This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Wes Fenlon: Fortnite's huge, but what about Fortnite? 

My favorite stories at PCG are almost always about communities who stick with games long after the spotlight has left them. This week we ran a story like that, but it's a bit different: it's about Fortnite, the biggest game in the world. Except not exactly. Fortnite: Battle Royale is massive, but to these fans, the true Fortnite is the Save the World mode that launched last year. Epic is still supporting it, but to the wider playerbase it's practically forgotten in this post-Battle Royale world. We talked to those who've stuck around about why they like vanilla Fortnite so much, and their worries about it disappearing as the Battle Royale mode continues to grow. It'll be fascinating to see how it plays out from here.  

Steven Messner: Off to Irvine I go

If I'm permitted to shed the veneer of professional games journalist for just a minute, I got to head down to Blizzard's headquarters in Irvine this week for the first time ever. For some reason I half expected it to be, like, a castle or some shit, but it's just an office. Still, it was cool getting to stalk the halls of a place full of people who, for the last 20 years, have created some of my fondest gaming memories.

I was there to preview the new World of Warcraft expansion, Battle for Azeroth, which, as the only dedicated WoW player on the team, has me quite excited. Island Expeditions are a crazy PvPvE mode that seem like a great substitute for the usual dungeon grind and I'm excited to see how Warfronts, easily one of Blizzard's most ambitious WoW features ever, pans out. Usually following the review of an MMO, I'm begging everyone to never let me do another. But, man, I'm pretty stoked for August 14 when Battle for Azeroth launches.

James Davenport: Killing it

Assassin's Creed: Origins is excellent. I played about 12 hours last fall, so I don't know why this fact didn't strike me earlier. But after Far Cry 5's comparatively abrupt runtime, my open world thirst wasn't quite sated. Tim mentioned he'd been enjoying AC:O, so I figured I'd hop back in and see if it clicked this time. Imagine a deafening click. 

AC:O's rendition of Egypt keeps surprising me, both in terms of scale and beauty. I can't recall another game world this beautiful and lively that doesn't feel like some manchild's superficial satire. Bayek is the most likable of the assassins so far, and the emphasis on exploration and role-playing a Medjay over the series' usual array of eavesdropping missions has made the repetition so much more tolerable. I don't mind sneaking around forts and stabbing fools on repeat because so many of the missions are framed in such a way that you learn something new about Egypt's culture or Bayek's character. It's no Witcher 3, but it's damn close. 

Joe Donnelly: An Undertale of two cities

Moving house has consumed my life this week, so I've not had much time to play games and/or give thought to my Highs and Lows. I mean, moving house is an awful experience, as is being messed around by the removal company on multiple occasions, as is being forced to pack away my PC in the wake of purchasing a gorgeous customised Deluxo in GTA Online.

But it’s not all bad. My aging laptop ain't as powerful as it once was, which inadvertently encouraged me to return to Undertale. Despite thoroughly enjoying the first few hours, I've never finished it and had forgotten how lovely it is. Until I'm reunited with my desktop, Undertale is my jam.

Tim Clark: Hard house 

An easy one for me this week: I’m really enjoying what I’ve played so far of The Elder Scrolls: Legends - Houses Of Morrowind, despite a bug which makes it impossible to disenchant the many duplicate cards that I’ve blown my non-existent children's college fund on. My worry going into the expansion was that the expanded 75-card decks which you need to run in order to unlock triple-attribute cards would be too inconsistent. That hasn’t been the case, though, as I’ve cruised to rank three on the back of my brutal midrange House Telvanni and House Dagoth decks.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I’ve been experimenting with tons of the new stuff—hotness like Vivec, who has the tribal tag ‘god’, so imagine what his business card must be like—but the truth is more shameful. See, what I’ve actually been doing is jamming the best of the old high-tempo, good curve cards into these new tri-color decks, and ruthlessly preying on the people who are trying to make janky combos and greedy late game strategies work. And reader, let me tell you, it feels good. I can particularly recommend using Royal Sage in aggressive decks. It was always an obnoxious card, to the point that some people wanted it nerfed, but Houses of Morrowind has inadvertently buffed the damn thing because it can now give the excellent new Rally keyword. Drink their tears and tell them Timmy sent you.

Tom Senior: Inspired

Deckbuilding card combat game Slay the Spire is really good. Dangerously good. Having beaten the tower a few times with the second unlocked character I can feel myself moving closer to the end of the game’s natural lifespan. A third character is planned before the game leaves Early Access, but for now I have to make do with the daily challenges. Fortunately the daily challenges are varied and inventive, and frequently break the game in funny ways.

Challenges give you a preset deck and some conditions. This week I played a run that dropped a powerful relic every time you took down an enemy, which was ALL THE TIME. Relics give you stacking effects that can make you profoundly powerful. By the end of that run I was doing automatic damage to everything on screen just for standing there. I was getting free armour every turn. I was drawing through my deck at a terrifying rate. Because I chose to focus on free attacks I would be drawing tons of damage, then reshuffling my discard pile back into my draw pile and doing it all over again. When a good run comes together, and you’re sailing through the third tier and dispatching bosses in just a few turns, it feels amazing.