This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Tom Senior: League of nations

Total War: Warhammer 2 is turning the traditional 4X campaign map into a race. Typically the series encourages players to conquer a certain number of territories to win a game, which results in sluggish mid-to-endgame segments as you gradually mop up weaker factions. It can still be a fun power trip, but it doesn’t require any strategic thought. Total War: Warhammer’s factions are instead fighting for control of a big magic vortex. As well as forcing armies into the same playspace, this makes it possible for a weaker force to sneakily claim victory while the others are duking it out. It occurs to me that this is exactly what a Skaven player would do. If only somehow they were in the game…

I’m pleased that The Creative Assembly have gone all-in on the races for Total War: Warhammer 2. Some people could argue that the lizardmen, who ride larger lizards into battle, live on the sillier end of the Warhammer spectrum. Those people would be right, but the setting has always welcomed colourful extremes, and who doesn’t want to command a T-Rex—ahem—Carnosaur, in battle? Chris’ hands-on preview of the game went up earlier, but you should pick up a copy of the latest issue for loads more sweet dino action. 

Phil Savage: Win & Yang

I've been diving into some of Steam's lesser known new releases, looking for some gems amid the anime mistakes. Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion is one such gem. It's a first person adventure about reuniting two planets—one dark, one light—via the activation of monoliths. It's strangely baggy, full of extraneous systems, but at the core is a striking monochromatic world, some interesting light-touch puzzles, and, best of all, a cool traversal method.

You can jump high into the air, and hold spacebar to glide. You can also build blocks, and use right-click to 'boost' towards them. By combining these two systems, you jury-rig a genuinely enjoyable basic flight system, not dissimilar to Just Cause 2's parachute/grappling hook combo. It doesn't make a lot of sense in the context of the world, but it does weirdly fit the serene, meditative pace. The story is a letdown—full of vaguely profound Taoist quotes—but Bokida offers a stark and striking world that's worth experiencing. 

Evan Lahti: Bro!

We recently complained that Final Fantasy Tactics needs to come to PC. As it turns out it's been hiding in plain sight—a German equivalent of it, anyway.

I dug into Battle Brothers over the Memorial Day weekend after hearing Josh Sawyer and David Goldfarb rave about it on Twitter, and it's exactly the sort of combat-focused, fantasy turn-based strategy game I've been looking for since I played FFT. It has XCOM's brutality, too: your prized spearman might lose his head without warning, and even if a party member survives a fight, they might be stuck with a condition, like a collapsed lung, that permanently lowers stats. For this reason, I've only allowed myself to get emotionally attached once a character hits level 3, at which point I name them after a spice, like Cayenne or Basil. Onward, Spice Boys!

Some areas of the game are a bit shallow—in 18 hours I've encountered basically the same mission types over and over—but the fundamentals of combat (elevation, line of sight, action points, fatigue, shields, and armor degradation) all work harmoniously to deliver tough, procedurally-generated fights. Recommended.

Chris Livingston: CC Gee

Elder Scrolls Legends arrived on Steam this week, thus lowering the barrier to entry for an extremely lazy person as myself by making it so I could just click one button. So, I've been playing a little and compared to all of the other CCGs I've played (none) it's pretty fun! If you're looking for some sort of deep analysis, you'll have to check with Tim or Tom, because all I really know is I can make a picture of an orc attack a picture of an imp, and make a picture of a healer heal the picture of a spider, and if I do those things better than the computer (I'm not playing actual humans yet) then I win and get some new pictures to do things with.

Will I dive into Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering now? No. Will I watch livestreams of pro CCG matches? I strongly doubt it. But I will sit here at my desk sometimes and make pictures attack other pictures, because it's fun.

Samuel Roberts: Segaaaaa

I could never admit to enjoying the occasional tipple of Sonic the Hedgehog in front of my immersive sim-loving friends, of course. But yet, on the infrequent occasions when Sonic is great, I'm all in. I played Sonic Mania at the PC Gamer Weekender in February and really enjoyed it. It's a remix of the old Mega Drive games, with some familiar imagery and lots of new levels, too. You can't go wrong by replicating the great platforming systems of 20+ years ago.

This week, Sega announced a release date of August for the game. I'm looking forward to blasting through it, honestly—I think I've played every 2D Sonic in one form or another, except Knuckles and Chaotix, which looked like the best game in the world to me in about 1995.  

James Davenport: A far cry from computers

I’ve been away from my computer for a week. I know, I kno—please stop hitting me. I know. It’s been hard on me too. In that time I’ve ignored Friday the 13th, Vanquish, Prey, PUBG, and a dozen other games in my backlog (all from this year, damnit). I went back home the day after our Gianforte body-slammed a reporter (jerk won the election too) and a few days after Far Cry 5’s Montana setting was revealed. My home was in the spotlight, for better or worse, and there I was in it, looking at horses and complaining about the dry air. Trust me, you don’t even know what boogers are.

But getting away from technology for a week and drinking craft beer named after wild animals and snow conditions and bong water was good for me. For a while there I’d been getting stressed out about all the games I didn’t have time to play, but it turns out touching a horse on its big beautiful head and drinking beer are as good as any game I’ve played this year. Highly recommended. If you’re feeling frustrated, bogged down, or bored by games, don’t forget to take a break from time to time. I feel completely renewed, ready to die beneath my growing Steam library once and for all. 

PC Gamer

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