The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Samuel Roberts: Shocking form

It feels like Prey is shaping up to be exactly my kind of game—a fusion of BioShock/System Shock-y art direction and offbeat alien abilities. While I kind of wish this trailer had a little more of the story thrown in, the variety of environments they show off make this feel like the intersection between all the things I like—there's even a bit of Alien: Isolation in there to my mind. 

In the absence of a new BioShock where the protagonist walks up to a lighthouse in the game's opening moments, only for the lighthouse to actually be a spaceship (this isn't fan fiction, shut up), this looks like it'll satiate my appetite for narrative-driven stealth games. With a new System Shock on the way as well, it'll be interesting to see two sets of talented devs building games that draw from similar sources.

Tom Senior: Lock and reload

Two thoughts occurred to me as I watched the Bulletstorm remaster trailer. 1: Duke Nukem is a relic who should probably be allowed to linger in the bin of history forever. 2: I really like Bulletstorm. It’s a big, dumb, happy Labrador of a shooter with some demented trick weapons and a colourful world. The script never exceeds the masterful banter high-point that is the line “I will kill your dick”, uttered by Jennifer Hale of FemShep fame, but that’s okay, because at one point you fight a skyscraper-sized wheel with spikes on it. Who even built that thing? Who knows, the important thing is that it needs to be killed with big loud guns. I look forward to doing it all again with slightly fancier textures.

Tyler Wilde: All alone

Suddenly, I'm really into D&D. I was tepid about it for years and years, despite many opportunities to play with classmates and coworkers, and have now awakened to it when I have no one to play it with. Kudos, brain, for playing the long game with that bit of sabotage. But the upside is that there are lots of computer RPGs I haven't played yet.

I'm starting with what I've been told is the best, Planescape: Torment, and I can see why it's so beloved. The combat isn't going to blow anyone away today, but I don't often want to grind through hundreds of inevitable combat encounters in an RPG anyway. What's good about Torment so far: wandering around with a horny floating skull who hits on zombies, getting stitched up and embalmed by someone who mistook me for a zombie (raising my max HP), and searching for a madman's fork. I'm also playing Tyranny and having a good time, and also not for the combat system. I'd be glad to see an even bigger resurgence of RPGs in which dialogue and actions—as in, things you can do in response to dialogue that aren't necessarily combat—are at the forefront. I like combat-focused games, too, but for at least as long as this D&D kick I’m on lasts, I'm looking for characters and stories and stupid dialogue choices.

 Joe Donnelly: Pathological admirer

This week, Ice-Pick Lodge launched a teaser trailer series for its upcoming Pathologic remake—a reimagining of 2005's survival roleplayer-meets-psychological horror game of the same name. Admittedly, the videos that've dropped so far don't give too much away, however a prologue-style demo for Kickstarter backers launched today which offers a glimpse at what's to come. Playing as the original game's Bachelor, you assume the role as a doctor working in a town struggling to cope with the Sand Plague. In doing so, you converse with the locals, listen to rumours, trade with dodgy characters, and battle your own demons as you attempt to uncover the root of the epidemic. It's Pathologic as you've always known it, then, but with improved visuals and better translations. For all its flaws I admittedly loved the first game—now revered by some as a cult classic—therefore I'm glad to see the Pathologic remake on the right track at this early stage.

Evan Lahti: Snow tires

Until this year I don't think I enjoyed a racing game since Dirt 2 in '09. Reconnecting with the genre in Forza Horizon 3 was one of the best parts of PC gaming in 2016 for me, so I'm pretty jazzed about this Blizzard Mountain expansion arriving December 13. We haven't seen the new location yet, but an arctic/alpine setting (apparently a first for the series) seems like a perfect contrast to Horizon 3's idyllic jungles, beaches, and badlands. This early support also gives me hope that Forza 3 will have a long tail. Another expansion is on the way (an 'Expansion Pass' for Blizzard Mountain and the unannounced expansion is $35), and I'd love to see this game become a platform in and of itself, considering it's basically Burnout Paradise 2. And whatever your feelings about The Game Awards, it was nice to see Forza win the sports/racing category last night.

Chris Livingston: Ark: Performance Evolved

To my great surprise, I've been playing Ark: Survival Evolved lately. Not much, just an hour here and there, and my greatest accomplishment thus far has been to tame the ugliest Phiomia (it's like a large pig) on the entire map. Mainly, I spend my time trying to build things and marveling at how well the survival crafting game runs all of the sudden. Back when I first tried it, my PC could barely manage to run it at all in singleplayer, and it crashed to desktop constantly. These days, it's running smoother and looking better than any game I've played recently. It's nice that amid the paid DLC controversies and cybernetic power suits, some attention is being paid to performance and optimization.

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