This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

HTC Vive Oculus Rift

The Highs

Samuel Roberts: VR arrives
This week was the first time I stopped thinking about the Oculus Rift and VR headsets generally as just an expensive add-on and started considering the games that’ll be available as part of the experience. Oculus might’ve swung it for me off the back of how strong the launch line-up of 30 games is (the promise of a lighter headset has also helped, plus I don’t have any room in my home to walk around, so sitting down VR is pretty perfect for me).

Check out Wes and Tim’s piece on all the games offered at launch—it’s actually really impressive seeing the whole lot lined up together. You’ve got more than enough to get started with right away if you’ve got the money and the right hardware.

Tyler Wilde: Medic!
The highlight my my week was watching Tim cower from invisible ghosts (well, invisible from our perspective) while playing the Paranormal Activity VR game, but I’ll let Tim explain his own shame. Otherwise, there was so much to enjoy this lovely GDC week that it’s hard to pin down one thing: James licking a controller, Justin Roiland’s concerns with accounting, discovering that long time PC Gamer contributor Richard Cobbett is writing a space adventure—all good.

One of my favorite stories this week was shared by another PC Gamer writer turned developer, Tom Francis, who recapped a portion of the ‘AI Disaster Stories’ talk at GDC. It involves a ball of Battlefield 2 medics tumbling down a hill. I love tales of design gone wrong, trivial or not, that we wouldn’t typically hear about—it’s the sort of thing that makes GDC my favorite conference of the year.

The Division Explosion Slide

Andy Kelly: Echo park
The Division could be the year's most polarising game. Personally, I love it, and probably would have scored it higher if I reviewed it. Opinions! Generally I think the writing is pretty bad, especially its attempts at humour, but I really like the echoes. Activate them and they reveal events from the past, visualised as shimmering holograms, and it's an effective way of telling a story.

Instead of forcing you to sit and watch a cutscene or listen to an audio log, you can move freely around the echo, taking in as much or as little of the narrative vignette as you want. You see fragmented scenes of riots, murders, and other dramatic stuff, but I find the smaller stories more effective. An end-of-the-world party on a rooftop, a woman playing a guitar for some kids, a couple scared in an apartment. Some of them are quite haunting.

These little fragments of humanity are wonderfully constructed, and tell their stories in a more interesting, interactive way than just listening to an audio diary or passively watching something happen in a cinematic sequence. The Division’s story is really hit and miss, but I hope other developers borrow and iterate on this concept in their own games.

Wes Fenlon: Talking games
I’ve been at GDC all week, trying to fit in as many interesting panels and interviews as possible between a magazine deadline and appointments. But the highlight of my week, by far, were the interviews I set up with Tarn Adams, the creator of Dwarf Fortress, and Brian Fargo and Josh Sawyer together to talk RPGs. They’re not up on the site yet because I have an hour of audio to turn into words for each of them, and that’s going to take a few days. But they went about as well as I could’ve hoped. Turns out, really smart, passionate people talking about what they like to do is a pretty good recipe for an interview.

That’s my favorite thing about GDC; there are always developers here showing off their new games, but there are also people here open to talking about anything and everything to do with our favorite hobby.

Tooth and Tail Slide

Tom Marks: Tall tails
I got a chance to try Tooth and Tail at GDC this week, and was pretty blown away by how cool it is. So much so that we got developer Andy Schatz to come on The PC Gamer Show and play it with us. It’s an arcade RTS that Schatz described as StarCraft meets Mario Kart, which sounds like lunacy. What that means practically is an RTS with quick rounds, easy to understand and pick-up mechanics, and a split screen versus mode.

Tooth and Tail seems like one of those concepts where you think “that would be cool if someone could pull it off, but there’s no way.” But Pocketwatch Games has found a way. I picked up a controller and immediately knew what I was doing, but still felt like the skillcap was probably sky high. It’s the kind of game that makes you feel like you’re good at it until you come up against someone who’s actually good. I mean that in an entirely positive way because, in comparison, when I first tried StarCraft 2 I knew I was terrible from the very first moment, regardless of whether I was winning or losing.

I encourage you to watch our play session because I think Tooth and Tail is shaping up to be great. I’m eager to see how development progresses, because Pocketwatch is is well-placed to ride waves from both the rising popularity of couch multiplayer games and the glorious return of the RTS.

Tom Senior: Necronomicon
The Necron Overlord arrived in the Last Stand this week, giving Dawn of War fans the slim excuse needed to return. It’s an excellent co-op horde mode that pits three players against waves of attacking Orks, Eldar, Chaos and more. As you level your general up across 20 levels you unlock new gear that changes their role. The Eldar Farseer can slow and nuke enemies using space magic across wide areas, or take a sword and charge into acrobatic close combat.

I’ve only levelled the Necron up a few times, but he seems like a pared-down option compared to the spectacular, powerful Space Marine Commander, or the minion-summoning Tyranid Hive Tyrant, or even the unpredictable and occasionally suicidal Ork Mekboy. The Overlord simply stands still, regenerates health, and melts entire units with the occasional blast from his crackling energy staff. His dull, slow approach to wave disposal is underwhelming so far, but I’m still having loads of fun, which speaks to the quality of the mode. Get some pals together, give it a try, and collectively speculate as to why Relic have decided to update Retribution for the first time since the addition of the Tau Commander in 2011. Hmmm...

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