This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The lows

Tyler Wilde: Time travel

I’m disappointed by Mass Effect: Andromeda as whole, but we’ve already talked extensively about our differing opinions on it—James and I gave it a healthy roast on the livestream—so I'll focus today's gripe on one specific thing: the passage of time. It doesn't feel like there is any.

Andromeda suggests time in blocks of change—an irradiated planet becomes less irradiated after a condition is met—but it’s unconvincing because everything else is immediate. When I prepare a planet for colonization, there’s a colony fleet seconds away. When I have a conversation with a character, they’ve already emailed me about it by the time I walk ten feet to a terminal. I can fly to any star system in 15 seconds, and there’s no indication that any more time than that is passing on the Tempest. It is never nighttime on the Nexus or any of the planets. No one eats or sleeps. My entire journey seems to take place in the same day.

A lot of the same remarks could be made about any of the original trilogy games, but it’s Andromeda’s slickness that undoes it in this case. In Mass Effect 2, I’m on a big, clunky (on the inside, at least) ship full of unvoiced crewmembers tapping at consoles. I don’t see them take shifts, but I can imagine them taking shifts.The abstract galaxy map shows my ship putting around star systems, which I naturally associate with the film device where a plane beelines across the globe and we know that time has passed, we’re just not watching the characters eat microwaved chicken breasts. Andromeda feels more literal. My ship is flying between systems in realtime. I was on Eos two minutes ago, and now I’m on the Nexus, and in two more minutes I’ll be back on Eos completing a quest, with no abstraction to suggest this hasn’t just happened to the characters in the same timespan. I wonder how much a little ‘hours and days’ ticker during the space transitions would change my perception?

Evan Lahti: Space, the banal frontier

Mass Effect's exploration is underwhelming, and as someone who's passionate about mankind's future in space, I'm disappointed. When I heard that the next Mass Effect would be a story about pioneering, I admired that one of the biggest publishers in the world was casting you not as another space super soldier, another Shepard, but as a Space Lewis or Clark. 

Andromeda simply doesn't give you ownership over discovery. It takes the 'single-player MMO' approach to its open world: swathes of geometry dotted with objectives and map markers that you commute between. Everything is hand-designed 'content' that you're meant to encounter, and as a result there's no intrinsic motivation for me to inspect and wander its worlds. In the last five years that Andromeda was in development, games like Astroneer, Kerbal Space Program, Space Engineers, and even Steep have shown the value of letting players figure things out themselves.

Tom Senior: Destiny’s child

Destiny 2 is coming, and I’m scared. I have played hundreds of hours on PS4 (traitorous, I know) and had an amazing time raiding with friends, hitting co-op strikes and fighting out in the Crucible PvP mode. Now everything is going to change. Rumours suggest that the sequel will be very different. It could become more of a dedicated open world game. The shooting is going to have to change, especially if Bungie is planning to bring the game to PC, and what about my favourite class, The Warlock? Will these magnificent skirted space wizards survive the journey to sequeldom? 

I’ve studied the leaked poster intently. The Brock Lesnar lookalike in front looks like a Titan, is the dude on the right a Warlock? The one at the back doesn’t look much like one of the hooded Hunters of the original. And what about that faded colour scheme? Are they rowing back from the vivid knights-in-space feel of the first game? Is it even coming out on PC? It must, surely. There’s a great big gap in the market for a gorgeous, big-budget, persistent-world sci-fi shooter. I want it now.

Joe Donnelly: Sorry soul

Much like Tom, I too fear for the future of my social life this week. The difference is, my kryptonite is definitely coming to PC and soon—Dark Souls 3's The Ringed City DLC is heading our way this coming Tuesday

Which, as a Souls devotee is great news, right? As much as I'm looking forward to the series' final farewell, I've only recently broken from Lordran having not long finished my first NG+ playthrough, storming the base game and Ariandel for a second time. Strangely, I enjoyed areas I'd disliked on my first visit much more on this playthrough—namely the Profaned Capital and Archdragon Peak—and even talking about it now makes me feel like storming PvP by the Pontiff's Bonfire, or laying down tools and going bare knuckle in a fight club. 

Imagine what this desire will be like come Tuesday with whole new areas to explore? I may be absent from this column next week. 

Samuel Roberts: NieR miss

It's a shame that the triumphant arrival of Platinum's NieR: Automata on PC has been let down by a few issues with the port—in Andy's review, he singles out the game crashing on AMD cards, for example, but based on the game's Steam reviews it seems like other users are having a problems, too. Patches appear to be in the works, but it's a bit of a shame, considering the game is otherwise so wildly different to anything on PC (Platinum's Metal Gear Rising is possibly the closest). 

I'm still looking forward to giving this action RPG a go this weekend, that said, and it's such an unusual game for a big publisher to make these days that I'm interested on that basis alone. 

Wes Fenlon: Privacy? LOL

In 2016, the FCC published a set of rules preventing internet providers and other telecomm companies from selling your personal browsing history and other data. They didn't like those rules very much, because selling that history to advertisers is worth money! Well, good news for the telecomms: the U.S. Senate voted to kick those rules to the curb on Thursday, and if the same bill passes the house, you can essentially kiss your internet privacy goodbye. Sure, ISPs say they plan to enact their own privacy rules. Maybe some of them will. But if the FCC rules are revoked, there will be no one looking over their shoulders enforcing protections that put consumers first. It's hard to see how that will ever work out in our favor.

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