This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

Samuel Roberts: Pottermore

In one of those awkward leaks so convincing that everyone involved pretty much has to just keep quiet and hope the whole thing blows over, footage of a new, unannounced Harry Potter universe game did the rounds this week. And it looks pretty good in this form, letting you create a student and explore Hogwarts, while also battling wizards. All the relevant Harry Potter stuff appears to be in there. 

Harry Potter has a pretty atrocious history in games, outside of Lego, and I have no desire to play that terrible-looking Hogwarts mobile thing, so this at last looks like a 'core' game that people with taste can enjoy on some level. I'm actually looking forward to learning more about it next year. While it's unfortunate for the devs that it got leaked early, it's positive in the sense that it got so many people excited this week. A lot of people want to play something like this. 

Philippa Warr: Insider-er information

I am lightly intrigued by the news that Playdead might be following up Limbo and Inside with a lonely sci-fi title. I say “lightly intrigued” rather than excited because the project is reportedly still in an “open, idea-developing phase” which feels like it could encompass anything from multiple prototypes to concepts scribbled on a tissue at 2am and read to baffled colleagues the following morning. The news tallies with some concept art released earlier this year, but again, the existence of concept art isn’t the same as confirmation that a game exists and will be completed. But light intrigue is a nice feeling: some devs whose work I like are tinkering with a genre I like. Good!

Evan Lahti: Smooth sailing

I'm always looking for games that are going to push the 144hz ceiling of my Acer XB270HU.

My usual diet of FPSes is usually a good showcase, but there's nothing like a game where speed is intrinsic to the experience to make me feel great about running a high-refresh display.

I'd been anticipating Forza Horizon 4 all year, but I was wondering how it would come off the starting line after its predecessor had some hitching issues around its launch period in 2016. Jarred annihilated any concerns I had after his performance analysis revealed the Forza Horizon 4 system requirements to be comfortably low, going so far to call it "the definitive sandbox racing experience." I can't wait to hop in tonight. 

Tom Senior: Hell yes

It’s about time we learned more about Diablo’s future. Diablo 3’s getting a bit long in the tooth and the time is right for a few look at the series, but what will it be? The opening main stage panel at Blizzcon 2018, Diablo: What’s Next? should hopefully give us a clearer indication of what some of the multiple unannounced Diablo projects are. Naturally I’m holding out for a proper sequel but you never know, it could be a mobile hidden objects game based in Deckard Cain’s junk room, or a VR experience set in Asmodan’s toilet. God, I really hope it isn’t that.

Steven Messner: Return of Creed

Assassin's Creed Odyssey is out and I am happy to say that it is amazing. Having spent the last week of my life reviewing it, the highest praise I can give it is that all I want to do is to keep playing—and that's a good thing because some of the best bits happen after the story is over. Instead of just having to clean up endless side quests, Odyssey also packs in a really cool endgame story that is full-on Assassin's Creed: Present-day sequences, mystical artifacts, and more. Right now, I'm trying to hunt down the final members of the Cult of Kosmos to see who their leader is, while simultaneously tracking down hidden artifacts guarded by Grecian mythological beasts. I won't spoil what these creatures exactly are, but each one has been awesome. As someone that really fell off the Assassin's Creed boat after Black Flag, it feels good to enjoy this series again.

THE LOWS

Samuel Roberts: Indy games

While I don't have an enormous desire to play the GOG re-release of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, given that it's an ancient Tomb Raider-esque adventure from the early days of 3D, it is kind of crazy there aren't more decent Indiana Jones games out there. Even though Harrison Ford will somehow play the character again in a fifth film, the character doesn't have to age in games, and the character has a reasonably decent Lucasarts legacy: Fate of Atlantis being the obvious highlight.

But there's a lot of fun stuff you could do with the character. While EA gives Star Wars the big blockbuster game treatment with entire seasons of content, a much smaller developer could make another great Indiana Jones point-and-click adventure. Seems strange that it's been almost a decade since the last time anyone tried making an Indy game.

Tom Senior: Inexperienced

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is gorgeous and full of good stuff, I just wish that I could explore it at my pace rather than the pace set by the game’s aggressive level zoning. I don’t want to have to do a ton of sidequests to get me to the next good story bit, so I ended up paying ten bucks for a permanent 50 percent experience booster. This fixes the game for me, but I do regret having paid so much to change a basic number value. The booster doesn’t unlock anything the devs have made, it’s just adjusting a slider to make the game more palatable. In a £50 game, that really sucks.

Phil Savage: Petty sessions

Pretty much all I've been doing this last week is playing Forza Horizon 4, so here's a very small, specific complaint from that small corner of gaming. I've started exploring the modes and options outside of the main campaign, mostly Team Adventure—a series of team-based multiplayer modes that range from basic races to sillier playground-style games. It's been enjoyable enough, although I personally don't think multiplayer is Horizon's strong suit.

The worst part about it, though, is that—in regular, unranked play—there's no option to just leave after you've finished your best-of-five championship. Instead, your options are, 1) wait until the next championship timer slowly finishes counting down, 2) pause and quit after the event has started, or 3) bash Alt+F4 and restart the game—by far the quickest option. Whatever you do, you're inevitably screwing over the remaining players by leaving unbalanced teams. I'm not normally a fan of telling developers how to fix their shit, but: can we just have an exit button after we're done?

Evan Lahti: Cheat, and get cheated

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Fortnite's massive popularity has attracted some scum and villainy. Malware makers have latched onto the multi-platform battle royale game, in one case luring players who are looking for cheats into downloading an .EXE that "takes an interest in ... browser session information, cookies, Bitcoin wallets, and also Steam sessions," according to a report from Malwarebytes. Yikes. YouTube doesn't bear all responsibility for scams like this, of course, but it's surprising that the world's number-two search engine, YouTube, doesn't have a mechanism for warning viewers that they're being directed to a website that looks untrustworthy, particularly if they know the age of the viewer.

Steven Messner: Assassin's Greed

Yes, Assassin's Creed is my high. But it's microtransactions are also my low. In-game you can access a store full of cosmetic items and "time-savers" like experience boosts. This kind of stuff feels par for the course in multiplayer games, where people are looking to maybe expedite the process of leveling up a new character, but it feels needlessly greedy in a singleplayer RPG. Why do these sets of armor cost money? Why would you offer a boost that means people effectively don't have to play your game as much? Isn't that kind of the point of buying it in the first place?

That said, the good news is all of this stuff is tucked away and doesn't bleed into the game at all. There's no popups or anything trying to shake you down, so it's not overly offensive. But the fact that it exists at all makes me roll my eyes.