The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

PC Gamer

Each week PC Gamer's young knives gather in darknet chatroom to thrash out the key moments of the previous seven days. Then they write them down. In silence. Because videogames.

THE HIGHS

Tim Clark:

We have a general, frowny, rule on PC Gamer about not running teasers which are too reliant on CG whizzbangery at the expense of any gameplay footage. (There are exceptions. Doom gets a pass because Doom.) The latest Dragon Age: Inquisition trailer also passes with flying colours. It's all in-game, with a clear purpose—explaining the tactical combat system, which is done clearly and succinctly—and is no less exciting for the 'just the facts, Jack' approach. The only downer about it is that it triggered the following lunchtime exchange...

Me: Hey Evan, have you seen that Dragon Age trailer, it's really nicely done… [proceeds to witter on about the combat system]

Evan: [awkwardly] Yeah, it's nice...

Wes: Tim, you remember Evan went to see the game and played it for a couple of hours only recently right?

Either this is the start of the breakdown or my brain need defragging. You'll be able to read Evan's cover feature in the next issue of PC Gamer, though, so don't forget to subscribe to edition ( UK or US ) of your countrymen.

Ben Griffin: Angelic cops

Alan Partridge loves loves loves alliteration like I love a crowbarred comparison. Here's one for you: LA Cops is like Hotline Miami meets XCOM . In this stylish '70s-themed strategy game—if you can use the word stylish to describe a decade that popularised polyester jumpsuits—you infiltrate buildings and clear them of bad guys using co-op tactics and general machoness. Tell your partner to stand guard while you dart round the back, for instance, or rush in together with scenery-wrecking shotguns.

I love how each character is a walking, talking Beastie Boys' Sabotage-style cop cliché, with names like Borland, Kowalski and Murphy. Some have moustaches, some have aviators, many have shoulder-slung holsters made from fine leather. I can almost smell the walnut dashboards. LA Cops is on Steam Early Access right now for just £8.99. For another comparison: that's like two pints worth of cash.

Andy Kelly: Elite is no longer elitist

The 'standard beta' of Elite: Dangerous was released this week , reducing that infamous £100+ price tag to a more reasonable, but still wallet-bothering, $75/£50. I've been playing the game since alpha, and multiplayer has always felt a bit empty, but now there are players buzzing all over the place. This has made the galaxy feel a lot more alive, and also increased the amount of idiots smashing into me when I'm trying to dock. Seriously, how did these guys ever get their space pilot's licence?

The addition of missions has also given the game some much-needed structure and it runs a lot better on my PC. Now all I need is our Oculus Rift DK2 to arrive (we're still waiting) so I can test out the VR features in HD. Our DK1 just isn't cutting it anymore. I'm worried that once I plug myself into Elite with the Rift, I may never return to reality.

Wes Fenlon: Fortress of Dwarfitude

The insanity that is Dwarf Fortress is occupying a larger and larger portion of my brain. I still don't know what I'm doing. I don't know my way around its menus or know how to parse its basic ASCII graphics. But it's a game I'm determined to understand, and I'm excited about its continuous march towards being the most complex strategy simulation RPG citybuilder god sim ever made. How can you not be excited by patch notes like "lye stacks now produce the correct amount of potash?" I think there's a lot of buzz around Dwarf Fortress' latest major update, and I'm proud that we helped contribute to that with our guide to learning the game. It's time to learn Dwarf Fortress, dammit.

Cory Banks: So many RPGs

This week, we published our definitive list of the best RPGs of all time , the games we're recommend to someone new to the RPG genre. The games we think everyone should play right now if they want to fight orcs, romance elves, or stare at character sheets. It's a list that's filled with some of my personal favorite games of all time, and I'm exceedingly proud of it. But now I want to replay every game on that list. Which means that, instead of spending my weekend soaring through space in Elite: Dangerous like Andy will, I'm probably going to reinstall a whole mess of games.

How do I decide which one to play? Do I mod up Fallout: New Vegas, or restart another playthrough of Ultima VII? Do I return to Divinity: Original Sin, or revisit Anachronox? Even as I type this, I want to play them all at the same time. This is the best problem ever, and it's only going to get worse (read: better) later this year when Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity are both out. We're in a golden age of classic computer RPGs, and I love it.

Evan Lahti: Arma war movies

I think all of us have a PC game that we're so glad exists but will never, ever play. That's EVE Online for me, and for a lot of other people, I sense, it's Arma. And I think that's totally fine: plenty of us don't have the time or dexterity or hardware to run Bohemia's military sim, but it's neat that folks like Dslyecxi give a gateway into what it's like to play the game at its best. This video that we highlighted this week was a perfect demonstration of Arma's best qualities: camaraderie through adversity, and the experience that arises when dozens of people are invested in each other's fun as much as their own.

THE LOWS

Tim Clark: Hearthstone gets plagued

The boss encounters in this week's Curse of Naxxramas wing were both more fun than those in the first, and dropped a couple of cards which I expect to use heavily in the shape of the Unstable Ghoul and—oh sweet, pustulent, miracle-killing prince—Loatheb. I'm able to say that because I threw down my cash and got entry to the wing on the EU server with no problems at all. Many others haven't been so lucky, with Blizzard acknowledging and working on fixes for a variety of problems, including people being double charged for entry and having their gold taken but access not granted. As regular readers will know, I adore the game to the point of debilitation, but it shouldn't go unremarked that after the lag in the first week this doesn't feel like the smoothest roll out so far. Yes, Hearthstone is a young game, and Team 5 are small and nimble, but honestly it'd be nice for a major release to go without a hitch. Somewhere in his floating Necropolis, Kel'thuzad grins evilly.

Ben Griffin: Failed game-making dreams

Much like my peers, who are pressuring me with something I'll refer to here as 'peer pressure', I'm looking into making a game. It's a survival game about a man lost at sea. He basically wakes up in the middle of the ocean, because that's the scariest thing I can possibly imagine, and has to fend for himself. Imagine a wetter Don't Starve: you scavenge floating debris, maybe build a raft from a toilet seat, or fend off a shark with a tin opener. Oh no, my life jacket is deflating, let me plug it with chewing gum. Is that a mermaid? No, it's a jellyfish and I'm going mental. That sort of thing. There'll be Life of Pi moments too, like giant whales and glowing swarms of algae to gawp at. Well, I was looking into making it until I realised making a game is bloody hard work. So you can have my idea, Internet. Just mention me in the credits, yeah?

Andy Kelly: Crytek UK closure

Crytek UK are no more . The studio, who were once known as Free Radical Design, were made up of developers who worked on GoldenEye 64, who went on to make the equally brilliant TimeSplitters games. I was happy when I heard they were rescued by Crytek after the commercial failure of Haze (which was, to be fair, balls), but then they were put on multiplayer for Crysis. What a waste. I reckon the studio should go indie and kickstart a new TimeSplitters. I don't know who owns the licence, but even if they can't get hold of it, it doesn't matter. Look at Keiji Inafune's Mighty No. 9, which is a Mega Man game in all but name. I hope everyone affected lands on their feet. Remember how brilliant TimeSplitters 2's challenge mode was? I need that on PC, with online leaderboards. Hopefully someone can make it happen. Long live Free Radical.

Cory Banks: Stained fails to shift

The developers behind indie game Stained refused to give out previously-promised Steam keys to customers who bought the Indie Royale bundle this week. Immediately, my mind thinks, “That's not fair!” But the developer's reason disappoints me even more: it's because the game is a commercial failure.

Stained, described as a "side-scrolling, platforming and combat action game," has sold 300 copies, according to the developer RealAxis' update. At $10 a pop, that's $3,000 in revenue. Instead of honoring the agreement to give those who purchased the Indie Royale Debut 3 bundle a Steam code, it's asking fans to re-purchase the game on Steam. You can imagine what the reaction has been. This is bad news all around: bad for a small developer who can't find an audience for its game, bad for consumers who made a purchase and expect to receive something in return, and bad for the state of indie games on the PC post-explosion. RealAxis should give out the codes it promised, but maybe the team should also rethink its business plan. What worked three years ago in the indie scene won't work now.

Evan Lahti: Indie overload

I love pixel art and turn-based strategy, so I was happy to volunteer to review Halfway . I ended up underwhelmed by its simplicity, but honestly, I think my feelings about it are also informed by how ridiculously spoiled we are for games right now, but indie games in particular. There's so many of them that it's got to be tough for new studios to get noticed. In a way, I lament that something like Halfway, which definitely has some good appeal as a streamlined, turn-based sci-fi game, has to compete against XCOM, Xenonauts, Unity of Command, Shadowrun Returns, Dead State, Wasteland 2, and a few others. If it'd released in 2009, plenty of people would be talking about Halfway. If I was an indie developer today, I'd be massively worried about all the incredible, affordable games I'm competing with.

Wes Fenlon: 4K isn't ready for primetime just yet

I spent the past two weeks using a 4K monitor for my day-to-day work, and I also played a number of games on it to test out performance. Unfortunately, I concluded that 4K is just a little too much for even beefy video cards like the Titan Black to handle . Most of the games I played struggled to keep 30 fps on Ultra settings, much less 60 fps. At this point, maintaining solid framerates at 4K will cost a couple thousand dollars in hardware. And there are other problems, too: Windows 7 doesn't scale to 4K, and while Windows 8 is better, some programs look gross and blurry. We've got another year or two to wait for 4K to be practical. Too bad. 3840x2160 is sharp .

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