This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE LOWS

Andy Kelly: Ice cold

I'm happy former Valve writer Marc Laidlaw managed to get the story for Episode 3 out there in some form. It's a kind of closure, I guess, for the end of Episode 2, which was as maddening a cliffhanger as the end of season 2 of Twin Peaks. Almost. And it sounds like it would have made for a pretty awesome, very different Episode 3 if it had been made.

But mostly I'm just sad that I'll never get to play the thing. I want to see Gordon battling the Combine in Antarctica. I want to hang out with Alyx again and toss things about with the Gravity Gun. But the fact this was released implies it's a story Valve will never tell. A lot of people are past caring about Half-Life now, but I haven't, damn it. Fingers crossed we'll get another adventure starring the silent crowbar nerd one day.

Samuel Roberts: Hardware showcase

Final Fantasy XV sure looks nice running with a GTX 1080Ti, a graphics card that's about £150-£200 more than I'm likely to spend on one. The reveal of the game's PC version was great news, but when these announcements happen and they focus on details like hair and turf physics, it doesn't do much for me. The question I always want answered is, how will it run on a mid-range PC from the last two or three years with all of those settings switched off? That's likely how most people will be playing the game.

Hey, it's nice all those settings exist, and clearly they're trying to sell the potential of the graphics card, but I'd wager people care more about optimisation. Luckily, when we finally asked director Hajime Tabata about that late this week, he gave us a reassuring answer.  

Tom Senior: Deja vu

Do you ever have the thing in a show where you associate one of the actors with a character so strongly that it breaks the fiction? I experienced a powerful case this week watching the Destiny 2 European Dead Zone videos. Tim wrote about the new activities Bungie is adding to fill out the new zones and improve patrol exploration—the weakest aspect of Destiny 1. I’m on board, the new stuff sounds like low-fat co-op fare that a fireteam can dip into between bouts of PvP in the crucible.

But who is that charming resistance dude giving you all the missions in the EDZ? I’m convinced it’s Gideon Emery, aka Balthier from Final Fantasy XII, though it has been pointed it out that it could be Adam Croasdell, the voice of Ignis in Final Fantasy XV. Either way, there is a big honking Final Fantasy man in the middle of my glorious shooty space opera. The guy looks like he’s just slopped out of the giant test tube that generates endless parades of scruffy NPCs with dodgy beards, but when he speaks I can’t help but picture him in an ornate waistcoat with a musket. I know I’m going to play Destiny 2 for hundreds of hours, but I am not sure I will ever get used to that audiovisual dissonance. Final Fantasy seems to be infiltrating a lot of games at the moment, there’s even a very strange Assassin’s Creed crossover in the works.

James Davenport: Overit

Overwatch shorts still can’t make me feel. From a technical standpoint, I like Mei’s new Overwatch short, but every cute or sad or funny little film released so far overreaches with sentiment. What I’m saying is this: where is Reaper’s? And when it arrives, don’t give me a tragic backstory, please. I just want to see a moment in his life. 

There’s Reaper, making breakfast in his overpriced studio apartment. A coffee table missing two legs sits upturned next to a torn IKEA box. Reaper squints at a laptop open to a Food Network dot com recipe for huevos rancheros while it plays Depeche Mode through cheap speakers. He spills salsa on his new cloak. Oh well. Fin.

Bo Moore: Deathstone

Speaking of Hearthstone, I've got a bone to pick with the new expansion's Death Knight hero cards. They're flashy, powerful, and super cool, but they have no place in the game's limited draft Arena format. Death Knights are wayyyy too powerful for Arena—no single card this drastically improves a deck's chance of winning. Blizzard is open to making Arena adjustments, and they've done so in the past, but only by reducing the appearance rates of some cards. 50 percent less Death Knights is still too many Death Knights. Remove them all from Arena, or risk killing the format altogether. 

Chris Livingston: Reticulating memes

I'm of the belief that long-running jokes, even good ones (especially good ones, in fact) should be retired at some point. Knowing this you can probably guess how I feel about our own use of Tub Geralt, but I had an extreme reaction to a different long-running joke this week. Remember when The Sims came out and while it was loading it would say things like "Reticulating splines" and other goofy, playful things? It was fun. Remember when every other game started doing it? That was fun, too. And then it just kept going. And now lots of games will have splines-like loading text. And it's been years. And it's just not fun anymore. It needs to retire.

I recently started playing Hearthstone (poorly) and when the game is loading it says 'fun' things. When I loaded a game the other day it said something like "Serving drinks!" And I just snapped. I yelled "Oh God enough with that already!" Has anyone ever rage quit over a message on a loading screen? Just me?