This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS

James Davenport: Spooky season

Damn. Fortnite Season 6 just had to go all in on Halloween. I'm a sucker for the season: big on horror, despair, and dogs. OK, so dogs aren't exclusively associated with Halloween, but besides a werewolf and vampire and the ability to turn into a shadow, Fortnite has pets now and they're just the cutest (until you think about what happens to them when you die). 

I'm still working through how I feel about the changes to the loot table and map, but my early impression is that Fortnite is a leaner, simpler version of itself—at least for now. A ton of spray weapons were vaulted, bounce pads are gone (what?), and rifts bit the dust (except for rifts-to-go). Getting around the map takes a bit more effort now and skilled building is more viable than it's been in months. As a result, matches have so far felt a touch slower and less chaotic than in Season 5. Shadow Stones are the fancy new consumable, an interesting answer to the spray meta and mobility changes. Pop one and you turn into a ghostly shadow. Movement speed and jump height are buffed and you can phase through walls. Rushing another player is a sneakier affair with Shadow Stones, something that takes a bit more forethought than rifting or bouncing while spraying a drum gun in the general direction of your opponent. So far, I'm into it. Not like I have a choice. Gotta get that bat glider. 

Philippa Warr: Fossil Fuel

This week I sank a handful of hours into the early access dinosaur theme park management game, Parkasaurus. It’s in Early Access so all the usual caveats about only buying if you’d be happy if the game doesn’t progress beyond this current state or it develops in directions you didn’t plan for. BUT! for me, even with all those caveats and the features yet to be developed, it’s the most enjoyable dino theme park management game I’ve played this year. A substantial part of the appeal is how downright adorable it all is. There’s a cosmetic dino item you can buy with your park profits called the Cone of Shame, for goodness sake! It makes dinosaurs look like they’ve had a trip to the vet and are now not allowed to scratch. I’m currently trying to work out how useful a Cone of Shame would be on a sauropod. Would the neck length render the cone useless? 

Steven Messner: Smooth ride

I've been digging into Forza Horizon 4 this week ahead of its launch on October 2, and holy hell is this game good. If you played Horizon 3, you know exactly what you're in for, except Horizon 4 runs like a dream—and I'm not just talking about the car handling. Even on my older GTX 970, I'm over 60fps with most settings set to high and a few on ultra, which is a marked improvement over Horizon 3. To be fair, I didn't stick with Horizon 3 long enough to see if patches improved performance, but it early on there was loads of micro-stuttering that hitches that really put a damper on the racing for me. Horizon 4, comparatively, runs silky smooth and is just so much damn fun to play. With the addition of a Destiny-style endgame, this might end up being my go-to chillax game for weeks to come.

Chris Livingston: Griniron

I played a little card-based action football game called, appropriately enough, Action Card Football this week. It's a little confusing, as I'm not typically a card player and the tutorial is maybe a bit too brief, so I sit there kind of perplexed as cards fly around the screen and odds are calculated based on factors I don't completely understand. It's cute though, and fun, and I had a heck of a game where my AI opponent put together a drive in the final minute that led to my team tackling them on the one yard line to prevent them winning. It's not Madden, but it'll do in a pinch.

Tom Senior: Cloud save

I don’t know why, but we have a slight Final Fantasy obsession at PC Gamer. It’s rare for big-budget series to change so much with each entry. Sometimes the storytelling and RPG systems marry perfectly and you get a Final Fantasy 7, but sometimes you get highly produced corridors full of boring nonsense, like FF13. Sometimes you even get an MMO!

Anyway if your interests involve famous JRPG series and ranking things then check out our pick of the best Final Fantasy games on PC. We’ve taken into account the status of the ports as well, which is frankly why Final Fantasy 6 isn’t sitting pretty at the very top. Publishers, please don’t port the mobile versions of your good games onto PC, it generally doesn’t turn out very well.

Andy Kelly: Fir away

My heart belongs to Euro Truck Simulator 2, but sometimes I do prefer the long, atmospheric desert highways of the US to the grey, rain-soaked motorways of mainland Europe. But one thing that's always disappointed me about the stateside edition of SCS' superb simulator is the lack of variety. It's pretty much all scrub, sand, and rolling tumbleweed.

Which is why the imminent arrival of the new Oregon expansion has me excited. Now you can drive to the Pacific Northwest, home to sparkling lakes, endless vistas, Douglas Firs, and strange, otherworldly spirits dwelling in the woods. Well, in Twin Peaks anyway. It'll be nice to see a bit of greenery in American Truck Simulator, and the dramatic change of environment and atmosphere should create a stronger feeling of crossing the country.

THE LOWS

Philippa Warr: We will remember that

Telltale’s majority closure saw around 250 staff laid off without severance. We mentioned it last week in our lows but it’s worth including again, not least because of Tuesday’s statement on the official Telltale Games Twitter account assuring fans of the game that the remaining staff were trying to find a way to finish the final season. The statement was tone deaf bullshit, prioritising irate consumers and the wellbeing of a brand over human beings experiencing the real and terrifying repercussions of this situation.

Tom Senior: Supernova

RIP Wildstar. I only played it at launch and enjoyed it a lot, but was soon crowded out by other games (there were a lot of MMOs being released in those years). It always seems particularly sad when a massively multiplayer game closes because it marks the end of a shared history that players have formed together. It’s also a sad day for Carbine and the developers who have supported the game all this time. They marked the end with a series of special events, as MMO funeral tradition dictates.

I’ve never been there for the end of an MMO’s life, but former PCG staffer Chris Thursten was there for the end of Star Wars: Galaxies.

Chris Livingston: Hide and wreak

I'm not sure I've played a proper hidden object game before this week, but when I saw The Tiny Bang Story was briefly free on Steam for a day, and that over 160,000 people were playing it, I gave it a try. And now pretty much all I want to do is check out all the other hidden object games out there (and hey, we've got a handy list of great hidden object games). It's not a low because it's fun to discover a new bunch of games you enjoy, it's a low because I've already got a whole bunch of other games I need to play, and now I've got a bunch more, and all that extra clicking is going to wreak havoc on my already aching wrist.

Andy K: Clicked off

Enough with the RGB lighting already. I've been on the hunt for a new gaming mouse, and the number of good ones I see whose prices are seemingly jacked up because they have controllable RGB LEDs is frustrating. Sure, when I got my first RGB keyboard I was amazed, sitting and gawping at the swirling light display on my keys. But then, probably less than an hour later, I decided it was just annoying and set it to a flat, unchanging color.

PC hardware has a style problem. There are very few peripherals that are tasteful, simple, and stylish, at least compared to the sea of gaudy, colourful, over-designed mice, keyboards, speakers, and headsets out there. You know that Simpsons episode where Homer designs a car and it's terrible? That's most modern PC hardware. So please, cool it with the RGB lights. Or at least don't make your hardware more expensive for having ‘em.

Steven Messner: Rotten to the core

Last weekend I set out to build a new PC using some hand-me-down parts that I had received that, though older, were still a massive improvement over what I had. The real impetus was to get a new case because mine was noisy as hell and some of the USB ports stopped working, but who is going to turn down free parts? While I'm infinitely grateful to the person who supplied them, it ended up being a bit of a horror show. 

After getting everything installed, I went to boot up only to have the DRAM error LED light up on the motherboard. So after an hour of trying to figure it out, I surmised it must be bad RAM and went to the store to buy new ones. When I had the same issue, I then realized that the original RAM worked fine—an oversight on my part not to check that first—and that the board must have a bad RAM slot or something. Not willing to go back to the store immediately, I wondered if maybe I had messed something else up and spent a few hours disassembling and reassembling everything. Now, what really sucks is that this board was ITX and the CPU cooler blocked access to the RAM slots, so any time I did anything I'd have to remove the cooler first. I cleaned thermal paste off of both the heatsink and CPU more times than I care to admit.

After not finding the problem, I went back to the store to buy a Z170 board in their clearance department I had seen while getting the RAM, only to find it was now sold in the few hours since I had been there. I found another, better Z170 board but on the other side of the city and so I drove there (after having them put it on hold, of course) and picked that up. Took it home, installed it, and had the exact same issue. It was at this point I realized the CPU might be bad but had no options of finding another Skylake CPU other than ordering an expensive one online and waiting days. It had now been two days of my weekend spent building and troubleshooting this thing and I was so fed up that I finally just gave up. The next day I went to the store and returned everything and bought a nice new i7-8700 along with a new Asus Z370 board. It was expensive—far more than I was initially willing to go—but now that it's all set up and working, it was worth it. At least I won't have to worry about upgrades for another six years.

James Davenport: It's not about Fortnite, you can read it

My low this week won't be the usual #relatable videogame anecdote, apologies. I'm leaving the Bay Area early next week to find a new home in Oregon. My emotions: sad, happy, anxious, excited, hungry. I moved out to San Francisco from Montana without ever having set foot in California almost four years ago, and just for an internship at PC Gamer. Since I've become an editor, and now I'm heading out to work remotely full time. I'm sappy as hell, so I'm feeling tragically nostalgic for all the good memories I've made with the lovely PCG crew out here. 

Living somewhere with less commotion and more outdoor access (and much lower rent) has been a long time coming, but I'll miss hunting for good ramen with Wes, movies and weird in-jokes with Lucas (GamesRadar), Tyler's rare visits marked by bad IPAs and farming talk, finding excuses to get Chris into the old office, Evan's confident leadership and excellent one-liners, metal shows and Destiny talk with Tim, Bo's bad jokes and great office DJ skills, talking horror books and movies with Rachel (also GR), and smelling Batman's farts. (Batman is a dog.) Steven and Jarred don't count because they were always remote (JK, love you). Anyway, I'm excited to settle in wherever I land and to keep writing for PCG  and making new memories with these people. I'll just miss it as it was, because how could I not, you know?