This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Fallout4 2016-03-24 12-16-26-72

The Lows

Phil Savage: Not a lot of bot
Fallout 4's first DLC is a bit of a disappointment. It's not a failure, as such. The robot crafting feature is a great addition—letting you construct a mechanical companion and outfit them with a variety of disparate parts, tools and weapons. There's a broad degree of customisation, which gives a sense of ownership over your creations.

There's just nothing in the DLC's questline that really stands out. It's another set of ruined buildings filled with hostile NPCs. If there was one thing Fallout 4 didn't need any more of, it was ruined buildings filled with hostile NPCs. I almost wish they'd skipped the quest entirely—just released the crafting stuff at a cheaper price. It'd keep me busy until the release of DLC #3, Far Harbor, which looks like a much more substantial amount of questing.

Chris Livingston: Completely sane taxi
Been hankering to play some simulation games lately. I used to write about them a lot, like the time I was a clown manager, or the time I was a dock worker, or the time I was a ski resort manager, or the time I was a naked Hugh Hefner. This time I decided to be a New York Taxi driver. It was a poor decision.

A lot of the simulation games I've played were not very good, but they could still sometimes be fun anyway, like when I recently played Enforcer: Police Crime Action. Not a great game, but I liked it because it let me tell my own stupid little story. Not so with New York Taxi Simulator. That game wasn't even accidentally fun. You just drive and pick up people and drop them off. The controls are bad and it's not fun to smash into things and there's simply not much to it. I don't ask much of simulation games, and this time I didn't get much. I guess the three negative Steam reviews should have tipped me off.

Samarost 3 Slide

James Davenport: I don’t have time to play Samorost 3
I’m lucky this is my low. Since I started playing Dark Souls 3 it’s been hard to get me down, but Amanita Design (one of my favorite developers ever) just put out Samorost 3 and I don’t have time to play it quite yet. Hell yeah, I’m super happy to be playing Dark Souls 3, I just have a strong attachment to everything Amanita does. Doesn’t help that Andy Chalk’s review was so positive. Damn.

I wasn’t allowed to play games growing up, so I depended entirely on sneaking in early Flash adventure games on our family’s yellowed Compaq. The first to really feel substantial and special was Samorost, a short, point-and-clicker that emphasised interaction over puzzle design. Nearly anything you saw could be clicked, and even if it didn’t have a consequential reaction, it at least had one. No other studio uses familiar textures to create such an alien visual palate, has music that ranges from whimsy to wacky, and such an insistent desire to please instead of puzzle the player. They’re little joy boxes, and I’m stuck waiting to play the newest one. Pity me. (And watch Kooky already! Amanita Had their hand in the visual design. It’s a bunch of scrappy puppets on a wilderness adventure. Gives me those Labyrinth vibes.)

Samuel Roberts: Shrinking cell
I was sad to see the layoffs at developer 5th Cell this week—a studio renowned for making games that promoted player expression like Drawn To Life and then Scribblenauts Unlimited just had its latest game in that latter series cancelled. I wish the best to all of those affected.

It’s a real shame. Scribblenauts is a game that rewards ingenuity towards solving puzzles by letting you type in whatever you want. In my case, ingenuity means almost always summoning a Pegasus, a fire sword and a jetpack, but it was such a neat idea for a game, particularly for kids.

Punch Club Slide

Ian Dransfield: Punch pirates
Piracy is bad, m’kay, but when the figures come out and they’re so horribly skewed in favour of the pirates over actual sales, it gets a bit… anger-inducing. Punch Club was still a success for tinyBuild/LazyBear Games in isolation, and a pirated copy downloaded by someone doesn’t necessarily equate to a lost sale—but this is five times more pirates than purchasers, for an indie game.

Thankfully, tinyBuild is approaching this in a mature, straightforward fashion—putting the stats and figures out there for everyone to see and maintaining an anti-DRM stance. It’s easy to get angry and dismiss those pirating a game as vagabonds—it’s a whole other thing to try and understand why people do it in the first place. Kudos.

Tyler Wilde: Regular reality
Everyone is playing with VR but me! By “everyone,” of course, I mean a very, very small number of people, a few of whom I know. I don’t work out of our San Francisco office anymore, which is where our Vive Pre and Oculus Rift live, so I’m stuck with a bunch of dumb monitors (aka windows into horrible and dull flatspace) hearing about their cyberspace adventures. (In one breath: Yes I know this is very privileged whining and I’ve already done it before but I really like VR so let me cry about it for a second.) No one likes missing out, and when consumer Rifts start shipping next week it’ll only get worse for all of us VR enthused non-VR owners. I’d drop the $600-$800 it takes to buy in right now if going into debt so I can pretend to fly spaceships didn’t make it legal to punch me in the stomach (it’s a weird law in my opinion).

I’ll get a VR setup soon enough, but in the meantime I hope everyone writes a ton about it so I can live vicariously through them. Speaking of which: we’re going to write a ton about VR next week! If you’re headsetless too, come over and we’ll read all about it while soothing ourselves with Earl Grey tea out here in regular reality. (I got this new Keurig that makes tea with the press of a button, and I obviously say “tea, Earl Grey, hot” everytime I make any. My VR holodeck is my imagination and it’s even better than your dumb headsets, dummies. Picard out.)

Tuan Nguyen: Cut off from the Dark Zone

Unlike the rest of the team, I haven’t had a chance to play any games—except The Division, but only for about 10 hours since it was released. And, I’m still only at level 11. Meanwhile, all my friends are already at level 30.

When I did manage to take a break and sneak in a few games, I realized I didn’t have to wait until level 30 to hit up the Dark Zone, the PVP area that allows you to kill other players and snatch up their valuable loot. It’s there you get to feel the satisfaction of head-shotting someone in game that you know is a real player and not an AI bot.

Except, that didn’t happen. I went in at level 11 thinking I’d have a decent chance in the 'noob' Dark Zone area. I think I must have been in there for about one minute before I was instantly killed by a person that had a skull symbol.

I left.

I’m still stuck at level 11 since leaving the Dark Zone a few days ago. But hey! At least I get to play with lots of headphones.


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