The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Tim Clark: They see me Scrollin’

What a time to be alive for a man approaching middle age who collects digital cards with pictures of goblins on them. This week Bethesda drew its NDA veil back from The Elder Scrolls: Legends beta, and I went into some depth about the potential I see in the game here. Chatting to Chris Livingston about it afterwards, he told me he finds the more serious but somewhat generic art a turn off. As soon as he said that I had a nagging worry that I’d been too nice to Legends, largely on the basis that it’s a CCG with enough mainstream appeal and development budget to actually take on Hearthstone. Despite being a glass quarter full person about most aspects of my life, I weirdly err on the side of enthusiasm for big unreleased games. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing what more players make of it once the doors are flung wider, as will surely happen soon. I think veteran Hearthstone players will be intrigued by the Prophecy system and use of lanes on the board. 

Speaking of Hearthstone, last night I stayed up to cover the announcement of One Night in Karazhan adventure at ChinaJoy. As a result I slept through the start of a meeting with my boss this morning, so if you never see my byline here again, that’s why. It’s been a great ride. As for the set, there are definitely some doozies in the seven cards shown so far. You can read my thoughts in the accompanying gallery, and I recommend this thread on the ever-excellent Competitive Hearthstone subreddit to see how high-level players are planning to use new “build around” cards like Barnes and The Curator. It really is a golden era for CCGs on PC. Barely a day passes without someone asking us to look at a new one. As with MMOs, the time commitment from players is such that only a few will succeed, but those that do will be very special indeed. 

Chris Livingston: Bounder of Adventure

Thanks to crowdfunding, paid alphas, and Early Access, it can be a little weird to officially review a game that has been playable and played for years. But since Starbound took off from Early Access recently, I gave it a shot. I didn't think it would be my kind of game—I am so goddamn tired of chopping down trees and chipping at boulders thanks to all the survival crafting games that have appeared over the past several years—but I really wound up enjoying the heck out of it.

It's a nice success story, too, since it's been in development for a good long while and early builds were reportedly not so great. It's definitely one of those games where you'll need a wiki or two handy in a second monitor at all times, but I highly recommend playing it if you haven't. 

Chris Thursten: Internet wizard hat apotheosis

Valve's approach to updating Dota 2 is a little weird. Other games get characters and balance updates at a steady tempo. Sometimes there are major changes, but the rest of the time you know what you're getting. Not so with Dota, which will go six months at a time (at least) without receiving a new character and then go crazy within the space of a week.

The Dota VR Hub is crazy. Does anybody need it? I don't know. Will anybody seriously watch the International from inside the game at the ground level, wearing Dota-themed VR hats and dancing with strangers? I don't know. I'm going to try. But I'm so glad that Valve have taken this bizarre, ambitious, spectacular step. A new hero might mean more to the majority of players, but Dota VR is an example of the mad experimental drive that makes the game so special.

Also, I totally called it in March last year.

Phil Savage: Welcome (back) to the jungle

The new season of Guild Wars 2's episodic story thing has rumbled into being, which means I'm back in. It's been a long break this time, but I remain fine with that. I can't cope with multiplayer games that feel needy—that require me to constantly be there in order to have a chance at the best stuff. GW2's the perfect low commitment, casual pastime that I can return to after a year's break and simply pick up where I left off.

I get that it's these same reasons that can make GW2 so unsatisfying to the people who want their MMOs to go deep. But it is what it is. Not every MMO needs to target the same compulsions, and I'm happy that this one aligns with my habits. Also, the new zone looks pretty cool.
 

 Joe Donnelly: Taking a summer holiday in Physicsland

Okay, so Human Fall Flat launched on Steam last Friday, and therefore is technically last week’s high—but I didn’t get the chance to play it until Monday so I say it counts. In case you missed it, Human Fall Flat is a neat little physics puzzle game about repeatedly falling over and overcoming obstacles. I liked it, not just because I fell for the variety of its puzzles and its strange dreamlike worlds, but also because it allowed me to switch off. 

This year has blessed us with some amazing games (a large number of which are gathered in the latest issue of PC Gamer magazine—nudge nudge, wink wink), but most of them have been awfully time-consuming. I’m hardly complaining, but while the likes of Dark Souls 3, Stellaris, Hearts of Iron IV and XCOM 2—to name but a few—are fantastic games, they can also be very draining. Being able to kick back in the peaceful, non-hostile arenas of Human Fall Flat was a welcome break from demons and Fallen Empires and war. Even when its puzzles tried my patience, its eureka moments calmed me down. It was nice. 

James Davenport: Spaced out

This might qualify as a low as well. This week, I finally figured it was time to upgrade my storage space. Currently, my PC is a loaner from the office while I work on assembling my own over time, but even so, I like to have a big library of games installed at once and enough space to back up the unholy gigs of pictures and music I’ve accumulated over time. So I got a 2TB Western Digital Black drive, unplugged the PC, disassembled it, and… 

There was already a 2TB Western Digital Black inside. Hooray? Hooray. It was in there the whole time, but hadn’t been formatted and assigned. I can’t be sad about it, because now I have 4TB of space. Just, damn, James. Damn.