This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Evan Lahti: Just for kickflips

Holy smokes, we're getting a legitimate skateboarding game on PC, something we've been clamoring for for years. Sure, Session isn’t due until July 2019, and by now we know that Kickstarters hit their release dates about as often as American Airlines' planes leave on time, but I can wait. Besides, there's already a demo.

Session joins rollerblader On a Roll, which hit Early Access at the end of August, as two promising, authentic-looking indie extreme sports games on PC. With Mutant League Football hitting in October and Super Mega Baseball 2 coming next year, indies are more than making up for EA's reluctance to bring NHL, Madden, and other franchises to our platform.

James Davenport: Lost in space

This is always the most stressful time of year for me. I’m conditioned into getting sad by a lifetime of harsh winters with no sunlight, so even though I’m in California now, I am completely enveloped with bad vibes by mid-November. A huge backlog of games to get through shouldn’t add to the stress, but it does, so to cope I’ve jettisoned the idea of ever finishing any of them into space and started playing lazy space games instead. 

Astroneer keeps getting better. I love it’s lo-fi look and simple UI. I didn’t think a game could make crafting fun, but I’ll never tire excavating massive holes in that game. I also dipped back into No Man’s Sky for the first time since launch, and while it’s still not the game everyone expected, it’s a more vibrant ‘sci-fi stuff’ visualizer than ever. The new explore mode is exactly what I wanted, doing away with the awkward inventory management in favor of letting me loose in the galaxy. I just want to look up at big purple spheres in the night sky while listening to post-rock. Feels nice. 

Philippa Warr: Art collection

My main high doesn’t have an immediate payoff for readers, I’m afraid! My high is that, as part of a few features I’m currently working on, I’ve had a lot of absolutely gorgeous concept art and high-res screenshots arrive in my inbox for some spectacularly beautiful games. Hopefully you’ll be able to see what I mean in the near future as the imagery starts making its way into the magazine and online!

In a non-vague high, I also spent some time playing a build of Shape of the World by Hollow Tree Games. It’s a dreamy, delightful Proteus-type game where you explore a reactive landscape, triggering little surprises as you wander.

Tom Senior: A sideways look

Somewhere between our dimension and the nightmare Upside Down dimension of Stranger Things there is The Sideways. It’s an amazing place where you lie horizontally on a couch with a control pad and play damn fine PC games. To gain access to The Sideways you don’t need preternatural abilities or a magic portal, you need a little black box called a Steam Link, which I picked up during the Steam sale recently for $5. This is a mad price when you consider that the included HDMI cable would cost more to buy than the Link and shipping from the US to the UK.

The Steam Link streams your PC’s output to your TV. It can do this wirelessly, though in my experience this results in some choppy performance, or you can connect it to your router with an ethernet cable, which works great in my flat. In the Sideways I’ve been playing Divinity: Original Sin 2, which has excellent controller support and even blows up all the text so you can read it at couch distance. I’ve also enjoyed some Injustice 2, and some Dishonored 2. It’s novel to see PC-quality fidelity and framerates coming out of my TV, and this bodes well for the Christmas break to come. No Xmas pudding for me, I’ll be in the Sideways kicking Superman into the sun.

Chris Livingston: Just for kicks

I can't even remember why I wanted to put together a list of the best kicks in PC games. I just feel like, in games and in general, feet are often overlooked as things we can use for stuff. How often do you really get to kick someone? Why doesn't Wolverine have claws that come out of his feet? Why do you very rarely see someone doing something cool with their foot, like smoking a cigarette or putting on sunglasses or doing close-up magic?

So, it's nice to celebrate kicking a bit, and as we did with our best hand animations in FPS games and more recently, our best incidental animations in PC games, there's plenty of gifs to enjoy. Click here (with your foot, it possible).

Joe Donnelly: Recycling old materia

I’ve spent more than one Lows column this year bemoaning my pile of shame. And yet here I am, with a bundle of presumably great games unwrapped and unplayed sat in front of me, while I idly travel Midgar collecting materia and arsing around in the Gold Saucer. At this time of year I get nostalgic, which is why I’m back playing Final Fantasy 7 for what I think is the fifth time. 

And I’m loving it. I know this game almost inside out, and it’s been a pleasure revisiting its cast of whimsical characters while catching up with some TV shows on my second screen. Why am I doing this? Despite my extensive experience with Cloud Strife et al, I’ve never beaten Ruby Weapon—the game’s most challenging boss. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to afford the time sink in the new year, but I’m going to give it my best shot until then. Wish me luck.