Anda di halaman 1dari 116

16

!
ES
AG CE!
A P RI
TR E P
E X SA M

XCOM 2 REVIEWED!

THE BEST
STRATEGY
GAME EVER?

THE
DIVISION
PREVIEW

HANDS-ON WITH THE


MMO CLANCY SHOOTER

8-PAGE FEATURE INSIDE

REVIEWED

MIYAZAKI TALKS DRAGONS


AND DOOMED WORLDS

THE WITNESS
RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER
AMERICAN TRUCK SIMULATOR
DRAGONS DOGMA
AND MORE!

FEATURE

IS THE
RTS DEAD?
WHERE NEXT FOR THIS
CLASSIC PC GENRE

Issue 277
APRIL
2016

SOLID STATE
DRIVES
RATED
GET THE FASTEST AND
BEST VALUE STORAGE

|38-+-26$

#277 APRIL 2016


EDITORIAL
Global Editor-in-Chief Tim Clark
Executive Editor Tyler Wilde
Hardware Editor Wes Fenlon
UK Editor Samuel Roberts
UK Production Editor Tony Ellis
Art Editor John Strike
PCG Pro Editor Chris Thursten
Staff Writer Chris Livingston
Assistant Editor Tom Marks
Associate Editor James Davenport

Killer start
Close the magazine, cast your eyes over
the cover, then come back to me. OK,
now consider for a moment what an
insane time this is to be a PC gamer.
With games like Dark Souls III, XCOM
2, Rise of the Tomb Raider and The
Witness to play, 2016 is off to a killer
start. And thanks to tech such as SSDs
which we look at this monthand the
promise of VR still to come, the platform
has never been in ruder health. I defy
you to scan the rest of this issue and not
think youve backed the right cyborg
attack horse. Enjoy the ride, friend.

CONTRIBUTORS
Dave James, Andy Kelly, Phil Savage, Elizabeth Elliott, Andi
Hamilton, Angus Morrison, Ben Griffin, Tom Sykes, Dan
Griliopoulos, Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, Leif Johnson, Matthew Lochrie,
Andy McGregor, Fraser McDermott, Daniella Lucas, Andi Hamilton,
Rob Zacny, Matt Elliott
BUSINESS
Vice President, Sales Stacy Gaines, stacy.gaines@futurenet.com
Vice President, Strategic Partnerships
Isaac Ugay, isaac.ugay@futurenet.com
East Coast Account Director
Brandie Rushing, brandie.rushing@futurenet.com
East Coast Account Director
Michael Plump, michael.plump@futurenet.com
West Coast Account Director
Austin Park, austin.park@futurenet.com
West Coast Account Director
Brandon Wong, brandon.wong@futurenet.com
West Coast Account Director
Tad Perez, tad.perez@futurenet.com
Southwest Account Director
Jessica Reinert, jessica.reinert@futurenet.com
Director Of Marketing Robbie Montinola
Director, Client Services Tracy Lam
Director, Retail Sales Bill Shewey
PRODUCTION
Production Manager Mark Constance
Production Controller Fran Twentyman
Project Manager Clare Scott
Production Assistant Emily Wood

TA LK TO
PC GAMER

Future Us, Inc.


One Lombard Street, Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94111 (650)
872-1642
www.futureus.com
Global Chief Revenue Ofcer Charlie Speight
Vice President, Marketing & Operations Rhoda Bueno
Vice President, Product Development Bart Jaworski
Finance Director Frederick Alfredo
Senior HR Generalist Mary Mauck

TIM CLARK
GLOBAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
tim.clark@futurenet.com
@timothydclark

SUBSCRIPTIONS
To Subscribe: www.pcgamer.com/subscribe

Have your say!


Tweet us
@PCGamer

BACK ISSUES
To Order: www.pcgamer.com/shop or by calling 1-800-865-7240

Our team of writers


Future is an award-winning international
media group and leading digital
business. We reach more than 57
million international consumers a month
and create world-class content and
advertising solutions for passionate
consumers online, on tablet &
smartphone and in print.
Chief executive ;JMMBI#ZOH.BEEJDL
Non-executive chairman Peter Allen
&KLHIQDQFLDORIFHU1FOOZ-BELJO#SBOE
Managing Director, Magazines Joe McEvoy
Tel +44 (0)1225 442 244
Future plc is a public company quoted on the London
4UPDL&YDIBOHF TZNCPM'653
www.futureplc.com

TYLER WILDE

WES FENLON

CHRIS LIVINGSTON

Twitter
@tyler_wilde

Twitter
@wesleyfenlon

Twitter
@screencuisine

Currently playing
Tharsis

Currently playing
Final Fantasy IX

Currently playing
The Witness

This month
Had a bad time being
captain of a spaceship.
Then another. Then
another. Constantly.

This month
Tried out Steam VR
again. Who knows if he
ever really came back
this time?

This month
Switched off The Witness
because of long audio
tapes. Turned it on again.
More long audio tapes

PC GAMER (ISSN 1080-4471) is published 13 times a year, monthly plus Holiday issue following December issue by Future US, Inc., 4000 Shoreline Court, Suite 400, South San Francisco, CA 94080. Phone: (650) 872-1642. Fax (650) 872-2207. Website: www.futureus.com. Periodicals postage paid in San Bruno, CA
BOEBUBEEJUJPOBMNBJMJOHPGmDFT/FXTTUBOEEJTUSJCVUJPOJTIBOEMFECZCurtis Circulation Company. Basic subscription rates (12 issues) US: Digital $23.88; Print $19.95; Canada: Digital $23.88; Print $29.95; Intl: Digital $23.88; Print $39.95. Canadian and foreign orders must be prepaid, US funds only. Canadian price
includes postage and GST #R128220688. PMA #40612608. Subscriptions do not include newsstand only specials. POSTMASTER: Send changes of address to PC Gamer, PO Box 5852, Harlan, IA 51593-1352. Standard Mail Enclosure in the following edition: None. Ride-Along Enclosure in the following editions: None.
3FUVSOT1JUOFZ#PXFT 10#PY -POEPO 0//$# $BOBEB'VUVSF64 *ODBMTPQVCMJTIFT.BD]-JGF .BYJNVN1$ BOE5IF0GmDJBM9CPY.BHB[JOF&OUJSFDPOUFOUTDPQZSJHIU5 'VUVSF64 *OD"MMSJHIUTSFTFSWFE3FQSPEVDUJPOJOXIPMFPSJOQBSUJTQSPIJCJUFE'VUVSF64 *ODJTOPUBGmMJBUFEXJUIUIFDPNQBOJFT
PSQSPEVDUTDPWFSFEJO1$(BNFS3FQSPEVDUJPOPOUIF*OUFSOFUPGUIFBSUJDMFTBOEQJDUVSFTJOUIJTNBHB[JOFJTJMMFHBMXJUIPVUUIFQSJPSXSJUUFODPOTFOUPG1$(BNFS1SPEVDUTOBNFEJOUIFQBHFTPG1$(BNFSBSFUSBEFNBSLTPGUIFJSSFTQFDUJWFDPNQBOJFT130%6$&%*/5)&6/*5&%45"5&40'".&3*$"8FFODPVSBHF
ZPVUPSFDZDMFUIJTNBHB[JOF FJUIFSUISPVHIZPVSVTVBMIPVTFIPMESFDZDMBCMFXBTUFDPMMFDUJPOTFSWJDFPSBUBSFDZDMJOHTJUF
SUBSCRIBER CUSTOMER 4&37*$&1$(BNFS$VTUPNFS$BSF 10#PY )BSMBO *"0OMJOFXXXQDHBNFSDPNDVTUPNFSTFSWJDF1IPOF&NBJM1$(DVTUTFSW!DETGVMmMMNFOUDPN#"$,*446&4XXXQDHBNFSDPNTIPQPSCZDBMMJOH3&13*/54'VUVSF64 *OD 
4000 Shoreline Court, Suite 400, South San Francisco, CA 94080. Phone: (650) 872-1642. Fax (650) 872-2207. Website: www.futureus.com.

APRIL 2016


       

    





       
      

 


([FOXVLYHO\
([FO
([
FOXV
XV
'HVLJQHG E\ 25,*,1 3&
8S WR DQ
D ,QWHO &RUH L ; 3URFHVVRU
25,*,1
25,*
25
,*,, )5267%<7( /LTXLG&RROLQJ
8S WR DQ
D 19,',$ *H)RUFH *7; 7,7$1 ;
)UHH
)U
HH /LIHWLPH
/L
 86 %DVHG 6XSSRUW

|38-+-26$

Contents #277

REVIEW

APRIL 2016

Monitor
12 OPINION
14 THE SPY
16 SPECIAL REPORT

Previews
18 Homefront: The Revolution
22 Thumper
24 Wheels of Aurelia
26 Dont Starve: Shipwrecked
34 Torment: Tides of
Numenera

Features
36 Dark Souls III
We play the game and meet its creator.

44 The Division
Phil plays Ubis latest Clancy game.

48 Strategy games
Where next for the RTS genre?

Reviews
56 XCOM 2
60 Dragons Dogma:
Dark Arisen
62 Rise of the Tomb Raider
66 Aviary Attorney
68 American Truck Simulator
70 Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster
72 Oxenfree
74 The Westport Independent
76 That Dragon, Cancer
78 The Witness
82 Homeworld:
Deserts of Kharak
84 Pony Island

36
104

Extra Life
86 NOW PLAYING
90 TOP 10 DOWNLOADS
94 UPDATE
96 REINSTALL
100 WHY I LOVE
102 MUST PLAY

Hardware
104 GROUP TEST
110 BUYERS GUIDE
6

APRIL 2016

56

36

56

DARK SOULS III

XCOM 2 REVIEW SOLID STATE


Tom Senior tries to wrestle
DRIVES
Earth back from the

Andi Hamilton plays a few


hours of the latest entry in the
hardcore, bleak cult series.
We also interview its creator,
Hidetaka Miyazaki.

extraterrestrial menace, in
our review of what may be the
best XCOM game yet.

104
Dave James rides the
highspeed wave of solid state
drives and picks the best.

SEND

USER REVIEWS
The Witcher 3. Its
one of the most
beautiful and well
written games Ive
ever played. Said the
same thing eight
months ago.
Alex Hill
It does take about
eight months to
finish. Longer if you
get into Gwent.
Binding of Isaac:
Rebirth. Limitless
possibilities and
maximum fun. Who
doesnt like being a
naked baby shooting
tears at monsters?
Ivan
Every sane person on
the planet?

Super excited

A free Steam key for the funniest or


most insightful letter every month
Every ounce
Ive just crawled around a hospital
for an hour with minimal control and
weird shit going off all around me.
This isnt what I expected Metal Gear
Solid V to be like. The tutorial takes
so long and is so demoralizing that,
by the time you do get control, you
cant be arsed continuing. Your
review expounds the virtues of this
games open world greatness, but
neglects to warn that itll take every

ounce of patience you have to get to


it. This is a console game ported to
the PC with no thought whatsoever.
Peter Storr
Thats a pretty harsh assessment,
Peter. Sure, MGSVs opener is slow
and batshit insane, but, once its out
of the way, youve got tens of hours
of one of the most sublime open
world stealth games aroundPC or
otherwise. PCG

Rust. Always Rust.


Forever Rust. PS: I
work on Rust.
Craig Pearson
Were only just
realizing this was a
clever marketing
ruse. FFS, Craig.
Crusader Kings II.
Im trying to breed my
genius family
members to get the
best traits without
getting an inbred heir.
Will Wormell
Pulling a Targaryen
is really only
acceptable when
youve got dragons.
Team Fortress 2.
How else can I
quench my thirst for
fashion, explosions
and comedy?
D3M1G0D
Kitty Powers
Matchmaker?
Wait, that was a
rhetorical question.

CLICK

WINNER!

StarCraft II offers
plenty of replay value.

So much replay
Im a subscriber to your
magazine going on four years now. I
was once a console fanboy, but have
since found my calling in StarCraft II.
The recent Legacy of the Void
campaign is Blizzards best yet; the
third installment of a game I wish I
could go back and play over for the
very first time. Even after beating all
three campaigns on hard, theres still
so much replay value in trying to get
all of the achievements, as well as
watching YouTube videos on how to

LIKE

sneak by some levels on brutalmy


burning command center floating
over the water as I wait for a timer to
expire. I wish I could share it with my
friends, but I have a hard time selling
them on an RTS.

Just recently I walked into my local


grocery store and saw the January
issue. I hadnt read PC Gamer in a
while, so I bought it. Im amazed at
the changes youve made. You seem
to have a lot more reviews, and
theyre way better than when I
stopped reading back in 2011. Theyre
exactly what I want to know and
theyre funnier than before. Im super
excited for future issues!
Felix Webber
Thanks, Felix. This is what gives us
the power to keep going. That said,
we cant take the credit for the
expanded number of reviews. PC
gaming is simply much bigger than it
was five years ago. PCG

Chose to ignore
Its a period of civil war. Rebel forces
ght for control of three Gonk droids;
perhaps for data, or technological
power, or resources. The evil Galactic
Empire does not send its leader into
frontline combat against Leia Organa
on Endor. Rather, he goes because
people are complaining that this
Battlefront isnt just Battlefront II,
and not including the Emperor
would cause a fanboy apocalypse.
Meanwhile, the evil lord Darth
Vader takes time out of his busy
schedule to hunt the smuggler and
Rebel General Han Soloas he did in
the Empire Strikes Backon a
volcanic planet that was mentioned
in Return of the Jedi anddespite
claimshas had an on-screen
appearance in Star Wars: Rogue
Squadron that people conveniently
chose to ignore.
Greg Andrews

Richard Garms
It sounds like youre already getting
plenty of joy out of StarCraft IIs
singleplayer, Richard. If you do want
to convince your friends, point them
in the direction of Chriss review
from PCG 275. PCG

SHOOT

WATCH

FOLLOW

Greg is complaining that we were


unfair in pointing out Star Wars:
Battlefronts inauthenticities on the
back page of PCG 275. To be clear,
Greg, that page is a joke page. The
words on it are jokes. If you turn back
to our actual review, youll see we say
the game is pretty good. PCG

SEND

pcgamer@futurenet.com
pcgamer.com

APRIL 2016

facebook.com
/pcgamermagazine

steamcommunity.com
/groups/pcgamer

youtube.com/user
/pcgamer

@pcgamer

PC Gamer, Future US Inc, 1 Lombard


Street, Suite 200, San Francisco,
CA 94111

O P I N I O N

T E C H

G A M E S

THE PC GAMER VIEW OF THE WORLD


Over 9,000 people
raised $2.5 million on
Kickstarter to bring
the Rift to life.

THE TOP STORY

RIFT GETS RELEASE DATE


The dream of virtual reality is closer than ever, but its going to cost you

fter years of anticipation,


Oculus Rift has a release
date. The virtual reality
headset will begin shipping
on March 28 and will cost
$599 to buy. Thats a much higher price
than the $350 ballpark gure suggested
by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, who
later apologized for handling the
messaging poorly.
For your money you get a headset with
built-in headphones, a positioning sensor to
track your movements, a remote control,
and an Xbox One controller. If you preorder the Rift youll get a free copy of space

10

APRIL 2016

shooter EVE: Valkyrie, which is one of the


most impressive virtual reality games weve
played so far.
The remote, which has a Steam
Controller-style trackpad on it, has been
included as the easiest way to introduce
non-gamers to VR. But youll have to wait

PALMER LUCKEY LATER


APOLOGIZED FOR
HANDLING THE
MESSAGING POORLY

for the Touch, a controller Oculus says will


feel as natural as using your real hands.
Luckey says bundling the Touch with the
Rift would signicantly increase the cost.
Do we want to make the barrier to entry
higher for something not everyone will want
to use? he said in a Business Insider
interview. I think its super cool, but a lot of
people wont want it. No price has been
revealed yet, but Luckeys comments suggest
it wont be cheap.

PC POWER
The recommended specs for the Rift are
pretty high, and upgrading could represent
the biggest proportion of the cost of owning

The built-in
headphones
are removable.

OPINION

GAMES

TECH

HIGHS & LOWS


THE MONTH IN PC GAMING

HIGHS
Elite Dangerous
Players have found traces of alien life on
a distant planet. Thargoids, anyone?

Danganronpa
The brilliant, bizarre Japanese
murder mystery is coming to PC.

Metro for Steam


After using this beautiful custom skin,
well never be able to go back.
Every Rift comes
with an Xbox
One controller.

Dragons Dogma
If youre the creator of a pawn called
Burger, thanks very much for the help
with that cyclops.

John Romero
Romero releases a new level for the
original Dooma mere 23 years after
the game came out.

Hitman
The game will be completely episodic. Its
had a confusing journey to release.

Marc Laidlaw
The Half-Life writer reveals that hes left
Valve for good after 19 years.

Upgrade or die
Microsoft says Windows 7 wont run on
next-generation CPUs.

Oculus Rift
it. While theyre only a guideline, as some
games, naturally, will be more demanding
than others, Oculus says youll need at least
8GB of RAM, a card similar to/greater than
a GTX 970, and an Intel i5-4590 or better to
get the best out of the tech.
A range of Oculus ready PCs will be
released alongside the headset, which have,
according to the Oculus website, been
tested to ensure they deliver a great
experience with Rift. These will start at
$1499. For those with low-spec PCs, the
costs of a new GPU or CPU, the Rift, and
possibly the Touch, will quickly mount up.
Virtual reality is a technology that still needs
to prove itself and the high cost of entry
might put a lot of people off.

However, on the positive side, its good to


see Oculus nally commit to a release date
and price point. Virtual reality is months
away from becoming actual reality, and
along with Valve and HTCs Vive, the Rift
will, for the rst time ever, bring the
technology into peoples homes for a
reasonably affordable price.
You can read about VR for days and still
not really understand what its like to try the
technology out for yourself. To get people
interested, Oculus will have to nd ways to
let the buying public get their hands (and
faces) on itand accessible, impactful games
such as EVE: Valkyrie are the perfect
showcase for it.
Andy Kelly

That hefty $599 price tag will push the


Rift outside of many peoples grasp.

Resident Evil 0
What genius decided getting rid of item
boxes was a good idea?

LOWS

APRIL 2016

11

OPINION

GAMES

TECH

Is this the future of PC


gaming? Not quite.

O
P
I
N
I
O
N

What urinals on the


Death Star look like.

The best of VR
VIRTUAL REALITY HIGHLIGHTS

E VE: VALK YRIE

An incredibly exciting
space dogfight
shooter set in CCPs
EVE Online universe.

12

APRIL 2016

DONT LET GO

Keep your hands still,


as dinosaurs, bugs,
and other distractions
are thrown at you.

EURO TRUCK
SIMUL ATOR 2

Yeah, really. This is one


of the most convincing
VR experiences.

SKYRIM

VR support has been


hacked in, but it works
well. Skyrims never
felt so massive.

BLUE MARBLE

A short game in which


you, an astronaut, drift
peacefully away from
the Earth.

ELITE DANGEROUS
Looking around those
super-detailed
cockpits in VR is an
amazing feeling.

OPINION

GAMES

TECH

VR STILL HAS A LONG


WAY TO GO
Dont throw your monitor out just yet. VIRTUAL
REALITY is great, but it wont change the way you play

Elites asteroid fields


are incredible in VR.

irtual reality is amazing.


Ive been an advocate of the
technology since the very
rst Oculus Rift developer
kit was released. Youve
probably seen me ponticating about it on
these very pages, like some kind of mad
evangelical preacher. But as much as I love
VR, I still dont think its the revolution
some people are predicting it will be.
The most important issue for me is comfort.
No matter what advances in technology
they makeshort of beaming the image
directly into your brain with special
mind-lasersVR will always involve
strapping a tiny television to your face.
Anyone whos used an Oculus Rift, or any
other headset, will know that after about 20
minutes it starts to
feel uncomfortable.
This is ne for
short games or
experiences, but for
proper games that
you ideally want to
sit and play for a few
hours, its useless.
Think about all the
times youve sat
down, loaded up Skyrim, and lost ve hours.
But if you were playing in virtual reality,
youd be yanking the headset off to get some
air before youd picked up a quest.
Im sure some people in the VR industry
are imagining a future in which families sit
in a circle wearing headsets rather than
crowding around a TV, but we havent
reached that kind of dystopia yet. Theyll get
bigger and maybe a bit more curved, but the
TV will remain the centerpiece of most
living rooms for many years to come.
Then theres the eld of view. When you
use the Rift you see black borders in your
peripheral vision, which occasionally make
you feel like youre viewing the action
through a space helmet. You forget about it
when youre distracted by the game, but
when you notice it, usually after moving
your eyes to look at something ying past
you, it shatters the illusion briey.

Honestly, as a platform for playing


traditional games, VR is rubbish. I tried to
drive across Europe in Euro Truck Simulator
2 using the Oculus Rift and I felt like I was
going to slip into a heat-induced coma on
the side of road in Aberdeen. Its just not
suitable for any game that requires even the
slightest bit of time investment.
The dream is, of course, Star Treks
holodeck. Being able to exist in a VR world,
untethered, feeling like youre really there.
But with wires trailing out the back of your
head and a box on your face, youre never
really going to believe in a VR experience. In
fact, the best games are the ones where
youre pinned to a chair: games like Oculus
Rifts launch title EVE: Valkyrie and
Frontiers Elite Dangerous. Thats another
limitation. In any game where you use a
controller or
keyboard/mouse to
walk around, theres
always going to be a
disconnect between
your legs and whats
happening on-screen.
But for shorter
games, its great. The
best times Ive had in
VR havent been
traditional games, but more passive
experiences. Wandering around a Tuscan
villa. Exploring the Starship Enterprise.
Floating down a magical lake in a canoe.
Soaring through a psychedelic starscape.
Feeling my stomach lurch on a rollercoaster.
Its these short, experiential games that
really show off the power of the tech.
So you should probably get a VR headset.
Its a fantastic thing and, at moments,
genuinely fools your brain into thinking
youre somewhere else. But dont buy one
expecting to immerse yourself in grand
RPGs like Skyrim for hundreds of hours, or
run through Half-Life 2 again as Gordon
Freeman. Until they make some serious
advances in the technology, to the point
where you can barely feel the thing attached
to your head, these kinds of games just
arent suited to prolonged VR play.
Andy Kelly

HONESTLY, AS A
PLATFORM FOR PLAYING
TRADITIONAL GAMES,
VR IS RUBBISH

Valkyries dogfights
are another must-see.

APRIL 2016

13

OPINION

GAMES

T
H
E
S
P
Y

The Spy knows


where the mummies
are buried.

12

APRIL 2016

TECH

W H O WAT C H E S T H E S P Y ?

he Spy doesnt make New Years


resolutions lightly. Selfimprovement requires you to admit
that some part of yourself needs
improving, and The Spy is
practically perfect in every way. Not
that theres any harm in trying,
which is why The Spy has
committed to a series of achievable
life goals. One: a 20% increase in
each unearthed secrets juiciness
level. Two: a drastic reduction in
introductory nonsequiturs. Three: the
total annihilation of kale.
If Kotakus
anonymous sources are
to be believed, Ubisoft
should have a pretty easy
time keeping its own
resolution. All the
publisher needs to do is
not release a new
Assassins Creed.
According to reports, the ongoing
stealth n stabbing series will be
skipping 2016. If true, itll be the
rst year without a main Assassins
Creed entry since ACII in 2009. Not
that the year will be entirely free of
historical murder ction. By the
time you read this, the nal two
parts of the spin-off Assassins Creed
Chronicles trilogyIndia and
Russiawill be available to buy.

Happily, you dont have to wait


until 2017 for speculation about a
new Assassins Creed setting.
Kotakus same sources suggest the
next game in the globetrotting series
will be called Empire, and set in
Egypt. The wildest of these rumors
speculates a trilogy that would also
incorporate Greece and Rome.
Ubisoft previously visited Egypt
in a teaser for a game called Project
Osiris. An image of the trailers main
character later appears in Black
Flag, in an email between two
Abstergo employees. Was Osiris our
rst glimpse of Empire? The Spy
always thought the pyramids were
begging to be scaled, even if The
Bangles hit 80s song wasnt called
Parkour Like An Egyptian.
The Spy would understand if you
proved too weak to commit to a

business of leaking release dates.


Photos emerged of a Best Buy
pre-order card for Maa IIIthe
next in 2Ks open-world gangster
series. Attached to the card is a
sticker claiming the game will be
available on April 26. Will Best Buy
employees soon nd themselves
sleeping with the shes?

VIVE LA SPCULATION
An encoded message also found its
way onto a Target pre-order card
for Homefront: The Revolution.
Through a method called reading,
The Spy can reveal that this cryptic
communiqu posited a release date
of May 17 for Deep Silvers guerrilla
sequel. This last one was later
conrmed by the publisher, thus
proving that physical retailers still
have a use. Revealing the date that
people will be able to buy
new games on Steam was
likely never part of the
business plan, but at least
it keeps them busy.
After a generous
series of free DLC
releases, its hard to
know what more CD
Projekt RED could do to
improve The Witcher 3.
Fix Geralts awful,
stubborn shit of a horse, you might
say but, given that it hasnt
happened yet, The Spy can only
assume doing so is beyond the scope
of 21st century programming.
Nevertheless, French retailer E.
Leclerc sparked hopes of further
improvements when it listed an
Enhanced Edition release. Alas, it
was not to be. CD Projekts Pawel
Bruza categorized the listing as
some kind of error. The Spy
assumes E. Leclerc was tired of
Amazon Frances accurate leaks,
and decided to redress the balance.
Despite the inaccuracies, Bruza
didnt discount the possibility of an
Enhanced Edition in the future.
Likely it would come in the form of
a package bundling The Witcher 3s
two expansions. If The Witcher 2
Enhanced Edition is anything to go
by, there may be some extras too. If
CDPR could drop in a few extra
Gwent challenges, The Spy would
really have something to look
forward to come the post-kale era of
January, 2017. Spy out.
The Spy

THE SPY LOVES THE


FRENCH FOR THEIR
MASTERY OF CHEESE,
WINE AND DECAPITATION
year-long programme of personal
betterment. If you do fail at your
own resolutions, at least you can be
comforted by the many, many
games planned for release
throughout the year. For instance,
theres ids upcoming Doom reboot,
which Amazon France has given a
June 30 release. The Spy loves the
French for their mastery of cheese,
wine and decapitation, but has
always treated their Amazon release
date leaks with suspicion. Then, last
month, they proved
spot-on with their
early reveal of Rise
of the Tomb Raiders
release date. Maybe
internet storefront
listings are more of a
science than an art
after all.
In what The Spy
can only assume is a
last ditch bid for
relevance in a
competitive digital
market, physical stores
are also getting into the

2GDD A &EDD7HJJ #((9//9 /!

@ CDICJ ,+" .&"..90.

/.0&' , /453$44#
*"000
!53- *% )2+5125 ,1(2+


-F; 9JCJHGFIEC 3CFJD* 2EHJ I#7-#@@ ,HE5JAAEH


"<8 >1GHF 2G5;J 0@94
IC?E+A* 6@ 4E1J -7)IF ?IFIEC
6#0! /=DD 4B 3,> <GFFJ BIA(DG. 6:@ 6@"@
+IF; 3B3'* 97> 2 &J5;CEDE .

!@ ?G.A E BJG? ,I JD 9=GHGCFJJ? 3CA=HGC5J

"98 BB%$ 3B3'* 9J/EH5J 9& "@ 9,

(FIECGD B=GD 3B3'* 9J/EH5J 9& #@<


EH 9& "@< 9, +IF; > 3 &J5;CEDE .


:98 BB%7:6!!<4 <J1EH.


:$-98 >G1A=C $@ ,% <0: ,23J <J
>>B  6&8 #:@@%,< 4GH? BHIJ

: 4GH? BHIJA  : <0: >'&' >>B BHIJA EH : <0:


,23J >>B BHIJA 5G(G)DJ

4GH?+GHJ %GI? @6 /=C5FIEC 5G(G)DJ

/=DD AIJ? J.)EGH? +IF; 5EDEH B )G5DI ;F

IDDJH BE=)DJ>;EF7! ,HE : IDDJH :@@


'  IDDJH B=GD 8GC? IHJDJAA7'2 6$!$ +IF;
>1GHF &JG1IC

>8 !06  &;=C?JH)EDF 9JC! 2E1)E ,EHF

8=IDF7IC :0@< /4B 2G1JHG


/IC JH(HICF %JG?JH

8=IDF7IC /EAFJH A(JGJHA


G A=)7+EEJH F=CJ?
). >E=C?8DGAFJH
>E=C? 8DGAFJH* 7/I <8$ >E=C? >.AFJ1

)253 )2+(3
5-14-(21- .3-!4-
12 3 5+(3
313-" 43-2
325 12 4- 4-153 -( (2 1-3 11(1$3 .31+3 1 !4- 351(+
,B1ED .CE EBD %A6A?E= BDDBC?2 -@<A;2 ('B2 @CE2'B;) :BDBC?EE9 37 ?5E E
:A86EC? =@E> C@? $@D) B> 8D@6A>E=4 @D A7 2@: BDE C@? 7:<<2 >B?A>7AE=4 $E $A<< A>>:E B 7:<< DE7:C= :8@C ?5E DE?:DC @7 B<< @DA1ACB< E
:A86EC?9 'EBD -BD?> BC= %B@D %A6A?E=
BDDBC?29 %A7E?A6E &@<<'DEE &E;5CA;B< ,:88@D?9 ,B1ED .CE EBD %A6A?E= BDDBC?24 &$@ EBD %A6A?E= BDDBC?2 BC= &5DEE EBD %A6A?E= BDDBC?2 -@<A;2 +88<AE> ?@ "C= >ED> AC ?5E CA?E= ,?B?E> @7 +6EDA;B @C<29 "?EC=E= BDDBC?2 +*BA<B<E 05E;) @:?
?5A> ;@68DE5EC>A*E 8B;)B1E @7 >ED*A;E>:88@D?9 ,B1ED 0@D8@DB?E .77A;E> #(( 0@D?CE2 0@:D?4 0A?2 @7 3C=:>?D24 0B<A7@DCAB  # &E< /!/9/9#/#!4 B /!/9/9!# @:D> @C=B2'DA=B2 (B969 ' /8969-,& +6EDA;BC "8DE>>4 3,+4 B>?ED0BD=
 A>;@*ED 0DE=A? 0BD=> +;;E8?E= ' @ ,:D;5BD1E9 0B>5AED> 05E;)> E<;@6E=9 !( / 2 A=EDC 0@68:?ED4 3C;9 +<< DA15?> DE>ED*E=9 <?DB@@)4 0E<ED@C4 0E<ED@C 3C>A=E4 0@DE 3C>A=E4 3C?E<4 3C?E< %@1@4 3C?E< +?@64 3C?E< +?@6 3C>A=E4 3C?E< 0@DE4 3C?E< 3C>A=E4 3C?E<
3C>A=E %@1@4 3C?E< *-D@4 3?BCA:64 3?BCA:6 3C>A=E4 -EC?A:64 -EC?A:6 3C>A=E4 *-D@ 3C>A=E4 E@C4 E@C -5A4 BC= E@C 3C>A=E BDE ?DB=E6BD)> @7 3C?E< 0@D8@DB?A@C AC ?5E 9,9 BC=@D @?5ED ;@:C?DAE>9 &5A> -0 A> 8DE<@B=E= $A?5 ?DAB< *ED>A@C @7 A;D@>@7? .77A;E / 9
-:D;5B>E BC .77A;E -D@=:;? E2 ?@ B;?A*B?E 7:<< *ED>A@C .77A;E >@7?$BDE9 +<< ;@68BC2 BC=@D 8D@=:;? CB6E> 6EC?A@CE= 5EDEAC BDE ?DB=E6BD)> BC=@D DE1A>?EDE= ?DB=E6BD)> @7 ?5EAD DE>8E;?A*E ;@68BCAE>9 -DA;E> BC= >8E;A7A;B?A@C> BDE >:E;? ?@ ;5BC1E
$A?5@:? C@?A;E9 .8ECE= >@7?$BDE BC= >5A88AC1 ;5BD1E> BDE C@C'DE7:C=B<E9 ('B2 6@CE2 B;) 1:BDBC?EE =@E> C@? AC;<:=E 7DEA15? @D >5A88AC1 BC= 5BC=<AC1 ;5BD1E9 DEE -, D@:C= ,5A88AC1 *B<A= ?@ ;@C?A1:@:> , @D=ED @C<29

SPECIA L
REP O RT

Re-Mission helps
kids understand
how cancer can
be defeated.

ORIGINS
In 1989, Pamela
Omidyar worked
as a research
assistant
alongside a
pediatric
oncologist,
analyzing cancer
cells at Stanford
University. In her
leisure time she
enjoyed playing
games with her
then boyfriend
(now husband)
Pierre on their
Sega Mega Drive.
Omidyar thought:
what if I could
make a videogame
that helped kids
fight cancer? Life
instead intervened
and while Omidyar
went on to obtain a
masters degree,
Pierre founded
online auction site
eBay. In 2001,
Omidyar launched
the nonprofit
research group
HopeLab and
began work on PC
game Re-Mission.

16

APRIL 2016

P C G I N V E S T I G AT E S

FIGHTING BACK
How one research-led videogame is helping kids beat cancer by
teaching them the importance of the treatment process

he goal was simple: realize Omidyars


dream of designing a videogame that
could help kids, adolescents and young
adults ght cancer, and, just as
importantly, teach them how cancer is
beaten. By piloting a robot named Roxxi, players
would go toe-to-toe with cancer cells and other
viruses in the bodythe overarching aim being to
empower the player and help galvanize the notion
that chemotherapy was on their side.
In the early years we worked directly with physicians,
patients, and their families to understand the struggles
of this young cancer population, says HopeLab
spokesperson Robin Raskob. What we found was kids
were dying from treatable leukemia, mainly because
they were missing doses of their maintenance chemo
and other medicines. In fact, missing just 20% of your
medications can double the risk of cancer recurring.
This troubling statistic led HopeLab to research the
psychological reasoning behind these decisions and
what was driving this seemingly odd behavior. By
questioning why someone would feel inclined to skip
chemotherapy treatments, they in turn arrived at some
fascinating answers.
Teens thought chemotherapy equals cancer, admits
Raskob. I dont want to have cancer; chemo reminds

me of cancer. And besides, Im just the patient, I dont


have the power to stop cancer.
With this understood, HopeLab could now develop
the technology to engage with this mindset. Extensive
research followedafter which an academic paper was
published in the esteemed medical journal Pediatrics
and Re-Mission underwent QA testing, the majority of
which came courtesy of young cancer patients.

VIDEOGAME STUDY
The Re-Mission outcomes study that predated the
games release is to this day the largest controlled study
for videogame intervention ever conducted. It followed
375 teens and young adults with cancer across 34
different medical centers in the US, Canada and
Australia over the course of three months of cancer
treatment. The Pediatrics paper conrms that those
who played Re-Mission maintained higher levels of
chemotherapy and consumed antibiotics more
consistently than those in the control group who
participated without playing the game whatsoever.
By the time Re-Mission launched its nal release in
2006, 210,000 copies were distributed in 81 different
countries around the world.
I would say that Re-Mission games both empower
and re-empower patients, Raskob says. Theres no
better way to say it, except that cancer sucks. Especially

OPINION

GAMES

TECH

Re-Missions ten-year battle


THE HISTORY OF A UNIQUE GAME

1 FIRST GAME

Weapons include a
chemoblaster and
radiation gun.

when youre a kid and all you want to do is be normal.


When youre in treatment sometimes youre in the
hospital for long periods of time or homebound because
your immune system is so weak. It can be a lonely time
for kids. The Re-Mission games help to give kids a sense
of power over their disease. This sense of purpose and
control can help in other aspects of their lives as well.
Over the years weve had the privilege of working
closely with the adolescent and young adult cancer
community. I can say from personal experience that
they are some of the strongest and most inspiring
people Ive ever encountered.
Raskob adds that many of the
young people helped by
Re-Mission have stepped in to
help with the research and
development of its sequel2013s
Re-Mission 2, a browser-based/
mobile downloadable extension
of the originalor at least have
since come forward to offer
endorsement via HopeLabs
various online channels. One such testimonial comes
from Nick, who overcame bone cancer when he was a
patient at Los Angeles Childrens Hospital in his youth.
I did play the original, Nick says. And playing that
one just after treatment actually taught me a lot about
what different types of cancers and stuff there were.

2 TESTING, TESTING

The original Re-Mission, published by


HopeLab, launched for PC in 2006. A
third-person shooter, it would go on to
reach more than 200,000 players.

Young cancer patients put Re-Mission 2


through its paces to great success during
its testing phase. They also helped with the
research and development of the game.

3 T R E AT M E N T S C E N A R I O S

4 F O R M E R P L AY E R

Re-Mission 2 is a browser-based
extension of the original, offering six new
games that explore different types of
cancer treatment scenarios.

Nick now works for the Ronald McDonald


House Charity but once used Re-Mission to
help overcome bone cancer. He now shares
the game with young cancer sufferers.

educational tools. He once found solace and inspiration


in these games, thus it seems tting that hes passing on
the experience to a new audience.
Sharing [Re-Mission 2] with the youth I work with, I
feel it will empower them because they can go online
and ght cancer in this game, which is what theyre
doing when theyre in the hospital going through
chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and all their other
treatments. Its almost like: Im working with the
medicine. Its very informative, you get to learn a lot
from it, and it turns out to be a lot of fun.
Since release, Re-Mission 2
game downloads have surpassed
200,000, and more than 400,000
levels have been completed in
just shy of two years. Its won a
prestigious Parents Choice Gold
Award and a Common Sense
Media Award to bootreceiving
the highest rating for learning
potential in the latter.
In Re-Missions tenth year of
existence, HopeLab is now proudly working with the
AYA [adolescents and young adults] Cancer Centre at
the Lucile Packard Childrens Hospital at Stanford
University. This is where founder Pamela Omidyar rst
conceived the Re-Mission idea all those years ago
therefore a tting evolutionary full circle to mark the
games anniversary is complete, as it continues to break
ground in education and fulll its mission to cultivate
cancer resilience.
Joe Donnelly

IT CONTINUES TO
FULFILL ITS MISSION
TO CULTIVATE
CANCER RESILIENCE

SPREADING THE WORD


Today, Nick works for the Ronald McDonald House
Charity where he uses the Re-Mission games as

APRIL 2016

17

PREVIEW
Gamenamexxxx

I picked the wrong week


to give up Molotovs.

18

APRIL 2016

A phone camera or sniper scope


can be used to tag enemies.

PREVIEW
A Las Barricadas has your team
fleeing from overwhelming force.

Homefront: The Revolution

NEED TO KNOW
RELEASE
May 20

DEVELOPER
Dambuster Studios

PUBLISHER
Koch Media

H O M E F R O N T:
THE REVOLUTION
Hands-on with Homefronts
anarchic co-op mode
un! Im wheelieing down a ruined high
street at high speed, totally unable to tell
where Im going, while heavily armed
North Koreans spray machine gun re at
me. This is the best motorcycle game Ive ever
played and its not a motorcycle game. I drop my
iron steed out of the wheelie just in time to see my
surviving teammate run into the road in front of
me. I cant avoid running him down and I dont. As
his body bump-bumps under my tires, I berate him
for jaywalking. Its ne though, as I revive him
under heavy re, get back onto my bike and speed
off, ignoring him, the enemies, my other downed
pals, and the mission.

Only the grenade-savvy stand


this close for screenshots.

LINK
www.homefront-game.com

that nice combination of large enemy


numbers, frantic team battles and
changing objectives, combined with a
Payday/Left 4 Dead toughness.
It also has the same irreverent-butfunctional humor. For example, when
youre creating your character, you get to
choose their previous profession. Id made
a six-stone old Chinese lady as my avatar,
so cage fighter seemed like an obviously
dissonant choice. But I couldve gone for
panhandler, huckster, stevedore, mascot,
carney... These arent just silly titles,
eithereach profession gives you a bonus
skill in one of the four skill trees, which is a
big foot-up to getting the higher level,
super-skills such as Gunner.

TWO FOR ONE

The weapon system is also fantastic. It


was only working in-mission when I
played, but essentially each gun type has
a wide array of mods for it, which can be
changed on the fly in-game, if youve
acquired them. But most impressively,
each gun can change into two different
types of gun. So with a single click, my
shotgun can be rejigged into a fully
Homefront: The Revolution is an odd
automatic shotgun or an inferno launcher
game. Though Dambuster Studios has
that fires Molotov cocktails.
taken the setting of the first game, its
We played three maps of the 12 that
dumped almost everything else
will be available at launch. One was an
understandable given it was more
infiltration mission where we were trying
memorable for the amount of money
to stealthily hijack two jeeps, another
PL AYED
THQ spent marketing it than for the
was a scouting mission that quickly
IT
quality of the game. The Revolution
turned into a frantic rearguard, and
has a completely different premise,
the third was a huge devastated
developer, publisher, location and
townscape where we rode
quality bar. Admittedly, Ive seen nothing
motorcycles between our targets,
of the singleplayer, but whizzing about on
dodging drone tanks, snipers and waves
my motorcycle during this three-hour
of enemies. Rhodes says the team will be
managed hands-on in co-op mode has got
producing free DLC for a year after release
me excited. We really want players to feel
and, all the content were creating for the
like theyre part of a resistance movement, Resistance Mode will be completely free
fighting a much more numerous and
to everyone who has the game, so the
equipped enemy and to have that feeling
player base will never be divided.
of engagement that comes from
Im a bit surprised this is part of the
non-conventional warfare, Stephen
main game, considering how promising it
Rhodes, the narrative designer tells
is. The Resistance Mode builds upon the
meand Id say this achieves that. It has
fiction and narrative we have in the story
mode, Rhodes explains, so we felt they
needed to come as one package to get
that message across. Fair enoughIm
not going to complain about a ton of extra
free content. Just as long as I get to keep
riding my dirt bike, Ill be happy.

THIS IS THE BEST MOTORCYCLE


GAME IVE EVER PLAYED AND
ITS NOT A MOTORCYCLE GAME

Dan Griliopoulos
APRIL 2016

19

PREVIEW
Thumper
NEED TO KNOW
RELEASE
2016

DEVELOPER
Drool

PUBLISHER
In-house

LINK
www.drool.ws

THUMPER

DO BE SQUARE

PL AYED
IT

A rhythm action game where the


rhythm ghts back
humper feels like what would happen if
you force fed Audiosurf a diet of Fuck
Buttons until it got angry. Its a rhythm
game set along an abstract winding
track, set to pulsating drones and bass thumps. The
vibe is dark and intense, like hurtling at breakneck
speed through an anxiety attack.
Phil Savage

CHANGE
THE TRACK

The music is quantized to


the beat, creating a precise,
threatening soundscape that
shifts and morphs as each level
ramps up in difficulty. It starts
sparse, but quickly builds
into something more
driven and primal.

22

APRIL 2016

Glowing squares along the


track let you activate abilities.
Find a row of them and you can
double or even triple jump,
before pounding down to send
a shockwave that destroys
distant enemies.

PREVIEW
Thumper

SPACE
BEETLE

Movement is fast and


automatic, which is part of
what makes Thumper feel so
merciless. Hazards are inevitable
and unavoidable. Either youre
pressing the button
combination that lets you
survive them, or youre
dead.

JUMP AND
GRIND

A variety of obstacles litter


the track, and each has a
specific move that lets you pass
through unharmedfor instance,
grinding over green bars or
jumping over red ones. Fail,
and youll be smashed to
bits.

APRIL 2016

23

PREVIEW
I dont think youre
Gamenamexxxx
quite her type.

NEED TO KNOW
RELEASE
2016

DEVELOPER
Santa Ragione

PUBLISHER
In-house

LINK
www.wheelsofaurelia.com

WHEELS OF
AURELIA
Take a life-changing road trip
through Italy. Are we there yet?
dont quite get Wheels of Aurelia. Playing
the paid beta available on the website, I
found it part bad driving game, part
confusing interactive narrative.
Collectively, these try to replicate the experience of
a road tripin this case, along the Italian Via
Aurelia in the late 70s. With each playthrough
landing at around the ten minute mark, maybe a
little longer depending on such diversions as races
and hitchhikers, I dont think it sticks around long
enough to be particularly effective.

PL AYED
IT

24

The game starts with Lella and her


partner (sort of) Olga driving up the Italian
coast on the Via Aurelia. You piece
together why theyre driving to France,
and whats really going on with your
driving companion, through a series of
dialogue choices that you scroll through
with the mouse. Steering is also done with
the mouse, and you can speed up or slow
down with the spacebar. Along the way,
you can pick up hitchhikers and start
APRIL 2016

races, and depending on the dialogue


choices, the destination becomes
something quite different.
There are ten endings, and I unlocked
three of them, then repeated a couple of
others by accident. Lella and Olgas road
trip quickly becomes an awkward
conversation about abortionswhich I
dont feel particularly good about
commenting on. After a few minutes more
where I felt like I wasnt being that nice to
Olga, the two of them just decided to
settle down together in a town and that
was the end of the game. Eh? Weve only
been driving for ten minutes and I was a
bit of a dick for most of that.
The short running time of each
playthrough and Lellas (no doubt
deliberately) pretentious, dickish dialogue

THE RACING CAR


DRIVER GOT US INTO A
HIGH-SPEED PURSUIT
WITH POLICE

choices mean the game doesnt really


earn those moments. And its not like the
writing is so effective that a few lines of
dialogue is all you need for it to sink inI
just felt like Id sat through something so
light in its exploration of difficult subject
matter that it didnt really do it justice.
Thats just one plot thread. After
systematically alienating Olga at the start
of the game to the point where she was
finally pissed off with me, I managed to
leave her behind and find myself at the
wheels of different cars with other
passengers, including a priest and a
former racing car driver. This is where I felt
the writing got a little better. There was a
sense of narrative build-up that linked with
the driving. The priest was off to meet his
mother at her nursing home, while the
racing car driver got us into a high-speed
pursuit with police, and I could avoid both
of those scenarios as the player. Im
interested to know what the other seven
endings yield, but Im so bored of the
repeated initial exchange between Lella
and Olga that I might not bother taking
another trip.
Samuel Roberts

PREVIEW
Hey hey, its the monkey.

Dont Starve: Shipwrecked

NEED TO KNOW
RELEASE
Early Access

DEVELOPER
Klei Entertainment/Capybara

PUBLISHER
In-house

D O NT S TA RV E:
SHIPWRECKED
Lost at sea with the survival
games latest expansion

LINK
www.bit.ly/ShipwreckedDS

weaponizing your boat with cannons will


likely become a more pressing concern.
Boats can also be equipped with trawl
nets to scoop up fish, mussels, useless
junk, andif youre luckyrare items
depending on what season youre in.

HEAVY SEASONING

As ever, climates the big killer. After Mild


Season, Hurricane Season is about
exactly as rough as it sounds. If you
havent bothered building a lightning rod,
your sweet camp will be zapped to a
eturning to Dont Starves world of goth
smouldering insurance claim within
survival whimsy is like slipping into a
seconds of the first storm starting. Then
bubble bath full of piranha. Youre
theres hail to contend with.
happy, but braced for impact. This DLC
Next comes Monsoon Season. The
is currently in Early Access, so some content
land will get progressively more flooded,
remains to be added and balance changes will be
potentially waterlogging your vital crafting
made based on feedback, but whats available now
machines. Poisonous mosquitoes spawn.
feels like a sufciently interesting twist.
Dry Season comes last and makes
overheating an issue. Or not, if like me
The key change is the setting. You wake on youve already lashed together a siesta
an island amid the wreckage of a boat, and lean-to and an ice-making machine. As for
initially its the familiar Dont Starve rush
the rest of Dry Season, it apparently
to gather resources, build tools and
features volcanic eruptions. Good luck
harvest food before nightfall, which is
staving off fiery rocks with a bamboo
lethal without the protection of fire. But
umbrella. I confess I havent encountered
whereas in previous iterations you
this yet as my best save lasted
could pretty much just scout for a
around 50 daysa far cry from the
PL AYED
plum location and then turtle up at
300+ I managed in the vanilla game.
IT
your base, in Shipwrecked youre
Still, Im definitely feeling the old
aggressively encouraged to explore.
compulsion to keep playing.
Each procedurally-generated world is
Shipwrecked sadly doesnt do anything
an archipelago, different biomes spread
to fix some of the structural problems
across islands that vary wildly in size.
Dont Starve has always suffered from. At
Theres almost no point in laying down
the end of a great run, its onerous to have
roots until youve secured a decent source
to slog through the early hours of
of the most important materials, and that
busywork required to construct an even
means heading out to sea.
half-decent homestead. Also, the variation
Building a basic raft is easy enough,
feels way too wide between a new world in
but its fragile and slow. Soon youll want
which vital resources are initially spawned
to upgrade to a rowboat, which can be
nearby and one in which you struggle to
equipped with a thatch sail and even a
find anything useful.
lantern for night maneuvers.
Ive spent some time trying to work out
In about half a dozen playthroughs Ive
how to farm Shipwreckeds prime
only been attacked once on water, but I
apesinfuriatingly cute monkeys that
suspect this is because the Tiger Shark
steal any nearby items you dropfor their
boss has yet to be implemented. When
meat and manure. You can distract them
that thing is prowling the waters,
with a Silly Monkey Ball, but it costs a lot of
stuff to craft. In a final act of desperation I
tried to burn the entire forest around
them, but as I was whispering the horror,
the horror, they emerged unscathed and
stole my coconuts. Still, at least the
weathers nice. For now.

IVE SPENT SOME TIME TRYING


TO WORK OUT HOW TO FARM
SHIPWRECKEDS PRIME APES
26

APRIL 2016

Tim Clark

I am ruler of
all I survey.

PREVIEW
Gamenamexxxx

My troubles are all behind me.

Lightning strikes can


wreck your homestead.

APRIL 2016

27


 

 

 

   

 
  

 


 


 

   


  

  
 
 

   


PREVIEW
If it glows,
its science!

Torment: Tides of Numenera

NEED TO KNOW
RELEASE
2016

DEVELOPER
inXile Entertainment

PUBLISHER
In-house

T O R M E N T: T I D E S
OF NUMENERA
First steps into inXiles
otherworldly RPG
oure the Last Castoff, a body discarded
by a self-made god who leaves newly
self-aware selves behind every time he
or she decides they fancy a new form. In
the opening seconds, you come into being just as
you nish falling to your death, and what follows is
a sequence that sees you rebuild yourself from
within your own innity-variable consciousness.

LINK
www.bit.ly/200SJRY

existential sci-fi-magical psychofantasy


where lots of stuff is purple.
Tides of Numenera is also something
new, however. This is the first time Monte
Cook Games Numenera setting has been
adapted to the PC. Ive been playing the
pen-and-paper game for a few years, and
this is a thoughtful digital translation of the
system. The broad strokes are this:
instead of a health bar, you have three
poolsMight, Speed, and Intellect. These
can be damaged by enemies, but you also
spend from them to increase your
chances of success in every action you
take: this is called expending effort.

BOOKISH

Enthusiastic readers of high-concept sci-fi


will get a huge amount out of Torment, but
the emphasis here is on readers. Like its
cousin Pillars of Eternity, this is a game
that wants you to take the time to read
With me so far? Goodbecause then
and absorb everything its telling you. The
youve got some memory-spelunking,
writing is the important stuff, the meat of
body-switching time travel to do. And then
the game, the detail that brings a
the tutorial ends. Once in the world proper, capital-W Weird world to life.
your quest is to free yourself from the
Unlike Pillars of Eternity, however,
Sorrowa formless beast tracking you
Tides of Numenera offers few traditional
and your kind through history. Youre
fantasy footholds. The Numenera
immediately given a choice of
setting delights in unsettling
PL AYED
companions and approach, and, no,
expectations, and while there are
IT
combat isnt mandatory. My own
analogs for monsters and magic they
journey began with half a battle and a
never match up perfectly. The game
stint spent impersonating a city official to
is set in Earths far, far future, and
spare a man from being strangled by a
civilization has done a few billion laps
flesh cord spun out of his own drugaround Clarkes third law in that time.
induced nightmares. This is a promising
Magic is science, science is thought,
start to a long-awaited RPG.
thought is matter, and every grain of
Torment: Tides of Numenera is a
matter is imbued with magic. Despite my
return to the past in a number of ways. Its
experience running pen-and-paper
a spiritual successor to one of the deepest
campaigns in this world, I paused to make
and most beloved RPGs ever made,
sure I understood all of the ideas the game
Planescape: Torment. Its isometric, partly
throws up in its first hour. This is a caveat,
turn-based and heavy on detail-rich
but also an endorsement: every oldpre-rendered backdrops. The age of
school Torment fan worried their favorite
Kickstarter has already recovered
RPG might lose its sense of strange in the
apocalyptic black comedy and traditional
absence of the Planescape license can be
fantasy from their time-locked 90s
reassured that this isnt the case.
prisons. Now it delivers the third and final
Its possible to pay for access to the
part of that classic RPG triumvirate:
beta, but its in an extremely raw state. I
experienced crashes, loss of progress and
bugged quests, and entire features and
plot points are absent. While inXile touts
the games replayability, you only get one
first run: at present, youd thank yourself
for waiting until the game is further along.

IN THE OPENING SECONDS, YOU


COME INTO BEING JUST AS YOU
FINISH FALLING TO YOUR DEATH
34

APRIL 2016

Chris Thursten

Yep, sorry, no
idea what this is.

PREVIEW
Gamenamexxxx

The setting is
quasi-medieval sci-fi.

APRIL 2016

35

C O V E R F E AT U R E
Dark Souls III
Da

36

APRIL 2016

C O V E R F E AT U R E
Dark Souls III

Why DARK SOULS IIII feels like a return to the


ne form of the original game.
By Andi Hamilton

ark Souls is like Die Hard. Bear with me. The rst
one is a total, undeniable classic, helmed by a
director fresh off the back of another excellent
project. The second one had a new director take
over the series and, although head and shoulders
above most of the rest of the genre, it didnt quite
live up to the heights reached by its predecessor.
This time, the John McTiernan of the Souls games
is back: the renowned Hidetaka Miyazaki is
working on the third installment, after sitting out
Dark Souls II in favor of creating the exceptional
Bloodborne on PlayStation 4. Dark Souls III feels
like a true return to form.
APRIL 2016

37

C O V E R F E AT U R E
Dark Souls III
Da

Froms Bloodborne also drew


massive critical acclaim.

This series can still surprise


us, three games in.

I played the PC build of an area called the High Wall


of Lothric, a sprawling castle wall that appears to
have been the battleground between an army of
now-hollowed knights and some gigantic, respewing dragons. Theres a greater sense of scale, of
spectacle, to Dark Souls III, much more in line with
Bloodborne. This is the rst time Dark Souls nally
looks like the AAA game its supposed to be. People
forget that the original didnt have such lofty
expectations of it, while the second had a clearly
troubled development (and falling into the gap
between console generations didnt help). This time
around, were treated to a world full of next-gen
detail, where ash akes drift in the breeze, blown off
the backs of gigantic dragon carcasses that lie across
destroyed stone towers, all lit by the golden glow of a
sun beaming through clouds. The lore implications of
this area is likely driving YouTubers wild at the mere
thought of it.
It feels way more like the original Dark Souls.
Theres been a lot said about how it moves a lot faster
and how thats the inuence of Bloodborne, but try to

MORE THAN A TOUGH TIME

1 SHORTCUTS

Youve fought your way


past fiendish enemies and
pa
just bested a giant knight
jus
wh
when you step in a lift. You go
up and then realize where you
areback at Firelink Shrine.
ar
The whole game is
T
connected?! This is amazing!
co
you think. Youre right.
yo

38

APRIL 2016

2 BOSS FIGHTS

play Dark Souls III like Bloodborne and youll end up


dead. A lot. Even more than usual. Its slicker and
smoother, for sure, but youll need to apply those Dark
Souls fundamentals to stay alive: patience, keep your
shield ready, take every opportunity to attack and
keep an eye on your surroundings.

THREE-DIMENSIONAL
The scenery is actually a big part of why this feels so
much like the rst game. The High Wall of Lothric is
a much more 3D area than a lot of the locations in
Dark Souls II, where you would just start at the main
hub of Majula and push outwards until you hit a dead
end. It has much more in common with Dark Souls
and Bloodborne, with a lot of vertical progression and
routes that eventually loop back on themselves in the
form of incredibly rewarding shortcuts. Clearly, this
sort of thing has become the calling card of Miyazaki.
My time with the game led me from the battlements
at the top of the wall to the catacombs beneath, and to
the secret sub-boss that awaits adventurers in the
dungeons. This was a giant ghostly knight who emits

Its not just the difficulty that makes people love these games

Theyre not just scraps


with horrific monsters. Try the
fight with Sif, the giant white
wolf companion of the Knight
Artorias. This somber battle is
made all the worse by the fact
the poor thing limps when
down to the last bits of health.
And that music, man.

3 JC OO LOLPYE R A T I O N !

Placing a summon sign and


being transported into
another players world to help
them beat a boss is one of the
best feelings in the world. The
anonymous co-op play in the
Dark Souls games is a way of
paying it forward.

4 DICKWRAITHING

The opposite of
cooperation. You can invade
another players game with
the goal of killing them or
impeding their progress. Its
brilliant, if a sure-fire way of
getting abusive messages
through Steam. Youll deserve
them, too.

5 TT HH EE SC TA OL MR MA F T E R

After mastering Sens


Fortress and besting the Iron
Golem on the top, you pass
over the wall and into Anor
Londo. That moment when
you first see the city, bathed
in the golden light of dawn, is
truly breathtaking. You did it.

F E AT U R E

The most cheerful game


youll play on PC this year.

Gamenamexxxx
xxx

a constant freezing blast that can cause a new


Frostbitten status, which temporarily restricts
stamina regeneration and spells certain death.
Dark Souls games also have a unique way of
leveling up your character. The usual increasing of
stats to raise health/stamina, etc, is only half of it, as
increasing these also governs the type of equipment
you can use and how effective you are with it. This
allows for a lot of exibility in terms of your character
build and enables pretty much any character to wield
any weapon, spell or suit of armor. Creating these
builds and the challenges associated with (a) getting
them up and running and (b) actually completing the
game with them is all part of the Dark Souls
experience. Sadly I didnt have access to any of the
menus in the version
PC Gamer was
supplied with, as From
Software likes to keep
things like item
descriptions and
anything else that
could hint at the plot
very close to its chest.
I had four pre-built
characters that were level-appropriate for this section
of the game. Wandering Knight was your standard
sword and board user, a true all-rounder. Northern
Warrior was similar, but geared towards the heavier
end of things, and came armed with a big battleaxe.
The Herald of White and Academy Assassin were
specced to be able to use a few of the games magic
options, with the Assassin having some especially
impressive spells in his arsenal, like the ability to
attack an enemy with a giant, supernatural
broadsword. All of them offered opportunities to take
unique approaches to the combat situations the level
throws up. A particularly challenging section for the
Wandering Knight, for example, due to the number of
enemies that rush you at once, was fairly negligible
using the Academy Assassins magic missiles, which
let him stand at range and pick them off one by one.

The section ends with a spectacular boss ght


The Dancer of the Frigid Valley. A giant, lean knight
who wields a sword made of re. She wears a helmet
connected to a ghostly veil that swishes behind her as
she lurches around the arena. As always, its a test of
your patience and skill, as you learn her patterns,
evade her attacks and strike when you have the
opportunity. As is the way with Dark Souls, keeping
your head in this high pressure situation is
paramount, and after a few goes at herand a few
silly deaths due to hubrisI put her to the sword. And
there it was: that sense of satisfaction, of achievement,
that only Dark Souls can provide.
Theres been some concern over the busy schedule
of From Softwares games, as this will be its fourth
release in the past two
years. The worry is
that there could be a
drop in quality, or that
the element of surprise
and freshness would
fade. This has no
doubt been
compounded by the
fact that many found
Dark Souls II to be slightly underwhelming. From the
section of Dark Souls III Ive played, we dont have
anything to worry about.

DARK SOULS LOOKS SET


TO BOW OUT ON AN
EXTREMELY HIGH NOTE

FINAL BOW
When dealing with its new challenges you quickly
remember why these gameswhen you strip away all
of the trimmingsare held in such high regard.
Factor-in the stuff that we currently dont know about,
such as any new ways of using Dark Souls unique
approach to multiplayer, all the new locations,
incredible bosses and the deep, rich lore of the land,
and we could be looking at another legendary
action-RPG. Miyazaki has stated repeatedly that this
is set to be the nal Souls game and, based on what
Ive seen so far, it looks like the series is set to bow out
on an extremely high note.
APRIL 2016

39

C O V E R F E AT U R E
Dark Souls III
Da

INTERVIEW

Dark Souls creator HIDETAKA MIYAZAKI talks to us


about the storytelling and design of the series.
By Wes Fenlon and Tom Senior
40

APRIL 2016

C O V E R F E AT U R E
Dark Souls III

THE PROCESS OF
BUILDING A WORLD
IS VERY INSPIRING

STRANGE ENEMIES

The series weirdest monsters

How does From Software put its stories


togetheris the whole narrative written
down somewhere, then broken up and
spread across item descriptions and
environmental elements?

Thats a really difcult question. I dont


think we really have a specic process
that is one or the other, but the story
grows from both of these elements.
Well have an idea of the worldview and
theme and as we develop the
environments certain things will arise
and give detail. The process of building
a world is very inspiring and I think
that helps create new ideas even after
the original thought.
Are there story details the designers
choose to omit or obfuscate to create
that sense of mystery that encourages
fans to speculate?

Its true that I admire unconventional


storytelling but we dont deliberately
mislead players for the sake of mystery!
Rather, its the players interpretation

GAPING DRAGON

A gigantic dragon with a huge


mouth full of razor sharp
teeth instead of a body. Has a
normal mouth too.
Weird rating: 89%

GR AVELORD NITO

A giant skeleton made out


of loads of other skeletons.
Unsurprisingly, the lord of
the Skeletons.
Weird rating: 72%

THE DUKES
DE AR FRE YA

CEASELESS
DISCHARGE

THE DEMON OF SONG

THE ROTTEN

A two-headed spider the size


of a building and as terrifying
as youd expect that to be.
Weird rating: 80%

Imagine, if you will, a giant


frog. Now imagine inside its
mouth a huge skull face and
two grabbing arms.
Weird rating: 67%

A big, sad man made out of


lava. Also sounds like a
deeply personal problem.
Weird rating: 74%

Basically, Gravelord Nito, but


made from rotting corpses
rather than skeletons. A lot
smellier, for sure.
Weird rating: 62%

APRIL 2016

41

C O V E R F E AT U R E
Dark Souls III

WE FELT THERE
WAS MORE WE
COULD ADD
that creates meaning in Dark Souls and
we like to do our best to encourage
their imagination.
Youve talked about Dark Souls games
sharing a worldview before. What are
the key elements of the worldview, and
what themes will Dark Souls III explore?

The worldview of Dark Souls is


primarily concerned with a sense of
ending. In Dark Souls III, the end of the
world has this withered beauty,
symbolically expressed by the fading
sun. Were imagining an epic tale told
in the ending of the world.
This worldview is shared by one of
the symbolic characters, the Lord of
Cinder, and if the original Dark Souls
was the story of killing a god, Dark
Souls III is the story of killing a lord.
Have any books, TV, manga or anime
inspired Dark Souls III?

I cant deny my imagination has come


from many literary works when I direct
42

APRIL 2016

games, but that doesnt mean I pick one


specic inuence for each game.
Of course, there are titles that have
had a strong inuence, like Lovecraft in
Bloodborne, but I think its too difcult
to identify what this might be for Dark
Souls III at this stage.
Dark Souls games are full of doomed,
tragic figures. Do tragic stories interest
you, or are they part of making the

The end of the world? Or


just a misty morning?

player feel as though theyre battling


this endless adversity?

There are certain tragic gures that


have been of interest to me, but I think
this sense of adversity you mention is
established by many things. In many
ways, this adversity could also be the
same as challenge, or the challenge
players nd within Dark Souls, which is
a big part of the game. Overcoming
huge difculties and feeling that sense
of accomplishment is one of the most
important themes of the series for me.
What is the process of designing levels
and bosses? Do you have ideas for
monsters, and do you ask artists to
pitch designs?

I wish I could say every single detail


has a meaning attached to it, but this
may have been a little overstated.
However, many of our design work
starts from a certain meaning or
meanings. I dont really like work
thats focused purely on its aesthetic

C O V E R F E AT U R E
Dark Souls III

SECRET STORIES
The best tales are told through use of the environment and items within it

DRAINING NEW
LONDO RUINS

KING VENDRICK

THE K NIGHT, SOL AIRE

New Londo was flooded to seal the


Four Kings in the abyss, but the
true cost of this act is revealed
when you drain the water and find
thousands of corpses clawing at
the sealed elevator.

Youre pointed in the direction of


King Vendrick for the entire game
and when you finally track him
down in the Undead Crypt hes
hollowed completely. You can
either leave him be or put him
out of this miserable existence.

LUCATIEL OF MIRR AH

POOR, CLUMSY TARKUS

ARTORIASS BUST ARM

Lucatiel roams Drangleic seeking


her brother and a cure for the curse
of the undead. As you encounter
her throughout the game, the curse
begins to rob her of her memories.
A sad allegory for the common
dementia disease Alzheimers.

qualities, such as making it cool or


exciting. To create a sense of joy of
awareness and imagination in our
work, meaning is needed.
How much of the design comes from
the team around you?

I order most of our designs by their text


le because Im afraid that the designer
will stop thinking about what this
artwork means to them and the
gameespecially if we emphasize the
visual image over the idea behind it.
Although, this does make it
complicated to organize sometimes...
In other words, I want the team to
imagine the design rst of all, and a text
le is one way that I can encourage
their imagination.
What is your favorite Dark Souls
location, and why?

Its actually not a location but my


favorite bosses from Dark Souls are the
Gaping Dragon, and [Dragon Slayer]

Black Iron Tarkus is a beast of an


NPC you can summon to do battle
with the Iron Golem on the top of
Sens Fortress. But his big, bulky
armor set is found on a corpse on
the floor of the Anor Londo chapel,
implying he fell from the rafters.

Ornstein and [Executioner] Smough.


The Gaping Dragon has some really
incredible design work and I have fond
memories of Ornstein and Smough, and
the threat they pose to players when
they combine.
How has directing Bloodborne affected
your direction of Dark Souls III? Are
there features that youre bringing over
to Dark Souls?

There are some small elements


implemented from Bloodborne but,
above all else, Bloodborne was an
important experience [because it was]
the rst game we developed on
current-generation consoles. The things
we learnt have been used to help us
develop Dark Souls III, and include
technical trouble-solving.
While in Bloodborne we picked the
unique trick weapons to refresh the
combat for players, in Dark Souls III we
wanted to deepen the system that
already existed. Whether its a classic

Is Solaire Gwyns missing son or


is he simply a hollowing knight
with good intentions? Either way,
his tale can end either with a
genuinely epic showdown with his
desperate father, or with a descent
into insanity.

The Knight Artorias is talked about


as a legend in Lordran, which is why
hes such a formidable boss when
you face him in the DLC. However,
he has a dead arm hanging by his
side. Its implied thats the only
reason you stand a chance.

sword or spear, we felt there was more


we could add to the game to deepen
the sense of strategy.
Players find shortcuts due to the way
Dark Souls environment interconnects.
When designing the world, how do you
ensure thats possible? Will Dark Souls
III work in a similar way?

The connection of the map is closer to


the original Dark Souls and while many
of the maps are intertwining there are
some exceptions too. We must
understand how the player explores the
world and then nd what works with
that environment.
Dark Souls was a big hit on PC, despite
it being an incredibly basic port. Will
Dark Souls III take advantage of the PC
in a more meaningful way?

The PC version of Dark Souls II was


well-received and we consider the
PC version of Dark Souls III to be no
less important.
APRIL 2016

43

F E AT U R E
Tom Clancys The Division

TOM CLANCYS
THE DIVISION
is better shared
with friends.
By Phil Savage

44

APRIL 2016

F E AT U R E
Tom Clancys The Division

heres no /dance command in


Tom Clancys The Division.
Standing in the social zone, I
type it into the chat box.
/dance, I announce to the
serverthree other critics
and two developers
revealing my current avenue
of investigation. I feel a bit silly. The Division is set
in what Ubisoft calls a mid-crisis New York. The
world hasnt ended, but it is ending. This is not, it
has to be said, a suitable danceoor on which to get
down. In response to my unintended message, a
developers character gives me a /wave.
The Division isnt an MMO, but it borrows MMO
elements. Its an open-world shooter with a strong
cooperative focus. Players meet up in the social hub at
Chelsea Piers, before venturing out for a PvE
adventure with their chosen companions. According
to Ubisoft, its designed to work equally well in
singleplayer. Ive been very deliberately trying to
make a great singleplayer game, says Magnus Jansen,
The Divisions creative
director, because I
strongly believe that
we should use carrot
and not stick to get
people to play with
other people.
That means not
penalizing players who
choose to explore this
near 1-to-1 recreation of New York on their own
terms. There are absolutely no incentives or prods to
get you to play with others, Jansen reafrms. We
havent undermined the singleplayer version.
Im not convinced, although I should be clear that
I havent played The Division solo. Instead, I spent
around four hours as part of a co-op team. To me, The
Division is at its best when its tactical and skill
systems are working for the benet of a group, and I

cant imagine that same feeling will transfer when


playing alone. The enjoyment is found in the way the
different skill trees let you specialize for a specic role
within a team, and the way cover is positioned to
create multiple routes towards anking opportunities.

LONE GUNMAN

ABOVE
Classes in the
traditional
sense dont
exist. All
agents can
tailor skills to
the situation.

Jansen points out that, while the skill system lets you
create specialized builds for group play, it also lets you
be more of a generalist if needed. The reason why
we have two main gun slots and two skill slots is that
you can be a well-rounded solo player as well. The
whole point of having two skills is that I can have an
offensive and a supportive skill when Im playing by
myself. Then, if I go into a group, I could switch so
both of them are supportive.
But group play feels right. Its not long into my
session before Im barking things like moving into
anking position, and taking out the top sniper
communicating with all the impotent authority of an
assistant manager getting a little too into a weekend
paintball retreat. Based on my session, The Division
has some problems, but its tactical gunplay is
satisfying enough that
its easy to get caught
up in the fantasy.
The Division is
based on the real-life
exercise Operation
Dark Winter, which
took place in 2001 to
test the USs
preparedness to deal
with a biological attack. More accurately, The Division
is based on the conclusion of that simulation: that the
US was in no way prepared to deal with a biological
attack. In the games ction, New York has been hit by
such an attack, and, as a result, everything has gone to
shit. Into this mess walk you and your friends:
members of the Strategic Homeland Division. Its
your job to liberate Midtown Manhattan from the
violent factions that lurk within.

ITS YOUR JOB TO LIBERATE


MIDTOWN MANHATTAN FROM
VIOLENT FACTIONS

APRIL 2016

45

F E AT U R E
Tom Clancys The Division

In addition to looters, youll nd factions organized


enough to be worthy of a proper noun. The Rikers are
prisoners whove escaped from Rikers Island. The
Cleaners, are a bunch of blue-collar workers whove
decided to don hazmat suits and burn everything. The
Division does not, it seems, have a high opinion of the
populaces sanity in the face of tragedy.
The Division was rst announced at E3 in 2013,
and early marketing seemed loathe to spell out
exactly what sort of experience it offeredan attempt,
I guess, to make it seem elusive and mysterious.
Playing it, its immediately apparent what Ive got my
hands on: a third-person open-world shooter with
online functionality and a tactical cover-based system.
Its a little bit Borderlands, a little bit Destiny, a little
bit Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfare.
In traditional Ubisoft style, the map is littered with
missions, side-missions and collectibles. Missions are
organized into three classes, Medical, Security and
Tech. These correspond to the three skill categories,
and to the wings of your main base. As you complete

46

APRIL 2016

missions, you unlock points to spend upgrading the


corresponding wingunlocking passive perks as you
go. Its a physical manifestation of everything you
do, says Jansen of your base of operations. Not just
in terms of these tools that you get. It feels great
towards the end of the game when you walk in there,
and, Im not going to spoil all the stuff that happens,
but its an encouraging living place.
Aside from the social aspect, The Divisions MMO
element is most keenly felt in battle. This is a shooter,
but its one thats informed by MMO practicalities.
That chiey manifests in the enemy design. Even the
most basic grunt is a bullet sponge, and higher tiers
have special abilities and even larger health bars. This
does feel at odds with the ostensibly real-world
setting. Some bosses are heavily armored, explaining
their extra health and shield layer. One that I fought,
though, was just a sniper in a hoodie. Her only visible
protection was a stylish polyester blend.
Were going for an authentic feel and not a
realistic feel, says Jansen of this disconnect. I mean,

LEFT
See famous
landmarks;
shoot people
near them.
RIGHT
The Cleaner
faction is very
into fire
unsafety.

F E AT U R E
Tom Clancys The Division
its not a simulator. Its very, very clearly a game rst.
We are obviously standing on the shoulders of some
big giants in terms of the RPG space, and so yes, when
we also merge that with the shooterbecause it is a
shooteryoure going to have to gure out which one
yields. We are denitely an RPG rst.

TEAM PLAYER

ABOVE
It is the near
future, and all
breakdancing
is performed
at gunpoint.

The RPG side is relatively eshed out, offering loot


drops, skill customization and gear upgrades. The
underlying stats inform the moment-to-moment play,
but, ultimately, its the tactical side that I nd myself
responding to. I tailor my characters skills to
complement our group, equipping an area-of-effect
healing deployable that lets me keep the team active
in sustained ghts for longer. For weapons, I pick the
LMGsuppressing more advanced enemy types, thus
allowing the rest of the group to ank round with
assault ries. Working out how each character ts
into the larger whole proves the most satisfying part
of the session.
I also get a chance to brave the Dark Zone, The
Divisions PvP area. In here, groups hunt NPCs for
special loot, but also
have a chance to run
into other players.
Ubisoft stresses that
the Dark Zone isnt
forced PvP. They want
players to form uneasy
alliances, working
together for shared
rewards under an tense
atmosphere that could end with ambush or betrayal.
I point out to Jansen that past attempts to harness
such a systemDayZ, most famouslytend to devolve
into a shoot-on-sight mentality. He lists a number of
systems that the team hope will keep the Dark Zones
tension intact. When you go rogue, which is our
term for when you severely damage or kill another
agent, you get a penalty timer. During this time, other
players are able to attack you with impunity. If youre
killed during a rogue state, you can lose Dark Zone
XP and currencyboth required to purchase special
gear from vendors. In addition, if youre bad enough
youll have a bounty that is visible to other players.
Were making the players police the Dark Zone.

The Divisions PC version is being developed


jointly by Ubisoft Massive and Red Stormboth of
whom have their roots in the platform. A suite of
PC-specic customization options will be available,
including a large number of individual, granular
graphics settings. One of the extra lengths that weve
gone to that I think is
super cool is the UI
customization, Jansen
says, where you can
customize not only
where the UI elements
are, but change size
and everything. Not
only can you do that
but, if you have
multiple monitors, you can decide to have [the UI] on
a separate monitor. Its not something you see often,
and its very, very cool.

IM STILL NOT SURE THAT


THERES A COMPELLING
SINGLEPLAYER GAME HERE

QUARANTINE

THE ONE WITH GUNS


The Division is an interesting albeit familiar mesh of
systems. And while each works individually, the
success of the full release will come down to how
seamlessly theyre blended together. Im still not sure
that theres a compelling singleplayer game here,
despite Ubisofts claims to the contrary. As a group
experience, though, The Division seems to be on
much rmer ground. As a certain 90s sitcom will tell
you, New York is better with friends.

New Yorks hottest spots

1 SAFE HOUSE

A safe place that


doubles as a social
zone. Sort your
inventory, tweak your
character, and recruit
new players.

3 MISSION

Aside from main


missions, players will
tackle side-missions,
small-scale
encounters and
roaming gangs.

BASE OF
OPER ATIONS

Your personal base.


Earn passive perks
through upgrades
bought with points
earned from missions.

3
1

4 COLLECTIBLES

A series of
collectibles can be
found, including
crafting materials and
intel that fleshes out
the games backstory.

APRIL 2016

47

F E AT U R E
Strategy games

48

APRIL 2016

F E AT U R E
Strategy
Stra
S
St
trategy
trateg
tr tegy
egy ga
ggames
ames
am
mes
es

B
Eva y Edw
ns-T in
hirl
wel
l

ion
t
u
l
o
, ev e RTS
e
n
i
l
dec re of th
e
h
T futu
and
APRIL 2016

49

F E AT U R E
Strategy gam
ga
games
ames
ames
am

50

APRIL 2016

F E AT U R E
Strategy games
o speak of the death of a genre is always a bit ridiculous, but real-time
strategy as traditionally conceived has certainly seen better days. If the genre
were a round of deathmatch wed be well into the nal third, with all resources
tapped, the majority of key bases attened and depleted armies scattered
across the map. The StarCraft series remains an outpost of prosperity, bustling
along in deance of changing market conditions. Also, the excellent Company
of Heroes and Dawn of War games from RTS veterans Relic continue to nd a
dedicated and passionate audience. This months new Homeworld feels special
partly because its such a one-off. Elsewhere, its a bit of a wasteland: from the
ruins of Command & Conquer: Generals 2, which was shuttered along with
edgling developer Victory Games in 2013, to the ashes of the Age of Empires
series, shelved by Microsoft back in 2009.
RTS games are in a bind, says David
Pottinger, CEO at BonusXP and former
lead programmer at Age developer
Ensemble Studios. StarCraft
undeniably rules the roostbeyond
that, theres just not that much else out
there at that quality level. No one is
green-lighting $40 to $60 million dollar
RTS projects any more. Hell, even
getting more than a couple of million is
tough for most places. Its not quite fair
to cite this, because Ensemble was
getting closed and we threw everyone
who was left at Halo Wars, but that
game shipped with over a hundred
people working on it. It was in
development for over four years. By
contrast, at Bonus weve had about 12
or 13 people working on Servo, our paid
PC RTS, for just over a year.
Uber Entertainments chief
technology ofcer John Comeswho
designed Command & Conquer titles at

S TA R C R A F T S M A N S H I P

Westwood Interactive and EA, before


joining Gas Powered Games to work on
Supreme Commanderagrees that the
golden era of big budget RTS
development has passed. Businesswise I feel like there is still a place for
RTS, he says. But theres a fraction of
the fan base it used to have.

BATTLE FOR RESOURCES


In light of this shift, Uber opted to
Kickstart its seismic 2014 release
Planetary Annihilation, a spiritual
successor to 1997s Total Annihilation
that raised over two million dollars in
crowd funding. This has been offered
up as evidence of lingering grassroots
enthusiasm for the RTS, or at least for
games that harken back to the classics.
But Ubers next RTS project, the
B-movie avored Human Resources,
failed to attract much support and was
canceled before completion of its

Why StarCraft lives and others die

Why has StarCraft II, the first installment of which launched in 2010, stood the test of time while much of the
blockbuster RTS scene has crumbled? In part its a simple question of having an unrivaled pedigree and more
cash to burnBlizzard, after all, is the creator of World of Warcraft and a subsidiary of the industrys largest publisher,
Activision. But according to Stardocks Brad Wardell, StarCraft II also owes its success to how Blizzard nurtured the
enormous following it had built up around StarCraft: Brood War. First, its an excellent game. There is no substitute
for thousands and thousands of hours of balancing of three unique races. Second, Blizzard has spent a great deal of
time and money supporting its community. Third, Blizzard invested early and heavily into a robust multiplayer and
metagame experience.
Wardell outlines three technological generations of real-time strategyDOS games like Westwoods Dune 2,
Windows sprite-based titles like Age of Empires and finally 3D, 32-bit gamesarguing that Blizzards awareness of the
importance of community management has allowed it to dominate the third generation. He feels that the StarCraft
studio is all but insurmountable at this stage; itll take another leap in the nature or quality of supporting hardware
to create opportunities for competitors. Third generation RTS games reached the limitations of 32-bit, single-core,
DirectX 9 [computing] some time ago. Anybody wanting to get into that market had to compete on the same playing
field as Blizzard, and only Supreme Commander really came close in my view.

Yo
pro u ca
awabably n
y w get
big ith on
RTS e
yea a
r
Kickstarter campaign. I believe you
can probably get away with one big
RTS a year and have it be successful,
Comes says. Right now, that mantle
seems to be basically owned by the
Total War series.
The phenomenally popular Total
War, of course, is a hybrid, marrying
turn-based empire management to
questions of formation and unit morale
on the battleeld. This is indicative,
says Comes, of how the genre has
evolved to survive. When I started
there were really only three major
playersWestwood with Command &
Conquer, Blizzard with Warcraft and
StarCraft, and Ensemble with Age of
Empires. Nowadays, however, youre
seeing RPG mechanics mixed into RTS
with the MOBA genre. Youre also
starting to see RTS-style resource
management in a lot of survival games.
The tower defense genre was born
from mods of RTS games.
Looking back on Planetary
Annihilationthe gameplay isnt that
different from Total Annihilation,
which came out 20 years ago. Yes, we
innovated on the play-eld with
spherical planets, and introduced a
rogue-like metagame with Galactic
War, but those dont change the core
experience. As an industry weve spent
decades trying to improve on
traditional RTS mechanics and have
had some success, but theres nothing
groundbreaking. Which is why I think
genre-mixing is going so well now.
Traditional RTS blockbusters may
be scarce, in other words, but their
DNA endures in a variety of forms
and the result, suggests David
Pottinger, is a market that is much
more diverse even if major releases
shift fewer copies. I think there are
two kinds of RTS games these days, he
says. Its not easy to compare them.
There are the games that stay true to
the old-school formulathey put in a
ton of content, have a big showy
APRIL 2016

51

F E AT U R E
Strategy
gy games
product and are aiming to be the next
StarCraft. I dont see a ton of innovation
in those games. Then, youve got the
smaller titles. Stuff like Servo, where
weve taken an RPG and mushed it
together with an RTS. You get to build
your own giant robots, and those robots
serve a role similar to Warcraft IIIs
heroes. Im still not sure how that will
work out, but its fun to try something
new. And then youve got things like
Offworld Trading Company from Soren
Johnson and the Mohawk crew, which
doesnt even have combat in it.

is
y
r
st rd
u
d
in owa
e
h
T ving t play r
mo orter faste
sh s and esult
ion n-to-r
s
s
se isio es
dec cycl

THE MOBA EFFECT


After polishing off Supreme
Commander, Comes served as lead
designer on Stardocks Demigod, the
rst commercial MOBA, in which hero
units are effectively walking citadels
accompanying a customizable AI
taskforce. The MOBA is often
described as the successor to the
RTSits based on a Warcraft III mod
and has been embraced by a number of
RTS teams, including Blizzard itself
but how exactly MOBAs have come to
eclipse their spiritual forebears could
do with more explanation.
Petroglyphs creative director Joe
Bostic has worked on RTS games for
over two decadeshe helped design
the pioneering Dune 2 after joining

R E M E M B E R I N G T H E FA L L E N
A few RTS warhorses that dont get enough love today

GROUND CONTROL

A pure tactics-driven sci-fi real-time


strategy game, with an emphasis
on unit orientation, line of sight and
flanking maneuvers.

DUNE II

The archetypal RTS, a game that


brought together many of the
genres most important elements
for the first time.

WARCRAFT III

A quintessentially Blizzard
blockbuster that introduced
leveling heroes to the genre
paving the way for the MOBA.

Westwood Interactive in 1991. The


MOBAs rise, Bostic argues, reects an
industry-wide shift towards snappier,
less demanding strategy titles. RTS
games require more mental investment
and long-term planning than MOBAs.
This is due to RTS games being, at a
basic level, an economic and
production game where decisions can
often take quite some time to have their
result affect the outcome. In worst
cases, an RTS battle can last over an
hour and this requires quite a
commitment from the player.
Also, RTS games require a
signicant level of multi-tasking where
production, combat, exploration must
all be controlled well to achieve victory.
Only a subset of the gaming population
prefers that level of stress. The games
industry is moving toward shorter play
sessions and faster decision-to-result
cycles. Controlling and focusing on a
single avatar, as in a MOBA, is easier to
grasp and learn effective tactics as well
as allowing fast-paced team
multiplayer. This quicker tempo also
makes the MOBA a better t for Twitch
streaming and Lets Play videosa
decisive advantage as games become
ever more of a spectator sport.
Stardock CEO and Galactic
Civilizations designer Brad Wardell
suggests that the MOBA is a natural
response to hardware limitations that
have cramped the evolution of the RTS
proper. By narrowing the focus to small
squads of upgradeable characters,
backed by a throng of grunts, he says,
MOBA developers are able to deliver a
level of cinematic nesse that sprawling
RTS experiences simply cant rival.
If you make a 32-bit, single core,
DirectX 9 game today that you want to
have exceptional visual delity with
great performance, you have to lower
the number of objects. For example,
look at Demigod. It was built using
Supreme Commander: Forged Alliances
engine. To get the visual delity it has,
the number of units and map sizes had
to be scaled back. And this is the
bargain weve all had to make: either
lots of low-delity units that bog down
late game, or a handful of very
high-delity units. The case could be
made that MOBAs were inevitable.

FREE TO PLAY
AGE OF MYTHOLOGY

It offered Civilization at warp speed,


with upgradeable towns, god
powers and dramatic tech shifts
from era to era.

52

APRIL 2016

COMMAND & CONQUER:


RED ALERT

Perhaps the best-loved C&C, with a


flexible UI, online play and great
asymmetrical faction balance.

TOTAL ANNIHIL ATION

Innovative in all sorts of ways, it


came with a unique economic
model, order queuing and powerful
Commander units.

MOBAs are also structurally wellsuited to free-to-play revenue models


theyre ideal platforms for
microtransactable accessories because
they encourage players to form a bond
with a particular character, and the
absence of an upfront cost naturally

F E AT U R E
Strategy games
makes for wider adoption. According to
a March 2015 report from market
researcher EEDAR, League of Legends
and Dota 2 reap the greatest proportion
of their revenue from so-called vanity
items. Obliged as they are to look at the
bigger picture, we can assume RTS
players arent quite as susceptible to
such temptationsespecially when
they affect the balance of power.
In general, RTS players want a
perfectly balanced game, David
Pottinger says. They want to know
everything there is to know ahead of
time. They want skill to be the only
determining factor in who wins the
game. Free-to-play games, on the other
hand, tend to reward playing longer or,
gasp, paying actual money. That doesnt
usually mix well with an RTS.
One particularly sad consequence of
free-to-play and the MOBAs rise is
diminished buzz around singleplayer
modes in RTS campaignsfully edged
campaign options with cutscenes and
scripting are few and far between, with
many teams preferring to offer simple
skirmish modes against the AI. Joe
Bostic feels this is short-sighted. PvP is
inherently intimidating and so for those
people that avoid PvP, the campaign is
there to provide entertainment. It is
debatable whether [AI skirmishes are]
a sufcient substitute for a campaign. I
would argue that it is not, at least for
the traditional pay-to-play monetization
model that RTS games use.
Comes agrees that the majority of
players still play singleplayer campaigns
over multiplayer or AI skirmish, but in
an uncertain market, the associated
expenditure can be hard to justify.
Campaigns are difcult and costly to
make, and even more so to make well.
Few companies want to take on that
sort of risk.

HARDWARE JUMPS
Like their peers in the action genre,
RTS teams have wrestled at length with
the implications of new interfaces and
peripheralsfrom the frustrating
ambiguities of motion or voice control,
to the explosion of touch-sensitive
games on tablet and mobile. As Comes
points out, strategy game developers
have found success on mobile with
tower defense, a type of game that can
generally be played with one hand.
Wardell contends, however, that
true RTS games for touchscreens are
a dead end, because the interface isnt
responsive or precise enough to allow
micromanagement. Hence intriguing
departures like Offworld Trading
Company, which doesnt feature units

in the usual senseinstead, players


wage war using market forces, striving
to devalue each others stock to the
point that they can buy an opponent
out. In addition to being a fascinating
experiment in itself, this also makes the
game more playable on tablets.
David Pottinger takes a more
hopeful view, having recently
completed a fantasy RTS, The
Incorruptibles, for iOS devices. That
was a transformative project for us at
Bonuswithout the weight and
expectations of Age, we were free to
just go make something we found fun.
It takes a lot of inspiration from Age,
but being mobile it ends up as a very
different second-to-second experience.
The games are shorter and you control
things at a higher level. But, youre still
agonizing over where to spend your
food, wood and stone.
Will RTS developers have better
luck with the latest virtual reality
headsets? Comes is a believer. I think
VR will play a signicant role in the
industry and all genres in the next few
years, he says. I personally believe
that by 2020 over 5% of Americans will
have an empty room in their house
dedicated to VR. Its that compelling.
Joe Bostic, however, doesnt see a need
for VR when it comes to RTS games
that stick with the traditional design
model, where you are a battle
commander overseeing simultaneous
military battles and production
operations across a battleeld.
He adds: that kind of gameplay
needs an overview perspective rather
than the immersive perspective that VR
excels at. There have been some RTS
games that put the player in the role of
a commander right in the battle, such
as Battlezone, and in that style of game,
VR would greatly enhance the
experience. But there are very few
games that do this since it becomes

Ca
mp
dif aigns
cos cult are
and tly to and
eve mak
to m n mo e,
ake re s
wel o
l

much harder to control multiple units


from that perspective, and it is much
harder to have a PvP mode that works
well from that perspective.

NEW ARRIVALS
For Brad Wardell, the future of the RTS
is a question not of interface but of raw
computing power. The biggest
opportunity we have going right now is
the rise of DirectX 12, plus 64-bit and
multicore processing as a standard
game setup. Its a point illustrated by
Stardock and Oxide Gamess Ashes of
the Singularity, a behemoth of an RTS
which supports clashes between
thousands of units simultaneously.
Wardell concedes, however, that
Steam and HTCs Vive headsetwhich
uses two lasers to track your movement
around a room, in addition to wand
controllers for gesture inputhas the
potential to give rise to new avors of
strategy game. Imagine being able to
walk around a space battle that is
happening in a space the size of a large
room. You could walk around and give
orders to individual squadrons and
move your nger to link them to their
target and watch them ght it out.
By happy coincidence, a project
corresponding to this description does
in fact exist, though its too early in
development to discuss at any length.
MoonStrike is the work of former Gears
of War designer and Bitmonster
co-founder Lee Perry. For Perry, the
real-time strategy genres recent
troubles follow a familiar narrative, and
setbacks shouldnt be taken to heart.
Theres this thing that happens
with many genres where the rst,
formative games establish the norms,
and then its iterated on, and before you
know it you end up with a genre that
primarily appeals to the diehards. I love
when any designer is willing to step
back and reassess the foundation, and
attempt to make it more accessible to a
new batch of players.
If the RTS now sits in the shadow of
the MOBA and other genres, Perry
argues that it will always be worth
returning to, because theres so much
that can be achieved with the basic
mechanics. Coming from a relative
newcomer to the genre, its a hopeful
note to end on. How combat works,
how units are produced, what the
terrain and different elevations offer,
initial setup and build phases, the scope
of conict, campaign structures, the
depth of the tech trees... how many
other genres have that many knobs to
turn? Its a truly inspiring canvas to
work on for a designer.
APRIL 2016

53

REVIEW

HOW WE REVIEW

Wherever possible, we finish a game before finalizing the


review. We review each game on its own merits, and try to
match it to a reviewer whos a passionate expert in the field.
The main aim of the reviews section is to help you make
buying decisions.

ALPHAS & BETAS


This means well review any released alpha, beta or
otherwise unfinished game that you can currently buy.
For these games, we wont assign a score, but we will tell you
whether theyre worth your time in their current state.

DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT
DLC might be hours-long new missions for a game, or it might
be a single new item. Either way, if we think you want to know
about it, well review it.

OUR SCORING
SYSTEM EXPLAINED
00%-10% A game of absolutely no value. Are you playing
one of these games? Take 3d6 emotional damage.
Examples Big Brother
11%-39% Yikes. Technically broken, or so fundamentally
flawed that its ultimately not worth any time or money. Bad.
Examples The War Z, Sonic: Lost World
40%-49% This game is functional, but majorly flawed
and disappointing.
Examples Firefall, Star Trek, Armikrog
50%-59% Mediocre. If it has any interesting ideas, they
dont work well. Might suffer from bugs or technical issues.
Examples Primordia, Painkiller: Hell & Damnation
60%-69% An interesting idea poorly expressed, or a
derivative idea executed averagely. Comes with caveats.
Examples SimCity, Just Cause 3, Blood Bowl 2
70%-79% Good, but not a classic. This score is
a recommendation, just not a glowing one.
Examples Broken Age, Batman: Arkham Knight
80%-89% A great game with exceptional moments or
features, and touches of brilliance.
Examples Elite: Dangerous, Soma, Fallout 4
90%-94% A compelling recommendation for most PC
gamers. Ahead of its time and important to PC gaming.
Examples MGS V, Rainbow Six Siege, Undertale

Tough
choices ahead
This should be a quiet month.
Elsewhere in the ofce on the
console side, editors look pale and
gaunt. Our review section tells a
different tale, featuring a multitude
of great games. This issue, theres
something for everyone.
Fans of brutal, glorious failure
can throw themselves against the
exceptional XCOM 2. If youd
rather some enjoyable, streamlined
action, theres Rise of the Tomb
Raider. Fancy taxing your brain
meats? Thatll be The Witness.
Want an eerie, atmospheric
horror game? Check out Oxenfree.
A subversively deceptive comedy?
Pony Island. A clever, sprawling
RPG? Dragons Dogma. Or, just
pretend to be a trucker with
American Truck Simulator. With
such an amazing start to 2016, the
only downside is deciding what to
play rst.

95%-98% This is far and away one of the best games weve
ever played, and we recommend it to the entire world.
Examples Half-Life 2, Kerbal Space Program, Spelunky
99%-100% Advances the human species. Life-changing.
A masterpiece and more. Actively boosts the immune systems
of nearby children and small animals.

The Editors Choice award is granted in


addition to the score, at the discretion of
the PC Gamer staff. It represents
exceptional quality or innovation.

54

APRIL 2016

PHIL SAVAGE
DEPUTY EDITOR

phil.savage@futurenet.com

62

78

56

Contents
56
60
62
66
68
70

XCOM 2
Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Aviary Attorney
American Truck Simulator
Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster

72
74
76
78
82
90

Oxenfree
The Westport Independent
That Dragon, Cancer
The Witness
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Pony Island

This months alien invaders

TOM SENIOR

PHIL SAVAGE

Specialist in
Strategy, aliens

Specialist in
Action, bows

Currently playing
XCOM 2

Currently playing
Rise of the Tomb
Raider

This month
Became humanitys
last, best hope for
survival, but was too
busy playing XCOM 2.

This month
Got really good at
killing animals. (In a
game, PETA.)

EDWIN E VANSTHIRLWELL

A N DY K E L LY

MAT T ELLIOT T

Specialist in
Sims, trucking

Specialist in
Adventure, law

Currently playing
The Witness

Currently playing
American Truck
Simulator

Currently playing
Aviary Attorney

This month
Was lost in the maze
of Jon Blows mind.
Had a great time.

This month
Had CW McCalls
Convoy permanently
stuck in his head.

Specialist in
Puzzles, brains

This month
Called upon his latent
legal skills to review a
game about birds in
19th century Paris.

ANGUS
MORRISON

LEIF JOHNSON
Specialist in
Doctrine, lizards

Specialist in
Indie, ponies

Currently playing
Dragons Dogma

Currently playing
Pony Island
This month
Was thoroughly
impressed by Satans
pony collection.

This month
Ragequit chess
after his opponent
refused to share any
of their pawns.

APRIL 2016

55

REVIEW

X-TRAORDINARY
The aliens strike back in the exceptional strategy sequel, XCOM 2.
By Tom Senior

eep inside your ying base is a bar dedicated to fallen


soldiers. It has a list of each soldiers name, time of death,
and the operation they died in. Its a trigger for dark
memories. Reading down I remember one soldier crushed
to death by a giant snake, another burnt to death in a ruined
ofce. Another shot dead then psychically resurrected to ght her friends.
Operation Dismal Window was a bad day for rookie Neel Mehra. Sergeant
Flynn Hudson bit the dust in Operation Half-Eaten Tears. If it wasnt
obvious from XCOMs ominous naming convention for operations, this is a
tough gig. But these are the heroes youll remember when the lasers stop.
These are the fallen stars in this grueling, outstanding strategy game.
To ght back, you must expand
Humanity seems doomed from the
your reach from your lone starting
outset in XCOM 2. The game
territory by contacting nearby
assumes you failed in your attempts
resistance groups. Time is frozen on
to repel the alien invasion in Enemy
the Geoscape, but when you park
Unknown. Now Earths citizens live a
over an objectivemake resistance
coddled life under the totalitarian
contact; acquire resources; contact
control of the aliens and their
the black marketyou
co-opted soldiery,
activate a timer and
Advent. The resistance
lives on only in the
The moment spend precious days to
claim it. This is
form of a few
the timer
nerve-racking. At any
determined soldiers,
scientists and engineers freezes during moment your scans can
a scan, I stop be interrupted by an
who have managed to
alien attack, or a
repurpose a huge alien
breathing
mission that will let
ship, the Avenger. This
you attack the aliens.
is your home.
You can choose to ignore some of
A detailed cross-section of the
these, but its not wise. Missions net
vessel lets you zoom into rooms to
you important resources, give your
initiate research and building
soldiers a chance to gain experience,
projects. A central cluster of rooms
and counter Dark Eventsvaried
can be cleared out to build new
alien initiatives that can, among many
facilities, and on the bridge you
options, half your income for a
access the Geoscape, a map of the
world that lets you choose where you month, or send an interceptor out to
hunt The Avenger.
want to park your spacecraft.

DEAD OR ALIVE

56

APRIL 2016

EXPECT TO PAY
$60
DEVELOPER
Firaxis
PUBLISHER
2K Games
REVIEWED ON
Intel i5-7690K, 8 GB
RAM, GTX970
MULTIPLAYER
Two-player turn-based
battles
LINK
www.xcom.com

3 HC AI DCET UBSE H I N D

Theres no cover over


there and its probably
full of aliens anyway.
Youre doomed.

Youre not in cover


and youre damaged,
which means his return
fire could kill you
instantly.

WHAT IS IT?
A turn-based strategy
game about fighting
aliens whove
already won.

Which of these choices will save this soldiers life?

1 RI NUTNO BWL OI NODDLSY

2 AT TACK ENEM Y

NEED TO KNOW

Almost. The cactus is


heavy cover, but that
soldier on the far left
will flank attack you.
2

4
3

4 TBAE KH EI NCDO RV OE RC K

Correct. The rock


protects from all
enemies, and gives you
flanking bonuses.

Just describing the strategic layer


doesnt capture the rhythm of success
and setback that makes it so gripping.
The game cleverly uses scarcity of
opportunity to force you into difcult
dilemmas. At any one time you might
have only six possible scan sites,
while combat encounters are largely
meted out by the game, but what you
choose to do with this narrow range
of options matters enormously. You
need to recruit new rookies; you need
an engineer to build a comms facility
that will let you contact more
territories; you need alien alloys to
upgrade your weapons. You cant
have all of these. You can probably
only have one. In 1989 Sid Meier
described games as a series of
interesting decisions. XCOM 2 is the
purest expression of that ethos that
Firaxis has yet produced.
Brilliantly, you even have to scan
to collect your monthly cache of
supplies, hidden in the landscape to
escape alien detection. I have left
supplies on the ground for a week
because I needed to recruit an
engineer. I needed to hit an alien base
to reduce the Avatar Project counta
doom clock that is very bad news if it
maxes out. I needed Advent corpses
to get a vital armor upgrade. I needed
a cup of tea because it was all getting
a bit too much. This narrow series of
opportunities ts the fantasy
perfectly. You take whatever you can
get. Youre scraping food and fuel out
of the dirt just to keep The Avenger
in the air.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
The moment the timer freezes during
a scan, I stop breathing. Theres a
notication screen you have to click
through to nd out what is about to
try to kill youI swear this is
intentional, to let the sense of dread
register for a second or two. If youre
lucky, its the council getting in touch
to give you a thumbs-up and tell you
theyve dropped some sandwiches
for you in South America. If youre
unlucky youll be faced with XCOM
2s equivalent of Enemy Unknowns

REVIEW
XCOM 2

Regulation sunglasses help


pistoliers stay cool.

Gatling guns let you create


your own Predator moments.
Sometimes cover cant save
you from giant lasers.

In time you can use your own


bright purple psychic powers.

Sarah Connor, shortly before


being mauled by a Muton.

APRIL 2016

57

REVIEW
XCOM 2
Berserkers exist only
to smash.

Stun baton guy cant believe


this charge worked.

Swamp Thing has really


let himself go.

XCOM 2s sleek supercars


can super-explode.

Stun baton guy questions the


life choices that led him here.

58

APRIL 2016

REVIEW

Terror missions. Dubbed Retaliation,


these once again ask you to rescue
civilians from the battleeld while
the aliens best troops try to
You wont survive a minute without good gear
annihilate them. I have to steel myself
for every ght, knowing that a bad
performance could ruin my plans.
1
4
Combat is turn-based, and takes
place on procedural battleelds that
are uncannily well generated. Only
2
once have I seen a truck spawned
partly into a wall. For the vast
majority of battles the terrain is busy,
3
interesting, and benets from a huge
5
leap in visual delity from Enemy
Unknown. The snowy forests, slums,
city centers and alien bases are varied
both in decorative assets such as
sleek futuristic cars and uffy trees,
and in the verticality provided by
high-risk, high-damage charge
cliffs and multi-storey buildings.
attacks, and therefore win. They can
They blow up nicely, too. Ill
also pursue the scout skill track,
commonly grenade a wall to remove
which lets them strike very
cover and offer my soldiers higheffectively from stealth.
chance shots at a target. To my
surprise, I also discovered that
soldiers running around above
HUNTING THE HUNTERS
ground level can fall through the
Stealth is new. You start most battles
oor if theyre in a burning building.
incognito, and can freely move
Explosions can start res that
around the map without being
propagate, blocking oor tiles. One of attacked, as long as you stay out of
my grenades started a re next to a
the red detection range of enemies,
terminal I had to hack. Sending a
lingering civilians, and watchtowers.
soldier to stand in that re and hack
By putting most of your units in
the console was not one of my nest
overwatchthe staple XCOM move
XCOM moments.
that gives your soldiers free reaction
The four soldier classes have been shots against movement in the enemy
revamped. Enemy Unknown players
turnyou can set up deeply satisfying
will recognize the
ambushes. With my
suppressive heavytrap primed, I use my
weapon capabilities of
sharpshooter to break
The lowly
the grenadier, and the
stealth and get a
Sectoids of
sniping ability of the
near-certain kill shot
Enemy
sharpshooter, but both
on the most dangerous
Unknown are enemy. As the alien
can access new abilities
that alter their jobs.
all grown up mob scatters, their
The sharpshooters
movement activates
gunslinger skills,
re from the rest of my
earned by leveling up, can turn them
team. The camera swoops between
into an effective mid-range pistolier
them as they open up, shredding the
who can take out multiple enemies in enemy in glorious slow-motion.
style, while the grenadier can
Once concealment is broken, life
improve the explosive potential of
becomes much more difcult.
their grenade launcher, effectively
Successful shots are dictated by
merging Enemy Unknowns heavy and chance rolls, and you secure favorable
support roles in one class.
odds by staying in good cover and
The other two classes are less
anking. A poor move or a stroke of
familiar. The specialist has a drone,
bad luck can wipe out a soldier, or
which can move around the
take them out of action for days.
battleeld to heal allies, zap enemies,
Time-limited objectives to hack a
or hack alien comms towers, and also terminal or rescue/assassinate a VIP
has robots to disable or even
in a certain number of turns force
temporarily steal units. The ranger
you to be reckless. Whats more, all
lls the speedy, close-range role
alien variants, bar the lowest tier of
formerly occupied by the assault
enemy soldier, have the capacity to be
class, but they have a sword for
incredibly disruptive. The lowly

SUIT UP

Attachments
dropped by the
foe can improve your
weapons. You also
change color and
patterning, for
fashion's sake.

Specialist drones
are cute. More
importantly, they
can heal and revive
allies in dangerous
positions at no risk
to their operator.

Better armor not only improves the health


of your troops, it gives them extra pockets
to carry grenades or special ammo.

The rangers
sword, used well,
can take out mighty
enemies in a single
blow, but it can also
leave your soldier
badly exposed.

To hear your
international
team cursing aliens
in their own
language, check the
international audio
box in the options.

Sectoids of Enemy Unknown are all


grown up, and can mind-control your
troops and resurrect corpses.
I wont ruin the surprise and
horror of the more advanced alien
troops, but a couple left me in despair
after a massacre, wondering if I had
the soldiers and the ability to go on. I
slowly fought back. I recruited new
troops, built new technology, got
better at the game, and was left
elated, feeling Id conquered a
impossible task. Strategy games just
dont normally feel like this.
Theres more youre better off
discovering for yourself, like the
weapon mods, extensive troop
customization, Psi-ops warriors,
exo-skeletal suits and the story, told
over a series of special missions.
I can nd little to criticize. The
camera occasionally wafts through
walls in close-ups, theres sometimes
a lengthy pause before the character
youre watching acts. A lack of
foreknowledge in your rst
playthrough will hurt your ability to
plan, too, forcing you to be more
reactive, though the constant ow of
new enemy types and story missions
makes up for that. Thanks to your
varying starting position, procedural
missions and tactical depth, XCOM 2
can and should be played repeatedly.
I already have plans to build a
proper unit of psychic soldiers, and a
stealthy all-ranger scout squad in my
next run. Those aliens wont know
what hit them.
VERDICT
Exceptionally tough,
rewarding strategy and a
masterful reworking of
the XCOM formula. Well
play this forever.
APRIL 2016

94
59

REVIEW

PAWN SWAP
Open-world RPG DRAGONS DOGMA: DARK ARISEN has nally been ported to PC.
Should we believe in it unquestioningly? By Leif Johnson

ozens of feet up, my gauntlets digging into the mane of a


livid grifn, I knew Id made a huge mistake. The beast had
been grounded when Id hopped atop his back in the hopes
of introducing his eyes to my sword, but he shot up so high
afterwards that I could have seen my main characters
hometown if Id dared to look (and if it had popped-in in time). One slip,
one splat, and it would be game over.

NEED TO KNOW
WHAT IS IT?
An open-world RPG
with excellent combat
and a unique
companion system.
EXPECT TO PAY

$30
corner theres the predictably
Below, however, a mages spell had
DEVELOPER
dastardly secret society, in another,
set my groups weapons aame. My
Capcom
the artifact-stuffed ruin.
ranger let loose a mighty arrow,
It works because its all told with
igniting the monsters wings. It
PUBLISHER
In-house
enthusiastic gravitas. Gransys is a
brought us slamming back to earth.
land that tries to stick to the real,
I already knew how this would
REVIEWED ON
favoring utilitarian armor designs
end. I spent many sleepless nights
Windows 10, 16GB
RAM, GeForce GTX 780
with Dragons Dogmas appealing mix over amboyance, and the
of Western RPG stylings and Monster interactions impart a dutiful lets do
MULTIPLAYER
this sense I admire.
Hunter-inspired
Share NPCs online
This extends even to
combat years ago when
LINK
the open-world
it rst dropped for the
Theres a
www.dragons
dogma.com
landscape, which
Xbox 360. Graphics
satisfying
boasts coastal cliffs,
have advanced, dozens
Pokmon-like mountains, and
of better and lesser
appeal to trying towering Norman
RPGs come and gone,
architecture but never
but there on the stones
out pawns
quite inspires the kind
of the Bluemoon
of visual rapture you
Tower, I still relished
the return of the same rush of victory get from, say, The Witcher 3. (Worse,
its prone to pop-ins and muddy
that overcame me in 2012.
details at long distances.) Saving the
Now, at last, we have the PC port,
world is a job, dang it, and Dragons
which takes its guise from 2013s
Dogma makes you feel it.
Dark Arisen, a retooled version of the
Jobs can be fun, of course, and the
initial release with a ridiculously
game also delivers a challenging
tough endgame zone and numerous
tweaks to various annoyances. It does brand of action thats rousing
regardless of whether its played on
little to distinguish itself from its
keyboard or gamepad. Greatswords
console forebears aside from nifty
crash with hefty weight, arrows y
features such as better textures and
with satisfying thwaps, and spells
uncapped framerates. (Apart from a
single crash over 50 hours, it ran
beautifully.) Scarred with
imperfections but entertaining to the
end, its easily one of the most
Junk can be combined into useful gear
memorable RPGs of the last decade.
It achieves this distinction almost
SKELETON
KEPT SOUR
in spite of its story. Its not bad, and
KEY
AMBROSIAL ME AT
its capped on one end by a dragon
Useful for opening doors. Obv.
Stamina food that doesnt rot!
who eats your heart as though hes
x1 Hunk of ore
x1 Airtight flask
sucking Nutella off his claw and on
x1 Shackle
x1 Sour ambrosial meat
the other by a deliciously bizarre
SLEEPER
FLASK
conclusion. In between, though, it
ARROW
OF OIL
relies excessively on backtracking
Makes baddies go night night
Keeps lanterns bright!
and indulges in too many humdrum
x1 Harpy pinion
x1 Backfat oil
sidequests. It clings to predictable
x1 Pine branch
x1 Empty flask
Western RPG conventions: in one

TRASH COLLECTOR

60

APRIL 2016

impale ogres with icy tendrils. So


many RPGs could learn from how
fun this is. The appeal isnt just the
ghting (which could benet from a
lock-on); its also the way it lets you
scramble up the arms of cyclopes and
slice off the tails of lizard men. Sick
of one of the main three classes of
ghter, strider, or mage? You can
easily switch out to another and level
its skills or those of six hybrids. Some
fare better than others; warriors, for
instance, perform pitifully in Dragons
Dogmas many ranged encounters.

FRIENDS LIKE THESE


Enter the pawns. Nothing sets
Dragons Dogma apart quite like
them. Theyre mysterious beings
with classes and skills that ll the
blanks of what you need, thus
allowing my warrior to bring along,
say, a bow-toting ranger, a healing
mage, and a powerful sorcererfor a
price. You get a main pawn that other
players can summon, and you can
summon up to two of theirs as well.
Theres a satisfying Pokmon-like
appeal to trying them out (which
youll need to since they dont level
with you), and having to let go of a
well-geared, well-skilled pawn
sometimes stings like the death of a
eshed-out character in another
RPG. Alas, theyre prone to spouting
obvious, ceaseless chatter such as
These stairs serve as a useful route
in their own right, but happily Dark
Arisen lets you switch that off.
If thats what it takes, do it. Its
rough in parts, and numerous other
RPGs tell a better story or inspire
greater awe. But Dragons Dogma still
feels enjoyably unique four years on
and thats something few of its genre
cousins can claim. And the best thing
I can say? Even now, Im already
itching to get back in.
VERDICT
Doesnt originate much
and certain elements
could be stronger, but
this still shines as a
uniquely enjoyable RPG.

81

REVIEW
Dragons Dogma: Dark Arisen
Thats definitely
its tail, right?

Nothing worse than dragonbreath


first thing in the morning.

Nothing makes lightning


more exciting than purple.

Your hits feel


pleasingly hefty.

APRIL 2016

61

REVIEW

FIRMER FOOTING
RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER is a substantial improvement on Laras last outing.
By Phil Savage

he opening minutes of Rise of the Tomb Raider had me


worried. It starts with Lara trudging slowly through the
snow, my only requirement being to hold W as the game
plays itself around me. All of sudden, Im having ashbacks to
2013s Tomb Raider reboot and its interminable, set-piece
heavy introduction. Soon after, during a cutscene-laden climbing tutorial, I
miss a prompt, fall and die. Redoing the section, I hit the prompt, climb a
few feet higher, and watch another cutscene in which Lara falls but is ne.
Here we go again? Actually, no.
Source, an artifact that her father
The opener is frustrating, but over
had obsessed over before his death.
quickly. From then on, Rise of the
Thats an important difference in the
Tomb Raider sticks to a mostly
plots of Rise of the Tomb Raider and
consistent level of interactivity.
its predecessor. Here, Lara has
Theres still plenty of set-piece
initiated her quest. While matters
spectacle, but these pace-breaking
quickly spiral out of control,
action segments at least trust you to
particularly after the
read the visual clues of
appearance of the
the environment and
react using the
In regular play, militaristic cult called
shes no longer
appropriate controls.
Lara no longer Trinity,
an unwilling
Theres a level of
feels like a
participant in events.
artice to these
victim of her
Thats crucial to
sequences, but they
operate within the
environment how the game treats
Lara. In Tomb Raider,
framework of
she was frequently
established
battered, bruised and impaledand
interactions. This is emblematic of
thats just if you were playing well. In
Rise of the Tomb Raider as a whole.
Rise, Lara can fall foul of a number of
Its not that Tomb Raiders missteps
fatal traps, but in regular play she no
have been eradicated, but they have
been dramatically reduced. There are longer feels like a victim of her
environment. Thats not to say the
fewer slow-mo QTE sequences,
story isnt clumsy in places. There are
fewer awkward conversations, fewer
times when it all goes a little bit
by-the-numbers miniboss ghts.
Avatar. Lara stumbles across a tribe
Theyre all still there, but take up
called the Remnant, anddespite
signicantly less of the 15-or-so hour
their having lived in this Siberian
running time.
wilderness for generationsshe
Laras latest adventure opens in
quickly proves to be the best at
Siberia, andaside from an early
sojourn in Syriathats where it stays. hunting, climbing and gunning down
an entire army.
Lara is on the hunt for the Divine

CARD TRICK

Wield magic
arrows. Why
not?

62

WHAT IS IT?
The second action
adventure outing for
the rebooted Lara
Croft.
EXPECT TO PAY
$54
DEVELOPER
Crystal Dynamics
PUBLISHER
Square Enix
REVIEWED ON
Windows 10, 8GB RAM,
i5-3570k, GeForce
GTX 970
MULTIPLAYER
None
LINK
www.tombraider.com

Other elements of the story work


much better. This is still Laras origin,
but while she hasnt yet embraced
her role as a globetrotting murderess,
she is at least more accepting of it.
She has a sense of resolve that didnt
exist before, and that means theres
no clumsy disconnect between the
story of a woman traumatized by her
actions and the gleeful feeling of
killing off a camp full of bad guys. Its
just as well, because the combat
remains highly enjoyable. Rise of the
Tomb Raiderlike its predecessor
deftly blends stealth and action. Most
enemies begin unaware of Laras
presence, giving you the scope to
creep through bushes and behind
cover. With patience, and by
throwing objects around to provide
distractions, its possible to
systematically and silently clear out
most enemy patrols. Often, its more
fun to take out a couple of guys and
then choose to initiate a reght.

ON POINT
Lara has access to a small selection of
weapon typespistol, rie and
shotgunand theres a variety of
styles available in each category. Most
feel good to re, the panicked
inaccuracy of the automatic rie
being the only real exception. Pistols
b
feel lightweight and clinical, while
the pump-action shotgun is a chunky
and gratifyingly deadly option. Once
again, the bow is star of the show.
Having to draw back and charge
shots provides a nice rhythm to the
combat, especially in conjunction
with some of the skill upgrades

Expeditions cards can create weird and wonderful combat encounters

TIMEQUAKE

EASIER

NEED TO KNOW

GR AY
HENLEY
SHIRT

Its a shirt.
Thats it.

BIG HEAD
LARA
This is
definitely
someones
fetish.

GAMBLER

Deemed too
messy for
casinos.

ONE LIFE TO
LIVE
If you die in the
game, you die
in the game.

HARDER

APRIL 2016

REVIEW
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Lara has a magical supply
of infinite glowsticks.

Lara is so proud of her bow,


she cant help but show it off.

Wheeeee... oh wait,
I should kill that guy.
Set-pieces are regular,
but mostly unintrusive.

Just know I could have killed


you in many other fun ways.

APRIL 2016

63

REVIEW
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Laras jacket frosts up
when shes out in the cold.

Nows not the time to practise


your Russian, Lara.

A damning indictment on
Soviet safety regulations.
Yes, yes, very pretty. Now
where is the puzzle switch?

Expect scenes of mild peril.


And scenes of strong peril.

64

APRIL 2016

REVIEW

AT TA C K T H E B L O C

1 MURALS

Level up your
language proficiency
in Greek, Russian or
Mongolian by looking
at a tiny plaque.

2 CRYPT

The burial place of


the prophets
disciples. Contains
weapon fragments,
obviously.

A guide to the Soviet Installation


4

3 CT OH MA LBL E N G E

The best bits of the


game. Each also grants
a unique skill on
completion.

4 SHOP

1
2

Capitalism comes
to Siberia. Spend gold
coins on special
weapons, attachments
and outfits.

system, and with the correct taps of


available as Lara levels up. I
space, E and F, youll seldom run into
especially enjoy the feel of the rapid
any problems. Its a shame theres not
re skills, which let you instantly re
more danger, but the presentation
off fully charged follow-up arrows
does a lot of the heavy lifting. Scaling
after your initial shot. Aim these
giant buildings or huge cliff faces still
correctly, and you can take down
feels risky, even while the actual
even heavily armed guards with a
interactions involved are slim.
single deadly salvo.
New for this outing is Laras
ability to craft combat tools on the y. SCAVENGER HUNT
Arrows and special ammo can be
Each area is packed with things to
created at any point, but you can also
nd, and the rewards for hunting out
make use of things found around
collectibles often make their presence
enemy camps. A bottle can be turned
worthwhile. Ancient documents ll
into a Molotov cocktail, an empty can out the story of the region, and
into an IED. Doing so costs resources
level-up your prociency in one of
found out in the world,
the three languages
but I was never so low
youll encounter. With
Sweeping
on them that I was
a high enough language
vistas show off level, Lara can decode
unable to set light to a
clustered group of
the harrowing monoliths that mark
soldiers. You craft
the location of
beauty of the down
combat tools by
coin caches on the
wilderness
holding the middlemap. Collect enough
mouse button, thus
coins, and you can
keeping your keyboard
purchase special
hand free to control Laras
upgrades. Elsewhere, youll nd
movements. As a result, scrabbling
optional challenge tombs that boast
between cover while grabbing and
some of the games most intricate
arming a can is a frictionless process,
puzzle design. Each is short, but they
giving combat a welcome uidity.
repurpose some of the standard
When youre not ghting for your
interactions in new and interesting
lifebe it against soldiers or the
ways. Theyre always worth seeking
crumbling ruins of an action
out, not least because they reward
set-pieceyoure exploring one of a
useful new skills.
handful of large, open hub areas.
If theres a downside to the games
These are sprawling, intricate
exploration, its thatas in Tomb
environments, and, for the most part,
Raider before itcollectibles feel like
you can pick through them at
the end goal rather than a bonus
leisurethe only distractions coming
along the way. The route Lara must
from the occasional wolf, bear or big
take through an area is rarely in
cat thats taken a disliking to your
question, especially when youre only
continued existence. Platforming in
ever a button press away from
Rise of the Tomb Raider follows a
Survival Instinctan optional view
standard set of interactions, thrown
mode that highlights your next
together in a variety of combinations.
objective, any pertinent puzzle
Jump, swing, grab, attacheach
pieces, and any resources or
action requiring a specic button
collectibles for Lara to snafe up. I
press. Its a simple, streamlined
miss the puzzle aspect of pre-reboot

Tomb Raider games, where tombs felt


like cavernous brain teasers. Lara
visits plenty of ruins on this
adventure, but all of them are solved
through familiar and comfortable
interactions. With only a few notable
exceptions, surprise comes through
spectacle rather than design.
Outside of the campaign, youll
nd Expeditionsa series of custom
score attack modes that let you apply
modifying cards to alter the
challenge. Some card packs are
earned for tasks completed in the
campaign, and others can be
purchased with points gained by
playing Expeditions mode challenges.
You also have the option to spend
real money on card packs, which
seems overkill given how frivolous
the mode feels. Nevertheless, there
are plenty of fun mutators that can be
stacked to create unexpected combat
encounters if you want. Its also
possible to play custom challenges
created by other players, or create
and upload your own.

STEPPE UP
Despite arriving months after the
Xbox One version, the PC release of
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a quality
productSquare Enixs ongoing
relationship with Nixxes again paying
dividends. The graphics options are
plentiful, with a variety of ways to
tweak and customize the experience.
While my 970 GTX couldnt keep up
with the demands of running every
option at maximum, a few sensible
reductions had it running smoothly
and consistently at 60 frames per
second. And the game looks luscious,
full of sweeping vistas showing off
the harrowing beauty of a harsh and
icy wilderness.
In many ways, Rise of the Tomb
Raider is peak sequel design: a game
remarkably similar to its predecessor
with a set of expanded and additional
systems. But Rise is also better,
because it lets you spend more time
engaging with those systems. While it
doesnt fully eradicate the missteps
around the edges of interactivity, it
does let you spend longer enjoying
the core action and exploration. As a
result, its an incredibly competent
action platformer.
VERDICT
Although a little too
streamlined in places,
Rise of the Tomb Raider
does a lot to improve
upon its predecessor.
APRIL 2016

83
65

REVIEW
Aviary Attorney
The law isnt an ass, but
this librarian is.

This is a
recurring theme.

The long arm of the... ah,


perhaps not.

PELICAN BRIEF
AVIARY ATTORNEY is an adventure about law, revolution and murderous cats. By Matt Elliott

t rst glance, this might seem a mere noveltythe gaming


equivalent of book about pugs dressed like Ryan Gosling.
This is no throwaway toilet digest, though. Its a compact,
engaging visual novel, full of smart twists and raptorial wit.
Its the story of two bird lawyers, Jayjay Falcon and his
assistant Sparrowson, as they endure revolutionary turmoil in 1840s
France. Its been described as Hatoful Boyfriend meets Ace Attorney.

Thats an idle summary, which is only irrelevant questions and the case can
be thrown out. Youre forced to live
partially correct. Like Phoenix
with the rotten decisions as well as
Wright, youre presented with a case
the righteous ones, and both avor
you can only win through selective
the ending of the game. The story
cross examination and inventive use
feels reactive because of this, and
of evidence. You gather information
different playthroughs
prior to each case, via
reveal different paths.
investigation and
I found myself It often feels like
interviews. The only
theres a correct choice,
thing it has in common
imagining
its satisfying to
with Hatoful Boyfriend
Russell Crowe but
know that most options
is, well, birds.
as Monsieur have an alternate
This investigative
outcomeeven if some
element makes Aviary
Falcon
are bleaker than a bin
Attorney feel as much a
bag of broken toys.
detective game as a
The game itself is as handsome as
legal one (Clucklumbo? Hercule
Napoleons toothbrush. The character
Parrot? Dale Coop? Lets move on).
artwork is sourced directly from
Youre rarely given the full story, and
French caricaturist JJ Grandville, and
its fun to discover what actually
the backgrounds from public domain
happened by reverse engineering
your defense with whatever scraps of lithographs. Its brought to life
through unobtrusive animation, the
evidence you can nd. I loved
gures bouncing and blinking while
exploring such a rich, unusual world.
retaining the mischievous charm of
Best of all, its possible to fail
the original works.
horribly. Waste too much time on
66

APRIL 2016

NEED TO KNOW
WHAT IS IT?
A visual novel about
legal eagles set in
1840s France.
EXPECT TO PAY
$15
DEVELOPER
Sketchy Logic
PUBLISHER
In-house
REVIEWED ON
i5-3230 CPU, 8GB RAM
MULTIPLAYER
None
LINK
www.aviary
attorney.com

The most impressive thing is how


substantive the characters are.
Theres no voice acting, so intonation
and temperament come from a
selection of honks, bleeps and parps.
Theyre believable enough that I
found myself imagining Russell
Crowe as Monsieur Falcon, before I
realized that would be like casting a
lunch wagon as Atticus Finch. The
quality of the writing extends to the
script, but like many funny games its
witty rather than roisterous. Its lled
with cheery references to modern
social media, and every possible
French term is punned. It rarely
made me laugh, but its consistently
pleasant company. Likewise, the story
is engaging without being enthralling.
It took me around four hours to
complete, which felt about right,
although one more case would have
been welcome. That said, theres
something agreeable about a game
tasty enough to leave you wanting
more, without ever making you feel
bloated or bored.
VERDICT
Aviary Attorney is more
of a rich quail than a
plump-breasted
pheasant, but still a rare
and satisfying bird.

78

    
 

   
       

REVIEW

LONG HAUL
Our favorite route-em-up crosses the pond in AMERICAN TRUCK SIMULATOR.
By Andy Kelly

m driving down a long, remote desert road in the dead of night.


Theres no other trafc and I cant see anything except the glow of
my headlights and the cracked, dusty asphalt ahead. Im
hypnotized by the road, which seems to go on forever. My
attention drifts. In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins plays on the
classic rock radio station Im tuned to. Then, suddenly, something appears
directly in front of me. A shape on the road.

NEED TO KNOW
WHAT IS IT?
A truck driving and
business management
sim.
EXPECT TO PAY
$21

jobs including longer hauls and


I panic, my heart racing. In a long
DEVELOPER
SCS Software
fragile or dangerous cargo. These
instant I think: is it a car? An animal?
earn you money that can be spent
I slam on the brakes and skid to a
PUBLISHER
unlocking the other side of the game:
lurching halt. Then I see it. A
In-house
running your own business.
tumbleweed rolling lazily across the
REVIEWED ON
Once you earn enough money to
road in front of me, lit up by the glow
GeForce GTX 970, Intel
buy your own truckor take out a
of my lights. I laugh at myself and
i7-950, 16GB RAM
bank loan if youre impatientyou
continue towards Los Angeles. Ive
MULTIPLAYER
got 30 tons of fertilizer to deliver, and can start your own company. You
None
choose which city
times running out.
LINK
youre based in and can
This is what passes
for an anecdote in
A long drive customize and upgrade www.worldoftrucks.
com
your truck. Eventually
American Truck
across
vast
you hire drivers and
Simulator, a game so
swathes of
create your very own
slow and uneventful
largely empty haulage network. Its a
that the sudden
appearance of
nothingness fairly involved business
management sim, but
tumbleweed is
entirely optional.
genuinely thrilling.
Theres satisfaction in owning your
These little momentsmilitary jets
own truck and being your own boss,
streaking across the sky, strange
but I prefer being a contractor so I
sculptures by the side of the road,
dont have to worry about buying my
trains rumbling pastfeel almost like
own fuel or crashing my truck and
rewards. A brief glimmer of
excitement in a long drive across vast spiralling into debt when the repair
swathes of largely empty nothingness. bills come in.
At launch, American Truck
Like its predecessor, Euro Truck
Simulator comes with two states:
Simulator 2, its a game that is
California and Nevada. More will be
mysteriously compelling despite its
added over time, but it is slightly
mundane subject matter. Its a
fundamentally good game, with
weighty, nuanced handling, a deep
simulation, and higher production
values than most sims. This results in
something both very playable and
The biggest cities of the two states
oddly hypnotic. Driving from place to
place, obeying the trafc laws,
SAN
RENO
OREGON
IDAHO
watching the scenery roll by, listening
FRANCISCO
A city that calls
to the radio... its incredibly relaxing.
Home of the
itself the biggest
Reno
American wing of
little city in the
There are two main ways to play.
NEVADA
PC Gamer. Nice
world. Its like a
One is working as a freelance gun for
San
Francisco
bridges. Sunny.
tiny Vegas. Sort of.
UTAH
hire, taking on delivery jobs where
CALIFORNIA
your truck and fuel expenses are
Las Vegas
LOS ANGELES
LAS VEGAS
provided by your employer. This is
Los Angeles
Home of the movie
A decadent,
ARIZONA
the easiest, most accessible way to
industry and
neon-lit desert
play, and as you level up you can
shallow people.
shrine to excess.
spend XP to unlock more lucrative

S TAT E O F P L AY

68

APRIL 2016

disappointing that you cant yet drive


from coast to coast. Still, its a huge
space, and you can visit cities
including San Francisco, Los Angeles,
San Diego and Las Vegasand a
number of small towns between. Set
on the sun-scorched west coast, the
scenery is mostly dusty and desertlike, but theyve captured the look
and feel of both states nicely. I prefer
the overcast, rain-soaked motorways
of Europe myself, but the new setting
is detailed and well-made.

RETURN TRIP
Anyone who played Euro Truck
Simulator 2 may nd the game a little
too familiar in places. The interface
and structure are pretty much
identical, and it feels like theyve
picked up the old game and dropped
it into the new location. Even
different colors or visual ourishes
on the interface would have been
welcome, just to remind you that it is
indeed a new work.
As a result, if you were already
burned out on ETS2, the new setting
might not be enough to reignite your
passion. Its a very similar experience
overall. The trucksof which there
are only two available at launch
dont really feel that different to their
European counterparts. Its more like
an iteration than a fully-blown sequel.
If the SCS team are as tireless and
passionate with ongoing updates as
they are with Euro Truck Simulator 2,
ATS will only get better as it grows.
America is a vast, varied country with
a lot of different scenery, and more
states to drive through will make for
more interesting journeys. For now,
this is a polished, strangely enjoyable
simulator that you can easily lose
hours to. But if you want to travel
further aeld, you might want to wait
until there are more places to go to.
VERDICT
A great start, but
American Truck
Simulator will really begin
to take shape when more
states are added.

80

REVIEW
American Truck Simulator

Thats about as
American as it gets.

Get out of my
way, pipsqueak.
Enjoy the freedom of
the open road.

Palm trees are a


first for the series.

The cops cant


bust you.

Vegas, baby!
Sorry.

APRIL 2016

69

REVIEW

DERAILED
RESIDENT EVIL 0 HD REMASTER is a beautiful, frustrating prequel.
By Andy Kelly

riginally released for the Nintendo GameCube way back in


2002, Resident Evil 0 is a prequel set before the events of the
rst game. This PC version features upgraded visuals,
modernized controls, widescreen support, improved sound,
a new mode and other tweaks, but the game itself remains
unchanged. Its a slow-paced, challenging survival horror game in the mold
of the original, but ultimately inferior.

NEED TO KNOW
WHAT IS IT?
A survival horror game
set before the original
Resident Evil.
EXPECT TO PAY
$20

and theyll remain there. But then


You can now control two characters
DEVELOPER
Capcom
you forget where you left something
simultaneously: medic Rebecca
and have to backtrack to locate the
Chambers and escaped convict Billy
PUBLISHER
Coen. Rebecca can mix healing herbs damn thing to solve a puzzle later
In-house
down the line. Its one of the most
and squeeze into small spaces, while
REVIEWED ON
Billy is better with guns and has more frustrating, obtuse inventory systems
GeForce GTX 970, Intel
in gaming history. Theres a constant
health. You can switch characters at
i7-950, 16GB RAM
feeling of anxiety as you encounter
the touch of a button, even if theyve
MULTIPLAYER
yet another important-looking item
been separatedwhich happens
None
with a full inventory.
almost constantly. If
LINK
The opening, set
theyre together, the AI
www.residentevil.com
aboard a speeding,
will take over the other
There are a few zombie-lled train, is
character and
obediently follow you
new enemies, excellent. Its familiar
Resi stuffnding keys,
around. You can
including
notes, solving
change how the AI
zombie apes reading
puzzlesbut as
behaves in simple ways,
well-designed as
such as ring at
anything in the
enemies or not if you
original. The cramped carriages are
want to conserve ammo.
This creates some tense moments. brilliantly claustrophobic, and the
lavish Orient Express-style decor
Sending a character into an area the
beautiful. But then you leave the train
other cant access, forcing them to go
behind and suddenly the game runs
it alone, is always nerve-racking. And
out of ideas. You nd yourself in a
it factors into the puzzle design too.
mansion thats actually an Umbrella
In an early level, Rebecca is trapped
in a room and Billy has to help her
escape by sending items down to her
through a dumbwaiter. In another,
Billy has to hand-crank an elevator
while she rides it. But with the
Weighing up the two playable characters
exception of a few set-pieces, it feels
like a gimmick included for the sake
BIL LY
REBECCA
of it. It doesnt change the Resident
COEN
CHAMBERS
Evil formula in any meaningful way
Fast aiming
Fas
Can combine
Ca
and becomes a chore.
and firing
herbs
he
Inventory management has
Able to move
Fits into small
Fit
always been laborious in Resi games,
heavy objects
hea
spaces
spa
but just about bearable. Here, though,
Can take moree
Can mix
Ca
with two characters to manageand
damage
dam
chemicals
che
the removal of those magical boxes
Terr
Nic
Terrible
Nice hair
that let you access a pool of stashed
tatt
tattoos
items from multiple locationsyou
spend far too much time shufing
items around and wondering what to
take or leave behind. You can,
mercifully, drop items at your feet

TA G T E A M

70

APRIL 2016

facility. Sound familiar? There are a


few new enemies, including zombie
apes and annoying leech things, but
you cant shake the feeling of deja vu
throughout. It has all the elements
that made the rst game an enduring
classic, but theyve been arranged in
such a way that it feels like a bad
cover version of a beloved song.

REMASTERFUL
Its a shame, because this is a lavish,
loving remaster, and the combination
of detailed, atmospheric prerendered backgrounds and real-time
lighting and shadows is excellently
done. I love the subtle animations
too, like the wine bottle rolling
around on a table in the dining car.
As well as the option to switch from
the old tank controls to a more
modern movement style, theres a
new mode that lets you play as
regular series villain and sunglasses
acionado Albert Wesker. He has a
range of superpowers, courtesy of the
Uroboros virus, including running
really fast and unleashing a blast of
energy from his glowing eyes. Its a
classic Resi gimmick mode, but
doesnt make up for the fact that the
core game is so disappointing.
Resident Evil 0 looks amazing,
especially considering its almost 15
years old, but it feels like a pastiche of
a much better game. Some people
might nd the need for constant,
careful item management satisfyingly
challenging, but to me it feels like
unnecessary busywork.
Throw in a messy, ludicrous
storyline (even by Resident Evil
standards) that clumsily tries to slot
itself into the larger series mythology,
unimaginative enemies, and a general
feeling that youve done all this
before, but better, and youre left with
a game thats very hard to love.
VERDICT
Tries to recreate the
magic of the original, and
fails. But, hey, theyve
done an amazing job
remastering it.

63

REVIEW
Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster

This is James Marcus, one


of Umbrellas founders.
Weskers hair is
always impeccable.

Zombie dogs make a


regular appearance.

A grim scene aboard


the Ecliptic Express.

A rare moment when the


duo arent separated.
Weskers glowing eyes are a
result of his infection.

You can feel the


sexual tension.

APRIL 2016

71

REVIEW

RADIO STAR
Five teenagers unleash something unpleasant in OXENFREE.
By Andy Kelly

xenfree is a supernatural adventure game about a group of


teenagers who unwittingly disturb something ancient and
evil on a remote Pacic Northwest island. Its the familiar
premise of countless straight-to-video horror lms, but this
is no clichd homage to teen slasher icks. Its actually a
game about people, relationships and growing up, which cleverly uses its
horror movie setup for something much greater.

NEED TO KNOW
WHAT IS IT?
A supernatural
coming-of-age mystery.
EXPECT TO PAY
$20
DEVELOPER

of you through their actions and


You play Alex, a teenager who comes
Night School Studio
dialogue, as in the real world. This is
to Edwards Island with a group of
PUBLISHER
opaque by design, simulating the
friends and her new step-brother, to
In-house
subtlety of actual relationships.
hang out, drink beer and explore. A
REVIEWED ON
Accompanying this relationship
local myth is that if you tune a radio
GeForce GTX 970, Intel
mechanic is one of the most
into certain frequencies on the island
i7-950, 16GB RAM
natural-sounding dialogue systems
youll hear ghostly messagesan
MULTIPLAYER
Ive ever encountered in a game.
urban legend Alex and her friends
None
Often, conversations in videogames
decide to investigate. I wont say
LINK
sound like two people
what happens next,
www.nightschool
taking turns to read out
because this is a
studio.com/oxenfree
story-driven game and
Everything you lines. But in Oxenfree
unraveling its mysteries
the lines ow together
say or do
is key to the
and you can
inuences what seamlessly,
experience, but their
respond at any time by
the others
evening suddenly takes
selecting one of three
a dark turn.
think of you answers. The
The group becomes
characters will even
separated, and Alex
react to your silence if
takes it upon herself to nd her
you dont answer them, or if you
friends on the eerily quiet, empty
decide to walk away and ignore them.
island. It has a storied past that you
This, combined with fantastic writing
learn as you wander. When you see a
and voice acting, makes it one of the
sign with a certain icon, you can tune best approximations of real humans
your radio into a frequency that tells
talking to each other in a game.
you some of the local history,
The ve teenagers are likeable
including a story about a World War
(except maybe Clarissa) and have
II submarine that sank nearby. Youll
nd an abandoned military base, a
campsite, a forest and a small,
uninhabited town. Its not a massive
space, but makes up for its limited
What youll find on Oxenfrees radio
scale with rich world-building.
You can explore freely and, in
CREEPY MUSIC
HISTORY
NIGHTMARISH
some cases, choose the order you
LESSONS
SOUNDS
You can often hear
tackle objectives. Early on, when
Learn about
Just generally
faint, strangely
youre rst separated, you can choose
Edwards Islands
unpleasant,
chirpy music
which of your friends to look for rst,
colorful history.
unsettling noises.
through the static.
and this will change the way the
story plays outand even their
relationship with you. In fact,
AM
500
600
700
800
1000
1200
1400
1600
KHz
everything you say or do inuences
STATIC
DISTORTED
STORY CLUES
what the others think of you. But
VOICES
You cant pick up
Some things you
there are no meters, icons or
What are they
regular radio
hear will help you
Telltale-style messages ashing up
saying? Its
stations from the
solve the islands
saying someone will remember that.
probably bad.
mainland.
many mysteries.
You have to gauge what people think

TUNING IN

72

APRIL 2016

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

distinct personalities. Early on, before


things start getting supernatural, they
play a game of truth or dare and its a
wonderful scene that reveals a lot
about the cast and what makes them
tick. Its also interactive, and can play
out a number of ways. Ren has a
crush on Nona and asks you not to
tell anyone. You can reveal this
during the game, much to Rens
dismay, or change the subject to
protect his secretand hell
remember your decision, which
shapes his opinion of you. An
achievement suggests its possible to
make everyone in the group hate you
by the end of the game, but I never
managed it. I like Ren too much.

LINK TO THE PAST


Outside of the character relationships,
there isnt much to Oxenfree. It has
adventure game stylings, but there are
no real puzzles to speak of. Its mostly
a game about exploration and story.
Alexs predicament has close ties to
the island and its history, as well as her
own past. Her journey is an emotional
one, and shes forced to confront
difcult things in her life as she tries
to locate her friends and escape.
Its funny and touching, and,
despite being essentially a horror
game, not that scary. And thats ne. I
was so entranced by the story and
characters that I didnt really care.
Oxenfree is a difcult game to
review, because revealing so much of
what makes it great would ruin the
story. But if you like smart, wellwritten adventure games with strong
characters, well-realized settings and
beautiful art direction, its worth
playing. My only real complaints are
the lack of puzzles, and the way the
cast dont seem that disturbed by the
crazy, scary things they encounter.
Theyre just a little too cool.
VERDICT
A beautiful story-driven
adventure game with
likeable characters and
an island filled with
intriguing mysteries.

83

REVIEW
Oxenfree
Use the tourist radio station
to learn about this memorial.

Now thats a
cool statue.

Alex and Jonas explore


the old military base.

The art is
beautiful.
Before it all
kicks off.

You can only


control Alex.

APRIL 2016

73

REVIEW
The Westport Independent

Id have been more threatened if


they used the correct valediction.

Tailoring your paper to different


districts is the best bit.

PAPERS DISPLEASE
Battle an oppressive government as editor of THE WESTPORT INDEPENDENT. By Matt Elliott

he Westport Independent is a game about censorship in a


repressive society. You have 12 weeks before the enactment
of a Public Culture Bill that will dramatically curtail the
journalistic freedom of the newspaper you edit. Do you take
the moral route, scuff the polished jackboot of fascism and
report the truth? Or do you pragmatically opt to protect your writers and
stick to printing smouldering celeb goss?
because certain stories ourish in
Youre in control of which stories get
particular areas. The rich want to
published and how they read. You
read about industry, celebrity and
can switch headlines, altering the
quails eggs, the poor are more
intonation of each story. Dont like
interested in crime and society.
that line about a study being
However, the game rarely lets you
government funded? Cut it. The same
report issues from
article can be about a
oblique angles. Youre
burglar being caught,
My paper
either openly in favor
or a homeless man
of the government or
being assaulted.
became a
rmly against it, and
You assign each
martini of
this makes for an
piece to one of your
crime news and unfullling experience.
four writers, who will
A bigger problem is
reject or embrace a
tawdry gossip
with the characters.
story depending on the
Everything you do
angle. Some are loyal to
hinges on whether or not you care
the government, others in favor of
about them. Threats to Franks safety
rebellion. Mocking the president,
mean nothing if you cant remember
questioning policy or drawing
which one Frank is. Some effort has
attention to deation will put your
been made to give characters
writers on the governments naughty
backstory, but their traits feel
list. Do it too often and they might
one-dimensional, and the endings
get arrested.
meant less because of this.
Eventually, you get to choose the
Your effect on society is a more
layout of each issue, ordering pages
satisfying metric. The middle classes
by importance. This is crucial,
74

APRIL 2016

NEED TO KNOW
WHAT IS IT?
A story of hardboiled
journalism under a
fascist regime.
EXPECT TO PAY
$10
DEVELOPER
Double Zero One Zero
PUBLISHER
Coffee Stain Studios
REVIEWED ON
i5-3230 CPU, 8GB RAM,
256 MB VRAM internal
card
MULTIPLAYER
None
LINK
www.doublezeroone
zero.com/westport.
html

are the biggest cause of revolution, as


well as the biggest obstacle to it.
Trying to convert them made The
Westport Independent more
interesting. My paper became a
martini of crime news and tawdry
gossip, garnished with a cocktail olive
of revolutionary discontent. I felt like
Id made a difference when the
rioting nally touched the poshest
areas, laughing as the artisan eggcup
shops got vandalized. For me, this is
where the game actually succeeds.
Sadly, its not enough. A single
game takes around 40 minutes, and
even though its designed to be
played repeatedly, it feels laborious. It
lacks the immediacy of The Republia
Times, which it no doubt took
inspiration from. Comparisons to
Papers, Please are equally damaging,
because it lacks the black comedy
and emotive twists. A game about
censorship and the power of the
press should feel more relevant than
ever, but The Westport Independent is
quietly underwhelming.
VERDICT
A cleanly executed idea,
which falls short because
of flat characterization
and a dissatisfying lack
of consequence.

67

The quest is over: youve


found the ultimate online
destination for all your lm,
TV, sci- and games needs

POWERED BY

AND

Visit the new home for the best


reviews, news, features,
interviews and more

Bookmark GamesRadar.com/movies now!

REVIEW
That Dragon, Cancer
Theres plenty of time to play
with Joel and co. too.

The art looks like a gorgeous


paper mache memory.

The game covers


four years of struggle.

BOY STORY
A family processes their sons terminal illness in THAT DRAGON, CANCER. By James Davenport

his is a true story. Amy and Ryan Green lost their son, Joel, to
brain cancer in March 2014. Games as documentation of
actual events are largely untestedhow do you communicate
grief and healing in a medium preoccupied with
entertainment? The answer isnt all that different from any
other medium: tell the story. That Dragon, Cancer is a tour through a series
of point-and-click vignettes that document Joels battle.
people in a new way, and games dont
In a rst-person sequence, I pushed
him on a merry-go-round. In another, often make an attempt as bold and
earnest as this. In one of many
the camera assumed a xed
torturous sequences, an inconsolable,
perspective as I moved the cursor
terminally ill Joel wails at the top of
between limp constellations, turning
his lungs while Ryan loses himself
them into animated creatures so a
and sends desperate
celestial Joel could take
prayers to the sky.
turns riding them.
Even if it
Afterwards, I called my
Later on, I assumed
Ryans perspective and
doesnt tell it in parents. We talked
the weather in
tried to quiet a fussy,
the best way, about
Montana and how the
tortured Joel with
it tells a
dogs are doing.
some juice, only for
him to vomit it up.
necessary story The game loses its
message during the
Throughout, the
more conceptual
familys reaction to
moments: the awkward minigame
news (good and bad) plays out
through ambient audio conversations, sections and surreal set-pieces. In
one, you control Joel as he hangs
scripted sequences, spoken poetry,
from a bouquet of inated medical
and diary entries.
gloves and oats toward a distant
For the same reasons that we see
planet. Black cancerous spores
lms or read books about difcult
threaten to pop the gloves if you
topics, games like That Dragon,
move too close, and they increase in
Cancer are valuable. Its possible for
number until eventually, reaching the
difcult media to jostle us out of
stagnancy, to see the world, concepts, planet is impossible. As a metaphor, it
76

APRIL 2016

NEED TO KNOW
WHAT IS IT?
A point-and-click game
about how a family lost
their child to cancer.
EXPECT TO PAY
$15
DEVELOPER
Numinous Games
PUBLISHER
In-house
REVIEWED ON
Intel Core-i7 6700K,
16GB RAM, GTX 980 Ti
MULTIPLAYER
None
LINK
www.thatdragon
cancer.com

failed because I spent more time


thinking about how awkward the
sequence was to control than the
content of the scene. The game
worked when it simply invited me
into a recognizable space and let me
explore in rst person.
During the last third, the family
becomes more dependent on (and
troubled with) their Christian faith,
and I started to decouple from the
game. Without belief in the afterlife, I
process loss differently. The distance
between the Greens and me grew
even though my empathy kept trying
to close the gap. Regardless, grief is a
universal anchor.
That Dragon, Cancer is unlike any
game Ive experienced. I want
everyone to play it. Even if it doesnt
tell its story in the best way, it tells a
necessary story. This is a brave
familys journey through loss and the
search for relief. Its not a guarantee
that well all be OK through thick and
thin. The story is too personal for
that kind of reassurance.
VERDICT
That Dragon, Cancer tells
a valuable story despite
uneven delivery and a
sometimes intrusive
control system.

75

SUBSCRIBE TO
CHOOSE YOUR PACKAGE
DDIGITAL
I G I TA L

PRINT

Every issue
delivered to
your door

Including
image galleries
on iPad

ONLY $19.95
SAVING 83%

ONLY $18.99
SAVING 84%

P R IN T + D I G I TA L

Every issue delivered in print and


to your iOS and Android devices
ONLY $33 SAVING 86%
VISIT

www.bit.ly/1QCWxjP

CALL TOLL FREE


OR

1-844-779-2822
Mon- Fri 8am to 7pm and Sat 10am - 2pm EDT

TERMS & CONDITIONS Prices and savings quoted are compared to buying full priced print and digital issues. You will receive 13 issues in a year. If you are dissatisfied in any way you can write to us at Future Publishing, PO Box 2024, Langhorne PA 19047, USA to
cancel your subscription at any time and we will refund you for all un-mailed issues. Prices correct at point of print and subject to change. For full terms and conditions please visit: myfavm.ag/magterms. Offer ends 29/03/2016.

REVIEW

GREAT JOB, BLOW


There are mazes within mazes in THE WITNESS, Jonathan Blows triumphant return.
By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

hether slyly illustrating a language puzzle in Fez or


telegraphing an attack window in Dark Souls, every
game must instruct you about the tools at your
disposal. Less talented creators teach with HUD
prompts or via cajoling NPCs, often wresting control
away when you fail. Skilled creators hint and tease, insensibly guiding you
towards a solution. Though not without its aws, Jonathan Blows The
Witness is one of the nest teachers Ive studied under.
and sand, dotted with buildings such
If youre at all minded to play it you
as a church, a logging depot and a
should stop reading now and do so.
windmillmany of these falling into
Yes, thats a terrible reviewers
disrepair. The place is a regular
cop-out, but the joy of The Witness is
car-crash of eras and traditions, from
simply how you learn, and while I
the vaguely Japanese temple near the
can dance around specics, Id hate
center with its plush red shutters, to
to deny you a single particle of that
the rusting tanker shipwrecked on
satisfaction. Is the pricetag a
the northern coast.
concern? Well, it took
There are, however,
me 30 hours to polish
shared and persistent
off the main arc of the
This is one of themes, among them a
game and I still
managed to bypass
the toughest motley and unnerving
population of stone
large tracts of it,
games Ive
kings,
including several
played in years efgiespriests,
guitarists,
unlockable areas and
photographers,
scores of puzzles. So if
rock-climbers and
the bang-for-buck ratio
more, all frozen mid-gesture like
is of paramount importance, Id say
trolls caught in the sun.
youre covered.
And then there are the
Still here? OK, you cant say I
omnipresent and incongruous
didnt warn you.
screens that house the majority of the
The Witness is a series of screenpuzzlesbright blocks of color that
based maze puzzles (some 600 or
you spot through gaps in the foliage
more) set on a tropical islanda
or at the crest of a distant hill. The
sumptuous, thickly hewn expanse of
puzzles that they present are
cliffs, meadows, orchards, swamps

NEED TO KNOW
WHAT IS IT?
A series of increasingly
complex maze puzzles,
set on an idyllic island.
EXPECT TO PAY
$40
DEVELOPER
Thekla Inc
PUBLISHER
In-house
REVIEWED ON
i5, GTX460M, 4GB RAM
MULTIPLAYER
None
LINK
www.the-witness.net

arranged into loose, area-specic


sequences that share a particular
game mechanic. Each completed
puzzle sends a bolt of power to the
next one along. The further you push
into the game, the more these
different puzzle mechanics begin to
combine, until by the climax youre
using the full set to unravel enigmas
that would have seemed impossible
hours before.
The silent elegance with which
The Witness cultivates your
understanding of its rules, the
artfulness with which it feeds you
concepts and layers them into
complex problems, is where its
greatness lies. Early puzzles are
painless: you hold-click to zoom on a
screen and activate a cursor, then
draw a line through a maze-like grid
layout from start to nish. But then
you start to encounter symbols on
squares within each maze that
impose additional requirements.
These are commonly introduced via
strips of ve or more screens that
walk you through each facet of the
new puzzle mechanic, beginning
with a maze thats a square or two
wide to demonstrate the basic
principle. Beyond a couple of text
prompts to explain the controls at the
outset there isnt a breath of actual
exposition in the game. It simply
doesnt need it.

TORTURE GARDEN

STUCK?

Dont fire up a walkthrough just yettry one of the tactics below

1 CS UH RE CR KO UYNODUIRN G S

Theres often a clue


hidden in the vicinity, and
some puzzles require you
to make use of bits of the
environment. Take a step
back and soak up the view.

78

APRIL 2016

2 EI SXLPALNODR E T H E

Each region has its own


theme, and introduces
you to how it works. If
youre struggling, you may
not have gathered the
right insight yet.

3 FP IUVZEZ-LPEA RS TT R I P S

These are usually


designed to teach you
what a particular symbol
does, building up from
simple problems. Be sure
to do these first.

4 INSE CI TE S S A R Y ?

You dont need to solve


every puzzle you come
across to proceed. If
somethings frustrating
you, consider leaving it
until another playthrough.

Thats not to say that The Witness is a


breeze. On the contrary, its one of
the toughest games Ive played in
years. The premise of each puzzle
may be digestible, but the devil is
very much in the detail, and holding
all the mechanics in your head at
once can be a challenge. Its also easy,
while roving the island, to run into a
conundrum you lack the knowledge
to solve. On the other hand, youre
never forced to tackle things in a
certain order, and it isnt necessary to
work your way along every thread in
order to reach the nale.
The ambiance is also immensely
restful: theres no real score, just the

REVIEW
The Witness
If you get stuck, at least
the scenery is nice.

Watch out for the


little dictaphones.

Puzzle boards make


surprisingly good bridges.
Not all the mazes
are on screens.

APRIL 2016

79

REVIEW
The Witness
Very much one
of the easier ones.

Its part-game, part


art installation.

Clues to puzzles can be found


in their surroundings.

I was half-expecting
Slender Man.

I guess they havent got


around to painting this bit.

80

APRIL 2016

REVIEW

this tendency is balanced out by a


seethe of wind in the forest canopy
couple of masterful (and insanely
and the lilt of owing water, and the
hard) puzzle specimens and by some
views are captivating. The scenery
opulently weird interiors, but its sad
might seem a distractiona way of
nonetheless that the closing sections
padding out the playtime, even, by
of The Witness arent quite the
having you trudge back and forth
between puzzlesbut this would be a send-off the game deserves. If you
much less enjoyable game were it not really want to experience The
Witness at its best, I recommend
for the opportunity to take a break in
spending as much time as possible
a clearing and watch the clouds pass
touring the island and cracking the
by. It helps that The Witness is a
optional puzzles (particularly, those
masterclass in using art direction to
which pertain to certain mysterious
compensate for less than cuttingblack pillars) before making a break
edge graphicsits radiant color
for the credits reel.
scheme and fat, stylized props amply
Theres also the storyline to
disguise the relative crudeness of its
consideror rather, the mass of
geometry and textures.
The landscape is also more than it oblique audio recordings and
suggestively positioned objects that
appears. As time goes on, youll pick
could form a coherent storyline,
up on a delicate negotiation between
the screen puzzles and the geography assuming they arent the trappings of
a non-narrative thought experiment.
and architecture that surrounds
Even making allowances for the fact
them. There are puzzles that mimic
that I havent uncovered all the
shapes nearby, such that to solve
secrets, its difcult to draw
them is also to create your own little
conclusions because at the time of
artworksa quietly signicant
writing, key elements of the ction
invitation to collaborate in the
arent in the game. Although its
worlds making. There are puzzles
playable from start to
that are effectively
nish, the review build
diagrams of the
machines theyre tied
Youre left with PC Gamer was
supplied with lacks a
toI might trace the
a mirrornumber of more
shape of a motorized
tunnel of
explicit audio les and
stairway in order to
allusions and has non-nal endgame
lower it, while
sequences. It should
contending with the
surmises
also be noted that it
rules of any symbols on
was a bit buggy,
the board in question.
featuring some mild glitches on
There are tricks of perspective that
things like reections and at least one
feel decorative at rst, but which
documented crashing problem.
actually supply clues about the
strategies that hold sequences
together. And there are puzzles that
CONNECTIONS
require you to actually use the
Id hedge that The Witness is, at least
environment itself in some fashion to
in part, an attempt to map and
proceed, a revelation that depends on celebrate the sheer act of
your having soaked up enough of the
composition, rather than a series of
games visual language that certain
events to be unearthed, as in a
things begin to stand out. These latter comparably open-ended walking
discoveries are among the most
simulator like Dear Esther. Its a
delightful The Witness has to offer.
journey to the heart of its creators
There are also, sadly, a handful of
artistic process that, among other
puzzles that arent so gratifying. The
things, positions the supposedly
Witness falls slightly afoul of the
trivial business of joining the dots as
classic endgame dilemmatheres a
a model for how we think.
point where you stop learning, stop
Many of the recordings are
working out how to employ the
excerpts from canonical texts of
techniques youve picked up in
science, philosophy and literature
different contexts, and the challenge
you can look forward to Paul
becomes too much a question of
Cezannes meditations on the
overcoming articial-feeling
relationship of painting to nature, and
obstructions thrown in your way. As
BF Skinners remarks on who really
with the arrival of a bullet-sponge
wields the power in a game
boss in a rst-person shooter, its all
scenariothe player or the designer?
about having the patience to proceed
It goes without saying that, being
rather than the ingenuity. To be fair,
a Jonathan Blow game, The Witness

SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT
Other wistful metaphysical brain-ticklers

PNEUMA:
BRE ATH OF LIFE

FEZ

A puzzle game built around


lines of sight, in which the
players character begins by
declaring himself to be God.

A 2D platform hero discovers


his world is secretly 3D, and can
be rotated to create new
routes. Linguistic dilemmas
and black holes result.

THE TALOS PRINCIPLE

QUANTUM CONUNDRUM

A morally conscious robot is


asked to complete puzzles
involving drones, turrets and
forcefields. Bloodier than The
Witness, and more sinister.

Your mad scientist uncle has


created four dimensions with
different physical properties.
Just as well youve got your
magic glove with you.

is highly aware of its own artice, but


this isnt sprung on you, as in other
games, in the form of a plot twist or
tiresome meta in-joke. Its tacitly
advertised from the outset, freeing up
the rest of the game to explore the
implications of this.
Youre left with a mirror-tunnel of
allusions and surmises that is
undeniably thought-provoking, but
may daze and annoy as many players
as it beguiles. Mind you, its perhaps
to the purpose that youre asked to
make sense of it all. I introduced The
Witness as a teaching machine, but I
suspect Blows agenda is to collapse
the master-student relationship,
equipping you with the tools and
insights you need to approach the
games sources of inspiration on your
own terms.
The Witness might be constructed
around mechanical challenges with
unambiguous outcomes, but as the
choice of title implies, what it seeks
in the end to offer is a vantage point,
an enlightened perspective on lifes
mysteries, rather than answers.
VERDICT
Jonathan Blow does it
again. Exquisitely layered
puzzles populate a world
that will keep you
guessing to the end.
APRIL 2016

89
81

REVIEW

JUST DESERTS
In HOMEWORLD: DESERTS OF KHARAK, all of this has happened before
(and its as good as you remember). By Rob Zacny

eserts of Kharak takes place long before the events of


Homeworld, but never feels overshadowed by whats to
come. As it opens, your civilization is clinging to life on a
desert planet, besieged by technologically advanced religious
fanatics, the Gaalsien. Protagonist Rachel Sjek departs
aboard the carrier Kapisi on a do-or-die mission to recover a powerful
artefact from the heart of the desert, and all hell immediately breaks loose.
hairy. The fact that armies take
The carrier lls the same role as the
longer to grind each other down than
mothership in the earlier Homeworld
in other RTS games also makes
games, with one important
battles feel a little more fun, with
difference: its a powerful warship
more opportunities to play general.
that can turn the tide of a battle
Youre amply rewarded for taking
singlehandedly. So on the one hand,
the time to micromanage your
your carrier must be protected as its
armies. Units gain experience and
where you research new unit types
veterancy bonuses, so that a
and upgrades, in addition to being a
Commander level railgun tank is
mobile airbase. On the other, its a
hitting twice as hard and is three
monster in combat that can be
times as resilient as its rookie
decisive in a battle.
counterpart. That kind of efciency is
In addition to being a powerful
why its more valuable to maneuver
tool, the carrier is a lot of fun to
and position your armored units by
watch as ghters and bombers
hand rather than just focus on
scramble from the ight deck, and
macro-production. Since the unit
returning aircraft are brought into
count is fairly low, this is denitely a
hangars for rearming between
game more about
missions. Like
tactics than production,
everything in Deserts of
Youre amply closer to Myth or the
Kharak, the carrier
features a lot of nice
rewarded for Wargame series than to
something like
little details that bring
taking the
StarCraft.
the clean, ascetic
time to
The missions
models to life.
Combat among the
micromanage themselves leave a bit
to be desired in terms
canyons and plains of
of pacing. I was always
the desert is
left alone while my salvagers picked
surprisingly similar to the spacethe map clean of resources, which
combat in the earlier games:
made for a lot of dull waiting around,
line-of-sight and army composition
but the persistent units and resources
are the big keys to victory, followed
in the campaign encourage exactly
by secondary factors such as unit
this kind of cautious, risk-averse play.
positioning to take advantage of
After Legacy of the Void, where
high-ground vantage points, which
theres always some new crisis to deal
give you bonuses. Control groups
with, the missions in Kharak seem a
generally do a good job of keeping a
bit too passive, waiting for me to
sensible formation so you can use
trigger the next event rather than
attack-move commands without
creating a sense of urgency.
much fear, most of the time.
Multiplayer is another story.
While each unit type counters and
While Im disappointed there arent
is countered by other units, this isnt
a game where having the wrong army more maps (perhaps an admission
that one stretch of rocky desert looks
means instant death. Even with the
much like another?), I was surprised
wrong units, you can sometimes
brute-force your way through battles, how much I liked the simple
multiplayer mode. On the one hand,
or withdraw before things get too
82

APRIL 2016

NEED TO KNOW
WHAT IS IT?
A ground-based prequel
to the classic space
RTS.
EXPECT TO PAY
$50
DEVELOPER
Blackbird Interactive
PUBLISHER
Gearbox Software
REVIEWED ON
Intel i5 3.1GHz
quad-core, 16GB
memory, GeForce
GTX 770
MULTIPLAYER
Up to 6 players
LINK
www.desertsof
kharak.com

multiplayer is all about protecting


your carrier. First person to lose the
carrier loses the game. But there are
also artifacts scattered around the
map that you must capture and
deliver to an extraction point. First
player to ve artifacts (or more,
depending on how you set up the
game) gets the victory.
That makes for some great duels
as players camp each others
extraction points, stake out artifacts,
and jockey for map dominance with
their carriers. You can turn off
artifacts and just play for carriers, but
I highly recommend the vanilla
settings for a good mix of big battles,
hide-and-seek with supercarriers,
and drag races between armies.

CARRIER COMMAND
The two factions, the Coalition and
the Gaalsien, feel similar. In general
the Coalition units are slightly more
versatile while the Gaalsien are more
specialized. The main difference,
however, is that the Gaalsien can
produce units practically wherever
they want, while the Coalition are
tied to their carrier, which completely
changes the relationship each side
has to the map and makes for some
terric blind-mans-bluff-style
multiplayer matches.
Kharak sounded almost
sacrilegious at rst. Over a decade
since the last Homeworld, it was
going to take a game about its
spaceships and 3D movement and
turn it into a ground-based RTS with
tanks? And it was a prequel? Yet
Deserts of Kharak succeeds on almost
every count. Its not only a terric
RTS that sets itself apart from the
rest of the genres recent games, but
its also an excellent Homeworld
game that reinvents the series while
also recapturing its magic.
VERDICT
A great tactical RTS with
all the gorgeous
aesthetics and
atmosphere of the
original series.

90

REVIEW
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
You soon learn why Coalition
bases are so heavily fortified.

The carrier makes a


good battering ram.

Multiplayer matches often end


with desperate carrier charges.

After a long chase, a Gaalsien


carrier is finally cornered.

MEET THE KAPISI

Expedition Carrier Kapisi: the


armys mighty heart.

Part carrier, part battleship, all awesome

Manage Kapisis power


systems to grant it bonuses.

Send power to weapons to


use more missile launchers.

I hope you like brown.

Gunship recovery
underway.

Strike-fighter bays for fastresponse tactical bombers.

Forward turrets and reactive


armor for local nuisances.

APRIL 2016

83

REVIEW

HORSE PLAY
PONY ISLAND will claim your soul, your sanity and your sugar cubes.
By Angus Morrison

magine launching a videogame that satirizes videogames in 2016.


Terrifying! You submit yourself for comparison with The Stanley
Parable, Surgeon Simulator and Saints Row 4. Even Saints Rows
DLC failed to pin down what made it so cathartic and disruptive.
Pony Island is of a different class. Not only does it succeed in having
meaning and a point to make, but it remembers to be a decent game while
its at ita game that left me doubting my own grip on reality.

free-to-play before layering on the


Its maddening that I cant unpack
meta-commentary.
Pony Island for this review without
Matters dont take long to escalate,
spoiling it or desensitizing you to its
and as you begin to mess with the
many, many tricks. I ought not to
arcade games back-end through
share my interpretation of what at
cracks in the old code, you draw
times appears to be an ingenious
unwanted attention. Pony Island is
literary conceit and at others pokes
the Devils own arcade game, and
fun at the whole idea. In
there are similarly ancient things
compromise, Ive pulled out a
lurking behind the
handful of inspired
dusty CRT screen
examples to mull over,
youre playing on.
but Im not entirely
It ensures
begins as
condent of my own
youre playing a What
monotonous showtheories. Really I need
game, not
jumping quickly spins
to play it again, but,
stranded in a into a war over your
well, I made a promise.
Pony Island boasts
lecture theater mortal soul.
The recurrent
the most asinine
hacking stages take
introduction most of us
place through a faux-coding
will ever endure. Its an old arcade
interface, like those of The Magic
title by Systemtech, Inc, consisting of
Circle or else Heart.Break(). You
a pony, some hurdles and a sickly
rearrange given commands to help
bucolic background. Left-click to
the pre-dened sequence run from
jump; unlimited lives. Think you can
end to end, giving yourself new
handle that? The eruption of
insincere praise on prancing up to the behaviors or just breaking things
sufciently that the old ones will do.
end ag might elicit an appreciative
Messing with the options menu is
nod. Ah, you may think, a critical
always a pleasure, allowing you to
slap to the state of achievements and
positive reinforcement in free-to-play. toggle settings such as anti-aliasing,
pony lasers and cheerful faade,
How droll. This is the least of what
although I will forever view the
Pony Island has to say. For Pony
absence of a eld of view setting as a
Island, the state of free-to-play is
missed opportunity.
mere small talk, like mentioning the
As the game progresses (both the
weather or your lunch plans. It wants
real and metaphorical game, if youre
you to think its interested in

LOST SOUL OR KINDRED SPIRIT?


SATAN

The Beast, Lord of the


Underworld, He Who Must Not Be
Named. OK, this guy has a vested interest
in your soul, true, but is messing with Pony
Islands code doing more harm than good?

84

APRIL 2016

???

NEED TO KNOW
WHAT IS IT?
An arcade game made
by Satan himself.
EXPECT TO PAY
$5
DEVELOPER
Daniel Mullins Games
PUBLISHER
In-house
REVIEWED ON
Core i5-3570K, 16GB
RAM, GeForce GTX
780Ti
MULTIPLAYER
None
LINK
www.pony-island.com

Denizens of Hell

Aw, look, the


blue thing
has a lil smile on its
face. You should
totally do what it says.

keeping track), new commands are


added to the roster and the coding
puzzles become proportionately
more complex. At rst it feels like a
contradiction to have such obvious
game-like elements with a
conventional difculty curve
embedded in a game that points out
how daft these things are, but I
suspect thats part of the joke. And,
simply, its nice to have things to
dothe puzzles offer a light cerebral
challenge that requires your
interaction. They make you part of
the joke and ensure that youre
playing a game, not stranded in a
lecture theater listening to a
developer tell us how silly the very
concept is. Its a rare sighting of
genuine self-aware humor.

EXPRESS PONY
Its a pity that these asides begin to
verge on repetitious, but a late-game
reskin gives them just enough life to
carry the puzzles through to the end
of Pony Islands four-hour lifespan.
That window is awlessly judged.
Short and incisive, its impossible for
Pony Island to outstay its welcome.
For the length of its brief run it
snowballs, gaining momentum until
the conclusion crashes down on you
in an avalanche of meta-commentary
and ARG elements.
Pony Island picks up themes and
ideas until its large enough to reach
past its videogame constraints and
start messing with your reality. Thats
you, the reader, not you a
hypothetical Pony Island playerit
creates the illusion (oh, please let it
be an illusion) of toying with the real
world, to the degree that when it
ended I stood up, in an ofce I had to
myself, and mimed the splatter from
my blown mind hitting the corners of
the room.

LOUEY

Unfortunate lackey, evil


taskmaster or something more?
Maybe its worth blasting him from
existence with your pony lasers just to be
on the safe side.

VERDICT
A sharp, multilayered
satire that remembers to
be a game even as it
makes fun of us for
playing it.

91

REVIEW
Pony Island
Enjoyment is mandatory.

I might not know what TXAA means,


but this is an option I like.

As new moves are added, the arcade


game becomes almost fun.

Weve all been there.

All this fountain of praise is


missing is a smug Shiba Inu.

APRIL 2016

85

EXTRA LIFE

Warwicks coming
for you, Middlesex.

CONTINUED ADVENTURES IN GAMING

My most exciting experience involves


the Bishop of Coventry being a jerk
Petulance and privilege in CRUSADER KINGS II
m from Warwickshire, a
small and slightly
pointless county in the
middle of England. It has
a scattered rural
population, and a constant trickle of
tourists for whom Shakespeare was
born there is a good enough reason to
visit a place.
During a recent trip, I visited the
regions premier medieval attraction,
Warwick Castle, and found my usual
indifference momentarily displaced. It
was seeing the worlds largest trebuchet
that did it, and then seeing the burnt
ruins of a historic boathouse that,
months earlier, had become a casualty
of the worlds largest trebuchet.
Crusader Kings II was a natural
outlet for this brief blast of civic pride, as
it features both Warwickshire and the
past. Normally, Id play a king, an
emperor or a fearsome tribal leader.
This time, I am Henry de Beaumont, 1st

86

APRIL 2016

PHIL SAVAGE
THIS MONTH
Got ideas above his station.

ALSO PLAYED
The Witcher 3, South Park:
The Stick of Truth

were plenty of decadent distractions.


People would buy exotic birds of prey,
just to witness their majestic beauty as
they hunted down and fucked up a
duck. In Crusader Kings II, my most
exciting experience involves the Bishop
of Coventry being a bit of a jerk.

DUKES IN HAZARD
Earl of Warwicka middle manager of
the English feudal system. My campaign
starts on September 9, 1087, when,
according to the game, de Beaumont
took control of the region. This isnt
quite accurate, but Im not about to turn
this into a history lesson.
Pretty soon, I realize that I dont
really have anything of import to do. Im
a vassal of William II and dont have
much autonomy. So I decide to hold a
feast. It goes well, which wouldnt be so
bad if I was actually living this. The
opulence would be a tangible thing, and,
as I learned at Warwick Castle, there

Then, for no discernible reason,


everything goes exciting. William II
creates the Duchy of Warwick, and
makes me the duke. All of a sudden, Im
the second most powerful man in
mainland England, with vassals across
Leicester, Worcester and Herefordshire.
This also gives me a goal. Shrewsbury is

ALL OF A SUDDEN, IM THE


SECOND MOST POWERFUL MAN
IN MAINLAND ENGLAND

N O W P L AY I N G
THE GAMES WE LOVE RIGHT NOW
That face deserves
some fanfare.

Incompetent power corrupts,


incompetently.

My most fiendish plot:


a baller feast.

I fell in love with its


podgy build
Spending my life savings in FINAL FANTASY XIV
DANIELLA LUCAS
THIS MONTH

part of my de jure duchy, and so I plot to


seize control. To do this, I need to wage
war against Count Roger the Great. To
do that, I need William II to lower Crown
Authoritythe law that governs how
much autonomy his vassals have.
I start a political faction to change
the law. Then, on December 12, just as
my pressure group is growing, William II
gives me Shrewsbury. I have no reason
to keep the faction going. Yet other
vassals keep rallying to the cause. Soon
weve got an army bigger than the
kings. And so it comes to pass that, one
year later, Henry starts the English Civil
War to lower Crown Authority. Or, as Im
calling it, Duke Warwicks Petty War of
Wanting Something To Do.
His army is in worse shape than I
thought, thanks to an ongoing conflict
with France. Im easily able to crush his
troops as they arise. Its looking like an
easy win, and I figure that in a couple of
generations the de Beaumont clan
could rule all Britannia. Thats when the
Holy Roman Empire arrives.
William II is allied with Kaiser
Heinrich III, who has just marched
thousands of men into Warwickshire.
How can I defeat such powerful political
connections? Dejected, I surrender and
am swiftly imprisoned. Having seen
Warwick Castles dungeons, I am at
least glad not to be living through this
particular bit of history.

Impulse bought a tiny monkey


and went bankrupt.

ALSO PLAYED
Hot Date

he life of a warrior of light


isnt a particularly lucrative
one. Sure, quest givers will
reward you with a decent
wage for all the beasties you slaughter,
and sentient brooms have surprisingly
deep pockets if you cry for them on
demand, but youve also got some
serious overheads to deal with, such as
food and swords. Unless youre some
kind of monster that dicks over the
masses by playing the marketboard, Gil
can be incredibly hard to save up.
As in real life, sensible adventurers
scrimp every coin in the pursuit of a
house to call their own, or to invest in
crafting for greater returns. But I am not
a sensible adventurer. After taking over
a year to save up two million Gil I spent it
all in 45 seconds because I wanted a
tiny, rotund monkey. Partly because the
Paissa Brat minion reminded me of my
hamster. Partly because its just
generally pretty cute. Mostly, its
because of Squonk.
If you dont play Final Fantasy XIV
then you wont be familiar with the giant
hunt marks that roam the Eorzean
countryside and cause the server to
collapse if an S-rank shows up. At over

10ft tall with saucer-like eyes that stare


out over the Sea of Clouds, Squonk is
one of these marks and who the Paissa
minion is modeled after. I first stumbled
across him completely by accident while
trying to cross some floating Islands.
Much like Totoro at the bus stop it
loomed quietly over me while I busied
myself punching kittens. I instantly fell
in love with its fidgety movements,
podgy build and ridiculous name. I had
to have one.
But it wasnt meant to be. For
starters, the minion didnt even exist at
the time. It wasnt until months later
that it was patched in. I may have gone a
bit mad on Twitter over the reveal of its
perfectly spherical body, and its tiny
limbs uselessly flailing in all directions as
it blorpped along the floor. But theyre
also incredibly rare and in high demand.
Luck was not on my side. It took weeks
for them to filter into the market, and far
longer for the price to even drop past a
point that would make an investment
banker blush.
Defeated, I desperately tried to
forget about the adorable little
munchkin. I focused my efforts into
helping friends take down bosses. I even
started saving for a house. Then one
day as I was deviling eggs in aid of my
local government of choice, a cat girl ran
past me with a Paissa Brat splodging
about behind her, its perfectly bulbous
eyes calling out to me. I couldnt resist.
In a moment of weakness I caved and
dashed to the marketboard... Screw the
house, I need my monkey.
APRIL 2016

87

N O W P L AY I N G
THE GAMES WE LOVE RIGHT NOW
The cursor was there when I
entered the room, I promise.

Dont judge.
Weve all done it.

I can play one-handed, leaving the


other hand free for fortied wine
Crapulent capers in the ADVENTURES OF BERTRAM FIDDLE: A DREADLY BUSINESS
get off to a poor start
with The Adventures of
Bertram Fiddle. Theres
nothing wrong with the
game, you understand
its charming and eccentric, like a
supper date with David Suchetbut Im
playing it with entirely the wrong drink.
Its best accompanied with amontillado
sherry, not insipid, post-watershed tea.
It requires something as sweet and
nutty as the game.
Tea discarded. Schooner filled with
sherry. I am ready.
I have much in common with Mr
Fiddle. He eschews real work in favor of
tepid adventure, works for a pittance
and owes his mother loads of money.
Unlike me, he has a dog, Foofy, who is
soon lost in a luggage-related mishap. A
chase ensues, and I realize why I love
this game. I can even play the action
sections one-handed, leaving the other
hand free for fortified wine.
A conspiracy unravels, and I end up
carrying around a womans severed
head. Determined to solve her murder, I
sneak into the inner sanctum of a
gentlemans club to meet Sherlock
Holmes and John Watson. Holmes is an
insufferable wank, but I identify with
Watson. Like Poirots Captain Hastings
and Donkey from Shrek, were
set-dressing in someone elses story.

88

APRIL 2016

M AT T ELLIOT T
THIS MONTH
Drank a whole bottle of sherry,
fed spider webs to urchins.

ALSO PLAYED
Dont Starve, Knights of the
Old Republic

Cabbagey, obvious everymen, who exist


only to narrate the lives of their more
intelligent colleagues. More gentle
puzzling follows, then disaster strikes. A
man-eating plant blocks my path, and I
run out of real-life sherry. Thankfully, I
remember the brandy I bought for
making mince pies.

A STIFFENER
Id love to pretend that the game got
darker and sterner to match my tipple,
but it didnt. It comes close when I meet
Count Fulchmuckle: a servant of
Cthulhu found devouring a giant
woodlouse in a sewer. But it turns out
hes rather nice, too. Nerves steadied by
the brandy, and with the Counts sword

IM LEFT WOOZY BUT SATISFIED. IM


ALSO CONCERNED ILL HAVE GOUT
BY THE TIME THIS SERIES ENDS

in my hand, I hack down my


horticultural foe.
Deeply inebriated and invested in
Bertrams adventure, I meet my
favorite character so far: a
rambunctious street-woman named
Pokey Mary, who carries a turnip and
has cutlery for hands. I love Pokey Mary
so much I show her everything in my
inventory, just so I can hear her
responses. Doing so, I solve the next
puzzle by accident. I pull the
headphones out of my PC so my
girlfriend can hear Pokey Mary too, but
its apparently less amusing when sober
and heard out of context. Poke poke!
God bless and save you, Pokey Mary.
I leave fair Mary behind, and bump
into a spider the size of a human head.
This would be horrible anyway, but I
spent the previous evening listening to
an MR James story about the exact
same subject, and it feels terribly
ominous. I cheer myself up by feeding
children fake candy floss, which is
actually a toilet brush wrapped in spider
web. This might be my favorite puzzle in
any adventure game.
As Episode 1: A Dreadly Business
meanders to a genteel conclusion, Im
left woozy but satisfied. Im also
concerned Ill have gout by the time this
series ends, but one must always suffer
for ones art.

EXTRA LIFE
NOW PLAYING

DOWNLOADS

UPDATE

REINSTALL

WHY I LOVE

MUST PLAY

I learn that there werent actually


refrigerators in Victorian England
Snooping in ASSASSINS CREED SYNDICATE like a one-man NSA
ly favorite pastime in
Syndicate is sniffing out
snippets of chit-chat
wafting on the wind, like
a hungry cartoon cat
hunting something delicious. This has
somewhat spoiled the experience by
exposing the infinitely looping dialogue
that serves to prevent immobile citizens
running dry of conversation and staring
awkwardly at each other, but I am now
temporarily knowledgeable about
Victorian London.
My magical learning adventure
begins when I spot hairy-armed men
salting fish by the Thames and feel
compelled to observeand by that I
mean stare inches from their faces.
Why arent these gorilla idiots using
fridges? Well, a quick jaunt to Wikipedia
tells me the hypertonic nature of salt
dehydrates harmful microbes. This
method of food preservation has
existed for thousands of years, and
there werent actually any fridges at this
time. Thus I am smarter.
Next I gallop through the Houses of
Parliament and find three posh
goofballs breathlessly discussing a
book. This is the original guide for
mens fashion and etiquette, says one
in an accent so sharp it could cut rope.
It contains instructions for every

BEN GRIFFIN
THIS MONTH
Temporarily became very
smart by being nosey.

ALSO PLAYED
Just Cause 3

aspect of aesthetic life. Theories of


proper tailoring and how to conduct
oneself at banquets. Inspired towards
further reading I learn its author, Beau
Brummell, basically overhauled fashion
in England by rejecting ornate
Blackadder series 2 garb for more
understated Blackadder series 3 stuff,
and, should it ever come up in a pub
quiz, this pioneer of dandyism also
claimed to polish his shoes with
champagne. Wasteful really.

ENGLISH LESSONS
Later under Big Ben I hear people
entertain the absurd premise of having
ladies in politics. One guy is all like, No

UNDER BIG BEN I HEAR PEOPLE


ENTERTAIN THE ABSURD PREMISE OF
HAVING LADIES IN POLITICS

offense my dear but theres a reason no


woman has ever entered, and the
woman shoots back, Youre righta
very good reason indeed. This dazzling
sneak-diss naturally soars over his head.
So when could chicks access the No
Chicks clubhouse that was/is the
British government? 1918s Qualification
of Women Act gave women over 21 the
right to stand as MPs, but strangely, the
Representation of the People Act only
enfranchised women over 30. In a rare
example of the law not making sense,
there was a period in which women
could become politicians before they
could vote.
My new favorite piece of micdropping trivia, which I will constantly
tell people until they start groaning
when they see me, comes courtesy of
discovering a man in a pub dragging a
brass cage. Through research I learn
anecdotal evidence these rat-catchers
actually bred vermin to keep themselves
in demand, and how they sometimes
pitted their favorites in blood sports.
This led to todays domesticated and
disease-free fancy rats, of which I have
eight because I am wilfully violating my
tenancy contract.
Syndicate is every school slackers
dream game: a powerful educational
tool in which you can fight people.

What children did before


there were videogames.

Rhubarb rhubarb,
rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb.

APRIL 2016

89

TOP 10 DOWNLOADS
FREE GAMES STUFF FROM THE WEB by Tom Sykes

Where there are trees, there


has to be oxygen, surely?

SPINTIRES
VEHICLES
CARS You spin me right
round, Spintires
he off-road Soviet truck
sim was given official
mod support recently,
and if youd guessed that
the community spent the last few
weeks making all manner of
outlandish vehicles, youd be dead
wrong. Theyve been making very
old-fashioned, utilitarian vehicles.

ORCHIDS
TO DUSK

E VAKUATOR

Your arch-nemesis in Spintires is


mudsome of the most organic and
physics-enabled mud ever, and the
Evakuator is your guardian angel. It can fit
two cars onto its ample frame.
www.bit.ly/Spintires1

FREEWARE In space, no one can hear you prune


pace is where we go
to die in games, from
the mutated horrors
ripping our limbs off
in Dead Space, to the
many deaths of the cutesy Kerbals,
who are all too happy to sacrice
themselves for the greater good.

Pol Clarissous Orchids to Dusk


might be the most honest space-based
game yet, given that it deposits you on
an alien planet with only a few minutes
of oxygen. Sorry to break it to you, but
youre definitely going to dieand
thanks to the O2 counter, you even have
a fair idea of when. What matters is
what you do with those few minutes:
how you spend the final moments
youve graciously been allotted by fate
or possibly the developer.
Emerging from your ship into an
endless-seeming desert, your options
90

APRIL 2016

are to traipse that way, that other way,


or behind you. Each direction holds
oases, rolling dunes, weird alien fauna,
and... whats that thing on the ground,
next to a trail of footsteps?
Orchids desert isnt hugely varied,
but I get the feeling I havent discovered
every last oddity in it yet. Rumors tell of
a secret ending, which I havent found.
Im happy just to sightsee. Orchids to
Dusk is a great screenshot game,
thanks to its beautiful low-poly
environment, the neat auto-walk
function that lets you look around as
you wander, and your avatars
propensity to sit down in a
contemplative fashion if you leave them
alone. Explore, think, prod that strange
alien plant thing. Blessedly, theres not a
gun in sight.
DOWNLOAD AT www.bit.ly/OrchidsToDusk

GAZ 21

Though its not really built for Spintires


muddy, bumpy terrain, the GAZ-21, or
Volga, is a highpoint of Russian automobile
history, and its great to see it appear in
the game.
www.bit.ly/Spintires2

ZAZ 968M

The ZAZs best feature is its roof rack,


which lets you carry accessoriesincluding
a fridgearound Spintires muddy world.
Good luck with this heap of junkyoull
need it.
www.bit.ly/Spintires3

EXTRA LIFE
NOW PLAYING

DOWNLOADS

EVOLUTION OF
COMBAT IV

UPDATE

REINSTALL

WHY I LOVE

MUST PLAY

Nobody pulls her pigtails.

MOD Jabba Jabba hey, try this Jedi Academy mod


ant to be a proper
Smuggler, Jedi or Sith,
with the relevant powers
and gear as set in stone
by the movies? Of course you do.
Want to play as Jabba the Hutt, or
as everybodys favorite space
rastafarian, Jar-Jar Binks? No. EoC
also tweaks the sizes of multiplayer

characters, and makes the


lightsaber combat more authentic,
but the best is yet to come:
characters from The Force
Awakens will be added in an
upcoming patch. Hey, if DICE wont
do it, somebody has to step in.
DOWNLOAD AT www.bit.ly/EvolutionOfCombat4

REAP

FREEWARE Its grim being a reaper on a turnip diet


his is a survival game with a
difference. That difference
is turnips, which your
shipwrecked character eats
exclusively through the course of their
adventure. Washed up on a procedurally
generated monochrome archipelago,
you have to manage your food levels,
your stamina and supplies, while being
attacked on all sides by, well, nothing.

Your only enemy is naturenature, and


that cruel, fiery mistress the sun.
Its virtually a character in its own
right. Visible at the edge of the screen at
all times, it widens or shrinks the playing
area. At noon, you can see for miles,
while at the dead of night you can only
see about an inch in every direction.
DOWNLOAD AT www.bit.ly/ReapGame

YOU ARE HERE


You can use axes to chop
wood, spades to dig plots for
turnips, and scythes to
harvest the eventual crops.

THE CURSE
OF ISSYOS
FREEWARE Save your
daughter in ancient Greece
very couple of years,
Locomalito will emerge
with another freebie that
shows the rest of us how
its done. If youve played Hydorah, or
the Ghouls n Ghosts-like Maldita
Castilla, youll know how
accomplished he is at making
classic-style arcade games with all
the polish and character youd expect
from authentic retro titles. The Curse
of Issyos is no different. Its a
platformer set in ancient Greece,
which means its chock-full of
mythical creatures that would do Ray
Harryhausen proud. Fight skeletons,
lizardmen, harpies and more, in a
game that recaptures the simple
pleasures of platformers past.

RAFT
Crafting a raft is as
simple as introducing cut logs
to water, and it opens up the
game world considerably.

TREASURE
Its mostly turnips, but
there is treasure out there too.
These maps help you get the
lay of the land.

DOWNLOAD AT www.bit.ly/CurseOfIssyos

APRIL 2016

91

TOP 10 DOWNLOADS
FREE GAMES STUFF FROM THE WEB by Tom Sykes

THE WITCHER MINUS THE WITCHER


The Witcher needs a quest where
Geralt swaps bodies with Triss.

MOD Which her do you want to be?


eres a mod that replaces
Geralt with Triss,
Yennifer, Ciri or Shani,
the four major women in
his life. Youll continue to speak
with Geralts voice, despite your
gender swap, although you could
chalk that up to magic I suppose.
Its still a great mod, however, even
if incompleteafter three games
worth of quests and romances
featuring these characters, its

pretty wonderful to be able to walk


a mile or two in their shoes.
If youd rather they stuck around
to keep Geralt company on his wild
hunts, you could also try the Spawn
Companion mod. This lets you
bring Ves, Ciri, Lambert, Eskel or
Kiyan along with youtheyll ght
at your side, but wont ask for half
of your loot in return.
DOWNLOAD AT www.bit.ly/WitcherMinusGeralt

Deus Ex with clever enemies, perks,


and better movement options.

TICK TOCK ISLE


DEMO We have all the time
in the world
ts fun when an
adventure game tries
another genre on for size.
The lovely Tick Tock Isle
is dressed up in the clothes of a
platform game, but, as you might
notice when you try to jump on
something, its really more of a
puzzley point-and-click affair.
This demo drops you in the shoes
of an engineer named Strike, who
visits an uninhabited island to fix a
decrepit clocktower and finds himself
cast back in time to happier days.
The art is gorgeous, the dialogue is
pretty funny, and the central mystery
is mysterious enough to pull you
along. If youre tempted to pick up
the full game, Squiddershins
time-hopping tale is only three
dollars on Itch.

DOWNLOAD AT www.bit.ly/TickTockIsle

92

APRIL 2016

GMDX

MOD Mankind is divided over this or Deus Ex: Revision


his is it: I think modders
might finally be done with
Deus Ex. Not only thanks to
the release of Deus Ex:
Revisionwhich added HD textures and
messed around with the level design
but thanks to version 8.0 of the
comprehensive Give Me Deus Ex mod.
GMDX makes enormous changes to the
original game, adding a secondary
weapon you can switch between at the
touch of a button, Fallout-style perks
that let you specialize your skill set even
further, and improving the enemy AI so

that the second part of that acronym is


actually present.
Enemies will now display some basic
intelligence, both in combat and when
theyre searching for JC Dentonfor
example, by throwing flares into
darkened areas he might be hiding in.
Theyll run to alarms after spotting dead
or unconscious enemies, react to JC
creating noises in the environment, and
make use of cover after youve engaged
them in gunfights.
DOWNLOAD AT www.bit.ly/GiveMeDeusEx

EXTRA LIFE
NOW PLAYING

DOWNLOADS

UPDATE

REINSTALL

WHY I LOVE

MUST PLAY

A WAD WINNER

Thats a very disapproving powerup.

Three masterfully modded


Doom worlds

1SKULLDASH

This mod adds a strict time limit to Doom,


with the threat of a gory death if you fail to
collect the various Skulltokens and escape
in the allotted time.
www.bit.ly/2015Cacowards1

2015 CACOWARDS

MAPS No cack, but plenty of awards

2VALIANT

A huge megawad of five episodes and 32


new maps. Valiant is rare in that it mucks
about with the basics, changing enemy data
and adding weapons and monsters.
www.bit.ly/2015Cacowards2

very year, Doomworld


hands out awards to
the best Doom mods,
and 2015 was no
different. Actually, it
was a little different, as they were
also celebrating the 22nd
anniversary of the game.

There was a Lifetime Achievement


award for the prolific Simon Fraggle
Howard, creator of Chocolate Doom,
while the genius InstaDoom was
honored as the Best Comedy WAD of

the Year. Its been a grand year, in other


words, and here are three of the best
2015 Cacoward winners to prove it.
If youre looking to get into the
modding game, its worth giving the
brilliant Gloome a try. Its an offshoot of
GZDoom that allows you to make
standalone games with the Doom
engine, and even to offer them
commercially. Though its still in beta,
its possible to make full gamessearch
for Nocturne in Yellow to see what
Gloome is capable of.

10

3RETURN TO HADRON

If you like your mods chock-full of monsters,


you might want to return to the site of the
Large Hadron Collider for this add-on.
Hadron is pretty brutal, so prepare to die.
www.bit.ly/2015Cacowards3

TIMRUK
FREEWARE I can read you like a book
tudio Oleomingus
mythical larger game
Somewhere cant come
soon enough, given these
exquisite tantalizing glimpses. Timruk
is the latest short adventure from a
world very like our own: an alternate
India, perhaps, where stories affect
reality, and where people find
themselves trapped inside the pages
of books. As you read about such a

fate befalling an unlucky painters son,


you begin to notice the very papery
wall textures, and wonder if the same
thing could have happened to you.
Oleomingus games are
astonishingly easy on the eyes and
ears. Sink into this world for a bit, then
join me in counting down the days
until Somewhere is finally out.
DOWNLOAD AT www.bit.ly/TimrukGame

APRIL 2016

93

U P D AT E
WHATS NEW IN THE BIGGEST GAMES

METAL GEAR SOLID V:


THE PHANTOM PAIN
Taking Konamis long-awaited Metal Gear Online for a spin. By Andy Kelly
inally, ve months
after it was released,
Metal Gear Solid V
has multiplayer.
Select the Metal Gear
Online option from the main menu
and youll see the character you
created way back at the beginning
of the singleplayer game sitting in a
tent somewhere in the jungles of
Africa. This is the freeplay zonea
safe, enemy-free space that serves
as a training ground for testing the
weapons and gadgets youll steadily
unlock as you play. When youre
ready to play with other people, its
simply a matter of bringing up the
iDroid and diving into a
matchmaking server.

There are three modes, of which


Bounty Hunter is the most familiar.
Its an 8v8 team deathmatch with
tickets that count down as players
from each team are killed. The rst
team to reach zero loses. Basic stuff,
but the ability to use the singleplayers Fulton system gives it a Metal

NEED TO KNOW
RELEASE

DEVELOPER

Out now

Kojima Productions

PUBLISHER

LINK

Konami

www.konami.jp/mgs5

Gear-avored twist. Instead of killing


someone, you can knock them out
and attach a balloon to them, yanking
them out of the battle alive.
What makes this especially
interesting is that, if a player is doing
well, a bounty is placed on their head.
Then, if another player manages to
Fulton said player, the tickets they
took will be replenished. But its
risky, because if another player sees
one of their pals Fultoned theyll
probably shoot the balloon down. It
elevates Bounty Hunter beyond a
mere deathmatch and can result in
exhilarating comebacks. A tactical
Fulton can turn the tide in an instant.
Its hard to do, though, so youll
spend most of your time in Bounty
Hunter just running around shooting
people. There are Walker Gears on
the mapsbipedal mechs with
Gatling gunsbut you become such a
target clunking around in one most
people ignore them. Its when the
game settles into the familiar rhythm
of a competitive online shooter that
my interest begins to wane. And with
players whove unlocked the stealth
camowhich renders them briey
invisibleconstantly sneaking up,
knocking you out with CQC and
Fultoning you, it gets frustrating.
It doesnt help that the maps are
so small, either. MGSVs big selling
point is, after all, its open world.

A H I D E O K O J I M A H AT Serious hats for a very serious game

CROC CAP

This is an old favorite of


Big Bosss from Operation
Snake Eater.

94

APRIL 2016

RICKY

Its a cat and its name is


Ricky. What more do you
need to know?

DIVINE EQUINE

Turning a sinister Mafia


warning into a bold
fashion statement.

FISHY BUSINESS

Just be careful the stink


doesnt give your hiding
place away.

Africa and Afghanistan are vast,


complex playgrounds for the games
rich systems and myriad weapons
and tools. But the multiplayer maps,
although well-designed, feel
claustrophobic in comparison, and
there are only ve in totala paltry
number considering their size.

SPIRIT OF MGS
Cloak and Dagger is the most original
mode, with one team attacking and
the other defending. The attackers

ITS NOT THE


FULLY FEATURED
ONLINE COMPONENT
YOUD EXPECT FROM A
GAME OF THIS CALIBER
have stealth camo and non-lethal
weapons and must steal discs from
the defenders and return them to a
drop point; and the defenders, who
have lethal weapons but no stealth
camo, have to stop them. With its
focus on sneaking, this is the mode
that best captures the spirit of MGS.
Covertly grabbing a disc and
returning it without being seen is
thrilling, but understandably difcult.
Then, nally, theres Comms
Control, which is basically a
team-based king of the hill mode. Its
the least remarkable of the lot and I
rarely found myself looking for a
match. Thats a total of three modes,
which just isnt enough. Presumably
Konami is planning to fatten the
game later with downloadable
content, and itll have to if its going
to hold peoples attention. It makes
me wonder if the closure of the
studio that made the game has had
an impact somehow. Its not the fully
featured online component youd
expect from a game of this caliber
and is far too slim to be essential.

EXTRA LIFE
NOW PLAYING

DOWNLOADS

UPDATE

REINSTALL

WHY I LOVE

Yeah, I think
hes probably dead.

MUST PLAY

The squad charges


into battle.

If all else fails, hide


in a cardboard box.

Ill never tire of


killing snipers.
Standing to
attention.

Perfect aim, even with


an eyepatch. What a pro.

APRIL 2016

95

R E I N S TA L L
OLD GAMES, NEW PERSPECTIVES

Its as endearing as it
is unpolished
96

APRIL 2016

EXTRA LIFE
NOW PLAYING

DOWNLOADS

UPDATE

REINSTALL

WHY I LOVE

MUST PLAY

DONT LOOK AT ME, IM


BEING VERY DISCREET.

LITTLE BIG
ADVENTURE 2
Underappreciated classic, or casualty of nostalgia? By Phil Savage
will admit, I was
nervous about
returning to Little Big
Adventure 2. For the
most part, the games
of my formative years have held up,
but LBA2 is different: it never
found its place in the PC canon. Its
a niche, cult adventureintensely
loved by a group of people who, for
all I know, were equally deluded.
When stripped of the comforting
blanket of nostalgia, its probably
rubbish. Right?

Well, yes, a little bit. Little Big


Adventure 2 hasnt aged well, and
some of its ideas must have been

questionable even when it was


released back in 1997. Its also
immediately clear why its beloved.
Its a slapstick adventure with lots of
heart. For all the silliness and peril,
theres also a rich vein of positivity
running throughout. Its as endearing
as it is unpolished.
LBA 2s story is a direct follow-up
to its 1994 predecessor. In Little Big
Adventure, protagonist Twinsen was

NEED TO KNOW
RELEASED

DEVELOPER

1997

Adeline Software

PUBLISHER

LINK

EA

www.littlebigadventure2.com

UPPERS AND
DOWNERS
Twinsen can do different
things in the game
depending on his mood
NORMAL

Open doors and talk to


NPCs. The same actions
can be performed
through a shortcut key,
rendering this useless.

SPORTY

Run and jump, all with an


exaggerated swing in
your gait that would
render even professional
athletes exhausted.

AG G R E S SI V E

Get up in an enemys
face, assuming they
dont use ranged
weapons on you. Makes
you look drunk.

DISCREET

Twinsens impression of
Elmer Fudd hunting
wabbits. Each step is
accompanied by a bass
note, which is brilliant.

APRIL 2016

97

R E I N S TA L L
OLD GAMES, NEW PERSPECTIVES
Twinsen suddenly realizes
his home is a very silly place.

My new fighting
technique is unstoppable.

Its weird that rabbit people


have a rabbit in a hat, right?

tasked with bringing an end to the


evil dictator Dr Funfrock and his
army of elephant clones. He did this
by journeying across the planet of
Twinsun (it has two suns,) throwing a
magic ball and saying, uh... hows it
going? to everyone he met. Just this
basic overview should give some idea
of the series eccentricitiesfrom the
nominative determinism of Twinsen
being the hero of Twinsun, to the
planets anthropomorphic population.
Also, that its ruled by a man called
Funfrock. Its all very, very French.

LITTLE CHANGES
By the start of Little Big Adventure 2,
Twinsen is established as the hero of
a world that seemingly doesnt need
saving. His ceremonial tunic and
magic medallion are on loan to the
local museum. The intro pans
through the rooms of his house,
showing pictures of his previous
adventure before moving through to
the half-built nursery that announces
the pregnancy of his girlfriend, Zoe.
With its serene, slow pace and
haunting musical refrain, the
moment is ruined only by Twinsen
himselfhis brash, jarring voiceover
lowering the established tone.
98

APRIL 2016

ITS CONTROLS RESIDE IN THAT


AWKWARD 90S STAGE BEFORE
THE RULES WERE FORMALIZED
The English voice acting is
weaka handful of people acting out
cartoonish caricatures and borderline
offensive stereotypes. It gives the
game a misplaced hint of those early
90s kids variety shows. Misplaced
because, despite its wacky characters
and Looney Tunes enemies (one is an
alien in a bin, who sticks his feet
through the bottom and waddles), it
doesnt feel particularly childish.
Its difcult to picture LBA2s
target audience, because it feels so
broad. The manual has a go,
explaining what developer Adeline
intended. Put simply, it states, we
have tried to create a realistic
environment in a cartoonesque style.
Id debate realistic, but there are
plenty of moments where the
slapstick falls away. At the end of the
rst mission, Twinsen and his
girlfriend walk home arm-in-arm
across Citadel Island. Its a charming
little event. Rare are those games that

could be described as sweet. For all


the action and puzzling, LBA2 works
best when its being nice.

LIGHT HOUSEKEEPING
Soon after this, the aliens turn up.
The opening of LBA2 is pretty sedate:
your only problems are a storm and
an injured ying dinosaur pet called
Dino-Fly. Twinsen must clear the
storm by rescuing a lighthouse
keeper. Its this that triggers the alien
invasion. They espouse peace and
friendship, but pretty soon the
planets wizards and children go
missing under mysterious, clearly
extraterrestrial circumstances.
One of the strangest things about
the campaign is how backloaded it is.
Much of the early quest revolves
around collecting things and
completing tasks across Citadel and
Desert Island. Youre constantly
hopping back and forth between the
twoheading to Desert Island to nd
the wizard academy, to Citadel Island
to x your car, and then back to
Desert Island to jump that car over a
cliff (the wizards require this as a
condition for joining their order, even
though car tricks are not inherently
magical). Twinsen travels back and

EXTRA LIFE
NOW PLAYING

DOWNLOADS

UPDATE

REINSTALL

WHY I LOVE

MUST PLAY

The two Twinsunian islands change


dramatically in response to events.

LITTLE BIG IDEAS


The Little Big Adventure may not be over
Adeline closed in 2003, but that
didnt stop rumors of a planned
third Little Big Adventure game.
Called Little Big Adventure 3:
Genesis of the Stellar Entity, it
would have supposedly centered
on Twinsen and his son Arthur.
Recently, a remastered version
of the original LBA was released
on iOS and Steam. Series
creator Frdrick Raynal stated
that if sales of the new version
do well, LBA3 could be on the

cardsalbeit not as a big-budget


production. Even with that
caveat in place, Im not holding
myy breath.

forth multiple times in the rst two


acts, only a brief trip to the planet
Zeelich breaking the monotony.
During the second half, things
become more exciting. Despite over
half of the game being set on
Twinsun, the alien world of the
games nal act offers many more
locations. Its a strange and eerie
placesupposedly cursed by a
disgured god called Dark Monk. It
exists on two levels, the islands of the
planet proper, and the underside
beneath monster-infested gas clouds.

Mechanically, LBA2 is clunky. Its


UI and controls reside in that
awkward 90s stage before the rules
were properly formalized. There are
four mood stancesnot including
item-specic onesand you have to
manually switch between them to do
things like run, jump, sneak or ght.
Its bizarre, but I like it. Its annoying
to have to switch from Normal to
Sporty mode just to jump a gap, but
at the same time Adeline imbued
each mode with huge personality.
While idle in Sporty mode, Twinsen
runs on the spot and takes short,
sharp breaths. In Aggressive mode,
he staggers around like a drunk whos
just soiled himselfgrunting
maniacally in a way that sounds less
threatening than constipated.

MISPLACED BALLS
The biggest issue is the tank controls.
Twinsens turning circle is appalling,
which hurts when your primary
attack is so geometric. Twinsen is
armed with a magical bouncing ball,
because his life is ridiculous. But
aiming it in the isometric indoor
levels is a nightmare. More often than
not, youll miss your target multiple
times before landing the hit. Its

easier outdoors, where LBA2 lets you


recenter the camera behind
Twinsens head, making it possible to
line up jumps and attacks.
I dont want to focus too much on
the aws, but theyre unavoidable
and made starker by the fact that my
awed, aging memory had it pegged
as a near awless game. At the same
time, its clear why LBA2 is such a
cult classic. Its ridiculously
charming, to the point where its
impossible not to start enjoying
yourself. I laughed out loud at the
grouchy resignation of one camel I
encountered. Asked where a certain
building was, he replied, bluntly, with
the line, I dont know Twinsen, I
dont live here. I was just imported.
Written down, its not particularly
funny. But in the game, its hard not
to get into the spirit.
If theres a lesson to be learned,
its that games dont have to be
serious to be grown up. Twinsens
second adventure is a zany, fantastical
romp. Its silly in lots of different
ways. But as I guided his heavily
pregnant girlfriend through a rainy,
picturesque town, I realized how few
games bother with such nuanced
depictions of the quieter joys of life.
APRIL 2016

99

WHY I LOVE
WHAT MAKES GAMES SPECIAL

HOPE IN
FALLOUT 4
The sequel represents real progress from Fallout
3s bleak post-apocalyptic world. By Samuel Roberts
RIGHT: If you linger
in Sanctuary Hills too
long at the start, the
nuke goes off and
kills you. Serves me
right for defying
canon, I guess.

100

APRIL 2016

EXTRA LIFE
NOW PL AYING

allout 3 was about a


world on the brink of
collapse. Humanity
had splintered into
factions, downtown
DCs only civilized people were
ghouls and there was a super
mutant behemoth stomping around
the Capitol Building. Turning the
water back on at the end was the
one time during the whole game
that you could say you made the
world a signicantly better place.

Set years later, Fallout 4 is a


thematically perfect follow-up
because it shows us that better times
are possible again. The skies are
usually blue, and populated
settlements grow edible crops. Life
isnt back to normal, and there are
plenty of hot zones for raider or
super mutant activity, but its no
longer as chaotic or depressing. The
latest Fallout is about rebuilding this
world, cultivating communities and
protecting whats yours. And youre
the one doing the building. You
create the new settlements; you nd
the NPCs to populate them. Within
20 hours of starting Fallout 4 I had
two completely safe places that
belonged to menot counting my
burgeoning settlement of Sanctuary
Hills, my characters old home.
Fallout 3 was determined never to
give me a place to call home. I had
one fancy apartment that I had to
wipe out an entire town with a nuke
to get. Going back to the start isnt an
option, either. Once you leave Vault
101, you cant return for a long time.
When you do, you either have to kill
everyone or kill the overseer,
prompting your childhood friend,
Amata, to ask you to leave forever.

NEED TO KNOW
RELEASED

EXPECT TO PAY

November 2015

$60

OUR REVIEW

LINK

88%

www.fallout4.com

DOWNLOADS

UPDATE

REINSTALL

Theres no way to win. Youre kicked


out, and whatever youve made of
yourself in the Wasteland is all you
have left, which in my case was a
fancy apartment, a dog and no
surviving friends.

NUCLEAR FAMILY
In Fallout 4 your character still faces
a grim start: he or she is searching for
their kidnapped son, their partner
having been shot dead. But from
there, youre surrounded by mostly
supportive and exciting allies. They
cant be killed, either: permadeath
has been taken out. Fawkes died in
my Fallout 3 game moments after
telling me he couldnt possibly ally
himself with someone horrible
enough to blow up a town with a
nuke just for a neat apartment.
Fallout 4 isnt as concerned with
presenting a miserable world full of
loss and experiences you cant
recover fromno matter how bad

THIS AINT SO BAD!


Places where you can pretend its all OK

DIAMOND CITY

GOODNEIGHBOR

SANCTUARY

THE PRYDWEN

A noodle bar manned by a


robot, a guy collecting baseball
merchandise and a radio
stationits Fallout 4s version
of a real place.

Rebuild your old home from


scratch to recapture a lost
world. Or, like me, build a metal
shed with no windows and four
dirty mattresses on the floor.

Put to one side the mayor


stabbing a guy to death and
some other back alley
shenanigans, and this is a solid
town with a great dive bar.

No one can hurt you if youre in


the sky. This airship is a
comfortable place to store
power armor and take
extended naps.

WHY I LOVE

MUST PLAY

things get, we can rebuild, we can


nd purpose again. This is echoed in
companions like Piper and Nick
Valentine, who want to resolve
certain experiences in their past and
move on, as well as Preston Garvey,
who seeks to revive the long-dormant
Minutemen movement and protect
the city of Boston. Everyones got
something they want to move on
from, but no ones given up.
Several of the sidequests tap into
similar themes. The Silver Shroud
casts the player as a Batmanesque
vigilante from the pre-war era,
righting wrongs in Goodneighbor and
course-correcting that towns shaky
morality. The entertainingly small
scale Condence Man is about
self-improvement, in that youre
helping transform Diamond Citys
nervous DJ into the smoothest
bastard on post-apocalypse radio, by
helping him ght a bunch of dicks
who think they can behave like its a
world without rules. You dont have
to play a nice guy, but the opportunity
to positively affect the
Commonwealth is more tempting to
me than it was in Fallout 3. Theres a
potentially happy future here.
Moment-to-moment, I dont feel
nearly as tense moving through this
world; a little more of the wonder I
got from exploring Skyrim seeps in
instead. There are parts of the map
that arent cheerfulparticularly the
Glowing Sea, which is more in Fallout
3s color palette since its where the
nukes hit. And the nal act of the
main story id far more about waging
war than xing the Commonwealth.
As one of the Brotherhood of Steel
put it to me, however, if you think the
Commonwealth is bad, you should
see the Capital Wasteland. Fallout 3
came rst, so it had to be the game
that showed us just how bad things
could get. You couldnt hold up
Fallout 4s Commonwealth as a
contrast without it. There are still
plenty of super mutants and raiders
occupying what used to be Boston,
but its not the end of the world.

RIGHT: I took this


bowler hat off my
Fallout 4 character
when I realized it
wasnt as coollooking as Nicks
trilby.

APRIL 2016

101

EXTRA LIFE
NOW PLAYING

PHIL
SAVAGE

DOWNLOADS

UPDATE

REINSTALL

WHY I LOVE

MUST PLAY

COLLECT THE LOOT

BE AT THE HORDE

LIVE ANOTHER LIFE

DIABLO III: REAPER OF SOULS

WARHAMMER:
END TIMESVERMINTIDE

GUILD WARS 2

www.battle.net/d3
I love all sorts of games,
both big and small. My
aim is to put all of the
games into a big vat,
and dive into it like
Scrooge McDuck.

Despite its rocky start, Diablo III is


in a great place. Its much more
generous now, thanks to the Reaper
of Souls expansion. Hop in on one of
the harder difficulties, and youre
guaranteed to be showered with
lovely, gratifying loot. Rewards aside,
its also one of the most satisfyingly
explosive ARPGs around.

EXPLORE THE UNKNOWN

www.vermintide.com

I recently started playing this with


the PCG team, and its greata
clever co-op FPS with an interesting
selection of characters to choose
from. I went for the bow, and had a
great time pumping arrows into
Skaven as Tom Seniors wizard made
absolutely everything explode.

MUST

BROGUE
www.bit.ly/broguegame

Brogue is a traditional roguelike


with one important difference: its
not unplayable. The UI and controls
have been designed with accessibility
in mind. Its still complicated and
difficult, but never feels obtuse.
Being bashed to death by a kobold
after drinking a paralysis potion has
never been so easy or fun.

The best MMORPG around today.


Guild Wars 2 smooths out the user
experience, providing many
quality-of-life enhancements that
make most other MMOs feel
ridiculously dated. Thanks to the
recent Heart of Thorns expansion,
the base game is now free. Ive
played this for over 700 hours.

SHIT YOUR PANTS

SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH

P L AY
A PERSONAL LIST
OF THE BEST
GAMES YOU CAN
PLAY RIGHT NOW
by Phil Savage

southpark.ubi.com

I love The Stick of Truth for a


number of reasons. Theres the
amazing attention to detail, the
constant, hilarious jokes, and the
perfect recreation of South Parks
distinctive aesthetic. More than any
of that, though, is that it proves that
RPGs dont need to be hundreds of
hours long to be good.

KICK AN ORC

SHOOT A GUN

LAUGH OUT LOUD

DARK MESSIAH OF
MIGHT & MAGIC

FALLOUT 4

DR. LANGESKOV, THE TIGER, AND


THE TERRIBLY CURSED EMERALD:
A WHIRLWIND HEIST

www.mightandmagic.com

Before Dishonored, Arkane made


this: a first-person action RPG set in
the Might & Magic universe. Its not
very well balanced, but has great
melee combat. The kick move is
particularly powerful. I had great fun
booting orcs and goblins into
environmental death traps.

102

www.guildwars2.com

APRIL 2016

www.fallout4.com

An obvious pick. Fallout 4 is a


massive, sumptuous RPG that is also
a surprisingly deft shooter filled with
a superb selection of guns. Im
particularly in love with my irradiated
six-crank laser musket and Deliverer
silenced pistol. Ive thoroughly
enjoyed exploring Bostons nooks
and crannies, hunting down synths.

www.crowscrowscrows.com

A ridiculous title for a ridiculous


adventure. A Whirlwind Heist is the
debut game from Crows Crows
Crows, a new indie studio directed by
The Stanley Parable co-creator
William Pugh. Its short, free and
very, very funny.

Your
essential
guide to
competitive
gaming

UP YOUR GAME
EVENTS

DONT MISS A SINGLE


AMAZING MOMENT

PEOPLE

LEARN FROM
THE VERY BEST

GAMES

GET MORE FROM YOUR


FAVORITE GAMES

MORE!

NEW FEATURES AND


GUIDES EVERY DAY

G E T S TA R T E D AT

www.pcgamer.com/pro
L AUNCH PARTNERS

UPGRADE

GROUP TEST
By Dave James

SOLID STATE DRIVES


Fast, high-capacity or cheap, these are the best SSDs
104

APRIL 2016

HARDWARE
Group Test

Q&A
What are the basic
SSD designs?
Theres the classic
2.5-inch SATA, although
performance has
stagnated due to the
~600MB/s bandwidth of
that interface. And now
were seeing PCIe-based
drives too, some offering
a theoretical maximum
throughput of 4GB/s.
Are all PCIe SSDs the
same?
The old mSATA interface
has largely disappeared
and SATA Express was
dead on arrival, so we
only need concern
ourselves with the M.2.
But even M.2 drives are
not all the same. The first
used the old AHCI
protocols for standard
hard drives, which limited
their ability. Non-Volatile
Media Express protocols
(NVMe) are designed for
the speed of SSDs.
Can any PC use PCIe
SSDs?
You need a motherboardmounted M.2 port if you
want the most direct
connection, but you can
also use the same PCIe
connections you use for
graphics cards. And you
can pick up a PCIe/M.2
adapter to fit a spare slot
for just $30.
How big an SSD should
I buy?
The 500GB mark is
probably the sweet spot
right now, offering the
best combination of
performance, value and
space for a decent Steam
library. The 240/250GB
mark is still a decent
compromise for the
budget-oriented.

Dictionary
PCIeThe high-speed
interface that connects
your PC to your graphics
card, perfect for SSDs.

he SSD market has settled down. Where it


was once the most exciting, rapidly-evolving
and immature side of PC hardware, its now
all about a few key manufacturers. If youre
not Samsung, Crucial or maybe Intel, then
youll struggle to compete. The upside? Were now in a
much better position to identify the best devices.

NANDthe memory
used in SSDs. It doesnt
require constant power
to retain data, unlike
forgetful PC memory.
Memory controller
manages the flow of data
in and out of an SSD and
its memory, and thus a
crucial component.
APRIL 2016

105

HARDWARE
Group Test
1

INTEL SSD 750

SAMSUNG 950 PRO M.2

www.intel.com $1,000

www.samsung.com $329

Intel was the first to deliver a serious SSD contender, in the


form of the (admittedly flakey) X25-M. Now it has dropped the
biggest NVMe bombshell with the mighty SSD 750. Its powerful
tech, combining capacity and unprecedented performance.

Good things come in small packages, and they dont come


much smaller than this diminutive Samsung drive. With its
stacked V-NAND and NVMe memory controller its performance
belies its size.

Theres more than a hint of the ultra-enthusiast


Titan X or Extreme Edition CPU about the SSD 750.
Not least because of that if-you-have-to-ask-youcant-afford-it pricetag. Its also sporting server-level
SSD technology, offering the sort of performance
youd normally only see in high-end datacenters.
Given that the enterprise Intel SSD its based on,
the P3700, retails for around $5,000, the price is
actually pretty good. And the performance
numbers only serve to reinforce its high-end status.
The 2GB/s and 1.1GB/s read/write performance is
impressive, as is the 200MB/s 4K random write
performancetwice what the best SATA drives can
deliver in general. Its also the quickest in my
real-world tests, compressing a 5GB game folder in
a little over a minute and transferring a 30GB Steam
library in just two.
Given the pricetag, however, youd hope for a
clearer advantage over the competition,
and compared to Samsungs NVMe
950 Pro it doesnt deliver that.

This was Samsungs first proper consumer-focused


NVMe option. Weve reviewed it before in PC Gamer,
but Im bumping the score up a little to reflect the
modern market. Its still fast. Its not quite as
lightning fast as the SSD 750, but neither does it
require you to remortgage your house.
To get the full speed out of it, however, you will
need a x4 PCIe 3.0 M.2 socket on your motherboard
(top-end X99 or Z170 boards) or an adapter for your
existing standard PCIe slots.
There are reports of potential thermal throttling
when the drive is being hammered. In standard
home use thats unlikely to happen, but it does go to
show why the Intel drive needs a heatsink when
operating at this sort of speed.
But do you really need a PCIe-based SSD? The
usage cases where they make a big difference are
unlikely to rear their heads in gaming, which means
that the everyday experience with either
the top Intel or Samsung drives will
likely be indistinguishable.

88%

106

APRIL 2016

91%

CRUCIAL BX200

OCZ TRION 100

www.crucial.com $300

www.ocz.com $289

Not so long ago 1TB of solid state storage looked like a


pipedream for those of us not already living the millionaire
lifestyle. However, the price of SSDs has been dropping fast and
capacities have risen to meet the challenge.

Times have certainly been interesting for OCZ. A dying


memory market and some serious SSD reliability issues all fed
into the maelstrom that saw the company go bankrupt nearly
two years back. Has Toshiba saved it?

Samsung popularized the affordable 1TB drive with


its 840 EVO, a device thats still running happily in
my home machine many years on. But more
recently Crucial and OCZ/Toshiba have been
getting in on the high-capacity action. These latest
offerings are more focused on cost per GB than the
storage performance they deliver.
The BX200 is the budget-brother to Crucials
Marvell-powered MX200 drive, using a lower-cost
Silicon Motion memory controller. Crucial is able to
beat Samsungs 1TB drive pricing because of this,
and the fact that it gets its memory chips from
parent company Micron.
But that budget leaning does leave the BX200s
performance looking rather stately by todays SSD
standards, and not just against the super-fast PCIe
drives. And it doesnt only show in the synthetic
benchmark numbers: the real-world performance
of the BX200 is incredibly slow, with the
30GB Steam transfer taking over
seven and a half minutes to complete.

75%

Well, it still exists, and that means Toshiba has some


bespoke memory technology because of OCZs
own Barefoot controller. But it seems like this
high-capacity drive is OCZ in name only as its using
a Toshiba-built controller and Toshiba memory.
Like the BX200, the Trion 100 is very much
aimed at the budget end of the market, offering high
capacities at a relatively affordable price, but
without much of an emphasis on performance. Its
not going to set any SATA performance records and
its real-world performance is similarly woeful
compared with the rest of the drives in this test. It
trades blows with the Crucial in my benchmarks
and makes it seem like theres little between them.
But when you have capacious storage you also
want it to last, and thats where this drive does have
the edge. The BX200 has a rated endurance (the
number of write operations its memory cells can
endure) of 72TB while the Trion 100
boasts a hefty 240TB of writes. Which
would you prefer?

81%

APRIL 2016

107

SAMSUNG 850 EVO

CRUCIAL MX200

www.samsung.com $155

www.crucial.com $95

This is another drive weve reviewed before, but its lowered


price has prompted a higher score this time around. From
endurance to power consumption to performance, the
bargain-priced EVO now has the lot.

The MX100 drive was one of the stand-out SSDs of the last
generation, offering a great combination of performance and
price... but only at the 512GB level. At 250GB the MX100 was a
bust, so what of the 250GB MX200?

The rest of the SSDs in this test have between 16nm


and 20nm designs, but Samsungs 850 EVO boasts
a relatively chunky 40nm. The larger scale and
more robust design means its triple level cell (TLC)
memory, usually less durable, is rated here at
around 150TB of total bytes written over its lifetime.
Couple that with 500GB capacity and what are
still some of the highest benchmark numbers
outside of the PCIe-based drivesmost especially
in the 4K random write resultsand it turns out that
this year-old design still makes for an excellent SSD.
The random performance of a drive is indicative of
how slick it is in general desktop use: most of the
time that youre using a PC its making tiny read and
write operations to your drive, and if it can do that
fast youll never see a stutter.
The 850 EVO then is a very smartly put together
SSD. The advanced 3D memory gives it great
performance and efficiency advantages,
but its makeup means its affordable
and relatively long-lived too.

90%

108

APRIL 2016

Crucial has learned its lesson: the performance of


this drive is practically identical to the 500GB
version. This time around Crucial is fully utilizing the
parallel power of the Marvell controller. Crucial has
ensured both 250GB and 500GB MX200s house
eight memory packages each, using 32GB and
64GB packages respectively, thus keeping the
controller optimally fed with data. The 256GB
MX100s design didnt take advantage of the eight
controller channels the 512GB version used
because it had fewer memory packages inside it,
which slowed things down.
However, the MX200 still isnt a must-have SSD.
When compared with the HyperX Savage, at the
same capacity, the MX200 looks very laggy, most
noticeably in my real-world tests. It takes just over a
minute longer for the 30GB transfer and an extra 15
seconds on the compression test. Additionally,
compared to the two entry-level SSDs in
this test, the 80TB endurance rating of
the MX200 puts it at a disadvantage.

79%

HARDWARE
Group Test

STACKED UP

PRICE ($)

SEQUENTIAL
PERFORMANCE (MB/s)
Higher is better
Write performance
Read performance

COMPRESSION /
TRANSFER SPEED (s)
Lower is better
5GB compression
30GB mixed file transfer

Intel SSD 750

1,000
2136

1175
120

69

Samsung 950 Pro M.2


329
2022

1423
163

82

Crucial BX200
300
443 506
455

92

OCZ Trion
289
421 497
428

109

Samsung 850 EVO


155
485 494

KINGSTON HYPERX SAVAGE

208

74

Crucial MX200

www.hyperxgaming.com $95

95
464 508
279

91

While it is tough for the competition to compete with such


SSD heavyweights as Samsung and Crucial, Kingston is making
a decent fist of itdespite not actually making any of the
components in-house.

Kingston HyperX Savage


76

218

Capacity

Memory controller

Memory

Interface

1.2TB

Intel NVMe

Intel 128Gbit MLC

PCIe

512GB

Samsung UBX

Samsung 128Gbit MLC

M.2

960GB

Silicon Motion SM2256

Micron 128Gbit TLC

SATA 6Gbps

960GB

Toshiba TC58

Toshiba 128Gbit TLC

SATA 6Gbps

ESSENTIALS

500GB

Samsung MGX

Samsung 86Gbit TLC

SATA 6Gbps

84%

481 500
76

250GB

Marvell 88SS9189

Micron 128Gbit MLC

SATA 6Gbps

The HyperX Savage uses an off-the-shelf Phison


S10 memory controller (almost identical to the
Toshiba controller in the Trion 100) with Toshiba
MLC memory to fill out its 240GB capacity. The
Savage actually represents the first of Kingstons
drives to step away from the creaking old
SandForce controller and is all the better for it.
Its performance is almost as good as the 500GB
850 EVO (and actually better in real-world testing
than the 250GB EVO), and because it uses multi
level cell (MLC) memory as opposed to triple level
cell (TLC) its faster than the OCZ/Toshiba despite
sharing similar controllers. And it has even higher
endurance levels, at 306TB.
240GB is probably the lower limit when it comes
to an effective boot driveespecially given the size
of current game installsbut with this size of drive
you can still fit your OS and your most oft-played
games in its speedily accessed confines.
And at this price its hard to argue with
the value it represents.

240GB

Phison PS3110-S10

Toshiba 64Gbit MLC

SATA 6Gbps

APRIL 2016

109

YOUR NEXT PC

BUYERS GUIDE
Build the best PC for your budget

ADVANCED

MID-RANGE

BUDGET

KEY
Budget build

Mid-range build

Advanced build

PC gaming is for everyone. Pick the parts you want to


build a new, well-rounded PC for a good price.

You want to run every new game at 1080p 60fps. This


recommended build will see you through.

Youre looking for the best PC on the market and


superior components. But you still want to spend smart.

110

APRIL 2016

HARDWARE

MOTHERBOARD
PROCESSOR

Pentium Anniversary G3258

GRAPHICS CARD

AMD R9 380 2GB

COOLER

Hyper 212 EVO

MEMORY

Crucial Ballistix Sport


1600MHz (8GB)

EVGA 500W 80PLUS Certified


ATX12V/EPS12V

SSD

H81M-P33

POWER SUPPLY

Buyers Guide

MSI $46
A bargain-priced microATX board that pairs
nicely with the Pentium G3258, letting you
overclock into 4GHz+ territory.

Intel $70
Ludicrously cheap and overclockable, the
dual-core G3258 rivals far more expensive
processors in gaming performance.

Sapphire $200
AMDs R9 380 is a refreshed R9 285, but it
still packs enough power to handle 1080p
gaming at a decent price.

Cooler Master $35


A legendary cooler, still the best for its very
reasonable price. Overclock to your hearts
content with this.

Crucial $51
Cheap, low-profile, and reliable. Does its job.
The best 8GB youll find.

EVGA $45
A reliable PSU with enough juice to run your
CPU and a reasonably power-hungry GPU.

BX100 250GB

CASE

VX2263SMHL

CM Storm QuickFire Rapid

T O TA L
$938

HEADSET

MOUSE

Enjoy 1080p gaming without


breaking the bank

DISPLAY

BUDGET
BUILD

Carbide 200R

KEYBOARD

Crucial $85
Thinking about skimping and going
HDD-only? Dont. The BX100 is much faster
and a fantastic performer for the price.

Corsair $70
The 200R gets the job done with toolless
trays and plenty of space. ATX-sized, so you
can upgrade that microATX board later.

Viewsonic $130
An affordable 1080p monitor with vibrant
IPS image quality and low response times. A
real bargain.

Coolermaster $80
A no-frills mechanical keyboard with a
standard layout and Cherry switches. We
recommend Browns or Reds for gaming.

G303 Daedalus Apex


Logitech $46
The best gaming mouse sensor in existence
paired with buttons with extremely low click
distance. Especially ideal for MOBA players.

HyperX Cloud
Kingston $80
Our favorite gaming headset, and it happens
to be as cheap as plenty of inferior cans. A
good buy for any gaming rig.

APRIL 2016

111

HARDWARE

MOTHERBOARD

Z170 Pro Gaming

PROCESSOR

i5-6600K

GRAPHICS CARD

GTX 970 Gaming 4G

COOLER

Hyper 212 EVO

MEMORY

Vengeance LPX (8GB)

POWER SUPPLY

CX600M

SSD

Buyers Guide

850 EVO 250GB

Asus $160
The latest revision of our favorite gaming
motherboard, with an M.2 PCIe x4 slot, Intel
network port, USB 3.1 and SLI support.

Intel $243
Intels new Skylake processor is nearly as
fast as an i7 for gaming. Comes with some
important memory/storage speed boosts.

MSI $335
Offers the best price/performance ratio
right now, and MSIs model is cheap and
overclockable, with a quiet cooler.

Cooler Master $35


If it aint broke... the Hyper 212 EVO is a great
cooler for the price. Save a bit of money in
your mid-range build.

Corsair $65
8GB of reasonably fast DDR4, and one of the
cheapest deals youll find. Corsair is reliable,
and the RAMs overclockable too.

Corsair $65
80Plus Bronze efficient, with enough power
for a good gaming PC. Modular design is a
great perk that cuts down on cable tangles.

T O TA L
$1604
112

APRIL 2016

CASE
DISPLAY
KEYBOARD

Our recommended build for


playing the latest games

G257HU

K70 Vengeance

Deathadder 2013

HEADSET

MID-RANGE
BUILD

S340

MOUSE

Samsung $98
Samsung retains its top spot on the SSD pile
with the fantastically priced, very speedy
850 EVO. Still the best price/performance.

NZXT $75
The stylish S340 has some nice touches,
such as removable dust filters and space for
huge liquid cooling radiators.

Acer $280
A step up from 1080p to 1440p territory,
with a vibrant IPS display and good response
times at a strong price.

Corsair $110
A great, full-size mechanical keyboard with
an ergonomic wrist rest. We recommend
Cherry Brown or Red switches for gaming.

Razer $58
Theres not a huge range of price differences
on the best mice, so stick with the best for
your mid-range build too.

HyperX Cloud
Kingston $80
Even for our medium build, we still
recommend this decently-priced headset.
Theres nothing better for the money.

HARDWARE

ROG Maximus VIII Hero


Asus $240
Fantastic overclocking and stability, with a
great UEFI BIOS from Asus. M.2, USB 3.1 and
on-board power, reset, CMOS, etc, buttons.

Core i7-6700K

GRAPHICS CARD

Hydro H110i GT 280mm

Savage Black 16GB @2400 MHz


Cas12

SSD

POWER SUPPLY

GTX 980 Gaming 4G

COOLER

Intel $339
Intels new top-of-the-line Skylake processor.
Its new chipset includes important memory/
storage speed boosts.

MEMORY

PROCESSOR

MOTHERBOARD

Buyers Guide

MSI $520
Right now the GTX 980 is the best value
single-GPU card for ultra 1080p and 1440p
gaming, bar none.

Corsair $120
Quiet, cool and capable of providing even the
most aggressive overclocker with more than
enough headroom to hit that 5GHz mark.

Kingston $137
Thanks to insanely low timings, these two
8GB sticks of DDR4 are more than enough.

Supernova 850W G2 80 Plus Gold


EVGA $145
A reliable, quiet, gold-rated EVGA power
supply, modular, with enough juice to sustain
two overclocked graphics cards and a CPU.

850 EVO 500GB

CASE

Predator XB270HAbprz
144Hz G-Sync

Ducky One

T O TA L
$3037

HEADSET

MOUSE

Go above and beyond with a PC


powerful enough to end worlds

DISPLAY

ADVANCED
BUILD

Noctis 450

KEYBOARD

Samsung $155
The 850 EVO is so good, theres not much
need to step up to the more expensive 850
Pro for a gaming rig. Just get a bigger drive.

NZXT $130
Thanks to its innovative interior layout and
daring design, this case is a pleasure to work
in and a beauty to behold.

Acer $800
Simply the best: a 27 1440p 144Hz IPS
display, with Nvidias variable refresh tech.

Ducky $120
An elegant set of keys from mechanical
keyboard fan favorite Ducky. Renowned for
their impeccable feel and build quality.

Deathadder 2013
Razer $58
Even if youve got money to burn, the
Deathadder really is the best mouse you can
buy right now.

H Wireless
SteelSeries $273
Our favorite wireless gaming headset, with
great sound quality and a convenient battery
swapping system for long gaming sessions.

APRIL 2016

113

ITS ALL OVER...

ISION
IV
D
E
H
T
S
Y
C
N
A
L
C
TO M

DOLLARS OF DISEASE
ON
LI
IL
M
E
ON

E
RE
e smooth metal of his
ONE CITY ONE RETI
th
t
ns
ai
ag
k
ee
ch
s
hi
g
of
Jack, he said, nuuzzlin
rs against the grooves
g
ge
fi
fin
s
is
hi
g
ng
in
s
It's finally happened,
ss
r
re
c
ca
ly
g nttl
1 11, ge
omatic M19
single-action, semi-aut
t rnedd aggaiinnst usss..
o ey has tu
on
its custom grip. Thee m
P eesident for a
was thhee Pr
he w
t at, he
r th
e
te
Af
A
A.
C
CI
e
h
th
in
s
w
wa
a ly dog. Like
avvyyy.. Theenn he
o t,t man
stoou
a st
o
on
ni
an
pa
m
co
ly
on
Jack Ryan waass in thhee Na
s
hi
o a solid pension,
rettirirreedd on
lyy re
q ieettly
he qu
bit. Thenn he
a poodle.
a Boxer. Definitely not
o
or
,
d
d,
rd
h
he
ph
p
ep
he
S
Sh
n
t e
th
a
an
m
rm
a Ge
in New York oonn thhhee day
ng
pi
o
op
sh
t:
ye
t
en
m
nm
gn
ig
a si
h s most dangerous as
c s hi
w,, he ffaacce
Noow
b d.
wenntt ba
ly Jaacck
o eyy we
Onnlly
mon
reets too deeaad to sell.
St
l
al
W
d
an
d,
ol
eh
ok
lism in a ch
T rrrooorrissttss have capita
Te
sday.
ckk Friday into next Thur
ac
Bl
ck
ki
op
dr
n
an
ca
n
a
an
ya
R
Ry

BE TOM CLANCY:
TO
G
IN
D
EN
ET
PR
R
TE
PRAISE FOR THE WRI
LITERARY REVIEW
A gorgeous disgrace.
your life its that you
in
r
le
ril
th
ry
ta
ili
m
is
afford to have th
e. GLOBAL MAIL
lif
ur
yo
in
Its not that you cant
r
le
ril
th
ry
ta
ve this mili
cant cant afford to ha

namite into your pants


dy
ed
rc
fo
ve
ha
en
m
k armed
S
So explosive youll thin
op. YOUTUBE, VARIOU
po
an
m
hu
of
e
ad
m
ite
dynam
down.
efloor on which to get
nc
da
e
bl
ita
su
a
,
id
sa
This is not, it has to be
PC GAMER
FROM THE AUTHOR

TOM
CLANCYS

OF:

TOM
CLANCYS

I N B OW
AIN
H.A.W.X. SRIX
IX SIIEEGE
ACKK
AC
URREE PPAC
TEXTTUR
R A HDD TEX
RA
ULTTRA

114

APRIL 2016

...UNTIL

MARCH
29



90 2
900