James Davenport: Hearth-slow down, please!
There’s a new Hearthstone adventure out and with it comes extra incentive for new players to stay away. I’m glad that Blizzard is releasing updates for their wildly successful CCG, but what started out as a convenient way to get into a Magic-esque game is now too expensive to simply hop into. Sure, it’s technically free-to-play, but it feels impossible to be competitive without owning a decent amount of the expansion and adventure cards, none of which come cheap in terms of money or time. I’m not angry, just sad that there aren’t more options for getting into the game and feeling somewhat viable without emptying my wallet—starter decks, maybe?
I’m envious of all the Hearthstone talk around the office, and would love to be a part of the club, but a guy’s gotta eat, you know?
Tom Senior: Release madness
The release season is here, which means we’re about to be joyfully swept away by a tsunami of exciting new games. For us, it’s a good problem to have, but the rush to capture fall and Christmas sales leaves great games behind. and companies with bigger marketing budgets can bury competitors entirely. We’re all enjoying Fallout 4 this week, but let’s not forget that the beautiful and challenging Galak-Z was also released. Earlier this year Mad Max came out in the same week as Metal Gear Solid 5. Only one sandy sandbox game was going to win that contest.
It could have been worse. XCOM 2 and Mirror’s Edge 2 have been pushed back to next year, along with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. But that’s how it should be. Good games can do well throughout the year. GTA 5 happily released in April, and I hear that was quite popular.
Chris Livingston: Skip-boy
I think the Pip-boy has had its day. I know there's a lot of nostalgic attachment to the enormous smartwatch, and Fallout 4's version is better than it ever was. But sheez, it's still a remarkably bad way to manage your inventory and information. I get the charm of low-tech looks, but the map is, as it always was, pretty terrible to actually use, with blocky icons bleeding into each other until you zoom all the way in on the more crowded areas so you can select the correct one.
And while you can at least sort inventory by weight and value and a few other stats, it's still not enough. After a typical trip I'm loaded down with tons of armor, especially pieces of armor, and I want to quickly determine which hunk of metal or leather I should strap to my various arms and legs. I can't line up all my right-arm or left-leg parts together, though, to quickly compare them to each other, so there's a lot of repetitive scrolling up and down to find all the left-leg pieces, then all the right-leg pieces, and so on. Same with meds vs. food, where I still need to scroll past dozens of edible bug chunks and monster meats to see how many legit healing drugs I have left. I'm not saying there shouldn't be a Pip-boy in the game—I'm sure the outrage would reach atomic levels—but it could sure use some rethinking. Once again, we'll have to see what the modding community comes up with.
Tim Clark: Not falling in love
Is it weird that I don’t want to play Fallout 4? It’s not that I think it’s bad, or that the people who love it are somehow wrong, it just leaves me strangely cold in a way that Skyrim never did. I ducked out of Fallout 3 very early following an incredibly frustrating encounter with some fire ants. (It was really... buggy. *puts Caruso shades on*.)
Having watched around 80 hours of my other half playing the new one on PS4—the loading times on console are absolutely parlous, by the way—and seeing her wrestle with two locked out quests due to disappearing mission items, I just have no desire to fire it up on PC. It also sure does look a lot like Fallout 3. I realise this probably marks me out as some sort of tedious contrarian and/or idiot, but I’m just not feeling Fallout 4 right now.
I think, maybe, an element for me is that if the world’s already been entirely irradiated and ruined, it’s hard to know what I’d be struggling for beyond sweet loot for sweet loot’s sake. (Which, to be fair, is usually enough.) But in Skyrim there was a genuine sense of being integral to the future of this glorious, ice-swept world. But a none-more-brown American hellscape? The mutants can have it.
Wes Fenlon: The 13-year odyssey of Final Fantasy XI
I don't think anyone dreamed, 13 years ago, that Final Fantasy XI would be around this long. Once the black sheep of the Final Fantasy family, XI has become Square Enix's most successful game (and biggest moneymaker) ever, maintaining a small but loyal subscriber base for more than a decade. Over that period it's grown and grown, with expansions adding to a story some Final Fantasy fans call the best in the series. Now that story is wrapping up with the game's final updates, and I wish I could enjoy it. I'm pretty sure I'd be bored stiff playing through hundreds of hours of MMO questing and grinding. It's just not my genre. But I'm still left wondering about the 13-year-long story I'm missing out on.
Tom Marks: The PC Gamer Show in limbo
Our office move is going very well, but we don’t still don’t quite have a podcasting studio fully setup yet, which means The PC Gamer Show is still happening over VoIP. It’s going great still (and I highly recommend you all tune in to it) but you can’t quite beat the feeling of everyone being in the same room together. Luckily we’ll only have one more week of doing the show like this and then it’s back to regular business!