The week's highs and lows in PC gaming


James Davenport: Halo 5 Portents
Some of the best LAN parties I’ve attended revolved around the original Halo on PC. There’s no shooter quite like Halo, and even though it’s arguably developed for controllers, the sandbox battlefields translate to PC just fine. But the last Halo on PC was Halo 2 back in 2007—unless you count Halo Online, the strange F2P multiplayer only version released exclusively in Russia.

Microsoft’s tone might be changing though, and despite the fact it’s nothing but speculation, I’m a bit more hopeful for a grand return to PC. In a recent stream with our friends at GamesRadar, 343 Industries franchise director Frank O'Connor said: “There is plenty of chance that Halo 5 could appear on the PC,” when queried about the potential of a port. Today, Microsoft marketing lead Aaron Greenberg did his best to cool everyone’s jets, but didn’t outright deny the possibility. So even if my spirits aren’t quite soaring for Halo 5 on PC, at least they’re hovering a few inches higher than before.

Tom Marks: Time to d-d-d-duel
I had never heard of Duelyst until I read our news post about it’s arrival in open beta yesterday. It’s now safe to say that I might’ve found a new addiction. It feels like Final Fantasy Tactics and Hearthstone had a child, and raised it to be my kryptonite. The deck building and collecting of a card game combined with the positioning and strategy of a tactics game. It’s incredibly fun and if you like either of the games mentioned above, you should check it out.

It’s definitely still a beta though, as seen by the annoying menus and an incredibly inconvenient chat system, but that doesn’t put a dampener on how cool the actual gameplay is. Plus, the art is spectacular, which is to be expected from the same animator who did Chasm and Rogue Legacy. All of the units have beautifully detailed pixel art sprites and animations, but nothing else is pixely. It’s an interesting contrast that I haven’t seen before.

Honestly, I could see myself setting Hearthstone aside for a long while in favor of Duelyst, I’ve been enjoying it that much so far. Unfortunately, in the quickly saturating digital card game genre, I am a little worried that it may not find its audience.

Deus Ex Slide

Samuel Roberts: Jensen 2.0
Man, this Deus Ex: Mankind Divided trailer, detailing Adam Jensen’s new abilities, made me so excited about the game. I like that Square Enix has figured out the formula for Deus Ex trailers now: grim Adam Jensen monologue, epic electro-infused music, cool augmented action stuff and then, inevitably, triangles. Look how beautiful it is. It’s why I’m delighted it’s the cover game of the new issue of PC Gamer this month.

Mankind Divided is my most anticipated game of next year—I loved Human Revolution and can’t quite believe it’s been four years since it first came out. Check out Tom’s impressions from when he played it a little while back.

Andy Kelly: Impulse buy
I’m a sucker for Steam sales. Even though there are probably 200+ games in my library that I haven’t played for more than five minutes, or at all, it’s a fairly ridiculous habit. But when I see a game I’m vaguely interested in going for a few quid, I think: how can I not? That’s the price of a sandwich! My most recent idiotic impulse purchase was last night, when I bought GRID Autosport for about six pounds. I just felt like driving some cars really fast around a track.

And I ended up playing it for two hours and having a brilliant time. The touring car races, in which you have to wrestle through a dense pack of drivers, are particularly fun. That moment when the group slows down for a bend, and you gamble with squeezing the throttle for a few seconds more than is safe, to try and gain a few places, is incredibly tense. It’s a fairly dry, straightforward driving game, but it satisfied my desire to drive a car really fast. I may never play it again, but I feel like I’ve already gotten my six quid’s worth of enjoyment out of it.

I love this, when you make a rash purchase on Steam, only to find yourself playing and enjoying a game you never expected to. That’s the great thing about the vast library on offer, and the way games are routinely sold for hardly anything. But, of course, sometimes you buy a game and just never play it. There are more games in my library with zero playtime—including some we’ve given high review scores—than I’m comfortable admitting. If you’ve got a few quid to spare, take a risk and buy something you never planned to. You might be surprised.

Tales from the Borderlands Slide

Tyler Wilde: End game
I’ve also been playing Downwell, and liking it a lot, but my best experience this week was the Tales from the Borderlands finale. It’s great, and I’m really happy that Telltale managed to surprise me with a choice at the end—something much bigger than its usual ‘who lives’ or ‘truth or lie’ decisions. I actually thought the episode was over about halfway through, and started preparing my extremely hot take about what a crap season ender it was, and then it kept going, and, even better, it really valued my choices throughout the season. It made me want to replay it, and I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to replay an entire Telltale season. I’d rather let my Bigby be who he is, and not ruin the illusion of choice in The Wolf Among Us, but here—I just have to see the characters I missed out on.

Tom Senior: Dead again
NEO Scavenger and Downwell have been my lunch break games this week. The first is a brutal turn-based survival game, the second is a fast-paced Spelunky/Nuclear Throne hybrid in which you play a man with rocket boots falling down a well full of enemies. They are fundamentally very different games, but both ask you to start again when you die. They rely on the cycle of repetition, defeat, and learning that has come to define roguelikes.

“Roguelike” is an odd way to define a game. Most games with the label have almost nothing in common with the original Rogue. Nonetheless, there is a special rhythm to permadeath games that sets them apart. I used to think that trial and error was always frustrating in games, but if you remove all of the faffing between failing a task and being able to attempt it again the pleasure of discovery and learning outweighs the irritation of death. The instantaneous restart let me immediately apply new knowledge. This time I’ll chain chain hops for combo bonuses in Downwell. Maybe this time I won’t charge the wolf mutant thing armed only with a scalpel in NEO Scavenger. Something else will kill me for sure, but let’s just look at that as another learning opportunity.

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