What we played over the break

It's now the last of this millennium's teenage years, and as we were saying adieu to 2018 over the past couple weeks, a carbohydrate-enriched PC Gamer team also took a bit of time to catch up on games. Here's a sampling of what we played over the break, whenever we weren't drunk on gravy.

Let us know what you got up to in the comments, and here's to another great year of PC gaming!

Rising Storm 2: Green Army Christmas

This mod-turned-special event for Rising Storm 2 transformed Tripwire's Vietnam War FPS into a toy fight over a living room floor strewn with Lincoln Logs and Hot Wheels track. It's exactly what I wanted from a holiday event: lighthearted, over-the-top, and transformative in the way it deemphasizes much of the careful, stealthy play present in the standard map set. The event itself runs through this week, but there are other Green Army Men maps out there on custom servers. I'm hoping we'll see this mod grow more throughout 2019. —Evan Lahti

Hollow Knight

I spent most of the holiday with my partner's family, which meant a lot of couch time while watching kids movies with her five-year-old niece. I used that time to finally dive into Hollow Knight, which as a Super Metroid diehard is treating me nicely. I'm still pretty early in the game, but I can definitely feel the Metroid DNA in there, backtracking and all. Now if I could just figure out where to go next... —Bo Moore

Styx: Shards of Darkness

Much like its predecessor Master of Shadows, Styx: Shards of Darkness stars a creepy goblin named Styx, and is still focused wholly on stealth. I liked the original: its vertically sprawling levels were riddled with little holes and crawl spaces and hidden avenues for the keen explorer. Shards of Darkness is pretty much more of the same but better—it’s grander, and Styx’s jokes are even more execrable (and creepy) than before. The Styx games have a weird, knockabout charm though, and it’s obvious that the team at Cyanide are die hard stealth fanatics—there’s no viable alternative to sneaking here, and with Styx’s magical powers it’s possible to more quite elegantly through the levels, even during a first playthrough. —Shaun Prescott

DayZ

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays over, I finally had time to dive deep into the brand new 2018 survival game DayZ. And yeah, the game we waited so long for Bohemia to finish still isn't finished. Among the issues are zombies that have definitely improved but still, somehow, don't always work properly (especially on full servers where they look like stop-motion animation) and missing features (there are no grenades or bows and arrows) and missing systems (you can't break bones). It feels more friendly to newcomers, with what almost feels like an overabundance of loot, clothing, gear, food, and drinks.

The biggest issue I've run into is persistence, which failed me on two different official servers. I had a base vanish after a server restart, and I had a well-hidden tent stocked with supplies disappear after two days. It's frustrating to put a lot of time into a project and then find it wiped, and I've seen similar reports on DayZ forums of other players experiencing the same thing (though many say they've had their bases and tents remain persistent for much longer).

I'm still loving DayZ, though, as I always have despite its ongoing problems. The changes made to the map are wonderful, encounters with other players are still tense, and I've even somewhat come to embrace the sprint meter. Chernarus remains my favorite game world to visit, and I hope the persistence issues quickly gets ironed out so I can build a home and stay for a while. —Chris Livingston

Thimbleweed Park

I quit Thimbleweed Park, and I feel relieved. My girlfriend and I started playing this throwback point-and-click adventure something like a year ago, and over the past month have gone back to it to try to finish it off. We came to the realization on Sunday that we just weren't having fun: We were bored of walking back and forth around the map, bored of the tasks lists for each character, bored of calling the hint line when we just didn't understand how a puzzle was meant to work. We probably just weren't in the right headspace for a point-and-click adventure, but Thimbleweed had also stopped making us laugh, and at that point… well, there was no point in playing more. I'm ready to move on to Return of the Obra Dinn, which will hopefully engage us more.

Oh, also, we played Bandersnatch, the new CYOA episode of Black Mirror. It accurately replicates the experience of '80s CYOA books, where every choice leads to your death or failure. —Wes Fenlon

Battlefield 5 (benchmarks)

I've complained about this elsewhere, but it's so bad I feel it warrants repeating: Best as I can tell, Battlefield 5 locks you out if you try to run it on more than three different PCs in a 24-hour period. (It seems to reset the counter at 12am PST.) Except 'different' in this case means any change in CPU, GPU, or motherboard—including using integrated graphics vs. discrete graphics in a notebook. That means doing a full suite of benchmarks requires 10 days at a minimum.

Why do I think this is a big deal? Because we're already locked out of running the game without EA Origin, and EA Origin will only allow you to sign into one PC at a time. I'm trying to figure out any sensible reason for the hardware restriction. If you're a legitimate buyer of Battlefield 5, you load up Origin and play Battlefield 5. If you then move to another PC, for whatever reason, you would be booted from the first PC.

Is there a risk of people trying to play Battlefield 5 on too many PCs in a day? No. It's just irritating to the very small percentage of people that might want to do something like, you know, benchmark the only currently available game that uses Nvidia's RTX cards. —Jarred Walton

Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC, for some reason 

I wish I could tell you I went on week-long holiday to Yakuza 0’s Kamurocho, which was the plan, but no, the holidays had a worse fate in store for me: mediocre DLC. Encouraged by the recent Dragon Age teaser, I decided it was time to play all of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s DLC. It was a terrible mistake. The first is just an additional area that sets up some interesting stuff that never goes anywhere, while the second is a boring, linear dungeon romp that ends abruptly, leaving only the final DLC to redeem them. Luckily, Trespasser is OK. Not great, but there are some good bits that make it feel like a proper ending. Also I got to see a certain baldy elf again, and I am a big fan. When I did finally finish, I managed to squeeze in some Yakuza time, leaving me dreaming of an alternate timeline where I’d spent the entire break doing that. I’m extremely jealous of that Fraser. He’s taller, too! The bastard. —Fraser Brown

Red Dead Redemption 2 (sorry, not sorry)

I know, it’s not on PC. But it probably will be within a year or so. I really hope so, at least, because Red Dead Redemption 2 is a very good game. Since a lot of you won’t be playing it for some time, I’ll avoid too many specifics, but it will be ages before I play a game this richly detailed again. I’ve waded through gator infested waters, checking traps by lamplight in a moonlit bog. I’ve had a shootout on a hot air balloon. I’ve had a bear kill my horse, leaving me marooned at the top of a cold mountain in summer clothes, miles away from the nearest town. It is the most convincing game world there is. It is also evidence that Rockstar’s mission design is extremely one-note. You’ll have simple scripted shootouts in every corner of that gorgeous open world. None of it will make use of all that space or any of your creativity, but it will look and sound like nothing else in games. Red Dead Redemption 2 is, and I say this kindly, an excellent walking simulator. Give up control, and you’ll have a great time (whenever it releases on PC). —James Davenport

Destiny 2: Black Armory

Obviously, I played more Destiny over the holiday, because so help me this fever shows no sign of lifting. Specifically, I baked 541 space cookies to deliver to the game's NPCs as part of 'The Dawning' winter event, all in the largely forlorn hope that they'd reward me with enhancement cores or a half-decent roll on a machine gun. (For context, my colleague Phil Savage, who is a normal person, cooked a paltry 72 before realising it was a fool's errand.) I have also visited the game's new forges a total of 265 times to date. Each forge is a three-player mini-horde activity, upon the completion of which you're rewarded with a weapon that has random perks. I blew a frankly disgusting amount of my vacation chasing god rolls on the Blast Furnace pulse rifle and Kindled Orchid hand cannon. Finally—well, I say finally like I'm ever going to stop—I became 'Rivensbane'. It's the in-game title awarded for completing a long shopping of raid-related bullshit, culminating in completing the whole thing without a single member of the six-person team dying. Given I'm widely acknowledged as the least-coordinated platformer of our group, it was a sweaty-fingered but ultimately exhilarating experience, for which I now have a little purple ribbon to show for. And before you ask, yes, this is my barely disguised cry for help. Help. —Tim Clark

Battletech

I don't know why it took me so long to try Battletech, but it sucked me all the way in over the holidays. It's the kind of strategy game that's perfect for me, because I'm not very good at strategy games: It faithfully recreates the mechanics of the board game but keeps the "big picture" of Inner Sphere political machinations and mercenary economics accessibly abstract. I make the calls about where to go, who to fight, and how to upgrade my ship, and my underlings handle the details. That abstraction sometimes comes across in negative ways on the battlefield, because there's a lot going on and the game doesn't always do a great job of breaking down why things happen the way they do. But there's plenty of light work in the Periphery so it's easy enough to knock around and figure things out without getting too banged up, and while practice hasn't brought me to perfection (yet, anyway), I do feel a certain level of competence in command.

That's encouraged me to play the game a little more adventurously than I typically do when I'm trying to lead a team to victory. Instead of save-scumming when things go sideways, I'm playing through fights for good or ill. I lost a "Founding Four" merc that way (sorry, Behemoth) and a Griffin I worked hard for went up in smoke, but that's the merc life—and Battletech does a really good job of making a recovery from misfortune feel like an integral part of the game. (It also adds a whole new level of stress to the experience when my beat-to-shit Gladiator is eating yet another faceful of SRMs and I'm praying to every diety I can think of to please, oh please, just hang tough for one more round, baby!)

(Sorry, Behemoth.)—Andy Chalk