The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Gta 5 15

THE LOWS

Samuel Roberts: Another GTA V delay
I was really looking forward to playing GTA V four weeks from now, having completed the console version about 15 months ago—another delay happened this week, meaning we’ll now be playing in April instead. I’m fine with it, but this is a pretty quiet time for big releases and I was prepared to sink hundreds of hours into stealing jets from Fort Zancudo, which is pretty much all I did from about October 2013-January 2014. On the plus side, Rockstar released a bunch of amazing screens in time for the weekend. The detail is insane compared to the original console versions, of course, and just makes me more excited about the finished result when it finally gets here.

Chris Livingston: I suck at building
I made a Besiege video a couple weeks ago, and was quite pleased with some of my creations, like a triple catapult and a spiky hopping table with spinning blades. Naturally, the moment I posted it the real builders of the internet swarmed in and made some amazing, terrifying, fantastic creations, putting my crummy, dinky murder engines to shame.

I've been playing Medieval Engineers this week, and after looking at some videos I'm once again discovering just how terrible I am at building things. This happened in Minecraft, too. This happened in Space Engineers. This happened in pretty much every building game, ever. I toil away for hours, thinking I've constructed something great, only to look up from my work and see that the entire world is doing it better.

I don't begrudge anyone their talent. I just wish I had some of it! I wish I could clamp onto their necks, lamprey-like, and extract some of their skills into my own fumbling fingers and lackluster imagination. I like building games, but there are few things as discouraging as being continually reminded you stink at something you enjoy.

Supernova Slide

Tom Marks: Mo’ MOBAs, mo’ problems
I cannot for the life of me understand why any publisher would want to make a free-to-play MOBA right now. By my eyes, it’s an oversaturated genre that is overwhelmingly dominated by only the top games. But that didn’t stop Bandai Namco from announcing a new “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary” MOBA this week, Supernova. I had a chance to play it, and while the sci-fi theme was refreshing and some of the mechanics were unique to the genre, Supernova hasn’t yet given me a reason to play it over any of the obvious choices. My fear is that it will come out with little fanfare, will gather a small but loyal fanbase, and then be forgotten.

The problem is Supernova doesn’t do anything different enough. It felt like League of Legends in space, but with a much more complicated leveling up system. Primal Game Studio’s idea to bring RTS elements back to the MOBA is a great one, but it felt half-hearted when I actually got my hands on it. Primal said that their early prototypes allowed you to control your minions and didn’t have hero characters at all, but was still the traditional three-lane MOBA, and that sounds like a game I’d like to try. That would actually be a unique approach to the genre, but the concept was changed and we now have more of the same. I could enjoy more of the same, but I’m not going to fall in love with it.

Evan Lahti: LLAP
We were deeply saddened to learn of Leonard Nimoy’s death. Nimoy only has a handful of videogame credits, but even in those modest contributions he managed to make an impact on one of the best PC games of all time, as the narrator of Civilization IV. His wizened cadence perfectly suited Civ’s spirit of historical exploration and thoughtful play. We’re lucky to have a beloved person such as Nimoy immortalized in a great game.

Phil Savage: Ugh, fine, I give in
Fine internet, you win. I've gone 30-years without, but I guess I'll watch a Star Wars film. It's going to be unavoidable, isn't it? There's a new film coming out, there are new games planned, and the team have spent the last couple of days joking about their imagined pitch for Jizz Band, because jizz is literally the name of a music genre in Star Wars. I don't really care about the story, and I've always preferred my sci-fi a little more serious, but if there's jizz jokes flying around, I don't want to miss out. Also, some of the games sound genuinely great, so it should at least be tolerable.

Chris Thursten: Devolutionary design
I want to like Evolve as much as Evan does, but I just… don’t. I was excited to get started with it, and I should love it: I’m a fan of Left 4 Dead, I grew up playing asymmetrical Half-Life 1 mods like The Hidden and Vampire Slayer. I even ran an Aliens vs. Predator 2 skinning site. I resonate pretty strongly with the type of experience that Evolve promises. And yet.

Part of the problem is structural. I find sprawling unlock trees wearying, and the fact that it’s so difficult to simply buy a version of the game that comes with everything compounds my reluctance to invest time in it. With a competitive game, I want to experiment. I want to try different options, find one that suits me, and take it as far as I can. Evolve punishes that. Earlier, while playing as the monster, I fancied a round as the Goliath—but I need more Kraken points to unlock Wraith, so I played Kraken. Unlock systems are garbage, anti-competitive, and fundamentally off-putting to me. Just let me play the game, developers, please.

The second issue is design, and that’s arguably more serious. Playing Evolve (as both factions) often feels like chasing your tail, and that’s because the game seems to be trapped chasing its tail. It wants to be a game about atmospheric, immersive monster-hunting, but it also wants to be a competitive game with fifteen-minute rounds. It takes a bunch of interesting ideas—tracking the player-monster by looking for environmental signs like broken trees, birds rising—and sands the edges off them to the point where they amount to a flashing indicator saying ‘GO HERE’. Likewise, there seems to be no elegant way to balance its complex web of monster movement, player movement and various monster-snaring powers, so they just added a big dome that forces everybody to fight for a bit. Disappointingly graceless.

I keep playing it, however, and that’s largely because I want to understand it better. I want to get to the point where it feels like there’s a strategy other than ‘chase the waypoint and try not to die’. It’s such an interesting idea that I’m desperate for it to succeed, but it really falls short of my expectations.