This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Chris Livingston: Give me a career as a buccaneer 

Much as I enjoy Sea of Thieves, I feel like I only play when there's some new bit 'o content added, so I'm happy to see Cursed Sails arrive to give me an excuse to sail the high seas again. It's mostly due to the new ship that was added, a 3-player craft called the Brigantine that's not as cumbersome as the galleon and is a bit more formidable than the sloop. I've always felt the galleon, even with a full crew, is a bit difficult to manage when the cannonballs start flying, so it's nice to have another option for those times when you can only scare up two extra crewmates. We haven't spotted any of the new skeleton-crewed ships yet to really put the Brigantine through its paces, but when we do, we'll be ready. Unless Tyler has fallen off the ship (which he often does).

James Davenport: Fortnite fast

It's a good thing my parents only own terrible mice from Compaq prebuilts circa '97, because otherwise I might have spent my week working from Montana playing way too much Fortnite. After months of covering and playing it without pause, a week without building was more constructive than I anticipated. I love Fortnite, but I'm too easily pulled in by the allure of weekly challenges, the hunt for battle pass stars, and the pointless XP grind. Among all the F2P hooks, it's easy to lose focus on why I enjoy it in the first place. 

Now that I'm back in the bay, I only play when I actually want to, and I play for fun before victories and challenges. It's nice! Fortnite's goofy combat sandbox is better without all the unnecessary tension and urgency. Shed of my Fortnite demons, I didn't win my first game back, but I got 11 eliminations and died attempting to run over someone in a golf cart. Missed and flew off a cliff. Hell of a return. 

Andy Kelly: Galaxy brain

I thought I was done with No Man's Sky. I actually liked it on release, but was also aware that it was really limited in scope, despite featuring a billion quintillion planets. But since the NEXT update dropped, I've sunk another 30 hours into it without really noticing.

I think they key to my enjoyment of No Man's Sky is that I don't think of it in terms of providing a deep, compelling game experience. It's a screensaver for my brain. A universe I can dive into, stick a podcast on, and just go look at some weird, pretty space stuff.

And, honestly, if it was just a game about flying around aimlessly and taking photos of things, I'd be happy. I don't bother with building bases, learning alien languages, or any of that business. I just like the experience of the journey. Of hopping randomly between planets, wondering what I'll see. Here are some selected highlights from my journey so far.

Tom Senior: Storytime

I still love a good gaming diary. We’ve been publishing them in the mag and online for years and put another one up this week. There are two ways to do them, really. You can play an odd game, or play a game in an odd way. Over the last few months Phil has let Crusader Kings 2’s AI take control of the central thrust of the plot, all while offering nudges here and there using console commands.

It shows how powerful sims can be, and it really shows off how detailed Crusader Kings 2’s character simulation is. We’re used to proving our skill by ‘beating’ games, and challenge is fun, but sometimes it’s fun to let a game tell you a story and just see where it goes. In the case of this particular Crusader Kings run, it travels across a large chunk of planet Earth.

Joe Donnelly: Re-remake

I waxed lyrical about GTA Online's new After Hours update here last week, and I really could continue where I left off today. I won't, though, even given the fact Italian DJ duo Tale of Us entered the fold this week. I'll instead talk about the Resident Evil 2 remake, or, more specifically, what Capcom might do after the Resident Evil 2 remake.

This week, the Resi dev said that depending on how well the RE2 remake sells—it has high hopes, naturally—it expects "to explore" future remakes further "with a variety of properties as a part of our strategy to utilize our library of IP." Which is great, if expected, news. But which games should get the remaster/remake treatment? I vote Resi 3, natural order and all that. But please tell me your shouts in the comments south of here. 

Tyler Wilde: Absolve yourself…

...Of not having tried Absolver. It's free for the weekend, and you really should give it a go. While admittedly I haven't kept up with the scene, I loved it back when it released despite finding the world a bit drab. The fighting style and combo customization is endlessly amusing, and even if you ignore PvP and focus only on building up a repertoire of martial arts moves to aim at NPCs, there's at least a weekend's worth of fun there. If you end up liking it as much as I did, it's half-price on Steam, too.

THE LOWS

James Davenport: Crash and learn

I've been playing Monster Hunter: World's PC port in a pre-release state for a week now (watch a few hours of footage for yourself)—or, I've been trying to. Up until yesterday, it was crashing 15 minutes into every hunt, delaying my progress and forcing me to repeat the same hunts over and over again. Luckily, making repetition fun is Monster Hunter's greatest strength, so even though I had 20 hours clocked, five of which were flushed down time's toilet, I've enjoyed nearly every minute of loss.

The crash issue isn't an issue anymore, though, with a recent patch sending the bug to bed. Thank goodness, because there's no way I'd be able to recommend anyone play it until it'd been resolved. But now, Monster Hunter: World is an almost perfect port. It's a bit more demanding than I'd like, but with the extensive graphics and control options it has, I can't be too upset. Don't expect to hit high framerates at higher resolutions with ease, even with relatively recent PCs. Do expect to enjoy slamming an ugly bird over the head with a hammer for 40 hours, you monster.  

Tom Senior: Monster task

I’m a bit worried about Monster Hunter: World. Hopefully the devs have the patch that cleaned up the crashing issues we’ve had ready for the public before launch next week, but if not it could put people off a terrific game and a great series that deserves to call the PC home. Its gritty looting and crafting systems are great brainfood. I spend idle commutes thinking about which armour set to go for next, and wondering whether I should start finally learning the hunting horn so I can play support in co-op hunts. 

Nah, I’ll stick to long sword.

Tyler Wilde: The 'C' word

As Chris mentioned in his high, earlier this week he, James, and I popped into Sea of Thieves to check out the new Brigantine and skeleton ships. Sadly, after following clues for an hour or so, we didn't encounter any skeleton crews. The same thing happened to me and Chris back when the big shark released. That isn't my low, though! It just reminded me of how openly Sea of Thieves defies convention. In most games, a new update sees everyone rushing to wherever the 'content' is. In Sea of Thieves, you're just supposed to float around having a good time until adventure finds you. I'm totally OK with that.

My real low is how much it bugs me when I see people say there's 'no content' in Sea of Thieves. I hate the meaningless word 'content,' for one thing, but more importantly, you can't evaluate every game with a scale that weighs the number of assets. I mean, you can, but I don't see any good in it. I do want more stuff in Sea of Thieves (especially sealife!) and I have my own issues with its design, but dismissing it for 'not having enough content' entirely ignores the time Chris hid on the back of some teenagers' ship and relayed all their hilarious bickering to James and I, which was extremely good and had nothing to do with 'content.' I don't care if people don't like Sea of Thieves ($60 per friend is admittedly a lot for some freeform pirating), but I wish I could permanently bury the idea that more bullet points automatically makes a better game.

Joe Donnelly: Murderous matchups

Murderous Pursuits is a fun assassination game. That is, when you can find human players. Lately, its servers have felt pretty empty, which is a shame because it falls pretty flat when you’re up against its predictable AI.BUT! Murderous Pursuits is free to play this weekend, which I hope buoys its playerbase. Learn more this-a-way, and, who knows, I might see you around for a humorous game of cat and mouse. I might even let you splat me in the face with a pie.  

Chris Livingston: PC Load Letter

Seeing this story about HP paying hackers to secure their printers turned my thoughts to the expensive plastic artifact that crouches within my entertainment center's lower cabinet. It's probably the sixth home printer I've had in my life, and as those who came before it, it is a Cursed Contraption of Pure Evil. Do home printers ever work well? Have they ever? Will they ever? When I print, one of three things happens:

  • It makes a bunch of whirring and clunking noises for 20 minutes and nothing comes out 
  • It makes a bunch of whirring and clunking noises for 20 minutes an essentially blank piece of paper comes out 
  • It does nothing and nothing comes out 

I don't know what Q&A process home printers go through, but I feel like the bar is set low. "Out of ten tests, does it do nothing nine times but on the tenth try it prints a semi-legible document where only half of the text is weirdly light grey and looks like it was printed during an earthquake? Good enough! Ship it and sell it for $700." Home printers eat toner and shit disappointment. That's all.

Andy Kelly: Interface interference

As a 4K monitor aficionado, Steam's high DPI update was a blessing. Now the UI looks all lovely and sharp. And I even like the new blue colour scheme added alongside the recent chat update. But what I don't like is how, when I quit a game, the content within the Steam window freezes, and I have to double click the top bar to bring it back to life.It's a tiny thing. Absolutely minor. Positively infinitesimal. But it annoys me every time. It might just be a quirk of my system and no one else on the planet is 'suffering' from it, but it happens to me, damn it, and I hate it. So if you work on the Steam UI team and you happen to see this, please do something about it. It's extremely important. Thank you.