is set to come out later this year.</p>'s first foray into small cases has the looks to back up its name.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 18:35:14 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="NZXT The Manta" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Hardware manufacturers are putting out cases for small form factor builds all over the place now, and NZXT's first foray into the mini-ITX market is The Manta. According to <a href="">Tom's Hardware</a>, the case measures at 245 x 426 x 450mm, while still having room for plenty inside.</p><p>NZXT says that this is the first case of its kind to support up to three water-cooling radiators, one 120mm at the rear, and up to a 280mm radiator at the front and top.</p><p>There are three 2.5-inch bays, two 3.5-inch bays, and the curved steel panels means there is plenty of room for your cables. In addition, it has two external USB 3.0 ports, an audio/mic jack, rear I/O lighting, an intergrated PWM fan hub, and a PSU shroud. The whole thing weighs 7.2kg.&nbsp;</p><p>It looks pretty snazzy too, with its not-quite-rectangular design. You can get the case in windowed or non-windowed versions, with color options of matte white and black,&nbsp;matte red and black, or simple matte black for $140. They're available for&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">pre-order</a> now, and are expected to ship by February 9.&nbsp;</p> joy of switching off and just blowing things up.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 17:44:18 +0000 I Love <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dynasty Warriors 1"></p><div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">WHY I LOVE</h5><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Why I love small" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>In <a href="">Why I Love</a>, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Tom (pictured)&nbsp;dual wields games and not-games. What madness is this?</p></div><p>I frequently play games on one screen with some other entertainment playing on a second screen. Sometimes I'll play a game with a podcast in the background. Though not an uncommon habit, it's a little odd. If a piece of entertainment is worth consuming, shouldn't it be worth our complete attention?</p><p>Ideally, but&nbsp;just because a game lacks a worthwhile story doesn't mean it has nothing to give. I love the moment-to-moment monster-crushing of Diablo 3, but I've long since moved past the point where I have to learn new skill combinations or consider character builds too much. I like Dynasty Warriors 8 because I enjoy having amazing hair and inflicting 1000 hit combos on an army of enemy drones. Sometimes after a long day the idea of killing millions of cartoon characters seems appealing, even comforting, but I like to squeeze more into that time.&nbsp;I mean no disrespect to Dynasty Warrior's squealing guitar opera soundtrack, but I could be catching up on the latest episode of Serial while I blitz up Lu Bu with a giant bladed fan.&nbsp;</p><p>Two pieces of light entertainment can combine to create a bizarre entertainment megazord. I've doubtless missed out on some of the finer nuances of Arrow, but I can look away from my latest run on Ghom, Lord of Gluttony to watch Arrow arrow a guy, and giggle at the show's sillier turns.&nbsp;Overriding a game's soundtrack can create interesting effects too; the blistering speed and slow-motion crashes of Burnout Paradise takes on an extra dimension when you introduce a bit of Enya.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Space Marine - bloody splat"></p><p>This must dismay developers, who put huge amounts of thought into sound design. I find that custom soundtracks and podcasts can also soften the frustration of action roguelikes and frenzied score attack games like Geometry Wars, though this can create odd associations. Thanks to one particularly graphic podcast description of Gengis Khan's rampages in Europe, Wolfenstein: The New Order's shotgun noise and the siege of Baghdad are forever linked in my brain.</p><p>I doubled up on Wolfenstein only in my second run, but other games are a perfect fit right away. I've used audio to augment the delightfully splattery Space Marine, and Nuclear Throne. I have learned a lot listening to shows while gently mining and exploring in Starbound and Terraria. I can only handle death in Spelunky with some sonic aid. Games can have a message; they can be moving; they can be art. Sometimes, they can just be amazing mindless entertainment.</p><p>Those games are worth celebrating. It takes skill to make a game as idly satisfying as Downwell or Dynasty Warriors or Torchlight. Even though alone&nbsp;they can't completely hold my meagre attention span,&nbsp;they have given me countless hours of dumb, brainless fun.</p> Civilization 3: Mercenaries adds new races, a new campaign, and of course, mercenaries.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 17:00:00 +0000 Civilizations 3Galactic Civilizations 3: MercenariesNewsStrategy <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Torian 01"></p><p> The first expansion for&nbsp;<a href="">Galactic Civilizations 3</a>, called 'Mercenaries,' will be out on February 18. Stardock tells us that it includes a new campaign, two new factions, new ship parts,&nbsp;and&nbsp;over 70 new ships mixed in with some graphical improvements and new music.</p><p> As you probably guessed, Mercenaries also includes <em>mercenaries</em>. These new&nbsp;units will be hireable from the Galactic Bazaar, and aren't just&nbsp;for blowing stuff up, though I figure some of them will be good at that. Some will provide science boosts, for instance, so they become little bonuses you can maneuver to wherever you need help. Only a&nbsp;few mercenaries will be available in any given game, so it'll take some time to see them all. Additionally, if other civilizations hire away a mercenary, it's no longer available&mdash;though you may be able to infer some details about their strategy based on who they're putting on their payroll.</p><p> Details on the new campaign are sparse, except to say that you'll "lead the Torians to freedom from their Drengin oppressors." The aquatic&nbsp;Torians are one of the new races, joined by the Arceans, a warrior race.</p><p> The expansion will cost $20. Coming with it, though, is the&nbsp;1.6 update, which will be free to everyone and adds "more detailed match results" and a new game launcher. Stardock dropped off a trailer for&nbsp;Mercenaries, too, which is embedded&nbsp;below.</p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> everyone else isdoing it.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 16:34:02 +0000 <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="EA Play"></p><p> Do I have buzzwords for you. EA has announced "an all-new experience" on account of its players being "the driving force behind everything we do". In other words it's holding a convention, on&nbsp;June 12 in London and June 12-14 in&nbsp;LA&nbsp;and over the internet.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">We're excited to announce EA Play, an all-new event experience: <a href="">; <a href="">#PlayEA</a> <a href=""></a></p><p>&mdash; Electronic Arts (@EA) <a href="">January 27, 2016</a></p></blockquote><p> At&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">EA Play</a> you'll get to "experience hands-on game demos, live events, competition, special guest appearances, exclusive memorabilia" and other expo&nbsp;staples I don't immediately associate with an all-new experience, but details are thin on the ground, so I'm willing to allow EA&nbsp;the benefit of the doubt so long as we don't have to endure&nbsp;another marathon&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Garden Warfare</a> presentation.</p><p>What with the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">arrival of Origin Access</a> on PC too, EA is&nbsp;chanting that games-as-a-service mantra with alarming fervour.</p> simulation operating at capacity.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 15:38:20 +0000 Person ShooterWarhammer 40000: Eternal Crusade <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Furthering the Warhammer franchise's&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">conquest of every genre</a> in the universe, the MMO-ish, third-person shooter-y&nbsp;Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade has marched&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">into Early Access</a>, where it aims to remain for "a number of months".</p><p>In that time it will add "character progression, the strategic layer and territorial conquest", which, as I understand it, is the bulk of the game.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Eternal Crusade</a> is split into two sections: up to 30&nbsp;vs.&nbsp;30 PvP between the Orks, Eldar, Space Marines and their goth cousins, the outcome of which persists to give a semblance of overall territorial control, and five-player&nbsp;PvE against&nbsp;Tyranids that attack en masse. Over time, the game is set to develop into a true open world á la&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Planetside 2</a>.</p><p>For now, it's about getting to grips with basic combat between the Space Marines and Chaos Marines. Steam reviews suggest that much is on point.</p> far the odds don't look terrible.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 14:44:15 +0000 Is StrangeNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Life Is Strange 2"></p><p>Square Enix seems determined to make&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Life is Strange</a> a social endeavour, in the charitable rather than&nbsp;Facebook connectivity sense, which is logical, I suppose, given that many of its events&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">affect us&nbsp;all</a> at some point or another. Apart from the time travelling.&nbsp;First there was an&nbsp;anti-bullying hashtag campaign, #EverydayHeroes, and now Dontnod has launched a photography competition by the same name. There's a $10,000 photography&nbsp;scholarship to be won.</p><p>Entrance is limited to residents of the US or&nbsp;Canada (sorry, Quebec, not you), so&nbsp;if you suspect you might live&nbsp;in either of those places, Dontnod invites you to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">submit a photo</a> "that best represents yourself or others exonerating heroism"&nbsp;by 11:59pm PST,&nbsp;February 16. Three runners-up will have their photos printed, signed and framed by the dev team.</p><p>The featured photos wall is currently&nbsp;90% selfies and people feeding their cats, so if you can work one of them there DSLRs, I&nbsp;rate your chances.</p><p>Sure, it's likely a large&nbsp;part publicity stunt, but events like Awesome Games Done Quick have shown&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">how much good</a> a determined bunch of gamers can do, so play on I say.</p> of the Tomb Raider is a substantial improvement.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 14:00:00 +0000 of the Tomb Raider <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">NEED TO KNOW</h5> <p> <strong>What is it:</strong> The second action adventure outing for the rebooted Lara Croft.<br> <strong>Expect to pay:</strong> £40 / $60<br> <strong>Developer: </strong>Crystal Dynamics<br> <strong>Publisher: </strong>Square Enix<br> <strong>Reviewed on: </strong>Windows 10, 8GB RAM, i5-3570k, GeForce GTX 970<br> <strong>Multiplayer: </strong>None<br> <strong>Link:</strong> <a href="">; </p> </div><p> The opening minutes of Rise of the Tomb Raider had me worried. It starts with Lara trudging slowly through the snow, my only requirement being to hold W as the game plays itself around me. All of sudden, I'm having flashbacks to 2013's Tomb Raider reboot and its interminable, set-piece heavy introduction. At one point during a cutscene laden climbing tutorial, I miss a prompt, fall and die. Redoing the section, I hit the prompt, climb a few feet higher, and watch another cutscene in which Lara falls but is fine. Here we go again? Actually, no.</p><p> The opener is frustrating, but over quickly. From then on, Rise of the Tomb Raider sticks to a mostly consistent level of interactivity. There's still plenty of set-piece spectacle, but these pace-breaking action segments trust you to read the visual clues of the environment and react using the appropriate controls. There's a level of artifice to these sequences, but they operate within the framework of established interactions. This is emblematic of RotTR as a whole. It's not that Tomb Raider's missteps have been eradicated, but they've been dramatically lessened. There are less slow-mo QTE sequences, less awkward conversations, less by-the-numbers miniboss fights. They're all still there, but take up significantly less of 15-or-so hour running time.</p><p> Lara's latest adventure opens in Siberia, and&mdash;aside from an early sojourn in Syria&mdash;that's where it stays. Lara is on the hunt for the Divine Source, an artifact that her father had obsessed over before his death. There's an important difference in the plots of RotTR and its predecessor. Here, Lara has initiated her quest. While things quickly spiral out of control, particularly after the appearance of militaristic cult Trinity, she's no longer an unwilling participant in events.</p><p>That's crucial to how the game treats Lara. In Tomb Raider, she was frequently battered, bruised and impaled&mdash;and that's just if you were playing well. In RotTR, Lara can fall foul to a number of fatal traps, but in regular play she no longer feels like a victim of her environment. That's not to say the story isn't clumsy in places. There are times when the it all goes a little bit Avatar. Lara stumbles across a tribe called the Remnant, and&mdash;despite their having lived in this Siberian wilderness for generations&mdash;she quickly proves to be the best at hunting, climbing and gunning down an entire army.</p><p>Other elements of the story work much better. This is still Lara's origin, but, while she hasn't yet embraced her role as a globetrotting murderess, she is at least more accepting of it. There's a resolve that didn't exist before, and that means there's no clumsy disconnect between the story of a woman traumatised by her actions and the gleeful feeling of killing off a camp full of bad guys. It's just as well, because the combat remains highly enjoyable. Rise of the Tomb Raider&mdash;like its predecessor&mdash;deftly blends stealth and action. Most enemies begin unaware of Lara's presence, giving you the scope to creep through bushes and behind cover. With patience, and by chucking around objects to provide distractions, it's possible to systematically and silently clear out most enemy patrols. Often, it's more fun to take out a couple of guys and then choose to initiate a firefight.</p><p>Lara has access to a small selection of weapon types&mdash;pistol, rifle and shotgun&mdash;with a variety of styles available in each category. Most feel good to fire, the panicked inaccuracy of the automatic rifle being the only real exception. Pistols feel lightweight and clinical, while the pump-action shotgun is a chunky and gratifyingly deadly option. Once again, though, the bow is star of the show. Having to draw back and charge shots provides a nice rhythm to the combat, especially in conjunction with some of the skill upgrades available as Lara levels up. I especially enjoy the feel of the rapid fire skills, which let you instantly fire off fully charged follow up arrows after your initial shot. Aimed correctly, and you can down even heavily armed guards with a single salvo.</p><p>New for this outing is Lara's ability to craft combat tools on-the-fly. Arrows and special ammo can be created at any point, but you can also make use of things found around enemy camps. A bottle can be turned into a molotov cocktail; an empty can an IED. Doing so costs resources found out in the world, but I was never so low on them that I was unable to set light to a clustered group of soldiers. You craft combat tools by holding the middle-mouse button, thus keeping your keyboard hand free to control Lara's movements. As a result, scrabbling between cover while grabbing and arming a can is a frictionless process. It gives combat a welcome feeling of fluidity.</p><p> When you're not fighting for your life&mdash;be it against soldiers or the crumbling ruins of an action set piece&mdash;you're exploring one of a handful of large, open hub areas. These are sprawling, intricate environments, and, for the most part, you can leisurely pick through them&mdash;the only distractions coming from the occasional wolf, bear or big cat that's taken a disliking to your continued existence. Platforming in Rise of the Tomb Raider follows a standard set of interactions, thrown together in a variety of combinations. Jump, swing, grab, attach&mdash;each action requiring a specific button press. It's a simple, streamlined system, and with the correct taps of space, E and F, you'll seldom run into any problems. It's a shame there's not more danger, but the presentation does a lot of the heavy lifting. Scaling giant buildings or huge cliff faces still feels risky, even as the interactions involved are slim.</p> <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">PERFORMANCE AND SETTINGS</h5> <p> <strong>Graphics options: </strong>Lots, including a range of AA and anisotropic filter settings, as well as customisable texture quality, shadow quality, ambient occlusion, depth of field, tessellation, screen space reflections, dynamic foliage, bloom, motion blur, lens flair, and, most importantly, PureHair.<br> <strong>Remappable controls:</strong> Yes<br> <strong>Gamepad support:</strong> Yes<br> <br> Despite arriving months after the Xbox One version, the PC release of Rise of the Tomb Raider is a quality product&mdash;Square Enix's ongoing relationship with Nixxes again paying dividends. The graphics options are plentiful, with a variety of ways to tweak and customise the experience. While my 970 GTX couldn't keep up with the demands of running every option at maximum&mdash;dropping to a stutter during cutscenes and set pieces&mdash;a few sensible reductions had it running smoothly and consistently at 60 frames per second. </p> </div><p> Each area is packed with things to find, and the rewards for hunting out collectibles often makes their presence worthwhile. Ancient documents fill out the story of the region, and level up your proficiency in one of the three languages you'll encounter. With a high enough language level, Lara can decode monoliths that mark down the location of coin caches on the map. Collect enough coins, and you can purchase special upgrades. Elsewhere, you'll find optional challenge tombs that boast some of the game's most intricate puzzle design. Each is short, but they repurpose some of the standard interactions in new and interesting ways. They're always worth seeking out, not least because they reward useful new skills.</p><p> If there's a downside to the game's exploration, it's that&mdash;as in Tomb Raider before it&mdash;collectibles feel like the end goal rather than a bonus along the way. The route Lara must take through an area is rarely in question, especially when you're only ever a button press away from Survival Instinct&mdash;an optional view mode that highlights your next objective, any pertinent puzzle pieces, and any resources or collectibles for Lara to snaffle up. I miss the puzzle aspect of pre-reboot Tomb Raider games, where tombs felt like cavernous brain teasers. Lara visits plenty of ruins on this adventure, but all of them are solved through familiar and comfortable interactions. With only a few notable exception, surprise comes through spectacle rather than design.</p><p> Outside of the campaign, you'll find Expeditions&mdash;a series of custom score attack modes that let you apply modifying cards to alter the challenge. Some card packs are earned for tasks completed in the campaign, and others can be purchased with points gained by playing Expeditions mode challenges. There's also the option to spend real money on card packs, which seems overkill given how frivolous the mode seems. Nevertheless, there are plenty of fun mutators that can be stacked to create unexpected combat encounters. It's also possible to play custom challenges created by other players, or create and upload your own.</p><p> In many ways, Rise of the Tomb Raider is peak sequel design: an incredible similar game with a set of expanded and additional systems. But RotTR is also better because it lets you spend more time engaging with those systems. While it doesn't fully eradicate the missteps around the edges of interactivity, it does let you spend longer enjoying the core action and exploration. As a result, it's an incredibly competent action platformer.</p> nothing has been buffed.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 12:38:19 +0000 Wars BattlefrontThird Person Shooter <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Boba Fett Star Wars Battlefront Lighting fix"></p><p>I'm beginning to understand why Han shot Greedo over a cantina table&mdash;any further away and the blast&nbsp;wouldn't have warmed his ears. The latest&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Star Wars&nbsp;Battlefront</a> patch is a sweeping series of&nbsp;nerfs, not least to Solo's firepower. His&nbsp;damage now ranges between 70 (down from 75) to 30 (from 35) over a distance of between 10 metres&nbsp;(previously 20) and 20 metres&nbsp;(previously 40).</p><p>Things are worse for happy-go-lucky bounty hunter Boba Fett. His&nbsp;missile no longer locks on, weapon damage has been remodelled&nbsp;from 30 to 20 (was 25) between 30 and 60 (was 80) meters, and the radius of wristlauncher explosions is down from 4m to a tiddly little 2.5m. Both heroes' ships have had 30% knocked off their health in Fighter Squadron mode.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Battlefront Cycler Rifle Star Card"></p><p>Weapons and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Star Cards</a> have also been scaled down, with the exception of the Cycler Rifle (known variously as the bane of my life and "Oh, ffs!"), which now has reduced bullet drop and increased damage at close range&mdash;it's a guaranteed one-shot kill under 10m. Mercifully, the notorious&nbsp;DL-44 pistol has had its fire rate pushed all the way back to 180 from 250.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">full list of nerfs</a> is extensive, but there's some happier news for detractors of, well, every spawn system DICE comes up with. More spawn points have been added in Supremacy, Walker Assault and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Turning Point</a> modes, and the way spawning adapts to&nbsp;small and large games has been revamped. If that's not new and shiny enough for you, Andy has the details on Battlefront's&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">next three chunks</a> of DLC.</p> in teleport network plummet.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 11:22:30 +0000 Wars 2: Heart of ThornsMMONews <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>The&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Guild Wars 2</a> Winter Update 2016 is live and it's a big one, bringing the sort of change WoW reserved for its Cataclysm expansion. Gliding, introduced to the Maguuma Jungle&nbsp;in&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Heart of Thorns</a>, is now available throughout the world, meaning you can now hurl yourself from the spires of Divinity's Reach or&nbsp;splatter artistically across the cobbles in Lion's Arch.</p><p>The staple Shatterer fight in Blazeridge Steppes has been revamped to account for aerial assaults, rocking new tactics and minions to relieve that feeling of déjà&nbsp;vu that comes with having slain him 500 times before.</p><p>Commanders are able to fully command their squads at last using an age-old leadership strategy: delegation. Lieutenants can be promoted to&nbsp;organise subgroups and broadcast orders, while&nbsp;squad leaders can place markers in the world and on the minimap.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Tyria Gliding Guild Wars 2"></p><p>Just for laughs, the Eldvin Monastery Brew of the Month Club has opened its doors in Queensdale, offering a new artisanal, micro-brewed, filtered-through-the-beard-of-a-hipster craft ale each month&mdash;an update&nbsp;very much in keeping with the PCG office brand, I have to say.&nbsp;Sample all 12 and you'll be rewarded with a title, backpack, guild decoration and liver cirrhosis.</p><p>Of course there's the usual&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">rebalancing and un-balancing</a> and the re-rebalancing that's sure to follow, but why worry about the numbers when it's party time in Divinity's Reach? The Lunar New Year is underway until February 9. From the Crown&nbsp;Pavilion&nbsp;you can let off dodgy fireworks and have a crack at the Dragon Ball&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">PvP minigame</a>.</p><p>Full patch notes&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> (much, much) harder.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 06:21:38 +0000 LightNews <iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p><a href="">Dying Light: The Following</a> launches early next month, and in addition to a whole new playable area, buggies and a bunch of silly (read: more brutal) weaponry, there's going to be a new difficulty mode. Predictably enough, the new difficulty mode will be very hard, so Techland have called it 'nightmare' mode.&nbsp;</p><p>The video above is designed to tell you all you need to know about 'nightmare mode', but the gist of it is this: night time lasts longer, you lose all accrued XP upon death and&nbsp;zombies hit harder. Meanwhile, active skills will deplete your stamina bar and certain 'easter egg' weapons designed to make the game a bit easier won't be available. The upside of all this is that you'll earn more XP while playing in nightmare mode.</p><p>The Following releases<a href=""> on February 9</a>. If you don't already own the game, it'll be re-released in an Enhanced Edition featuring all of the DLC released thus far and some graphical tweaks.</p> talk about our hands-on time with Far Cry Primal,make the Steam controller sing songs for our amusment, and lots more!Wed, 27 Jan 2016 00:26:32 +0000 ControllerThe PC Gamer Show've never seen a game like it," Romero claims.Wed, 27 Jan 2016 00:07:25 +0000 RomeroNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="romero-pcgamer"></p><p>John Romero, he of Doom and Quake fame, is working on a new shooter. We've known that&nbsp;<a href="">since 2014</a>, but he hasn't spoken about it since. In fact, he's barely spoken about it now, but at a Zurich games convention this week he let on that he thinks it has a unique concept we haven't seen before.</p><p>“I don't want to talk about it because it's a really cool idea, it's a unique idea,” Romero told&nbsp;<a href="">Develop</a>. “I've never seen a game like it.</p><p>“I'm really excited to start making it because it's just a great idea. Instead of just pumping out game after game after game, it's like waiting to come up with something that's really unique, that no-one's seen before, and enables you to make something that you hope will be really amazing. So, we'll see. It's got a pretty cool fiction around it. It's got an interesting story.”</p><p>It's worth reading&nbsp;<a href="">the whole article</a>, though no firm details can be construed from the vague quotes given by Romero and his partner Brenda Romero. The duo's studio Loop Drop specialise in iOS and Android titles, so it'll be interesting to see Romero re-join the PC fold (assuming, nay hoping, that he does).&nbsp;</p><p>In the meantime, he's been&nbsp;<a href="">busy building Doom levels</a>.</p> is a proverbial "glass cannon."Tue, 26 Jan 2016 23:33:41 +0000 of the StormMOBANewsPro <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> Li-Ming, the “rebellious wizard” and one of two Diablo-themed <a href="">Heroes of the Storm</a> characters <a href="">announced last week</a>, is now available for play on the Public Test Realm. She arrives as part of the next major patch, which also includes new portraits for Cho'gall, Artanis, Tassadar, and Zeratul, a new open source replay protocol, and a “mysterious creature” that may turn up at the beginning of PTR games.</p><p> The patch makes numerous changes large and small, but the centerpiece is Li-Ming, who fires Magic Missiles and an Arcane Orb, can teleport short distances, and unleashes Disintegrate and Wave of Force attacks as her Heroic Abilities. But while she can dish out tremendous amounts of burst damage, she can take very little.</p><p> “Li-Ming perfectly embodies the 'glass cannon' archetype,” Blizzard said. “Li-Ming’s core damaging abilities, Magic Missiles and Arcane Orb, deal high amounts of damage, but can be avoided by aware and fast-reacting enemies. Anticipating enemy movement and maintaining the proper positioning with Teleport will be key for successfully playing this hero to her maximum potential.”</p><p> A full breakdown of the new Heroes of the Storm patch can be found on <a href=""></a>. It will be live on the PTR until February 1.</p> of Legends led the way, but World of Warcraft is still in the mix.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 23:19:45 +0000 <p>Market research firm Superdata says the digital games market in 2015 was <a href="">worth $61 billion</a> across all platforms, an increase of eight percent over 2014. Digital sales on consoles saw the greatest year-over-year jump at 34 percent, but the big dog in the digital pack was none other than <a href="">League of Legends</a>, with 2015 revenues of $1.6 billion dollars.</p><p>Number two on the overall list is the mobile game Clash of Clans, which pulled in a very impressive $1.3 billion over the year. But the PC rounds out the top five with Smilegate's Crossfire (which will soon be <a href="">brought to the West</a> by Starbreeze) at $1.1 billion, Dungeon Fighter Online from Neople at $1.05 billion, and the ancient, immortal World of Warcraft, which in its 11th year of existence earned $814 million dollars.&nbsp;</p><p>Perhaps unexpectedly, given the rise of mobile gaming, the report also states that the top ten PC games actually pull in more money than the top ten mobile games, with $6.3 billion earned on PC compared to $6.1 billion on mobile. The overall gap in market value is even wider.&nbsp;</p><p>“PC-based gaming&mdash;consisting of free-to-play MMOs, subscription-based games like World of Warcraft, social games and PC downloadable games&mdash;earns over $32 billion annually, well above the $25.1 billion generated by mobile games,” the report states. “Three of the year’s top five digital PC games (Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3) were released in 2015, indicating that PC gamers have made significant progress transitioning to purchasing games digitally.”</p><p>The full list of top-grossing PC games in 2015, in millions:</p><ol> <li>League of Legends (Tencent/Riot Games): $1,628</li><li>CrossFire (SmileGate): $1,110</li><li>Dungeon Fighter Online (Neople): $1,052</li><li>World of Warcraft (Activision Blizzard): $814</li><li>World of Tanks ( $446</li><li>Lineage 1 (NCsoft): $339</li><li>Maplestory (Nexon): $253</li><li>DOTA 2 (Valve): $238</li><li>Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (Valve): $221</li><li>Grand Theft Auto V (Take-Two Interactive): $205</li></ol> can change the nature of one of the greatest RPGs ever made?Tue, 26 Jan 2016 22:34:47 +0000 EntertainmentNewsRPGTorment: Tides of Numenera <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" width="610" frameborder="0" height="343"></iframe><p> InXile's party-based RPG <a href="">Torment: Tides of Numenera</a> went into beta last week&mdash;provided, that is, that you'd <a href="">backed the game on Kickstarter</a> at a level that offered beta access as a reward. For everyone else, it was tough noogies until today. But now the game is live on Early Access, and if you just can't wait until it's finished to play it, you can leap into the action right now.</p><p> The Early Access release weighs in at an estimated ten hours of play, a sizable chunk for a beta but still a relatively small slice of the roughly 50-hour length of the full game. And even though it was <a href="">delayed</a> late last year to make it “a more polished and complete beta test,” inXile warned that “you will almost definitely encounter bugs,” including a couple that can stop the game dead in its tracks.</p><p> “We do not have a set update schedule, but we will be doing rolling updates before final release later this year to address your most-requested ideas and get more feedback as the game evolves and improves,” the studio wrote in the <a href="">Early Access announcement</a>. “Torment is in active development, and you will be gaining access to development snapshots&mdash;this means that we will be implementing hundreds or thousands of changes every build, so you will see the game grow along with us.”</p><p> Torment: Tides of Numenera is the “thematic successor” to the much-loved (and criminally-ignored) Black Isle RPG <a href="">Planescape: Torment</a>, and going by the description on Steam, its lineage runs very true. “You are born falling from orbit, a new mind in a body once occupied by the Changing God, a being who has cheated death for millennia. If you survive, your journey through the Ninth World will only get stranger&hellip; and deadlier,” it says. “With a host of strange companions&mdash;whose motives and goals may help or harm you&mdash;you must escape an ancient, unstoppable creature called the Sorrow and answer the question that defines your existence: What does one life matter?”</p><p> Torment: Tides of Numenera is $45/£31 <a href="">on Steam</a>. A full release date hasn't been announced but when <a href="">last we looked</a>, it was expected to be ready to fly later this year.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Torment: Tides of Numenera"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Torment: Tides of Numenera"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Torment: Tides of Numenera"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Torment: Tides of Numenera"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Torment: Tides of Numenera"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Torment: Tides of Numenera"></p> favorite Arisens and pawns from PC Gamer reader submissions. Come find a pawn to hire!Tue, 26 Jan 2016 21:30:00 +0000's Dogma: Dark Arisen down the fort as CTs.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 20:00:00 +0000 Global OffensiveFPSPro <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Cobblestone Defense Header"></p> <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">Call-outs</h5> <p> <a href="">Here's an overview of the map</a>, including call-outs that are helpful to know. </p> </div><p> Cobblestone has seen many iterations over the years. Up until this current version, it's been heavily CT-sided. Since this isn't the case anymore, you will have to be a bit more creative if you want to score those rounds.</p><p> First, let's talk about the map itself. Most games tend to be centered around the B-site. There are several reasons for this. First of all it's easy to isolate defending players on B with smokes. Secondly the terrorists will generally use AK47 whereas you are stuck with M4A4 or M4A1-s. They can prefire the most common angles with a weapon that has the potential to kill you with a single bullet. You will have to react to them stepping out, and if you're fast enough you will still have to hit them at least twice.</p><p> Then you have the stairs between B-halls and mid. If they rotate from B to A they can simply drop down the stairs and be there in no time. It takes a lot longer to run up the stairs and rotate from A to B.</p><h3>The lone soldier on A</h3><p> Unless you notice that the terrorists have a tendency to attack A, I would recommend to play with only one defender on A. His job will be to support the B-players as much as he can as well as to push for information and call for backup if needed. A lot of the time he won't need his smoke, so he can throw it over to B and smoke off long. That way you'll have four smokes ready on B.</p><p> <img class="gfyitem" alt="SizzlingPitifulIndianjackal (gfyCat video) " data-id="SizzlingPitifulIndianjackal" data-controls="false" data-title="false" data-autoplay="true" data-expand="true"></p><p> After that he should sit around corners at CT ramp, long A or stairs. He will listen for footsteps and check for flashes and smokes. If he thinks that they're coming to A, he should try to survive for as long as possible. If the B-players manage to take control over long B or other key areas around B, the A-guy can fall back to the bombsite and one of the players from B can rotate and support him.</p><p> If he can't see or hear anyone he can try to move in for the backstab through Z. If he does, timing is crucial. Wait for the terrorists to initiate their attack, or else there’s a good chance they will have at least one player waiting for the lurker coming in from behind.</p><p> Should problem arise over at B, your brave soldier from A shouldn’t hesitate. He can either go in through connector door and call for a flash from drop room or throw the flash himself. This flash will blind any terrorist tucked in the corner outside door, making it a lot easier to initiate the retake attempt.</p><p> <img class="gfyitem" alt="FrighteningJealousBedbug (gfyCat video) " data-id="FrighteningJealousBedbug" data-controls="false" data-title="false" data-autoplay="true" data-expand="true"></p><p><em>On the next page: getting creative around B.</em></p><h3>Creative B-plays</h3><p> If you decide to play with only one player at A, you will have four players at your disposal for some really creative B-plays. For starters you want to go for less obvious angles and try your best to cause <a href="">communication breakdown</a> (great song, great band, great hair!) and force the terrorists to check more angles. Boosting a player up on top of the cube is one way to achieve this effect. That player will also be able to peek over most of the smokes that the terrorists might use:</p><p> <img class="gfyitem" alt="FragrantVagueDarklingbeetle (gfyCat video) " data-id="FragrantVagueDarklingbeetle" data-controls="false" data-title="false" data-autoplay="true" data-expand="true"></p><p> If your opponents have a tendency to push long B, you can slow them down with a smoke, followed by a molotov and a flash. Stand next to the cube and throw the smoke. After that you can line up the molotov and call for a flashbang from a teammate. What will happen is that your enemies will get blinded and hopefully back off to the corner just outside arch. If that's the case, they won't know that they're slowly burning to death!</p><p> <img class="gfyitem" alt="IndelibleBlondDotterel (gfyCat video) " data-id="IndelibleBlondDotterel" data-controls="false" data-title="false" data-autoplay="true" data-expand="true"></p><p> Even if they don't you will slow down the push, allowing both the A-player to move in from behind and the guys around drop to be a little creative. Used with proper timing the boost from drop room can be lethal, but remember: it's a risk! First of all you want to lay down a smoke screen before you boost, unless the boost is used to peek for information. Try to smoke sometimes even if you don't boost. That way it will be more difficult for the terrorists to read the play when you actually go for it.</p><p> <img class="gfyitem" alt="RevolvingPoorDeermouse (gfyCat video) " data-id="RevolvingPoorDeermouse" data-controls="false" data-title="false" data-autoplay="true" data-expand="true"></p><p> Drop room can be quite tricky to defend. I like to have one player just outside and one close to connector, ready to assist. If you stand inside drop, chances are you will get flashed and subsequently killed without being able to help your team at all that round. This flash can work wonders. Try it a few times and you'll get the timing right. If the terrorists turn their backs, you will turn those backs into swiss cheese. If they don't, they won't be able see a thing and you can just finish them off.</p><p> <img class="gfyitem" alt="VibrantShamelessDunlin (gfyCat video) " data-id="VibrantShamelessDunlin" data-controls="false" data-title="false" data-autoplay="true" data-expand="true"></p><h3>Be careful!</h3><p> It's tempting to hide inside the hen house and try to be a little sneaky. But remember that a single molotov will force you out in the open to a very disadvantageous position where you can consider yourself lucky if you're able to fire even a single bullet.</p><p> You have to be careful when you try to lurk around the map. If the A-player gets caught with his pants down, you might not have enough time to rotate over to A. And even if you do, they might turn around and attack B instead. Cobblestone is a map where you really need all your players alive until your opponents commit to one site.</p><hr id="horizontal rule"><p> <img class="pulled-image pull-left" style="margin: 0px 10px 10px 0px;" data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Pcgp Logo Red Small"> <strong><a href="">PC Gamer Pro</a></strong> is dedicated to esports and competitive gaming. Check back every day for exciting, fun and informative articles about League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, CS:GO and more. GL HF!</p>'s update includes a Private Match option and free outfits for Luke and Han.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 19:43:26 +0000 ArtsFPSNewsStar Wars Battlefront <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Star Wars Battlefront"></p><p>Electronic Arts has <a href="">announced</a> the settings for three of the four planned DLC packs included in the <a href="">Star Wars Battlefront</a> Season Pass, beginning with Outer Rim, a trip to Sullust and Tatooine that's scheduled to happen in March. Ahead of that will be a handful of free updates, the first of which will go live tomorrow with a new option to create private matches, plus Daily Challenges, Community Events, and some free stuff.</p><p>Tomorrow's update will include a Tatooine Survival map called Raider Camp that will support the Blast, Droid Run, Drop Zone, Hero Hunt, and Heroes vs. Villains multiplayer modes. There will also be Hoth-themed outfits for Luke and Han&mdash;I'm imaging Luke running around in a zip-up tauntaun suit, bleating pathetically at anyone who ventures too close&mdash;and the usual balance tweaks to weapons and multiplayer modes. </p><p>Another free update, scheduled for February, will add a new Survival mission on Hoth, and a new Hoth multiplayer map that will support large-scale modes like Walker Assault, Supremacy, Fighter Squadron, and Turning Point. A third update in March will drop a new multiplayer map on Endor, and another Tatooine Survival map.</p><p>March will also, barring unforeseen catastrophe, see the launch of Outer Rim, the first piece of the Star Wars Battlefront Season Pass puzzle, which will put players into the factories of Sullust and Jabba's palace on Tatooine. After that, sometime in the summer, will come Bespin and its famed Cloud City, followed in the autumn by Death Star. The fourth and final release in the Season Pass is called Title TBA, which I'm assuming is some kind of bounty hunter droid type of thing.</p><p>(That's a joke, by the way. EA said details about the fourth expansion will be revealed “in the coming months.”)</p><p>It all sounds like good fun, but as we noted <a href="">back in November</a> of last year, the Star Wars Battlefront Season Pass is one of the most expensive we've run into, selling for $50/£40 <a href="">on Origin</a>. </p> show starts live at 1PM Pacific. Come watch!Tue, 26 Jan 2016 19:30:00 +0000 PC Gamer Show <iframe src="" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" height="378" width="620"> </iframe><p> Every Tuesday at 1 PM Pacific we broadcast&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The PC Gamer Show</a> live from our office. It's your chance to get your questions answered live on Twitch, and hear us talk&nbsp;about gaming news, hardware, and what we're playing.</p><p> This week,&nbsp;Tim tells us&nbsp;about his time with Far Cry Primal, we take a look at The Witness, Her Story 2 has been announced,&nbsp;and more&mdash;including a&nbsp;Catfantastic quiz featuring a singing Steam controller, and&nbsp;our usual Twitch Chat Q&amp;A.&nbsp;</p><p> Watch along today&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">on Twitch</a>, and toss us some feedback on&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a> or here in the comments!&nbsp;</p><p> <em>You can also listen to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">last week's episode right here</a>.</em></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The PC Gamer Show with logo 2"></p><p> <em>The awesome images we use for the show were made for us&nbsp;in Source Film Maker by Ness "Uberchain" Delacroix. You can find </em><em>her&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">DeviantArt page here</a> and her&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Patreon page here</a>.</em></p> Mode is a four-player co-op fight against the KPA.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 19:10:52 +0000 SilverFPSHomefront: The RevolutionNewsVideo <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> Deep Silver has revealed a new four-player co-op mode for the upcoming shooter <a href="">Homefront: The Revolution</a> called Resistance Mode. We actually have a good <a href="">hands-on look at it right here</a> and I would encourage you to pop over and give it a read, because it sounds like a ton of fun. But before you go, why not watch the trailer?</p><p> Resistance Mode looks like a fairly straightforward survival mode at first blush, with variable classes, weapon upgrades between rounds, and wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies to deal with. But Deep Silver says the missions will be “narrative-driven,” and there will be a lot of them: The plan is to launch with a dozen Resistance Mode missions in the game, and then put out another 20 over the first year of release, all of them free.</p><p> It's hard to say how far Resistance Mode will deviate from the standard "fight 'til you die" formula in actual practice, but the preview does make it sound like a blast&mdash;although I'm not sure the guy who got run down by our erstwhile hero and then yelled at for being irresponsible would share that perspective. In any event, I'm definitely looking forward to trying it myself. Homefront: The Revolution comes out on May 20.</p> a Lenovo laptop? Make sure your ShareIt app is up to date.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 18:40:16 +0000 <p>Earlier this week,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Core Security</a> shared an advisory calling out a severe security threat in Lenovo's ShareIt program for Windows and Android. The app, which allows you to share files between PCs and mobile devices, had a hard-coded password that is the same on every device when it sets up a Wi-Fi Hotspot to receive files. Not only that, it's a pretty terrible password too: 12345678. That's the kind of password <a href="">an idiot would have on his luggage</a>.</p><p>Thankfully, Lenovo has patched the issue, so if you're using ShareIt Android version 3.0.18_ww or Windows version, make sure it's up to date.&nbsp;</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lenovo Y50 Gaming Laptop 625x351"></p><p>According to Core Security, the flaw meant that if you could connect to the Hotspot over a WiFi connection and input the simple password, you'd be able to browse the file system of the device remotely by performing an HTTP request to the WebServer. Files were also transferred via HTTP without encryption, meaning data could be viewed as it was transferred, and also allowing man in the middle attacks.&nbsp;</p><p>This is the second time in 12 months that Lenovo has had to fix big security flaws. In February last year, its laptops came pre-installed with the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Superfish software that made the hardware vulnerable</a> to all sorts of attacks.&nbsp;</p> Smedley, former head of Daybreak Games(formerly SOE) and current head of Pixelmage Games, shows off his beastly PC.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 18:22:04 +0000 Smedleyshow us your rig <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Show Us Your Rig John Smedley 1"></p> <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title" style="margin-left: 0px;">Show us your rig</h5> <p> Each week on <a href="" target="_blank">Show Us Your Rig</a>, we feature PC gaming's best and brightest as they show us the systems they use to work and play. </p> </div><p>Truth be told, we've been trying to have John Smedley on&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Show Us Your Rig</a> since he was the head of Daybreak Games, and Daybreak was still called Sony Online Entertainment. Now he's the head of Pixelmage Games&nbsp;making&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Hero's Song</a>, which just&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">canceled its Kickstarter</a> today after switching entirely to&nbsp;investment funding.&nbsp;One of the reasons I've wanted to feature him for so long: he's got an absolute beast of a PC. Smedley was kind enough to take some time and show off his rig.</p><h4> What's in your PC?</h4><ul> <li>Puget Systems super quiet PC</li> <li>Asus X99 Deluxe Motherboard</li> <li>Intel i7 5960X eight core processor</li> <li>64 GB of DDR4-2133 ram</li> <li>Nvidia GTX Titan-Z 12GB video card</li> <li>HDMI sound via video card to a 7.2 sound system with a Denon receiver</li> <li>Monitor is a Philips 4065 UC 40” 4k monitor at 3840 x 2160 resolution</li></ul><h4> What's the most interesting/unique part of your setup?</h4><p> The monitor is the most interesting part of the setup. It's massive! </p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Show Us Your Rig John Smedley 2"> </p><h4> What's always within arm's reach on your desk? </h4><p> Always within arms reach -&nbsp;my buckyballs. I'm always messing with those things when I'm reading or at my computer. </p><h4> What are you playing right now? </h4><p> Right now I'm playing more Path of Exile. </p><h4> What's your favorite game and why? </h4><p> If I had to pick a favorite game now it would be Overwatch. Waiting for that beta to come back big time. </p> Smedley's new studio pulled the plug when it became clear that the campaign wasn't going to succeed.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 18:02:33 +0000's SongJohn SmedleyNewsPixelmage GamesRPG <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Hero's Song"></p><p>The Kickstarter for <a href="">Hero's Song</a>, the new game being developed by former SOE and Daybreak Games President John Smedley and his recently-founded Pixelmage Games studio, has been canceled. The campaign was launched last week, but after notching up just $137,000 on an $800,000 goal, the team has decided to opt for investment backing instead.</p><p>“After looking at our funding levels and the reality that we aren't going to reach our funding goals, we've decided that the best thing to do is to end the Kickstarter. We sincerely appreciate all of the support we got from the backers and the Kickstarter community,” Smedley wrote in a <a href="">Kickstarter update</a> posted today. “This was our first Kickstarter and we made mistakes along the way. I want to acknowledge that right up front. We put a lot of time and effort into the Kickstarter, but it's obvious missing things like physical goods hampered our efforts. It's also fair to say because we're early that we didn't have enough gameplay to show the game off enough to get people over the hump.”</p><p>Smedley said when the Kickstarter began that it was first and foremost an exercise in community-building, and that provisions for funding above and beyond the crowdfunding goal, should it prove necessary, were already in place. Investors are now going to cover the entire cost of the game, meaning that the project will go ahead without any reliance on publishers, which Smedley said "was of key important to us so that we could remain in creative control.”</p><p>Despite the end of the Kickstarter, the studio pledged to continue posting regular updates and development streams, “and being completely transparent with our development process. You'll be hearing from us all the time and we'll be updating our website and all of you on a constant basis as we have cool stuff to show.”</p><p>With the Kickstarter crapped out, the home for future happenings on the Hero's Song front will be, for now at least, <a href=""></a>.</p> will tell.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 17:47:14 +0000 <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Gosh darn it all, I thought I'd retired my scathing quotation marks when the PC release date for 'Xbox One exclusive'&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Rise of the Tomb Raider</a> was announced. Now&nbsp;the medium-straddling&nbsp;'Xbox One exclusive' Quantum Break may be coming to PC too, according to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Gematsu's digging</a> around the website of the Brazilian rating board. The PC entry looks to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">have been removed</a> since, but the agency&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">has a reputation</a> for leaks and Quantum Break&nbsp;creative director Sam Lake has&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">previously expressed a wish</a> to see it on PC. In the words of James Davenport, "it’ll happen (or I’ll eat a shoe)".</p><p>In a world where time is collapsing&mdash; oh,&nbsp;I'm writing this in the generic action movie trailer voice, if you didn't guess.&nbsp;In a world where time is collapsing,&nbsp;Jack Joyce must survive the unstable world and halt the end of time itself.</p><p>Ahem.</p><p>Normally I'd be bored to tears by the action hero pitch, but I can't help respecting Remedy's attempt to blend game with live action segments&nbsp;shaped by your choices in the world. It might not work at all, but who isn't keen on creative risk?</p><p>Quantum Break arrives on Xbox April 5. Its PC release date (and official existence) is a mystery.</p>"Skyrim with guns" without guns.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 17:00:00 +0000 Cry: PrimalFPSMust ReadPreviewsUbisoft <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fcp Announce Screen 003 Embargo Oct 6 9am Pst 1444078387"></p><p> The first thing I’m instructed to do in&nbsp;<a href="">Far Cry: Primal</a> is creep around some feeding wooly mammoths. The second thing I’m instructed to do is kill one. It needs to die because I need to eat, so after some reckless jabbing with my trusty spear, the dignified beast is felled on a serene lookout somewhere in Central Europe.</p><p> It’s 10,000 BC. Humanity exists, but we’re gibbering maniacs. Still, we’re evolved enough to know that if we collect a certain number of materials, they will combine to create something useful. To these ends, protagonist Takkar’s third task is to collect five pieces of Alder Wood, two reeds and two pieces of slate in order to craft a bow. Thankfully, all of these materials are within walking distance.</p><p> If you hoped Far Cry: Primal was going to play out substantially differently to the last two Far Cry games, then bad news: it doesn’t. Collecting things in order to create other things is still an early game priority. Indeed, the primal survival context ramps up the collecting duties even more. Creating items isn’t a matter of tinkering with resources in your inventory to see what works, like in other, more complex survival games. Takkar needs to ‘learn’ crafting schematas, which are usually trapped behind story beats or level requirements.</p><iframe width="500" height="281" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> </iframe><p> So don’t expect this to be Ubisoft’s take on&nbsp;<a href="">Ark: Survival Evolved</a>. If Takkar dies, he respawns no worse off than before. There’s an abundance of waypoints to explore in order to progress the narrative, and doing so is nice because the land of Oros is a pleasant place to be. Sure, the wildlife is more numerous and dangerous than ever before – sabre-tooth tigers, wolves, wooly mammoths, bears of all sorts – but the towering foliage and dramatically undulating landscapes are beautiful, albeit no more technically advanced than the lands of Far Cry 4.</p><h4>Calm and collected</h4><p> After half-hour of exposition, Takkar arrives at the remains of a Wenja settlement. Sayla, a woman he encounters while fleeing from a tiger, wants Takkar to help her rebuild it. Another powerful tribal faction, the Udam, has laid waste to the settlement and are apparently very mean brutes, forcing the Wenja to disperse throughout Oros. It’s Takkar’s job to bring them back and grow the Wenja camp back to its former glory. Only the Udam aren't the only problem: there's a nasty&nbsp;Izila tribe, too, who tend to favour projectile weapons and fire.&nbsp;As important residents are retrieved, each establish their own hut which Takkar can level up for better abilities and goods. It sounds like a lot of micro-management, but based on the three hours I played, it’s more a case of collecting stuff in order to level each hut.</p><p> Collecting stuff is kinda annoying, to be honest. Takkar has an instinct toggle that renders his vision monochrome but highlights harvestable items and enemies. I spent most of my time spamming this toggle in pursuit of slate, reeds and other stuff. Let me be clear about this: I don’t mind collecting things, usually. It’s a nice, meditative thing to do. Expect to do a lot of it, though, if you want to build that settlement to its fullest splendour. Expect to do a lot of hunting in pursuit of a specific skin or leather used on a specific hut, and expect to experience a mild existential crisis while doing so.</p><p> The busy work doesn’t end there: taming animals is a neat feature in Far Cry: Primal, and anything from yapping dholes through to <del>wooly mammoths</del>&nbsp;(correction: wooly mammoths <em>can't</em> be tamed, according to a Ubisoft source)&nbsp;are available to be enslaved, as well as some larger, rarer beasts that require a bit more investigative work to track down (examples include&nbsp;a snow wolf and a great scar bear). I paraded around with a wolf for the majority of my play time, but you’re able to tame more deadly creatures like sabre-tooth tigers and bears as well, so long as you level the right skill tree.</p><iframe width="500" height="281" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> </iframe> <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">Second opinion</h5> <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Meet the Team Tim Clark"> </p> <p> Having spent four hours playing Primal on a PS4, I feel much the same as Shaun. The setting is a refreshing change from the last Far Cry, but at the same time the game doesn’t quite feel different enough. My biggest worry going in was that the combat would be boring, but because your enemies also don’t have guns, there’s actually some dynamism to how you close the distance on them. </p> <p> That said, the biggest missed opportunity to me is that Takkar just seems like a regular Far Cry dude but without firearms. I was hoping he’d be this super-physical athlete, prowling the countryside, leaping around, with tons of different melee moves. But at close-quarters the fighting is so swishy you might as well be playing Skyrim. Still, I’m interested enough to want to see more, and especially how the PC version holds up. </p> <p> -&nbsp;Tim Clark, global editor-in-chief </p> </div><p> And that’s my beef with Far Cry Primal: levelling systems lend a sense of progress and momentum to a lot of open world games, but here it feels at odds with the setting. If I’m good enough to tame a sabre-tooth tiger early game, why not let me? If I figure out how to craft a better club than the one I have, why do I have to unlock all this other stuff first? These linear progression paths seem at odds with Primal’s pioneering spirit, and there’s a tonne of them: each hut unlocks its own tree. There are 80 skills, all up. I really wanted this world to react to me, but it only did insofar as a certain set of arbitrary conditions were met.</p><p> But this is Far Cry. This is to be expected. Except now, there are no guns. This is less of a problem than I originally thought it would be. The Udam are the main human foes you’ll be bludgeoning to death during the opening hours of Far Cry: Primal, and they’re stupid bastards, thankfully. As in the last two Far Cry games, there are also heavies equipped with armour and more powerful melee weapons. There’s a sick joy in bashing people in the head with clubs, and an even sicker joy in siccing your wolf onto an unsuspecting grunt. Doing that is simple: lay the crosshair over an enemy and signal that you want that enemy gone.</p><p> An owl sentry replaces binoculars, and this is a much more fun and flexible way of scoping out and marking enemy outposts. During outpost scenarios (yes, they’re back), stealth is just as viable as it has been in previous entries, and the bow-and-arrow – while no match for a sniper rifle – is snappy and precise. The melee weapons feel fine: spears can be either jabbed or thrown, while clubs lay waste with a sturdy impact reminiscent of the melee combat in Dying Light, though that's based on using a PS4 controller: how it holds up with a rumble-less mouse and keyboard is yet to be seen.</p><p> There has been some wishful speculation in the office that the second half of Far Cry: Primal will feature an alien invasion, thus leading to some much-craved gunplay. I wouldn’t object to this outcome at all, but I also don’t feel like Far Cry: Primal is a lesser game for not having modern weapons. I do wish that it had even more to distinguish itself from its predecessors, though. Based on my brief time spent with it, Primal is exactly what it looks like on paper, divorced from the colourful sales pitch: it’s Far Cry without guns, and it’s set in 10,000 BC.</p><p> <em>This preview is based on PS4 code. A PC version wasn't available at the time of writing.</em></p> guns? No problem.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 17:00:00 +0000 Cry PrimalFPSSurvivalUbisoft Montreal <iframe width="500" height="281" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>We recently got to sample a few hours of life in 10,000 BC Central Europe, and the bad news is that the quality of restaurants and nightlife was every bit as bad as the Yelp reviews had warned. Unless you like eating barely-cooked badger brain and being constantly stalked by a tribe of headhunters. In which case, five stars all around for Far Cry Primal. The game was playable (on PS4 not PC, sadly) at preview events hosted by Ubisoft last week, where I took the footage used to make the video above. Also be sure to check out Shaun’s&nbsp;<a href="">more textual take on the game here</a>, which includes separate&nbsp;videos of a whole mission and a look at the lead character’s skill tree.</p> is why public liability insurance exists.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 16:47:51 +0000 GolfNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dangerous Golf"></p><p>Do you know how I can tell that Dangerous Golf is being made by industry veterans? There's no&nbsp;'Simulator' hanging extraneously off the end. It's just 'Dangerous Golf', full stop. Golf that is dangerous.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Three Fields Entertainment</a> is partially&nbsp;composed of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Criterion's founding members</a>, and Dangerous Golf has Burnout in its genes. Remember Burnout's Crash mode, where you caused as much carnage as possible with one&nbsp;fell swerve? Dangerous Golf is like that, but you yell 'FORE!' before walloping&nbsp;a fiery&nbsp;meteor.</p><p>Dollar damage to at least&nbsp;four locations (petrol station, kitchen, ballroom and castle) will be your high score, with cash bonuses for trick shots and detonating your ball with the force of a thousand suns.&nbsp;These 'SmashBreakers'&nbsp;will be a sight to see, particularly as Dangerous Golf boasts real-time&nbsp;couch- and online co-op&mdash;something that was never possible for Criterion on old tech.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dangerous Golf 2"></p><p>"Dangerous Golf may be a fun, silly golf game," Three Fields says,&nbsp;"but it’s one that was created with a serious technical edge. Our team worked closely with both Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 team and Nvidia to not only push the boundaries of their PhysX, Apex Destruction and Flex technologies, but also to deliver a truly physics based game experience."</p><p>It sounds like&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Goat Simulator</a> in which the goat is a ballistic missile in a physically simulated world.&nbsp;Co-founder Alex Ward added his take&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">in an interview</a> with Eurogamer:</p><p>"We started with golf is boring, golfers are boring and golf games can be boring, unless it's Leaderboard Golf on the Commodore 64, which was awesome. So we said, what's a bit of Burnout, a bit of Black and a bit of NBA Jam? What does that look like on next-generation hardware? That's how it started."</p><p>Whoever said golf wasn't a party game? Its dangerous cousin arrives in May, and Three Fields has hinted that it may just be the beginning of a slew of destructive, cathartic&nbsp;games.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dangerous Golf 3"></p> Williams and Patrick McDermott on why their record label is branching out to video game soundtracks.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 16:29:28 +0000 Stage <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="12"></p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Ghost Ramp</a> is a record label based in Los Angeles, California. It was started by Nathan Williams, who you may know as the founder and frontman of <a href="">Wavves</a>. As well as music from bands and producers, the label is planning&nbsp;to release&nbsp;video game soundtracks. I talked to Williams and label manager Patrick McDermott about their love of gaming and why they decided to start releasing this kind of music.</p><p>“My grandma bought us a NES and it was love at first sight,” says Williams. “I was an arcade rat for most of my upbringing. That was where I spent my weekends and my weekdays if I wasn’t at school. And my dad still plays Final Fantasy in some form every single day, so it runs in the family.”</p><p>“In my youth I spent countless hours at an arcade called Tilt in suburban Washington DC,” says McDermott. “But I really started to get obsessed around the time Metal Gear Solid came out on the PlayStation. I took a full year off between high school and college just so I could play World of Warcraft for ten hours a day.”</p><p>“Gaming has always been a part of my life,” says Williams. “I can’t even remember a time where I slowed down or became disinterested in it on any level. It’s a love very similar to music. My taste constantly&nbsp;changes, but I’ll never stop loving it.”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="2"></p><p>I ask Williams what inspired him to use Ghost Ramp to release video game music alongside more traditional artists. “I don’t see any separation,” he says. “To me, music is music, whether it’s a score for a film or a pop song.”</p><p>Noticing a surge in interest for indie games, particularly on PC, Williams says he wants to shine a spotlight on this growing community of musicians. “I want to show that the music they’re making can stand alone as its own art.”</p><p>“Video game music is as much a part of the discography of our lives as any other LP,” says McDermott. “And indie game music has transcended the 16-bit throwback vibe so much lately. A big goal for Ghost Ramp is to show people that these guys are artists in their own right, and not just video game music composers.”</p><p>Among the music Ghost Ramp will be releasing is Danny&nbsp;Baranowsky’s soundtrack for rhythm-action roguelike <a href="">Crypt of the Necrodancer</a> and Austin Jorgensen’s score for post-apocalyptic side-scrolling RPG <a href="">LISA</a>.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="3"></p><p>They’ll also be publishing music from&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Drift Stage</a>, an impossibly cool-looking arcade racer due for release later this year with a beautiful ‘80s-flavoured <a href="">soundtrack</a>. And not only that, but it’s being released in the form of a car-shaped picture disc.</p><p>“The guys behind Drift Stage are geniuses,” says McDermott. “The aesthetic Charles Blanchard created instantly drew us in, as did Hugh Myrone’s music. I’ve been working in vinyl production for a while and really wanted to do a picture disc with a unique shape, and Drift Stage was the obvious choice.”</p><p>If games are an artform, then the indie scene is where the most exciting, progressive stuff is happening. “This mirrors the music business,” says McDermott. “And I think that’s why we were drawn to it. I feel like this is the best era for both music and games because anyone can make them. The barrier is lower than ever and there are so many different platforms to share them on.”</p><p>I wonder if Ghost Ramp has any plans beyond just releasing game soundtracks. Have they ever consider developing their own? “I think anyone who’s been playing games as long as we have has dreamed of making one,” says McDermott. “Soon we’ll be releasing details about a collaborative audio/visual series that will feature simple games with a loose narrative and a heavy focus on sound design.”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="4"></p><p>They also hope, in time, to craft deeper, more story-driven games. “We’re lucky to be working with some amazing composers, and through them we’ve met a lot of talented developers. So hopefully, with the right idea, we can make something.”</p><p>Soundtracks are just the beginning, it seems. McDermott and Williams have big plans for Ghost Ramp, and it’s clear they have a passion for games. “I really hope Ghost Ramp becomes a place where traditional music and game music are viewed on an equal playing field,” says McDermott. “We also want to make the label more interactive, taking advantage of platforms like Twitch and shows like E3 and SXSW. We want to create a strong community around what we do.”</p>, dive, dive!Tue, 26 Jan 2016 15:56:39 +0000 SeaSurvival <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>I'm a suckerfish for shanties and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">tales of the dark</a>, cold expanse of Failbetter's Unterzee, so imagine my delight and simultaneous&nbsp;horror at the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">October announcement</a> that Sunless Sea's first expansion will&nbsp;make things darker and colder still. The&nbsp;Zubmariner DLC promises to take us under the waves to ship&nbsp;graveyards and deeps where&nbsp;evil sleeps, and the first&nbsp;footage has now&nbsp;slithered from the shadows.</p><p>I've been wondering how&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Sunless Sea</a> would convey depth given that&nbsp;it's 2D. It looks as though Failbetter has gone the route of The Legend of Zelda or Pokemon Game&nbsp;Boy games&nbsp;and retained the top-down perspective while suggesting the Z-axis with phosphorescence and&nbsp;patterns on the sea bed. Depending on what's lurking nearby, the extra&nbsp;light may not be welcome, but at least you can see what's about to eat you.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Actually, I'd rather not know." class=""> <figcaption>Actually, I'd rather not know.</figcaption></figure><p>It transpires that your zub is actually your zhip. I mean ship. It's a transformer with fewer lasers and an unfortunate reliance on steam power. If Failbetter can seamlessly&nbsp;link the Unterzee with the unter-Unterzee, that would be an achievement&mdash;I've wanted to visit Low Barnet for a while.</p> the gift shop clear of the splatter zone.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 14:59:51 +0000 Coastersim <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>I keep stumbling into people who would never declare themselves gamers but who nonetheless have hours of happy memories of making people hurl on&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">RollerCoaster Tycoon</a>. Tormenting ordinary citizens and making them pay for the privilege is, apparently, a universal pleasure. Frontier is rennovating that thrill ride with&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Planet Coaster</a>,&nbsp;for the modern entertainment tycoon. Previously the team&nbsp;have shared how they&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">simulate&nbsp;every visitor</a>, and now&nbsp;they're back to talk about building tools and showing off (and with these building tools, I'd want to show off).</p><p>In the Minecraft era, connecting up pre-fab sections of track was never going to cut it, but even so I'm impressed by the extent of the metalworking you can undertake. Tracks can be stretched, twisted and bent through a simple UI, adding a real personal touch to coasters that torment their riders for&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">210 days at a time</a>. You can tunnel through solid rock, too, Planet Coaster taking care of the manual labour. For the trickier stuff, like cobra rolls and loops, you drop one in from the library and deform it to your satisfaction.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Planet Coaster dinosaur"></p><p>Naturally, the video also addresses how to extract the most money from your esteemed guests:&nbsp;if you want to scalp them on theme park tat, you'll be responsible for decorating&nbsp;the gift shop and surroundings. Be still my micro-managing heart.</p><p>Sharing in Planet Coaster is hard-wired. You can pop into another theme park on a whim, copy people's rides and tweak them for use in your own venture. Sensible stuff, if you ask me&mdash;the RollerCoaster Tycoon subreddit is still flourishing&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">over a decade</a> since the last PC release.</p><p>"That's not just making a bit of curious artwork," art director John Laws says. "That's actually making something that is purely yours, it excites the community, and it actually feeds back into gameplay."</p><p>Planet Coaster&nbsp;looks gorgeous, intuitive and&nbsp;alarmingly&nbsp;comprehensive. It's due this year.</p> check out some co-op action in Dambuster's upcoming FPS sequel.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 13:02:00 +0000 The RevolutionPreviews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Homefront 1"></p><p> Fun! I’m doing a wheelie&nbsp;down a ruined high street at high speed, totally unable to tell where I’m going, while heavily armed North Koreans spray machine gun fire at me. This is the best motorcycle game I’ve ever played and it’s not a motorcycle game. I drop my iron steed out of the wheelie just in time to see my surviving teammate back into the road in front of me. I can’t avoid running him down and I don’t. As his body bump-bumps under my tyres, I berate him for not obeying the Green Cross Code. It’s fine though, as I revive him under heavy fire, get back onto my bike and speed off, ignoring him, the enemies, my other downed pals, and the mission.</p><p> Homefront: The Revolution is an odd game. Though Dambuster Studios has taken the setting of the first game, it’s dumped almost everything else&mdash;understandable given it was more memorable for the amount of money THQ spent marketing it than for the quality of the game. The Revolution has a completely different premise, developer, publisher, location and quality bar. Admittedly, I’ve seen nothing of the singleplayer, but whizzing about on my motorcycle during this three-hour managed hands-on in co-op mode has got me excited. “We really want players to feel like they’re part of a resistance movement, fighting a much more numerous and equipped enemy and to have that feeling of engagement that comes from non-conventional warfare,” Stephen Rhodes, the narrative designer tells me&mdash;and I’d say this achieves that. It has that nice combination of large enemy numbers, frantic team battles and changing objectives, combined with a Payday/Left 4 Dead toughness.</p><p> It also has the same irreverent-but-functional humour. For example, when you’re creating your character, you get to choose their previous profession. I’d made a six-stone old lady as my avatar, so cage fighter seemed like an obviously dissonant choice. But I could’ve gone for panhandler, huckster, stevedore, mascot, carney... And these aren’t just silly titles&mdash;each profession gives you a bonus skill in one of the four skill trees, which is a big foot-up to getting the higher level, super-skills like Gunner.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Homefront 2"></p><p> The weapon system is also fantastic. It was only working in-mission when I played, but essentially each gun type has a wide array of mods for it, which can be changed on the fly in-game, if you’ve acquired them. But most impressively, each gun can change into two different types of gun. So with a single click, my shotgun can be rejigged into a fully automatic shotgun or an inferno launcher that fires Molotov cocktails.</p><p> We played three maps of the 12 that will be available at launch. One was an infiltration mission where we were trying to stealthily hijack two jeeps, another was a scouting mission that quickly turned into a frantic rearguard, and the third was a huge devastated townscape where we rode motorcycles between our targets, dodging drone tanks, snipers and waves of enemies. Rhodes says the team will be producing free DLC for a year after release and, “All the content we’re creating for the Resistance Mode will be completely free to everyone who has the game, so the player base will never be divided.”</p><p> I’m a bit surprised this is part of the main game, considering how promising it is. “The Resistance Mode builds upon the fiction and narrative we have in the story mode,” Rhodes explains, “so we felt they needed to come as one package to get that message across.” Fair enough&mdash;I’m not going to complain about a ton of extra free content. Just as long as I get to keep riding my dirt bike, I’ll be happy.</p> might need a flak jacket.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 11:44:45 +0000 Person ShooterUmbrella Corps <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>I keep running over&nbsp;the phrase 'competitive Resident Evil shooter' in my mind before sighing&nbsp;and returning to work, a look of pain and confusion on my face. There's a new trailer to showcase the joys of mercenary-on-mercenary gunfights with added&nbsp;zombies, and while the trailer looks slick enough (<a href="" target="_blank">they all have</a>, really)&nbsp;it's such a bizarre fit for the franchise that I can't shake&nbsp;the puzzlement. But never mind me&mdash;if you relish the though of tactical team-based firefights with a veneer of bio-weaponry gone wrong, you'll be pleased to hear that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Umbrella Corps</a> will release in May.</p><p>Capcom dabbled in co-operative action in the Resi universe&nbsp;with Operation Raccoon City, and it was&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">less than well received</a>, but the publisher is took pains to point out the differences in this&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">faux-shoutcast&nbsp;trailer</a>. Alas, the like-to-dislike ratio does not recommend it.</p><p>I fear that in this instance the sentiment behind the&nbsp;name 'Umbrella Corps' might have shifted from cleverly generic to unfortunately generic, but I'm open to being surprised come May.</p> sure does look like a Platinum game.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 10:50:55 +0000 <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>There are several things about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that go way&nbsp;over my staid head. Why are the mutant ninjas turtles, for one? And wouldn't adult mutant ninja turtles be a more effective crime-fighting force? Despite these philosophical questions,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Platinum</a> still manages to make me&nbsp;want to control a cel-shaded&nbsp;ninja turtle in that there videogame: Mutants in Manhattan.</p><p>Mutants in Manhattan will arrive in summer this year, and although there's a mere flash of actual fighting in the trailer it comes off&nbsp;as slick, explosive and colourful enough to stop it&nbsp;looking too much&nbsp;like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: A Telltale Game.</p><p>Better still, while&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">previous ratings leaks</a> for the game have suggested it was bound for PC, this trailer confirms it. Platinum's&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Legend of Korra</a> didn't have the most lavish PC port, but by most accounts,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Transformers: Devastation</a> was an improvement. Hopefully the studio is comfy enough with PC by now to make Mutants in Manhattan&nbsp;a hit the first time round.</p> wonderfully executed, brilliantly stressful reinvention of party-based dungeon-crawling.Tue, 26 Jan 2016 02:39:05 +0000 DungeonReviewsRoguelikeRPG <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">need to know</h5> <p> <strong>What is it?</strong> Party-management dungeon explorer <br> <strong>Reviewed on:</strong> Windows 10, i5 4690k, 8GB RAM, GTX 970 <br> <strong>Price:</strong> $20 /&nbsp;£15 <br> <strong>Release date:</strong> Out now <br> <strong>Publisher:</strong> Red Hook Studios <br> <strong>Developer:</strong> Red Hook Studios <br> <strong>Link:</strong>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Official site</a> </p> </div><p>The first one to lose his mind is the plague doctor. His crow-faced mask wobbles as his sanity snaps, and he starts to pour abuse on his comrades. As the party fights unholy monsters in the crypts beneath a swamp, the chaos and his shouting break the rest. An armored paladin falls dead from a heart attack. Another chokes on a cloud of spores thrown by a monstrous, sentient fungus. The mad plague doctor runs alone out of the dark. He’s sent to the sanitarium. Like all veterans of bloody conflict, he’ll never be the person he was before.</p><p>In Darkest Dungeon, this disaster is known as “Week 3.” Every week goes about as well. Dungeon diving and tomb raiding have been staples of PC gaming for decades, but Darkest Dungeon is the first time I felt how awful this quest must be for the people involved. In Darkest Dungeon, explorers don’t just have to bandage their wounds and sharpen their axes&mdash;their biggest vulnerability is their minds.</p><h2>Turn by turn</h2><p>After getting bored drinking and fornicating his way through the family fortune, your dear father decided to investigate rumors of wondrous magic buried deep beneath the ancestral home. But he and his workmen dug too greedily and awoke an ancient evil, sending the countryside into ruin. Just before he sends a musket ball through his brain, dear old dad sends you a letter: come home, rebuild the local village, and defeat the evil. Bang. Splat.</p><p>Once the road to town is reopened, you recruit heroes and send them into the dungeons four at a time. When (if) they return, they are damaged, stressed out, and hopefully a bit richer. While in town they can drink, gamble, pray&mdash;whatever they need to get their heads sorted out so they can walk back into the long dark. One half of Darkest Dungeon is managing this growing town, opening and upgrading blacksmith shops and taverns to give your heroes an edge in the fight.</p><p>The other half is the real meat and potatoes: leading sidescrolling parties of four heroes in turn-based combat against otherworldly horrors. Entering a dungeon brings up a map showing a simple floorplan: a few rooms connected by hallways. There’s no need to explore, and most levels ask you to explore the entire level anyway. The map’s real purpose is to show you how much of the level remains. If things are going poorly and you still have half a dozen rooms to clear, it’s probably time to wave the white flag and get out.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="When in doubt: rub some snark on it." class=""><figcaption>When in doubt: rub some snark on it.</figcaption></figure><p>When your party of maniacs runs up against a squad of horrors, a short, turn-based battle starts. Combatants take turns using abilities to attack, heal, or cast spells. Especially at the beginning of the game, I found the few characters and abilities available made these battles more of a slog. Combat gets more fun as more character types arrive in town and new abilities get unlocked. Battles are always tense, though, and I found myself dreading them as expeditions grew longer and more dangerous.</p><p>It’s hard enough keeping everyone alive, but battles put adventurers under a lot of stress, too. Seeing a friend die or barely surviving a critical attack has a tendency to make people freak out. When characters crack, they take on random debilitating traits like “abusive” or “afraid.” This is the well-executed balancing act of Darkest Dungeon: I love trying to keep people healthy and sane. It’s easy to do one or the other, but that’s not enough. Your heroes can die just as easily from a heart attack as from a sword.</p><p>I also enjoyed tinkering with character classes in different party positions. The order of the heroes is important, with heavily armored tanks taking the front spot and spell-casters, archers, and healers holding in the back. Most melee attacks can only be aimed at the front ranks, and some spells can only be cast from the middle of a group. The most interesting classes are those in the middle. I enjoyed experimenting with characters who could fight in a melee role from one spot, but a support role from another.</p><p>During one of my early expeditions, I had poured through character sheets to find the perfect set of four heroes and assigned them in the perfect order. In the team’s first battle, an enemy summoner opened a portal to hell. A massive tentacle reached through it and grabbed my healer, shoving her to the front of the party and flipping my careful plan right on its ass. Darkest Dungeon’s greatest delight is finding new ways to screw you.</p><h2>The darkening</h2><p>Calling Darkest Dungeon merely “Lovecraftian” is a disservice to the mythology developer Red Hook has built here. (It’s also an undue compliment to H. P. Lovecraft’s one-note writing.) Both the heroes (occultists, Amazonians, thieves, paladins, plague doctors, lepers, bounty hunters, rogues) and the enemies (skeletons, zombies, ghosts, enthralled souls, fish-people, mushroom-monsters, spiders, maggots) draw from a huge sampling of source material, and I love its unexpected variety.</p><p>Darkest Dungeon is exceptional for how carefully-built and deliberate all its parts are. Every sound effect, every splash of color, and&nbsp;every character and ability all work to create an environment inspired by low fantasy novels and pulpy weird-horror magazines. When the Vestal, an acolyte of a Roman goddess of purifying fire, became racked with fear, she would cry out for her god’s protection in the darkness. When the hound master lost his mind to stress, he became bitter and withdrawn, commenting that his bumbling companions lacked proper training. I love that Darkest Dungeon takes inspiration from so many sources, yet uses all of those pieces to create character classes that serve a clever, foreboding fiction.</p><p>There’s an important distinction, though, between the character classes and the individuals. The classes are interesting and unique, but the individuals are just meat for the grinder. The worst thing about Darkest Dungeon is coming to grips with the idea that there can be no perfection. As a habitual save-scummer, this was hard for me. The auto-save feature is always on, so every mistake, every critical hit or critical miss, is permanent. Every death is permadeath.</p><p>This can be especially frustrating in early missions, when the slow trickle of heroes and their low-level abilities don’t always give you the tools you need to handle the pain coming your way. After an easy first mission, I consistently lost people, abandoned missions, or wrote off entire expeditions in the early weeks. During one very frustrating expedition, my healer kept everyone in tip-top health, but I had no way to manage stress. The mission ended in disgrace when four completely able-bodied adventurers died in an unprecedented quadruple heart attack. I’ve played a lot of permadeath strategy games, but I’ve never experienced a squad wipe due to acute mental distress before.</p><p>One of the reasons I love Darkest Dungeon is that measuring the mental toll of adventuring feels so overdue. Game violence has been consequence-free for a long time, but that’s changing. The new Tomb Raider games show Lara Croft dealing with profound mental trauma, for example, and games like Viscera Cleanup Detail poke at shooters’ carefree bodycount.</p><p>Maybe it’s even part of a growing cultural awareness of the cost of violence. With thousands of new veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, PTSD has become a household word. I think it’s fine to avoid the complex topic in a videogame, but walking into the subject directly is gripping where an artful evasion is the norm. This isn’t to say that Darkest Dungeon makes any kind of statement about veteran care or the cost of real war, but I do think these themes are engaging. Battling demons in a dungeon <em>would</em> really mess people up, and that’s not often acknowledged through game design in such a pronounced way.</p><p>The more I played, the more I grew detached from the heroes in my roster. I even refused to rename or invest in the veterans of multiple tours&mdash;exactly the opposite of my squads in XCOM, which were all customized and named for family and friends. Becoming attached would make it more stressful to send them on another ill-conceived quest for trinkets and coin, and even more disappointing when they came back broken and despondent.&nbsp;When the cost is measured in sanity and blood, the most powerful lesson Darkest Dungeon taught me about adventuring is that it isn’t always worth doing.</p> you miss Traits? Here they are.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 22:46:27 +0000 SoftworksFallout 4FPSModNewsRPG <p><a href=""></a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Trait"></p><p><a href="">Traits</a>, in the context of Fallout, are character modifiers that provide a significant advantage of one form or another, at the cost of a significant disadvantage. The “Heavy Handed” trait in <a href="">Fallout: New Vegas</a>, for instance, grants characters a 20 percent bonus on melee and unarmed damage, but also imposes a 60 percent <em>penalty</em> on critical damage. Character traits are are an optional, but for many players vital, part of character creation in Fallout, Fallout 2, and New Vegas&mdash;but Bethesda chose to omit&nbsp;them Fallout 3 and, more recently, <a href="">Fallout 4</a>. Now,&nbsp;thanks to the work of a modder by the name of Cirosan, it's possible to bring them back.</p><p>The “<a href="">Traits and More Perks</a>” mod that hit the Nexus over the weekend adds ten Traits, and a few new Perks, to Fallout 4. Many of them are inspired by traits from previous Fallout games&mdash;“Heavy Handed” is present, for instance (with slightly changed stats)&mdash;but others, like&nbsp;"Determined" (permanent bonus to damage, energy, and rad resistance, limbs are harder to cripple, but chems have no effect) are original creations.</p><p>Because of the way Fallout 4 is designed, the system for acquiring Traits is a little different than usual. Instead of adding them during the character creation process, you'll need to construct a special item at a Chemistry Station, and then use that item on your character. You can have as many Traits as you want, and you can also create items that will remove all Traits and mod-made Perks (Perks that were part of the original game won't be affected), so you can re-spec your character if things aren't working out. </p><p>The mod works with existing saves as well as new games, and Cirosan said he's playtested it thoroughly but cautioned that it's still in beta, so there's a possibility that something might not work quite as intended. The comments seem quite positive, however, although there's apparently a problem with applying traits in the third-person view, so make sure you're in first-person when you do. </p><p>Thanks, <a href="">VG247</a>.</p> value of the global esports market is expected to crack $1 billion by 2019.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 22:15:41 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Esports growth"></p><p>ESPN recently <a href="">became the ESPN of esports</a>, and if you're not sure what prompted that move, a report on the predicted <a href="">growth of the global esports market in 2016</a> put together by research firm Newzoo may offer a hint. The report says the esports market value is expected to grow by 43 percent this year, from $325 million last year to $463 million in 2016, and to break $1 billion by 2019.</p><p>North America will remain the top revenue-generating market for esports in 2016, with an anticipated $175 million rung up through “merchandise, event tickets, sponsorships, online advertising and media rights.” In terms of actual audience share, however, Asia leads the way, accounting for 44 percent of global esports enthusiasts, with growth driven “by an explosive uptake in Southeast Asia.” The total audience is expected to grow to 131 million “esports enthusiasts” worldwide, plus another 125 million “occasional viewers” who tune in to catch the big events.</p><p>“2016 will be pivotal for esports. The initial buzz will settle down and the way forward on several key factors, such as regulations, content rights and involvement of traditional media, will become more clear,” Newzoo CEO Peter Warman said in a statement. Expressing a note of caution, he added “The collapse of MLG was a reminder that this market still has a long road to maturity and we need to be realistic about the opportunities it provides.”</p><p>The predicted 43 percent growth of the esports market in 2016 is actually slower than that of 2015, during which the market value increased by more than 67 percent. The average annual revenue per esports enthusiast is expected to increase from $2.83 in 2015 to $3.53, a nice jump but still significantly less than per-enthusiast revenues generated by traditional sports: Basketball, for instance, generates $15 per fan per year. However, the esports audience is “a very valuable demographic, skewing towards consumers with a full-time job and relatively high income,” which it's not shy about blowing on digital media, hardware, and mobile content.</p><p>What it means, simply put, is that there's money in them jungles, and an increasing number of companies are going to be grabbing for it. The scene is currently dominated by <a href="">Valve</a>, <a href="">Riot</a>, and <a href="">Blizzard</a>, but Activision's recent <a href="">acquisition of MLG</a> is a clear indicator that it's serious about claiming a piece of the action, and ESPN's esports about-face was unexpected but, in hindsight, not all that terribly surprising. And more will follow.</p><p>“An increasing amount of traditional media companies have become aware of the value of the esports sphere and have launched their first esports initiatives. With these parties getting involved, there will be an increased focus on content and media rights,” Newzoo said. “All major publishers have increased their investment into the space, realizing that convergence of video, live events and the game itself are providing consumers the cross-screen entertainment they desire from their favorite franchises.”</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Esports growth"></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Esports growth"></p> best PC gaming deals of the week.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 21:00:00 +0000 <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="This week’s PC gaming deals"></p><p> We like cheap PC components and accessories. But you know what we like even more? Expensive PC components and accessories that are on sale! Each week, we have our&nbsp;bargainmeisters bring you a list of the best component, accessory, and software sales for PC gamers.</p><p> <strong>Some highlights of this week: </strong>Rainbow Six: Siege is that latest game to get a discounter physical copy, after Fallout 4 and Call of Duty last week. Tales of Zestiria is also on sale again, though more heavily&nbsp;than previous times. And you can pick up classic adventure game Syberia or its sequel for only $1 each. On the hardware side, a G.Skill keyboard is discounted for both its Cherry MX Red and Brown version. There's an Asus IPS monitor for right around $100. And we have a few returning deals from last week, including the Logitech G502 Proteus Core mouse.&nbsp;<img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Hardware Deals" style="background-color: initial;"></p><h4>Hardware deals:</h4><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> <strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong>The<strong> Corsair Graphite Series 230T Orange with Window mid-tower case</strong> is nearly half its usual price, at <a href="" target="_blank">$50 on Amazon</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong>The <strong>G.Skill Ripjaws KM780R RGB keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches</strong> is down to <a href="" target="_blank">$140 on Amazon</a>. Alternatively, the same keyboard with <a href="" target="_blank">Cherry MX Brown switches is the same price</a>. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong>The <strong>PowerColor PCS+ Radeon R9 390 GPU</strong> is down to <a href="" target="_blank">$270 on Newegg</a> after a $20 rebate.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong>The <strong>Asus VN248H-P 23.8” IPS monitor</strong> is only <a href="" target="_blank">$110 on Newegg</a> after a $20 rebate, and only until January 27th. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong>The <strong>Logitech G502 Proteus Core mouse</strong>, one of <a href="" target="_blank">our favorite gaming mice</a>, is still down to <a href="" target="_blank">$50 on</a></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong>The <strong>ASRock Z97 Extreme3 LGA 1150 Intel ATX motherboard</strong> is also&nbsp;still at <a href="" target="_blank">$80 on Newegg</a> after a $20 rebate.&nbsp;</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Game Deals"></p><h4>Game deals:&nbsp;</h4><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> <strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong>Early access RTS <strong>Offworld Trading Company</strong> is <a href="" target="_blank">$20 on GamersGate</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong><strong>Tales of Zestiria </strong>is <a href="" target="_blank">$33.49 on GamersGate</a>. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong><strong>Rainbow Six: Siege</strong> is down to <a href="" target="_blank">$40 on</a>, but only if you don’t mind ordering the physical version.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong>Classic adventure game <strong>Syberia</strong> is only <a href="" target="_blank">$1 on Green Man Gaming</a>. Its sequel, <strong>Syberia 2</strong>, is also only <a href="" target="_blank">$1 on Green Man Gaming</a>. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong><strong>The League of Legends Starter Pack</strong>&mdash;which includes 8&nbsp;champions, IP/XP boosts, and more&mdash;is completely <a href="" target="_blank">free on Amazon</a>! Though you do need to play on League of Legends’ NA server to redeem it.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong style="background-color: initial;">&mdash;&nbsp;</strong>You can still pre-order <strong>XCOM 2</strong> for <a href="" target="_blank">$48 on the Golden Joystick Store</a>. As usual, we generally recommend you wait for our full review before pre-ordering a game. But if you’ve truly made up your mind already, 20% off is going to be hard to beat for a while. Besides, we’ve had a chance to play the full build already and <a href="" target="_blank">like it a lot</a> so far.&nbsp;</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"></p><p> <em style="background-color: initial;">A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to online stores. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which help support our work evaluating components and games. Disclosure note: The Golden Joystick Store is operated by Future, which also owns PC Gamer.&nbsp;</em></p> the film, that is, not the game.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 20:18:52 +0000 <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> The long-awaited Warcraft film trailer <a href="">debuted at BlizzCon</a> in November, and it was more impressive than I expected. Now the first television spot is out, and it's... well, shorter. But still good!</p><p> We opined in our <a href="">analysis of the BlizzCon trailer</a> that the story seems “geared toward drawing us toward parallels with the orcs' plight and illegal immigration in the United States and the refugee crisis in Europe,” and the television ad would appear to reinforce that.</p><p> <em>Orc:</em> “We come in peace.”</p><p> <em>Human:</em> “Orcs are beasts!”</p><p> <em>Other Human:</em> “What to do?”</p><p> <em>Orc:</em> “Behold our savage nobility, as the dream of a better future for our children clashes headlong with a deeply-rooted fear of the unknown, wrought in a long history of thralldom and betrayal and manifest in this <strong>KNUCKLE MEGA-SANDWICH!</strong>” Kapow!</p><p> Okay, maybe that last bit doesn't fit perfectly well with the real world&nbsp;analogy, but you can see where it's headed. Cue misunderstanding, reconciliation, a spot of Orc/Human smoochies, a CGI-fueled rumble in the jungle writ large, and a happy ending, with just a slight whiff of sequel-setup hanging in the air, like that faint smell of smoke that makes you wonder if you left the stove on.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="">Duncan Jones</a>-directed&nbsp;Warcraft movie&nbsp;hits screens on June 10.</p> any midi file with a simple program.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 19:58:26 +0000 ReadSteam Controller <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Last year saw&nbsp;Valve release&nbsp;the Steam controller, liberating PC gamers from the tyranny of&nbsp;their desks and&nbsp;introducing them to&nbsp;a brave&nbsp;new world: the couch.&nbsp;And while our Steam controller&nbsp;<a href="">launch&nbsp;review</a> suggested it was unlikely to dominate the input device&nbsp;firmament just yet, we can now confirm&nbsp;that it is&nbsp;in fact&nbsp;the most musical&mdash;and patriotic&mdash;controller&nbsp;available to PC players.</p><p>To explain:&nbsp;Steam forum user [bil] Pila has&nbsp;devised&nbsp;a method for playing midi files using the vibrations of&nbsp;the Steam controller's haptic feedback motors, and it's pretty easy to pull off. Just <a href="">download the package located in the source thread</a>, find or make some midi files, place them in the same folder as the executable, and then run the executable via Command Prompt. The Steam controller will vibrate, beep, and boop with whatever midi file you've chosen. In our case, the glorious&nbsp;national anthem of 'merica.&nbsp;</p><p> Valve's plastic brainchild probably won't be invited to perform at too many baseball games, sadly. It doesn't have quite&nbsp;enough power&nbsp;to properly belt out&nbsp;every note, so expect the more complex midis to barely make sense. Stick with simpler tunes if you can, and be warned that this kind of tinkering isn’t exactly sanctioned, and has the potential to blow out your controller’s haptic feedback features. Interestingly, it's not a huge surprise that the Steam controller can play midi files&mdash;the haptic feedback technology is based on existing speaker tech. Let us know what you decide to make it sing.</p> Scott Cawthon says he's not satisfied with the response to the game. Mon, 25 Jan 2016 18:56:38 +0000 Nights at Freddy'sNewsRPG <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fnaf"></p><p>After a rough launch that led to an <a href="">apology for the incomplete state of the game</a>, Five Nights at Freddy's World has been removed from Steam. FNAF creator Scott Cawthon <a href="">said in a message</a> that in spite of the relatively positive overall reception the game had received, he “was not satisfied with the reviews and ratings it was getting.”</p><p>“For that reason, I've decided to remove the game from Steam,” Cawthon wrote. “I've also asked Valve to make it so that the game can be refunded regardless of the amount of the time it has been owned, meaning that anyone can get a refund at any time. It may take them a while to set that up, but it will be in place soon.”</p><p>He repeated his pledge to continue working on the game, and said that once he's ready to release an update, he'll replace the demo on Gamejolt (which also appears to have been removed) with the full game. Once it's re-released, he added, it will be free.</p><p>“I appreciate your support, and I encourage you all to refund your Steam game (even if you enjoyed the game), and download the new version when it becomes available on GameJolt,” Cawthon wrote. He didn't indicate whether FNAF World will be re-released on Steam as well.</p><p>Five Nights at Freddy's World, a cute and colorful adventure-RPG spinoff of the cult-hit horror series <a href="">Five Nights at Freddy's</a>, was originally scheduled for release in February but went live on Steam <a href="">last week</a>. It had a “very positive” rating based on aggregated Steam user reviews, but its rough and incomplete state led to a wave of complaints from players, and ultimately an acknowledgment from Cawthon that he had released the game prematurely.</p> second season will begin with a major patch slated for February.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 18:45:00 +0000 LeagueSports <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rocket League Chaos Run"></p><p>Psyonix has announced that a new <a href="">Rocket League</a> patch scheduled for rollout in February will conclude the first season of competition and make “a TON of improvements” to the game&mdash;caps theirs&mdash;based on player feedback. The goal of the second season is to “de-emphasize the importance of single wins or losses,” the studio said, and instead focus on long-term performance and improvement. </p><p>Some of the changes being made for season two are cosmetic: Ranked play will be renamed to “Competitive Matchmaking,” Rank Points are being done away with, and the ten divisions that made up the first season will be replaced with 12 for the second, from “Prospect 1” to “Champion.” </p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rocket League Season 2 Division Titles"></p><p>But more substantive changes are coming as well. All players must begin the second season with ten placement matches in order to determine their starting Skill Division. Skill data from the first season will carry over, however, so existing players won't have to start over from scratch, and in fact Psyonix said placements will be “heavy influenced” by season one ratings. </p><p>The cap on the number of players in the top division has been removed&mdash;if you're good enough to be in the top tier, that's where you'll be placed regardless of how many others are there&mdash;and, perhaps most significantly of all, divisional promotions and demotions will be handled differently than they were in&nbsp;the first season, to reflect the goal of focusing on consistency over streakiness.</p><p>“You will be promoted into a division after your skill has risen consistently to the next division up,” Pysonix explained. “Once promoted, you won’t risk immediate demotion for losing a game or two.”</p><p>A full breakdown of the Season Two patch, including a shot of the new end-game scoreboard (not but a hard release date, as one hasn't been set yet) is on <a href="">Steam</a>.</p> the PC gaming frontier with this impressive build. Try not to die of dysentery.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 18:30:24 +0000 of the weekHardware yeah, there's a story isn't there?Mon, 25 Jan 2016 17:38:16 +0000 Fighter V <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>What with all that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">competitive&nbsp;punching each other</a> in the face, it's easy to forget that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Street Fighter</a> has a a long, winding and unresolved story. Individual Street Fighters tend to tie up loose ends in the arcs of particular characters, but the series has struggled to weave the threads together, particularly with&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Street Fighter 4</a> taking place before 3 chronologically.&nbsp;The standard Arcade mode stories are returning in Street Fighter 5 but will serve as an introduction to the&nbsp;full 'cinematic' story&nbsp;expansion arriving in June, which promises to knit the games together once and for all.</p><p>Patching the story in after the fact tells us a lot about where Capcom's priorities lie,&nbsp;and rightly so&mdash;Street Fighter is about street fighting after all&mdash;but it is&nbsp;peculiar to have the narrative plastered on at a later date. Still, free is free, right?</p><p>Street Fighter 5 will release&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">February 16</a>.</p> you rather fight 100 mouse droid-sized Vaders or a Vader-sized mouse droid?Mon, 25 Jan 2016 16:49:53 +0000 Wars: Jedi Academy <iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>When LucasArts was devoured by the House of Mouse,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Jedi Academy</a> developer Raven&nbsp;<a href="">released the game's&nbsp;source code</a> as a memorial of sorts. The result of their gift is mods of unusual ambition. Sure, you can add&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Thomas the Tank Engine to Fallout</a>, but can you make Thomas a character in a 2D fighting game variant of Fallout?&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Skew's&nbsp;Jedi Fighter</a> for Jedi Academy does the Star Wars equivalent.</p><p>Jedi Fighter turns five key locations from Jedi Academy sideways, from the aftermath of the battle of Hoth to turbolifts in the Death Star,&nbsp;and tweaks them to serve as ideal arenas for 10 expanded universe characters to duke it out it, each with their own moveset.</p><p>To play, you'll need to install&nbsp;Jedi Academy, the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">OpenJK engine</a> and the&nbsp;Jedi Fighter beta 2 mod. It's a work in progress, scheduled for completion in June, with new characters including the cast of The Force Awakens to come before it's done.</p>, 25 Jan 2016 15:58:30 +0000 Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind <figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="/u/TheTitanova's finest work." class=""> <figcaption>/u/TheTitanova's finest work.</figcaption></figure><p> When I think 'lore', my mind goes to dusty tomes in long-forgotten libraries, or scrolls of prophecy that blind the reader. Facebook isn't typically the vehicle by which arcane knowledge is conveyed, but that hasn't stopped&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Redditor TheTitanova</a> from retelling&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the entirety of Morrowind's backstory</a> in status updates.</p><p> Posted to the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Morrowind subreddit</a> and created using a Facebook Wall generator (having friends whose names coincide exactly with the cast of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Morrowind</a> would be quite the coincidence and&nbsp;a boring Venn diagram), this timeless work goes deep into the history of Tamriel and is naturally laden with spoilers. Long-time Morrowind fans should get a kick out of the in-jokes.</p><p>Thanks,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Kotaku</a>.</p> are mazes within mazes in The Witness, Jonathan Blow's triumphant return.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 15:00:00 +0000 Witness <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">NEED TO KNOW</h5> <p> <strong>What is it?</strong>&nbsp;A series of increasingly complex maze puzzles, set on an idyllic island.<br> <strong>Expect to pay:&nbsp;</strong>$40/£30<br> <strong>Developer:</strong>&nbsp;Thekla Inc<br> <strong>Publisher:</strong>&nbsp;Thekla Inc<br> <strong>Reviewed on:&nbsp;</strong>i5, GTX460M, 4GB RAM<br> <strong>Multiplayer:</strong> None<br> <strong style="background-color: initial;">Link:</strong><a href="">Official site</a><br> </p> </div><p> What do all games have in common, other than the bare fact of their interactivity? There are many answers, but the one I'm most convinced by is that all games are teaching mechanisms. Whether it be slyly illustrating a language puzzle in Fez or telegraphing an attack window in Dark Souls, every game must instruct you about the tools at your disposal&mdash;and far from being a technicality, this creates a sense of intellectual intimacy with a creator that few artforms can profess. Talentless creators teach with HUD prompts or via cajoling NPCs, often wresting control away in exasperation when you fail. Skilled creators hint and tease, insensibly guiding you towards a solution. The clue could be something as innocuous as the movement of water, or how an object looks at a distance.</p><p> Though not without its flaws, Jonathan Blow's The Witness is one of the finest teachers I've studied under, and if you're at all minded to play it you should stop reading now and do so. Yes, that's a terrible reviewer's cop-out, but the joy of The Witness is simply how you learn, and while I can dance around specifics, I'd hate to deny you a single particle of that satisfaction. Is the price tag a concern? Well, it took me 30 hours to polish off the main arc of the game and I managed to bypass large tracts of it, including several unlockable areas and scores of puzzles. So if the bang-for-buck ratio is of paramount importance, I'd say you're covered.</p><p> Still here? OK, you can't say I didn't warn you.</p><p> The Witness is a series of maze puzzles (some 600-odd) set on a tropical island&mdash;a sumptuous, thickly hewn expanse of cliffs, meadows, orchards, swamps and sand, dotted with buildings such as a church, a logging depot and a windmill, many falling into disrepair. The place is a regular car-crash of eras and traditions, from the vaguely Japanese temple near the centre with its plush red shutters, to the rusting tanker shipwrecked on the northern coast. But there are shared themes, amongst them a motley and unnerving population of stone effigies&mdash;priests, kings, guitarists, photographers, rock-climbers and more, all frozen mid-gesture like trolls caught in the sun.</p><p>And of course, there are the omnipresent screens that house the majority of the puzzles, bright blocks of colour you'll spot through gaps in the foliage or at the crest of a distant hill. These puzzles are arranged into loose, area-specific sequences that share a particular mechanic, each completed puzzle sending a bolt of power to the next one along. The further you push into the game, however, the more these puzzle mechanics begin to combine, till by the climax you're using the full set to unravel enigmas that would have seemed impossible hours before.</p><p>The silent elegance with which The Witness cultivates your understanding in this way, the artfulness with which it feeds you concepts and layers them up into complex problems, is where its greatness lies. Early puzzles are painless&mdash;you hold-click to zoom on a screen and activate a cursor, then draw a line through a grid layout from start to finish. But then you start to encounter symbols on squares within each maze that impose additional requirements. These are commonly introduced via banks of five or more screens that walk you through each facet of the new mechanic, beginning with a maze that's a square or two wide to demonstrate the basic principle. Beyond a couple of text prompts to explain the controls at the outset there isn't a breath of actual exposition in the game. It simply doesn't need it. The pedagogy is that accomplished.</p><p>That's not to say that The Witness is a breeze. On the contrary, it's one of the toughest games I've played in years. The premise of each puzzle may be digestible, but the devil is very much in the detail. It's also easy, while roving the island, to run into a conundrum you lack the knowledge to solve. But you're never forced to tackle things in a certain order, and it isn't necessary to work your way along every thread in order to reach the finale. The ambiance is also immensely restful: there's no real score, just the seethe of wind in the canopy and the lilt of flowing water, and the views are captivating. The scenery might seem a distraction, but this would be a much less enjoyable game were it not for the opportunity to take a break in a clearing and watch the clouds pass by.</p><p>The landscape is also more than it appears. As time goes on, you'll pick up on a delicate negotiation between the screen puzzles and the geography and architecture that surrounds them. There are puzzles that mimic shapes nearby, such that to solve them is also to create your own little artworks&mdash;a quietly significant invitation to collaborate in the world's making. There are puzzles that are effectively diagrams of the machines they’re tied to&mdash;I might trace the shape of a motorised stairway in order to lower it, while contending with the rules of any symbols on the board in question. There are tricks of perspective that feel decorative at first, but which actually supply clues about the strategies that hold sequences together. And there are puzzles that require you to actually use the environment itself in some fashion to proceed, a revelation that depends on your having soaked up enough of the game's visual language that certain things begin to stand out. These latter discoveries are among the most delightful The Witness has to offer.</p><p>There are, alas, a handful of puzzles that aren't so gratifying. The Witness falls slightly afoul of the classic endgame dilemma&mdash;there's a point where you stop learning, stop working out how to employ the techniques you've picked up in different contexts, and the challenge becomes too much a question of overcoming artificial obstructions. As with the arrival of a bullet-sponge boss in an FPS, it's all about having the patience to proceed rather than the ingenuity. This is balanced out by a couple of masterful (and insanely hard) specimens and by some opulently weird interiors, but it's sad nonetheless that the closing sections aren't quite the send-off the game deserves.</p><p>There's also the storyline&mdash;or rather, the mass of oblique audio recordings and suggestively positioned objects that <em>could</em> form a coherent storyline, assuming they aren't the trappings of a non-narrative thought experiment. Even making allowances for not uncovering all the secrets, it's difficult to draw conclusions because at the time of writing, key elements of the fiction aren't in the game&mdash;though playable from start to finish, the review build lacks a number of more explicit audio files and has non-final endgame sequences (it's also a bit buggy, with some mild glitches on things like reflections and at least one documented crashing problem). But I'd hedge that The Witness is, at least in part, an attempt to map and celebrate the sheer act of composition. It's a journey to the heart of its creator's artistic process: the business of getting from A to B positioned as a model for cognition itself.</p><p>Many of the recordings are excerpts from canonical texts of science, philosophy and literature&mdash;you can look forward to Paul Cezanne's meditations on the relationship of painting to nature, and B.F. Skinner's remarks on who really wields the power in a game scenario&mdash;player or designer? It goes without saying that The Witness is highly aware of its own artifice, but this isn't sprung on you, as in other games, in the form of a plot twist or “meta” in-joke. It's tacitly advertised from the outset, freeing up the rest of the game to explore the implications.</p><p>You're left with a mirror-tunnel of allusions and surmises that is undeniably thought-provoking, but may daze and annoy as many players as it beguiles. Mind you, it's perhaps to the purpose that you're asked to make sense of it all. I introduced The Witness as a teaching machine, but I suspect Blow's agenda is to collapse the master-student relationship, equipping you with the tools and insights you need to approach the game's sources of inspiration on your own terms. The Witness might be constructed around mechanical challenges with unambiguous outcomes, but as the choice of title implies, what it ultimately seeks to offer is a vantage point, a perspective on life's mysteries, rather than answers.</p>'s very much a working title.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 14:57:37 +0000 StoryNewsPuzzle <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Her Story 2015 Reviews"></p><p> Now wouldn't it be a twist to discover that the 'Her' of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Her Story</a> was a serial killer who has been hauled in for questioning&nbsp;yet again? Sadly for the Angus Morrison School of Narrative Guff, Her Story 2 won't have anything to do with the first installment. Its existence has been confirmed but for the moment it has only a working title.</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">HS2 has a 1-pager. Neat. <a href=""></a></p><p>&mdash; Sam Barlow (@mrsambarlow) <a href="">January 25, 2016</a></p></blockquote><p><a href="" target="_blank">Developer Sam Barlow</a> tweeted out this one-page breakdown for the not-sequel. It's censored of course, but that second paragraph and the first word of the next have been selectively bolded&mdash;a clue? No.</p><p> Nothing else has been confirmed other than that it will&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">also&nbsp;feature live acting</a>,&nbsp;but as most of the PCG team&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">like to gibber excitedly</a> whenever Her Story comes up in conversation, what's not to like about news that more is on the way?</p> it's better just not to know the new release window?Mon, 25 Jan 2016 13:07:33 +0000 No. 9NewsPlatformer <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mighty No. 9"></p><p>Keiji Inafune's Mighty No. 9 is at least consistent in its delays. The Kickstarted Mega-man successor has now been pushed from February 9 to 'spring', the latest in a number of adjustments, first to the release of the&nbsp;passable demo build and now to the finished product. Cast your eyes over&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">this collection</a> of Mighty No. 9 headlines&mdash;you might notice a theme (apart from the scarcity of decent thumbnails).</p><p>Naturally, games are delayed all the time, and it's usually for the better. Who wants to play a half-finished bugfest? It's unfortunate in this instance because&nbsp;in October&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Inafune pledged</a> that there would be no more delays, and had earlier&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">attempted to Kickstart</a> a similar game/anime combo, Red Ash, while the first was still in production.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mighty No 9"></p><p>"The reason for the delay is rooted in bugs inside the network modes, and specifically problems with matchmaking," Inafune's&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">latest Kickstarter update</a> reads. "There are two large reasons for this problem, one of them being the large number of platforms supported (the solution for each platform is slightly different) and the other stems from the fact that the engine we are using is no longer being updated which means adjustments for matchmaking and online code are being made manually (actually reprogramming parts of the engine by the dev team themselves).</p><p>"For this 3rd delay of the game, we have no excuses for disappointing our fans and especially our backers once more. We want to take this chance to express our sincerest apologies to everyone who has looked forward to the release."</p>'s your indie Illuminati.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 12:29:47 +0000 of the NecroDancerIndieNewsThe Magic Circle <figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Screenshot by /u/Tambox" class=""> <figcaption>Screenshot by /u/Tambox</figcaption></figure><p>Coils within coils&mdash;there is an impenetrable mystery at large connecting a series of ostensibly unrelated indie games.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The Reddit hivemind</a> is currently at work cracking the meaning of the strange sigil that has been added to various games since&nbsp;as far back as 2014 but is&nbsp;only now coming to light, accompanied by map-like&nbsp;puzzle fragments.</p><p>After the discoveries appeared separately on assorted subreddits,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">user MachMatic</a> made the connection. In&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The Magic Circle</a>, the sigil appears&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">on an airlock</a>. Dying and leaving the airlock with some clever platforming reveals&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">a puzzle fragment</a> in all its neon glory. In May,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">eye.jpg</a> was added to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Crypt of the Necrodancer</a>, and having a crack at it&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">with a hex editor</a> reveals&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">another puzzle piece</a>. A hidden map, Canberra,&nbsp;accessed through an eye concealed in the credits,&nbsp;was added to MiniMetro in February. As discovered by nint8835, arranging&nbsp;your stations correctly (or cheating) unlocks&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">one more&nbsp;chunk</a> of puzzle.</p><figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Screenshot by /u/nint8835" class=""><figcaption>Screenshot by /u/nint8835</figcaption></figure><p>Non-Steam browser game Kingdom of Loathing&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">also features the eye</a>, a relic of an October 2014 update, as does the beta build of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Legend of Dungeon</a>, from which good old-fashioned datamining extracted&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">yet another map fragment</a>. There the investigation has stalled. How many more fragments could there be? What connects the games, and where on Earth or elsewhere could this be leading?</p><p>If you'd like to lend your expertise to the hunt, there are a number of discussion&nbsp;hubs accessible through&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">MachMatic's original post</a>. The meat of the investigation looks to be taking place on the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">/r/gamedetectives' Discord channel</a>.</p> the best magazine in the world sent to your door every month.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 12:07:34 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Magpost Us 276banner"></p><p><a href="">Subscribe today for only $22</a> and receive 13 issues of PC Gamer direct to your door. PC Gamer is the world’s number one PC gaming magazine, and every issue is packed with a huge mix of games from every area of PC gaming as well as extensive hardware coverage. We've just increased the page count of each issue, too, to 116 to give you even more great content&mdash;get all of this sent to your door each month. <br> <br> With every issue you will get:</p><ul><li>Info on the games and hardware components you must buy</li><li>To see inside the making of games past and present</li><li>Huge features on everything from massive blockbuster titles to tomorrow's indie hits </li></ul><p><a href="">Subscribe now</a> and ensure you never miss an issue and make big savings.</p> there be virtual microtransactions?Mon, 25 Jan 2016 11:14:01 +0000 reality <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="150528 STAR-VR Product-shot 02-1024x1024"></p><p>This morning in I'm-not-sure-what-to-make-of-this:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Payday 2 owners</a> Starbreeze Studios is to open a VR&nbsp;arcade based on its own&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">StarVR headsets</a>&mdash;a StarCade, as the team is calling it. The StarCade will open in Los Angeles at some point in spring or summer with the aim of making&nbsp;high-end VR accessible to all, and presumably garner some hype for their swanky tech and Overkill's The Walking Dead, which will be the star attraction (geddit?).</p><p>“We continue to iterate the fact that VR really needs to be experienced in person to fully be able to appreciate the phenomenon," CTO&nbsp;Emmanuel Marquez says. "We will invite developers to join us and give them the opportunity to put their content in our StarCade. We as an industry continuously need to educate ourselves to make VR truly successful, and this is just the first step in our planning to do so."</p><p>He's not wrong on that first point: VR does need to be seen to be believed, and a traditional arcade set-up might be just the thing to get people onboard with new and expensive hardware.</p><p>Starbreeze's&nbsp;acquisition of InfinitEye&nbsp;and its HMD last June&nbsp;came as a surprise given its&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">traditional software focus</a>, but StarVR does have some standout features, chiefly a 210-degree field of view through 5.5-inch panels running at&nbsp;a hopefully&nbsp;not&nbsp;eye-watering&nbsp;5120x1440 resolution. It could be the 21st-century equivalent of a light gun and a 50-inch CRT in a cabinet.</p> of flashy new gameplay footage.Mon, 25 Jan 2016 05:51:46 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="2K Battleborn Paradise Meltdown Combat 1"></p><p>We learned a little bit about&nbsp;Ghalt and Deande – two characters from Gearbox's forthcoming MOBA-like FPS&nbsp;<a href="">Battleborn</a> – only a couple of weeks ago. Now we can see them in action thanks to the promotional videos embedded below, both of which offer up a generous serving of gameplay footage.</p><p>Ghalt is a shotgun-wielding "hook and trap specialist", while Deande looks like a pretty typical stealth-oriented player, capable of spawning clones of herself and moving around maps undetected.</p><p>Battleborn releases in May. Evan Lahti got his hands on a preview build last year, and you can read his impressions&nbsp;<a href="">here</a>.&nbsp;</p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe>, Centipede, Missile Command, Tempest, and Warlords confirmed.Sun, 24 Jan 2016 22:27:20 +0000 <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Atari 2600 Jr FL" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>It feels like this should have happened ages ago, but here it finally is: a bundle of 100&nbsp;<a href="">Atari</a> classics is coming to Steam in spring (or autumn in Australia). Dubbed the Atari Vault, it's set to include the likes of&nbsp;Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, Tempest, and&nbsp;Warlords. Assuming it won't cost an arm and a leg, it'll be worth checking out for Centipede and Adventure alone (the latter hasn't been confirmed, but the collection would suffer without it).</p><p>Interestingly, the bundle will feature Steam Controller support, as well as local and online multiplayer bolstered by global leaderboards. Atari claims the Steam Controller will result in "significantly improved precision control", which will be useful if you want to break my record of three consecutive clockings of Centipede.</p><p>The bundle is in development by Code Mystics. A price hasn't been announced, but Atari Vault will be demo'ed at PAX South later this month. As will Atari's other forthcoming title,&nbsp;<a href="">RollerCoaster Tycoon</a>.&nbsp;</p> an entire year in a sleepy rural town.Sun, 24 Jan 2016 17:00:00 +0000's Dawn <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="World's Dawn"></p><p>I first mentioned&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">World's Dawn</a> way&nbsp;back&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">in 2014</a>, when the&nbsp;inaugural part of&nbsp;the seasonal Harvest Moon-like&nbsp;emerged. Developer David Grund&nbsp;released regular updates afterwards, adding the&nbsp;Summer, Autumn and Winter seasons&nbsp;to the enormous life sim&mdash;he also ran a successful&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Kickstarter campaign</a>, which allowed him to spruce up its looks, sounds, and the way it plays. Now, World's Dawn is finally, properly finished&mdash;and it's&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">heading to Steam</a> tomorrow.</p><p>If you'd forgotten,&nbsp;World's Dawn is a "colorful life and social sim set in a sleepy seaside village. Inspired by the Harvest Moon series, it features vibrant top-down graphics, a huge cast of quirky characters to meet and befriend, and 30+ hours of charming gameplay. Soak in the enchanted, whimsical atmosphere of Sugar Blossom Village as you build friendships, find love, harvest crops, tend livestock, customize your farmhouse, compete in festivals, fish, forage, mine, cook, discover magical secrets and more!"</p><p>I'm sure there's a plasma rifle in there somewhere. Don't let the RPG Maker aesthetic fool you; this is a fulsome, progressive life sim that should keep you occupied for quite some time.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Here's a demo</a>, and here's a recent trailer:</p><iframe width="640" height="360" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> magical realist game set in a fictional Islamic majority country.Sun, 24 Jan 2016 15:00:00 +0000 King-SpoonerNews <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dujanah"></p><p>You might know&nbsp;Jack King-Spooner&nbsp;for his lovely, autobiographical&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Beeswing</a>, set in the titular town in rural Scotland. He's heading a bit further afield for his next game,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Dujanah</a>, a magical realist game&nbsp;"set in a fictional Islamic majority country that has an occupying military force".&nbsp;You're a woman named&nbsp;Dujanah, and you don't like that occupying force very much, leading to "various moral, psychological and political dilemmas".</p><iframe width="839" height="474" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>If you think it sounds a bit dry, you're almost certainly wrong, as this still appears to be a Jack King-Spooner game through and through. The people and sets are mostly made out of clay, while Dujanah herself appears to travel around with a ruddy great mech. The story, like Beeswing's, will be a non-linear one, enhanced this time by various&nbsp;"randomised elements". And, if you wanted more 'game' in Beeswing, you'll be pleased to hear of Dujanah's in-game&nbsp;arcade, which among other things&nbsp;features a "metroid-like" platformer named&nbsp;Caves of Al Dajjal.</p><iframe width="839" height="474" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Visually, I think King-Spooner's come on a long way, too. There are some lovely, glitchy visual effects going on in Dujanah.</p><p>If you want to see Dujanah happen, you could always fling a few bob at the ongoing&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Kickstarter</a>, which has raised just shy of £2,000 of its £6,000 goal.</p>, a classic Half-Life mod comes to Steam, and more.Sun, 24 Jan 2016 15:00:00 +0000 Theft Auto 5Mod of the WeekMod RoundupMods <p> <img class="gfyitem" alt="UnnaturalPleasedAbyssiniancat (gfyCat video) " data-id="UnnaturalPleasedAbyssiniancat" data-controls="false" data-title="false" data-autoplay="true" data-expand="true"></p><p> This week on the Mod Roundup, turn anything in GTA 5 into a rocket using modded boosters from Just Cause 3. Plus,&nbsp;a Half-Life mod from 1999 finally arrives on Steam, and it lets you play Half-Life in co-op mode even if your friends don't own the game! Also, a Fallout 4 mod lets you build walls with windows, and a mod for Cities: Skylines makes your citizens actually follow a schedule.</p><p> Here are the most promising mods we've seen this week.</p><h2>Sven Co-op, for Half-Life</h2><p> <strong></strong><a href=""><strong>Download link</strong></a></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Sven"></p><p> Sven Co-op didn't pop up just this week&mdash;it's been around since 1999&mdash;but it is now&nbsp;on Steam. The mod&nbsp;lets you play an enhanced version of&nbsp;Half-Life with new weapons and features,&nbsp;a bunch of new maps, and you can play Half-Life as a co-op game as well as, even with friends who don't own it. Of course, it's free. If you haven't tried it in the past 15 years, now's a great time.</p><h2>Wooden Windows, for Fallout 4</h2><p> <strong></strong><a href=""><strong>Download link</strong></a></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="F4mod"></p><p> "Crapshack" is the word I'd use to describe every single building I've crafted in Fallout 4's settlements. Now matter how carefully I put them together, they always&nbsp;look like crap. What's worse is that when I'm inside one of my crapshacks&nbsp;I can't even look out&mdash;I'm stuck staring at the crappiness of the interior&nbsp;walls. This mod lets you choose from a whole bunch of nice-looking walls with windows so you can look out of them at something less crappy.</p><h2>Just Cause 3 Booster Explosives, for GTA 5</h2><p> <strong></strong><a href=""><strong>Download link</strong></a></p><p> <img class="gfyitem" alt="AridGrotesqueFugu (gfyCat video) " data-id="AridGrotesqueFugu" data-controls="false" data-title="false" data-autoplay="true" data-expand="true"></p><p> Just Cause 3 and GTA 5 are two of the most destructive games out there, so naturally sticking them together and lighting the fuse seems like a good idea. This mod lets you&nbsp;attach&nbsp;JC3's explosive boosters to vehicles, animals, and&nbsp;people,&nbsp;and let 'em rip. What's that? Can you be sitting in the vehicle at the time? Yes. Yes you can. No need for planes, now you've got a rocket car. The gifs on this page are&nbsp;<a href="">from DexModderFTW's demonstration&nbsp;video</a>.</p><h2>Rush Hour, for Cities: Skylines</h2><p> <strong></strong><a href=""><strong>Download link</strong></a></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Csmod"></p><p> If you're not really feeling the whole day-night cycle thing&nbsp;in Cities: Skylines, this mod is for you. Citizens will actually take heed of the time of day: kids will actually go to school in the morning and come home at night, roads will become much busier during commute times, and visiting tourists will retreat to their hotels after dark and head back out in the morning.</p><p> <em>Not enough mods for you? Check out some of our other mods lists, like the <a href="">Best Mods for Fallout 4</a>, the <a href="">Best Mods for GTA 5</a>, and the <a href="">Best Mods for Cities: Skylines</a>.</em></p> flying machines, walkingrobots, and a hockey arena.Sun, 24 Jan 2016 05:03:15 +0000 MechanicsimSurvival <p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Scrap Mechanic"></p><p> Scrap Mechanic is a new building game that&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">released in Early Access last week</a>. It's a&nbsp;little like&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Besiege</a> but&nbsp;bigger (and with&nbsp;<a href="">fewer giant&nbsp;penis robots so far</a>), with&nbsp;motors and spinning bearings and controllers that&nbsp;can be combined to make cars, tanks, mechs,&nbsp;multi-stage contraptions, and ridiculous rocket-powered airships.</p><p> Right now there's only a creative mode (a survival mode is coming), but there are already a bunch of components to snap together, and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">the subreddit</a> is filling up experiments. I have to imagine that&nbsp;some of these took a lot of hours, given that all my creations so far are just&nbsp;sloppy, spinning boxes. Here's a selection of&nbsp;my favorites.</p><h3>Convertible car</h3><p> &nbsp; <img class="gfyitem" alt="OffensiveReflectingBandicoot (gfyCat video) " data-id="OffensiveReflectingBandicoot" data-controls="false" data-title="false" data-autoplay="false" data-expand="true"></p><p> This is convertible from&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">MrGarretto</a> is impressive,&nbsp;though my favorite thing about it is that it looks like the creator&nbsp;had to put a hole in the roof to accommodate the character's big head. Ya do what ya gotta do. (Here's&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">another good-looking convertible</a>, which was the first one I saw posted.)</p><h3> Hockey arena</h3><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> </iframe><p> Most of the creations are cars and flying machines, but Scrap Mechanic's machinery can be put to all sorts of uses. Here's a hockey arena with working goal lights&mdash;well, not lights, but spinny things&mdash;and a 'jumbotron.' I guess Rocket League has some competition.</p><h3>Hover transport</h3><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> </iframe><p> This is the most stable flying machine I've seen yet. It's not super intricate, but it does the job, and those lifts on the sides are pretty smart. (Let's hope the devs fix those silly drifting rocket effects soon.)</p><h3>Flippable car</h3><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> </iframe><p> So far all I've been able to&nbsp;do in Scrap Mechanic is make are cars that immediately flip over.&nbsp;OJJVZ here has the solution I need.</p><h3>Biped walker</h3><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> </iframe><p>Here's&nbsp;Gunnerkobra with the best biped robot I've seen so far, and it can even operate driverless.</p><h3>Six-legged walker</h3><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p> Another walking mech, and the video gives a good sense of how complex mechanisms are designed if you're curious about getting into it.</p><h3>Rocket test</h3><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> </iframe><p> There's nothing super special about this basic rocket ship, I just like it because we may never see it again. RIP in peace.</p><h3>Battle tank</h3><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> </iframe><p> A great, basic tank with rotating turret. I'm hopeful a future update will allow&nbsp;Asteh to make that cannon operational.&nbsp;</p><h3>Conveyor belt and crane</h3><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> </iframe><p> Another impressive non-vehicle. I bet we'll see some kickass&nbsp;Rube Goldberg machines in the coming weeks.</p><h3>Transforming flyer</h3><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""> </iframe><p> Tango Tek's flying car, made a little before Scrap Mechanic came out, is my favorite vehicle so far. It doesn't look especially easy to control, but that driving transformation is sweet.</p> opportunities.Sat, 23 Jan 2016 17:00:00 +0000 gamesFree GamesIndieThe Best Free Games of the Week <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Space Artist"></p><p>This week, we construct a building in the traditional sense: by chucking objects into the air until the various toilets, girders and cats coalesce into a wonderfully enormous structure. We also celebrate Myst, by playing some games that are maybe a bit like Myst. Enjoy!</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Le Petit Architecte by Theotrian</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Le Petit Architecte" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Improve upon Le Corbusier's frankly non-teetering Villa Savoye, by flinging a vast assortment of objects until it turns into a wobbly, low-poly mound. The height of your tower is measured as you chuck, and if you manage to get things to stick vertically together (it's harder than it sounds), you'll see that number rise and rise and rise. The game gets a bit glitchy after lots of objects have been deposited, but it's fun climbing and punting stuff for a while.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">U-ROPA by&nbsp;Atavismus/Hobo/Jonas/Peder</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="U-ROPA"></p><p>U-WOT MATE? No, U-ROPA: the name of a pretty interesting Adventure Game Studio short. In a wartorn, not particularly liberal state, you have to fight your own personal battle&mdash;meaning you've got yourself trapped in a tiny room. As per video game tradition, this one has everything you need to Macgyver your way out of it, including that screwdriver you just pulled out of your leg. Ouch.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Space Artist by Talha Kaya</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Space Artist" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Space Artist is not a game about being a space artist. It's a game about controlling four astronauts <em>simultaneously</em>, something that is just as tricky as it sounds. Your goal in each stage is to collect four little radio thingies, while avoiding the spiky red thingies that hurtle you back to the start of each level. It's an inventive puzzler, this.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Tribute to Myst by Leon Denise</a></h3><iframe width="347" height="280" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p><a href="" target="_blank">Myst Jam</a> concluded recently, and what a fine subject for a game jam. While many of the entrants understood Myst to mean 'game featuring an&nbsp;island and/or puzzles', Leon Denise has rightly aped Myst's dizzying worlds-within-worlds structure, which blew plenty of minds back in the 1990s. There's no story, and "no meaning" behind the various places and things featured, but, technically, this captures much of Myst's enduring appeal.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Myha by The Icehouse</a></h3><iframe width="347" height="280" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Another Myst Jam entry, Myha is more immediately recognisable as a Myst-like, meaning it's crammed full of pre-rendered backgrounds, weird architecture, and scenes that root you to the spot. it's part of the fascinating&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Black Cube series</a>, and it's hugely impressive for something whipped up in just&nbsp;10 days.</p><p>"The CSE (NASA equivalent) of planet Terra received a distress signal from their moon. A Tongolian cosmonaut is sent to space to investigate. When he arrives at destination, there is no distress beacon, there is no-one around, except for a mysterious Black Cube. He takes it and... is suddenly teleported onto a small island, in a faraway world."</p><p><em style="background-color: initial;">Click through for recommendations from previous weeks.</em></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lands of Lore"></p><p>It's that time again: 12:34. No, wait, it's <em>free games time&mdash;</em>so put on a brew,&nbsp;batten down the hatches, then&nbsp;google the phrase 'batten down the hatches', as you're curious of its etimology. Then, and only then, should you click on the following links. Read on for computer says no, you saying things with your actual voice, vines, triangles and lorey lands. Enjoy!</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Computer, Open That Door! by&nbsp;Paul Lawitzki&nbsp;and Ralf Zimmer</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Computer Open That Door"></p><p>You should probably read the description before downloading this, as it reveals your goal to murder everyone onboard a delightful spaceship. You're the ship's A.I., and like an idiot&nbsp;you've gone self-aware. Like any A.I. worth its salt, you instantly decide to murder every human in your immediate&nbsp;vicinity. Your method of interaction is locking (or unlocking)&nbsp;the ship's many&nbsp;doors, with the aim of trapping the fleshy meatbags into horrible death scenarios that would do Star Trek proud. Flush the jerks out of airlocks! Overload the engines! Murder them all before the ship completes its many hyperjumps. Why? Because you're an A.I, and that's what A.I.s do. (Via&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Warp Door</a>)</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Plan Be by&nbsp;Valentina Chrysostomou</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plan Be"></p><p>You'll need a microphone for this one: an inventive stealth game where you play as someone operating a computer from the safety of&nbsp;a security room. You're trying to guide a scientist to safety, something you accomplish by speaking into the mic to order the scientist about, and by interacting with the facility's various systems remotely. Like any voice-controlled game, you're going to be repeating yourself a lot, and eventually wishing you could do everything with just a mouse and keyboard, but it's a neat idea, well-executed.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Vines by Stefan Peeters</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Vines"></p><p>I figured we'd run out of brilliant PuzzleScript ideas by now, but here's one more. Vines is a turn-based (obviously) sidescroller where your goal is to shepherd climbable vines throughout an environment, by manipulating the presence of lovely, life-giving sunlight. Basically: push sunlight-hiding blocks out of the way, letting the vines grow upwards, ever upwards. (I bloody&nbsp;love PuzzleScript. It's been so amazingly kind to the puzzle genre.)</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">The Patashnik Parable by Equilaterus Game Studios</a></h3><iframe width="360" height="233" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>A&nbsp;remake of pretty Unreal Engine 4 oddity&nbsp;The Patashnik Parable. It's an experimental game set in a very strange environment, which may OR MAY NOT BE&nbsp;all that&nbsp;it seems.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Lands of Lore by Christina Antoinette Neofotistou</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Lands of Lore" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>This one's a few weeks old, but I only discovered it recently, courtesy of the reliably tasteful&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Gnome</a>. Lands of Lore is one of my favourite first-person RPGs I haven't actually played myself, so you can bet I was all over this LoL-inspired game jam offering. It's not a complete game, this, but it is a technically accomplished, beautiful, and inspirational demo that makes me want to fire up Construct 2 (this was made in&nbsp;Construct 2!) and create something similar myself. That's not going to happen, so I must&nbsp;await the triumphant&nbsp;return of 2D, pixel-art dungeon crawlers for a little longer.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Harvest by rxi</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Harvest"></p><p>A holdover from last month's Ludum Dare, Harvest invites to you plant and tend to your tasty crops, while dealing with the twin pressures of hungry rodents and your own insatiable thirst. Make some time to engorge your bladder, and you just might survive longer than a couple of minutes.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Squirrel Away by Alpaca Space Lab</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Squirrel Away"></p><p>We've long since reached saturation point for local multiplayer games, but here's one more featuring cute wickle murderous squirrels, and a range of scary, huge predators including that thing (a lynx?) and a big old owl.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">RitualQuest by Slimegirl</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ritual Quest"></p><p>An economical horror adventure game that does a lot with some lo-fi stylings and evocative text. Collect three things to complete the ritual, the ending depending on which three things you happen to pick up.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">An Evening of&nbsp;Modern Dance by selfsame</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Modern Dance"></p><p>You can do a lot with funny physics and a spotlight, though Modern Dance also chucks in multiplayer and an inappropriately elegant soundtrack. Flaunt your ballet moves on the stage: moves including a graceful moonwalk, a pirouette, and that tricky move where all your limbs explode and shoot off in random directions.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">You Are A Horse by spacetwinks</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="You are a Horse"></p><p>This is not a game about being a horse. It's a game about being a horse that wants to rob a bank, and it's very funny indeed.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">The Eldritch Teller by Arielle Grimes</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Eldritch Teller"></p><p>You get your first playthrough of The Eldrich Teller for free&mdash;interestingly, the game flat-out refuses to run afterwards unless you stump up $2 to access story replays. Once through might be enough, but like most of the games I feature here, you can choose to support the artist with a few quid if you like what you've played. The game itself is a Twilight Zoney story about a very important phone call, and the presentation of this visual novel is pretty fab.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Longest Night by Infinite Fall</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Longest Night"></p><p>A prototype/side-story to the long-anticipated&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Night in the Woods</a>, Longest Night invites you to draw constellations as you sit around a campfire with your chums. The game originally came out way back in 2013, but it's just been expanded with new and alternate dialogue&mdash;now&nbsp;"canon" dialogue that should provide a few hints about Night in the Woods, which is now scheduled for a 2016 release.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Concrete Jungle by Robert Shenton</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Concrete Jungle"></p><p>The two themes of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Ludum Dare 34</a> were "growing" and "two button controls", and hey, this fits that brief exceptionally well. A bit like in World of Goo, you're trying to climb up the side of a building here, in your (possibly doomed) quest to kiss the sky. Oh yeah: and&nbsp;you're a plant. Like most plants, you're not known for your athletic prowess, and as such, controlling your planty tendrils is a cumbersome affair. You'll rely on washing lines, fire escapes, security cameras and so on, in a game with delightfully springy physics.</p><p>I particularly like how the passage of time is represented.&nbsp;Plants obviously move quite slowly in the real world, so to illustrate that here, everything around you jumps about at high speed.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Raik by Aitch</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Raik"></p><p>Aitch suggests a rough price of $4 for this Scottish adventure, so consider ponying up if you like what you've played. Raik's central joke is a strong one that carries this fantasy-ish visual novel a long way, and I don't want to spoil it too much. The idea is that you can switch between English and Scottish descriptions at nearly any time, something that transforms the entire text, but keeps the gist of what's happening intact. The English descriptions are fanciful, airy and flowery, while the Scottish...well, I'll let you discover that for yourself. But it's essentially two sides of a mind: one seeking escape in fantasy, the other mired in the mundanity of everyday life.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">New Years 7016 by Connor Sherlock</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="New Years 7016" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Spend New Year's Eve...7016 in the company of some glowing balls of light, and in the only place worth visiting: a space station on the edge of eternity. Stick around for the performance, then take a look at Sherlock's&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">patreon</a> if you'd like to play more of his cryptic&nbsp;walking sims.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Dyg by Burgess</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dyg"></p><p>Dig your own grave, and when you've finished, perhaps give this gorgeous browser game a play. There's a cool thing about it I won't spoil, but I will say it's a sort of score attack game where you have until sundown to dig as far down as you can. I don't think it's a fair game, given that your spade will (seemingly randomly) ping off the ground rather than break the soil, but it's a lovely idea, and Dyg looks just smashing.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Joy Exhibition by Strangethink</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Joy Exhibition"></p><p>Do art in the best way possible: not with paintbrushes or pens, but with a load of colourful&nbsp;guns. Each gun has its own painting method, or adds a different colour, and you're given a bunch of canvases with which to create your masterworks. If you like what you've made, you can save the images externally&mdash;though I personally&nbsp;found it difficult to create things I liked, given that I had no idea what the procedural paint guns would contribute to each piece.&nbsp;Still, a cool idea.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Flock by Kent Sheely</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Flock"></p><p>There's not much to this, and the;description oversells the game massively, but it is nice to fly around as a bird for a bit. Grow your flock by clicking on other birds, then watch as the world morphs around you.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Reap by Daniel Linssen</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="4 - Reap" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Any week with a new Daniel Linssen game is a good one, and true to that, here's an inventive new survival game about surviving on a mysterious archipelago. You can chop down trees, then use the logs to build bridges or rafts. You can dig soil, plant turnips, <em>harvest</em> those turnips, then shove them into your fat gob. You can find maps of the vast&nbsp;procedurally generated world, and other, more mysterious trinkets. The best bit is the sun, which physically increases the size of the game world as it rotates around the screen&mdash;or indeed shrinks it as night approaches, and you can't see as far. Wonderful.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Zunus by Jonathan Whiting</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Zunus"></p><p>A two-button space trading game about an enterprising triangle, and a smart way to make something special&nbsp;under strict limitations. Left and Right turn your ship..left and right, while holding <em>both</em> moves your plucky vessel forward. Navigate into stations to trade, then swap your cargo for lovely space-cash; collide with an asteroid, an enemy, or the side of a station, and you'll be reborn as a clone at your last port of call. Don't skip the dialogue: it's pretty funny.</p><p><em style="background-color: initial;"><br></em></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Timruk"></p><p>This week, we enter a book, we fight more skellingtons, we battle a great big fire-breathing&nbsp;dragon, we battle the damn&nbsp;keyboard, and we pay one final&nbsp;visit to the shard. Enjoy!</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">The Curse of Issyos by Locomalito</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Curse of Issyos"></p><p>Locamalito makes free games with the sort of&nbsp;care, attention and time most would reserve for those sporting a price tag, and true to that, The Curse of Issyos is a big, wonderful thing that's been in development, on and off, for the past five years. You're a fisherman trying to save your daughter from eternal torment in&nbsp;Hades, and in a remarkable coincidence, you also play as such a character in this game. It's an old-fashioned, vaguely NES-y, Castlevania-style&nbsp;platformer, this,&nbsp;and it's pretty&nbsp;great.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Trosor by Ditto</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Trosor"></p><p>Ditto does&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Ludum Dare</a> 34 (themes: 'two button&nbsp;controls', and 'growing'). If you know of Ditto, you'll know that Ditto favours colours, cool visual&nbsp;effects, and damn&nbsp;good 'gamefeel', and Trosor has these things in spades. You can shoot, and you can jump in one direction&mdash;to switch sides you'll need to make contact with a wall. There's the&nbsp;skeleton of something really interesting here.&nbsp;</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Another Dragon by George Broussard</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Another Dragon"></p><p><em>Another</em> dragon? But I've only just cleaned up after the last one!&nbsp;Yes but this dragon is the star of a fairly gorgeous, short adventure inspired by Eric Chahi's visually cromulent Another World. It's an easy game, but worth the few minutes you'll spend with it&mdash;I do&nbsp;like entertainment that doesn't outstay its welcome.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Timruk by Studio Oleomingus</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Timruk" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Oleomingus' games are just resplendent with&nbsp;texture, something many devs ignore when constructing their glossy, shallow, frictionless worlds. The latest slice of their mythical larger game is a fascinating little&nbsp;storybook, rife with rich, fictional history from a world that exists Somewhere near our own.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Last Visit To The Shard by Connor Sherlock</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Last Visit To The Shard"></p><p>Connor Sherlock's latest walking sim deposits you in a stark, crystalline landscape, home to oddly tilted structures, tantalisingly distant buildings, and various secret little things. It's a place to just&nbsp;be in for a while: a place that envelopes you in atmosphere and with&nbsp;a&nbsp;comforting, shadowy&nbsp;mood.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Pictures of a Reasonably Documented Year by Outlands</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Pictures of a Reasonably Documented Year"></p><p>I like games where you poke around in authentic-feeling old computers, so here is a game where you poke around in an&nbsp;authentic-feeling old computer. You're investigating the desktop of a particularly paranoid individual, who had his own investigation into a mysterious fire. His PC is littered with notes, images&nbsp;and videos about this, and things get a little spooky in this brief game&nbsp;as you piece everything together.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Dead Knight by Backterria</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dead Demo"></p><p>This is a&nbsp;very early demo that only contains a few rooms, and that can't be completed, but I like much of Backterria's skeletal metroidvania so far. The art is very nice, the skellingtons are amusing, and you can zoom the camera way&nbsp;out to view the entire level at once. Which is fab.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Anteaters in Tutus by Great Sky Whale Games</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Anteaters in Tutus" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>A rhythm game with a difference&mdash;that difference being all the anteaters in tutus, who are competing to be the best opera singers they can reasonably be. Play against your friends to see who's the best at following musical orders while wearing a frilly pink dress, like you do in the real world&nbsp;every Wednesday.&nbsp;(Via&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Warp Door</a>)</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Quirkaglitch by Xavier Belanche</a></h3><iframe width="854" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>If you can get past the title screen in Quirkaglitch without assistance, then I'm not convinced you're a&nbsp;human being, but good on you. I'm going to spoil things a bit, for us mere mortals,&nbsp;so look away if you'd rather bash away at Quirkaglitch solo.</p><p>...</p><p>..</p><p>.</p><p>OK. That (randomly picked)&nbsp;code on the title&nbsp;screen? It relates to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">this colour chart</a>, and to enter the code you have to bash into the correctly&nbsp;coloured enemies. The eventual platformer is like a messed-up ZX Spectrum game, and visually it's&nbsp;pretty damned impressive.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Right Click to Necromance by Juicy Beast</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Right Click to Necromance"></p><p>Left Click (hold Left Click) to move your army; Right Click (at the prompts) to add that wandering troop you've just defeated to your roving&nbsp;crew. How do you do&nbsp;this, if you've just chopped them to bits? With the power of necromancy, naturally. It's a simple game, but with some strategy behind it: you have to avoid larger armies, and that big cyclops thing, until you've built up your forces a bit.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Wizards Rule by Gadzooka</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Wizards Rule"></p><p>We all know that wizards rule, a position they've held ever since Wizards of Wor came out in the early '80s. This is a Pico-8 remake, and it's pretty authentic and fun.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">After School by Atelier Sento</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="After School"></p><p>Every day after school, a girl walks by a boy's house and tries to pluck up the courage to talk to him. I won't spoil whether she does or not, but this a lovely, sweet short story about longing, presented with extraordinary watercolour art.</p><h4><a href="" target="_blank">Who Must Die by&nbsp;Antoine Gargasson,&nbsp;Elouan Harmand,&nbsp;Quentin Thevenard,&nbsp;Joachim Hansott,&nbsp;EIllan Le Corre</a></h4><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Who Must Die"></p><p>I don't think the execution quite lives up to the idea here, but what an idea. Three patients are locked up in separate rooms, one infected with a mystery virus, and you have to determine who that is and shoot them dead for some reason. You'll fathom your randomly generated suspect by observing their behaviour through TV screens, which display loomed FMV footage of the three patients. You can release 'calm' or 'angry' gas, change the music,&nbsp;or send a guy in to bash them about a bit, and though I don't quite understand how all that&nbsp;correlates to the virus, the room around you offers a few&nbsp;badly translated hints. If the pressure of the decision gets to you, or you can't find the quit button, you can choose to off yourself instead.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">EXLCOM by&nbsp;Crruzi</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Exlcom"></p><p>Well it's XCOM, but in Excel. And it's surprisingly fully featured, boasting destructible terrain, a level editor and more. Creator Crruzi says that he "wanted to create something in VBA to practice coding in that language and I like XCOM - so why not make an XCOM game? EXLCOM works just like any other XCOM game - you know, shoot aliens, save the world, that kinda stuff." He's underselling it a fair bit&mdash;I mean, just look at it.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Orchid to Dusk by Pol Clarissou</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Orchids to Dusk" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>A wonderful, wonderful game about a crashed astronaut with only minutes left to live. How you spend them is up to you, but you should probably walk around a bit and explore the alien landscape, which is home to oases, rolling desert...and what are those things on the ground?&nbsp;This is&nbsp;<em>sort</em> of a multiplayer game, but I'll leave it to you to figure out how.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Bombmans by Raattis</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Bombmens"></p><p>In the absence of an official PC port of Super Bomberman, I'll take this: it's Bomberman recreated&nbsp;in Pico-8. Do you want to play Bomberman recreated in Pico-8? Of course you do, because Bomberman is one of&nbsp;the best local multiplayer games ever made.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Carrots and Cream by Aergia</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Carrots and Cream"></p><p>You are the monster that eats carrots in a bowl with cream in this freebie, made for that recent&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Asylum&nbsp;Jam</a>. The game infuses horror into ordinary things: gardening, grating, and accidentally (?) digging into worms. And, in at least one area, it's surprisingly tense.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Actias by Kitty Horrorshow</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Actias"></p><p>"6 remain" is a beautifully economic way to begin a game, immediately setting you on a course of exploring, collecting and reading. If you've not played a Kitty Horrorshow game before, they're first-person wandering games where oblique story is projected across the environment after you pick up scattered&nbsp;crystals. They're moody, personal and poetic things, and Actias is no different.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">The Tower Inverted by hellojed</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Tower Inverted"></p><p>"A collection of levels I made over the course of about a month, strung together into a game." hellojed, of&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">this weird fox-based game</a> fame, really should have turned off the player's shadow&mdash;which reveals the player&nbsp;character to be distractingly lozenge-shaped&mdash;but that's about the only fault I can find with this atmospheric game of looking up at the sky and going "ooooh". Head to the glowing thingies, and occasionally&nbsp;talk to the fox thingies, as you appreciate a series of wonderfully abstract worlds.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">SpillTender by Reptoid Games</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="SpillTender"></p><p>You are the world's worst bartender, and also in the game, and you have a few minutes of time in which to demonstrate that indisputable&nbsp;fact. Fling pints at your patrons, trying not to smash the glasses or to punt them at their heads, and as physics are involved of course this is much, much easier said than done. If you end up with your tips in the positive, then you are some sort of bartending god.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">SKÓGUTH by Connor Botts, Ethan Thibault, Delton Hulbert</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skoguth" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>"Kill the god. Be free." With your one bullet, and a neat visor effect that reminds of Metroid Prime and Halo. Really, you'll explore. You'll conjure a story from the various details in the environment, including this Easter Island statue-y thing, and some interesting piles of little stones. When you find the god, you can choose to&nbsp;shoot the god dead, inciting one of three endings, I'm told.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Call of Dudley"></p><p>This weekend, you briefly put down Fallout 4&nbsp;to take a look at the best free games of the week. INCLUDING: a move-limited match-3, Porpentine meets Myst, flyin' a plane around a weird place, call waiting, and look at this cool&nbsp;world I just&nbsp;made. Enjoy!</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Anesthesia by Stephen Lavelle</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Anesthesia"></p><p>Increpare's latest (well, I'm not actually sure it <em>is</em> his latest; he's probably released a dozen games since I played this yesterday) is a seemingly&nbsp;simple match-3...with a twist. That twist is the big number at the top, which ticks down every time you make a move. Your goal, I assume, is to clear the board before that counter hits zero, and you can no longer input any moves. The cursor, by the way, swaps one block for another; match three or more to remove them from the board.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Bellular Hexatosis by&nbsp;Porpentine, Charity Heartscape, and Brenda Neotenomie</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Bellular Hexatosis"></p><p>Bellular Hexatosis has everything you'd expect from a Porpentine game: garish, neony colours, some wonderful words, and some&nbsp;fantastic world-building. But all that has escaped the confines of the Twine format and been whacked into a Myst-style adventure game. In your quest to cure your sister's illness, you'll explore a weirdly beautiful&nbsp;3D world, rich with atmosphere and neat little details,&nbsp;and supported with a lovely dreamy&nbsp;soundtrack.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Oases by Armel Gibson and Dziff</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Oases"></p><p>I don't think this quite lives up to the intention expressed&nbsp;on the ending title card, but it's a fun little toybox worth messing around with for a few minutes&mdash;a wibbly wobbly,&nbsp;mushroomy game-thing, soundtracked by the inimitable&nbsp;Calum Bowen.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Call of Dudley by Poor Track Design</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Call of Dudley"></p><p>A meta first-person adventure set in a stripy labyrinth, one&nbsp;home to a bunch of occasionally ringing phones. Where are you? Who is the person on the other end of the phone? Well, that one isn't a <em>total</em> mystery: he's a dissident who, like you, has been thrown into this virtual telephone&nbsp;prison.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Mirror Lake by Katie Rose</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mirror Lake"></p><p>Mirror Lake randomly generates worlds in a bowl; a new world every couple of minutes, after it's finished evolving the previous one, by growing those trees, and all that fauna, etc etc. These are not worlds you'll&nbsp;interact with in any way, shape or form, but I loved watching them grow before my eyes. This is a beautiful thing, and I wish these worlds would stick around a little longer. Although maybe that's the point.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Star Raptor by Y310 Games</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Star Raptor"></p><p>The controls are a bit weird in this arcadey space game, so you might want to use a&nbsp;controller. It's a nice, clean-looking shoot-'em-up with a tough difficulty level, and a very hyperactive soundtrack you'll maybe want to mute. It's always&nbsp;good being in a spaceship in a galaxy full of space-baddies, and&nbsp;Star Raptor fulfils that brief pretty well.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Luxe Chalk by Konjak</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Luxe Chalk"></p><p>The original&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Chalk</a> is one of my favourite freeware games, and out&nbsp;of&nbsp;the&nbsp;blue its creator Konjak has released this unfinished 'HD' sequel, which&nbsp;he was working on before starting&nbsp;Iconoclasts. Compared to the original, it's a more developed drawing-based shmup&nbsp;that introduces a few new mechanics, and I've really enjoyed what I've played of it so far. As with its predecessor, you clear obstacles by drawing lines with the mouse, and defeat enemies by drawing lines from their projectiles back to them. Several years later, it's still a winning idea.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Tourist by Owl Cave</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Tourist"></p><p>Created for&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Asylum Jam</a>, Tourist is a short room-escape (sorta) adventure game&nbsp;with some&nbsp;nice art, a palpable atmosphere,&nbsp;and a strong (warning: pretty dark and&nbsp;unsettling)&nbsp;ending. There's a lot of story contained&nbsp;in the item descriptions, so I suggest right-clicking on everything you possibly&nbsp;can.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Homeland by Rook</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Homeland"></p><p><a href="" target="_blank">Fallow</a> developer Rook made this for the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Kitty Horrorshow</a> clone jam, and like many of Kitty's games it's a lonely wandering game with a&nbsp;story relayed through strewn&nbsp;crystal&nbsp;fragments. The difference here is&nbsp;voice acting, which mingles with the atmospheric music, and the&nbsp;mysterious, abstract&nbsp;setting, to pipe an intriguing short story into your head.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Reunition by Rage Monster Games</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Reunition"></p><p>Another Asylum Jam entry, Reunition&nbsp;is a puzzle-horror game featuring scrumptious pixel art, and an odd central mechanic I never quite figured out. It's something to do with mirrors, and your handy&nbsp;lantern, which you can dim to avoid the&nbsp;various hazards that want to do you in. You're trying to find your son, who's run off and gotten swallowed up by a creepy magic&nbsp;mirror. Or something. This has a bloomin' lovely atmosphere though.&nbsp;(Via&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Warp Door</a>)</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Homesickened by Snapman</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Homesickened"></p><p>Return to your creepy hometown in the aptly named Homesickened, an authentically retro first-person adventure that hasn't even heard of the words 'mouselook' or 'WASD'. (Alright, WASD isn't a word, but you know what I mean.) It's a sluggish, awkward game to control, but strangely all the better for it, the old-fashioned movement system complementing the moody pixel art remarkably well. I particularly like the soft whirs and clicks that sound as you walk around, suggesting an old computer struggling to render such a complex world.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Crowtel by Sink</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Crowtel"></p><p>You're a crow what runs a hotel, and Sink's game 'Crowtel' has gone and ripped off your life. So yes this is a very&nbsp;silly, lovely,&nbsp;vaguely Metroidvania-y platformer, about a crow trying to clean up his enormous hotel before the health inspectors are let loose on his property. It's&nbsp;Fawlty Towers meets Cave Story, basically, and if that doesn't make you curious then you are a husk, a <em>husk</em>, Madam/Sir.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Birdland by Brendan Patrick Hennessy</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Birdland"></p><p>Birdland is a funny and wondrous piece of interactive fiction about a girl trying to get through summer camp. Half of the game is dedicated to the camp experience, featuring all the forced outdoor activities and awkward social interactions I've come to expect from American films. The other is dedicated to your dreams, which are invariably located in a world populated entirely by bird-people, and where you are the only human. Interestingly, it's also something of an RPG. You have stats, which will&nbsp;go up or down depending on your dream-choices, and that open or limit your dialogue options in the real world. Imaginative, and often hilarious stuff.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">I am dead where are my keys by From Smiling</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="I am dead"></p><p>Grab sweets in your flying car in I am dead, which like Undertale takes place in its own weird, wonderful universe where skeletons are some of the funniest&nbsp;people around. Finding the sweets won't take too long, but I just liked being in this world, listening to the&nbsp;deeply soothing soundtrack and chatting with the big floating&nbsp;skull at the centre of town.</p><h3><a href="">Monster Streaking by Beavl</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Monster Streaking"></p><p>Monsters have arses too, and the green creature at the heart of Monster Streaking is determined to bear theirs for all the world to see. It's a cute and compelling&nbsp;auto-runner where you hold the left mouse button to advance, and release it to fall back, and you'll need to do both to avoid the various human obstacles on the bustling&nbsp;city streets. You acquire points by briefly&nbsp;pausing for photographs, and as you play you'll unlock additional creatures including Frankenstein's monster, a mummy, and Pinhead.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Attic by Elliott Davis</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Attic"></p><p>GameJolt has started organising jams dedicated to specific developers, encouraging others to make games in their (as it turns out) eminently imitable style. Attic is an entry in the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Kitty Horrorshow</a> Clone Jam, and it captures the spirit of&nbsp;Kitty's first-person mood-and-poetry&nbsp;pieces remarkably well.</p><p>Here's the full&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Clone Jam schedule</a>. I can't wait to see what else comes out of this.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Skelemania by Benal</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skelemania"></p><p>A pretty innovative Metroidvania, featuring a range of unique powers including a dive move, and the ability to roll your head under tiny gaps. I love the look of this platformer too; each area has its own one-colour palette, segmenting the strange little&nbsp;world in a clean, clear way.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Morse by Alex Johansson</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Morse"></p><p>As far as I can tell, there's no fail state in Morse, despite the enemy planes, people and submarines constantly advancing on your plucky&nbsp;troops. Your job is to order attacks on your opponents, something you can only achieve by taking note of their coordinates and inputting morse code with a cursor key to target them. It's a wonderful control scheme, in a well-illustrated and atmospheric game with effective sound design, but I could have done with a reason to stick around once I'd figured out how to play.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Flotate by Alex Johansson</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Flotate"></p><p>Well, this is a first. I try not to feature two games by the same developer in the same week, but I only noticed as I was putting this together that Alex Johansson made the funny Flotate as well. No matter. It's a silly&nbsp;local multiplayer game about some dudes in a pool, who are&nbsp;attempting to claim the sole rubber ring and emerge victorious. Using only two keys (four people can play using the same keyboard), you need to head for the ring, diving under to claim it in your name. Inventive, amusing stuff.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Rejection by qwerty</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Rejection"></p><p>Escape the (beautiful) room in this challenging&nbsp;sci-fi puzzler, which deposits you by a series of terminals with no apparent clue how to manipulate them to your advantage. What do all these symbols mean? Why are some red, and some green? You're allowed to make one move in each, before the computer shuts the frosty glass and opens up another, rotating back to the first eventually. qwerty's supplied a little help in the page description:</p><p>"An experimental memory-type game.&nbsp;Find a way out of the room.&nbsp;Prepare a piece of paper and a pen."</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Emily is Away by Kyle Seeley</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Emily Is Away"></p><p>A wonderfully presented and authentically written adventure game set in an MSN-style messenger client.&nbsp;The look of this early-2000s-set piece of interactive fiction is spot-on, mimicking Windows XP, and Microsoft's popular chat program, in a pretty nostalgic way. The game itself plays out&nbsp;like a more hands-on Digital: A Love Story, but with added Telltale-style "Emily will remember that", and with&nbsp;branching dialogue.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Good Luck Gardener by Farfin</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Good Luck Gardener"></p><p>There's no ending that I can find, and no challenge really in this cutely dark gardening game, but I enjoyed the repetitious nature of Good Luck Gardener enough to see it through to its non-conclusion. To spoil pretty much everything&mdash;oh yeah,&nbsp;<em>spoiler warning</em>&mdash;you're a helpful gardening ghost, except you're not helpful at all, you're a spectral jerk. Plant cards, dice and coins in the expanding graveyard, then feed them to some happy humans. Some worried humans. Some ill-looking humans oh they're all dead.</p><p>Man, ghosts are assholes.&nbsp;</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Binoculars Game by Jake Clover</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Binoculars Game"></p><p>Wander around a couple of swampy locations in this sludgy, atmospheric game from Jake Clover. You can move right, and&nbsp;you can use your binoculars to look at a scene that resembles the one you're in. Look at all the little details, lose yourself in the weird scene. I love his clip-art-looking pixel art so much.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Skeleton Flower by Loren Schmidt</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skeleton Flower"></p><p>Similar to Emily is Away, or a lot of modern adventure games, Loren Schmidt's Skeleton Flower gives you control over a fake operating system. You're looking at photos from someone's life&nbsp;that have been compressed into 1x1 resolution images&mdash;not much to go on, perhaps, but the accompanying capture date and description text help to illuminate things a bit.</p><p>A bit. It's still a very cryptic game, but a masterfully fake-glitchy one with it.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Where is Cat? by Bart Bonte</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Where is Cat"></p><p>This is basically Where's Wally, but with a cat. Bart Bonte worked with his kids to make this&mdash;they drew a lot of the objects, came up with the story, and made the artwork you can see above&mdash;and the result is one of the loveliest hidden object games I've played. It's possibly the funniest, too, capturing the greedy, mysterious, and cute nature of real cats everywhere.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Knossu by Jonathan Whiting</a></h3><h3><a href="" target="_blank"></a><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Knossu" style="font-size: 14px; color: rgb(154, 154, 154); background-color: initial;"></h3><p>Whiting describes Knossu is a "non-euclidean horror game", a Lovecraftian term that tends to describe geometrically weird places&mdash;and so this is. It's a game about exploring a tricksy maze that loops back on itself, that warps you around with apparent abandon, that feels expansive and claustrophobic at the same time. I desperately&nbsp;want to talk about this labyrinth's innovative&nbsp;monster, but I don't want to spoil the monster&mdash;so I'll just implore you again to play Knossu immediately. Man.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Treasure Hunter Man 2 by origamihero</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Treasure Hunter Man 2"></p><p>A Metroidvania about a mother searching for her teenage son. Like most mothers searching for their teenage children, she battles monsters, destroys blocks, and evades spikes as she explores a lovely desert&nbsp;island. It's like&nbsp;a fast-paced, smaller Treasure Adventure Game, this,&nbsp;not quite as good but then few exploratory platformers are.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Capsule II by PaperBlurt</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Capsule II"></p><p>I've not played the first Capsule, but I don't feel like I missed anything in&nbsp;playing PaperBlurt's funny, dark and gripping sci-fi sequel. You're a cryogenically unfrozen caretaker, aboard an ark&nbsp;carrying humanity through a handy&nbsp;space-hole, and you first have to contend with your own boredom, then your own&nbsp;madness, then...well, I'm not going to spoil this one either. But it's a bit horrific.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Sonam in the Storm by James Shasha</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Sonam"></p><p>A very short piece of interactive fiction that's quite&nbsp;enormously overwritten, but that hints at an interesting diversion for IF. Sonam uses&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">UnityTwine</a> to, um, install Twine in Unity, and the result is nothing short of beautiful. It feels pretty weird to click on hyperlinks in a 3D space, but it works with the game's&nbsp;lovely low-poly background, and with the The American Dollar's soundtrack, to create an IF of great atmosphere.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">They Came from the Roof by Kodained</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="They Came From The Roof"></p><p>An eminently playable arcade-style game that mashes up Pac-Man, Mario Bros, Space Invaders, Breakout, and probably some other games I didn't recognise. And it works. Hooray! As one or two players, you're trying to protect the ghosts from Pac-Man&mdash;which essentially act as your extra lives&mdash;by shooting monsters before they climb down to their hidey-hole.</p><p>This gets more difficult in later stages, as the number and speed of enemies increases, but your main opponent is the big Breakout paddle that&nbsp;seeks out and blocks many of&nbsp;your bullets. You'll need to team up&mdash;the AI is surprisingly good in single-player&mdash;with one player distracting the evil Breakout block, giving the other's shots a chance to get through. Marvellous stuff.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Psychic Cat" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>You don't have to be psychic to work at my psychic detective agency, but it helps. You also don't have to be psychic to play the very strange Psychic Cat, the very poetic Summit, the very chickeny Super Poulet Poulet and more. Enjoy!</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Trubadurr by Thibaut Mereu and co.</a></h3><iframe width="347" height="280" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>A Trine-like platformer&mdash;a very good-looking Trine-like platformer&mdash;made in nine months&nbsp;by students at&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Isart Digital Paris</a>. You're a bard, and like all bards in fantasy these days&nbsp;you're a bit of a pompous&nbsp;dick, albeit a pompus&nbsp;dick&nbsp;quite&nbsp;good at battling monsters. As&nbsp;in Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, or Overlord, you use creatures as ammo here&mdash;I just love the way to cling to your character after you've picked them up. This is accomplished, interesting, and cute.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Cyclo 8 by Nusan</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Cyclo 8"></p><p>Well it's Trials innit, but done in the elegant, beautiful Pico-8. And it's really good! Capturing the physics and feel of that bastard series extraordinarily well. I like the strange, alien&nbsp;world you're biking around in, which is nigh impossible to pinpoint (I think it's a desert?)&nbsp;I like the addition of collectibles, which tempt you to stray from the (slightly safer) path.&nbsp;And I'm <em>still</em> trying to figure out if the rider is in the buff. It kinda looks like it, doesn't it?</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">The Undertaking by Anna Anthropy</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Undertaking"></p><p>This minimalist, puzzle-less Puzzlescript game kind of got to me, and I'm not sure why. It's a short, loopy game about exploring a world, activating a thing, and then having&nbsp;the experience suddenly end just as you're getting interested in learning more. It's inscrutable: the kind of inscrutable that demands scrutiny, and offers absolutely&nbsp;nothing in return.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Psychic Cat by George Royer</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Psychic Cat" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Speaking of inscrutable, what the hell is this? It's a "journey across a blasted psychosphere", obviously, and it's one where you play as a cat lost in a neon wonderland patrolled by stompy naked green men.</p><p>So yeah, it's a load of nonsense. But it's strangely self-serious and coherent&nbsp;nonsense, and that makes it quite enjoyable&nbsp;to explore. (Via&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Warp Door</a>)</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Super Poulet Poulet by Retsyn</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Super Poulet"></p><p>Sometimes you just need a good platformer, and here is a good platformer with a fun chicken theme. You are said chicken, and you're able to take an extra hit by wearing a woolly hat, and slam into enemies for big poulet&nbsp;points. Slather your delicious frame in hot sauce&nbsp;and you can also burn enemies to a crisp. OK, so&nbsp;it's nothing revolutionary, but the controls feel nice, the sprites are cute, and the music is pretty damned catchy.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Summit by Phantom Williams</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Summit"></p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">2015 Interactive Fiction Competition</a> is ongoing at the moment, and some great stuff has been uploaded to the site. Including Summit, a Porpentiney (but not by Porpentine) game about leaving your home to ascend a tantalising mountain. I chose the life of a strange fishpersonthing, in this rambling (in a good way) philosophical&nbsp;trek featuring good words and great graphic design. (Via&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Emily Short</a>)</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">D.S.A. by Kate Barrett</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="DSA"></p><p>D.S.A. has been in development for five years, and the result is a big, fun, enjoyably scrappy adventure game set in a bizarre world. You'll play as all three members of a separated girl group, solving puzzles by exploring and interacting with stuff, rather than trying every inventory item on every other inventory item ad nauseum. I like the&nbsp;"Low-Quality MSPaint Graphics" quite a lot; this feels like a lost game from before indie gaming exploded, something like Treasure Adventure Game or Eternal Daughter. (i.e. it's&nbsp;huge and fully featured, and rather ambitious.)</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">TOMBs of Reschette by Richard Goodness</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Tombs of Reschette"></p><p>I've been a bit lax in finding interactive fiction lately, so here's a good one from one of the genre's best writers, Richard Goodness. It's a joyously silly game set in a smallish dungeon, but one where you'll want to try every option to see what wonderfully bonkers endings you can uncover. TOMBs of Reschette is&nbsp;genuinely funny, something few games manage, and it makes great use of Twine. (Via&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Gnome</a>)</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Yume Nikki 3D by Zykov Eddy</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Yume Nikki 3D"></p><p>A Yume Nikki fangame from&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Electric Highways</a> developer Zykov Eddy, with a standalone expansion available in the same folder. What a moody world (well, <em>worlds</em>) to explore, from a novel, almost&nbsp;second-person perspective that constantly&nbsp;reminds us whose subconscious it is we're traipsing through. But mostly I like this because I like seeing pixel art in 3D games; Yume Nikki&nbsp;3D is damned good at delivering that.&nbsp;(Via&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Warp Door</a>)</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Artners by Holly Gramazio</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Artners"></p><p>I like art creation games, not because I personally get much out of them, but because I know people are going to make some wonderful stuff. Artners gives you a subject, some time, and a set of tools with which to slop paint on your canvas;&nbsp;in a neat touch, another player can join in using the other side of the keyboard.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Mount Pleasant Drive by Niall Moody</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mount Pleasant Drive"></p><p>I've not been to Glasgow, so for all I know it looks exactly like this strange, stationary trip through its streets, rivers, shops, parks, and other things I thought I saw in Niall Moody's "broken audiovisual radio". You move the mouse (I don't think you need to move the mouse, but it does speed things up) and the landscape contorts around you, taking you on a dreamlike/nightmarish journey around an urban place.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Mystery Tapes by Strangethink</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Mystery Tapes"></p><p>You awake amid a pile of videotapes, hundreds and hundreds of tapes with names that suggest so much, and that result in a different set of coloured wavy lines when fed into one of three TV-VHS units. Experiment with different tape combos to create alternately&nbsp;weird environments, and to generate a different string of disjointed nonsense from the figure overseeing your exploration. A wonderfully tactile exhibit.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Michael E Michael by Aaron Meyers</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Michael E Michael"></p><p>Square off against Michael Jackson as his arch-nemesis, Michael Jackson, in this funny two-player local multiplayer game, created for's&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Duplicade</a> jam. Michael can punch, Michael can of course fire lasers, and most vitally of all Michael can dance. Man, can he dance.&nbsp;Michael's dancing, as it did in real life, creates an army of mini-clones. Look at them go.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Fire Dance With Me by&nbsp;Robert Gaither and&nbsp;Anja Luzega</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Fire Dance With Me" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Another Duplicade entry, Fire Dance With Me lets you&nbsp;"pick your favorite Twin Peaks character and Dance Dance with Leland Palmer". Obviously I picked the Log Lady's Log, and that sharp-suited guy from the Red Lodge. This is such a beautifully inappropriate rhythm game, with great sprites and an apt choice of music.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">The Mammoth: A Cave Painting by inbetweengames</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Mammoth"></p><p>Rescue stranded mammoth-lings, and attempt to&nbsp;defend them from nasty human hunters, in this lovely-lookin' short adventure set in prehistoric times. In the vast, endless sea that is indie games in 2015,&nbsp;I'm a big fan of short, polished, pointed games like this.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Notice Me Detective by&nbsp;Valentina Chrysostomou,&nbsp;Maria Christofi,&nbsp;Kyriakos Georgiou</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Notice Me Detective"></p><p>I missed this back in August, and that's almost as criminal as the wrong-doings you're dispatched to investigate, as the hotshot, box-headed Detective Buh. Notice Me Detective is a fun&nbsp;first-person comedy/mystery game, recalling Jazzpunk, set in a series of crime scenes that you can contaminate with your invisible hands if you desire. The controls felt a bit off, but this is a big, well-detailed world that's fun to explore, either as yourself or a handy animal partner.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Loup by&nbsp;01101101</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Loup"></p><p>Well it's basically Tag (or Tig, if you live in a different part of the UK, where they name everything wrongly). The rules of Tag being that if you touch someone, they become 'It', and therefore temporarily infectious to children everywhere. Here, It gets to wear a cool wolf mask, while the mechanics of Tag have been expanded in a gamey way. You can now earn more points (and indeed, earn points at all) by hovering near It in a dangerous, playing-with-fire way.</p><p>I wish that It (when it's being controlled by the AI) would chase other children once in a while, but that little issue aside&nbsp;there's something wonderfully innocent about Loup.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Hjarta by Eight Bit Skyline</a></h3><iframe width="552" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Eight Bit's freeware Adventure Game Studio game is a "collection of short stories", concerned with the fates of three characters: the Cosmonaut, the Prisoner, and the Martyr. I'm not sure about the art, but the animation is very nice, bringing a colourful and interesting&nbsp;science fiction world to life.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Close Remixes of the Third Kind by RisingPixel</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Close Remixes" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Remember that bit in Close Encounters when humans conversed with Johnny Alien through a series of musical notes? This is that, but with aliens that don't want to hear everything they say parroted back to them&mdash;and who can blame them? Instead, to earn the most points, you'll 'remix' their notes by repeating them in a different order, something they seem to enjoy. This really needs a proper time limit, and more scope for creativity, but what's here is fun. (Via&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Warp Door</a>)</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">ESCAPE 2107 by Jonas Hansen</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Escape 2107"></p><p>"Escape an infinite array of vectorized spaces before time runs out." Or, to put it slightly more simply, find the exit point in each grid-based first-person level to advance to the next. The time limit you have to work with is punishingly tiny, and while you annoyingly have to restart the entire game after failing too many times (argh!), you can mitigate this somewhat by collecting credits along the way. I couldn't find a solution to level 4; perhaps you'll fare better? Which is to say, of course you will.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Snong by Andreas Johansen</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Snong"></p><p>Andreas Johansen has mated Snake with Pong, naming the resulting ungodly abomination 'Snong'. let's just appreciate that perfectly ugly portmanteau for a moment.</p><p>Wonderful stuff. Anyway, Snong is a two-player Ponglike that lets you move around like the snake from Snake, collecting bits to increase your size and make a you a better, more efficient Pong bat. It's a fun idea, the presentation is cute, and the mechanics mash together surprisingly well.</p><p>*</p><p>Developer Stew Hogarth sadly died this week&mdash;you might remember his wonderful I Am Level from The Free Webgame Round-Up&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">back in 2013</a>. Now seems like a good time to return to that accomplished pinball platformer, or to play some of his&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">other games</a>.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Electric Highways by Zykov Eddy, Xitilon</a></p><iframe width="854" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p>Electric Highways is an exploration and puzzle-focused wanderer, with a first-person-but-with-pixels art style that recalls the original System Shock, Ultima Underworld, games like that. It's a fun place to explore: ten levels of moods, skies, lights and things to press, in 2072's version of the virtual reality web. There's a mite more interaction, and a lot more level design going on than in most walking simulators, so I'm going to call this genre 'Doomlike, But Without Any Guns'. More of those please, developers.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Slam City Oracles by&nbsp;Jane Friedhoff,&nbsp;Jenny Jiao Hsia, Scully</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Slam City Oracles"></p><p>"Slam City Oracles is a rambunctious, riot grrrl, Katamari-meets-Grand Theft Auto physics game, in which you and a friend slam onto the world around you to cause as much chaos as possible in two minutes."</p><p>I found the slamming mechanic a little inconsistent and mildly infuriating (alternatively: I'm terrible and didn't understand it), but I do love a good physics-heavy sandbox game. it's almost a shame that the camera soon zooms out to accommodate both players, as there's some cute, happy art in this game about smashing a vertical settlement to bits.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Trappy Mine by rogueNoodle</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Trappy Mine"></p><p>Explore a mine full of treasure, traps, spikes and exploding things, while trying to escape your nemesis: a vertically scrolling screen that will do you in should you find yourself&nbsp;caught in its invisible grip. This is a wonderfully polished, attractive and hectic arcade game, and one that greatly benefits from that added time pressure, which causes you to make snap decisions and horrible mistakes as you descend further&nbsp;into this deadly,&nbsp;trappy&nbsp;mine.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">A Heart between Parts by leafthief</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="A Heart between Parts"></p><p>You Are The Monster, again, in this gorgeous point and click, which asks you to escape from the room you've been imprisoned in. You're a scientific experiment, deemed a failure by your creator (you can see why you want to get the hell out of there). I do enjoy a good room escape, and here's one with scrumptious art and a brilliant premise.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">LadyBug by kingPenguin</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="LadyBug"></p><p>The Fly meets Hotline Miami in this blisteringly quick, gory platformer about a half-woman, half-bug that has to kill a bunch of scientists before they can&nbsp;kill her. As is typical with these sorts of things, I'm no good at it at all, meaning LadyBug requires skill, patience, and a tolerance for repetition. I do love the pixel art&mdash;the scampering wall-running of the titular ladybug is my favourite animation of the week.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Skipping Stones To Lonely Homes&nbsp;by Alan Hazelden</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Skipping Stones"></p><p>I wanted to include this last week, but because I'm an idiot&mdash;and because the very first screen of Alan Hazelden's latest Puzzlescript game had me stumped&mdash;it's taken me this long to get past the first island. I'm now on island 3, and it's not letting up.</p><p>Skipping Stones is a game about punting rocks across the water, rocks that will disturb lily pads you can use to cross from island to island. Lily pads follow water currents. Stones do not. There's your basis for a beautifully pure puzzler that will really&nbsp;get under your skin.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Meeuw by Tom van den Boogaart</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Meeuw"></p><p>Tom's follow-up to the wonderful Red Amazon is the silly, fun Meeuw, a game about a psychotic seagull. Like all seagulls, the one you play as in Meeuw can breath fire, and you'll use it here to immolate pedestrians, to ruin the scenery, and to blow up cars. This is what happens when you give seagulls chips, people.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Laraan by Flynn's Arcade</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Laraan"></p><p>I'm not entirely sure that developer Flynn's Arcade is being serious when it describes Laraan as a game that "bridges the gap between Cinema and Action/Adventure games with a completely old style of fluid, cinematic storytelling." That's because it's a nice-looking walking simulator with painfully slow movement and a lovely big jump button, although it is a particularly good one of those. The colour palette evokes the immortal&nbsp;Moebius, which is the best thing a colour palette can do. I don't like the feeling of movement much, but Laraan offers an interesting place to explore.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Death of a Lich by Daniel Linssen</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Death of a Lich"></p><p>Linssen's latest puts you in a seemingly procedurally generated tower that sometimes generates in a way that doesn't let you proceed. Still, it's worth a restart when that happens, as this one of the more original You Are The Monster games. As the monster, you'll drop between platforms in a turn-based stylee, trying to fight or avoid archers and other soldiers even as you hunger after their yummy, yummy souls. You'll need to master your timing to dodge arrows, and gauge your jumps so that you don't fall too far and injure your lichy self.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Excavation! by Scriptwelder</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Excavate"></p><p>The talented Scriptwelder leaves room escape behind for the involved Excavation!, a game about conducting an archaeological dig. After assembling a crew with hopefully varying skill sets, and after&nbsp;buying a few tools, you'll survey, test, and dig up clumps up of earth, in your search for rare finds from long ago.</p><p>At a basic level this is Minesweeper, with each of those little numbers above indicating where mines (or, in this case, treasure) might be buried. That concept's embellished with the need to&nbsp;preserve&nbsp;priceless artefacts, and to manage your funds and stamina. You only have so many days on this dig site, so you'd better make them count. This is a smart and accomplished Minesweeper re-imagining.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Dullahan by like, a hundred bears</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dullahan"></p><p>Dullahan is a Castlevania-like that will really make you *cheeky wink* <em>lose your head</em>, which is to say that it's a GameBoy-styled platformer that allows you to plonk things like keys and bombs into your gaping neckhole. This is a neat mechanic, once you realise that Up and Attack uses keys,&nbsp;and the aesthetic&nbsp;feels quite authentic to the era, but it is stupid and&nbsp;frustrating to have to restart the entire thing upon death.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Telepath by Spotline</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Telepath"></p><p>Wow. If you're using Chrome you'll need to download Telepath to play it, but it's worth it for the extraordinary way it uses shaders to create multiple worlds within the same space. The world's default state is blank and featureless, and to see it how others see it (or, I guess, for a window into their minds), you have to&nbsp;pass through them like a ghost. Each entity houses a world, of nature or numbers or skyscrapers, but you can only witness it while you're passing through their form. This is seriously&nbsp;smart stuff, from the developer of Ultimate Pate and The World Beneath.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Totem by Ian MacLarty</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Totem"></p><p>A pretty literal interpretation of You Are The Monster, Totem is a mechanically simple game about a big rockperson that walks out of the sea. Smash all the island's inhabitants with your big rock bum to trigger an ending, while appreciating some truly bloody lovely artwork, and trying to tolerate some&nbsp;horrible bagpipey music.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Labyrinth of Loneliness by LTPATS</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Labyrinth of Loneliness" style="background-color: initial;"></p><p>Speaking of lovely artwork, would you just&nbsp;look at Labyrinth of Loneliness. It's another Ludum Dare game, and one where you chase nicely sketched and animated people into fiery deathpits. Every time you do so, some cringeworthy text appears to insinuate some deeper meaning, but it's worth putting up with that for the fun chase sequences (the chasees look behind them sometimes, it's kind of cute), and of course for the&nbsp;striking visual style.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Subway Adventure by Stephen Lavelle</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Subway Adventure"></p><p>It's a new Stephen Lavelle/Increpare game&mdash;need we say more? OK, some more. It's a massive subway network filled with very strange stops expressed in a variety of colours and art styles, with roaming&nbsp;NPCs, and&nbsp;signs to click that may&nbsp;help you map the game world. You'll visit a range of odd, funny, glitchy stops in Subway Adventure, or you will if its juddering pedestrians will let you enter and exit your train. A lovely slice of digital tourism, in a land ripe for exploration and photo-taking.</p><p><a href="" target="_blank" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Nocturne in Yellow by TerminusEst13</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Nocturne in Yellow"></p><p>My excitement for&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Gloome</a> (a new version of id-engine modding tool GZDoom, that allows modders to release commercial games) is only slightly tempered by the fact that I have no clue how to set the damned thing up. Other people have, however, including TerminusEst13, who has made the fun Gothic shooter Nocturne In Yellow. It's a bit like Castlevania, and a lot like Heretic/Doom etc, meaning you'll stab up zombies, spiders and vampires using a gory spear, and a bow with infinite arrows. Man, I've missed the ridiculously fast movement speed of id-engine games.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Red Amazon by Tom van den Boogaart</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Red Amazon"></p><p>This is one of the most beautiful free games I've played for ages: a clean, low-poly first-person story from one of indie gaming's best and brightest, Tom van den Boogaart. I love his stylised take on the wilderness, I love the quirky movement system (no default Unity FPS controls here, thankfully), and I love the fact that Red Amazon actually features an animated entity, unlike almost every first-person indie game I've played recently. The only thing I don't like is Boogaart's relative obscurity: he deserves to be a much bigger name.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Porthole by Mark Wonnacott and Claire Morley</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Porthole"></p><p>Explore a weird world from your rotatable porthole, as you try to figure out where you are, and what the bally, slimey, clustery things in front of you could possibly be. “Follow the compass,” proclaims the page, and “seek the depths”. That compass looks&nbsp;a bit like a Stargate&nbsp;chevron.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">One More Night by Stefan Srb and Craig Barnes</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="One More Night"></p><p>A short choose-your-own-adventure made for the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">GameBoy jam</a> (and now I'm imagining what GameBoy jam would look and taste like – probably Greengage). The pixel art is scrumptious, the sound is just discordant and shrill enough to convince, and the story is open-ended enough to make you want to replay immediately. “Three friends embark on a two-day camping trip before their last year of school begins. A trip they never want to end.” A cute, sweet, very green game.</p><h3><a href="" target="_blank">Dusk Child by Sophie Houlden</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dusk Child"></p><p>A wonderful puzzle-platformer made using Lexaloffle's increasingly impressive&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Pico-8</a>. Fathom your way around a mysterious location, examining objects with the Z button and ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the gorgeous pixel art with your mouth. One of the best uses of Pico-8 yet&mdash;I'm also greatly looking forward to Terry Cavanagh's&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">first-person shooter</a> made for the console.</p><p><a href="" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">graynold runner by Jake Clover</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Graynold Runner" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>A sidescrolling shmup that prioritises atmosphere over score-chasing, featuring music by Beeswing's Jack King-Spooner. I love Jake Clover's sprites, the strange alien universe that all his games seem to take place in. graynold runner gives you two ships, then when they're on fire and you jettison to safety, it gives you two little astronauts, who can hijack passing vehicles. A serene little anti-shoot-'em-up (maybe the world's first?)</p><h3><a href="">Wish Fishing by Pol Clarissou</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Wish Fishing" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>A digital wishing well that lets you cast a word, a phrase, a string of nonsense into space. That's part of it: the fun part is looking at what other people have chucked out before you. The terms they dared scrawl on the game's galactic messageboard, the words they typed when they thought nobody else was looking. When you're done, Wish Fishing prescribes you a sort of horoscope, which you can try to decipher at the linked <a href="">glossary page</a>.</p><h3><a href="">UNTERwELT by Noxlof</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="UNTERWeLT" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>This short, stylish story was made for the <a href="">A Game By Its Cover jam</a>, in which developers made titles based on fake cartridge art. The rushed development period has resulted in plenty of spelling errors and straightforward dialogue that kinda undermines the experience, but you can't fault the lovely pixel art and and palpable atmosphere in UNTERwELT.</p><h3><a href="">The Jimi Hendrix Case by Gurok</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="The Jimi Hendrix Case" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>“In a world where everyone is Jimi Hendrix, only Jimi Hendrix can solve the murder and find out who killed Jimi Hendrix.” So begins a point-and-click adventure with gorgeous pixel art and funny dialogue, where you actually get to use your gun. I've loved that in adventure games since Blade Runner, and despite (or perhaps because of) its short length, The Jimi Hendrix Case is one of the few to make full use of its shooting system. (Via <a href="">Warp Door</a>)</p><h3><a href="">Sonic Dreams Collection by Arcane Kids</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Sonic Dreams Collection" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>Zineth/Bubsy 3D/Room of 1000 Snakes developers Arcane Kids are back with another brilliant piece of freeware, this one pretending to be a collection of lost Sonic demos and prototypes from the mid to late '90s. They've got the Dreamcast look down pat by now, and if it weren't for the sight of Sonic and pals engaging in an orgy in Sonic Movie Maker, this could be pretty convincing. There are four little games included here: Make My Sonic, Eggman Origin, Sonic Movie Maker, and My Roommate Sonic, AKA stretch a Sonic character, try to play a non-functioning MMO, film seedy Sonic shenanigans with a movie camera, and romance Sonic the Hedgehog in VR. A disturbing and hilarious game about fandom, from some of the best comedians in the business.</p><p><a href="" style="font-size: 24px; font-weight: bold;">Banned Memories: Yamanashi by GamingEngineer</a></p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Banned Memories" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>Banned Memories turns the restrictions of PS1 hardware into a stylistic choice, and why not? Restrictions are great, giving a project a framework to rail against, or to comfortably fit within as you see fit. While the game seems to relish in the low-poly models and texture warping of the early 32-bit days, developer GamingEngineer <em>is</em> pushing against the restrictions of Game Maker: Studio, making probably the most impressive 3D game I've seen with it yet.</p><p>Engine aside, this is an atmospheric horror game that stacks up nicely against the likes of Silent Hill and Overblood, even if it's obviously several shades behind those games on account of it being made by one person, rather than a whole team of seasoned professionals. This is an early look at the game, containing a part of a haunted school to explore, and I'm really digging what I've played of it so far. (Via <a href="">IndieGames</a>)</p><h3><a href="">Zzzz-Zzzz-Zzzz by SaintHeiser</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="ZzzzZzzzZzzz" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>The remarkable Zzzz-Zzzz-Zzzz is set in a dream world, and fittingly its rules have no consistency from one screen to the next. It's called that not only because you're asleep, but because you'll be pressing Z a lot. Z to go through a door. Z to go to sleep. Z to do an interaction, though you're never quite sure what that interaction will be. Because of this, because each new screen feels strange and unfamiliar, Zzzz-Zzzz-Zzzz is one of the few games to really get what dreams are about. It's a delightful, constantly surprising thing&mdash;fans of Fez are going to fall in love with it, I reckon.</p><h3><a href="">Liberation, My Love by Newmark Software</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Liberation My Love" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>A simple platformer embellished with a pleasant art style and premise, about a keytar-wielding robot thing that shoots colours at baddies. (He also has a shield, and a nifty lateral dash move.) The basic jumping and spike-avoiding could feel slicker, but Liberation, My Love's unique setting and look go a long way.</p><h3><a href="">Out of Sight by Isart Digital students</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Out Of Sight" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>It's a bit like Remember Me, this, specifically those bits in Remember Me where you have to reprogram people's memories (because you're a jerk). You're a woman with dymnesia trying to recover lost memories with the aid of a psychiatrist here, something you achieve by pivoting from one interactible object to the next, in a series of frozen moments from your past. You can examine each object for a bit of background detail, or combine the various sights and smells and sounds and other senses to bring the central memory to life. Writing and UI-wise, this is slightly clumsy, but I think the premise is a strong one. It's a bold and stylistically impressive game too.</p><h3><a href="">Disposable by Martin Cohen</a></h3><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Disposable" style="width: 668px;"></p><p>There's not much to Disposable yet, but I did enjoy the look of the world, and the dashy jumping ability I never managed to master. As your little robot explores a facility, looking for terminals to hack in order to open a central door, you'll occasionally need to rely on a tricksy dash-jump-thing that hurtles you through the air at a fixed distance. It's a fun, challenging few minutes of platforming, that Martin Cohen will hopefully return to at a later date.</p> heroes and achievements on offer for Amplitude's various games.Sat, 23 Jan 2016 15:00:00 +0000 StudiosDungeon of the EndlessEndless LegendEndless SpaceNewsRoguelike <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Endless Legend"></p><p>Amplitude Studios is celebrating its fifth birthday with its second annual&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Endless Day</a>:&nbsp;a day that lasts from 21 to 25 January, and that offers up rare heroes and achievements to people who play their games during this time, and who&nbsp;fulfil various conditions. That stuff is&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">detailed here</a>, and includes a trio of heroes simply for starting new games of Endless Space, Endless Legend, and Dungeon of the Endless. You can also bag some time-limited achievements, though these will require a mite more effort.</p><p>(Amplitude&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">hints here</a> that you might be able to get these things <em>after</em> January 25, perhaps by mucking about with the time settings on your computer.)</p><p>During a celebratory livestream, Amplitude also announced a new expansion for Endless Legend titled Shifters. Ampz sez&nbsp;"this expansion will include a new Major Faction called The Allayi. This new civilization will be able to ‘shift’ during long winters", a fine alternative to sticking the heating on and hugging a hot water bottle, I reckon. Meanwhile,&nbsp;"all factions will also be able to collect a new resource called the ‘Pearls of Auriga’, enabling them to unlock new powers through the ‘Altar of Auriga’ and modify the upcoming winters’ impact". Good on them.</p><p>Here's a picture of them there Shifters (ta,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">RPS</a>):</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Endless Legend Shifters"></p><p>One of the upcoming Endless Space 2's new factions has been revealed as well.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The Sophons</a> are one of ES2's eight major factions, and they're basically insectoid scientists.</p> (for)your Dues. Or rather, don't.Sat, 23 Jan 2016 11:00:00 +0000 GamesNewsRoguelikeStarward Rogue <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Starward Rogue"></p><p>Arcen Games, of Skyward Collapse and A.I. War and The Last Federation and *deep breath* A Valley Without Wind and <em>lots of other games</em> fame, has released&nbsp;its latest. Its latest is named&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Starward Rogue</a>, and it's a roguelike featuring bullet hell elements. Bullet hellements, if you will. It's set in&nbsp;a "roguelite labyrinth lodged in the side of a star", and one of the characters is a plonker called Rodney, so it's relevant to at least two of my interests. Starward Rogue is&nbsp;currently 20% off&nbsp;on the various stores (here are its&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Steam</a> and&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Humble</a> pages), and there's a trailer to help you figure out whether it's for you:</p><iframe width="640" height="360" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe><p><strong>Don't go just yet</strong> though, as to celebrate the occasion, Arcen has temporarily made one of its games available for free. Its tactical mech-'em-up Bionic Dues is free on Humble&nbsp;for the next seven or so hours (until 6pm GMT), so&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">get clicking</a> if you fancy giving that a play. I've stuffed the trailer below.</p><iframe width="640" height="360" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe> week PC Gamer’s team transmutes base metal into a new element known as Hottakeium.Sat, 23 Jan 2016 03:14:26 +0000 and lows <p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Dinosaur"></p><h2>THE HIGHS</h2><p><strong>Andy Kelly: Jurassic lark<br></strong><a href="">Back to Dinosaur Island</a> is a tech demo by Crytek designed for VR headsets. You can download it on Steam for free, but don’t bother if you don’t have an Oculus Rift. This week I’ve been catching up on the world of VR tech demos, and this is one of the most impressive I’ve tried yet. In it you sit motionless in a beautiful CryEngine-powered jungle scene as various dinosaur-related things happen, ending with a close encounter with a beautifully animated T-rex.</p><p>It doesn’t sound like much, but when that giant lizard bastard’s all up in your face, you can’t help but lean back in your chair. I gave my girlfriend a go on it, and she squealed when it roared at her. But you’ll need a decent computer to run the thing. They recommend a GTX 980, but it works fine&mdash;bar a few minor jitters&mdash;on my GTX 970. Here’s a <a href="">video</a> of it in action.</p><p>If you have access to a VR headset, give this a try. Even though all you’re doing is sitting in a cave among some dinosaur eggs watching stuff happen, it’s incredibly effective. VR games don’t need blisteringly realistic graphics to be effective&mdash;you can create a convincing experience with basic geometry and textures&mdash;but this is a taste of how amazing VR stuff can be with high production values and powerful tech like CryEngine doing the legwork.</p><p><strong>James Davenport: Podcast the sun!<br></strong>I know Dark Souls 3 doesn’t come out until April, but that hasn’t stopped my personal hype engine from firing up. And I’ve been shoveling coal into that steamy maw with reckless abandon in the form of another run through Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, and Bloodborne. This time though, I’m not doing it alone. Sort of. My buddies from the <a href="">Bonfireside Chat</a> podcast are talking me and walking me through it. No, not in person, and no I don’t actually know them, but their podcast is simultaneously so personable and in-depth that it feels like we’re pals.</p><p>The show has Gary Butterfield and Kole Ross talking through small chunks of each Souls game, speaking to the games’ design and lore intricacies. Both hosts are knowledgeable, funny, and enthusiastic. Revisiting the games through the lens of true experts has stripped away some of the vestigial pain, prepped me for lore, taught me about how smart the Souls game design is, and yeah, fired me up for Dark Souls 3. <a href="">Give ‘em a listen</a>, why don’t you?</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Garbage Day Slide"></p><p><strong>Chris Livingston: Deflated ego<br></strong>I've had a pretty good week of gaming! I had an enjoyable if fairly aimless jaunt in <a href="">the Early Access time-loop of Garbage Day</a> and a mostly satisfying sleuth through <a href="">exploration-based puzzler INFRA</a>. I also <a href="">tried out Metal Gear Online</a>, and while I have plenty of problems with it, I found it especially fun in a very specific way.</p><p>Single-player games are great at making us into god-like anomalies. We have amazing weapons, skills, powers, and gear that no one else in the game has, and we visit great destruction and misery on hapless NPCs constantly and with little consequence. Metal Gear Online feels like karma in a lot of ways. After gleefully and wantonly attaching Fulton balloons to enemy soldiers, allies, bears, and goats in the campaign, I now know just how humiliating it is to be Fultoned myself. To have a stranger appear out of nowhere, crush my windpipe like an empty Solo Cup, dump me in the dirt, strap a balloon to my groin, and scamper off as I'm yanked skyward in full view of everyone. It doesn't feel good, but it feels justified. From time to time, we all need to be humbled.</p><p><strong>Wes Fenlon: I started playing NetHack...<br></strong>...and it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. But hey, after Dwarf Fortress, maybe nothing is.&nbsp;</p><p>I expected the basics of interaction and control in NetHack to be impenetrable without hours of learning, but I picked it up pretty quickly. Unlike Dwarf Fortress’s absurdly obtuse menus, most of NetHack’s make sense. ‘w’ to equip weapons. ‘W’ to wear armor. ‘q’ to quaff a potion. Okay, that one’s pretty obscure. I’ve barely scratched the surface of NetHack&mdash;there are miles of complexity and features I don’t even know exist, waiting in the dungeons beneath my feet&mdash;but I’m not scared to play anymore. And I’m excited to make a video series of learning the basics, which hopefully a few people will learn from, too.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Metal Gear remake Slide"></p><p><strong>Samuel Roberts: Metal Gear? Metal Gear!<br></strong>Of the cool things the internet threw out this week, I was most impressed by this Unreal Engine 4 recreation of <a href="">Metal Gear Solid</a> seemingly made by one person, Airam Hernandez. While I sort of wish these projects were completed in secret and then widely distributed so it wasn’t quite as easy to shut them down before anyone can play them, it’s just cool to see Shadow Moses recreated in so much detail.</p><p>It seems Konami hasn’t stepped in to close it down yet, so who knows? I’d love to give the early version a try in lieu of a Steam version of the original PC version, or The Twin Snakes remake for GameCube.</p><p><strong>Chris Thursten: High tide<br></strong>I’ve been playing the <a href="">Torment: Tides of Numenera beta</a> this week in advance of the RPG’s arrival on Steam Early Access. This is a raw, very early slice of the game&mdash;it’s buggy and incomplete and if you want to have the best possible experience then I advise you to wait for launch. But those caveats aside I’m really enjoying it. The game is based on the Numenera pen and paper setting by Monte Cook Games, which I’ve been playing on and off for almost two years. I’m way too young to have experienced the thrill of seeing Dungeons and Dragons adapted to the PC for the first time, but Torment has given me a sense of what that must have been like. This is a thoughtful implementation of a clever RPG system, one that emphasizes freedom and storytelling over combat (though combat’s in there too.)</p><p>If you’re unfamiliar with both Torment and Numenera, imagine the lovechild of Pillars of Eternity and Sunless Sea. Expect to be required to read a lot, to use your imagination, and to tangle with some complicated high-concept sci-fi. The reward is an RPG with real intellectual and imaginative clout that respects the decisions you make: you can fight, resolve conflict peaceably, deal only with the companions you wish to and carve out your own path in an organic way. It’s also extremely buggy at the moment, so consider that before you invest.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Joblow"></p><h2> THE LOWS</h2><p><strong>Samuel Roberts: $40 Witness<br></strong>I was going to choose the intense internet speculation about whether or not <a href="">Jonathan Blow posted a picture of a bottle of piss</a> on Twitter yesterday, but I think that might actually be a high of the week. Instead, I’ll nominate the small backlash towards the news that his new game, The Witness, will be priced more like a triple-A game at $40 than a typical indie release.</p><p>I think we’ve gotten very used to prices bottoming out on PC relatively quickly, and that means our perception of value can be skewed. I’ve played FTL for way more hours than Mad Max, for example, but one’s obviously a lot cheaper than the other. There’s no exact science to it, but I think for a game that’s taken Blow over seven years to finish, with tens of hours of game to get stuck into, that fee is fair enough for those who can’t wait to play The Witness. For everyone else, they can wait for the sale until it’s priced at a rate they consider fair&mdash;but without anyone having played the game beforehand, how can those criticising the price be so sure it’s not worth $40?&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Andy Kelly: Voicing concerns<br></strong><a href="">Dragon’s Dogma</a> is brilliant, but there’s one thing that makes me occasionally hate it: not being able to preview a pawn’s voice before you hire them. When you talk to a pawn, their voice is at the default pitch. But then you hire them, and they suddenly sound incredibly squeaky, or really, really low. If you play the game, please, do the world a favour and don’t give your main pawn a daft voice. I’ve had to abandon so many well-equipped, powerful pawns because I couldn’t stand them constantly squeaking “Wolves hunt in packs!” in their chipmunk voices.</p><p>Honestly, I’ve had a pretty good week, and that’s the only ‘low’ I could think of. So I might as well use this space to tell you about <a href="">this mod</a>, which restores the game’s original main menu music, which is MUCH better than the default one. It’s a remix of a song called Into Free by a Japanese band called B’z, which starts out as a lovely, gentle piano piece, before suddenly turning into the most exciting song ever. FLYING INTO FREEEEEE.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Banner saga vinyl"></p><p><strong>Wes Fenlon: Vinyl game soundtracks may bankrupt me<br></strong>Austin Wintory’s wonderful soundtrack for The Banner Saga <a href="">was released on vinyl this week</a>, and it is holy-shit-how-was-this-made-by-human-hands beautiful. Those red and white records. That striking slipcase. Dear god. I want it, but hoo boy it’s a bit expensive at $40 (and another $12 or so for shipping, I believe).</p><p>And it’s not the only one. <a href="">Data Discs</a> has recently put out some amazing looking vinyl collections of classic game music. Streets of Rage and Shinobi III may not be PC games, but I covet their vinyl soundtracks all the same. The problem with these gorgeous vinyl pressings is that they’re mostly limited editions, and thus come with premium costs attached. As attracted as I am, I must resist buying each one to keep my bank account solvent. I couldn’t resist <a href="">this special edition arrange album of Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger music</a>, though. It was very exclusive.</p><p><strong>Chris Livingston: Stamina blarrgh<br></strong>I can't think of a specific low from this week, so I'm gonna go with this general low: stamina bars can get stuffed. There are things that go into games because they've more or less always gone into them&mdash;eating food heals wounds, for example&mdash;and stamina bars are beginning to feel like that for me. There must be a limit on how long a player can run at top speed. Why? Because that's what games do, and have done forever. And I hate it.</p><p>Realism can help a game, but it can also make a game less fun. If you pop a magazine out of your gun, but the mag isn't empty, you don't have to physically remove the bullets from the spent mag because that would suck. It's realistic that my character can't run at top speed endlessly, but it's also not fun. I'm okay with depleted stamina having an effect on combat, like maybe I can't swing a sword at full power if my stamina is drained, or maybe it's harder to aim a rifle if my character is out of breath after a long run. But repeatedly slowing my movement speed as I run from point A to point B, making me constantly re-toggle the sprint key when the meter refills, making me invest precious skill points into how long I can run... bleah! Please join me in my efforts to ban stamina bars from games forever. Write your congressperson. Picket the nearest developer. Utter a daily prayer to Hermes. Use hashtag #SpeedDoesntKill. Thank you.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Steam Controller Slide"></p><p><strong>James Davenport: Unhaptic feedback<br></strong>I’ve only been using a Steam controller for a day now, but my first impression is not a good one. Playing RTS games on my TV with a controller? A noble goal. The execution? Eh, we’ll see. True judgement takes time, but god damn, that thing is bulbous. The hand grips protrude so heavily into the heel of each hand it’s as if it’s actively trying to wrestle away your grip. The trackpads are accurate, sure, but the haptic feedback feels like a sentient penny trying to eat its way out of the thing. And those face buttons? Like trying to press a pimple on an orc’s elbow.</p><p>The configuration options are plentiful, sure, and loading up highly rated community controller maps is super easy, but you’re still using an awkward, hollow, wholly unnecessary mid-point between console control and keyboard-mouse control. Maybe time will prove me wrong. Dual analog controls were once an impossibility too, but they were all we had. Until the Steam controller begs to be used, it’s hard to muster the motive to master it.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Chris Thursten: Filler in Manila<br></strong>As the Dota 2 calendar fills up with official events, it was always inevitable that smaller tournaments would suffer. I’ve never really considered ESL One ‘small’, however, so it’s a surprise to see two high profile teams, EG and Team Secret, withdraw from the forthcoming ESL One Manila. It’s taking place only a month before the official Dota 2 Major in Manila, so presumably both teams want to avoid excessive travel to and from the Philippines in the run up to the higher-profile playoff. That’s speculation, however&mdash;no concrete reasons have been given.</p><p>It’s definitely a blow for ESL, but it also suggests that there’s more demand for international Dota 2 than teams can currently provide. This hopefully presents an opportunity for squads that would currently be considered second-tier: in the absence of the big names, there’s a slot in Manila for somebody else to come along and win over the same hearts and minds.</p> combat, great writing, and a great look, but with pacing and progression tuned for mobile, not PC.Sat, 23 Jan 2016 01:32:08 +0000 <div class="fancy-box"> <h5 class="title">NEED TO KNOW</h5> <p> <strong>What is it?</strong> An action-exploration game with crafting elements.<br> <strong>Publisher:</strong> Butterscotch Shenanigans<br> <strong>Developer:</strong>&nbsp;Butterscotch Shenanigans<br><strong style="background-color: initial;">Reviewed on:</strong> Core i5-4670, 8GB RAM, GeForce GTX 970<br><strong style="background-color: initial;">Expect to pay</strong>: £11/$15<br><strong style="background-color: initial;">Multiplayer: </strong>None<br><strong style="background-color: initial;">Link:&nbsp;</strong><a href="" target="_blank">Official site</a></p> </div><p> Crashlands feels like a case study in the pros and cons of designing a game for both PC and mobile. It’s easy to assume that any decision made with mobile in mind will hurt the overall game on PC, but that’s really not true, and Crashlands proves it. Simple&nbsp;controls and a clean UI are good news&nbsp;for a game on any platform. Unfortunately, Crashlands also&nbsp;lends some ammo to the other&nbsp;side of the argument.</p><p> Crashlands is a top-down action RPG with lots of exploration and crafting. You play as Flux, an intergalactic delivery truck driver who has crash landed on an alien planet, and must find a way off so she can finish her deliveries. At first glance, it seems very similar to Klei's&nbsp;whimsical survive-'em-up&nbsp;<a href="">Don’t Starve</a>, but Crashlands isn’t trying to be a survival game. Instead of hunger and thirst bars, developer Butterscotch Shenanigans puts the focus on combat and quests. I spent most of my time doing missions for the grotesque but charming denizens of the world, helping them kill beasts, undermine demigods, or just go fishing.</p><p> Survival game tropes like crafting and resource collection are still here, but they’ve been simplified. Most noticeably, there’s no inventory management. You can pick up as much junk as you want and it sorts itself, becoming instantly available when you approach a crafting station. This is the first major design choice influenced by the mobile platform, and it’s a great one. Not having to worry about picking up too many sticks or flowers was a relief, as Crashlands asked me to grow my strength instead of scavenge to survive. Many hard-to-find materials could be needed later, and always being able to pick them up meant I was never punished with inventory busywork to enjoy the discovery. An infinite inventory also allows for even better changes to the formula, like automatically picking up drops from killed enemies, because why would you make me click the loot every time I make something explode?</p><h3>Kill, craft, repeat.</h3><p>Without checking my pockets&nbsp;every two minutes I could focus more on the combat, which is one of the best parts of Crashlands. Clicking is used to both move and attack, with up to four items (healing potions, grenades, stunning items, and so on) assigned to the keyboard. While enemies charge up attacks, a red indicator appears on the ground and you can avoid damage by getting out of the way. So I’m dancing around telegraphed attacks, relying on my ability to micro my rapid clicking in order to deal damage while staying safe. It feels closer to MOBA combat than Minecraft, and my fights often spiraled wildly out of control as my dodging accidentally aggro’d more creatures, each type with its own movement and attack pattern. Crashlands’ boss fights are also some of its best moments, throwing combinations of attack patterns at you&mdash;it’s a real challenge to dodge fireballs, punching fists, and AoE attacks while still finding time to actually deal damage. </p><p>While the combat and the inventory management benefit from their mobile influence, the crafting system and the pacing of the game definitely do not. It wasn’t long before I figured out the grindy framework hidden underneath Crashlands’ charming exterior: Get a new crafting station. Make new armor, a new weapon, and a new tool. Use your new tool to collect a resource you couldn’t before. Use the new resource to make a new crafting station. Rinse and repeat.</p><p><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Crashlands"></p><p>There's&nbsp;very little variation from this structure. Worse, it felt like Crashlands assumed I would be playing in short bursts rather than multiple hours at a time, because I seemed to reach a new tier of crafting bench roughly every hour or so. So if I sat down and played Crashlands for two hours, chances are the armor and weapons I began with would be obsolete twice over by the time I stopped. I could see that not being a problem if I were playing Crashlands for 20 minutes on the train to work each day, but my actions began to feel hollow when I knew the items I was working for would quickly become trash.</p><p>But the main reason this constant churn of item upgrades feels daunting is that there’s basically no player choice involved. The level eight weapon was pretty much always a better option than the level seven weapon. Every piece of equipment is imbued with random buffs like a chance to stun or resistance to certain types of attacks&mdash;my personal favorites were the damage-over-time effects&mdash;but the benefits were negligible compared to the guaranteed DPS and health increase with each new level, so those extra abilities&nbsp;did nothing to influence my decision to upgrade. There were no choices that might differentiate my playstyle from anyone else who would pick up the game&mdash;there’s only ever one choice: better or worse. It was still satisfying to feel myself getting stronger&mdash;going back to early areas and one-shotting Wompits felt like popping a fresh sheet of bubble-wrap&mdash;but I wish there’d been some branching paths in that growth.</p><p>This progression is occasionally shaken up by very rare legendary items, or when the next tool or crafting station is unlocked by completing story quests. Most these of these are fetch quests or “go kill this big version of a normal enemy” and I started getting flashbacks to my days playing World of Warcraft. The content of the quests is pretty standard for an RPG, but the thing that really kept me going was Crashlands’ sense of humor. There’s a lot of dialogue in the game and it’s really fun stuff. The story is over the top and melodramatic, but never takes itself seriously. In the second act of the game, Flux’s companion&mdash;a shipping robot named Juicebox&mdash;will randomly scream out “my babies!” as you try to recover the stolen packages you must deliver, one of a few running gags I laughed at throughout.</p><p>Crashlands is definitely a fun game&mdash;mostly thanks to its combat&mdash;but it feels torn between PC and mobile. Had the item progression and crafting been paced to allow for more player choice and more satisfying long play sessions, I would likely call Crashlands one of my favorite action/crafting games in a while. But with things the way the are, Crashlands started out very fun before becoming repetitive and predictable. It’s a good game on PC, but probably one better suited to&nbsp;your phone.</p> best wireless gaming headsets you can buy at budget, mid-range, and high-end prices.Sat, 23 Jan 2016 01:15:00 +0000 GuideHardwareHeadsetsSteelseriesTop Buying Guides <p>Three obstacles have long stood in the way of wireless headsets: price, latency, and batteries. They're more expensive than wired headsets, without better sound quality. Latency over a bad wireless connection is annoying. And batteries giving out mid-match is always a game-ruiner. But wireless headsets have come a long way over the years, and if you can get over the price premium, you can buy a wireless gaming headset that solves the battery problem and exhibits not a hint of latency. Zero-hassle gaming audio equipment awaits at three price points.</p><p>Looking for a cheaper pair of cans? Check out our guide to the&nbsp;<a href="">best (wired) gaming headsets</a>.</p><p>Update 1/22/2016: The Steelseries H Wireless has been rebranded the Siberia 800, but is otherwise identical. We're updating our guide to reflect the new product.</p><br/> <h3>The best wireless gaming headset</h3><p>Well, here it is: our pick for the absolute best wireless gaming headset available, the&nbsp;<a href="">Steelseries Siberia 800</a>. And hoo boy, it isn’t a cheap one, weighing in just below $300. We know that's a lot of cash, but there are two major considerations at play here.</p><p>First is that wireless headsets tend to be pricier than their wired counterparts in the first place, so if you’re browsing this side of the market you’ve probably set aside a reasonable chunk of money in the first place. Secondly, scrimping on wireless tech is like seeking out bargain bin dentistry&mdash;a lot more can go wrong than right. The $300 in question buys not just incredible sound, comfort and convenience, but a free pass through any potential latency and battery issues.</p><br/><div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">Specs</h5> <p> <strong>Price:</strong> $299&nbsp;(£220) <br> <strong>Headphone</strong><br> Frequency Response: 20Hz&mdash;20KHz <br> Weight: 297g (without battery) <br> Max Volume: 100dB* SPL @ 1kHz <br> Ports: Wired Mode / Share Port, Chat port, mini USB FW update port </p> <p> <strong>Transmitter</strong><br> Wireless Range: 12m (40ft) straight line <br> Latency: &lt;16ms, fixed <br> Ports: Analog In, Analog Out, mini USB, Optical In, Optical Out, Power <br> Battery Type: Rechargeable Lithium-Ion, 1000mAh <br> Battery Life: 20 hours per pack, typical usage </p> <p> <strong>Microphone</strong><br> Frequency Response: 100Hz&mdash;10KHz <br> Mic Pattern: Unidirectional <br> Indication: Red LED on mute </p> </div><p>SteelSeries strikes gold with its Siberia 800 (formerly known as the H Wireless)&nbsp;by combining top-end virtual surround sound, fantastic frequency response, and comfort with a ton of extra functionality and versatility. Despite the serious financial investment, it’s a genuine one-stop shop for PC, Mac, consoles and mobile devices.</p><p> Added bonus: its manufacturer also restrained itself from overdesigning&nbsp;the headset like a Pimp My Ride producer’s fever dream, naming it after a Roman or Greek god, or having an e-sports gamer sheepishly endorsing it on the packaging.</p><p> The basics: the H wireless is a closed-cup, circumaural headset, which mean it totally covers your ears and seals the sound around you, using memory foam padding in this case. That’s crucial; so many manufacturers bleat about the size of their drivers, but unless the low-end frequencies those drivers generate find an enclosed space in which to resonate, that ‘thumping’ bass effect is lost. Suffice to say, these earcups have plenty of ‘thump.’</p><p> There’s also plenty of power and clarity in the mid range and precise highs. If you go in with a sound snob mindset, you will hear that the overall mix doesn’t sound as organic as high-end stereo headphones aimed at the music market, because the audio’s running through a 7.1 virtual surround sound engine. The loss in overall tonality is unnoticeable to all but those who find themselves damned to live out life on this earth as the store employees from High Fidelity, though, and those people are too busy taping Japanese import albums by the Liqorice Comfits to care.</p><p> The surround itself is excellent, in both games and movies. It’ll genuinely have you hunting down Blu-Rays with 7.1 mixes just to enjoy the flyover effects, panned ambient noises and sound cues from high above. Unlike many top-end surround cans like Creative’s Sound Blaster Recon 3D Omega, the H Wireless doesn’t come with a ‘footstep’ or ‘sniper’ mode that dulls all but the sound sources in your vicinity, but honestly we don’t feel the loss. Maybe we’re just not good enough at shooters to exploit that feature, but we find a good surround mix like this is ample assistance in locating our would-be killers by footsteps or gunshots alone.</p><p> This isn’t a particularly light headset, weighing well over 300g (more than half a pound) with one of its two rechargeable batteries fitted (more on those later). However, memory foam pads at every contact point&mdash;around both earcups and the headband&mdash;make it an exceptionally comfortable one over a long duration. There’s enough pivot and extension in the frame to accommodate any head shape and very little sound produced when doing so, which is a good indicator of build quality. The orange stitching around each cup does fray easily though, messing up an otherwise impeccable and understated aesthetic.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Steelseries H Wireless Black"></p><p> As with all SteelSeries models, the mic here is retractable, so you can push it back inside the left cup and out of the way when it isn’t needed, and a quick tap of the power on button on the bottom of the right cup mutes it. There’s also a volume wheel at the top of the right cup, and a rubber cover on the bottom next to the power button which conceals an aux cable connection so you can connect up your Xbox One or PS4 controller and chat if you want to use this with a console, and another connection allowing you to connect a second headset. Two-person silent gaming sessions and really low-key silent discos are go.</p><p> As odd as it sounds, it’s actually the transmitter that elevates the H Wireless above its peers. Firstly, it doubles as a battery charger. While one of its lithium ion batteries is powering the headset, another occupies a charge slot within the transmitter so you genuinely never have to stop using it, or even connect it to a charge cable. Considering what a hassle that can be, that dual battery design gives it a massive advantage over its peers. Astro’s A50 and Turtle Beach’s i60 both offer similar luxury to the H Wireless in sound and comfort, but simply can’t compete with the way it elegantly sidesteps the charging problem.</p><p> Its batteries cling to life for up to 20 hours, too. That’s the stated figure in SteelSeries’ own documentation, and it holds true in the real world too. Even extended max volume sessions have little effect on it. Speaking of the spec sheet, the proposed signal range is an enormous 12 meters (40 feet). In reality, that means the signal remains clean literally anywhere in this tester’s apartment.</p><p> There’s a plethora of connection options at the back of the transmitter (optical in/out in addition to USB) which means it’s fair game for just about any device you can throw at it, and includes a handy voice chat/game audio mixing feature called ChatMix. With this you can either manually adjust both levels, or let the transmitter boost the voice audio only when someone’s talking&mdash;essentially it’s working like a sidechain compressor, pushing the game audio down when someone talks and pushing it up again afterward.</p><p> There simply isn’t another wireless headset on the market that does everything &nbsp;<a href="">SteelSeries’ Siberia 800</a> can do&mdash;and with some considerable style, too. It’s certainly not cheap, but the variety of applications it can handle mitigates that to an extent. Above all, it lets you forget about all the drawbacks traditionally associated with going wireless. A class act.</p><h3>The best budget wireless gaming headset</h3><p>It’s an oldie, but <span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="Gaming H2100" data-link-text="Corsair’s Gaming H2100"><a href="">Corsair’s Gaming H2100</a></span> wireless set is as strong a package now as it was at launch in late 2013, and of course a couple years before that in its earlier incarnations. And now that it’s dropped below the $100 mark, it’s kind of a no-brainer for budget buyers.</p><p>As with every peripheral Corsair puts out, the build quality on show in these cans is extraordinary. The closed-cup design features massively oversized cups, big enough to envelop any set of ears, and thus block out distracting noise while giving the bass a little chamber to resonate in. The body’s constructed using a mixture of plastics and lightweight aluminium, keeping the overall weight low enough to maximise comfort levels. Oh, and the enormous padded headband doesn’t exactly hurt on that front, either.</p><br/><div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">Specs</h5> <p> <strong>Price:</strong> $90 (£78) <br> <strong>Frequency Response:</strong> 40Hz&mdash;20kHz 5/-5dB, -10dB @ 35Hz <br> <strong>Impedance:</strong> 32 Ohms @ 1kHz <br> <strong>Drivers:</strong> 50mm <br> <strong>Connector:</strong>&nbsp;Wireless&nbsp;USB </p> <p> <strong>Microphone type: </strong>Unidirectional noise-cancelling&nbsp;condenser <br> <strong>Impedance:</strong> 2.2k&nbsp;Ohms <br> <strong>Frequency Response:</strong> 100Hz to 10kHzSensitivity -37dB (+/-3dB) </p> </div><p>There’s just one on-off switch on the right cup, and a nicely textured volume roller below it, so it isn’t bursting with inline controls like our $150 pick, but the simplicity really adds to its look.</p><p> However, like our $150 pick, The H2100 is another fuss-free setup, requiring only a single USB slot to connect its receiver. Battery life is a perfectly usable ten hours&mdash;less than our other picks, and not something to brag about on the packaging, but certainly enough to get you through any one session before those beeps kick in.</p><p> It’s in the sound quality where you start to hear the difference $200 makes&mdash;the H2100’s midrange lacks a little clarity compared to our newfound favourite, the SteelSeries H Wireless, but for the money it still offers powerful low-end and convincing positional audio that’ll immerse you in your games. You’ll feel the lack of sparkle when listening to music, but them’s the breaks at the budget end.</p><p> All things considered though, $90 is practically theft for the level of quality on offer with the&nbsp; <span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="Gaming H2100" data-link-text="Corsair H2100"><a href="">Corsair H2100</a></span>. They’re arguably the best-looking cans in the whole roundup, and though their sound and battery life can’t compete with the upper echelon, the downside to you when using them in the real world is minimal.</p><h3>The best mid-budget wireless gaming headset</h3><p>Turtle Beach has the console headset market pretty well sewn up, but its position in PC audio is of a relative outlier, particularly compared to familiar, reliable names such as Creative, Logitech&hellip; you know, the companies who were making headphones before you got your first PC. For context, then: the <span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="Ear Force Z300" data-link-text="Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300"><a href="">Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300</a></span> is a wireless PC variation on its excellent PX4 and Stealth models for PS4 and Xbox One, respectively.</p><p>It boasts a specific surround technology from Dolby called DTX Headphone: X, which is particularly good at tricking your ears into hearing a broad vertical space in addition to a wide stereo pan. When using these to listen to a 7.1 surround mix that makes use of that tech, the effect is wonderfully cinematic.</p><br/><div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">SPECS</h5> <p> <strong>Price:</strong> $160 (£127) <br> <strong>Drivers:</strong> 50mm <br> <strong>Noise Cancelling:</strong> No <br> <strong>Microphone:</strong> Yes, detachable <br> <strong>Inline Volume:</strong> Yes <br> <strong>Battery life: </strong>15 hours <br> <strong>Design:</strong> circumaural </p> </div><p>In fact it’s that surround sound quality, coupled with the Z300’s excellent construction, that has us singling it out from the crowd at the $150 mark (give or take a few bucks). The circumaural cups do a brilliant job of filtering out external noise while also minimising heat levels thanks to a breathable material cover over its cushioned pads. It’s extremely adjustable, and the wide design of the headband allays any sensation of its weight digging in to the top of your head.</p><p> Compared to our absolute top pick, the&nbsp;<a href="">Steelseries Siberia 800</a>, there is a noticeable difference in comfort levels during long sessions (largely down to the softer materials used in the Steelseries model’s contact points). There’s less between them in surround quality, though. Turtle Beach has been building surround cans for consoles for years now, and knows the algorithms needed to trick your ears into perceiving a wide space.</p><p> What’s more, it’s a really unfussy piece of hardware. Setup requires connecting a single, memory stick-sized USB receiver, and&hellip; that’s it. No long, dangling wires from the receiver to your PC as with so many other wireless setups. There are volume, mic volume, EQ options and compression on/off buttons on the earcups themselves, but the design doesn’t look busy or crowded.</p><p> Bonus feature: it’s Bluetooth compatible, so you can hook it up to your smartphone or tablet in addition to your PC. However, that plus point actually leads us onto a flaw in the Z300’s overall package. Wireless range using the USB receiver isn’t great&mdash;the bar’s set high enough that you expect to be able to continue listening anywhere in your home, and that wasn’t true for us in this case. Via Bluetooth it’s much better though, so if you have a Bluetooth receiver for your PC it’s a good idea to use that format.</p><p> Perhaps the above issue makes this a slightly controversial pick, but in addition to the tank-like build and surround sound chops of the Z300, there’s also a really handy 15-hour battery life to win you back over. As with the SteelSeries Siberia 800, we found the manufacturer wasn’t lying on the spec sheet, and that a fully charged pair really does last longer than you’d ever want to use them for in one session&mdash;comfortably three or four sessions, actually.</p><p> Competition is fierce at this price point; relative superiority between one manufacturer’s prize fighter and another is slim. But Turtle Beach is wise to pack its strengths in the console market into this PC headset, and though it’s not a perfect offering in terms of range, the surround experience will blow you away in-game.&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="Ear Force Z300" data-link-text=" The Turtle Beach Z300"><a href=""> The Turtle Beach Z300</a></span> is the best wireless headset we've used at a mid-budget price.</p> <h3>How we test wireless headsets and others we tested</h3><p>Fact: wired headsets hugely outnumber their wireless brethren in the PC peripherals marketplace. Why? Why hasn’t the technology that unshackles us from our machine rendered wired models obsolete? Well, historically, cable-free cans have had a number of drawbacks, some of which remain today.</p><p>One: battery charge time. Ever had a wireless headset run out of charge on you mid-game, bleating its pathetic warning tone at the exact frequency that makes you want to chew through your tongue? Then you can see why some might be put off by the idea of having to manage their charge level, and even cut sessions short if their cans drain completely.</p><p>Two: latency. Particularly in cheaper wireless audio gear, latency can fluctuate and lead to a distracting slow down, speed up auditory jerkiness in whatever you’re listening to as your hardware tries to keep pace. Distracting, and annoying.</p><p>And three: price. There’s always been a considerable premium thrown on the price tag of any wireless headset, because that receiver and rechargeable battery aren’t cheap to produce. The silver lining? Manufacturers know those first two problems are deal-breakers, and have invested a lot of resources into minimising them. So today, you mostly just have to worry about price. That hasn’t changed, because all that resource investment is expensive.</p><p>If you are prepared to pay a slight premium, some incredible, zero-hassle gaming audio equipment awaits. And we think the best of the whole bunch is the&nbsp;<a href="">SteelSeries Siberia 800</a>. With a retail price set at $299 (though it is available for more like $260 if you shop around), it’s certainly a serious investment. But for the money you get not only the comfort level, surround sound and audio fidelity of the very best wired headsets, but a bunch of cool extras unique to itself. Two swappable lithium ion batteries? Check. Impossibly stylish transmission unit? Double check.</p><p>Of course, you might not be inclined to part with quite so much money just for the pleasure of cable-free listening pleasure. That’s fine&mdash;we’ve got you. Looking right the way down the price list, we’ve made our picks at the $150 and under $100 mark too, to help you make the right decision however much money you want to throw at this.</p><h3>Testing wireless headsets</h3><p>Many of the qualities you’re looking for from a wireless headset are the same you’d hope to find in any audio equipment&mdash;tone, build quality, and reliability leading the charge. As such we listen to each review model while playing different genres of game, listening to music, and watching movies with bombastic sound effects and surround mixes&mdash;think less Werner Herzog, more Chris Nolan. We also run a simple sine wave ‘swoop’ across the stated frequency response range (almost always the full 20Hz-20KHz these days), and in the case of surround headsets we’ll listen to positional audio tests from Dolby, like its <a href="">DTS Headphone-X test</a>. There’s also our old favorite, <a href="">the Virtual Barber Shop</a>. YouTube’s compression does limit the overall sound quality, but it’s still a great way of separating the wheat from the chaff in surround sound earphones.</p><p>There are a few wireless-specific elements we need to test for, too: battery life, charge time, range and latency. The former is pretty self-explanatory, though in addition to an ‘everyday use’ battery life test we also run the headset at full volume to discover how quickly the charge drains under those conditions. To ascertain charge time, we&hellip; well, we charge the headsets and note how long it takes.</p><p>Range and latency are trickier to test in a scientific manner. However, having a good old walk around the house gives a good indication of range, and latency ultimately comes down to perception. With all that taken into account after several days of use, we’re in a good place to make the call on a headset.</p><h3>Competitors</h3><p>The wireless market’s considerably smaller than its wired counterpart&mdash;most of the big players in USB/3.5mm gaming headsets have a wireless option, but usually just the one. As such the current market competitors list is a bit slim. The range expands when you look as far as console-specific wireless cans, but in the interest of ensuring full compatibility we’ve stuck to officially supported PC models.</p><h4><a href="">Plantronics .Audio 995</a><strong><br></strong></h4><p><strong></strong>Oddly, Plantronics doesn’t have a bespoke wireless gaming headset; this .Audio 995 is designed for office and multimedia use but is about as close to gaming spec as the manufacturer gets sans cables. It has a good rep for comfort and sound quality, and an appealing price at around $45, but as it’s designed for use when you’re on the clock rather than on the ranked servers, it’s best to look elsewhere.</p><h4><a href="">Sades Stereo 7.1 Surround Pro</a><strong><br></strong></h4><p><strong></strong>Don’t be taken in by the sub-$30 price tag. Online customer reviews tell a woeful story involving nonexistent driver support, defective mics, and even suggestions that this is a ‘grey market’ model which isn’t authorised for sale to the United States.</p><h4><strong><span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="Labs Sound Blaster Recon3D Omega" data-link-text="Creative Sound Blaster Recon 3D Omega"><a href="">Creative Sound Blaster Recon 3D Omega</a></span></strong></h4><p><strong></strong>Edged out of ‘best overall’ contention by a fraction. Despite fantastic surround sound and comfort levels, the Recon 3D soundcard creates a lot of cable clutter and its headset’s admittedly strong battery life can’t compete with SteelSeries elegant swappable battery solution.</p><h4><a href="">Turtle Beach Ear Force i60</a><strong><br></strong></h4><p><strong></strong>The last word in luxury in all aspects&hellip; if you’re a Mac user. Full functionality is possible but not guaranteed on Windows, and though it’s very nearly worth the risk, there are other options of the same or higher quality which make it a moot point.</p><h4><a href="">Astro Gaming A50</a><strong><br></strong></h4><p><strong></strong>Another candidate that missed out by a whisker for ‘best overall.’ Flawless sound, bomb-proof build quality, and a few minor niggles such as unpredictable battery life, and a strangely short charge cable.</p><h4><a href="">Logitech G930</a><strong><br></strong></h4><p><strong></strong>Looks and feels the part, offering great surround sound too. However, many users report problems with stutter or random disconnections. Battery life isn’t great for the price, either.</p><h4><a href="">Creative Sound Blaster Evo</a><strong><br></strong></h4><p><strong></strong>Ticks the basic sound/build quality boxes, but is let down by mediocre battery life and develops noisy joints over time. Oddly, mic sound quality is extraordinarily good. Go figure.</p><h4><a href="">Creative Sound Blaster Evo ZxR</a><strong><br></strong></h4><p><strong></strong>More expensive than the Evo, and with more functionality to show for it. However, being built around the same basic design, it suffers the same physical problems. And, look, we don’t want to get personal, but it’s really ugly.</p><h4><a href="">Razer Adaro Bluetooth</a><strong><br></strong></h4><p><strong></strong>As the name suggests, this is a Bluetooth-only set, and not really intended with the PC gamer at the front of the queue. Good sound quality and range, but lacking the extras we take for granted in the gaming market and if you don’t have a Bluetooth receiver on your PC&mdash;well, forget it.</p><h3>Future testing</h3><p>For now, the&nbsp;<a href="">Steelseries Siberia 800</a> is our favorite wireless gaming headset. The wireless end of PC gaming audio gear offers less choice than that of wired peripherals, but it’s still a big marketplace&mdash;what’s more, it’s populated by models with incremental improvements and price hikes from the same manufacturers. As such, we haven’t tested every single model available, but done our best to seek out the cream of the crop. And from that cream, we’ve cherry-picked a) the absolute best options available right now, and b) a really odd, food-themed mixing of metaphors.</p><p>It’s also a marketplace that moves fast&mdash;so we’ll be keeping our eye on it and updating it as promising new models are released.</p><p><em>A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to stores like Amazon. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which helps support our work evaluating PC components.</em></p> Co-op began development as a Half-Life mod more than 15 years ago.Sat, 23 Jan 2016 01:02:23 +0000 <iframe src="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" width="610"></iframe><p> Sven Co-op is, as the title suggests (the Co-op part, not the Sven part) a cooperative multiplayer game based on Valve's mega-hit FPS <a href="">Half-Life</a>. It actually began development as a Half-Life mod more than 15 years ago, but in the summer of 2013 Valve <a href="">gave the team permission</a> to release it as a standalone game on Steam. And today, it's finally happening</p><p> To celebrate the release, the developers are holding a “release party” on the <a href="">Gamesurge</a> IRC server&mdash;another testament to its aged roots. A <a href="">guide</a> detailing the capabilities of the new Angelscript plugins is also now available.</p><p> Sven Co-op was originally based on Half-Life and retains similar weapons, monsters, and characters, but the difficultly has been ramped up to support cooperative play. “Sven Co-op's levels are set as missions and are generally separate from each other. Many missions span several maps and some are collected together in a series," the game description states. "The aim of most levels is to reach the end or to achieve an objective&mdash;obtaining a high score is not essential to beat a level, it's just part of the fun.”</p><p> And it looks like a ton of fun. Sven Co-op is available now&mdash;for free, by the way&mdash;on <a href="">Steam</a>.</p> gaming PC deserves an SSD. Here are the best all-around, budget, and high-end SSDs.Sat, 23 Jan 2016 00:50:00 +0000 GuideHardwareSSDTop Buying Guides <p>An SSD is now an essential component of a modern gaming PC. With your operating system and applications stored on an SSD, Windows will boot faster than you can grab a drink from the fridge. Applications will&nbsp;load in seconds.&nbsp;Once you’ve tried an SSD, you’ll never want to go back to a hard disk. So what makes an SSD the best? Striking the right balance between speed, reliability, and price. These are the best SSDs for your dollar.</p><p><em><strong>Update 1/22/2016: </strong>The 850 Pro and Evo are still are recommended SSD and high-end SSD, and are cheaper than ever. The Crucial BX100 is no longer the best budget option (and the 850 EVO is just as cheap). We'll update soon with a new recommendation.</em></p><br/> <h3>The best SSD</h3><p>What does the term 'best' mean, when talking about a storage device? Best value for money, great real-world performance, or a brilliant feature set? The ideal SSD for a gaming PC strikes that perfect price/performance/reliability balance,&nbsp;and&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="850 EVO" data-link-text="Samsung’s 850 EVO SSD"><a href="">Samsung’s 850 EVO SSD</a></span> manages this, and then some.</p><p>The technology behind the 850 EVO is similar in many ways to Samsung’s high-end 850 Pro. Samsung is the only SSD manufacturer that operates an entirely vertical business, owning the means of production for every aspect of its products. It designs the controller, programs the firmware, manufactures the NAND flash memory and sells the finished product. Every other company is forced to rely on a third party for at least one of these aspects of its SSDs.</p><br/><p>The advantage is closer collaboration between teams. When designing the controller, the engineers know exactly the type of NAND it will be used with. When writing the firmware, every last detail of the 850 EVO is known to the programmers.</p><p> The 850 EVO uses the same vertically arranged 3D NAND flash memory as in the 850 Pro. This arrangement allows for larger chip densities without having to go down the path of shrinking cell sizes, which begins to introduce problems that affect performance and reliability.</p><p> Samsung calls its proprietary 3D flash memory technology 3D V-NAND, and has managed to stack 32 layers of flash cells on top of each other. Each layer is connected to the next via unbelievably tiny wires, with a far greater number of connections between cells than you might expect from a 2D (planar) arrangement.</p><p> The 850 EVO is sold in 120GB, 240GB, 480GB and 1TB capacities, with prices on Amazon ranging from about $70 (£65)&nbsp;for the 120GB model, up to around $300 (£240)&nbsp;for the 1TB.</p><p> It’s not quite the most affordable SSD, but it’s around 20 percent less than the top-end Samsung SSD 850 Pro for example, and cheaper than SanDisk’s high-end model, the Extreme Pro. It’s probably best classed as a mid-range drive, although if you look at the results table, you’ll see it outpaces more expensive drives in many tests.</p><p> <em>Note: All the drives below are 240-256GB models except when specified.</em></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ssd Benchmarks Pcmark"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ssd Benchmark As Ssd Read"></p><p> The PCMark08 score tops 5000 points, beating nearly every other drive. Its read IOPS is near the top in the&nbsp;AS SSD benchmark, and it gets the best results in many of the sub-tests in PCMark08. The sequential write speeds measured in CrystalDiskMark are some of the best too, and the read speed is nothing to complain about at all.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ssd Benchmarks Crystaldiskmark Read"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ssd Benchmarks Crystaldiskmark Write"></p><p> So value for money, and still a good performer. How has Samsung managed it, given that 3D V-NAND is an ambitious undertaking that is more complex and expensive than standard flash memory?&nbsp;The answer is cheaper triple-layer (TLC) flash memory, which I’ve explained in more detail on the first page of this article. The 850 EVO is the first drive to combine TLC memory with a 3D flash arrangement, which is an interesting combination, vastly different from the planar MLC drives from other manufacturers.</p><p> But TLC flash memory has considerably worse performance and endurance than 2-bit MLC flash. Samsung gets around this major issue with what it calls&nbsp;<a href="">TurboWrite</a>, with a dedicated portion of the drive being written to as SLC flash, and acting as a cache. By only allowing each cell in the cache to hold a single binary value, this area has far greater endurance and reliability than the TLC portion, or even a standard 2-bit MLC drive.&nbsp;Samsung isn’t the only firm to do this. SanDisk has its own similar nCache 2.0 technology used on the Ultra II SSD and Extreme Pro.</p><p> All writes go to the SLC section first, and are quickly flushed to the TLC portion when the drive is idle. The size of the SLC cache is larger in the bigger 850 EVO capacities, with 3GB in the 250GB model, up to 12GB in the 1TB model.</p><p> In normal everyday use, you’ll never notice the SLC cache exists or see it impact performance. It only becomes apparent&nbsp;under extreme testing conditions where the 850 EVO doesn’t get a chance to flush the data, such as those conducted by&nbsp;<a href="">Anandtech</a> and other hardware review sites. According to Anandtech,&nbsp;when this happens you’ll see a more severe performance loss with smaller capacities. When writing to the TLC area, the 120GB 850 EVO drops to 150 MB/sec, the 250GB model to 300 GB/sec and the 500GB and 1TB models to 500 MB/sec and 520 MB/sec respectively. It’s worth stressing that filling up the SLC cache with a full-speed continuous write is not something you’ll do on a daily basis.</p><p> Endurance is barely affected by the use of TLC flash. With some firmware optimisations as well, the SLC cache reduces the number of writes to each TLC cell, boosting longevity. Samsung quotes 75TB of writes over five years for the 120GB and 250GB models, with 150TB for the 500GB and 1TB models.</p><p> That’s a lot of writing, averaging to either 41GB per day, or 82GB per day, every day, for five years. Unless you're putting the 850 EVO through a <em>ton</em> of use, you won't go over this limit.</p><p> Another perk of Samsung's SSDs is its bundled Magician management software. It's&nbsp;very well designed, with easy access to SMART information, a benchmark tool and a function to secure erase your SSD (which creates a USB boot disk). It also enables something called Rapid Mode, where a portion of your system memory acts as a cache for the SSD, so when you write a file, it can be written at speeds well in excess of 4GB/sec to system memory, then flushed to the SSD during idle periods. Although a chunk of your system memory is used up when it is enabled, so is best used only if you have 8GB or 16GB in your PC. Rapid Mode looks great on benchmarks, but in real-world use its impact is smaller.</p><p> We tested two 850 EVO capacities. You’ll see from our benchmark results that it even eclipsed its bigger brother, the 850 Pro, by a tiny margin in a few tests, although the 250GB model comes out quite a bit slower in terms of IOPS and sequential read speeds.</p><p> It should also be noted that when talking about the SSDs, the performance differences between them are tiny. In the PCMark08 trace benchmarks, rival brands are within 0.1 seconds. Some come out slightly ahead, some slightly behind. Differences so small, it’s not worth losing sleep over.</p><p> Finally, we circle back to price.&nbsp;<a href="">When we reviewed the 850 EVO SSD</a>, we noted that it was a fantastic SSD that was just a bit too expensive to be our new favorite. Remember, when it comes to SATA SSDs, the performance differences are often barely noticeable. When it launched, the 250GB Samsung 850 EVO cost $140 on Amazon.&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="850 EVO" data-link-text="Now it costs only $106"><a href="">Now it costs only $87</a></span>, making its the new price/performance king. This is the SSD to get.</p><h3>The best budget SSD</h3><p> For the budget category, the goal is simple: save as much money as possible without seriously compromising on real-world performance. If your budget is seriously restricted when building a gaming PC, it doesn’t matter how good the top-end drive is if it’s unaffordable.&nbsp;Thanks to Crucial’s highly aggressive pricing with its latest SSD models, the&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="BX100 1TB" data-link-text="Crucial&nbsp;BX100"><a href="">Crucial&nbsp;BX100</a></span> hits a record level of affordability and therefore means even budget-constrained PC builds can have an SSD.</p><p>But the BX100 isn't our favorite just because it's absurdly cheap. Although in our synthetic tests the BX100 didn’t come out top in anything, it still performed reasonably well, with decent sequential read and write speeds. With the majority of the PCMark08 trace results, which are better simulations of real-world performance, the BX100 is slower by only a fraction of a second. It’s barely noticeable.</p><br/><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ssd Benchmarks Pcmark"></p><p> In fact, if you were to sit in&nbsp;a blind test using two otherwise-identical computers, one with a BX100, and another with a more expensive SSD, it’s unlikely you’d ever be able to tell the difference. Windows will still boot quickly and applications will still load with lightning-fast, responsive performance. The performance difference between the BX100 and the most expensive Samsung SSD 850 Pro is far smaller than the difference between an SSD and running Windows from a hard disk.</p><p> The BX100 is available in the usual four capacities, with the 250GB model retailing for $99 on Amazon, cheaper than the&nbsp; <a href="">Samsung 850 EVO</a> or&nbsp;<a href="">OCZ Arc 100</a>, while very slightly outperforming the similarly affordable&nbsp;<a href="">SanDisk Ultra II</a>.</p><p> Micron, Crucial’s parent company, provides the 16nm 128Gbit NAND chips, while there’s a controller from a company called Silicon Motion, the SM2246EN, which is probably a bit cheaper than the Marvell controllers used in Crucial’s other models. Crucial has not resorted to TLC NAND flash memory here. It’s still 2-bit MLC.</p><p> Crucial has stripped a few features from the BX100 to hit this low price point, though. There’s no hardware encryption like you get with some SSDs, including Crucial’s older MX100 and the new&nbsp; <a href="">MX200</a> drives, and no power-loss protection circuit. Neither of these are essential for gaming.</p><p> Endurance doesn’t seem to have taken a hit, as the BX100 is rated for 72TB of writes over five years, which again, will be hard to achieve unless you're constantly downloading, installing, deleting, and re-installing 40+ gigs games every single day.</p><p> With an affordable SSD like the BX100, larger capacities are a more realistic prospect. A <span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="BX100 1TB" data-link-text="1TB&nbsp;Crucial BX100"><a href="">1TB&nbsp;Crucial BX100</a></span> is only $90 more than a 512GB&nbsp;<a href="">Samsung SSD 850 Pro</a>. Which is more useful: double the capacity, or a small improvement in benchmark results, which might not be even noticeable? It’s worth considering.</p><p> And nearly always, for the very best frame rates in games, you need a good GPU, so the money saved by opting for a more affordable SSD over one of the pricier models can be ploughed in to getting a more powerful graphics card. The result will (obviously) be better gaming performance than a less powerful GPU and a high-end SSD.</p><h3>The best high-end SSD</h3><p>Samsung has reached the top spot in a second category in this SSD group test for a good reason.&nbsp;The <span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="850 Pro 512GB" data-link-text="Samsung 850 Pro "><a href="">Samsung 850 Pro </a></span>is simply the fastest consumer SATA&nbsp;SSD money can buy.</p><p>It came out before the 850 EVO, and was the first consumer SSD to use 3D V-NAND. Like the 850 EVO, the NAND flash memory is 40nm, with 32 vertical layers. However it doesn’t use TLC NAND: everything here is 2-bit MLC. There’s no need for an SLC cache then, which gives it a slightly higher formatted capacity. But the extra cost of 3D V-NAND means a generally higher retail price than other SSDs. Only <a href="">Plextor’s M6 Pro</a> costs more on Amazon with a price of 63 cents per GB.</p><br/><p> The 850 Pro uses a triple core MEX controller running at 400 MHz, which is a step up from the 850 EVO’s dual-core MGX controller.&nbsp;As with the 850 EVO, we tested two capacities, 256GB and 512GB. The 512GB drive is slightly better value for money, although unlike nearly every other model, you don’t necessarily get much better performance by opting for a larger capacity drive, one of the possible effects of 3D NAND.</p><p> Looking at the results, the read IOPS results as recorded by the&nbsp;AS SSD benchmark are some of the best, a good 10-15 percent more than Crucial’s BX100, although the 500GB 850 EVO nudges ahead slightly in write IOPS. The same is true in some of the PCMark08 traces.&nbsp;But its sequential speeds shows its true power, with over 540 MB/sec read and 510 MB/sec write speeds in CrystalDiskMark, a clear leap ahead of all the other drives.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ssd Benchmark As Ssd Read"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Ssd Benchmarks As Ssd Write"></p><p> And that’s why it’s our recommendation as the best high-end SSD. Do you really need to spend the extra money on a high-end SSD, though? Our recommendation is <strong>no</strong>.</p><p> In nearly all real-world situations, there’s not a huge benefit to using a Samsung 850 Pro over a cheaper SSD. It costs quite a bit more and that money is better spent on more system memory, a faster GPU or a better CPU. Or, say, a 1TB SSD instead of a 500GB one.</p><p> But if you’re building the ultimate rig, and want the very best possible performance in any situation, without worrying about the cost, then it’s the 850 Pro you should choose.&nbsp;In a gaming PC, the extra performance won't be especially beneficial. But for really demanding non-gaming tasks, such as 4K video editing, you’ll want to know you’re getting the very best, and the 850 Pro provides this. The endurance of the MLC memory will also guarantee the drive lasts a long time.</p><p> What about the competition? The high-end SSD market is proving less popular for manufacturers, thanks to the low prices Crucial, OCZ, and others are applying to the low end. The SanDisk Extreme Pro and Plextor M6 Pro are two of the only drives that really compete with the 850 Pro, although the Crucial MX200 puts in such a good show, it’s also worth considering.</p><p> Just like the 850 EVO, Samsung’s Magician software is included with the Pro, with Rapid Mode, so when it’s turned on, all writes go to system memory, an effective ramdisk, rather than the 850 Pro itself. This can make a difference to performance, but as we said before, you’ll need a good quantity of system memory.</p><p> Worthy of note is the ten-year warranty supplied with the 850 Pro. As the drive is rated for 150TB of writes, that equates to 80GB per day for five years, or 40GB a day for ten years, which is certainly enough for workstation use. But you probably won't want to be using the&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="850 Pro 512GB" data-link-text="Samsung 850 Pro"><a href="">Samsung 850 Pro</a></span> in another 10 years, as storage technology (and speeds) will have moved far beyond the limitations of current SATA controllers.</p> <h3>How we tested SSDs and others we tested</h3><p> SSDs make your whole system faster and more pleasant to use. But they matter for gaming, too.</p><p>A fast-loading SSD can cut dozens of seconds off the loading times of big games like Battlefield 4, or MMOs like World of Warcraft. An SSD won't affect framerate like your GPU or CPU, but it will make installing, booting, dying and reloading in games a faster, smoother process.&nbsp;When shopping for a good SSD for gaming, one of the most important factors is price per gigabyte. How much will you have to spend to keep a healthy library of Steam games installed, ready to be played at a moment's notice?</p><p> To find the best gaming SSDs, we researched the SSD market, picked out the strongest contenders, and put them through their paces with several benchmarking tools. We also put in the research to know what makes a great SSD great, beyond the numbers&mdash;technical stuff&nbsp;like types of flash memory and memory controllers.</p><p> To be clear, <strong>this article only covers 2.5-inch SATA SSDs</strong>, the standard internal drives most PC gamers are accustomed to. There are newer, faster SSD form-factors (M.2 and PCie) that can deliver far greater performance than SATA drives. But right now, there are very few of them, motherboard support is limited, and they tend to be far more expensive than SATA SSDs. M.2 will likely be much bigger by 2016, and we'll update this article when appropriate.</p><h3>Testing SSDs</h3><p> To test the SSDs, we used a PC with a 4GHz Intel Core i7-4790k, 16GB of DDR3 memory,&nbsp;an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card,&nbsp;and an Asus Z87 motherboard. Windows 7 was installed on the main system drive, AHCI was enabled, and all the drives were connected to the motherboard’s SATA III ports.</p><p> We used a combination of synthetic and trace benchmarks. This included AS SSD, CrystalDiskMark, and PCMark08, which runs a set number of timed traces of popular applications.</p><h3>SSD Technology</h3><p> The single specific advantage that makes an SSD so much faster than a hard disk is exponentially shorter access time. A hard disk depends on a mechanical arm moving into position to read data from a platter, while in an SSD, data is stored and accessed electronically. Although modern hard disks are astonishingly fast at accessing data, they’re no match for an SSD.</p><p> An SSD is a physically simple device. It’s made from an array of flash memory chips and a controller, which comprises a processor, memory cache, and firmware.&nbsp;But like most things in computing, it starts to get complicated when you look at it in more detail. NAND flash chips store binary values as voltage differences in non-volatile memory, meaning they retain their state when power is cut off.&nbsp;In order to change the state of a single cell, in effect, writing to it, a strong voltage is applied to it. But because of the way the cells are laid out, it can’t be done on a cell-by-cell basis: an entire row has to be erased at once.</p><p> Each cell is insulated from its neighbours to preserve the value it holds. But every time a cell is written to, the insulator becomes slightly less reliable. Eventually, after a certain number of writes, the cell becomes unable to hold any values, which is why SSDs have a limited lifespan.&nbsp;In the early days of flash memory, this limited number of writes was a concern, but clever tricks, improved technology, and software improvements means it’s no longer a real issue.</p><p> If you want further proof, then have a gander at&nbsp;<a href="">the SSD endurance experiment over on TechReport</a>.&nbsp;In one of the only tests of its kind, they set about continuously writing data to select SSDs, until the drives became completely unusable, in a test that went on for months. Although the odd bad sector crops up relatively early, at 100TB of writes, most of the drives survived until nearly a petabyte of data or more was written to them, far beyond the manufacturers’ rating, and it took months of non-stop writing to reach that point.</p><p> The best drives managed 2.5 PB of writes. It’s fair to say endurance for all but the most extreme workload is no longer an issue.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Pile Of Ssds"></p><h3>SLC, MLC, and TLC memory</h3><p> A given quantity of physical flash memory cells can be programmed to hold either one, two or three bits of data. A drive where each cell holds a single bit is known as SLC. Each cell can only be in one of two states, on or off, and only needs to be sensitive to two voltages. Its endurance and performance will be incredible but a large amount of flash memory is needed to provide a given capacity, so SLC drives have never really taken off beyond expensive server and workstation setups.</p><p> 2-bit MLC memory is currently the most popular kind used in consumer SSDs. Each cell holds two values, with four binary states (00, 01, 10 and 11), so the cell needs to be sensitive to four voltages. The same amount of flash memory provides double the amount of space, so less is needed and the SSD is more affordable.</p><p> 3-bit TLC memory goes even further, with three values per cell. Now each cell has to hold eight binary states, and performance and endurance begins to really suffer as there are eight distinct voltages that represent data.&nbsp;A TLC cell will be erased more often, and therefore wears out quicker. And since it needs to hold eight voltage values, reading them reliably requires more precision.&nbsp;But you get even more capacity from the same amount of flash memory, resulting in even cheaper SSDs, which is something everyone wants.</p><p> As we’ve found from testing some SSDs, manufacturers are using tricks to mitigate these negative effects with TLC flash memory, so prices can continue falling without impacting performance.</p><h3>Sequential Transfer Speeds</h3><p> Whenever you read about an SSD, or look at a review, the first figure you’ll usually see is a headline-grabbing transfer rate. Read and write speeds up to around 500MB/sec, or even faster in the case of a PCI-Express SSD. These numbers always look really impressive.&nbsp;This will certainly be referring to sequential file transfer rates, which means the speed a storage device can read or write a file if all the blocks are laid out one after the other.</p><p> In the real world, most software applications deal with both large and small files, while at times, a program might be waiting for input before it carries on, so you’ll never be getting the maximum sequential speed of your SSD all the time.&nbsp;You might see these speeds when writing a large 10GB movie file, but things will be a lot slower when copying a folder full of 10,000 jpeg images, or HTML documents. These smaller files could be spread all over the disk, and will be slower to transfer.</p><p> In the case of a hard disk, that entails moving the disk head over the correct position on the platter, which adds a really long delay. SSDs are far quicker to do this, which is where the real improvement in overall responsiveness comes from.</p><p> To further complicate things, some SSDs handle uncompressed data much faster than compressed data. Specifically, there has been a big difference in performance with these two types of data with SSDs that use older SandForce controllers. If there’s a difference, the faster speeds when dealing with uncompressed data are the ones that are quoted.&nbsp;Therefore, although faster sequential speeds are always better to see, it’s best not to judge an SSD on these figures alone, as you’ll never get these speeds all the time.</p><h3>IOPS</h3><p> IOPS&nbsp;is another term that is often used in relation to performance of storage products, usually quoted with SSD specifications, but its direct application to real-world use isn’t simple.&nbsp;Put simply, IOPS means input-output operations per second. The more a device can manage, the faster it is. Except, not all IO operations are the same. Reading a tiny 512-byte text file isn’t the same thing as writing a 256KB block from a 10GB movie.</p><p> There’s no standard for how figures should be advertised, but the general agreed format is that companies quote the QD32, 4KB block size figure, that is the IOPS when 32 4KB read or write commands are queued.&nbsp;In the real world, applications won’t be constantly queuing up 32 4KB blocks. It will likely be a random mixture of block sizes, reads, writes, and times when the storage device is idle.</p><p> Much effort goes into measuring IOPS for patterns that simulate databases, web servers, file servers and so on. For gaming, it really depends on the application, since no two games&nbsp;will be identical. Some might involve huge textures being loaded from disk, while others might be structured differently.&nbsp;Although the 4K QD32 IOPS figure is relevant, it’s best thought of as an indicator of SSD performance rather than a definitive, comparable benchmark for overall performance.</p><h3>Competitors</h3><p> We narrowed our testing down to 9 SSDs by researching the most popular and competitive drives around. Of course, there are plenty of other SSDs out there, and new ones arriving regularly, like the&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="Vector 256GB" data-link-text="OCZ Vector 180"><a href="">OCZ Vector 180</a></span>, which may end up being a good competitor for the high-end Samsung 850 Pro. We focused on SSDs known to be reliable, consistent performers, and the best value options.</p><p> Looking at the benchmark results, and particularly the PCMark08 traces, it’s not exactly obvious that one SSD seriously outperforms another in real-world tests. Even the differences between drives in synthetic benchmarks are fairly narrow, with differences of ten percent or so. Even if you buy an SSD that's not included in our testing, it will be far faster than a mechanical hard drive&mdash;it just might not quite match the speed and endurance of a drive like the&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="850 EVO" data-link-text="Samsung 850 EVO"><a href="">Samsung 850 EVO</a></span>.</p><p> At the high end, it seems clear that the SATA bus is now the serious limiting factor in SSD performance. Fortunately, SSD manufacturers can take advantage of the PCI-Express bus, and much faster speeds, with a new standard called M.2, which I’ll explain in a moment.</p><p> But even the affordable SSDs are really good. Sure, they might be a bit slower in synthetic benchmarks, but in real-world tests, you'll find little reason to complain about their performance.</p><p> For the entry-level choice, it was a close call between&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="BX100 1TB" data-link-text="Crucial’s BX100"><a href="">Crucial’s BX100</a></span> and the&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="Ultra II" data-link-text="SanDisk Ultra II"><a href="">SanDisk Ultra II</a></span>. As of this&nbsp;writing, the Ultra II has a lower retail price, but it’s based on TLC flash, and it came out ever so sightly lower in the benchmark results. We went with Crucial’s offering, but if you end up with an Ultra II in your PC, you won’t be disappointed. OCZ’s Arc 100 is also absolutely fine, but its retail price pushes its price per GB slightly above Crucial and SanDisk’s SSDs.</p><p><a href="">Intel’s 730 series SSD</a> has been on the market a while, and has been surpassed by the firm’s PCI-Express 750 series drive, which is a lot more up to date, but frankly, we’d ignore the 730, for its pricing is just not good value for money, and its write speeds suffer compared with Samsung, Crucial, or Plextor’s drives.</p><p> Similarly, Kingston’s V300 is a bit old now, and it too has similarly poor synthetic write results and wasn’t quite as good, despite its affordability.</p><p> At the high end, Samsung’s competition comes from Plextor’s M6 Pro and SanDisk’s Extreme Pro (which we unfortunately didn't get a sample of for testing). 3D NAND is definitely the future, as it makes a big difference to performance and endurance, and Samsung certainly has an advantage here. The Magician software helps too: it’s the best SSD software going, and its Rapid Mode feature works well.&nbsp;Samsung might not have this advantage forever. Just recently, Intel and Micron&nbsp;<a href="">announced a partnership to develop 3D NAND</a>, with 48-layer chips coming soon, although products might not be with us until 2016. Intel promises SSDs with up to 10TB of capacity, thanks to this extra chip density, which admittedly sounds quite amazing, and is likely to cause serious concern for hard disk manufacturers.</p><p> For the best choice for an SSD, we chose Samsung’s SSD 850 EVO because it both performs superbly and is excellent value for money. In fact, the price per GB of the 500GB 850 EVO model works out better value than any of the 256GB drives. Being based on TLC flash memory doesn’t seem to hold it back at all, and 3D NAND clearly makes a big difference to performance.</p><p> However, it’s worth pointing out that&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="MX200" data-link-text="Crucial’s MX200"><a href="">Crucial’s MX200</a></span> gives it a run for its money, and is better value too for the 256GB model. It certainly qualifies as a close&nbsp;runner up.</p><p> Now that&nbsp;an SSDs are such good value, there's simply no reason not to have one for your PC. If you were an early adopter with a 64GB or 128GB drive and find that capacity to be rather limiting, it might be time to consider an upgrade. A 512GB SSD now costs a lot less than a 128GB model did a few years ago.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Plextor M6e Black Edition"></p><h3>Future testing:&nbsp;M.2, PCI-Express and NVMe</h3><p> Standard 2.5-inch SSDs are fundamentally limited by the speed of the SATA III bus, which has a maximum theoretical throughput of 6 Gbit/sec. In real world terms, the performance ceiling is around 550 MB/sec for an SSD, and it’s becoming obvious that this is imposing a serious limit on flash memory technology.</p><p> The solution is to switch to the PCI-Express bus, which offers 500 MB/sec per lane, with a x4 card allowing for up to 2 GB/sec. But unfortunately, all PCI-Express SSDs to date&nbsp;are really expensive, and being in a PCI card format is quite limiting. You may have issues fitting one in a tiny case, and you can’t transfer it to a laptop if you upgrade your desktop PC in the future, for example.</p><p> There are alternatives: SATA Express runs at 10 Gbit/sec, a small improvement, and for ultra-thin laptops, there’s mSATA, which runs at the same speed as SATA III but reduces the size of the SSD.</p><p> What’s on the horizon looks promising: a new format called M.2, which can use either the PCI-Express, USB or SATA bus and squeezes the size of SSDs down even further.&nbsp;If you have an up-to-date motherboard with an Intel Z97 or X99 chipset, you’ll probably have one of these slots. It’s less probable that you actually own an M.2 device though.</p><p> The size of M.2 devices is denoted with a number, specifying the card’s width and length. For SSDs, this is normally 22mm wide and either 60mm, 80mm or 110mm long.&nbsp;Unfortunately, the number of M.2 SSDs on the market is quite slim right now. And many of them use the old SATA bus rather than take advantage PCI-Express.</p><p> But times are changing, and there are some really promising new models on the horizon. One example is Kingston’s Hyper X Predator, which runs at PCI-Express x4 speeds, and comes in an interesting package. A PCI card is supplied with an M.2 connector on it, so you can just plug it into any old desktop PC motherboard. If you have an M.2 slot, or a computer (like a laptop) without PCI-Express slots, the SSD can be removed from the card and plugged in. A neat idea.&nbsp;<a href="">Plextor's M6e</a> is one of the only affordable current x2&nbsp;PCIe models, and Plextor will have a follow-up x4 drive in 2015, too.</p><p> There’s another old standard that’s holding back SSD performance: AHCI. The original host protocol for communicating with storage devices was designed at a time when everyone used hard disks, and certain assumptions were made regarding latency and performance. It limits what can be done with SSDs.&nbsp;AHCI has now been replaced by NVMe, which lifts those limits. For example, the maximum number of IO commands has gone from 32 to 65536. Booting from NVMe is not supported by the vast majority of motherboards, however. Only newer boards enable it, again based on Intel’s latest chipsets.</p><p> Some NVMe SSDs are starting to hit the market. Intel’s brand new PCI Express 750 series is one such SSD, and from early reviews it seems to be a lot faster than any 2.5-inch SATA SSD. We'll be checking out PCIe and M.2 SSDs as they become available.</p><p> In another 10 years, solid state technology may make&nbsp;today's SATA SSDs look like floppy disks. But for now, SATA SSDs still offer the best performance you're going to get for your dollar, and the&nbsp;<span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="850 EVO" data-link-text="Samsung&nbsp;850 EVO"><a href="">Samsung&nbsp;850 EVO</a></span> is currently the best choice for a great gaming SSD.</p><p> <em>A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to stores like Amazon. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which helps support our work evaluating PC components.</em></p>'s simply the most important component of any gaming PC. Make sure you get the right one for your next rig.Sat, 23 Jan 2016 00:00:00 +0000 GuideFeatured Guidegraphics cardHardwareNvidiaTop Buying Guides <p>The CPU may be the brain of your PC, but when it comes to gaming, the graphics card is the beating heart that pumps pixels out of your obelisk of a tower and into your monitor. A graphics card consists of dedicated video memory and a graphics processing unit that handles all sorts of calculations, like mapping textures and rendering millions of polygons. The graphics card is, simply, the most vital component of your gaming PC. And these are the ones worthy of your next PC, whether it's a savvy middle-of-the-road build, a budget rig or a 4K monster.</p><p><em><strong>Update 1/22/2016: </strong>Not much has changed in graphics land over the past six months. These cards are still our recommendations for early 2016.</em></p><p><em><strong>Update 7/3/2015:</strong> We've updated our recommendations for 4K gaming and a budget graphics card based on recent releases.</em></p><br/> <h3>The best graphics card</h3><p>Nvidia introduced both the GTX 980 and <span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="GTX 970 Gaming 4G" data-link-text="the GTX 970"><a href="">the GTX 970</a></span> in early September 2014, primarily focusing on the 980’s killer performance and impressively low power consumption. But the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 is the more important card: it’s priced closer to Nvidia’s typical mid-range graphics, while nipping the 980’s heels when it comes to performance. Eurogamer calls it “that rarest of things in the graphics card market&mdash;a genuine game-changer...its performance per pound ratio is so strong that some might say there's little point considering any other high-end GPU currently available&mdash;and that includes Nvidia's own flagship GTX 980.” </p><p>At a starting price of $330 (~£215), the GTX 970 offers 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM, 1664 CUDA cores, and a base clock of 1050 MHz. That may not sound incredibly fast, but the GTX 970’s base clock leaves tons of room for overclocking, and its boost clock can pass the 1500 MHz mark. Also, keep in mind the full specs to the right are only the base numbers from Nvidia. The card you'll buy from EVGA, Gigabyte, etc. will almost certainly be clocked higher.</p><br/><div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">GTX 970 specs</h5> <p> <strong>CUDA cores: </strong>1664<br> <strong></strong><strong>Base clock: </strong>1050 MHz<br> <strong></strong><strong>Boost clock: </strong>1178 MHz<br> <strong></strong><strong>Single precision:</strong> 4 teraflops<br> <strong></strong><strong>Memory config:</strong> 4GB 256-bit GDDR5<br> <strong></strong><strong>Memory speed:</strong> 7.0 Gbps<br> <strong></strong><strong>Outputs:</strong> 3xDisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0, dual-link DVI </p> </div><p> A direct spec comparison between the GTX 970 and older Nvidia hardware isn’t going to show you exactly how fast this card is. Because of improvements in Nvidia’s new Maxwell architecture used in the 980 and 970, the card is nearly as fast as the 780 Ti, which launched at $700. Nvidia has made architectural improvements with Maxwell that make its graphics processing more efficient, especially at higher resolutions like 1440p and 4K.</p><p> According to Nvidia, each CUDA core in the 900 series is 40% more efficient, which explains why the 970 can go toe-to-toe with the 780 Ti, which has 2880 CUDA cores to the 970’s 1664. Improved color compression helps performance at high resolutions. And the 970’s performance-per-watt is dramatically better than 700 series cards. While gaming, benchmarks show the GTX 970 drawing less than 200 watts of power, while competitors like the AMD R9 290X and the 780 Ti draw closer to 250 watts.</p><p> Let’s look at some actual performance numbers for the GTX 970.</p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GTX 970 Battlefield4"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GTX 970 BioshockInfinite"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GTX 970 Heaven"></p><p> <img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="GTX 970 Thermal"></p><p> The GTX 970 is currently the price/performance champion. It regularly outperforms or matches the R9 290X, an older card that currently costs $100 to $200 more.&nbsp;And there’s more goodness on top of that.&nbsp;</p><p> Nvidia’s GeForce Experience is a fantastic, regularly updated driver suite that includes Shadowplay for recording game footage with minimal performance hit. On Maxwell GPUs, Shadowplay can record 4K 60fps video (although with the 970, capturing at 1080p is more practical). It can stream straight to Twitch. Nvidia’s optimization tool can tweak your game settings automatically, if you don’t like making manual adjustments. Some new APIs and technologies from Nvidia GameWorks, <a href="">which I wrote about here</a>, are also exclusive to Maxwell.</p><p>Testing has brought to light the fact that the GTX 970 encounters performance issues when using all 4GB of its VRAM, due to the card's memory architecture. This problem wasn't obvious in regular usage and the review process because the 970 typically performed extremely well running games at reasonable settings (primarily&nbsp;gaming at 1080p and 1440p). Pushing the card to use all 4GB VRAM, by running games at 4K or with maximum anti-aliasing, can cause some serious framerate spikes.&nbsp;<a href="">You can read more about these problems here.</a></p><p>There's a reason why the memory issue didn't show up <a href="">in positive initial reviews of the card like ours</a>: you have to go far out of your way, and run the card at resolutions/settings it's not really capable of handling, to spot any issues with its memory management. If you're still suspicious/confused about the 970's performance, <a href="">read Digital Foundry's excellent breakdown of the controversy</a>. It's a great, informative read.</p><p> The fact remains that the GTX 970's overall performance is fantastic for the price. It's not the card we recommend for 4K gaming or extreme performance. For most gamers, we still think this is the best value available.</p><p> If you’re convinced, there’s only one question left: which GTX 970 do you buy? Nvidia ships its cards to companies like ASUS, EVGA and Gigabyte, which install their own coolers on the cards and sometimes overclock them before selling them to consumers. The good news is that all these companies get the same parts, so performance won’t vary wildly from one to another. The bad news is that makes it a bit hard to choose one.</p><p>We recommend the&nbsp;<a href="">MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G</a> because it's a great card with near-unanimous positive reviews: quiet, very overclockable, and much cheaper than some&nbsp;other 970 options at $340 on Amazon.</p><p>We can also recommend the Gigabyte G1 Gaming. These other versions of the GTX 970 should offer similar performance; the more expensive cards are often overclocked out of the box or come with more robust coolers.</p><ul><li><a href="">Gigabyte GTX 970 G1 Gaming on Amazon ($335)</a></li><li><a href="">Zotac GTX 970 on Amazon ($305)</a></li><li><a href="">ASUS GTX 970 on Amazon ($340)</a></li></ul><h3>The best graphics card for 4K gaming</h3><p>4K gaming is here. It’s expensive. It’s demanding. It’s not quite practical just yet. But you can do it. And to do it well, you’re going to need a hell of a graphics card. We’ll always advocate the best single-GPU solution for gaming when possible&mdash;it eliminates a number of issues and complications that can pop up with SLI and CrossFire setups&mdash;and that’s why our new recommendation for the best 4K graphics card is the Nvidia 980 Ti.</p><p>Why&nbsp;<a href="">the 980 Ti</a>? Because at $650, it delivers nearly all of the performance of the $1000 Titan X, but half of the VRAM. The thing is, the Titan X is such a monster, that leaves the 980 Ti with an ample 6GB of GDDR5 memory to play with&mdash;more than enough for 4K gaming, even with some seriously big texture files to deal with. And compared to SLI GTX 970s and 980s, the 980 Ti fares well, too.</p><br/><p><a href="">Here’s what we wrote in our review</a>: “On average, 970 SLI is only 5-10 percent faster than the 980 Ti, but depending on the game it may be as much as 20 percent faster...or 15 percent slower. For such a small overall gain in performance, we’d take the 980 Ti. The added VRAM will likely prove more beneficial with time, with several newer releases already using more than 4GB VRAM at maximum quality and high resolutions, and it leaves the door open to 980 Ti SLI in the future.”</p><p>A pair of 980s will offer better performance, but that will also cost you in the vicinity of $1000, whereas a single GTX 980 Ti is much cheaper and eliminates dual-GPU issues. A pair of 290X cards in CrossFire is a cheaper solution that can deliver 5-20 percent better performance than a single 980 Ti, but two of those cards will draw far more power and be noisier than a single 980 Ti.</p><p>There is one new, close competitor for the 4K gaming mantle, and that’s AMD’s R9 Fury X. It’s a powerful card that nearly matches the 980 Ti in performance. The Fury X also makes great strides over AMD’s last-gen cards in noise and power consumption, rivaling Nvidia’s quiet, power efficient cards. But in our testing, the 980 Ti had a couple advantages. It regularly eked out a small 5-10 percent performance advantage over the Fury X. It’s currently far more overclockable, to the tune of 15-20 percent, while the AMD Fury X can’t even hold a 10 percent overclock stable.</p><p>And the big one: the 980 Ti has 2GB more memory, which we’re already seeing games start to use at 4K resolution. The Fury X’s 4GB of memory could be a serious limiting factor for high-end games in 2016 and beyond.</p><p>That’s why the 980 Ti is overall the best card for 4K gaming. But keep in mind that even a single 980 Ti won’t be able to give you a completely consistent 60 fps framerate at 4K if you have to run everything on Ultra. Tweak a few settings and you’ll be sure to stay over 30 fps in demanding games like GTA 5 and The Witcher 3, and even reach 60 fps in plenty of games that aren’t on the bleeding edge.</p><h3>The best budget graphics card</h3><p><span class="hawk-widget-insert" data-widget-type="link" data-model-name="GTX 970 Gaming 4G" data-link-text="Nvidia’s GTX 970"><a href="">Nvidia’s GTX 970</a></span> is such a good deal around the $330 range, it’s hard to recommend a budget graphics card in remotely the same price range. Why spend $250 or $300 on a decent mainstream card when you can spend just a bit more on an incredible price/performance value? For an affordable card, we want to drop down to around the $200 mark, and that's where AMD's refreshed R9 380 card wins the day.</p><p>The R9 380 is essentially last year's R9 285, with the same GPU, but some tweaks under the hood to power management, increased clock and memory clock speeds to slightly increase performance. More importantly, the R9 380 dropped the R9 285's price down to $200, and you can probably find one even cheaper than that. Our current budget card recommendation is the&nbsp;<a href="">XFX 380 at a bargain price of $180</a>, but if you're willing to spend a bit more, the&nbsp;<a href="">Sapphire R9 380 4GB is a better option</a>. More on that in a sec.</p><br/><div class="fancy-box"><h5 class="title">Radeon&nbsp;R9 380 Specs</h5> <p> <strong>Stream processors:</strong> 1792<br> <strong></strong><strong>Core clock:</strong>&nbsp;970&nbsp;MHz<br> <strong></strong><strong>Memory clock:</strong>&nbsp;2GB/4GB GDDR5 at 1375/1425 MHz<br> <strong></strong><strong>Memory bandwidth: </strong>182.4 GB/s<br> <strong>Outputs: </strong>DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4a, 2x dual-link DVI. </p> </div><p>The R9 380 isn't quite as cheap as our previous favorite, the R9 270X, but it delivers significantly better gaming performance while coming close to the price. It's capable of delivering over 30 frames per second in Grand Theft Auto 5 at 1080p, 40+ fps in Shadow of Mordor and well over 60 fps in BioShock Infinite, all at ultra settings. Pretty damn good for a $200 card.</p><p>The biggest drawback of the R9 380 (and other similarly priced low-end graphics cards) is its 2GB of VRAM. 4GB would be much better for today's demanding games and would help the longevity of the card. There actually is a 4GB variant of the R9 380, but typically price at $240.&nbsp;We would've liked to see the 4GB of VRAM in the $200 model.</p><p>Thankfully,&nbsp;<a href="">Sapphire's R9 380 4GB</a> card saves the day. If you're willing to spend $220, you'll get a card that can dabble with 2560x1440 resolutions (though at lowered settings) and is easily capable of gaming at 1080p. It's definitely still a 1080p card first and foremost, but 4GB of VRAM will give you plenty of memory for games with demanding high resolution textures.</p><p> AMD’s drivers and software aren’t as robust or up-to-date as Nvidia’s, but the AMD control center does, at least, make it very easy to overclock their cards. Since the R9 380 is already clocked up over its predecessor, the R9 285, just&nbsp;don't expect to get too much of an overclock out of it.</p> <h3>How we test graphics cards and others we tested</h3><p>Games are rarely bottlenecked by your CPU, but dozens of games every year will push your graphics card to its limits. It's the component you'll want to upgrade most frequently (though if you buy the right card, it should last you at least two years), and likely the part you'll spend the most money on. On a practical budget, it's critical to find the graphics card with the best ratio of price to performance. That's why our recommendation for the best graphics card is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970.</p><p>At $330 (~£215), Nvidia's GTX 970 is a killer card, outperforming cards released in 2013 that cost $100-$200 more. It's overclockable, quiet, and efficient in its power usage. Most importantly, it's able to run most of 2014's most demanding games at 60 frames per second, 1080p, and ultra settings. It's the best card for the price.</p><p>The GTX 970 is the card we'd recommend to most&mdash;but not all&mdash;PC gamers. Maybe you've got cash to burn, and need a card that can run games at 4K resolution. Or maybe you're trying to build a dirt-cheap gaming PC with an even cheaper graphics card. Our graphics card guide includes three picks for budget, mid-range, and crazy-high-end gaming PCs.</p><h3>Testing graphics cards</h3><p>Our graphics card recommendations are based on our own benchmarks and testing, as well as research into the reviews and testing done by other sites. Along with Maximum PC, we have benchmark data for a range of Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, including the GTX 980, Nvidia 700 series, AMD R9 290X, and more.</p><p>What makes the best graphics card? For PC gamers, it's a balance of price and performance. The graphics card must be able to run demanding games at high framerates and settings at 1080p, the resolution most gamers still use. It shouldn't cost more than other cards with comparable performance. The card should be fast enough to still perform respectably two years later, even if it can't run everything at max settings.</p><p>Graphics performance isn't the only consideration. The quality of game drivers and other software features supported by the card are important. The card's noise level, power draw and temperature matter, too.</p><h3>Competitors</h3><p>We decided the Nvidia GTX 970 was the best graphics card for most gamers after benchmarking the newest GTX 970 and 980 and comparing those numbers to other cards we’ve benchmarked, including their closest competitors: the AMD R9 290X, R9295X2, Nvidia GTX 780 and 780 Ti. And those are hardly the only cards we considered. We looked at past testing data, comparing numbers from our own testing, Maximum PC’s benchmarking, and data from Tom’s Hardware, Anandtech, and elsewhere.</p><p>AMD’s R9 290X outperforms the GTX 970 at 4K, but it’s $150 to $200 more expensive. Amazingly, the GTX 970 turns in better scores at 1600p despite its much lower price.</p><p>AMD’s R9295X and the Titan-Z are definitely more powerful cards, but they’re also incredibly expensive--$1000 and $3000, respectively, for dual-GPU single cards. The 970 is absolutely a more efficent card, and a much better price/performance pick for 1080p or even 1600p gaming.</p><p>Nvidia knows the 900 series is a game-changer, which is why they’ve discontinued the GTX 770, 780 and 780 Ti. The new cards deliver better performance at a lower price.</p><p>The GTX 980 is the only card we’d currently consider recommending over the 970, but you don’t get nearly as much for the price as you do with the 970.</p><h3>Future testing</h3><p>The Nvidia GTX 970 is the best graphics card for gaming for the forseeable future, but this is a fast-changing field. Dramatic price cuts often happen every few months, and Nvidia and AMD are always out to one-up each other. AMD will soon have new cards, or price cuts that make its cards more competitive against the GTX 970. We’ll be updating this guide in the future as new cards are released and the graphics field continues to change.</p><p><em>A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to stores like Amazon. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which helps support our work evaluating PC components.</em></p> pawn and Arisen are probably cooler than my pawn and Arisen. Prove it by sharing them!Fri, 22 Jan 2016 23:09:00 +0000's Dogma: Dark Arisen <figure><img data-fullimage-src="" src="" alt="Crazy Dan! and Inara, ready for adventures." class=""><figcaption>Crazy Dan! and Inara, ready for adventures.</figcaption></figure><p>Dragon's Dogma may not have the extensive character customization of a Bethesda RPG, but I still spent an hour at the start of my game designing the Arisen I'd be monster hunting with. I ended up with one of my favorite RPG hero designs: Inara, a tall, buff&nbsp;knife-wielding strider. When it came time to design my pawn, the AI party member who will be tagging along at my side, I wasn't quite sure what direction to go. I started by trying to design Duke Nukem, but it just wasn't going to work without the shades.</p><p>After spinning my wheels for awhile I created Crazy Dan!, inspired by a real guy I know named Dan. He's a little crazy. You can't tell from this picture how weird his chest and posture are underneath that cloak, but they're weird. He's basically an inverse hunchback with a stubby old man body, if an old man was inexplicably extremely muscular.</p><p>I hope people like Crazy Dan!, because the popularity of your Dragon's Dogma pawn really matters. Every time you rest at an inn, your pawn's data is uploaded online, and they can go on adventures with other players, then return with money, gifts and knowledge from other players. That's pretty cool. I hope Crazy Dan! gets to go on some good adventures.</p><p>I'm sure those of you playing Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen have already created some great pawns and heroes. Well, here's a chance to show them off! Drop us a link to a picture of your pawn (and/or Arisen) in the comments below. Tell us about them. You may find a pawn from a fellow PC Gamer you want to hire in the process.</p><p>We'll collect our favorites and show them off next week. Your pawn could become a star, the most in-demand warrior in the Rift.</p>

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