This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Tom Senior: Dead happy

In Tristram what is dead may never die, because a tall skinny dude with bleached white hair keeps bringing everybody back to fight for him. The Necromancer came to Diablo 3 this week with a spread of spectacular corpse-bothering abilities that let you eat them, blow them up, or raise them to join you for a little while. As a bonus, enemy remains appear as chunks of pink torso that make the game look like a big gross buffet.

The Necromancer update demonstrates that Diablo 3 doesn’t really need new environments and bad guys right now. A fresh suite of abilities is a good excuse to hit adventure mode and return to parts of the game I’d quite forgotten, despite having played the game for hundreds of hours. In the long term Diablo 3 is in an odd place, and it feels like Blizzard doesn’t quite know what to do with it. A new class every so often and a continuation of the seasons and free updates would serve nicely, however, while the future of the series is decided.

Joe Donnelly: Contact in Los Santos

After years of theories, forum posts, YouTube videos and some outright blind speculation, the Chiliad Mystery community finally discovered alien life forms by virtue of datamining Grand Theft Auto 5's files this week. Poring over the files tied to the open world crime sim's most recent Gunrunning update, Chiliad Guru Tadd and his cronies made some behind-the-scenes alterations to the game that allowed first contact with UFOs in Los Santos—a feat that's been four years in the making. 

Tadd et al reckon the discovery throws up more questions than answers, though, and a sizeable chunk of the game's playerbase appears dismayed by what it perceives as an anticlimax. Nevertheless, I'm happy for the Chiliad Mystery crew for the dedication they've shown in cracking this case over several years. Tadd reckons the GTA Online sighting might even be tied to the game's single-player mode. I guess we'll find out in due course. The truth, after all, is out there.

Tim Clark: Who doesn’t like dragons? Monsters, that’s who

It’s been quite a week for my specialist subject of semi-competitive card games. The Elder Scrolls: Legends has lured me back with its first proper expansion, the dragons and shouts-themed Heroes of Skyrim set. It was fun watching the subreddit completely freak out about this card being overpowered before they’d even played with it, only to sleep on the fact that this one is even more egregious. But honestly I’m having a lot of fun with the set so far, using an aggressive Archer list which Admirable gave me and my own nasty Pilfer Monk to prey on players running greedy experimental decks. Being the fun police feels good. I’ve also been impressed to see how Bethesda’s Twitch drops scheme, which hands out substantial amounts of free gold, soul gems and legendary cards just for watching streamers play the game, have energised a userbase that at times felt like it was on life support. Long may the resurgence continue.

Meanwhile, in a high beamed from the future, I’m off to Shanghai next week to watch Hearthstone’s Spring Championship. I’ll be shadowing Muzzy’s bid to bring the trophy back to America and confirm his position as this year’s breakout performer. We spoke this morning and honestly that guy sounds more laid back about competing on the big stage than I am about entering the press tournament. Pick him as your chosen champion and see if he earns you some packs. We’re also going to get the next expansion revealed on Thursday, with rumours tipping the Lich King to be the theme. Makes sense to me, as the releases tend to alternate between creepy and funny settings. (Think Whispers of the Old Gods versus One Night in Karazhan.) It’s an exciting times to be a fan of wizard poker in all its forms.

Samuel Roberts: W4tch Dogs

Adding four-player co-op to Watch Dogs 2 months after release is a nice bonus, especially when it lets you and three friends wander around San Francisco as a pack. Truth be told, I haven't given Watch Dogs 2 much longer than a few hours so far, but I love the vibe of the open world. It's like the opposite of what big budget games normally go for. The PCG guys are talking about getting back into GTA Online, and maybe we'll combine a few hours of this new mode with that for a bit of variety. 

I like the way Ubisoft has supported the game's life beyond release. Additions like the paintball gun, which fits the universe of the game so much better than the standard machine guns of a normal open world game, suggest that the developers have been thinking hard about how to make that breezy tone work across every part of Watch Dogs 2. 

Tyler Wilde: Frugal fantasy

Steven’s glowing review of Stormblood convinced me to install Final Fantasy XIV, but for a couple days the icon has just been staring me down, challenging me to make the first move. On one hand, it seems ridiculous to expect new players to work their way through the stories of A Realm Reborn and Heavensward—which I understand will sap a hundred hours of my life—to enjoy the new stuff in Stormblood. At least not without paying quite a lot. But then, I wouldn’t watch the last season of The Sopranos first, would I? So do I potentially give myself the best experience and start from the beginning (with the real possibility I’ll lose interest and never make it to Stormblood) or do I catch up on cutscenes and head to where all the experienced players are? This dilemma is my high because it’s about as indulgent a dilemma as one can have. Do I have fun this way, or this way? Hm.

Chris Livingston: Trust in Rust

We—not just games writers but players—like getting a look behind the scenes and hearing unusual details from behind the curtains of game development. It's not often a studio will willingly offer up unpleasant news or facts about its games, which is why it's so refreshing when one does. Garry Newman of Facepunch Studios, developer of Rust, in his usual candid manner, revealed the kind of tidbit few other devs (or their PR firms) will let anyone see: the number of copies of Rust that have been refunded on Steam, along with the total dollar amount of those refunds. Over 300,000 copies of Rust have been returned, which amounts to over $4 million.

I hope it's clear this isn't my high of the week because people are returning Rust for a refund. It's just that I appreciate that sort of transparency, and it's rare (understandably) to see that kind of data offered up. I think we all enjoy numbers—sales, player counts, and other stats—and while sometimes, in the case of bad news, it can boil down to a case of sour grapes, in general I think data are just interesting to us. I wish more developers and publishers were as forthcoming.

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