This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Tom Senior: Ocean madness

The scurvy-riddled crew of the good ship PC Gamer waded into Sea of Thieves this week, with entertaining consequences. The game has bags of promise and I’m convinced now that it could be absolutely massive if it gets its quest/reward structure right and introduces a bit of permanence and ongoing progression. The fundamentals of crewing a vessel in co-op are just right, requiring a degree of communication without being too fiddly. The water is beautiful and everything is pleasingly chunky, and actually quite beautiful in the right light.

I confess that we actually had more fun locking players in the brig than doing proper pirating. There were three of us on a four-pirate ship, which meant our fourth member was assigned by the matchmaking system. The first stranger seemed harmless enough, until they found a bell on our ship and started ringing it incessantly as we were trying to navigate. That’s jail for you, Rando Calrissian. That player logged off after a few minutes when it was obvious we weren’t going to let them out. The second stranger seemed harmless and didn’t ring any bells at all—a big improvement. However, when we were on an island trying to drum up some pirate business they pulled up anchor and seemed to be trying to sail off with our boat. Blam—you’re doing time for that, Marlon Rando. After a while they sent us a pleading message asking to be let out of jail. Then it occurred to us that they might have been bringing the boat closer so we didn’t get eaten by sharks on the long swim from the island. We had been too keen to assign pirate blame, now it was time to feel true pirate shame.

Tyler Wilde: Shark gank

I didn’t mess with Sea of Thieves’ brig this week, but being killed by sharks while James selfishly survived, finding out what happens when you sail off the map, and ramming into other players’ ships was by far my highlight of the week. I can’t wait to see what Rare is holding back for the full release—we jotted down a few of our hopes and wishes earlier—and I wish the beta wouldn’t end. Semi-related, if you’re also playing Sea of Thieves this weekend, Chris and I drafted some important pirate rules, which I think will improve your experience:

1. Pirates must never look at their own treasure map. Right click to show the treasure map to a mate, so that they can read it. 

2. The same goes for compasses.

3. All treasure shall be placed in the crow’s nest.

4. One step equals two paces. (You’ll understand when you play.)

5. If your ship is sinking, you must go down with it while playing a song.

Philippa Warr: Sub standards 

My high is also a low, if you're thinking geographically. I've been having a really lovely time beneath the waves in Subnautica. The review will be on the site shortly, but a truncated verdict based on over 70 hours of really early access play and about 18 of my story-driven v1.0 playthrough is that I'm having a blast. I always knew that singing crab had some great opinions—it really is better down where it's wetter. 

Joe Donnelly: The boy is back in town

Following the Grand Theft Auto roleplaying shenanigans I mentioned in this column last week, I’ve since returned to GTA Online proper. And while one of my new year resolutions was to reduce my ever-increasing backlog, I’ve only gone and purchased a Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack. I’ve now spent over $300,000 on clothes and shoes and spoilers and neon strips and custom tires and novelty horns and guns—and I’ve not even begun to think about how much time actually doing missions will detract from my pile of shame playthroughs.   

And do you know what? After feeling a wee bit burnt out towards the end of last year, I’m the happiest I’ve been playing a videogame for quite some time. Spend your own money responsibly, dearest readers, but I’ve enjoyed this stint of Los Santos retail therapy.   

Chris Livingston: Slow my roll

Having never played Stardew Valley, I've jumped into farm-life sim My Time At Portia with both feet, and I'm mostly enjoying my time there. With so many different crafting projects to undertake, and so many resources to gather to build them, I was initially rushing around like a madman, feeling there weren't enough hours in the day to do everything I needed. But I've finally started to relax and play more at my own pace, spending more time exploring and happy to let projects go half-finished until I actually feel like doing them. It's a mellow game, serene and mostly peaceful, so what's the rush?

Jarred Walton: Come on down!

I might be getting a bit ahead of things, but at CES earlier this month, many of the SSD manufacturers said they expected the NAND shortage to finally be easing up, with the result that prices would be dropping. For reference, there were a few budget 480GB SSDs available in July 2016 for as low as $90. Last month, the best regular price I could find was around $150. Right now, looking at Newegg, there are a few drives in the 500GB class for under $125. That’s progress in the right direction.

And since this week was SSD week for me--I reviewed both the 500GB and 4TB versions of Samsung’s new 860 Evo line, followed by Intel’s new much improved 760p NVMe drive, and I’ve got the Crucial MX500 review in the works. The good news keeps coming, and we should see quite a few more SSDs launch in the coming months. The 860 Evo currently carries a higher price than the 850 Evo line, but that should change in the coming months. Intel’s 760p meanwhile doubles the performance of the previous 600p series, and at the same price, making it my choice for the best budget NVMe SSD. Of course, it still costs 40 percent more than an 850 Evo, but it’s also up to three times as fast. Not that you’d really notice if you’re just playing games.