This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Tom Senior: Stormy waters

Since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (which I loved), I have had a thing for beautiful waves and storms in game. Here’s Sea of Thieves showing off some really strong tech. A proper storm at sea should feel like you’re skating over an army of big slippery mountains that are trying to kill you. The flooding is a nice touch—the game is designed to incite panicked moments of co-op—and strangely I like the clash between the round cartoon character models and the crisply rendered ocean. It makes it less harrowing to watch them vanish into the raging ocean I suppose.

Samuel Roberts: Black holes, everywhere

This week I wrote some impressions of Crackdown 3, which I played at E3. It was among my favourite games of E3, which might be because it was extremely similar to the first Crackdown, which I loved. It could also be because I didn't get to play any of the titles on our games of show list, save for a very brief demo of Far Cry 5 which told me so little about the game it's barely worth talking about and a neat set piece-y mission in Destiny 2. Metal Gear Survive was probably my game of E3, because I'm trash.

So what's Crackdown 3 got going for it? A black hole gun, basically, and an enormous, pretty city to hop around. Its campaign doesn't aim to be anything more radical than a modern version of old Crackdown, but I think I'm OK with that.

Joe Donnelly: Lie perfector

Actual Sunlight creator Will O'Neill's latest game, Little Red Lie, lands today and, having spent a few hours with it earlier this week, it's a good 'un. Similar to its forerunner, LRL explores themes of depression, suicide and societal misgivings, however this time underscores all of the above with themes of debt and social class. In Little Red Lie players control two very different protagonists: one financially compromised woman who struggles to cope with her ever-dysfunctional family, and another affluent businessman who struggles to hide his arrogance and ostentatious living. Every action undertaken by the player is contextualised by a lie—which more often than not reflects one character's struggle, and the other's opulence. 

It's a really interesting concept and despite the fact I'm yet to finish the game, Little Red Lie could well be one of my favourite games this year. Despite its sombre overtones, there's a real sense that O'Neill takes pride in crafting something which so effortlessly reflects reality—and this game is all the better for it.  

James Davenport: Engram Valley
So begins many years of annoyingly niche Destiny 2 coverage and major freakouts over minor changes. Revealed just yesterday in IGN’s big block of Destiny 2 coverage, two intriguing details seeped out of an otherwise innocuous introductory ‘vision for the game’ video. First, public event timers will be part of of the in-game map UI. Good lord, yes. No more using third-party apps to find locations and times for (hopefully improved) public instances. Secondly, we found out that some activities will lock your loadout, meaning inventory changes can’t happen once you ready up. It’s a change that emphasizes careful, precise team compositions, and implies that exotic armor and weapons will be more unique this time around—they’ll have to be if we can’t switch them out in the middle of a raid. 

We also got a quick look at the new social hub, The Farm. Nothing too revelatory came out of its brief introduction: there’s a cryptarch, a postmaster, chickens, and so on. But with a new player cap of 26 and some interesting social activities hinted at, it’s on course to be far more social than the cold, empty tower from the first game. The Farm will also change over the course of the campaign, roping in new characters and citizens to reflect the guardians’ collective effort to rebuild after the Cabal knocked everyone on their ass. Hopefully this means we’ll get more than just new merchants and NPCs to dodge while we sprint between chores. Meaningful change might be difficult for an area that’s little more than a fancy menu. I suppose the way to solve that problem is by making it more than a fancy menu. Soccer is a start, but I’m banking on more. Still, good changes overall! I’m excited for everyone to get some hands-on with the PC beta and see why we’re so excited for themselves.

Tyler Wilde: Taking a dip

I never thought I’d get into the battle royale fad, but I’m loving PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. It’s such a great social experience, and finding the same gun I found during the past five rounds is somehow still exciting in the sixth. It’s best when silly plans are devised. In a recent game, Steven Messner and I hung out in the middle of the ocean for half a match, hiding behind our boat and enjoying the waves while everyone else shot up apartment buildings. Eventually we were forced to shore, where I ran someone over with a motorcycle and died in a blaze of glory. I understand better why Evan likes Arma so much: there’s a ton of joy in coming up with a plan and executing it, whether it’s serious or stupid, and whether it succeeds or not. 

And by the way, if you don’t have three friends to play with (it’s really best in a squad), there’s almost always someone who wants to group up in the PC Gamer Club Discord.

Wes Fenlon: The Bard sings again

I recently took a trip to inXile's studio in southern California to see what they're cooking up with The Bard's Tale 4. They've shown off a bit of the game in Kickstarter update videos, but this was the first time they gave a live demonstration and answered my questions about combat and exploration, and they were eager to tell me all about the world they're building. I had a lot of fun seeing the game and writing about my visit, which you can read here. In particular, I'm really interested in their approach to combat in The Bard's Tale 4. It ditches a lot of conventional RPG elements to emphasize positioning, more like a tactics game. I think that's initially going to freak out some dungeon crawler diehards, but I also think the new combat system has the potential to be really, really fun. It looks fast and dynamic and a really clever way to prevent the usual "attack, attack, attack, attack, attack, powerspell" commands of so many rote RPG battles.