The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

This is him resting, right?

The lows

Samuel Roberts: Witcher takes a rest

Everything bad that happened in games this week seems too serious or undecided an issue to dissect in our frothy news round-up, so here’s something light instead. There are no more games in The Witcher series planned for the foreseeable future—oh, the sadness! Looks like we’ll just have to bid farewell with one of the greatest expansions ever released.

While this means it could be many years until we see this universe again, Cyberpunk is next in CD Projekt Red’s future—though this is a long way off too. I think that’s okay, though. This reminds me of when Bethesda rotated from Oblivion onto Fallout 3, where their cachet as a developer became so high that it outgrew that of the series they were working on. CDPR is now in the same position: everyone who played The Witcher will want to play Cyberpunk too, and I can’t wait to learn more about it, even though we’re still years off.

Tom Senior: Darkly comical

Can a bad spinoff project ruin the original game you love? I was wondering that as I flipped through an issue of the Dark Souls comic, a well-meaning piece of work that completely fails to capture the mystery and menace of the Souls world. What would a successful Dark Souls comic even look like? I imagine a cryptic tome full of dark, mystical etchings and almost no dialogue, in which knights take on unspeakable monsters in the mystical style of Toppi. All of the lore would have to be cleared by Hidetaka Miyazaki, of course, and the stories would explore the deeper mysteries of the Souls universe.

That’s not what this particular comic run is for, it seems. Spin-off projects often cater to wider audiences, and I expect it’s commercially mad to make something purely for Dark Souls fans with a pre-existing knowledge of the series’ stories. Still, as such a fan, this read tarnished my impression of the Souls universe a little. Next time I think I’ll skip the comics and novelisations and keep the game pure.

James Davenport: Bad MMOvie?

My experience with the Warcraft universe isn’t years and years of WoW playtime deep. I know there are orcs, humans, dwarves, elves—the typical fantasy roleplaying roster—and some deep, magical forces at the center of Azeroth’s creation. It’s pulp fantasy, which I require a regular dose of to stay alive. But I’ve never had particularly high expectations for the Warcraft movie. Nonetheless, I’m still disappointed to hear so much negative early reaction

Duncan Jones directed Moon and Source Code, two great sci-fi films, so I was especially intrigued when he landed Warcraft. I’ll obviously withhold judgement until I can see the film myself, but the overriding line of criticism coming from early reviews is that the film takes itself too seriously. Warcraft has always been derivative but inherently cheeky, and if the movie fails to elbow me in the ribs even once, I’ll be supremely sad. But hey, either way, I’m certain it’ll be a spectacle of of crazy CGI sorts.

Tim Clark: No-verwatch

I mentioned in my high that I’ve been part of this parish for a couple of years now, and I can say that in that time we haven’t done nearly enough gaming together as a team. That changed this week, as both the US and UK teams set about laying waste to the Overwatch servers in a kaleidoscopic blur of mish-mashed cartoon superhero tropes and the inevitable accompanying saltstorm. It’s been some of the most fun I’ve had on PC Gamer, and that’s not something said lightly.

Amazingly, it even seems like you can region hop between servers, meaning my dream of creating a Ryder Cup-style PC Gamer tournament could become a reality. Perhaps some day Tom Marks’ NA Mei will know the sweet kiss of Tom Senior’s EU Bastion. (I’m just going to assume Senior plays Bastion to undo all the transatlantic goodwill we’ve built up.) So why a low? Because my Hearthstone collection is still locked on the European server and I have nobody on American hours to play with. Blizz, plz.

Alex Campbell: Waiting for 1080

As I’m writing this, Newegg’s inventory of GTX 1080 Founders Edition cards from Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, EVGA, PNY, and Zotac are all sold out. I did a quick check at BestBuy.com, and there’s nothing to be found there, either. Amazon doesn’t seem to have any cards in stock, though search results return overpriced items (up to $1,300!) that look like scalpers or scammers to me.

I also checked Newegg for prices on the 900-series. The GTX 980 Ti and GTX 980 prices haven’t started coming down yet. This tells me that it still might not be a great time to buy. With low inventory for the new cards and prices still high on Maxwell GPUs, both the 1080 buyer and the budget-minded builder looking to grab a GTX 980 on the cheap will be disappointed. To be fair, it is just day one, so it may get better in a week or two. My advice? Be patient. 

Chris Thursten: Total Waaaaaagghhhhhhht does this number mean?

The other game that has defined this week for me is Total War: Warhammer, and I have a mixed relationship with it so far. There's loads that I love, particularly that old Warhammer Fantasy Battle setting (may it rest in peace) and the more varied, dramatic campaign. Trying to wrangle an unruly Empire into shape ahead of the End Times has been a memorable experience.

That said, this isn't the elegant Total War revamp that I was hoping for. I'd hoped that the change of setting would present an opportunity for Creative Assembly to address the series' longstanding lack of clarity. This is a complex, numbers-heavy grand strategy game with a dual identity that becomes more schizophrenic with each iteration: on one side a complex battle simulation, on the other a highly abstract political boardgame.

Once you've become attuned to each of Total War's particular foibles, this isn't really a problem. But the obtuse complexity of the campaign game in particular forms a series of traps that you only get through by trial and error. If you don't know how to use ambush stance correctly, something the game never really explains, then you can find yourself 90 turns into an utterly doomed campaign.

I worry that CA rely too much on a player's willingness to stick with the game through fatal errors that aren't really their fault, but the fault of a complex system that doesn't do a good enough job of explaining how it works or why it's interesting. This isn't a dealbreaker, by any means, but I feel like there's an XCOM-style revamp of Total War waiting to happen—one that takes this basic brilliant idea and makes it more transparent and allows consequences to flow more naturally from actions. TW: Warhammer is great, but it isn't that.