The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Tyler Wilde: Uncertain skies
I like No Man’s Sky. The toppling tower of furious hype—which I’ve written about extensively, and that story will be published soon—is not much fun. It’s really tiring and I think a lot of it could have been avoided with more controlled PR. But what’s there, while absolutely packed with irritations to criticize, can be astounding at times. Every time I feel like I really, really don’t like No Man’s Sky, I jump back in and see an electrifying scene—a fleet of ships warping into position in front of a great shimmering red ball, or a vast ocean-side forest. I think the pulp Startling Stories and Weird Fantasy look of No Man’s Sky sold it to me even more than the promise of infinite worlds. The worlds can’t really be infinite—maybe No Man’s Sky can technically generate a very, very large number of possible worlds, but we knew we were going to see lots of variations of the same sort of things. I accepted that before it came out. For me, it’s a sci-fi scene generator which creates a very specific kind of look, and one I happen to really like. I’m not sure I liked spending $60 on it (for the PS4 version so I could get an early look), but I have a lot of trouble putting No Man’s Sky away.

Chris and I wrote some impressions based on the PS4 version earlier this week, as well as some tips to get you started if you’re playing on PC this weekend. Now that the PC version is out, our review can start in earnest, which Chris is writing. Even after talking about it with him, and both of us putting at least 20 hours each into it, No Man’s Sky is so open-ended and odd that I’m still not sure where we’ll all land on it. One minute we’re talking about the fun we’ve had, the next we’re bashing the inventory system and grumbling about finding copper and deriding its laborious survival system. We like it. We hate it. We want to see some more planets. For now, do be aware that the PC launch has been a tad rocky, so check your system specs against the requirements, update your drivers, and consider waiting for more patches.

Wes Fenlon: A good time to talk about piracy
It’s been a huge week for everything No Man’s Sky, and I did my part by rounding up some goofy and awe-inspiring images of aliens and planets from across the web. But the high for me this week was publishing a heavily researched article on the state of piracy in 2016, which I hope offers a detailed and nuanced look at who’s pirating PC games these days and why they’re doing it. The issue is never as clear cut as it seems like it should be—case in point, one of our interviewees pirates games because they cost an exorbitant amount where they live in Bulgaria. We had a lot of great comments on the article, and a surprising numbers of gamers chiming in to explain why they pirate. That gave me the idea to run a survey about piracy, which will hopefully help us collect some hard numbers on how many PC gamers pirate. Do me a solid and fill it out, will ya? It’s short! 

James Davenport: Crusader Kings meets Tinder
In Reigns, I swiped right to eat a blue mushroom. My guards grew bunny ears and everything started sounding tinny. A soothsayer showed up and let me know that one of my decisions would lead to the death of thousands of people. Later, I swiped right to preserve my food supply. Turns out it was infested with rats. Rats carrying the black plague. Surprise! I died. So I started from scratch as the next king, new knowledge in tow. Next time, you bet I burned the grain.

Think of the diplomacy of Crusader Kings distilled into a binary decision-making format, specifically a Tinder format, the swipe-heavy mobile dating app—you swipe left or right to say yay or nay to make grand decisions about your kingdom. I’ve been playing on my phone, but it’s also available on Steam for $3 and just as fun. There’s a cyclical nature to ruling. Decisions almost always lead to ruin eventually, but the joy is in uncovering the bizarre secrets Reigns is hiding (and there are plenty) and seeing how long your rule can last. My longest is 50 years so far. I made a deal with the devil, he gave me some special ‘insight,’ and we started a crusade. It put a constant drain on my citizen happiness, but constantly filled my coffer. I could spend, spend, spend, which let me build defenses, a hospital, a school, and more. Ultimately, I died from having too much money. My court put on a surprise feast, at which I ate and drank myself to death. Welp. Swipe right, but be sure to also swipe right. 

Phil Savage: Go play this thing
Last weekend, PC Gamer's Andy Kelly tweeted about Moirai, recommending that it be played without any foreknowledge. I did so, and concur: it's definitely worth playing, and you should definitely know as little as possible beforehand. Here's the information you do need: it's free, and about 10 minutes long. There is absolutely no reason not to play right now, (unless you're disarming a bomb with 9 minutes, 59 seconds left on the timer). Go! Play! 

Samuel Roberts: Way to Fall
Combine the words ‘Wolfenstein’ or ‘Doom’ with ‘campaign’ these days and I get very excited—both brought new life to the seriously stagnating single-player mode in first-person shooter games. I want more like that, now. The single-player campaign isn’t dead if you’ve got the right ideas. That’s why I’m hoping Titanfall 2, which is clearly galvanised by those games’ design approach in its own brand new single-player campaign, can approximate a similar sense of fun.
Like the interview in that story says, it shows that single-player shooters don’t need to rely on grinding for fun. Since the Respawn team made Call of Duty 4’s campaign back in 2007, I’m excited to see how they’ve updated the way they make those games.

Tom Senior: Born to ride
I’ve been waiting years to love Battlefield again, will BF1 be the one? This week’s vehicle video suggests ‘yes.’ Battlefield trailers often look more exciting than the game itself, mostly because they cut out all of the tedious walking you have to do to get back to objectives on the game’s biggest conquest maps. Bikes, tanks and planes are a good solution to this problem of course, and I’m excited about the chance to drive around some old fashioned World War I bikes, and use tanks to take advantage of the improved destructibility of BF1’s maps. It looks like BF1 has already managed to translate the flashiness of the last two entries into the new timezone very nicely. Now we’ll have to see if the classes balance out, and whether or not DICE has managed to improve the game’s netcode to a standard that will impress our clan leader John Strike.