This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Tom Senior: Nierly a classic

This week my high doubles as a public service announcement. When you finish Nier: Automata, keep going. You haven’t finished Nier: Automata, you’ve merely explored the bedrock of a game that becomes more bizarre and self-referential with each playthrough. I can’t say more than that for fear of spoiling things.

Nier has really gotten under my skin this week. The first playthrough can feel like a rote hack 'n slash, even with Platinum's lively combat system. The plot initially feels like it could be a forgettable anime series with big robots and silver-haired villains, but there is more to it than that. After the first playthrough the game introduces new ways of fighting, and starts to offer new takes on the machines and bosses you’re smashing up. You start to encounter more of the 26 possible endings—many of them jokes—and the melancholy atmosphere becomes more absorbing. The shoddy port, some boring bosses and other rough edges prevent it from being a straightforward recommendation, but it’s a wonderfully inventive game.

Tyler Wilde: UX checks

I never played the original Nier and hardly know anything about it, so I went into Nier: Automata without much context—I’d only heard from James on our livestream that it was weird and gloomy. When I found out I could sell my health bar and minimap, I knew Nier was a game for me. In fact, I never want to play another videogame that doesn’t let me sell off parts of my UI. (Granted, I’d probably only get 10 credits for the mess that is Mass Effect: Andromeda’s menus.)

Samuel Roberts: The Occupation

The developers of Ether One (which Angus enjoyed back in 2014) revealed their next game this week, the British dystopian narrative game The Occupation, about a controversial act which threatens the freedom of the people. The art style reminds me a little of BioShock Infinite—a slightly cartoonish warmth, or, as commenters put it in our news story, We Happy Few without the survival elements (which I honestly didn't like when I played the game at launch).

Its trailer is confident in tone, and very different to any other first-person narrative games I've seen doing the rounds in recent years. I guarantee it's the best teaser you'll see this week!

Joe Donnelly: Lost world, found

If you've played GSC's Stalker: Call of Pripyat in the past then you may be familiar with its Lost Alpha mod—a modification built to recreate the horror/survival/FPS as it appeared in trailers pre-launch. Created by Hungarian hobbyist group Dez0wave, an early beta build was leaked in 2014 which in turn forced its creators to launch a work-in-progress variation. This was great, but didn't quite live up to the ambition nor scope Dez0wave first had planned with mod developer CrommCruac at the time saying: "It was a hard decision to release the game in such a quick, and unplanned way."

Fast forward three years and Stalker: Lost Alpha is on the verge of launching a Developer's Cut edition which aims to capture everything its voluntary set out to achieve in the first place (check out this hefty changelog if you're in doubt). "It's not a completely new game, it's however the game we had in our mind," says the devs. We'll get to see that vision for ourselves come April 26.

Image 1 of 4

Click or swipe to see the rest of this gallery.
Image 2 of 4

Click or swipe to see the rest of this gallery.
Image 3 of 4

Click or swipe to see the rest of this gallery.
Image 4 of 4

Click or swipe to see the rest of this gallery.

Evan Lahti: Mass Effect: Sometimes Pretty

The grousing about Andromeda's animations feels like some warranted complaints that have spiraled into exaggerated outrage as everyone competes with one another to see who can act the most incensed or produce the dankest meme. In other words, the internet in 2017.

Yes, there are moments when I regret the look of my Ryder, where the way their face animates doesn't line up with the moment, and I lose my grasp on the story, or the characters. That's bad. But there are also moments where Andromeda delivers a gorgeous angle, or the light reflects off a big, moist salarian eyeball, and I feel like I'm looking at the big-budget space opera I've always wanted. If I'm being honest with myself, this is why I'm playing Andromeda right now—to unravel its story and watch a bunch of well-lit, well-framed character models talk. Because I don't play a ton of singleplayer games and I love sci-fi, that feels like it's enough to keep me going for a couple dozen more hours.

Wes Fenlon: The progress of emulation

A couple weeks ago I was shocked that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was bootable in a Wii U emulated just days after release. But that first step of progress was a tame surprise compared to what landed this week: video of the game running far, far better in a new emulator build, with most of its major bugs apparently fixed. There are likely tons of other bugs and issues holding it back from perfection, but it may well be playable start to finish on PC in a matter of weeks. That's an incredible accomplishment for an emulator developer. It being playable so quickly has also reignited some discussions about the legality of emulation and its ties with piracy, which is a thorny subject. I'm planning to write more about that next week.