Thief has a brilliant options menu. Visual aids like loot-glint, objective markers and object highlighting can be disabled for a score multiplier. You can even turn off Garrett's new "focus" mode, and guard alert indicators, and then turn the whole thing into a sneaky roguelike by activating Iron Man mode. Die, or fail an objective, and the whole run comes to an end. Sounds like a perfect challenge for our Thief reviewer, Chris Thursten, who streamed the start of his Iron Man adventure last night. How did he get on? The video is here.
Those who joined us for our recent DayZ stream will have seen a long tale of betrayal, accidental suicide and vomit. It was fun, so we're doing another one tomorrow, only this time we'll be playing a selection of competitive single-screen action games including Cobalt, Samurai Gunn, Nidhogg and Gun Monkeys. It will be fast. It will be frantic. There will be shouting. There may also be some mild-mannered smack talk. You have been warned.
Who will emerge the ultimate champion and secure the grand prize of ONE FREE BEER? Who will kill Ben first? Will we be able to stop ourselves from swearing? Find out tomorrow at 3:30PM GMT, when we'll be streaming live from the PC Gamer Twitch channel.
It's in the nature of a non-subscription MMO that, when freed from the guilt of making the most out of a monthly payment, people will drift in and out of it over time. That's what I've been doing in Guild Wars 2, finding myself falling in love with it for brief periods, before moving on to be obsessed by something else. With the recent Origins of Madness update, I've been dragged back in. It's all down to one of the new world bosses: the Twisted Marionette. Remarkably, it's one of the best encounters ArenaNet have ever created for the game.
I suppose the signs that I was a terrible badger parent were there from the opening seconds of Shelter.
The game begins with me (the badger mum) and four snuffling, chirruping cubs in a little underground tunnel. A fifth cub lies pale and motionless on the ground in front of me. "Oh dear," I think. "Well, best leave him and move on."
It is only after the game's repeated refusal to let me leave my underground starting area that it occurs to me that the cub is not actually dead and I am expected to nurture it back to health.
The interface for a sim that lets you run a country is always going to be daunting, but Democracy 3's fearsome array of orbs made me want to ALT-F4 and hurry to the kettle for a calming cup of something hot. That feeling lasted only minutes. After the briefest investigation, the quality of Democracy's interface becomes clear. It's a fine example of how thoughtful design can present complex data simply and allow complex strategies to be enacted with simple interactions, like the tug of a slider or the tick of a checkbox.
It closely resembles Democracy 2's layout. Each blob represents a social issue. Hover your mouse over one and green and red spokes appear indicating all of the issues that positively or negatively affect your chosen subject. It takes two seconds to discover that the racial tension, alcohol and organised crime are fuelling violent crime, and that those are being countered by a combination of CCTV surveillance, a well funded police force, education and strict handgun laws. I can click on any of those contributing factors to access sliders that'll let me adjust taxation and alter the legislative strictness around problematic comsumables like booze. Tackling my nation's drinking habit would turn out to be the start of a long slippery slope.
I have been steadily progressing through my Kerbal Space Program to-do list. My last major milestone was landing on the moon (or ‘Mun’, as the Kerbals call it). A little too enthusiastically, as it turned out. My capsule ran out of fuel during the descent, and sped helplessly towards its surface. On the upside, it got a great area-ofeffect radius. I landed all over that moon.
The next step is to reach the Mun without reducing my Kerbals to green paste. It’s a logical progression, but one that will be dramatically more complicated – in part because it requires me to start caring about the safety of these oblivious alien astronauts. Previously, there had been little reason to ensure their survival. When one died, another automatically stepped up to the cockpit, fully trained and unconcerned about reasons for the sudden job vacancy.
Welcome to Now Playing, in which we recount our recent adventures in PC gaming. This week, Chris tries to hold together a rag-tag bunch of survivors in Zafehouse Diaries, a post-apocalypse sim communicated through entries in a blood-stained diary.
Remember that old logic puzzle about taking a fox, a chicken, and a bag of feed across a river in a boat one at a time? The fox wants to eat the chicken, the chicken wants to eat the feed, and so on. Zafehouse Diaries reminds me of that puzzle, only the boat is broken, the fox is racist against the chicken, the chicken is uncomfortable around men, and there’s a rumor that the bag of feed directed a film popular among wealthy old women. Also, there are zombies.
Are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse? Got some food stocked up? A gas generator? Supplies of medicine? A bunch of guns? Most importantly, do you have a degree in psychology, or at least some expertise in leading group therapy sessions and resolving interpersonal conflicts? Because as we know by now, the zombies lurching around outside are bad, but the humans you’re trapped with inside are even worse.
A maid carrying a towering pile of linens barrels down the stairs towards me. I leap deftly aside, avoiding a collision, then take a moment to revel in my success. It's a small success, to be sure. All I've done is avoiding getting bumped into by hurrying maid. It's still a success, however, and particularly notable because after playing several in-game weeks in Long Live The Queen, it's literally my only success.
As a teenage princess in this visual novel-style role-playing game, I need to survive for 40 weeks to reach my coronation. Each week, I choose two subjects to study, from social skills like composure, elegance, and court manners, to physical skills like swordplay and horseback riding, to intellectual skills like history, medicine, economics, and military strategy. My mood affects how well I learn these skills: for instance, if I'm angry, I get a bonus towards learning how to jam a sword between someone's ribs, but if I'm depressed, I won't be very good at learning how to appear elegant. At the end of each week, various events will test these skills. I might have to interact with visiting nobility, make a tough decision about the kingdom, or simply avoid a careless maid.
Or, someone might try to assassinate me.
Of the 20 waves of enemies that make up Dawn of War 2: Retribution’s Last Stand mode, wave 16 is the most important. In every other wave your team of three heroes face overwhelming odds. In wave 16 there are only three enemies, but they’re the most powerful opponents you could ever face. Exact clones of you.
It was around a fortnight ago that I realised something had changed. Kills in online deer-stalking sim The Hunter that had once made my heart sing and my breast swell had begun to feel flat, pointless, cruel even. I was enjoying strolling through the dappled glades and searching for the skittish stags as much as ever, but the actual act of slaying – the moment of squeezing – the trigger and watching the quarry crumple - had lost its magic.
The solution came to me during a stroll through a real dappled glade: I’d put my guns in the ground. I’d trade my Remington for a Nikon!
What, seriously? She traps Yordles?”
Owen is incredulous, bordering on upset. I confirm his worst fears. “Yeah man. They’re like bear traps. She baits them with cake, and they snap shut on little Yordle knees.”
“No. No, she can’t do that. That’s sick.”
Ever since I got obsessed with the original Supreme Commander last year, I've been trying to set this up. All of us, in one game, against AI opponents so powerful they might obliterate us all.
It’s 6v2: me, Graham, Rich, Tim, Toms Senior and Hatfield are the human team, and the two AIs we’re facing get double resources and build speed. That could get out of control fast: they can get to higher tech units faster than us. So we need a plan.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds. I have exploded the Sun. I have exploded Venus, Mercury and Mars. I have exploded Saturn, and watched its rings and moons spiral off into interstellar space. I have, perhaps inevitably, exploded Uranus.
I know he’s behind me. I can’t hear him; theonly sound is that of my hurried footsteps on the dry grass. I can’t see him; my flashlight only circles the endless rows of trees in front of me. But I can feel him. Watching. Waiting for me to turn around.
There are three little alien faces in the corner of my screen. Those on the left and right are screaming in terror, but seated in the middle, Jebediah Kerbal is smiling. He is always smiling.
I am smiling too. Kerbal Space Program a long way to go before it’s the galaxy exploring management game it wants to be, but it’s already amazing.
This article originally appeared in issue 232 of PC Gamer UK.
A hidden menace lurks behind the horror of Dead Island’s undead invasion. The dreadful spectre of vitamin C deficiency. Scurvy would not be high on my list of worries in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, but who am I to argue? I’m just a high-heeled lady with a cleaver and resistance to zombification.
Frozen Synapse's new DLC adds co-op play and a new shield unit. Owen and I tried out both at lunchtime, with disastrous results. Our 20 minutes of planning resulted in the 33 seconds of catastrophe below, so I should explain what the hell we were planning.
This article was originally published in PC Gamer UK 226.
My daughter was delivered to me by a deity when she was 10 years old. I named her Mount-Everest Acebomb and sent her to work in a restaurant.
Think football management is hard? Trying manipulating the statistics of a teenaged girl in a fantasy medieval world. Princess Maker 2 has you controlling every aspect of your daughter’s life with creepy focus. You set her schedule, choose with whom she socialises, arrange her diet, buy her clothes and have only brief father-daughter chats. "I wonder what my mother was like?" she asks. I say nothing.
This article was original published in PC Gamer UK 230.
World of Tanks can be intimidating to the newcomer, so I decided I'd try to learn the ropes by grouping with a high level friend. This turned out to be a terrible mistake. The game generally has pretty good matchmaking, but our wildly different levels have confused this system. I’m put into a high tier game in a ‘Loltracktor’.
This article was originally published in PC Gamer UK 236.
Skyrim's alchemy system asks players to combine ingredients based on their statistic-altering properties. Once you've found out what ingredients do, you can make them into potions. The best way to find these properties is by jamming them into your gob, masticating for a while, and scribbling the results down in your poisoning journal.
My Skyrim character - a beardy Breton - was stood on an ice floe to the north of Winterhold when I decided to taste a few of the more exotic ingredients I'd picked on my travels. Imagine 90s semi-celebrity wine-taster Jilly Goolden, except six and a half foot tall, covered in hair and blood, and backed up by a monstrous ice-beast.