This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

highs and lows 11/6


Samuel Roberts: Merchandise apocalypse
Keza MacDonald from Kotaku criticised the tidal wave of Fallout 4 merchandise and other tie-ins that we’ve seen with the game’s coming release, and I agree. When did Vault Boy become the Minions of computer games? Who’s dressing their blonde baby up as Vault Boy and can they please stop? Can you not sell Vault Boy throw pillows please?

It’s really abstract to me because Fallout has such a specific PC legacy—and now it’s suddenly everywhere. I don’t think it cheapens the main product, but it’s not doing anything to make me more excited about the game.

Phil Savage: Spoiler alert
I've been thinking about spoilers lately, because I'm in the middle of reviewing a big, anticipated game that a lot of people are hyped for. Incidentally, I'm also now allowed to say that our Fallout 4 review will be live on Monday, at 1pm GMT. That's right, there was an embargo on the embargo. Video games!

Anyway, spoilers. It's always a delicate thing, because obviously people want to experience fiction on their own terms. For a work to have the desired impact, that process is important. At the same time, people can go too far in the opposite direction. Last year, when I reviewed Dragon Age: Inquisition, people criticised the fact that I 'spoiled' the opening story beats of a 50+ hour game. Elsewhere, I've seen people get offended at spoilers after the fact; and even themselves spoil a plot point by revealing how an otherwise innocuous, out-of-context piece of information could, with the addition of the extra information they themselves offered up, be a spoiler. It's a minefield, and a really stupid one at that.

More recently, I watched with interest as people reacted to the leak of Fallout 4 videos and screenshots. There was an outcry about the spread of spoilers, which was odd. Neither the people who leaked the videos, or the news sites that posted about them, have the power to force these people to watch them. The sort of person who posts uninvited spoilers into a comments thread or forum should be invited to redirect all their mail to their new home: the bin. But those worried about entirely avoidable spoilers that they'd need to go out of their way to view should maybe just exercise a little self control. All of which is to say our Fallout 4 review will be mostly spoiler free, but will probably at least contain the barebones setup of the plot. That's okay, right?

Highs Lows Crush

Wes Fenlon: Activision paid how much for what?
I may be wrong about this, but I don’t think Candy Crush Saga is worth 5.9 billion dollars, which Activision paid to buy for its developer this past week. I’m definitely not wrong about this part: Candy Crush Saga should not be worth $5.9 billion. I’ve lived in San Francisco long enough, and written about technology long enough, to be keenly aware of the cycle: mobile companies and startup companies get huge valuations based on their numbers of users, millions of dollars in VC backing...and usually end up being a flash in the pan. It’s the Zynga effect. Profits or revenue may look amazing for a few years, but eventually your audience moves on to more substantial stuff.

Activision is pretty good at making money, so maybe this is a wise investment on their part. But $5.9 billion for a company that makes Match 3 games? C’mon. They’re not even as good as Puzzle Fighter.

Tom Senior: Paragon
If you’re going to announce a game in 2015, you’re going to have to do better than a video slowly panning around an anonymous man with guns. And yet that’s the opening gambit of Epic’s new game, Paragon. You also have the opportunity to click through the website unlocking in-game items for a game that hasn’t been detailed in the slightest. How about “Reverberate”? Is it a gun? An item? And ability? All I know is that it does “Damage + Bonus vs. Shielded Targets”—yay?

Will we be buying these items in the game? Who knows, but with nothing to go on, players start to assume. As we saw with Evolve earlier this year, if most of the materials released about the game seem to be about monetisation rather than the game itself, mistrust starts to form. I’m interested in a new shooter from Epic, hopefully we’ll actually see it soon.


Chris Livingston: Blandshee
I'd heard some good things about Banshee, a Cinemax TV series about to enter its fourth season about an ex-con posing as a small-town sheriff. Since the first season was free to watch on Amazon Prime, I decided to check it out. And boy, do I not like it at all, mainly due to the lead character, the antihero passing himself off as lawman Lucas Hood. The problem? In almost every respect, he's a video game character.

You know, that video game character, the protagonist of so many games. He's gruff. He's bitter. He's laconic. He's got a close-cropped haircut and is always sporting three days worth of stubble. He's super tough and danger just makes him angrily grin in the way that says "Oh, three guys pointing guns at me? How funny. In a moment there will be no guys pointing guns at me because I will have punched them unconscious." Most of all, he doesn't have a single ounce of charisma or personality. Granted, I'm only a few episodes in, so maybe it gets better. At the moment, though, if you truly want to see a video game protagonist made flesh and blood, check out Banshee. All that's missing is the HUD.

James Davenport: Grumpy Blizzard Boy
I’m not big on Blizzard games. This isn’t to say I don’t like them—put down those pitchforks, please. I’ve played a decent amount of Diablo, WoW, and have dabbled in the rest, I just don’t typically stick with them because I’m not into that distinct Blizzard aesthetic. Everything flashes when you do something ‘good’, things explode (in confetti and/or guts) often, and there are high quality sound effects aplenty to really squeeze every last drop of serotonin out of our media-blind head mush. More so than most games, I feel as if I’m being exploited for my love of bubble wrap and all things shiny.

The production is so overwrought and obvious in Blizzard games that it’s started to feel like self-parody. Again, I think the games themselves are fun, they just make me uncomfortable. And with Overwatch on the way, I’m especially worried. The game looks right up my alley. I love team-based shooters with a hefty amount of variation in play styles and Overwatch has a ton of different characters. What worries me is that my distrust of the presentation will color my overall feelings on the game. Anytime I’m inundated with flashes, bars filling, XP rewards, sound effects, and so on, I start to question why I’m chasing the carrot on the stick. In some games, it’s easier to ignore or accept. But when I get the impulse to buy a few Hearthstone card packs once a week now, I can’t help but question what the hell is going on in those games. I don’t even play Hearthstone. Could be that I’m just more easily influenced by some media than I thought, or I have a bit of anxiety about not being part of these huge swaths of gaming culture, but just for the Highs and Lows, I’ll let my cynical side breathe a bit. Blizzard-schmizzard, am I right? (Have fun at BlizzCon, Tim and Tom! Read our coverage of the event, if you dare.)


Hey folks, beloved mascot Coconut Monkey here representing the collective PC Gamer editorial team, who worked together to write this article! PC Gamer is the global authority on PC games—starting in 1993 with the magazine, and then in 2010 with this website you're currently reading. We have writers across the US, UK and Australia, who you can read about here.