This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE LOWS

Phil Savage: Holding a Wake
I still haven't played Alan Wake, because life is finite resource and there's a near endless stream of content battling for a slice of it. Still: I'm annoyed that it's being removed from digital stores, because that feels like the sort of thing that shouldn't happen. You hope that a Steam listing is forever—that you can come back in 50 years and decide, yeah, I've lived longer than medical science predicted, and so maybe I can justify buying and playing a copy of Daikatana.
That games can be removed from stores like Steam and GOG is a reminder that the digital world is still kind of rubbish—that we're still beholden to annoyances such as contracts and licensing and Depeche Mode. At least Alan Wake will remain available to its existing owners, and is currently available at a massive discount.

James Davenport: Dead sells
Games need to slow down. Hell, my favorite made-up genre needs to slow down. Described using words only nerds know the meaning of, Dead Cells is yet another Souls-like Metroidvania that is, apparently, really good. It came out on Steam just a few days ago and it’s sitting on an Overwhelmingly Positive rating with over 800 reviews. I barely started Hollow Knight. I don’t have time to play everything I love anymore, and that’s heartbreaking. Well, I’m not sure there’s really a word to describe my deeply personal sadness from having too many good games of a very specific type, but there needs to be one. Is there an emotion we can make up using a word from Metroid and another from Castlevania? Samus, Dracula—I’m feeling very Sramculatic about this, guys. 

Read more: Shenmue I & II review

Tim Clark: Rogue unlike
In ‘Tim complains about things’ this week, allow me to present Hearthstone’s Quest Rogue deck. In hindsight, I was too soft on it. My quasi-review of the expansion said the deck was “obnoxious”, but qualified that by adding that it’s winrate isn’t that high and noting that the strategy is weak too aggro. All those things remain true—and I still think Un’Goro is the best  expansion since League of Explorers—but the Rogue Quest straight up looks like a mistake. It’s not a question of power, the issue is the utter joylessness of watching your opponent play solitaire, bouncing minions around like Michael Jordan in the paint until they’re all 5/5s. And as there’s no real way to tech against the deck, beyond playing something capable of killing the Rogue before the Quest pops, the deck has an unwelcome warping effect on the whole meta. 

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Brian Kibler in the video above, because many of those are his opinions which I am now passing off as my own. Kibler also offers great suggestions for how the deck could be powered down without killing it completely. I mentioned that I’d like to see that happen on Twitter, which led to an interesting chat with some pros and Iksar from Blizzard’s design team. What happens with Quest Rogue will be an interesting test case to see whether Team 5 are going to be more hands on with balance during Hearthstone’s Year of Mammoth. Do any of us really want to be eating 5/5 Stonetusk boars to the face two years from now?  

Samuel Roberts: Hitman at risk
The future of Hitman just became uncertain with this week's news that Square Enix was looking to offload Io Interactive, announcing it would take a $43 million writedown (a concept which I only sort of understand) in the process. Today brings a rumour that Io Interactive is indeed for sale along with the rights to Hitman—but obviously they're in limbo right now, and there's no guarantee they'll have a buyer.

This is sad news for such a talented development team. We loved last year's first season of episodic Hitman, even as elements like the required online connection got a mixed reception from the game's players. It eventually did fulfil its potential, though, and the prospect of no second season that builds on that foundation is a true disappointment.

Andy Kelly: Prey tell
Man, I really wanted to like Prey. It’s an immersive sim set on a space station, which are two of my favourite things. But I keep bouncing off it. I’ll persevere, though, and hopefully it’ll click into place. But I hate when this happens. There are a lot of games I know I should like in theory, but when it comes to sitting down and playing them the magic doesn’t take hold. I must have tried to get into The Evil Within half a dozen times now. But I always reach a certain point and just lose momentum and interest. I mean, Shinji Mikami is one of my favourite game designers, and it frustrates me that I don’t love one of his games. But I guess this happens in other mediums, and isn’t just exclusive to games. I love Radiohead and find The King of Limbs deeply boring. I adore David Lynch and can’t make it all the way through Inland Empire. But like an album you can’t stand at first but come to love down the line, I’m hoping one day I’ll enjoy Prey as much as everyone else seems to be. 

Wes Fenlon: Keylogged
This week HP released a patch for a keylogger found on many of its laptops, which was a good move. The bad move was, well, allowing it to happen in the first place. An audio driver on many HP systems was tracking and storing an archive of keypresses on the system, ostensibly to pick up on a shortcut hotkey when it was pressed. This data wasn't being sent to a remote server or anything so nefarious, but it could definitely end up being a security risk: a log file somewhere on your PC storing a record of every time you entered text would inevitably pick up on usernames and passwords and social security numbers and all that jazz. And considering most of us don't know how to dissect audio drivers for code that shouldn't be there, we have to rely on security researchers to keep big companies honest. Or, perhaps more importantly, stop them from being careless.