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This week’s highs and lows in PC gaming

Mgs5 Big Boss

THE HIGHS

Andy Kelly: Invading snakes

I’m so excited about Metal Gear Solid V that I’m going to book some time off work to play it. But just when I thought I couldn’t get any more excited, I saw this
new gameplay demo showing off the game’s intriguing Mother Base and FOB modes.

Between missions you can build and manage your own base, filling it with soldiers captured in the field. But as well as your main Mother Base, which ties into the story, you can also build three secondary FOB, or Forward Operating Bases, which can be invaded at any time by other players, without warning, as you play the game.

You can build automated defences to repel them in your absence, or fly in and handle the threat yourself. It’s a fusion of base-building, stealth, and Dark Souls-style invasions, and it looks absolutely amazing. Just watch the video and you’ll see what I mean.

Samuel Roberts: Star Wars, son

Ever look at a picture of a spaceship and think: “everything’s gonna be okay”? I had that every time I saw a screenshot of the Millennium Falcon or a snippet of an A-Wing’s cockpit view this week. The
recently-revealed Fighter Squadron combat in Star Wars Battlefront may end up being as simple and straightforward as the on-foot battles I sampled at E3, but I think it’s fair to say this is gunning more for a Star Wars-friendly audience rather than those into more specific kinds of competitive FPS games. I can fly an X-Wing that looks that good? This is the end of me. It’s all I want. 

Dark Souls 3 Slide

James Davenport: Dark Souls Glee

Boy! Do I love sustained discomfort! Which is why I’m super, super jazzed about new Dark Souls III information. Wes wrote up
his impressions of a small preview, we got a new trailer, and some screens.

The combat looks much more aggressive and quick than previous games, which I’m okay with. Bloodborne changed me. Mostly though, I’m excited to see the world of Dark Souls realized with more detail. I still revere the sparse, empty vibes of the first two—though I can’t help but want to see thicker embodiments of The Sad. This also means we’ll be getting better lighting, which will lend itself to atmosphere. With better lighting, we might see some straight up horror segments in Dark Souls III. What does it matter? I’m in anyway. 

Evan Lahti: Heroic!

Blizzard is supporting the hell out of Heroes of the Storm. I’d put it down in favor of Rocket League and
Dirty Bomb over the past few weeks, but I didn’t expect Gamescom to throw such a wave of new updates at us. We now know the next three, wait, four heroes hitting the game, and they all sound like interesting additions, especially Medic. There’s a new map coming. Ranked Play is getting renovated. A ton of skins are on the way. Blizzard’s following Riot’s lead by making a change to the way bundles work to avoid making players pay twice for the same item. Competitive games face a ton of competition, but Blizzard seems fully committed to keeping the HoTS flame hot.

Stellaris Slide

Tom Senior: Stellaris could be kingly

Crusader Kings 2 has a reputation for being more complicated than it is. Ostensibly it’s a game about feudal family politics, succession wars and reams of stats and buttons. Really, though, it’s a soap opera. Who will you marry? What will you do with your rogue children? Who will they marry to secure you vital allegiances abroad? That’s the part I love. Forget tax rates and the hunt for cassus belli, it may as well be set in space for all I know about feudal politics.

Well, whaddayaknow. The designers of CK2 and Europa Universalis are making a new game called
Stellaris set on the final frontier, where procedurally generated aliens stand ready to eat you, befriend you or sell you things. I’m not expecting it to match the format of CK2 and the EU series, but I love the idea of setting a game with CK2’s complex storytelling in a science-fiction setting. You can also build your own spaceships, and it already looks fancier than Paradox’ other strategy games.

Wes Fenlon: A cool Dota thing is happening?

I’m going to step in for Chris Thursten here for a second, which I only know how to do by shouting things like SECRET and TECHIES and BOOM, YOU’RE SPIDERS. I don’t play Dota or watch Dota or really understand Dota, even though I’ve dumped many hours of my life into other MOBAs like League of Legends and Smite. Dota’s simply on another level of complexity, which can make for an incredible competitive scene. Just following The International 5 from afar, Dota seems bigger and better this year than it’s ever been, and
Chris’s coverage of the tournament has been interesting and informative. All I remember from last year is how disappointed everyone was by the finale. So far, it seems like TI5 has delivered at least a dozen incredible matches, and it’s still got two days to go.

Redash

THE LOWS

Wes Fenlon: A not so mighty Kickstarter
The saga of Mighty No. 9, and now the failed (but kind of succeeded?) Red Ash project, has tarnished what many gamers hoped was a return from a great creative mind. Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No. 9 was warmly received on Kickstarter and pulled in nearly 4 million dollars. The fact that it’s a blatant Mega Man knock-off was part of the charm, a not-so-subtle jab at Inafune’s former employers. After a couple years in development, enthusiasm has faded a bit, and people were naturally skeptical when Red Ash (this time a Mega Man Legends knock-off) launched on Kickstarter before Mighty No. 9 had been released. It felt like a cash grab—was Mighty No. 9 going to turn out bad?

Red Ash asked for a lot of money merely to create a “prologue chapter,” and the campaign petered out. At the last minute, a publisher stepped in to help fund the game, but they kept the Kickstarter up, asking for more money to expand on the game. It also failed. And then Mighty No. 9 was delayed into 2016, confirming fears that it wasn’t ready for release yet. Red Ash should’ve been a smashing success, but mismanagement of the Kickstarter and fans’ trust wrecked the project. What a waste.

Time out

Time Magazine Vr

WHAT

Andy Kelly: That Time cover

So Oculus Rift is on the cover of Time. That’s pretty cool. A few million people read it every month, and it’s a mainstream audience. The sort of coverage VR needs if it’s to be taken seriously. But that cover. Man. What were they thinking? It features 22 year-old Rift creator Palmer Luckey, mid-jump, wearing the recently unveiled consumer version of the headset, with a beach in the background for some reason.

I guess the idea is that VR is an escape, and beaches are places where you go to get away from everything. Unless a launch game for the Rift is Beach Jumper: Origins, I have no idea what the thinking behind this was. Amazingly, the animated version is even worse.

To be fair, it’s impossible to make VR headsets look cool. They are, visually, inherently stupid things. Not even David Bowie would look good wearing one. So the Time people had a hard task on their hands. But they could have done a classy portrait of Luckey like Wired, or a stylishly lit shot of the hardware itself. But no, they had to have him leaping embarrassingly into the air in front of a fake-looking Caribbean beach.

Now the world (well, the part that reads Time or goes on Twitter) is laughing at Oculus Rift, which it doesn’t need, because it already has an image problem. This is terrible PR, not just for Oculus, but for the tech itself. It’s the kind of thing that would give Malcolm Tucker heartburn (NSFW highlights here). Time is famous for its iconic covers, but this is just bad.

Dota 2

Tom Senior: No time for Dotes

Gamescom and the Dota 2 International clashed this week, which has stopped me from watching anywhere near as much of the tournament as I’d like. That’s annoying enough to become my low of the week, but at least there’s a pleasing symmetry to the fact that first International back in 2011 was staged at Gamescom. Then the pool was $1.6 million. Now it’s $18 million. The rise of Dota 2 is astonishing.

This is the first year I’ve watched seriously. In preparation I’ve been spectating games and playing to learn how heroes work. Teamfight commentary used to be gibberish, but now I’ve learned the language I can appreciate the skill and incredible speed of thought required to compete.

I used to share Blizzard’s view that for a game to be a great esport it needs to be readable quickly, but Dota 2 defies that. I think the truth is more interesting. The process of ‘getting into something new’ is a transaction that rewards intellectual investment with emotional return. The greater the evidence for that emotional reward, the more trivial the learning curve seems. Every dramatic turnaround, every rivalry, every upset and every dollar that the community throws behind Dota 2 makes learning more worthwhile, until suddenly you find yourself commanding an army of spiders to eat creep waves at half-past midnight. Once that’s happened, there’s no way back.

I’ve done my share of whooping and groaning watching some of this week’s tumultuous series. I wish I could watch more, and can’t wait for the arrival of the new major tournaments to sustain my interest throughout the year. I’m finally cashing out my investment in Dota 2, and it feels great. I suppose that’s a high of the week, really. Whoops!

Evan Lahti: The bad kind of attention

How and why is DDOSing still a problem at the biggest esports tournaments in the world? It’s been a drag to see The International get attacked this week, partly because competitive Dota 2 is, by its nature, quite a long thing, and to have it be delayed and interrupted further is really frustrating to passionate fans. But we’re multiple years into putting esports on big, grand stages, and organizers still can’t seem to defend themselves consistently. We’re in the process of putting together an article that tries to answer why—hopefully we’ll all learn something from it.

Mafia 3 Slide

Samuel Roberts: Has Mafia 3 shown its hand too soon?

I’m a fan of both Mafia games and was delighted to see a third entry was announced this week, seemingly with a bit of a shift away from the Goodfellas/Godfather pastiche, which was getting a little tired by the end of the second game. Part of me wonders if they’ve announced it too early, however, and if that release date of next year isn’t just a bit too ambitious.

Hangar 13, the studio making Mafia 3, was only officially announced as existing in December of last year, which logically means that the game has only been in development for around a year. I think it shows from the footage shown this week, too—while the backdrop is lovely, there’s not a lot of game there. An open-top car blowing up in a street nearly empty of pedestrians, a shootout in an interior location, some driving. It doesn’t look particularly far along, and just based on the footage I wonder how long we’ll be waiting to play it. Maybe the reveal could’ve waited a little while until they had some footage that could really blow us away.

James Davenport: Astral League

It’s important to keep in mind that listening to some genres of metal isn’t supposed to be fun. Wallowing in discomfort via grating, harsh music is a way to confront and understand otherwise obscure or difficult emotions. I’m a better person for listening to metal, though I can’t say I’m a better Rocket League player because of it too.

Last night, I dove back into Rocket League, but figured I’d roll with the metal mood instigated in our work chat (thanks for pointing out Striborg, Shaun! A very bleak, sublime listen!) and throw on some black metal while I sleepwalked through matchmaking (and life). The Body hardly inspired me to play better, but every time I got scored on and my car went flying, their lyrics from the subtly titled tune Night of Blood in a World Without End reminded me what truly mattered. Which is: “the pain of living holds no victory, only humiliation.”

Or with every botched kick, I try to remember Wolves in the Throne’s room promise that it’ll all be okay when I shed my mortal, goal-shitting coil and visit the “Pyramid with 1000 steps [with] bricks of obsidian glimmering, carved with ruins [and the] occult fire burning within.”

After a good hour-long losing streak and existential doubt, Thou left me with a clear revelation in their song Ode to Physical Pain. It’s like they were speaking directly to my Rocket League woes (and empty soul):

“Oh, constant, unending Pain, my surest, truest friend. Agony, blessed Agony, your ever-present ache identifies unyielding vitality. That sharply labored breath is respiration experienced. Those overwhelming burdens grant me immune to senseless distraction, grounding me in the present. Oh, merciless teacher. Spread your harshest wounds across the soil of my figure. Find root in my skin and nerves and veins.”

Rocket League at its best when I embrace how miserable and bad at it I am and that nothing will ever change. Have a great weekend everyone.

Sick Empire
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