This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Dark Souls 3 user submitted

The Highs

Tom Marks: Making Dark Souls 3 magic
I am the monster your friends whisper about. I am the freak of nature science didn’t think was possible. I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I am truly man at all. I play Dark Souls 3 as a pure spellcaster with mouse and keyboard controls.

I wasn’t always this way, it was a slow transition. At first, I played a pretty standard mercenary and used an Xbox 360 controller. But about 2-3 hours in I really wanted to try magic, so I started over as a sorcerer and it’s so much fun. Sorcerers can deal extremely high damage at long range, and the only real risk is if quick enemies can get up close before I have a chance to one-shot them. But I have to move in way too close to lock-on with my spells, and joysticks are a clunky way of accurately aiming from afar—especially because magic doesn’t have the luxury of the bow’s zoom and crosshair. So I did the logical thing and switched to the most accurate aiming scheme available: a mouse.

People in the office were shocked when I told them I only bring a single Estus Flask with me, and James said it was like looking at a new color, but I can honestly say it’s how I enjoy playing Dark Souls 3. I’m having a blast, but I’m also starting to get the sense the developers didn’t expect anyone to play this way either, as I’ve yet to find pretty much any new caster equipment and my mouse accuracy means I can snipe otherwise tough enemies with zero difficulty. It’s an odd way to experience a meticulously laid-out world, and I’m eager to see how it changes as I get into the late game.

Chris Thursten: Purple souls
It's been a while since I've had time to really invest in a new singleplayer game at launch, but I've done my best to make time for Dark Souls III. I started off a little cold on it: it's initially very familiar, after three of these games. These enemies and their attack patterns have been burned into memory, at this point—I was waiting to be surprised, to be hit with that From Software magic.

Here's the story of the moment that happened. Also, the moment I discovered that I'm a giant moron. I'm exploring an early area when I spot something I've never seen before: a purple summon sign. The game warned me that my summon might be hostile, but I decide to push the button anyway. I'm joined by a glowing purple knight with a pretty Souls-appropriate name—Ioryn of the Mound Makers, something like that—and off we go. We fight down through the area, across a bridge, through a series of ambushes, down into the underground, and out to a new bonfire. Success!

My companion didn't emote or do anything particularly unusual in this time, so I figured that purple summons were NPCs that were helpful but possibly had a chance to go rogue—something like that. Then, after my companion departed, I was attacked by another purple summon with a red name. This reinforced my theory: because I got a friendly NPC, I was now having to deal with a hostile. I killed him, returned to Firelink, and thought nothing of it.

On Twitter the next day, I discovered that Mound Makers are players who join as allies but are encouraged to betray you. I had no idea. Despite being pretty familiar with Souls, I'd simply assumed that From had implemented some kind of weird new NPC assist system. The entire night's experience was now framed in a completely new light: not only had I summoned a Mound Maker who chose not to betray me, but I'd had an entire PvP encounter without knowing it was happening. These games are special for that reason. Also, to reiterate: I'm a giant moron.

Mirror's Edge Catalyst Slide

Samuel Roberts: Edge of tomorrow
What does a Mirror’s Edge game look like in 2016? Catalyst has user-generated challenges, an open-world playground and, well, a pretty bad storyline like the first game. This week my impressions and a load of Tom’s hands-on videos went up—you can check it all out to find out what we made of it.

The short version is, I’m really pleased DICE is making a game that’s so consistent with the original’s vision. Straight away I picked up the basics of the platforming again, which is still very intricate and tricky to perfect, and the changes made to the combat system feel well-judged to me, too. Can’t wait to jump back in with the closed beta.

Alex Campbell: Bash the Windows in
If there’s one thing I really hate about using Windows, it’s the lack of my good old Linux shell. But that may be going away.

Linux users may not get the best choice of games out there. However, when it comes to productivity, development, and speed of system maintenance, Linux is pretty unmatched. Want to install something on Ubuntu? Try ‘apt install firefox’. That’s it. No clicks, no dialogs, no BS. It’s clean, sexy, and fast.

And someone decided to bring the sexiness of the Ubuntu operating system (remember kids: Linux is just a kernel) to Windows in the form of the Windows Subsystem for Linux. For Linux users, WSL is basically WINE in reverse. For folks not acquainted with Linux or WINE, WSL is basically a translation layer for the Linux syscalls that Linux programs use to talk to the kernel (like opening and closing files, for example). With those syscalls available, most Linux console programs (like awk, or even vi) will now work on Windows in Bash.

And if you’ve never used Bash, let me tell you: The Linux command line is far, far less awkward than the Windows command line. Even if some prefer other shells (like zsh) to Bash, Bash on Windows is still a big improvement. Right now, most core console-mode applications work on Ubuntu for Windows. That includes apt, vi, awk, git, gcc (yes, you can create Linux binaries in Windows now), and fork. Some things (like MySQL and top) don’t work yet, though those are being worked on. Party on, console geeks.

Jalopy Slide

Chris Livingston: Don't drive angry
I spent a little time with the press demo for Jalopy this week. It's a game where you drive a clunky old Laika Deluxe automobile (based on the German-made Trabant, or "Trabi") through Eastern Europe during the fall of communism in 1990. Before you drive the Laika, however, you have to put it together: add a passenger door, put on the tires, and assemble the engine, all under the watchful eye of your uncle who tells you what each part does.

I found it interesting how assembling the car myself immediately lent it a personality, made me care about the old jalopy, and made me drive it more carefully than any car I've ever controlled in a game. Unlike pretty much any other driving game, I actually took great pains not to smash into things and I was absolutely mortified when another drive rear-ended me. The simple act of building something, and understanding how it works, gives that thing character. Jalopy will pull into Early Access next week.

Angus Morrison: No mod cons
It has been a strong week for modding: Skyrim’s cities have received a massive overhaul, at last making them worthy of a jarl; GoldenEye 007 is coming to GZDoom; and squads can now bond in XCOM 2.

The onslaught has rekindled a bit of the enthusiasm for modding I had when I was still overhauling Oblivion so hard it broke. In particular, the scope of Galandil’s Holds: The City Overhaul for Skyrim is a fine reminder of the life mods bring to games long past their natural lifespan. Skyrim is from 2012—the world has moved on, and yet here’s this lunatic making cities larger, more immersive and modern.

April is supposed to be the month that Fallout 4 gets its official Creation Kit, whereupon all manner of post-apocalyptic nonsense will become possible. And you know what? Now I’m in the mood to break it.


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