The week's highs and lows in PC gaming


The Highs

Samuel Roberts: Hitman beta!
I couldn’t wait last weekend—I sampled Hitman’s beta on PS4 ahead of its PC debut today. While I think there are some elements that’ll give hardcore fans pause—levels seem to play out with scripted, timed elements no matter what every time—seeing the potential for Contracts and replayability in just the two opening levels has me enormously optimistic about the Paris level debuting with the game’s first episode coming in March.

I played the beta alone for four hours last Sunday and plan on playing a whole bunch more this weekend to see if I can drown a guy in a toilet, poison another guy’s glass and eventually murder everyone on the cruise ship in the beta’s opening level. That sounds like Hitman to me.

Wes Fenlon: I am a valkyrie
I’ve been playing NetHack. And the last few days, when I haven’t been playing, I’ve been thinking about it. In the span of a few weeks, I’ve gone from seeing NetHack as an impenetrable hardcore roguelike—maybe the most complex one in existence—to something I can understand and play with some skill, even if I’m nowhere near mastering it. But I’m getting a feel for how it works. I can read its ASCII art and understand how to tell if my equipment is cursed (I spend about three hours stumbling around with a pair of mittens on that made me drop things and fall down stairs). And I finally have a character tough enough to survive the depths: a female dwarven Valkyrie armed with Excalibur and some seriously sweet mythril armor. I’ve been recording my NetHack playthroughs with a friend, and they’ll hopefully start appearing on the site next week. I hope you enjoy ASCII roguelikes.

Kona Slide

Andy Kelly: Ice storm
If you’re a fan of Fargo and love those desolate, snowy roads, you might be interested in a new indie project called Kona: Day One. It’s an in-development adventure/survival game whose beta I’ve been playing this week, set in the frozen north of Canada. You play as a gruff-voiced private eye straight out of a film noir who’s been invited to take on a case in the mysteriously abandoned settlement of Atamipek Lake, and the drive into it is fantastically atmospheric.

You find yourself driving into the thick of a blizzard. Your visibility gets steadily lower and snow begins to line the narrow, twisting roads. Eventually you can barely see in front of you, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the similarly stark, white highways of Fargo. It’s a promising game with some impressive environment design, but clearly unfinished. We’ll have some proper coverage of the game once it’s in a more complete state.

Tim Clark: Twitchy developers
Between his soothingly logical explanations of the design issues facing Hearthstone, and that infectious/thunderous laugh, I could listen to Ben Brode talk all day. And this week that dream edged closer to reality, because Hearthstone’s baritone-voiced lead designer has started streaming. He’s using a F2P account to get the full new player/scrub experience, and you can watch VODs of an Arena run here and some ladder here. I’m particularly keen to hear how Brode keeps his cool when he makes it to Rank 10 and above. Or, as I prefer to call it, the infinite circle of Secret Paladins.

Cities Skylines Snow Slide

Chris Livingston: Skyline and chill
Sometimes game expansions arrive not just in good shape but at the right time. Despite a million mods, I'd been getting a little bored with Cities: Skylines, particularly the opening hours of building a new city. The Snowfall expansion, with its freezing temperatures, adds a new wrinkle to power management, one that is often expensive to fix. Now, instead of impatiently dragging roads and pipes around as fast as possible when I begin a new game, I'm concentrating a bit more on being efficient and careful, and enjoying the early hours of city-building again.

Angus Morrison: Soul survivor
Dark Souls has a life of its own quite apart from anything Miyazaki could have planned (coincidentally, you can read all about what Miyazaki has planned for Dark Souls 3 in our new issue, out now). After my sadness at the revelation that no more intentional secrets remain to be found in Dark Souls, it pleases me no end that people are still coming up with absurd ways to get more from it.

This week, streamer The_Happy_Hobbit beat Dark Souls without being hit. Not ‘not being hurt’—not being hit. Not even to the shield. He did parry one blow from Gwyn, but in fairness I’d be inclined to panic if I saw a sword that big and that on fire flying towards me. Every time he took a knock (with a couple of exceptions where the game could be killed before saving data), Hobbit would go straight to the menu and start fresh. You or I would go hollow, but this guy’s the Chosen Undead.

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