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The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The lows

Samuel Roberts: Yawn of Justice

I played through the first episode of Telltale’s new Batman game this week (check out James’s excellent review here). I wanted to love it—I’m a big fan of the DC character, and I’ve got a pretty decent history with the Dark Knight across films, comics, the animated series and so on—but I didn’t enjoy it that much. Telltale’s games still impress me, in that they offer a simple vehicle for good videogames writing, and while the animation in its games are really starting to look tired, the art itself is always pretty. 

But the story for Batman is boring. And the Telltale format—the ‘such-and-such will remember this’ thing, which was so specifically suited to The Walking Dead’s fiction of survival and uneasy alliances—feels like an awkward fit, and that it’s not the most exciting possibility for representing Batman’s morality. The portrayal of the villains is so far dull, and playing as Bruce Wayne is not an angle that’s convincingly exciting to me yet. 

More than that, I feel like the characterisation is off with some characters, especially Alfred, who seems to complain every time you do something that Batman would do. Isn’t he meant to be Batman’s main ally? It feels like a game that pretends Rocksteady’s Arkham series never happened, which confidently depicted the Dark Knight’s entire world, and in some cases presented the definitive interpretations of his villains. 

Right now I’m reading the whole run of a ‘90s DC Comics anthology book called Legends of the Dark Knight. In Legends, a revolving door of respected comic book creators came onto the book, delivered a story that captured their version of the character or his villains, and then passed the baton to someone else. This yielded tales like ‘Shaman’ and ‘Gothic’, which are both about less obvious parts of the Batman mythos, told in unusual ways by creators who know the character incredibly well. They read like stories for people who have heard the Batman origin story a million times, who are well aware of who his villains are, and don’t need earlier stories repeated back to them.

I think we now live in that time with Batman across all forms of media, where interpretations of the character can afford to be a little braver. And Telltale’s Batman feels very safe. Harvey Dent is a handsome, symmetrical man in episode one. Think someone will maybe try and throw some acid on him before the end of episode five? The Dark Knight made over a billion dollars at the box office—people know that story and don’t need to hear it again. I feel like Telltale’s game is so far a missed opportunity to do something with Batman that isn’t quite so familiar to people at this point.  

Alex Campbell: RX 480 availability

When Jarred first reviewed AMD’s RX 480, I was anticipating a new age for budget builds. The RX 480’s good performance coupled with its $200 MSRP made it ideal low-cost systems. There’s just one problem: You can’t find the card for that price right now.

Right now, it’s hard to find the card in stock. Even if you can, the card is being marked up. Newegg lists plenty of 480s at the suggested price, but stocks are sold out. Amazon lists 480s in stock, but they’re selling for $300 or more. With prices like that, the GTX 1060 starts to look like a lot better deal, even with its higher price. It just sucks that folks on a budget are getting the short end of the stick right now. 

Tom Sykes: Marvel-arse

Marvel has had a few not-terrible game tie-ins over the years, most notably the Marvel vs. Capcom series, Spider-Man 2 on PS2, and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. The Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games were, by all accounts, pretty enjoyable too—they're co-op brawlers in the style of Streets of Rage or Golden Axe, but with a huge cast of heroes and villains dredged from every crevice of the Marvel multiverse.

So why did Marvel make such a hash of the re-releases? Announced at Comic-Con, these new versions of Ultimate Alliance and its sequel launched overpriced, barely updated, and reportedly pretty buggy, although they have been patched as of a few days ago. A bunch of free DLC is on the way to ameliorate the shitstorm, but this feels like a wasted opportunity. 

Tom Senior: It’s a card life

The Elder Scrolls: Legends is in open beta. I’m enjoying it, partly because the dual lanes format does add an interesting tactical twist to the otherwise-familiar Magic The Gathering/Hearthstone layout. Mainly, though I’m happy to be playing a game that I’m capable of understanding without a period of preparatory research. Hearthstone moves so far so fast that it’s hard to keep up with unless you’re playing regularly. The fast-shifting meta is obviously vital for keeping dedicated players interested, but it can be equally alienating to players who don’t have the time or inclination to keep up. Hopefully the arrival of alternatives like Legends can provide something for those of us who have fallen to the wayside.

Evan Lahti: RimWon’t

This is going to make me sound like a toddler, but RimWorld’s interface is bumming me out. I was really excited to boot it up and dig in, but I just don’t have the time or attention span to peel back the many opaque layers that are atop this very fun sim. It seems like a game that appreciates the intricacies of Dwarf Fortress, understand the usefulness of visualizing stuff, but makes no effort to make its UI friendly or transparent. I can’t believe there isn’t an in-game tutorial. I don’t want to watch a 30-minute YouTube video to grasp basic stuff, and I don’t want to dig through guides just to figure out the basics of what to do and what not to do. Ugh.

It sucks, because RimWorld’s ideas are massively appealing to me: I love space exploration, and I love systems-driven games that generate weird stories out of failure. Maybe I should try Clockwork Empires again instead.

Chris L.: MaDDOS

Is it just me or should we have figured out by now how to prevent DDOS attacks? This shit has been going on for years and yet pretty much everyone still seems susceptible to it. I know there are greater tragedies than people being unable to play a game for a few hours, but it really sucks to sit down at your PC, possibly during the only few hours you have free that week, and not be able to play because someone wanted to ruin everybody's fun.

My ideas about hacking largely come from movies and TV, so I assume when a hacker uses a DDOS attack he types on a sticker-covered laptop for a bit and then clicks a big red button that says LAUNCH ATTACK ON VIDEO GAMES. Even if it's a bit more complicated than that—say, renting a botnet—shouldn't we have a reliable way to prevent them already? A big button that says STOP ATTACK, maybe? Unfortunately, it isn't so simple, but that won't stop me from being mad that we don't live in a cartoon world where malicious attacks can be stopped in virtual reality tests of skill.