This week's highs and lows in PC gaming


Wes Fenlon: Hollow victory

Okay okay okay okay okay, yes, we were late to the party on Hollow Knight. But there: we reviewed it, and we freakin' loved it. This fantastic Metroid-inspired adventure deserves all the love we can heap upon it—the more you play, the more you come to appreciate the intricacy of its world, the feel and balance of its combat, which is simple but stays engaging for the length of its journey. And that length is itself a surprise. Hollow Knight just keeps going and going, never really forcing you down a critical path, just trusting that great design will help you find your way through the journey eventually. Undoubtedly one of the best games of the year.

Tim Clark: The loneliness of the long-distance Hearthstone player

An easy one for me this week, having returned from an amazing trip to Shanghai on Monday, where I watched the HCT Spring Championships, where I watched Muzzy’s ultimately doomed bid for Hearthstone glory. The feature I wrote off the back of it is probably my favourite thing I’ve done this year, so if you’d like some insight into how players deal with the insane stress and crushing disappointment of flying around the world only to get savaged by a Pirate Warrior with the nut draw, please do check it out. 

James Davenport: Back to school

I know. I’m one of PC Gamer’s bigger Dark Souls people, but I really didn’t like Dark Souls 2 the first time around. Despite spending 80 hours looking for that sad king, I don’t remember much about it, and what I do remember doesn’t sit too well with me. But after Hollow Knight hollowed me out, I figured I’d finally give Scholar of the First Sin a shot, see the new stuff, and get to the DLCs I missed back when. And damn, this is what Dark Souls 2 should’ve been from the start. With a new lighting engine, darker areas like No-man’s Wharf feel unlike anything I’ve played in a Souls game. Lighting torches is rewarding micro goal, revealing hidden enemies and warding off darkstalkers in true, near pitch black darkness. 

Scholar puts enemies in smarter places too, introducing bigger baddies where it makes more sense and ramping up the invisible tutorials in sensible, surprising ways. There are so many strange, playful ideas in Dark Souls 2 that I retroactively miss in Dark Souls 3, even if a few don't quite work. Even so, I think this trip back to Drangleic has potential to shift around my favorites ever so slightly.

Bo Moore: Delay Daddy

It might seem odd to call a game delay a high of the week, but I want to give kudos to Vernon Shaw and the Game Grumps team for how they handled the would-be launch of their highly anticipated (to some, at least) dad dating simulator, Dream Daddy. The game was slated for release yesterday, but some last-minute bugs reared their ugly head and Shaw made the call to hold off the launch for a bit rather than push out a potentially broken game. It was a tough call to make, no doubt, but one that should be commended. I think we can all agree we'd rather wait to play a fully functional game than get in a bit sooner but suffer through issues. 

Andy Kelly: Mad world

When Avalanche's Mad Max game was released in September 2015, so was Metal Gear Solid V. On the same day! And, well, Max lost out. I played it for maybe 5 hours, but Big Boss kept drawing me back in, and I eventually lost interest. Fast forward to June this year and someone links me to this excellent (and very long) Mad Max video review, which inspires me to give it another go. And, having just finished it this week, I'm glad I did. It's one of the best open world games on PC, and I'm a damn fool for not giving it a proper chance.

I usually have no time for busywork in open world games. A map scattered with icons is hell to me. But I felt compelled to complete Mad Max's many optional distractions and side quests, mainly because I love the setting so much. For a post-apocalyptic desert it's surprisingly beautiful and varied. There's a haunting, melancholy feel to the world that has echoes of the movies. And I love how the first area, the Great White, was once an ocean floor, with rusted boat carcasses, lighthouses, and upturned cargo ships littering the landscape.

No configuration of Max's new car looks as cool as his old interceptor, but I was hooked on upgrading it. Seeing it evolve over time from a rusty old shell to a spike-covered tank with a V8 roaring on the hood gave me a great sense of progression and ownership. By the end I'd fallen a little bit in love with that stupid car. And when you finally do get the interceptor back, taking it for a ride was a special moment for someone who grew up with Mad Max.

So yeah, if you bought Mad Max in a sale or something and it's been lingering in your library, now might be the time to finally play it. It's brilliantly optimised for PC too. Here are some screenshots I took on my journey through the apocalypse. You might be less forgiving of its rather derivative open world design if you aren't as into Mad Max as I am, but it's worth taking your car for a spin in that incredible, atmospheric wasteland at least once.

Tom Senior: Fighting talk

The Evo Championship Series takes place this weekend. The world’s best beat ‘em up players will meet in Vegas to decide winners across nine different fighters, including Tekken 7 and Street Fighter V. The matches are streamed live on Evo’s Twitch network, and you can watch in standard definition for free.

I’m no fighting games expert, but I really enjoy watching these tourneys every year. Fighting games are often incredibly technical at the highest level, but as as casual spectator it is still easy to grasp the basic flow of a fight in any system, and games tend to be full of dramatic turnarounds, fatal mistakes and missed punish opportunities. It helps that the Evo crowd is so loud. It’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement.

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