This week's highs and lows in PC gaming


Tom Senior: Tomb fast tomb furious

I like the Tomb Raider reboots but they seem to insist on putting the same dull linear sequences in every game. Rise of the Tomb Raider had a tedious opening and then expanded into a more varied and interesting game than the first reboot. After my hands-on experiences this week I really hope that Shadow of the Tomb Raider does the same. 

I have some hope. Raiding Mayan tombs in a jungle feels like a much more traditional setting for the series than the reboots have gone for so far, and I like that Lara is partly responsible for the magic world-ending shenanigans, but walking through scripted scenes occasionally mashing a button is boring no matter how spectacularly rendered the scenes are. I look forward to seeing some proper exploration, combat, and some advances in the stealth system to make it feel fresh.

James Davenport: The darkest shadow yet

The first hands-on pieces for Shadow of the Tomb Raider just hit, and I'm not surprised Tom wasn't too impressed with what he played. Personally, I'm exhausted by the bleak tone of these games. Rise of the Tomb Raider gave us a stern, po-faced Lara with next to no personality, dead set on finishing what her father started, a guy we hardly know anything about. There's some generic bad guy coalition after her, she falls on spikes and breaks bones and gets muddy and angrier and that's about it. What's worrisome is that Shadow has thus far been billed and received as the darkest entry yet. Blood will never return to my face.

I'm not asking for another Nathan Drake, gleefully stabbing dozens of men a minute. I just want a Lara that gives the impression she breathes air and eats and shits and laughs on occasion, not some robotic plot vessel for violence and videogame set pieces. Not that it matters. I'll still play the damn thing and probably have a good time, entertained as much as any configuration of bright light and noise and button presses. I mean, God of War has been OK so far, but I'll spend 50 hours with it just to recall that axe over and over. 

Wes Fenlon: Battletech review bombers

Battletech came out this week, and it's a damn fine strategy game with big mechs, perhaps the quintessential PC genre. Sure, it has some issues—reviewers on Steam have pointed out some bugs, optimization and performance issues that need work. But a subset of those negative reviews have focused on something else: the fact that Battletech lets you choose "they" as a pronoun. That choice isn't hurting you. It might not mean anything to you. But it means something to someone, and writing off a game for that single option is both bigoted and ignorant.  

Chris Livingston: Rattled Royale

It can be easy to forget in the face of the massive success of PUBG and Fortnite, but H1Z1, despite a ridiculously winding road during development, is a major reason the battle royale genre rose to such heights. It sold millions of copies, was in the top five on Steam and Twitch for the better part of a year, and had a booming pro scene—plus, it's also a lot of fun. So it's a real shame to see its release from Early Access, a switch to a free-to-play model, and a goofy vehicle-based mode couldn't redirect its nose-dive in popularity.

This is reflected in the news of layoffs at Daybreak this week. While we don't have the numbers on how many employees lost their jobs, it appears several veterans of the studio have been let go. H1Z1 isn't dead or anything: it's still in the top 100 games on Steam in terms of CCU, but a return to its former glory days is feeling less and less likely. 

Jody Macgregor: Stay frosty

I'm enjoying Frostpunk, but my first run was a disaster. I thought I wouldn't need to sign the law making child labor legal—it's the Victorian era, those poor kids don't need me assigning them to the coal pits after they just escaped being chimneysweeps—but it did not end well. Building shelters for all the urchins gave a little boost to Hope, but it wasn't enough to counter all the other things going wrong.

When I promised to do something about the heating I meant it, and stretched our resources to the limit building steam hubs and bunkhouses. Living conditions rose to "bearable" and everything seemed rosy. But I hadn't been keeping an eye on the forecast, and when the temperature dropped 10 degrees I had nothing prepared to deal with it. Those warm people became chilly, blamed me, and then exiled me to die in the snow.

Starting again, I put the children to work straight away. Also I've instituted organized religion and those extra resources provided by hard-working children have paid for a gaudy temple and shrines outside every workplace. Hope is crawling upwards and Discontent has fallen. Frostpunk is a good game but it's my low of the week because what it's good at is making me feel bad.

Joe Donnelly: Take it lying down 

As I mentioned over the page, I turned 32 on Tuesday and received Football Manager 2018 for the Switch. Having spent a whole load of time playing that, this week's low is only vaguely related to PC gaming. But if you're a Switch player who's not already in on what I'm about to tell you, it might just change your life.

On the advice of my honourable colleague Steven Messner, this week I discovered the unbridled joy of playing my Switch lying down, with the console propped up on its stand, the joycons detached, and my hands by my side. I've since found Nirvana, as our Steven describes it, to the point where I'm annoyed I haven't been playing videogames like this forever. I honestly can't stress enough how pleased this has made me. It probably is the height of laziness—shoutout to my pregnant and increasingly frustrated girlfriend Jenny—but I don't care. 

I love PC gaming to bits, but I also miss playing games on the couch or while sprawled out on my bed. Perhaps I should invest in a Steam Link. Perhaps I need a more comfortable chair. Perhaps lying down after work is a sign of things to come, now that I'm 32 and totally ancient.  

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