This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The highs

Joe Donnelly: Building expectations

Cyberpunk 2077 is the next game from The Witcher devs CD Projekt Red that no one really knows anything about besides the fact there are more folk working on it than Geralt's last outing and that it draws inspiration from a tabletop game. This week, however, stories popped up on Polish websites suggesting CDPR had applied for grants via the Polish GameINN programme for various technologies, including ‘City Creation’, ‘Animation Excellence’, ‘Cinematic Feel’, and ‘Seamless Multiplayer’. We later confirmed with the studio that, yes, it had filed applications for said grants, however it wasn't willing to say more beyond the confirmation. 

Does this guarantee that all of the above is being implemented to Cyberpunk 2077 (assuming CDPR obtain the grants)? The reporter in me says: of course not! But the Highs entry writer in me says: yes, let me have this! In any event, CD Projekt Red clearly has world-building in its future plans—something it handled oh-so-well in The Witcher 3. Whether or not these applications apply to its next project, it's heartening to know the studio isn't sitting still.   

Samuel Roberts: Time off is good

Some refreshingly frank conversation about Ubisoft's heavy-hitters did the rounds this week, where it was stated that the next Assassin's Creed and Far Cry games might skip 2017, and that "leaving time for polish and innovation" is vital for the two series. I consider this a good thing. I've never been much of an Assassin's Creed fan, honestly, outside of the more refined second game and Black Flag. I skipped Revelations and Unity. I gave up on Syndicate because the missions were still dull, even though London looks great. The third game had an amazing world but was so stripped back it barely felt like I was a part of the game at all. Brotherhood was okay, but didn't have a lot to offer that wasn't already in ACII.

They always look amazing—but they're the least interactive version of what an open world game can be. You can't really experiment with the AI, and the combat and platforming are so simple the game feels like it's playing itself. How did those games end up being so big despite feeling so limited in interactions compared to Rockstar's games, or Saints Row, or even Ubi's own Far Cry? Where's the player expression in any of it? That's why the rumoured Witcher-style revamp by the Black Flag team set in ancient Egypt sounds so exciting to me. Black Flag's boat combat worked because it's precise, tactical and challenging, which I would argue hasn't applied to any other part of Assassin's Creed's design since the series began. 

Far Cry, though, I've always enjoyed a lot, and I'm excited to see how the next one will turn out now that they're presumably going to stop making them for last generation consoles too. Ubisoft's patience can pay off providing they've got the right angle for their two big series—sounds like they won't pull the trigger until they're sure they've got it just right. 

James Davenport: I am car

It pains me to—vroom!—speak with my human voice anymore, so I’ll be quick. Earlier this week, I started playing Forza Horizon 3, the first racing game I’ve enjoyed in years. Set in an open world Australian utopia, it’s effectively a car sandbox, handing over the keys dozens and dozens of cars of every make and model. If you want to take whip over some sand dunes with an indy race car, you can. If you want to go mudding in your dad’s F-150 (or a fancy approximation), you can. If you want to become a mythical figure in the street racing scene driving a car with a garish Family Guy skin, you can. Horizon 3 says yes to the player at nearly every intersection, rewarding stylish, clean racing as much as it rewards driving through some poor farmer’s crops at 150 miles per hour. 

And you can do it all with your friends. Co-op progress carries over to your campaign, no matter how far each player has or hasn’t progressed. I can’t recommend Forza Horizon 3 for lapsed Burnout Paradise fans enough, it’s truly the vroom vroooom of the vroom rumble vroo—I’m losing control again. Just go play it. Join me in the car dimens—vrooooom vroom brumble vroooom! Braaaap brom brom—

Chris Thursten: New arenas

It's been great to discover not one but two brilliant independent competitive games over the course of the last week—and this comes fresh on the heels of Duelyst, which well deserves the same label. Fractured Space takes some of the strategic framework of Dota and applies it to a fantasy that I'm very attached to: if all games could star kilometer-long starships from now on, that'd be great, thanks.

Battlerite is something special, too: a fast, tense, dizzyingly deep game of small-team arena combat that feels like a brilliant Dota teamfight, over and over. If there's a downside to any of this, it's that these are all games that warrant a big time investment: after all, they're contending with competitive games that absorb entire lives. It's simply not possible to try to play Fractured Space seriously, and Battlerite, and Duelyst—but it's great to have so many different experiences to dip in and out of.

Tom Marks: Sounding civilized

I got to spend all week playing Civilization 6, and after 20+ hours can't see myself going back to Civ 5. It's not perfect (for example Religion is a pretty bland affair right now) but there are so many big changes that have such a positive impact on the game. City building takes more thought, diplomacy is clearer, and it generally just feels great. 

And holy hell, the music is unbelievable. I'm not even a very musically inclined guy and the way the music changes over time ended up being one of my favorite parts of the game. It's so clear how much polish and passion has gone into the aesthetic of the game that it's a shame pretty much every conversation about Civ 6 eventually devolves into people yelling about whether it's too cartoony. The game is great, it looks lovely, and I still want to play just one more turn...

Chris Livingston: This is a good headline

Remember that time in 2015 when I played Reign of Kings and bashed my face with a rock I kept in my butt? You may not remember, and if you do it's entirely my fault. The headline of the story—Reign of Kings diary: I bashed my face with a rock I kept in my butt—was a terrible one, according to this headline evaluator I plugged it into today, which told me my headline was too generic and wordy to draw interest, and scored it a 49/100. It also told me readers tend to focus on the three first and last words of a headline, which were "Reign of Kings" and "In my butt." No wonder nobody read it! So generic.

This is a high because I'm always trying to improve my writing skills, and believe me, the next time I write about bashing my face in with a rock I kept in my butt, I'll do a much better job enticing you to read about it. Also, the headline tool is sort of fun to play with. The highest score I got, using the headline This Cool Happy Naked Boobs Gadget Awesome Look scored a 76/100. If you can do better, let me know.

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