The week's highs and lows in PC gaming



James Davenport: Dropsy dropped!
I thought I hated clowns. Dropsy changed that. Third grade, I’m home sick, watching Lifetime because I could get away with it, and instead of some cheap, inspiring biopic, what comes on? Stephen King’s IT. I’ve been wary of shower drains ever since. Shortly after, I remember staying the night at a friend’s house. We watched Indiana Jones and played video games until we got tired enough. “You can have the guest room,” he said. No one told me the guest room had a thorough clown theme.

Dropsy is a point-and-click “hugventure” in which the player inhabits a clown whose appearance isn’t altogether relaxing, especially given my prior clown conditioning. It plays in the familiar style of old point-and-clicks, but strips out any written or spoken text. Everything is communicated through simple icons and endearing mumbles. Dropsy’s narrative isn’t very urgent either. He’s a cheerful dude that doesn’t like seeing sadness in the world. But it’s implied Dropsy was at fault for his mother’s death in a horrific accident, so he has to work through his garish looks and a bad reputation to gather hugs.

The result is a game that exercises empathy. Using a clown as the player-protagonist, who are generally accepted as scary and antiquated, forced me to empathize with Dropsy’s very earnest, human intentions: get hugs, yo. It doesn’t take long for the clown to dissolve and the character to emerge, even without dialogue. I’ve yet to finish it, so I can’t comment on where it’ll end up, but I’ve been struck with how sincere and sweet as opposed to psychedelic and scary Dropsy has been. If you’re in the mood to feel, I can’t recommend it enough.

And those tunes! Good god, the music! It’s my favorite game soundtrack in a while. Listen!

Wes Fenlon: Scratching the dungeon crawling itch
I’ve never spent much time with dungeon crawlers. I’m a bit too young to have played them when they were the lifeblood of cRPGs, although my dad and I did try to play The Bard’s Tale many times when I was a kid. We usually got lost and slaughtered by enemies within 15 minutes of making a party. It’s always felt like a gap in my PC gaming experience, and Andy Chalk’s article on Eye of the Beholder 2 and my quick jaunt into Grimrock 2 for Pixel Boost this week have me all psyched up to really give dungeon crawlers a try. I’m not sure if I’m ready for something as hardcore as Eye of the Beholder 2, but Grimrock’s beautiful world could pull me in.

Hopefully I don’t get lost and slaughtered within 15 minutes of making a party.

Metal Gear Solid 5 The Phantom Pain Slide

Samuel Roberts: The final Boss
Last week, while mainlining MGS V for my massive review, I felt so ill that it became hard to know where the illness ended and Metal Gear began. Did I wake up in a hospital listening to Midge Ure? Did I hang out with a tiny dog on an oil rig? Did I stick a bear on a balloon because I thought it’d be funny? Some of this happened in the game, some, perhaps, were real. It’s hard to take Metal Gear Solid V one step at a time, even though it’s so long that it’s worth savouring. I either play it in seven hour chunks or not at all—and I’m pretty astounded that a game this good has been made in my lifetime.

I sound like an old person who’s just discovered the seedless watermelon.

Chris Livingston: Night and day
This week I've been slowly weaning myself off Mad Max and getting into The Phantom Pain, which has been interesting: the two games, though both open world, couldn't be more different. One thing they do have in common, apart from the sheer enjoyment of attaching things to people and yanking them into the air (the harpoon in Max Max and the Fulton balloon in Phantom Pain), is that they both do a great job with the day/night cycle.

Mad Max's day/night cycle is slow. So very, happily, wonderfully slow. It's daytime for ages, and night comes on gradually, and you get a real sense of the day ending and the light changing. Same with sunrises: they take a nice long while, and the world is simply prettier and more enjoyable for it. Phantom Pain's cycle is much faster, though I get why. Since it's stealth-based you want to do a lot of these ops at night, and don't want to stand around all day with your prosthetic thumb up your butt waiting for the sun to set. You also want a sense of urgency to complete missions before the sun comes up.

Most of all, you can actually see what you're doing at night in both games! Hooray! I often find myself annoyed at how many games sink you into complete darkness at night, and while it's realistic, I just don't see what's so fun about spending half your time in a game stumbling around completely unable to see (horror games excepted). Thankfully in both Max and MGS V, the sun setting doesn't put a dampener on the fun.

Soma Slide

Andy Kelly: SOMA in the city
I’m playing Frictional’s Amnesia follow-up SOMA this week for our review. You’ll have to wait a little longer to find out what I think, but it’s reminded me of how much I love a good sci-fi corridor. Alien: Isolation, for me, features the best dark, metal tunnels on PC, but SOMA is close. I’ve always found the marriage of science fiction with horror a powerful one. Ghosts and demons have never done it for me, but aliens and robots? Consider me spooked.

Maybe it’s because I’ve watched 2001: A Space Odyssey too many times, but I find the idea of a rogue, self-aware artificial intelligence genuinely terrifying—perhaps because, unlike ghosts, there’s every chance it could happen in real life. SOMA is tapping into that fear in a pretty visceral way, and I can’t wait to tell you more about it when the embargo lifts on September 21.

Phil Savage: Mod Gear Solid
Never mind the fact that leg-humping Ocelot is the best gif of the week. Model-swaps are a sign of something much more exciting: that people are exploring the modding potential of The Phantom Pain. Sure, the lack of official support means we're unlikely to get new missions or scenarios. But we might one day have a giant D-Dog that we—playing as Hideo Kojima—could ride into the middle of the road and force to defecate on command. Or a giant Hideo Kojima that we—playing as D-Dog—could ride... no, wait. Too weird.

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