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This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

The lows

Tom Senior: Diseffected

Am I alone in feeling underwhelmed about Mass Effect Andromeda? As a team we are quite obsessed with the Mass Effect series. We still have long discussions about characters, companions and plot choices, and we still argue about which Mass Effect game is the best (3, obviously—come at me internet). And yet Andromeda doesn’t have its hooks in me at all, even though it is full of things that typically excite me, like spaceships, and searing suns cresting the silhouettes of planets.

It’s partly because Dragon Age: Inquisition has left me with some dodgy expectations about Bioware open worlds that hopefully Andromeda will correct. Hopefully no-one will be asking the Pathfinder to round up some sheep or find a pendant in a crack. More than anything I don’t have a sense of the characters involved in the story, and characters are what Bioware games are all about, for me. The latest trailer didn’t really help. There are some guns, some spiky bad guys, some running about, but all games have that. What is going to make Andromeda feel special, and not like a secondary Mass Effect spin-off?

Samuel Roberts: Vanishing act

The poorly received Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles vanished from Steam this week, as did the deeply forgettable Amazing Spider-Man games, no doubt as part of some finite licensing stuff that only makes sense to money people. On one hand, I'd never play these games on purpose, but on the other, it's a shame when any game vanishes forever—you'd hope that on PC, where a game's lifespan is potentially infinite, that publishers and developers had started thinking of ways around this stuff to account for the modern user's buying habits.

While I don't mourn these games specifically, imagine if Alien Isolation or Shadow of Mordor disappeared in the same way, and it suddenly became hard for new players to discover them. In an ideal world, all PC games would exist on digital platforms forever.  
 

Chris Livingston: Steam Scarred

I’m a fan of two-factor authentication—if you don’t use it, you absolutely should, for everything. When it comes to Steam Guard, though, it feels like a massive pain in the ass. First of all, the Steam site logs me out seemingly every day, even though I only access it from a single PC and I always tell it to remember me when I log back in. Second, rather than sending me a text like other sites do, it uses the mobile app, which I can somehow never easily find on my phone. By the time I do, the code is already down to the last few moments of it being viable, meaning I feel the need to race to enter it in time, or wait what seems like ages for a new code to appear. 

Okay, this isn’t much of a low, but it hasn’t been a bad week. 

James Davenport: Lost at zee

Over the holiday break, I didn’t have a PC to play any big boy games on, but my Macbook Air was capable of running a few low spec games to help me get through my father rambling on at me about the virtues of Hamm’s beer and cutthroat trout. Sunless Sea was one such game, a punishing narrative-heavy oceanic exploration game with spooky Lovecraftian leanings. I absolutely love it. Coupled with the Zubmariner expansion that enables your boat to transform into a sub and explore abyssal depths, it’s one of the most tense, exciting adventures I’ve been on in recent memory. 

The writing is excellent, and resource management isn’t too convoluted, so each venture into uncharted territory feels risky and enticing. Near the end of my fuel and supply reserves, I ran across an island where I resolved a dispute between sentient rats and guinea pigs. Then I stole their most valuable artifact and flipped it for cash and supplies. 

Ten hours flew by with ease, and I’ve somehow avoided death the entire time, which is actually why I’m worried. When you die in Sunless Sea, you lose nearly everything, the map reshuffles most of the islands, and you start over. There are small persistent rewards, I hear, but how to attain them or exactly what they are still isn’t clear. My hope is that I have enough cash and new knowledge to accelerate back to profitability without too much issue, but I’ll still need to explore the map again, repeating the same stories along the way. So it’s not a real low, I’m just worried a game I’m in love with is about to get more tedious than I have time for. Pray to the salt for me.

Joe Donnelly: Lengthy wars

Warning: this is another Low-which-could-probably-be-perceived-as-High entry. You see, I've moaned about my ever-growing pile of shame here in the past, therefore this week's Long War 2 announcement has me worried. I've sunk an inordinate, arguably ridiculous, amount of time into Long War—the hugely challenging but brilliantly intuitive XCOM: Enemy Unknown mod of 2013—and, while we sort-of knew it was coming, part of me sort-of hoped it wasn't. I mean, I can't wait to play it whenever it eventually arrives but that's the problem: once I pop I'm not convinced I'll be able to stop for a long while thereafter. It's my Pringles of videogames. 

The Souls games are widely recognised as some of the most twisted, brutally unforgiving but at the same time strangely compelling games out there, but I'd argue XCOM's Long War could give any one of them a run for its money. Sorry in advance, pile of shame.  

Wes Fenlon: GTX 1080 Ti a CES 2017 no-show

Nvidia held a CES press conference this week to announce the GTX 1080 Ti… or so we thought. It seemed like the obvious time to announce the affordable(ish), cut-down version of the Titan X, which launched in late summer. But it was not to be. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang introduced Mass Effect Andromeda, talked about some new features coming to the Nvidia Shield, and basically, well, everything Nvidia's working on except the 1080 Ti. But we probably shouldn't be too surprised—Nvidia is doing so well right now that it doesn't need to cram a new card announcement into the furor of CES. Maybe the 1080's big brother will show up at GDC in March or Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference in May. Or just on a random day of the week. We expect it to be a beast, whenever it arrives. 

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