This week’s highs and lows in PC gaming

 

The highs

James Davenport: Glutton mashing

Bayonetta got a surprise release on PC this week and not only is the port quality great (it’s Durante approved!), it’s one of the best games I’ve played this year. Phil covered it all in his review, but I’ll recap here: The combat system is expressive and animated beautifully, the story is a dopey melodramatic comedy that relentlessly pokes fun at videogame tropes, and for the entirety of its playtime, Bayonetta miraculously continues to escalate. It’s difficult to believe this game released in 2009. And hey, it’s only $20, which is about one-third of what I’d gladly pay for it today.

Tom Senior: Headstart

The start of the year used to be a real drought. A few games might slip from their planned Autumn release date and fall into the wastelands of February. This year is different. Check out our games of 2017 round up and you see outstanding Japanese hack ‘n slash RPG Nier: Automata; the best adventure game we’ve played in ages, Thimbleweed Park; and some engrossing space 4X in Stellaris. Plus, though it took its sweet time, Bayonetta is finally out on PC.

I hope this early rush of quality is a sign of things to come. As the major conferences—E3, Gamescom—continue to seem less worthwhile to publishers, we might see the industry’s traditional cycles—pre-E3 tease, E3 announce, hands-on Sept, release Oct—start to fragment. Outside of PC land the Legend of Zelda, Persona 5, Nioh and Horizon Zero Dawn have shown that—gasp—people like buying and playing cool games all year round. Here’s hoping for more great games in early 2018.

Evan Lahti: Ricky Rich

I’m quite glad that we happen to live in the dimension that gets multiple Rick and Morty videogames in the same month. Well, one was a Grand Theft Auto 5 mod, but the idea of mad scientist Rick invading Los Santos seems more than appropriate, given the amount of destruction and careless mayhem Rick brings to Earth throughout the show. I especially like the part in this video showcasing the mod where GTA’s strippers are model-swapped for Rick. It’s practically canon.

Virtual Rick-ality, on the other hand, seems like an even more ridiculous Job Simulator paired with some original voice work from Justin Roiland and hopefully a few others, which is more than enough to get me to strap on a VR headset again.

Chris Livingston: Space Evaders

Missile Cards is a single-player turn-based card game, in which you must protect your space base from falling threats like comets and bombs (as in Missile Command). Cards cycle through an airlock, one at a time, and you put them into play as defense (missiles, guns, lasers, and various power-ups) while threats inch closer and closer to your vulnerable base. I’ve been playing it here and there: a hand only takes a few minutes, so it’s great to squeeze in during a break or a quick meal. Its retro look and soundtrack give it a nice feel, and its low system requirements make it perfect for a laptop as well. It’s challenging—I feel like I rarely actually win a round—but enjoyable, and it’s only a few bucks on Steam. Check it out.

Tom Marks: Land of the rising PC market

This week was Japanese PC Gaming Week here on PC Gamer, and our very own Wes Fenlon put together an absolute whirlwind of cool features. Durante did a great port analysis of Bayonetta, I got an excuse to write more about Valkyria Chronicles, and Chris played a weird jigsaw puzzle game with animated ladies. But my favorite piece was a look at the PC’s recent rise in Japan, which was eye-opening to say the least. It’s easy to write off the reasons for Japan’s disinterest in the PC, but Wes had some surprising insights (like having to pay for Steam games at a 7-Eleven) that I simply never would have considered. I highly recommend you read what he has to say.

Tuan Nguyen: Subspace: Continuum

Sometime back in the year 2002 while visiting a friend’s house, I was shown a game called Subspace. It was this cute top-down space shooter game where you helmed a tiny little ship and went on a rampage on what seemed like an endless map. Lots of people were playing it, and I found it to be an awesome mix between Asteroids and AOL Instant Messenger—you can consider it one of the earliest MMOs.

I’d forgotten about the game after that, but throughout the years kept thinking back to the fun I had while playing it. Unfortunately, I forgot what that game was called. I kept asking my PC gaming pals if they’ve ever played this ‘odd space shooter game that was top down and had walls in space.’ No one was able to identify what I was referring to, until today. Apparently, it’s called Subspace: Continuum now, and is available on Steam. What an awesome throwback to my youth.

Evan Lahti: Over it

I can’t seem to get back into Overwatch. The PvE event seems fun, and that new Genji skin almost makes me want to drop everything and main him. But the fact that many of Blizzard’s updates take the form of temporary events continues to rub me the wrong way.

If I’m putting time into a game, I want to know that the investment that I’m making will have lasting meaning. I’d much rather Blizzard take the time to build a deeper, permanent PvE mode, but clearly this goes against its strategy to create urgency by bundling new, time-limited cosmetics with new, time-limited maps or modes. I wonder how it feels as a developer to spend weeks or months making something like Insurrection, then have it vanish for 12 months or however long it’ll be until it’s reinstated.

Tom Senior: Unsporting

Look, Sparc might be a good game but before it has a chance to get started, I’m here to put a stop to the word ‘vsport’. We have enough problems with ‘esport’ as it is. Every time it appears in an article people start saying “it’s not sport”, to which the answer is “that’s why we used the word ‘esport’, not the word ‘sport’.” Then a pointless semantic debate occurs and the shockwave of pure tedium it generates kills millions.

I’m saying let’s spare out sanity and kill the word ‘vsport’ before it even has the chance to replicate and spread. We’ve identified patient zero: CCP, now we just have to carefully flamethrower every instance of the word we find until no trace remains, starting with this Low of the Week, which will be summarily burned once it’s live on the site long enough to serve its purpose.

James Davenport: Prepare to whine

Bandai Namco dropped a teaser trailer for an unnamed project this week to be announced on the 20th, and it dangerously invokes Dark Souls and Bloodborne in tandem. FromSoftware’s name isn’t anywhere in the trailer despite making a vampiric play on the Prepare to Die slogan and looking like a Bloodborne game from beastly tip to gothic toe. This can take two major paths: we either get a new Souls game, maybe a Bloodborne sequel (though it seems a bit too obvious) or we don’t.

The former option worries me because the trailer is a bit too Hot Topic edgy with its stark contrast and sketchbook aesthetic. It doesn’t feel like the type of first impression From would want to make, more garish than subtle. The latter option means we’re not getting another Souls game, which is fine. The series is dead tired. But if it’s not a Souls game, that means Bandai Namco thought appealing to a very critical fanbase would be their best bet for a new title. Unless whatever this game ends up being is a masterpiece, I can’t imagine the reveal going well.

Tuan Nguyen: Windows Creators Update

So Microsoft dropped a huge update earlier this week called the Creators Update. It’s the biggest update for Windows 10 since launch. Much anticipation. Much hype. For the most part, we liked what Microsoft delivered. No one had really mentioned any problems with the update—at least from what I’ve read. So I recommended my friend in Germany to install the update. It’d at least provide him with Game Mode, since he plays a lot of games. It was going to be epic.

Except that it wasn’t. After downloading the update, he installed it and rebooted. That was the last time he was able to see his desktop. The well-oiled gaming system gave into the ghost and he landed on a black screen with a lonely mouse cursor. We tried looking at solutions of people with similar black screen problems. Nothing worked. We tried doing a system rollback, but no rollback points existed. We tried console hackery and editing files into the wee hours of the night.

He ended up spending the following day wiping the whole thing and reinstalling from scratch. I’m sorry, Alexander!

Chris Livingston: Primitive Minus

Well, well. Looks like Ark’s official mod Primitive Plus is getting an update. Finally. A number of things in Primitive Plus have been broken since January’s Tek Tier update, and while we don’t have patch notes yet I’m hoping to see the return of birds dropping poultry and the long-overdue appearance of scissors so we can cut our beards and hair.

At least, I would have been hoping for that. See, the delay in updating Primitive Plus was so long that my tribe got tired of waiting for it, and the server we had the mod installed on has since switched over to Scorched Earth. It’s a shame: I was genuinely enjoying the enhanced crafting in Primitive Plus, far more than I do in vanilla Ark, but a naked caveman can only wait so long for things to get fixed before he has to pack up his dinosaurs and head elsewhere.

Tom Marks: Stacked decks

I am running out of room for card games in my life. I respect that a lot of PC gamers don’t care about digital card games at all, but paper CCGs have been a deep passion of mine since I was in elementary school, and the recent renaissance of digital options Hearthstone spurred was extremely exciting for a time.

Now it’s daunting, even for me. I’m still enjoying Duelyst, and I’m learning to love Faeria. Eternal and Shadowverse are both worthy of my time in their own ways, and Gwent is extremely appealing for how different it is. Meanwhile, Hex is still good but expensive, Tim is still playing The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Shardbound is doing some interesting things with Twitch Streaming, and I don’t even know what Krosmaga is trying to do, but I want to find out!

Hearthstone’s coat tails are torn and tattered from all the people riding on them. Card games are the new MOBA, and it’s having a negative effect on the image of all of them. Some of these games are seriously worth playing, but it’s now extremely hard for anyone to tell which ones. If there’s one thing I can take solace in, it’s that I’ve been out of the Hearthstone game long enough (and it’s gotten so expensive) that the urge to return is completely gone. At least I can scratch that one off my list.

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