This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The lows

Samuel Roberts: The Delayed But Whole

I was slightly sad—like, mid-level sad, as if a labrador had fell off a slide or something—to read that the next South Park game had been delayed into the next fiscal year. It doesn't entirely surprise me. When I played the sequel to The Stick of Truth at Gamescom last year, it felt like a bunch of the combat elements were still subject to change. I think they should keep polishing until it definitively feels like it builds on the relatively simple systems from the first game. It was nice to play an RPG that felt so light on PC, but a little complexity won't hurt to avoid repetition in the follow-up.

Besides, if the game is now targeting a summer release, that's more than fine with me. The schedule for this year is looking a little quiet for big games past March—a superhero-themed South Park RPG would be spot-on for that time of year. 

Chris Thursten: Thorton's chunky caramels

I really enjoyed reading Phil's retrospective on Alpha Protocol this week, but it made me faintly sad that the game never saw a sequel. It's no surprise that wonky cult RPGs with a million problems don't get more money thrown at them, but still: I'd love to see what a second pass at 'Bourne, but an action-RPG' could look like.

Alpha Protocol was the rough-but-charming Mass Effect 1 that never got a polished and streamlined Mass Effect 2. We'll never know what Mike Thorton might have been like had he spontaneously developed a personality in a second game.

Dare I say it, we'll never know which of three things Mike Thorton would have picked in the dramatic conclusion to Alpha Protocol 3: would he have destroyed the hacking minigame, and with it all minigames, everywhere? Would he have seized control of the hacking minigame, and attempted to use it to benefit humanity? (This is impossible.) Or would he, in a last act of self-sacrifice, merged with the hacking minigame, creating a new race of impossible people who are 50% word search, 50% bullshit?

Like I say, we'll never know.

Tom Senior: Everything dies

Death is my low of the week this week. It’s a real downer, isn’t it? The planet will one day be crisped to death by our sun and there will be nobody left to compare everything to Dark Souls. 

That brilliant series is set to expire quite soon, and for a series obsessed with worlds ending, the final piece of DLC is going to be very interesting. What will the final boss be? A giant head that shoots lasers? A gangly tentacled blob of pure entropy? Your character, but with a pointy goatee? Perhaps the dark will come, room by room, until there is simply nothing and you’re forced to hard-reboot your PC—a final expression of despair to see out the series.

Of course, it’s unlikely that this really is the end of Dark Souls. If From Software ever needs to make some money, a return to Souls series is a safe bet. By then its original creators may have moved on as time continues to slowly destroy us all. I will console myself with the knowledge that inevitable resurrection is the most Dark Soulsian fate Dark Souls could hope to enjoy.

Tom Marks: Foggy

I'm not really sure how to feel about Steam Direct, but my gut tells me not great. It feels like Valve is continuing to dilute what having a game on Steam means, while also taking their hands off the process even further. As mentioned in the official announcement blog post, "over Steam’s 13-year history, we have gradually moved from a tightly curated store to a more direct distribution model." It's a conscious choice, I just don't like the choice that's been made.

Steam is a platform that already struggles with discoverability and separating yourself from the junk. And there's a lot of junk—I should know, I sort through every new game released on Steam each week just to find a few good ones. It still provides unparalleled visibility during sales, online features like the friends list, and other benefits besides simply being a place to sell, but it's drifting farther and farther away from being the go-to place to get games and more toward just being a pile of uncurated everything. 

But I suppose we'll have to wait and see. Maybe this will actually be exactly what Steam needs, but my gut tells me it's not going to do much to solve the problems I currently have with the platform.

Chris Livingston: Skip it

I recently installed and reinstalled a ton of games, first so I could rank tree-chopping in survival games, and then so I could list the best customization sliders. In other words, I booted up about 25 different games in the span of two days, which means I sat through a lot of unskippable logo screens, intro movies, and cutscenes in a short period of time.

We all hate that crap, but I'd like to take an informal poll. When you're trying to skip a logo screen or intro movie, what's the sequence you try? I start with Esc, then tap the space bar, then Enter, then left-click with the mouse. I finish up by trying Esc a few more times. So, Esc-space-enter-click-Esc-Esc-Esc. How about you?

James Davenport: Nioh no

Nioh, the latest action adventure game from Team Ninja, came out this week. Unfortunately it’s only available for the PlayStation 4 and a PC release isn’t likely. Sony publishes the game, so they’ll probably want to keep it exclusive as extra incentive to buy their box. I get it. I mean, I have a PS4. I could buy Nioh and play it and get on with my life. But when I think about playing a Souls-like game, the last place I want to play it is on my couch. My housemates don’t need to watch a person they respect and care about waste away in the living room. 

I’d rather hide in my room and play an inch away from the screen. My cries of despair will at least be muffled that way, and no one can walk in front me. Moreso, it’s a bummer that we can’t see Nioh running flawlessly with every graphical frill turned on. From what I’ve seen, it’s a looker, but without a PS4 Pro most folks will have to choose between two options: a pretty mode that turns everything on at the expense of framerate and a mode that locks the framerate at the expense of looking fresh. With a decent mid-range PC, it wouldn’t be an issue whatsoever. Anyway, exclusives! Bah! 

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