Each week the PC Gamer convenes an emergency committee of transatlantic editors to discuss the best and worst things to happen in the past seven days. The Elder Scrolls Online appears in both…
Andy Kelly: The new trailer for Shinji Mikami's The Evil Within has me excited about his return to proper survival horror. I saw an early build of the game last year and was particularly impressed by a siege scene reminiscent of Resi 4's village opening, but with an interesting trap-laying mechanic. It's come on visually since then, and there's some brilliantly dark, and weird, imagery in the trailer, like that shot of the hero walking through an incongruous field of sunflowers. Debussy's 'Clair De Lune' drifting through the scenes of jarring horror only add to the creepiness. Mikami was the driving force behind reviving the Resident Evil series with the mighty Resident Evil 4 (which I consider an almost perfect game), so I have faith in this one.
Chris Thursten: My week has been dominated by reviewing The Elder Scrolls Online, so I'm going to pick the most positive experience I've had in that game. Discovering Cyrodiil was a welcome escape from Glenumbra's drab PvE experience. It's a massive PvP area on par with Guild Wars 2's Eternal Battlegrounds (or DAoC's Frontier), and in these early days of the game's life it feels very fresh —like players are still getting a feel for the landscape, and locking down strategies that'll become standard practice in the future. This is always the best part of an MMO's life, if you ask me: the early days, when friendships and rivalries form. I'm already pretty convinced that the Ebonheart Pact and the Aldmerri Dominion are working together. How else would they have pincered us so decisively outside Ash?
Ben Griffin: I conduct a ritual before I play a great game. I shut the curtains. I blink my eyes a lot to get all the blinks out the way. And I delve into the video settings to make sure everything is perfect. In Dark Souls II, I did what I couldn't do in the original. I kicked the resolution to 1800p. I fired up the SSAO. Water quality, models, effects and shadows? All maxed out. I felt like Captain Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise – “Mr. La Forge, set anisotropic filtering to strong.” Controls are ultra-tweakable , too. Every single binding, whether spell switch, backstep or bro-fist multiplayer gesture, can be customised. After the fiasco of Dark Souls' PC port, which ran at a maximum of 720p and needed a pad to function properly, From Software listened, and listened good.
Phil Savage: Okay, sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the raising of system requirements. For one thing, it stops those using older, mid-range hardware from playing the latest games, thus reducing the audience size of the platform, and potentially killing the momentum of a growing PC market. For another, it potentially excuses poor optimisation, with developers using this trend towards big numbers without the underlying tech that makes such sacrifice worthwhile. Buuut... that was one hell of a long last-gen console cycle. It's encouraging to see that Watch Dogs and Shadow of Mordor are asking more of our PCs, because—as long as they really need that power—it suggests they'll be doing things we haven't seen from other AAA multi-platform games. Whether it's better graphics, bigger worlds, or more complicated computations, it's exciting to be on the cusp of new technology.
Tim Clark: So much was strange about the original Hotline Miami, from its darkly surrealist plot, to its brutal treatment of, well, everything , that it was hard to imagine how Dennaton's Jonatan Söderström and Dennis Wedin might go about improving on their singular vision. Or at least so I thought. That fanciful notion is mown down 26 seconds into the Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number – Dial Tone trailer . Specifically, by a pair of SMGs. The animation might be as gloriously crude as ever, the sprites still a clunky riot of colour, but goddamn it just looks so good. There are myriad other lovely touches too: Getting a gun from the trunk of a car. Pulling back the slider on a pistol. A group of goons knocking expectantly on a door, while the pig-masked killer waits on the other side. Dat soundtrack. You can keep your Dark Souls II, this is the only way I want to die.
Wes Fenlon: Frog Fractions 2 ended a successful Kickstarter campaign this week, raising a hair over $72,000. Designer Jim Crawford is as independent as they come—he didn't do anything to monetize the original Frog Fractions, even when it got huge viral buzz—and I'm glad to see him succeed with such an unusual Kickstarter. Frog Fractions 2 will not, in fact, be released under the name Frog Fractions 2. He'll release it silently onto some platform like Desura, and only those on the hunt for a game-within-a-game like the first Frog Fractions will find it. As more and more Kickstarter campaigns treat backers as glorified pre-orderers, it's nice to have a game do something really different with crowdfunding.
Chris Thursten: Despite what you might read in comments threads, I certainly didn't start playing The Elder Scrolls Online with a desire to have a bad time. I'm reviewing the game, and intend to play a lot of it. I want to enjoy that process. As I've pointed out above, I have enjoyed playing the game's PvP mode. But that's not what the bulk of the experience is comprised of. There's a monotony to questing, compounded by the slow pace of levelling, that I find very draining—and I'm somebody who usually likes MMOs. I'm starting to suspect that the Elder Scrolls setting simply doesn't 'reduce' very well—it needs spectacle, simulation and freedom to have an impact. Stripped of those things, the setting is exposed as something rather drab and lifeless. I'd never had said that about Morrowind—but here I am, and it's the best explanation I have for why I've found it so difficult to enjoy the game.
Andy Kelly: I love The Elder Scrolls. I love MMOs. So why don't I love The Elder Scrolls Online? I've tried to get into it. I really have. You should have seen me, wincing at the screen, trying my damndest to squeeze some enjoyment out of it. But it's so grey and lifeless and boring. How did they manage to make Tamriel boring? The limited draw distance makes it feel weirdly claustrophobic, which is a word rarely attributed to the Elder Scrolls games. You don't get that moment of gazing across a huge vista brimming with possibility. I've rolled a few characters, and tried all three factions, but it just isn't grabbing me. The writing is incredibly dull, and I don't care about anyone. I'm going to keep at it, though. I read in Chris' review-in-progress that the PVP in Cyrodiil is the best thing he's played in it so far, so I need to try that before I give up.
Phil Savage: Er, right, lows. Um. Looking back over the week, nothing stands out as having got my goat. Not even Goat Simulator, which is getting a free update —a positive move for a game so short on stuff. Maybe I'm becoming a more positive person, no longer annoyed by the industry's machinations. Maybe the industry itself has changed: doing away with cynicism and negativity, in place of an attitude that promotes fun, challenge and an advancement of the art. Or maybe it's because I've spent the last week house-hunting, a quest so tediously thankless, stressful and repetitive, that everything else seemed quite good in comparison.
Ben Griffin: I blame myself. So eager was I to tear into Dark Souls II's long-awaited PC port I forgot one thing: no one else is playing it. There are no humbly bowing invaders to scrap with, no buddies to invite for jolly co-operation. There aren't even any uplifting orange tips on the floor. I miss those the most, even if many a Dark Souls player got the better of me by writing 'try dropping down' before a bottomless pit. Dark Souls worked because, despite an insidious atmosphere, wretched difficulty and extended periods of isolation, you were never really alone. There was always a guiding light in the darkness, however dim. But for all Dark Souls II's brilliance—brilliance which I'm not technically allowed to write about because the game isn't out yet—it all feels a bit lonely at the moment.
Tim Clark: I'm a huge fan of EMA , and had quite the obsession with Past Life Martyred Saints . However, I'm not sure about the wisdom of wearing an Oculus Rift dev kit with a Photoshopped exterior on the cover of her new record, The Future's Void. Yes, the LP is thematically concerned with the dehumanising effects of technology and especially online culture, but, erm… Isn't that picture going to date quite badly, in a 'look kids, I just bought a Betamax' sort of way? It doesn't help, either, that one lyric uses the word 'interwebs'. I mean, honestly, who still says that? Oh well, at least she's rocking the Rift better than any of these bros .
Wes Fenlon: This may make me sound hypocritical since I just reviewed Smite and loved it, but my reaction to EA's Dawngate is "do we really need another MOBA?" Smite has won me over with its third-person camera, and it's been improving throughout a two year-long beta. Dawngate's just now going into open beta, and at this point the competition for top-down MOBAs is just silly. Maybe Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm has a shot at League of Legends or Dota 2, but it's hard for me to see Dawngate, Infinite Crisis , Guardians of Middle-earth, or Sins of a Dark Age doing anything but muddying the waters. My cynical side says they all went into development as League of Legends became absurdly popular, and now they're all coming out at the same time, and there's not much reason to play them.