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The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE LOWS

Samuel Roberts: Weakly Discovery
Spotify launched a games-specific version this week, which is kind of cool. Some of its features are pretty useful—you can view all the game soundtracks on one tab, for example, which shows the generous amounts of BioWare music you can listen to among a lot of other stuff. There are some cool guest playlists, too, like this one from Day[9].

Slightly less convincing, though, are the lists of music that Spotify has compiled. The second one that comes up on Spotify Gaming is an ‘epic rap’ compilation called Power Gaming. Now, I was a teenager when the mash-up single ‘Numb/Encore’ came out in 2004, and I think calling that an ‘epic rap’ is rather generous, like if someone called ‘How You Remind Me’ by Nickelback a power ballad. It’s just not correct. Some of the rest of the music is pretty good on there—but I don’t get what’s particularly ‘gaming’ about it. Guess I’ll try playing Abzû with ‘The Next Episode,’ see if it improves it at all. 

Wes Fenlon: A Gwent delay makes for a sad day
Most of our US staff are falling hard for the Elder Scrolls Legends card game, but I’ve been holding out for the beta of CD Projekt’s Gwent in September. I figure I only have time for one card game in my life, and neither Hearthstone or Elder Scrolls have a thematic pull on me. I’m sure I’d enjoy playing either one, given how much time I spent playing Magic: The Gathering in my teens, but it’s fairly easy for me to avoid losing hours and hours of time to the two of those. Gwent, though, is irresistible. I love The Witcher’s world and already devoted hours to the minigame in The Witcher 3. So Gwent’s delay of a month, to October 25, is the downer of the week for me.

James Davenport: All men cry
PC gaming is pretty great. Most of the time, we get to play the best version of a game available. It’s not about superiority for me, but for trying to achieve the ideal experience envisioned for the player. Plus, I like pretty things on nice screens. So it’s no surprise I’m severely disappointed with the state of No Man’s Sky at launch. I understand that Hello Games is a small team, but I’d rather have a stable, smooth version to play—delayed months if necessary—than any version at all. By no means are the current issues preventing me from playing, but the screen-tearing I’m experiencing makes everything look like it’s underwater, and every ten seconds or so the game hitches, which makes me a bit nauseous.

It’s a huge bummer because I like what I’ve played so far. I ran into some cute armored creatures and they hung out for a bit while I mined. Flying feels good, and the scale of everything is staggering, even though I’ve only left one planet. But damn, it feels like my computer can barely run the damn thing. If I knew I wasn’t going to play more for work, No Man’s Sky might’ve been my first Steam refund. Even so, I have faith that Hello Games will address the issues. It just might take longer than some want to wait.

Tyler Wilde: Shazbot!
If No Man’s Sky launched with the ability to ‘ski’ with the jetpack like in Tribes: Ascend—to accelerate down slopes as if frictionless, then launch back into the air and do it again, picking up more and more speed—its reception would be dramatically different. In a good way, maybe. In a way I wish I could see, at least. For a game that’s so much about the joy of exploration, actually exploring is fairly mundane and serious. It makes sure you know about fall damage right away. You can jet forward if you use a melee attack followed by a jetpack boost, but you crash down like a rock. Maybe that’s what Hello Games is going for—take it slowly, methodically, observe the planets closely—and freeform double-black-diamond mogul skiing would be too intoxicating for such a sober, reflective experience. But it might be awesome—there’s a lot of bad armchair game designing around No Man’s Sky, which I recognize. I chose to focus on this because it’s a little more concrete and realistic than ‘I wish the procedural generation was a bit better,’ which I do, and that’s another low, but what am I going to suggest, ‘do more math, please?’

Anyway, I feel that Abzû, a game that’s really all about exploring and experiencing beauty, gets this really right—it lets me do barrel rolls and burst out of the surface of the water like a dolphin. I get some of that when flying my ship in No Man’s Sky, bursting out of atmospheres, but I spend a lot more time with my feet on the ground. Stomp, stomp, stomp. Despite its shortcomings, though, it feels like a good sign that there are so many opinions on how to make No Man’s Sky better—the base is interesting enough to get our imaginations going.

Phil Savage: Robot in surprise
Earlier in the week, a Telltale retweet teased the possibility of a Mr. Robot game. And, sure, fine, it's a pretty good show. Maybe it'll make a good adventure game? Increasingly, though, I recoil each time a new Telltale adventure is announced. The first season of The Walking Dead was fantastic—emotional, subtle, and, more than anything, different. It was something new and fresh, and the style and action both fit with that world. The words "Clementine will remember that" felt important, because they were part of the story about mentorship in a dangerous, deadly world.

Now they're a trope for a series of games that are the same, no matter what license they're for. Batman is systemically identical to Game of Thrones, is systemically identical to Minecraft: Story Mode. These fictions deserve their own, custom styles that compliment their story and genre. That's not to say Telltale can't make good games—Tales of the Borderlands shows they can—but its recent record is spotty, and Batman's first episode was troublingly uninspired. It may be time for Telltale to try something new.

Tom Senior: Losing face
It sounds like Telltale is rounding out customers’ hardware specs with a Twitch survey, which could indicate interest in a technology shift. Naturally, you want the game to be playable on as many devices as possible, including portables such as iPads, but there’s no doubt that the company’s ability to tell stories is being hampered by stiff body animation and stilted facial expressions.

It’s not just Telltale. Games are still not good at faces, even in RPGs where character development is vital, and characters have to emote convincingly, frequently we see clunky movement between expressions, and performance capture frequently produces unnerving results. It’s a tough problem, and few games are likely to adapt LA Noire’s pricey-but-amazing face-capture tech. I’d love to see more experimentation and improvement as game drama dramas mature into 2017 and beyond.

Hey folks, beloved mascot Coconut Monkey here representing the collective PC Gamer editorial team, who worked together to write this article!