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The week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The lows

Tim Clark: Goodbye, sweet Geralt

This week I finally wrapped up the Blood and Wine DLC, and bade the fondest of farewells to Geralt of Rivia. His final knowing wink completely slew me, as of course it was intended to. I’ll spare you an elegy about how good The Witcher 3 is, as I’m probably the last person in the world to complete it, and we already called it the greatest game on PC of last year. What I will say is that there’s a powerful melancholy to leaving truly loved characters behind that holds as true for games as any other fiction. That feeling is particularly pronounced in RPGs, because you spend so much time with the cast, and the sheer amount of dialogue provides the scope to flesh out character that other genres aren’t afforded. Which of course many RPGs still manage to waste, but that only makes Geralt—in all his weary, lusty, tough but compassionate glory—such a remarkable achievement for CD Projekt. 

I understand completely why the studio wants to tell other stories now, whether on the gleaming streets of Cyberpunk 2077, or eventually back in The Witcher’s world but *sniff* without Geralt. In the end I left him with his best armor on and Aerondight equipped, chilling with Yennefer in front of Corvo Bianco’s vineyards. It always had to be her, of course. I almost couldn’t click through their final four dialogue options, knowing that once greyed out, both characters would be reduced to repeating the same lines in perpetuity, the flimsy curtain pulled back. “Shall we talk again later?” he asks. “Of course”, she replies, “I’m not going anywhere.” Again and again, the two now frozen forever like a 2016 version of the lovers from the second stanza of Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn: “ “She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss / For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!”  

Joe Donnelly: …Souls pulls me back in

And of course my pile of shame should be worried. Diving back into such an all-consuming game as Dark Souls 3 means the sorry stack is even less likely to receive the attention it so sorely deserves anytime soon. I don’t have time to play this game again. In my head, I'd set aside the Christmas period for this—yet I'll now almost certainly spend December 25 onwards pissing about in Boreal Valley. Bah humbug? More like: die Poisonhorn Bug!

If I'm not spotted here in the next few weeks, please send help. And Embers.   

Wes Fenlon: Sponsorships and hardware requirements don't mix

This week VR game Arizona Sunshine launched with some surprise, unannounced modes, as well as a surprise, unannounced restriction: only players who owned a current-gen i7 processor could play those modes until spring 2017. The game, of course, was partially funded by Intel. After a quick backlash the developers removed the restriction, but I'm amazed anyone thought an artificial hardware requirement was anything but a terrible idea. This is not the same as Nvidia's effects like HairWorks and PhyX only working on their GPUs. I don't love that—I appreciate that AMD made TressFX work on Nvidia hardware—but those are effects Nvidia created and programmed for their drivers and hardware, so the limitation make sense. It's not artificial.

The PC is and should always be an open platform, and branding and sponsorship should have no bearing on whether a game lets you play certain modes. All that should matter is if that component is up to the task of running the software. And if a three-year-old overclocked i5 can do that job, your game should let it. And I get it: funding game development, especially for something as new and risky as VR, is no easy task. But hardware exclusivity like that will never go over well with PC gamers. 

Phil Savage: Xtremely underwhelmed

Generally, I'm of the opinion that games are better nowadays than they were in the past. (Don't @ me.) There's an exception to this rule: Xtreme Sports. The aughts were the golden era for Xtreme antics, thanks to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, SSX Tricky, EA's Skate series, and others. It was a decade so Xtreme that developers would release games with four X's in the title—albeit due to slightly different definitions of the word Xtreme.

The reason for this history lesson is Steep, which, based on Andy's review is not so Xtreme. I yearn for the compulsive loop of grinds, manuals and big, big air—for the perfectionist thrill of nailing a combo of tricks against impossible odds. Many of the best Xtreme Sports games never even made it to PC. We're long overdue a revival. Alas, Steep isn't it. 

Samuel Roberts: Hollywood found out about esports

I'm going to be honest: I have no strong feelings about Will Ferrell playing an ageing esports pro in a daft Hollywood comedy, but looking through everything that happened in PC gaming this week, it's the only story that made me do a tired sigh and lazily whisper 'sure, why not?'. On that basis, this is absolutely the low of the week.  

Chris Livingston: How The West Wasn't Fun

Westworld wrapped up its first season over the weekend, and as many others have I've been thinking about it from the perspective of a gamer. I don't think the Wild West theme park makes a good open world game, frankly. First, all the human guests seem to ever do is follow NPCs around, letting them take the lead. That's boring. If I want to be completely inconsequential to the world, I can do that at home for free. Second, it would seem like a lot of time would be spent just trying to locate the NPC you want to hang out with, since several of them seem to spend 90% of their day sitting naked on a stool in the park's employee-only area.

Plus, if you kill one of them, they just return to the world the following day, patched up and with (mostly) no memory of you, which means Westworld is a game that doesn't save your progress. Come on, devs. Get it together.