This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

Phoenix Point

The Lows

Wes Fenlon: I need to catch up with Julian Gollop
Julian Gollop, the creator of Chaos and X-Com, is making a new strategy game called Phoenix Point. This is not bad news. It’s actually great news. The reason it’s my low: I still haven’t played his last game Chaos Reborn, even though I know it’s great and I bought it a couple months back. I will play it, and I’ll probably love it when I do, but I don’t know when I’ll get around to it. Slow down, Julian! If you get Phoenix Point out the door before I play Chaos Reborn, I won’t be able to live with the guilt.

Tom Marks: Front and center
Dragon Front is an okay game, and that’s a shame. If you’re confused by that, you need to understand how excited I was by the prospect of a VR card game. Dragon Front isn’t what I was hoping for.

I think the most important factor to a digital card game’s success is how it presents itself to the player. How you interact with the cards, how satisfying the hits are, how easy the UI is to navigate—these factors have a bigger influence on the playerbase of a digital CCG than anything else, including the actual gameplay as crazy as that seems. As a practical example, I think Hearthstone is a definitively worse card game than Magic: The Gathering. So why did Hearthstone succeed where so many digital versions of Magic have failed? Because it’s easy and satisfying to interact with. You don’t have to wait for your opponent to play cards on your turn, minions attack with loud ‘smacks’, and everything reacts to your mouse hovers and clicks, including the gameboard.

Dragon Front has some UI problems that really hinder its flow—like your hand being completely hidden until you call it up, at which point it blocks your view of your opponent. I am still excited to play it, because the actual mechanics seemed fun and there isn’t anything else like it on the horizon for the VR. But if a competitor steps up to the plate, I don’t think it would be hard to convince me to look elsewhere.

BlackDesert64 2016-03-17 10-20-01-72

Tyler Wilde: Mad online
I think I’ll enjoy Black Desert Online once I get to the whole ‘building a trade empire’ thing, but it sure makes a bad first impression. It’s been dull quests and grinding for four hours so far, and I don’t think it’s going to let up soon. Some MMO players, and I know this because a few of them wrote to tell me I’m a dumbass, seem perfectly happy with how obtuse and grindy they can be at the start. And that’s fine—I’m not telling anyone how to have their own fun—but I’m personally frustrated by the apparently sacred tome of MMO design rules that dictates that everything fun should be behind a gate of boring quests and genocide. It’s like working out: doing the same thing again and again, because even though I’m bored and tired, I know I’ll be rewarded later. Except in this case, what I’m doing is unrelated to the reward, and I can’t quite visualize what’s ahead—there’s no meaning to the grind, no feeling that I’m going somewhere aside from the numbers ticking up.

But it’s a good-looking game with a pleasant world I’m happy I can explore right away, and lots of features that really appeal to me—Steven Messner wrote a guide for us that explains a few of them (horse breeding!)—so I’m going to keep playing. I hope I like it more after eight hours. I will probably still make fun of it a bit.

Andy Kelly: Dark forces
My high was about The Division, and so is my low. Hey, it’s all I’ve been playing this week. While looting in the Dark Zone, I ran into two players. I saluted them and they saluted back. They seemed friendly. I just wanted to go about my business. But then I heard them say over voice chat: “Shall we go full sexy?” And then they killed me for no reason.

I chased after them and tried to kill them back, but they gunned me down. It was two versus one, and they were a level higher than me. But because they’d turned rogue for killing me, I saw other players gunning for them. Someone else killed them and I managed to grab my loot back, as well as theirs, and extract it. So that kinda made up for the indignity of dying.

People in the Dark Zone are generally decent, if only because there isn’t much incentive for going rogue at the moment. Apparently the developers will be addressing this in the next major update. But even so, people still act like jerks. I know, that’s the way it goes in PvP games, but I just wanna say to the ‘full sexy’ guys: I will get my revenge, in this life or the next.

Fallout 4 dog Slide

Samuel Roberts: Dog days
I’ve got a lot of love for Dogmeat, Fallout 4’s invincible and adorable pup who follows you throughout the Commonwealth (unless you can’t bear to miss a line of Nick/Piper dialogue). This week, Bethesda announced Dogmeat won Best Game Dog at the apparently real World Dog Awards (as a prominent member of the media, I’m furious I wasn’t invited). Now, don’t get me wrong—I won’t deny that Dogmeat is a very good boy. And on any other year, there’d be no contest to that prize.

But 2015 also brought us D-Dog from Metal Gear Solid V. A dog that wears goggles, that can attack enemies with a knife, that loyally hops in a car with you while you’re trolling military bases with pistol fire. Who you can pat for reassurance during bad times. As we decided last year, D-Dog has the edge when it comes to in-game dogs. This should’ve been his year.

Tom Senior: Spoiling for a fight
The extraordinary Bisping vs. Silva fight in London this year converted me into a regular UFC viewer. I’ve been watching dozens of outdated fights using the UFC’s limited FightPass app, and looking with increasing interest at EA Canada’s UFC 2, which released this week.

It’s been turning heads in the office as PCG contributor Ben Griffin repeatedly runs the bloated potato-head of his hideous custom fighter into the knuckles, elbows and flying knees of the UFC’s finest brawlers. His defeats, and occasional stumbling victories, are marked by the realistic swelling, cuts and knockout-moments that were a staple of the excellent Fight Night series back in the day.

Fight Night and UFC form a sad lineage of exciting realistic combat games that never made the jump to PC, and are examples of EA Sport’s haphazard porting strategy. Madden stopped appearing on PC years ago, the closest I can get to a puck is a Rocket League mutator. Perhaps there really isn’t a market on PC for sports sims, but I find that hard to believe, and would love to see the face-rippling technology of EA’s latest fighting game in lovely crisp PC-o-vision.