Angus Morrison: Fanning the banhammer
It has been a bad week for Overwatch cheaters, which makes it a good week for me. I’m bad at Overwatch, but nowhere near so bad that I feel compelled to install a cheat and get myself banned for life. Blizzard’s anticheat is ferocious, and so far it’s holding up to what most ‘hackers’ can throw at it. Even cheaters who have changed hard drive IDs and invested in VPNs before buying new copies are finding themselves re-banned within hours.
More than 1,500 players have been banned in China alone. Blizzard didn’t announce numbers for the West, but it did take action, and the forums of at least one popular hack provider are howling at the injustice of being permabanned for something so innocent as cheating.
In about 100 games, I’ve yet to encounter a cheater. Blizzard is putting its years of online experience to excellent use.
Chris Livingston: Cust-sim-ization
The news that The Sims 4 has removed gender boundaries from its Sim creation tools is nothing but good. Now players can create Sims with any combination of voice, physique, walking style, clothing, hair, and jewelry. Being able to identify with your avatar in games is important, and removing restrictions that dictate what you characters can or can’t wear, or how they can sound, or how they look, is a great step forward The Sims.
Overdue? Definitely: the Saints Row series has been letting players do this for years. It’s still an excellent development, though, and here’s to more games getting with the program in the future.
Samuel Roberts: What up, YouToob?
Some recommended reading for you this week: Chris’s diary of attempting to become a YouTuber in the popular Steam game Youtubers’ Life (as traditional media, this can finally make all my dreams of yelling into a camera for teenagers come true). It’s not all joy in the life of a YouTuber, though, as Chris discovered—popularity is hard to generate, and the dislikes can really bring you down.
This is one of the best pieces that we’ve published all year and it’ll bring a few laughs to your Friday. Particularly Chris’s struggles with romance in the game—it all got a little too real. If only he’d just made videos about opening packets of cards in FIFA Ultimate Team, he’d be a millionaire by now.
Tim Clark: Solo Kingslayer
This week I beat the Old Demon King on my own! Okay, not entirely alone. There where the two rando phantoms I summoned, but no real people. My regular sherpa Dave only operates on UK hours, and Wes and James have basically abandoned me. In their absence, on weekday evenings I tend to revisit areas I’ve previously explored (Dave and I have just beaten the Dancer of the Boreal Valley together in each other’s games), looking for secrets and farming souls until it’s time to play co-op again. But the Smouldering Lake area is optional, and so is its boss. As Dave had already done it, I decided to try alone. Several lost embers and dead randos later, the big fiery goon was downed and I couldn’t stop grinning.
At which point you probably expect me to say that my new-found sense of self-sufficiency has meant I’m happy to ditch the training wheels. Not really. The thing I enjoy most about Dark Souls 3, a series I am incredibly late to, is exploring its absurdly grim, painterly word with a friend. Keza wrote about the joy of the multiplayer here, and I can’t echo it enough. I also agree with James’ argument that all the talk of Dark Souls' difficulty actually does it a disservice. Once you understand what it wants from you, the game is scrupulously fair and not particularly punishing. I’d even go so far as to say that I find farming relaxing. Finally, in this piece over on Eurogamer, the ever-excellent Chris Donlan talks about his experience playing the first game after just about everybody else, and how that has felt almost like visiting a theme park. Perhaps I’ll visit next.
Andy Kelly: Bloody good
This week I’ve journeyed with Geralt of Rivia to the lush, colourful land of Toussaint. This idyllic duchy is a gorgeous, fertile landscape of vineyards, lakes, and forests, with a vast fairytale castle overlooking it all. It’s the setting for The Witcher 3’s new Blood and Wine expansion, and it’s a dramatic change of scenery from the war-torn fields of Velen. But among all this scenic beauty, dark things are afoot—including a serial killer who’s murdering knights—and that’s why Geralt’s in town, at the behest of the Duchess. It’s a huge expansion, offering around 30 hours of questing, and one of the prettiest places I’ve explored in a game for a while.
One of the best things about the expansion is the fish out of water aspect. Geralt couldn’t be more out of place in Toussaint, and the game plays up to this. The knights here are flamboyant, charismatic types with shiny gold armour and plumed helms, who spend their days taking part in tourneys to impress fair maidens. Playing as a gruff, no-nonsense Witcher among all this pomp and chivalry is hugely entertaining, and you can choose to politely play along with it all or poke fun at their traditions. You really do feel like a stranger in a strange land. Blood and Wine is a fantastic expansion, and has me dreaming of a world where all DLC is this good.
James Davenport: Blood funny
Like Andy, I’m playing Blood and Wine and absolutely loving it. Toussaint is a gorgeous new location, populated with satirically wealthy citizens, sickeningly bright flora, and fauna as dangerous and strange as ever. I’m about 10 hours into the DLC, most of which has been spent poking at its sidequests. There are a ton, and a few of them are the funniest in all of The Witcher 3 so far. One involves attempting to withdraw money from a savings account, and pits Geralt against his greatest foe yet: a seemingly endless string of bureaucratic paperwork.
The Witcher 3 is best when it makes fun of fantasy tropes by injecting a playful dose of real world mundanity into its outlandish setting. I love the idea of dwarves filling out government forms or a horrifying supernatural monster’s anatomy dissected and catalogued in dry, scientific jargon. But because The Witcher’s tone is so tongue-in-cheek, all the time it dedicates to grounding its fantasy world also makes it and its stories feel much more relatable and potent. I hear Blood and Wine takes its ruthless, fun approach to kicking fairytales while they’re down even further later on. I’m looking forward to the destroying the magic.