The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

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The Lows

Tim Clark: Primal screams
Far Cry: Primal is such a weird game. It’s simultaneously a refreshing change of pace for the series, and still not quite different enough. I spent four hours last week playing the game (on PS4) at a preview event, and came away having enjoyed my time, but with no burning desire to see a lot more of it. I try to explain why in a video here, but my chief complaint was that the caveman dude just doesn’t feel especially prehistoric. The combat is fine, if basic, but what I’d hoped for was something more, well... primal feeling. Ubisoft should have gone all in on making this guy feel like an untamed savage, terrorising beast and man. As it is, he’s just a badly-armed Far Cry guy in a land that could sorely use a T-rex or two.

Phil Savage: Arcen lays off staff
This week, AI War developer Arcen Games announced that, due to poor sales of new release Starward Rogue, staff are being let go. You can read about the specifics on Arcen's blog. It's a sad story, of course—although I'm not going to try to connect it to the much-discussed "indiepocalypse," because I ultimately think the idea of an indiepocalypse is hot bullshit.

There's a sort of kneejerk temptation to spring to Arcen's defence; to urge people to go buy their latest game on Steam. But I've got a complicated relationship with their work. Some games, specifically Bionic Dues, I've really enjoyed. Others I find that I like the idea behind them more than the execution. I'm rarely taken with the aesthetic of their games, and find the UI and tutorials finicky—thus the process of learning them is more exhausting than it should be. Still, that's me. Arcen is a developer with a large library of niche, PC-focused games, all of which have enjoyed solid post-release support. They're a developer that should be on your radar, and, if nothing else, it's worth at least taking a look through their back catalogue.


Samuel Roberts: Nerf herders
Star Wars Battlefront got a few welcome nerfs this week, primarily to stop Boba Fett from ruining every single game, and stopping the Millennium Falcon and Slave I from inexplicably being impossible to kill, which spoiled Fighter Squadron for everyone except the two players in those ships. The most obvious imbalance in the game that hasn’t been addressed is the A-Wing, however, which is too fast, too maneuverable and too powerful in Fighter Squadron, meaning that the odds are always stacked against the Empire in each match—the Empire’s equivalent vessel, the TIE Interceptor, simply isn’t fast enough to keep up with them. It’s too small to hit, too.

I’m a little surprised the A-Wing didn’t get taken down a notch, but hey, at least Fighter Squadron is still great fun during the 50% of the time you’re on the Rebel Alliance’s side.

Chris Livingston: Puzzle Quest
When doing a crossword puzzle I'll keep at it even if I'm stuck, going back over the clues over and over again until I've solved them or have to get help from someone smarter (typically my wife). I once bought a crossword puzzle book, however, and discovered my determination to solve a single puzzle was eroded when there was another puzzle on the next page. When I got stuck, I'd give up and move onto the next puzzle, then the next one. I never completed any of the puzzles in the book, and they all have just a handful of clues filled in.

I'm finding The Witness to be a bit of a crossword puzzle book. When I get stuck on a puzzle, I'm less apt to knuckle down and work it to death because, hey, look over there, a hundred more puzzles. I spend most of my time bouncing around the island like a tourist at Disney searching for a ride with no line. I think it's a good design decision: games can lose their fun if a single puzzle blocks you from progressing. It's just my personal design that's flawed. Given a choice of beating my head against a stubborn puzzle or walking a mile on the off-chance I'll find something easier, I'll spend the shoe leather every time.


James Davenport: It’s not March yet
There are plenty of reasons I’m sad it’s not March. ‘Winter’ in San Francisco isn’t blistery cold, but it’s more cloudy than normal, and the short days take their toll. Boohoo, I know. Mostly, I’m sad it’s not March because that’s when Dark Souls 3 hits the PC. A new batch of screenshots just had to remind me. The Souls lust is real. Rise of the Tomb Raider and The Witness are out, two games that are typically right up my alley. And I’m enjoying them, for sure—I just can’t stop playing Dark Souls. Again. I’m even watching the Berserk anime. My first playthrough was on the Xbox 360 years back, and I missed the PC version. Now that Games for Windows Live has been gutted from the game, and modders have made it possible to play without grimacing at the visuals, I’m hooked. It’s rare to play a 3D game that feels as if it hasn’t aged a bit.

So, boohoo. I’m stuck ignoring two amazing new games in favor of playing an older, still amazing game while I await a (hopefully) amazing sequel. Life is rough, yawl. And yeah, I’ll probably play through Dark Souls 2 before March 24th, if I can.

Andy Kelly: Done and dusted
You know what I hate? Dust. I’m a worryingly tidy person, and spend a lot of time every year opening my PC up and cleaning inside. The thought of all that dust floating around in there, coating my fans and clogging up my GPU, gives me the fear. But it’s a losing battle. Whenever I crack the case open, even if it’s only been a few weeks since the last clean, there’s gross dust everywhere. My fan blades look like they’re wearing a grey fur coat sometimes.

So out I go, once again, into the back garden, compressed air in hand, blowing away all the crud and sucking up the detritus with a vacuum cleaner. I know some people say you’re not supposed to use a vacuum cleaner to clean your PC, but I have for years, so leave me alone. And I clip everything back together. And then the dust comes back. It never stops. So I clean it again, and again, and again. Dust is the worst, man. Why can’t I live in one of those clean rooms where they manufacture processors? Apart from the sheer impracticality of it, that is.


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