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This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE LOWS 

Wes Fenlon: I'm still not playing Ni No Kuni 2

I honestly don't know what the hell is wrong with me, but between GDC, a weekend trip, a heavy week of work catch-up, and sleeping, I haven't cracked into an RPG that sounds 110 percent like my jam. All that great stuff Austin wrote about in his review, like recruiting NPCs and building out a city Suikoden-style? I'm a fiend for that shit. I curse the life circumstances (and also laziness) that have put me in this not-playing-Ni-No-Kuni-2 situation. May this weekend give me the strength to rectify this wrong.

Tom Senior: Bland strategy

I should be a total mark for Total War: Arena but this week I bounced off it entirely. It’s a well made but conceptually flawed attempt to take Total War into a free-to-play space. Total War players will find it restrictive, and the currency grind of that free-to-play model is a massive drag.

You will realistically have to drop money on Arena to progress at a sensible speed, but you could instead drop money on any one of the Total War games and enjoy a full-fat strategy game that lets you build empires on a massive scale. Even if you’ve never touched a campaign you will get a more tactically rich game with many more units and armies just playing skirmish over and over again in a full Total War game. Arena does a good job of making Total War’s combat feel faster and more accessible, but playing a bit-part with one-tenth of a full force isn’t fun enough to endure the slow XP slog.

Chris Livingston: Batter down

I'll blab about Far Cry 5 some more. I don't like when games set something up and don't deliver, and here I'm speaking about baseball. I found a character named George, an ex-ballplayer, standing on a baseball diamond, in the batter's box, holding a bat, and taking practice swings. There's a glove and a baseball on the pitcher's mound. I have the ability to throw things. There are so many signs that the game wants me to pick up the ball and throw some pitches.

And yet, somehow, I'm not allowed to pitch to George. I tried to play baseball in Far Cry 5, but it won't let me. This is the biggest baseball-related disappointment of my life, and I'm a Mets fan, so that's saying something.

James Davenport: Do better

There are seven reservations in Montana, some as big as US states, home to eight tribal nations. None are represented in Far Cry 5. It’s a huge oversight. Hope County nails the look of Western Montana, but its people and priorities are off base. Indigenous peoples are often forgotten when we talk about diversity and representation in the US, and while Far Cry 5 features a diverse cast, it fails to include the most important people in Montana’s history. While the locals fight for ‘their land’ against the cult’s colonial agenda, I found it increasingly impossible to ignore the parallels to early white Americans’ own colonization of the territory. It’s a gross narrative framework to use without acknowledging the history of the area. 

Native people were massacred, bison were driven to the brink of extinction (which makes gunning them down for perk points an especially distasteful act), the lands were claimed by the US Army while native people were forced onto reservations, and over the course of generations the they were essentially brainwashed into adopting Christianity and the encompassing imperialist cultural values in place of their own. I suppose I didn’t expect Far Cry 5 to revisit the history of Montana in total, but I’ve yet to run into an epistolary footnote acknowledging it. Indigenous people have been fighting against cultural erasure for hundreds of years now, and failure to represent them in Far Cry 5’s rendition of Montana contributes to that process.  

Joe Donnelly: Space for change

This week, No Man’s Sky developer Hello Games unveiled NMS: NEXT—the next free update en route to the space exploration sim that’s due later this year. Admittedly, I haven’t played No Man’s Sky much since launch, however Chris returned last year in the wake of its Atlas Rises expansion to find a better game that still lacked magic and mystery.

Whether or not NEXT provides said magic and mystery remains to be seen, but I can’t fault the developers for growing and, hopefully, improving their game in the face of criticism. If you feel the backlash at launch was merited that’s of course your prerogative—I was underwhelmed myself—but the semi-prevalent attitude of ‘you had your chance, this can never be fixed’ makes me sad. Fair enough, No Man’s Sky may not have delivered all that was promised pre-release, but I think piling on today, a year and a half down the line, is reductive—particularly when the game that exists today isn’t the same as what debuted in 2016. 

Samuel Roberts: Not writing a 'low'

Sam went off to enjoy his Easter holiday after writing a 'high' but before writing a 'low,' which means we need to write one for him. It's no big deal and I'm sure we can think of a good 'low' for Sam. Let's see. Based on his Twitter account, I can see that he's watching Deep Fried Masters on Netflix, which is something he would have had less time to do had he written this 'low.' Having to write a 'low' was probably Sam's 'low' then, weighing on him as he thought about all the frying competitions he'd be missing out on while writing it. Except, because he didn't actually write a 'low' and thus was able to use this time to enjoy the art of deep frying, 'not writing a low' becomes a 'high' (more frying) and 'writing a low' can't possibly be his 'low' because he didn't write it. 

This, of course, is the plot of Sam's favorite game, BioShock Infinite, which he has said many times is the best game ever, far better than Metal Gear Solid 5, a statement which causes 'not writing his low' to flip from being a 'high' to Sam's true 'low' (because I've now used it to spread lies about him) and so in the end I have written Sam a truthful and logically-consistent 'low.' —Tyler