This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Samuel Roberts: Fable returns?

It's definitely too early to get excited about a game when it hasn't even staffed up its full development team yet, but this week brought the Eurogamer-sourced story that a new Fable game is in the works at Forza Horizon developer Playground Games. Development sounds like it's just started, basically, and after Scalebound and Fable Legends, I don't want to act too certain that it's definitely going to happen.

But I'd love a new Fable in an open world. The tone of that universe was unlike anything else in games, like a classic fantasy film you'd watch at Christmas or something. Plus, I'm keen for another game to challenge MGS5's status as having the best videogame dog. 

Andy Kelly: Spy hard

Alpha Protocol is one of those games I always assumed people just lied to themselves about liking. A cult hit that, secretly, wasn't any good. But after years of it sitting unloved in my Steam library, I decided to fire it up. Obsidian is one of my favourite developers, and I'll give anything they make the time of day—even if it takes me almost a decade to get around to it.

And, well, turns out folk were right. Alpha Protocol is, despite flaws too numerous to count, a surprisingly excellent espionage RPG. The stealth and combat, which reminds me of the Syphon Filter games (remember those?), is fairly average, but elevated by a superb dialogue/reputation system that really lets you roleplay. Hero agent Michael Thorton is a generic lump of flesh, but you can shape him into something interesting.

I'm not terribly far in, but my attention has been grabbed enough to keep me playing—and from what Phil tells me (he's finished it), it gets a lot better when you leave the first act. So if you've been sleeping on Alpha Protocol yourself, it's probably worth a try. It's no Metal Gear 5, but the story and dialogue more than make up for its technical limitations. And if you jack it up to 4K, the rather ropey, low-res visuals are a little easier on the eye.

Jarred Walton: NAS-ty amounts of storage

Tuan loves extreme hardware, including his insane Internet connection. He’s also running a Core i9-7960X on his main workstation. Yeah. But when it comes to storage, he’s on an entirely different plane. He has four NAS units, making multiple backup copies of all his data, plus cloud backups for good measure. (We won’t ask what he’s storing, but I’m pretty sure he’s plotting to take over the world.) The latest upgrade to his QNAP NAS comes via Seagate’s 12TB IronWolf Pro hard drives, ten of them to be precise.

What do you get from 120TB of NAS storage? If you’re thinking of connecting to the NAS via typical means, forget about it. Tuan had to team up two 10Gbps connections, which still might be a bit of a bottleneck. But you can’t argue with the performance results, at least for sequential data accesses, or even playing games. The NAS is able to provide 2,100/2,200 MB/s read/write speeds. More importantly, it can load games as fast as an SSD. (Just don’t run a random I/O workload and expect similar NVMe speeds.)

Congratulations, Tuan, you have my envy. Now get to work downloading all of Steam.

Joe Donnelly: Grand Theft Acting

This week, I spent a chunk of time mucking around in Grand Theft Auto 5's roleplaying servers. I've often admired my colleagues' exploits in this vein—not least Steven's Half-Life 2 adventures and downright hilarious Ark mishaps—but have always found excuses not to jump in myself. After becoming a taxi driver, a refuse collector, a drug dealer, a renegade street disciplinarian, and a 10-month-serving convict in Los Santos I can confirm: I love it. 

Admittedly, it took me a while but once I got over the initial awkwardness of chatting to total strangers while in character, I quickly found myself stopping at red lights, speaking politely to police officers and generally behaving myself in a game that otherwise encourages misbehaviour at every turn. I'm always moaning about my extensive backlog in this column, but my new lease of life for this branch of GTA has bumped its way to the top of my list. I'll write something about my experiences down the line. 

James Davenport: Together again

Hey, so The Division? That game I gave a 68 back in 2016? It's good now and you should play it. Against all of my expectations, Ubisoft studio Massive Entertainment stuck to its guns over the years and, through a slow progression of quality-of-life updates, rebalance patches, and expansion releases, finally made a version of The Division that doesn't grind to a halt after the campaign wraps. Previously, you'd have to throw yourself at the Dark Zone to get the best endgame items, but now the endgame checklist is huge, offering up about a dozen activities for finding the best stuff. Our guy Omri did a great job breaking down a given endgame to-do list, and boy-o, it's a big one

Wes Fenlon: Final Fantasy XII is coming to PC at last

OK, this was Sam's high last week, but I'm excited about it enough to double-dip. My favorite Final Fantasy, IX, came to PC in 2016. The best Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VI, landed in 2015. And now, finally, the last great Final Fantasy is coming to PC, too. Final Fantasy XII was ahead of its time in 2006, and what were once divisive topics—its combat system, world design, and more political, less chosen-one-saves-the-world story—all seemed to be points in its favor when the HD remaster landed on PS4 last year. It's been a long wait for that version of the game to finally make its way to PC, but the perks are going to be worth it. 60 fps instead of 30, support for ultrawide monitors, multiple soundtrack options… It's the definitive version of the game, and I can't wait to find out if modders cook up ways to make it even better. Or stranger, which would be A-OK with me once I've explored Ivalice again.

PS: Square, once PC players learn about the history of Ivalice, XII's setting, it would be a great time to put Final Fantasy Tactics on the dang computer.