Wes Fenlon: Playing and reviewing The Walking Dead: Season 2 Episode 3 was the highlight of my week. The episode wasn't quite as strong as episode two, for me, which found a near-perfect balance between interesting conversations, character progression and hard choices. But I loved reviewing episode three because it left me with so much to think about. It really made me question player agency in story-driven games and the difficulty of balancing the player's influence with the character's own personality. I think Clementine is a little too reliable in episode three compared to the adults around her, but Telltale really nailed making every decision a labor of fear and uncertainty.
Phil Savage: Over the last few months, Gone Home's Steve Gaynor has been talking to a selection of game designers, and releasing their conversations as a podcast. It's called Tone Control , and it's now completed its first 'season'—with Gaynor taking a break as he works on The Fullbright Company's next project. That makes it a great time to dip into the archive , which is well worth doing if you're the sort of person who likes to spend hours listening to hot, intimate games chat. Which I am.
Notable interviewees include Tim Schafer, Clint Hocking, Ken Levine, Craig Hubbard and more. Also, former PCG writer Tom Francis—who isn't a long-standing industry veteran, but did once buy me a whiskey, and so deserves a mention. Whoever Gaynor's talking to, he uncovers some fascinating insights into game design and creation.
Tim Clark: The key art created to accompany the Far Cry 4 announcement is so—I dunno, let's say startling —that, like Phil, I wasn't even sure whether it was real or a particularly well-executed NeoGAF parody. Only a despotic junta leader of the most supreme self-confidence is able to rock that particular shade of purple.
What isn't in doubt is how glad I am to have a new Far Cry on the way. The heavily trailed Himalyan setting should provide plenty of opportunity to expand on the 'savage beauty' vibe of the previous game, a shooter which has only grown in my admiration as more time has passed since I finished it. But here's the key question: will there be a yeti hidden away in those foothills? And what is the monetary value of a yetiskin wallet? Asking for a friend.
Ben Griffin: There are three things I love in this world. The first is Dark Souls. The second is my reflection. And third is FIFA. But for the purposes of this bit, let's just say third is The Sims (ordinarily it's fifth, behind Christmas and the smell of cut grass). I've wasted my actual life playing the last three over the last 15 years, and yes before anyone points it out, I'm bitterly aware of the irony.
The trailer shows off the revamped character creator which does away with clunky menus, a range of body shapes from slim and ripped to morbidly obese and depressed, and a feature that lets you finetune wrinkles. Unlike last time around, it's now possible to create someone without giving them a great honking moon face, and that's what I'm most excited about. Now I can make my Sim as appealing as me. Also, it's not always online like SimCity was, so you might even get to play it at launch!
Tyler Wilde: I'm really happy to see player communities band together to keep old multiplayer games going, as they have with the Battlefield series . I could wag my finger at EA for not fighting to keep its old games running post-GameSpy shutdown, but that's a dead end—our effort is better spent praising the players who are knocking down barriers to keep playing the games they love.
Chris Thursten: Dota events always feel like Christmas, but The International is something else. Super Christmas? Let's go with 'Super Christmas'. The Compendium—the in-game betting book that helps to crowdfund the tournament's prize pool—is the best expression of what Valve are trying to do with the game. It's been great to watch the community take ownership of Dota as an e-sport, whether that's finding more inventive ways to present the qualifier games or inflating the prize pool north of $5 million. As much as I'd like to see that prize pool distributed more evenly , that's a small gripe with an otherwise-great system.
I've also enjoyed watching North American Rejects stampede through the American qualifiers. If you're one of the people on reddit who questioned my praise for the quality of play in that tournament this week, well, it was NAR I was referring to. The US has always struggled to pull together a team capable of living up to the hometown support they get at The International, and between EG and NAR this might just be the year where those chants of 'USA!' 'USA!' get heard outside of the lower bracket.
Read on for our lows of the week…