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This week's highs and lows in PC gaming


Tom Senior: Rational Anthem

Anthem is reportedly going to slip into 2019, which isn’t surprising at all given the lack of information and general hype coming out of EA and Bioware. All we have is the too-pretty-to-be-real ‘vertical slice’ footage aired at last year’s E3. It’s a sensible choice if it means the game arrives in a stable state, hopefully free of Battlefront 2 style lootboxes. As Destiny 2 veers from one controversy to another I’m pining for a gorgeous persistent-world shooter to offer some competition. Plus, I miss Bioware, and it sounds like we’re not going to get another Dragon Age for a long time, and we may never get another Mass Effect.

To be honest really I want Destiny back. My friends and I have totally drifted away from it. The lure of Vermintide, Sea of Thieves and Monster Hunter mean that we may never return. On the plus side, after months spent battling GTA Online’s brilliant but frustrating heists, almost any co-op online experience that basically works will win my heart.

Philippa Warr: Waiting for Destiny

Raising my head above the magazine deadline parapet I caught sight of a bunch of Destiny 2 articles and opinion pieces noting that the game seems to be struggling. I haven't been playing it myself despite loving the first game, but that's because of a unique bunch of changes in personal circumstance—for instance I no longer need to use it to keep up with my friends in Bath because I see them every day. 

It seems that I've thus been accidentally avoiding microtransaction arguments, hidden XP throttling and exercises in how not to communicate. I'd been assuming that at some point I'd pop back in for some rambunctious raiding, or get back into post-pub Crucible in the summer months, but I wonder who will be there to play with at that point.

Tyler Wilde: Xbox pox

I’m not too worried about the Sea of Thieves beta’s lacking matchmaking options—like that you can’t play with a group of three without a fourth automatically joining—as this is a trimmed-down version and it doesn’t look like the UI is final. But I am worried about its reliance on the Xbox app. I appreciate the cross-play, but at the cost of using that dreadful bit of software? I’m not sure it’s worth it. Sometimes my friends list won’t load. Sometimes trying to join through the friends list does nothing. Inviting people in-game sometimes does nothing. 

And then there’s the Windows Store, which hides your library in a tiny drop down menu, and hasn’t even managed to display the Sea of Thieves closed beta in my library in the first place—I have to open a URL in a browser and let the browser open the Windows Store app just to run the game. It’s hard to be optimistic when Microsoft can’t get something as fundamental as a game library right.

Jarred Walton: One step forward, two steps back

We’ve talked quite a lot about the details and ramifications of the Meltdown and Spectre exploits. The OS and processor vendors have been working to fix the problems, with varying degrees of success. Meltdown by all accounts has been frozen in its tracks, but locking up the ethereal Spectre is proving more difficult. Linux creator Linus Torvalds had a few choice words for Intel regarding its current approach to addressing Spectre.

If that’s not bad enough, Intel’s initial firmware fixes for Broadwell and Haswell era processors have been causing higher instances of system reboots. (Pre-Haswell processors are being left hanging in the wind, incidentally.) That can be really annoying on a home PC, but on a server, reboots are unacceptable on any level. Intel appears to have figured out the root cause and is working on updated firmware, but in the interim it has recommended users stop installing the patches. Which of course leaves them vulnerable to the exploits.

There’s a small ray of sunshine for the future, in that Intel is hinting at architectural changes for the upcoming 10nm Cannon Lake and Ice Lake processors to make them immune from these exploits. That means buying a new CPU, likely with a new motherboard as well. But then Intel douses any flame of hope with the following: “The publicity around recently disclosed security vulnerabilities may result in increased attempts by third parties to identify additional vulnerabilities, and future vulnerabilities and mitigation of those vulnerabilities may also adversely impact our results of operations, customer relationships, and reputation.” I can’t say I’m looking forward to the sequels to Meltdown and Spectre.

Chris Livingston: Apples and Origins

I hopped back into Assassin's Creed Origins this week to check out the new expansion, The Hidden Ones. Thing is, it's an expansion for players level 40 and above, and when I finished the game last year I was only at level 34, which means I've got some work to do before I'm strong enough to tackle the new adventure. And so, I'm grinding, and while I'm not having a terrible time (I enjoyed ACO quite a bit) it's still a bit frustrating. 

After two days and hours of playing, I've only climbed two more levels, and popping into the expansion's new region it's obvious I'm still too weak to do much. I found the first assassination target, and even with my bow damage boosted, firing six flaming arrows directly into the dude's head barely shaved off a sliver of his health. I wasn't a fan of the way enemies and regions are leveled the first time I played, but now the artificial difficulty is feeling especially annoying.

Joe Donnelly: Life and Souls

The last thing I need is another reason to return to the world of Dark Souls, and yet here I am floundering again in Scholar of the First Sin’s Drangleic—this time equipped with Benzoingum's work-in-progress Enemy Randomizer. Like what SotFS did for vanilla Dark Souls 2, this mod reconfigures each arena’s enemy layout, introducing new degrees of difficulty in the process. Better still, Enemy Randomizer lets players work from a cheat table while allocating foes to specific regions—be that entirely at random, in “lore-friendly” fashion, or where bosses appear in regular enemy locations. Good luck with that last one. I reckon you’ll need it.  

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