Respawn's principal animator Moy Parra recently took to Twitter to explain why Apex Legends character Natalie 'Wattson' Paquette holds her weapons "a bit awkwardly", in a fun behind-the-scenes video.
The reason is because the motion capture was done by Parra's niece, who had never held a gun before, "and we wanted to capture this natural innocence in all of Wattson's move sets."
⏪ if you ever wondered why Wattson holds her weapons a bit awkwardly compared to say, Bangalore. That’s because my niece who provided the MoCap for her had never held a gun before in her life and we wanted to capture this natural innocence in all of Wattson’s move sets ⚡️❤️ pic.twitter.com/HZyfYW73LEJuly 1, 2021
The video shows a side-by-side comparison of the original motion capture performance and some of the animations used for Wattson, including Wattson running with the gun clasped in her arms.
In a reply to another comment Parra added, "Much of our direction was: don't try to play a character, just be yourself and we will find Wattson together!"
At 22, Wattson's character is one of the youngest in Apex Legends, but also distinctly non-combative in both her background and playstyle. As the daughter of an engineer, who then took engineering on herself as a special interest, her toolkit is all themed around electricity-based defensive play.
Wattson also received a "major buff" as part of quality of life updates accompanying the Genesis Collection Update that sees new characters revisiting old maps from Apex Legends' original launch. Quote: "Wattson can now place more than one Nessie on the map at a time with her Epic emote." There can, in fact, be up to twenty Nessie plushes in the map at once.
SSD prices are so cheap compared to what they cost just a few years ago, every SSD feels like a cheap SSD. But even so, some are reallyreally cheap. While we're stuck at home with more time to devote to the best PC games, it's nice to have the drive space to keep tons of games installed at once. That's where these deals come into play. Find a cheap SSD deal, and you can add 1-2TB of affordable storage to your PC.
The best gaming PCs these days all use SSDs as their primary boot drives, thanks to their speed and reliability. But it's also affordable to have a big secondary drive solely devoted to a king-sized gaming library. For some games, it'll remarkably speed up loading times, and with a big enough drive you won't hae to stress about uninstalling old games every time Call of Duty: Modern Warfare has another 50GB update.
Here are the cheap SSD deals we've found this week. We keep this guide updated as new deals appear, so check back frequently. If you want a top-of-the-line SSD, check the sales against our guide to the best SSDs for gaming. There's a tasty variety of SATA SSDs with some awesome deals, along with our choices for best NVMe SSDs we found on sale, too.
Crucial BX500 | 1TB | SATA | $100
If you care more about cost than performance, or you just don’t want an NVMe drive for any reason, this 1TB SATA SSD from Crucial is a good deal at $100. (Posted: 5/24)
On this list you'll find the best PC games we're playing right now—recent singleplayer hits, thriving esports, and a few modern classics that would improve any library. We'll continue to update this list as new games release, removing older favorites and replacing them with our latest obsessions. Rather than an ever-expanding list that reaches deep into the past, we're shooting for a practical answer to the question: 'What new PC game should I get?'
Resident Evil Village The tall vampire lady took over the conversation a little, but hey, there’s also a horror videogame here: A really good one, too. (And a tall vampire lady, of course.)
Disco Elysium – The Final Cut Our 2019 Game of the Year, detective RPG Disco Elysium, has been updated with more voice acting and quests. The developers call this version “definitive,” so if you waited to play one of our favorite recent games, now is a good time.
Valheim (Early Access) The team got into Viking survival game Valheim for a bit: Chris said it was making him love survival games again, and set up a server where other PCGers eagerly entered the Viking afterlife. Interest has cooled a little, but we’re still looking forward to updates and we keep finding cool mods.
Great recent PC games
Nioh 2 (92%) Dark Souls has many off-brand imitators, but Nioh 2 is the real deal—a great samurai adventure set in Japan’s Sengoku period.
Hitman 3 (90%) Our first 90% score of 2021 goes to one of our favorite contemporary series—if you haven’t checked out IO’s modern Hitman games yet, you’re missing out.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (92%) It’s the best Assassin’s Creed yet, said Steven in his review, which is pretty impressive given the breadth of the series. Go have a Viking adventure—it’s worth it.
Crusader Kings 3 (94%) “Crusader Kings 3 is incredible,” said Fraser in his review of the new medieval grand strategy game and family drama generator. “I can’t imagine being done with it.”
The factory-building game is finally out of Early Access, and it’s brilliant. A “stupendously intricate mechanical cake,” as we put it in our review.
Half-Life: Alyx (92%) It isn’t Half-Life 3, and it’s VR only, but it’s one of the best VR games you can buy, so if you’ve got a headset it’s a must have.
Hades (90%) The one roguelike that doesn’t punish you for death, instead rewarding you with more of its excellent NPCs drawn from Greek myth.
Doom Eternal (94%) High-tempo demon slaying that’ll make you sweat. It might take an hour or so to click, but when it does it’s better than the 2016 reboot.
Valorant (90%) It can’t be called original—it’s Counter-Strike, but different—but Riot’s free-to-play shooter is still the year’s best new competitive game.
Paradise Killer (91%) The zany vaporwave world might be a bit much for some, but the sleuthing is good. One of the best detective games you can play.
Amnesia: Rebirth (91%) It plays a lot like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but goes much, much deeper into the pit of eldritch horror.
Call of Duty: Warzone Like any huge multiplayer game, it’s got its problems—glitches and cheaters have been an issue, and its first event was just so-so—but Warzone is still one of our favorite battle royale games right now.
Call of Duty: Warzone (82%) Warzone is the most popular battle royale game you can play right now. It’s an interesting time to be playing it, too, because we’re expecting changes to come with the launch of the new Treyarch Call of Duty game, Black Ops – Cold War.
Apex Legends (93%)
Apex Legends is one of our favorite current battle royale games. The map is fantastic, the ‘ping’ communication system is something every FPS should have from here on, the guns and movement are great fun (no wallrunning, but sliding down hills feels great), and it’s free-to-play with nothing to pay for except cosmetics. It isn’t the game we expected from Respawn, but we’re glad it’s here. Check James’ review for more.
Valorant (90%) Riot’s take on CS:GO, Valorant successfully adds character abilities to that design sheet, which introduces new possibilities for surprise tactics and delightful skill shots. It also adds a bunch of quality of life improvements.
Rainbow Six Siege (90%) Siege might lack the sharp hit detection and purity of CS:GO, but it’s a more accessible and modern FPS that rewards clever timing and coordinated teamwork as much as aim. Siege’s learning curve is a result of all the stuff (characters, gadgets, elaborate maps, and guns) that’s been added since December 2015, but eventually you find yourself picking operators, map spots, and roles that you’re comfortable with.
GTA 5 runs beautifully on PC, and its open world is still the best of any game, a gorgeous sprawl that replicates everything we associate with Los Angeles: the flat heat, the atmosphere, the fact that the city is so damn big. The campaign is the series' best ever, punctuated by ambitious heist missions involving all three protagonists. It's a lot of fun to spend time in this world.
If you want to take things further, GTA Online is waiting for you with an absolute ton of stuff to do. Not all of it is amazing, but with a few friends, it's great fun to knock through the Online mode's bespoke heists, and owning a business feels pretty cool too. There are plenty of ways to play this game forever, including all of these great mods.
The Witcher 3 follows Geralt, the world's grumpiest monster-slaying bounty hunter, as he fights and magics his way across a medieval fantasy world. It tells a well-written, clever story, but more importantly, The Witcher 3 is the best open-world RPG you can explore right now (and quite possibly the best there's ever been).
The Witcher 3 is great mostly because it's so full of things to do. It's a huge world chockablock with ghouls, vampires, and wraiths—and the people can be pretty nasty, too. The size and depth of the world gives every quest context, an anchor that feels like it stretches back into history. Investigating a haunted farmhouse, for example, turns up clues about the type of spectre involved. Choosing the right weapon and brewing up a special potion feel like steps in a centuries-old ceremony. The Witcher 3 is a triumph of worldbuilding.
Besides the world, Geralt himself is the star of the show. He's frequently dour and funny and jaded, and he's an appealing character to spend time with. Some of the storylines will mean more to long-time fans of the Witcher books and games, but even without playing the earlier games in the Witcher series, The Witcher 3 is worth several hundred hours of your time.
The Harvest Moon farm-life sims used to be console-only. Then indie designer Eric Barone came along and made this tribute so we too can enjoy the pastoral fantasy of chicken ownership and mayonnaise profiteering. In Stardew Valley, you inherit a farm in the countryside and split your days between growing crops and befriending the locals, a colorful cast of eccentrics, some of whom can be romanced. You either get super serious about maximizing your income, creating the perfect grid of profitable crops for each season, or just potter about, taking the occasional fishing trip or delving into the monster mines as the mood takes you. An entire subgenre of farming/crafting sims with obligatory fishing minigames has sprung up in its wake, but Stardew Valley remains the best.
You build a spacecraft, and fly it into space. Simple, right? Usually it's not. A lot of things can go wrong as you're constructing a vessel from Kerbal Space Program's vast library of parts, almost always explosively so. But as you trial-and-error your way to a stable orbit, you start to unlock the full breadth of what Kerbal offers. You can build many different types of ship, and use them to edge further and further out into the solar system, enjoying your achievement as you contemplate the vast solitude of space. Kerbal Space Program is equal parts slapstick comedy and majestic exploration—incredibly silly, but evocative where it counts.
Depending how you feel about diving, Subnautica can be either a wonderful opportunity to explore an alien aquarium or a straight-up horrorshow. Even with the survival stuff turned off so you don't have to regularly grab fish and eat them as you swim past, its depths contain claustrophobic tunnels and beasts big enough to swallow you whole. The thing is, Subnautica works as both a tense survival game about making it day by day in a hostile alien ocean and a way to drift around meeting strange sea creatures (and eating them).
Proteus takes nature and simplifies it into evocative shapes and sounds. Curved hills, solid tree trunks, frogs that burble and bounce. Wandering over its island of pastel plants and animals triggers a variety of pleasant noises, a symphony that builds as you chase birds or stand still among the fireflies. It's what every chillout room aspires to be.
Try to save the human race from an alien invasion, five turns at a time, in the brilliant bite-sized roguelike strategy game from the makers of FTL. Into the Breach feels almost like a puzzle game, because it presents you with clear information on what the enemy is doing every turn, and it's so well-balanced, there's almost always a solution that will get you out of a mission alive. There are multiple teams of mechs to unlock and choose from, and their abilities play off one another incredibly well. In the Rusting Hulks squad, for example, the nimble Jet Mech can drop a bomb that deals damage and envelops enemies with a smoke cloud, while the passive ability on the Rocket Mech causes smoke clouds to deal damage to enemy units. Each squad has its own playstyle, and you can freely mix and match mechs to create your own team-ups. Ending a mission after preventing all damage to the fragile civilian buildings scattered around the map never stops feeling like a triumph.
This brutal strategy game puts you in charge of a resistance force during an alien occupation. The XCOM format blends base building, squad construction and strategic command with tense turn-based tactical battles. As you pilot your enormous home base between territories, you gather materials and research the enemy to unlock cooler space lasers and rad-as-hell armour for your crew.
Vanila XCOM 2 was a tough, lean survival game that held you to account with a doomsday countdown. War of the Chosen gives you even more problems in the form of three minibosses who stalk you throughout your campaign. Fortunately, you can befriend three resistance factions—each with their own suite of gadgets for you to research—and use their leads to track down your nemeses. The result is a layered, engrossing tactical game with a lot of dramatic intrigue. We developed a strong love/hate relationship with the Chosen. Hate to see them messing up our plans; love to blow them up with massive space guns in revenge.
Warhammer is a dark fantasy setting shared by multiple games, popular because of its grim maximalism (it has two Mordors and about three Draculas). The Total War games are a venerable series of historical strategy games with unit-shuffling battles and large-scale nation management. The combination of Total War and Warhammer is a perfect match. Warhammer's factions are strong mixes of trad fantasy archetypes and oddballs like the beloved ratmen called skaven, who are easily set against each other on a big map. Meanwhile, the abstract scale of Total War seems less odd when removed from recognizable historical events. It's the best of both worlds. There's a campaign where each faction races to control a magical vortex by conducting a string of rituals, each providing a significant boost when performed, but if you want to slow the pace you can spring for both this and the previous game, then combine their maps together into a gigantic life-consuming war for domination called Mortal Empires.
A brilliant singleplayer deck builder, Slay the Spire hooked the PC Gamer team back when it was in Early Access, and now it has even more to offer, including daily challenges and custom runs. The joy of it, as Evan explains in his review, is how much power you can accrue through smart deckbuilding. Because it's a singleplayer card game, the monsters don't have to have fun, and your deck doesn't have to be balanced with any other—which means absurd combos are possible. But it's also possible to create terrible decks as you ascend the spire, picking new cards along the way and finding relics that encourage certain builds. There's so much strategy to learn that it can take tens of hours to reach the endgame, but starting a new run always feels exciting.
Lead a scrappy mercenary company across a half-scripted, half-procedurally generated singleplayer campaign as you complete escort, assassination, base capture, and other missions for cash, salvage, and faction reputation. In the style of XCOM, BattleTech is about sending roster of mechs (and to a lesser extent pilots) into planetary combat, then managing the monetary and mortal aftermath of that spent armor, broken mech legs, dead pilots, and plundered parts of your enemies in the comfort of your spaceship base.
Unlike XCOM, the turn-based combat is a wonderfully granular game of angles and details: mechs have 11 different armor segments, and weapons and ammo are housed in these individually destructible locations. The orientation, heat level, speed, and stability of your mechs matters, and fights between the durable walking tanks play out like heavyweight boxing matches.
On the next page: Puzzle games, great stories, simulations and city-builders…
Return of the Obra Dinn
Released: 2018 | Developer: Valve | Steam, itch.io
Our favorite puzzle game of 2018, Return of the Obra Dinn is a detective game set upon a ship once lost at sea. You, an insurance investigator, must determine what happened to the crew. We're sure you've never played anything quite like it (unless you've played it).
Portal 1 + 2
Released: 2007/2011 | Developer: Lucas Pope | Steam
Portal would be great if it only had inventive puzzles. It would be great if it only had clever writing. Somehow Valve managed to pack both into an unmissable, unforgettable experience that messes with your head in more ways than one. Its titular mechanic teaches you to think differently by letting you instantaneously create paths to almost everywhere, and its underlying story, at once grim and gut-bustingly funny, is constantly egging you on.
Portal 2, meanwhile, delivers more of everything that made Portal great, and a peerless co-op mode besides. Portal 2's world is bigger and its puzzles are more complex, and it doesn't sacrifice any of the series' sinister, sassy humor to pull them off. But the sequel's true triumph is that it invites you to play with a friend—not through some tacked-on bonus levels, but through a handcrafted co-op campaign so good it makes the stellar singleplayer feel like a prelude.
The challenge of Opus Magnum isn't just to figure out how to solve each puzzle, but how to solve it the best way. With programmable robot arms you'll build alchemy machines that are more or less efficient at the transmutation task put before you, and there's an amazing number of ways to succeed—simple parts and simple instructions can produce some not-so-simple machines. If it grabs you, Opus Magnum doesn't let you go easily.
The gorgeous, hand-drawn Gorogoa is one of our favorite recent puzzle games. The premise is simple: arrange illustrated tiles "in imaginative ways" to solve puzzles. The complexity, and the feat of its creation, is in how those tiles interlock with impeccable elegance. As Pip said in our review: "Chunks of interiors and exteriors match perfectly without seeming out of place in either of their respective scenes, an image in a thought bubble lines up with a balcony scene, a star in the sky is positioned perfectly so that it peeps through the gap in an overlaid tile and becomes the light from a lamp." It's best to see it in motion, so check out the trailer here.
The classic musical puzzle game, which was first released on the PSP, returns in top shape and is still great after 15 years. The new version is far superior to the original PC port, and the remastered music is fabulous. Lumines doesn't translate perfectly to PC—it's one of those games that feels like it was meant for handheld devices—but if you missed it the first time around, take any opportunity to play it.
A wonderful puzzle game in which you rearrange words to create new rules for the world. "It’s part logic puzzle, part existential quandary, part love letter to how much potential is contained in the tiny building blocks of language," said Philippa in her Baba is You review.
What Remains of Edith Finch
Released: 2017 | Developer: Giant Sparrow | GOG, Steam | Our review
Explore the curious home of a doomed family in this surprising and varied narrative game, which at first feels like a familiar walking simulator but then transforms into something else. Each member of the Finch family has a story to tell about what became of them, and each tale is presented in almost a minigame-like way—some of these chapters are thrilling, most of them are quietly devastating, and you should play this game without having a single one spoiled. You deserve to discover the secrets of this mysterious house for yourself if you haven't already. More than deserving of our GOTY award for Best Story in 2017.
You could argue most videogame stories are Young Adult fiction, but Life is Strange is actually like the kind of story in the YA section of your local bookstore. It's about teenagers, small towns with secrets, and coming to terms with adult responsibilities through the metaphor of being able to rewind time. It's Twin Peaks for teens.
Life is Strange benefited from being released episodically, able to adapt to what players enjoyed about the early chapters and then focus on those elements later. That means you have to give it an episode and a half to get going, and the finale's divisive too, but in the middle it's as affecting an emotional rollercoaster as anything that's about to be turned into a movie and make someone very rich.
Calling a game a 'walking simulator' was probably meant to be pejorative, but I can't think of a better description of what games like Tacoma and Gone Home—and developer Fullbright—do better than any other game: build a world I want to walk around in, explore, and learn to love. In Tacoma, the player walks into an abandoned space station and a mystery. Exploring this detailed setting feels like spending time in a real place, and hours spent there make the departed crew intimately familiar. I saw dozens of tiny stories, comedies and dramas, unfold as I watched the crew through VR recordings and dug into their discarded belongings. If you want to see the future of storytelling, to experience characters and plot in a way that can't be duplicated in a book or a movie, go for walk in Tacoma.
A lot of players have the same story about Euro Truck Simulator 2. Lured in by curiosity, we try this ridiculous-looking game about driving trucks back and forth across a low-budget Europe. Then, hours later, we're flicking headlights up and down while driving through the night. It starts to rain somewhere outside Berlin, the sound adding percussion to whatever's playing on the central European radio station. We're hooked and don't even know why. Even on a different continent in American Truck Simulator it can have the same effect, proving that ordinary inspirations modeled well enough can make for extraordinary games.
Space, to borrow a phrase, is big. Really, really big. In Elite: Dangerous, players can become deep-space explorers spanning the entire Milky Way galaxy, or they can be asteroid miners whose entire world consists of two space rocks and the vacuum between them. Both are equally worthy ways to use your flight time in Elite, an open-world (open-galaxy?) space flight sim that masterfully gives players total freedom. At the high end, you can spend your time being everything from a space trucker to a bounty hunter, but newbies shouldn't overlook the simple joy of being a pilot, of the tactile way that flight skills grow and deepen over time. Anyone into sci-fi or flight sims owes it to themselves to spend time in an Elite cockpit—especially if they can do it in VR.
Part city-builder, part survival game, Frostpunk is about making difficult choices and dealing with the consequences. Trying to keep a handful of citizens alive in a perpetually frozen world isn't just about managing resources but managing hope, and to keep people working toward their future means convincing them there is one, often through brutal means.
Unlike most city-building games, Frostpunk isn't an open-ended experience: it takes place over a 45 day period, with narrative events occurring periodically that can throw a wrench in the gears of your city and society. It's a tense and grim experience where you can wind up regretting your finest moments or defending the harshest choices you made. What are you prepared to do to save lives, and what will the ultimate cost be?
Super Mega Baseball 2
Released: 2018 | Developer: Metalhead Software | Steam | Our review
With so few great sports games on PC, Super Mega Baseball 2 gets squished into our sims category for now—though with Madden finally coming back to PC this year, we may need to add a proper sports category. Super Mega Baseball 2 may look cartooney, but look beyond that, because as we said in our review, it's the "best on-field baseball sim on PC."
On the next page: MMOs, local multiplayer games, and platformers…
World of Warcraft might have a few grey hairs here and there, but it's still the undisputed king of MMOs. Set in the high-fantasy setting of the famous Warcraft real-time strategy games, World of Warcraft is the story of you, a hero who rises from lowly pawn to god-slaying badass as you strive to save your world from all manner of fiendish enemies. With 12 classes and 13 races to play as (and an ever-growing list of subraces), who and what your character will become is entirely up to you. And whether you want to play for two hours a month or two hours a night, there are a nearly unlimited number of places to explore, quests to complete, raids and dungeons to conquer, and items to craft. It's less of a videogame and more of a part-time hobby.
World of Warcraft's latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, is a bit of a low-point for the series according to its most hardcore fans. That doesn't mean it's bad—the austere mountains of Kul Tiras and lush jungles of Zandalar are evocative and fun to explore—but it is disappointing because World of Warcraft's usually stellar endgame of dungeons and raids are hamstrung somewhat by its wonky gear system. There's exciting news on that front, though: the next update is going to be huge.
World of Warcraft is the jack-of-all-trades MMO that can satisfy nearly any kind of player. Whether you want competitive PvP battles, white-knuckle raids, or just a fun, colorful story to follow along with while you collect mounts, World of Warcraft delivers.
Set in a bizarre science-fiction universe full of esoteric secrets, Warframe sells itself on one amazing concept: You are a space ninja. And yes, it's as fun as it sounds. This free-to-play third-person shooter gleefully taps into the fantasy of being a gun-toting, sword-wielding killing machine through its versatile movement system. You'll air dash, wall run, and slide through levels with up to three teammates as you eviscerate hordes of android enemies in exchange for oodles of crafting resources.
But Warframe's true strength is just how complex it is. Each Warframe (a kind of suit of armor that you wear) plays like its own character class, complete with unique abilities that define its combat style. You might charge into packs headfirst as Rhino or silently assassinate your targets as Ivara. Hell, there's even a Warframe that lets you compose your own music using an in-game sequencer to inflict debuffs on enemies. Learning how to craft and equip these Warframes is a daunting task for new players, but those who endure will find a rich action RPG that can easily devour thousands of hours. What's more, Digital Extremes is constantly taking Warframe in bold new directions, like adding open world zones to explore with friends. It might not be an MMO in the traditional sense, but Warframe is every bit as massive.
Path of Exile
Released: 2013 | Developer: Grinding Gear Games | Steam | Our review
A free-to-play spiritual successor to the beloved Diablo 2, Path of Exile is a dauntingly complex action RPG that will make even the most zealous theorycrafter weep tears of joy. Behind that familiar loop of dungeon diving and looting are several dozen features that each feel like the Marianas trench of progression systems—they're that deep. Skill gems can be chained together to create practically limitless spell combos, while the passive skill tree has hundreds of nodes to choose from that each shape your character in their own small way. And then, of course, comes the gear, which is a whole separate school of learning that can take months to fully understand. Path of Exile is certainly daunting and it won't appeal to everyone.
It's good news then that it's also fun as hell. There's 10 acts to explore, each one touring you through desecrated temples or corrupted jungles full of the walking dead. It's a grim place to be, but the kinetic combat and enticing rewards make the journey worth it. Every few months, Grinding Gear Games rolls out a new temporary challenge league that introduces entirely new progression systems, cosmetics, and enemies but requires starting a new character. Normally that'd sound like a chore, but Path of Exile is so robust that starting fresh is just a chance to learn something new.
Brutal, uncompromising, and intimidating—there's a good chance that EVE Online's reputation precedes it. While its players will say that it's mostly hyperbole, there's no denying that EVE Online isn't an MMO for the faint of heart. But in return for a considerable investment of your time and energy, EVE Online achieves something remarkable: It feels alive.
The galaxy of New Eden is an ever-evolving virtual world full of merchants and pirates, mercenaries and warlords, and, yeah, the occasional spy. It's a thriving ecosystem grounded by a player-driven economy where players are encouraged to group together to achieve long term objectives like conquering territory or just becoming filthy, stinking rich. To participate, you'll need to contend with a hopelessly unintuitive user interface and familiarize yourself with a daunting number of systems. But it's worth it. The focus on player-driven experiences creates stories that just don't happen in any other kind of game, and being apart of those narratives is thrilling. It's an experience that is so absorbing, there's a good reason why EVE players joke that quitting for good is "winning at EVE Online."
Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn
Released: 2014 | Developer: Square Enix | Steam | Our review
Final Fantasy 14 is a dream come true for Final Fantasy fans who don't mind the rigamarole that comes standard with MMOs. Set in the high fantasy world of Eorzea, you play as one of the series' iconic classes, like a black mage, and set out to help the locals defend themselves from constant invasions by the evil Garlean Empire. It's as generic a Final Fantasy story as they come, but FF14 lives up to the series legacy by populating the world with an endearing ensemble of characters that grow significantly over the course of its two expansions. If you like story-driven MMOs, Final Fantasy 14's sweeping epic is undoubtedly the best.
Square Enix doesn't try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to being an MMO, though. Final Fantasy 14 is formulaic in its progression and the equipment system is pretty bland. It is by no means boring, however. The story reaches some surprising highs and Final Fantasy fans will be pleased to hear that FF14 has a nearly endless supply of memorable boss fights to work through. It might not be as expansive as other MMOs, but Final Fantasy 14 is beautiful and charming.
Some say Nidhogg 2's clay-monstrosity art style and added weapons marred the elegance of the first game, but they're both great in their own ways. Whichever one you choose, the basic format is the same: two players duel across a single screen, attempting to push their opponent left or right into the next screen, all the way to the end of the map. That's a big part of the brilliance of the series: get pushed all the way to your corner, and it's still possible to make a comeback and finesse your opponent all the way back across the map for a clutch win. Pure thrill.
The fighting itself is great, too, like an ultra-lo-fi Bushido Blade. Kills come in one hit as you thrust and parry and throw your swords with simple controls that result in complex dances of stance and aggression. It's exciting, hilarious, and tests the hell out of your reaction time and ability to predict your opponent's moves. There's nothing quite like either Nidhogg.
As cool as bows and arrows are in games like Tomb Raider, TowerFall does them best. Whether played by four people against each other, or two in co-op against waves of monsters, TowerFall makes leaping from a ledge and skewering somebody with a perfect shot easy to do. It also makes shooting at someone above you, missing, and then impaling yourself as the arrow falls back down easy to do. It's as chaotic as it sounds, but the clean pixel art and expressive animation makes it simple to follow, and every triumph and screw-up is visible to all.
Overcooked 1 and Overcooked 2
Released: 2018| Developer: Ghost Town Games | Steam | Our review
We hate Overcooked. Wait, no: We hate anyone who gets in the way in Overcooked, or doesn't bring us our damn tomatoes when we need them, pre-chopped. This four-player kitchen catastrophe simulator sets up some brilliantly simple basics—working together to prepare ingredients, cook basic dishes, and turn them in on a tight timetable—and then mercilessly complicates them with devious kitchen hazards. In one level, on the deck of a pirate ship, some of your counters slide back and forth, forcing you to switch up tasks on the fly. In another cramped kitchen, there isn't enough space for two characters to squeeze past one another, forcing you to coordinate all your movements or get into shouting matches about which direction to go.
There's a lot of shouting in Overcooked, but barking orders, properly divvying up jobs, and setting a new high score feels so good. The controls are intuitive enough that infrequent gamers can get onboard. Just beware of playing with anyone with a truly explosive temper. While both are great, if you haven't played either we'd recommend Overcooked 2, which adds online play.
Spelunky deserves much of the credit (or blame) for the boom of roguelikes in the 2010s, but none have bettered the rich interactions of this game, which sees you adventuring through mines, the jungle, caverns, and even Hell in search of riches and escape. You'll die many, many times along the way—sometimes suddenly, sometimes hilariously, and often because of your own stupidity. But that arms you with knowledge of what not to do and how to exploit the game. Can you trick two NPCs into fighting each other? Can you use a damsel you should be rescuing to instead safely set off a trap for you? What's the deal with the Ankh, anyway?
These are all things you'll discover as you play more Spelunky. Half the game is 2D platformer; the other half is a rich simulation packed with secrets and interlocking pieces that make the entire game feel like a living organism designed with the express purpose of killing you. That's what makes pulling those pieces apart and using them to your advantage so endlessly satisfying.
In this age of quick saves and infinite lives, action-oriented platformers need to be difficult. And this difficulty almost always becomes the talking point, even for games that seem to hide something more profound beneath their mounds of countless dead (see: The End is Nigh). But no one talks about how hard Celeste is—or at least, that’s not why we talk about it. Even if you roll your eyes at the masochistic appeal of Super Meat Boy or N++, you might find yourself seeing Celeste through to the end. Sharing the vibrant, chunky pixel-art of Matt Makes Games Inc’s TowerFall, Celeste charts its protagonist Madeline’s efforts to scale a gigantic mountain. She’s not going up there to save the world, she’s going up there to save herself. It’s hardly a visual novel, but the light narrative dabs make progress more meaningful than “simply wanting to do it”, and its set-piece moments are really spectacular. It feels great too: Madeline can grab onto walls and quick-dash through the air, and there’s never a lack of new environmental challenges to ward off monotony.
Hollow Knight is still slightly too new to be regarded as highly as Nintendo's genre-defining Super Metroid, but it might actually be the better game (gasp!). It's at least the best game to follow in Metroid's footsteps in a decade (if you want more games in this vein, make sure to play Cave Story). You play as a small explorer venturing through the remnants of Hallownest, an underground bug civilization, with remarkably little hand-holding showing you where to go. Subtle environmental clues and smartly doled-out powerups will help you find your path through the world, and from the first moments the 2D essentials of jumping and attacking have a perfectly tuned weight and snappiness to them. That's what will keep you playing Hollow Knight long enough to be pulled into its world, and then there's no turning back.
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Update: According to an Axios report, EA recently struck a deal related to an in-game advertising system called playerWON, which is said to bring video ad tech to console and PC games. EA says that's not true. The company tells PC Gamer that it isn't putting ads in console games, and that it hasn't made any deal to do so.
"Following incorrect reports suggesting that we are looking to introduce 'TV-style' commercials into our games, we wanted to clarify that in-game advertising for console games is not something we're currently looking at, or have signed any agreements to implement," an EA spokesperson said. "Creating the best possible player experience remains our priority focus."
Our original story about the playerWON system follows, with mention of EA removed for now. The case isn't closed, though: We're asking around for more information on why one party says there's some sort of deal here, and the other says there isn't.
Original story: A new advertising platform will allow companies to include video ads in PC and console games, similar to those seen in mobile games or on free-to-air TV. Dubbed playerWON and owned by Simulmedia, the tech is based around rewarding in-game items and currency to players who watch ads, and targets free-to-play games, according to an Axios report.
And it's probably going to catch on: Axios says that Simulmedia has already struck a deal with Hi-Rez, and a pilot has already run in Smite. According to the report, players during that pilot were "much more likely" to play a game and spend money in it if they could acquire perks by watching ads. It's feasible—though not spelled out in the report—that players could acquire in-game currency by surrendering to 15- or 30-second ads, rather than using real cash, thus turning a free-to-play game into a viable video marketing platform.
The tech wants to target younger players (18-34), who are more difficult to reach via conventional video marketing. In order to be "rewarded" for watching an ad, the ad needs to be watched to completion. Simulmedia's own research claims that people would be willing to watch up to 10 videos a day for rewards, which sounds crazy but hey, I'm no market researcher.
Simulmedia's Dave Madden points out that 90% of the free-to-play audience never buy in-game items, so this is another way to squeeze cash out of them. The company wants to implement these ads in "roughly a dozen" games by the end of 2021. It's a grim vision of gaming's future: Volunteer to be marketed to during your scant leisure time for virtual rewards. Watch a 15-second ad about Cheetos to unlock a Marvel-themed cape in Fortnite. Where's the exit?
Mod repository Nexus Mods has announced a change in policy in regards to the hundreds of thousands of mod files it hosts. Starting in August, modders who upload mod files to the site will no longer be able to delete them. Instead, modders will only be able to archive their files and hide them from view of the users.
If that sounds like a strange policy decision to you, you're not alone, and some modders are angry about it. There is a reason for it, though, even if not anyone agrees that it's a good one. Nexus Mods has been working on a feature since 2019 called "collections." Collections will serve as curated lists of mods that any Nexus Mod user can create and share.
"The project our team is working on has the goal of making modding easier so the average user can spend less time worrying about mod conflicts, and more time playing a modded game," reads a lengthy post on Nexus Mods. Using Vortex (the Nexus Mods mod manager), a mod user could create a curated list of mods and then upload that list as a collection, including mod load order, patches and hotfixes used, conflict resolutions, and so on. Another Vortex user could then add this collection and Vortex would download and install everything on that list.
That sounds like a handy feature, especially since mod lists for games like Skyrim can run into the hundreds, and it would be nice to be able to easily share those lists among other users. But Nexus Mods says in order for collections to work smoothly, it needs to prevent modders from permanently removing their files:
"For our collections system this means that no matter how much care and effort has been put into curating a collection of dozens or hundreds of mods, as soon as one or several files in that collection are deleted by a mod author—for whatever reason—the collection is essentially and immediately 'dead in the water' until the curator can replace or remove the particular file."
The solution Nexus Mods came up with is to no longer allow uploaded mod files to be deleted. Instead, a modder who wants their files removed will only be able to archive them. The files won't be directly accessible or downloadable for users, or even displayed on the site, though the archived files will still be accessible through the collections feature.
I'm a frequent mod user and not a mod author, but as much as I think collections could be a great feature (it's not available yet), it's not hard to see why some mod authors are so upset. It can definitely be frustrating when a long chain of dependency is broken because a mod gets deleted, but if you're a modder and you decide you simply don't want your mod to be available on Nexus Mods anymore, for whatever reason, it intuitively seems like you should have the ability to delete it (as you can on ModDB or the Steam Workshop—the latter of which also has a mod collections feature).
For modders who want to nope out of Nexus Mods, they can. Modders have until August 5 to request their mod files be deleted. As for files a mod author wants deleted because it's broken or no longer compatible, Nexus Mods says it's looking into a system where a broken file can be removed on a case-by-case basis following a request from the author. Nexus Mods administrators will also continue to delete mod files themselves when mod files violate its rules (such as by using assets from another author without permission).
Deletion isn't the only concern some modders have with the upcoming collections system. Looking through comments on the Nexus Mods announcements, on Reddit, and in the Nexus Mods Discord, some modders feel that collections will drive users away from individual mod pages (where modders can collect donations for their work) in favor of simply using a collection (which could then result in fewer donations). Some would like the option to decide whether or not their mod appears in a collection, but Nexus Mods says there will be no opt-in system for the same reason modders won't be able to delete files—a single modder could "torpedo" the collection system by opting out.
Some modders have already pulled their work from Nexus Mods completely, such as a Skyrim and New Vegas modder who uploaded their mods to ModDB and calls Nexus Mods "a den of thieves." Another plans to remove their mods but may re-upload them after they see how the situation develops, saying, "I would love to have a mod-collection in here but also to have all the freedom I had as an mod-author."
Other modders seem more or less okay with the new policy. "Curated, high-quality modlists are the best thing that ever happened to Skyrim modding, and they're the best thing that ever happened to me, as an author," says a modder on Reddit who found a new audience for their mods after being included in modlists for Wabbajack, a Skyrim modlist installer.
I will argue all day long that Max Payne 3 is every bit as good as the first two games in the series (which were great) and easily up to the very high standards of developer Rockstar. Despite my own enthusiasm, though, it didn't live up to public expectations, and the series has been moribund for the past decade.
That sort of thing doesn't matter when it comes to speedrunners, though. One of the great things about the hobby is that a game's popularity isn't really a factor: Old, even forgettable games like SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom can be just as interesting to speedrun (and watch) as contemporary hits—more so, in some cases, as obscure games often have weirder gimmicks for speedrunners to exploit.
Which brings us to Summit1g, one of the top streamers on Twitch with 5.9 million followers, who recently set a new world record for Max Payne 3 on "hardcore" difficulty in the any%, glitchless, cutscene skip subcategory—that is, any percentage of the game complete, not taking advantage of any glitches to move ahead faster than normally possible, but skipping cutscenes where possible. (If you're curious about the different category options, you can learn more on the Speedrun.com knowledge base.)
In practical terms, it means that Summit1g had to play through the entire game, rather than taking advantage of bugs or exploits to bypass segments. Getting through that quickly requires serious accuracy—he's very good at making running headshots—which puts a priority on pistols and SMGs over heavier hardware. He bypasses enemies who can't be dealt with quickly, too, although that's a risky strategy that occasionally results in a bullet in the ass.
It was a close thing: Summit1g's time of 1:30:52 is only six seconds quicker than the previous record holder, ThirstyHyena, who set a 1:30:58 mark just a month prior. It's close enough that I wouldn't be at all surprised to see ThirstyHyena make a quick attempt at reclaiming the crown, but the job of setting new records is definitely getting tougher: As you can see in the image below, the time cuts have grown increasingly smaller over the past year.
The new Max Payne 3 world record comes just ahead of the annual Summer Games Done Quick event, which begins on July 4. Max Payne 3 won't be a part of this year's show, but Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne will be, from 12:58 – 1:48 am ET on July 5. (GDQ schedules are incredibly tight—you can check out the full itinerary here if you'd like to see for yourself.)
If you've got some time to kill and want to watch Summit1g's full Max Payne 3 world record speed run, it's up in full on Twitch. And if you just want to see what happens after Max tells Victor Branco that he'll walk with a limp, you can see the full game ending sequence below.
Throw folktale characters into a card auto battler very transparently inspired by Hearthstone Battlegrounds and you pretty much know exactly what Storybook Brawl is. It's a somewhat simpler game, with fewer interactions, and an emphasis on long-term strategies over short-term tactical combos. At the start of each round you draft a hero drawn from folk stories, fairy tales, and myths: Someone like Merlin, the Pied Piper, Gepetto, or Loki. Each hero has a unique power, some strong earlier and some later in the fight, others changing entirely how you play and strategize.
The fairy tale theme means a charming suite of art with a lot of whimsical, jovial pieces. I love the dwarf set, with their leader, the vampiric evil princess Snow Wight. There's jokes and puns both on pop culture and on the source material, all of it a good fit for a game genre that by its nature can't take itself too seriously.
It's good that the art welcomes you in, because the game mechanics absolutely do not. More than most auto battlers, success in Storybook Brawl relies on understanding what characters can be part of which combos with which heroes.
Each round you spend from an increasing pool of gold—use it or lose it—to draft one of a selection of creatures. You place your new minions on one of two lines: A front line with four places, and a back line with three. They fight the opponent's from left to right, front rank to back. Like in most auto battlers your creatures have abilities and combine with each other over time.
Those two ranks are a very slight change from other games in the genre, but they have a big impact. In the early game you can protect key pieces by putting them behind a meat shield, in the late game your combos can depend on position and order as much as on which pieces you've got on the board.
You might focus on characters which Support, giving bonuses to the characters in front of them, while giving your front rank characters all the buffs you can muster. Or you might stock up on flyers, who skip over and attack the back row, hoping to pick off your opponent's key support pieces. A lot of the coolest choices get made when you're combining pieces. Do you want to keep two vampires, each with their own powerful on-kill effect, or do you want to beef up into one big, nasty vampire and free up board space?
There are only seven places on the board, and that seven-character limit is—like in Hearthstone Battlegrounds—perhaps the big defining feature of Storybook Brawl, forcing you to be precise in what you buy and when. Each character costs gold equal to its level, and you can only hold four characters in your hand as a reserve. The economy is always tight, always limited, and you can never quite buy just what you want—nor even find it, sometimes. I lost more than a few matches because the key pieces of my hero's combo just never appeared.
Despite that, Storybook Brawl still has that edge of gambling combined with strategy. Bad luck this time, maybe next time you'll get those perfect pieces for a slick combo.
When you combine three characters of the same type they upgrade into a better version, and you also get to choose a treasure from three random choices. The treasure, like your creatures, is sorted into one of five levels (2-6) and corresponds to the level of the minions you combined.
In addition to creatures, each draft includes a spell. That might be something like a bonus to your characters for one round, or a permanent bonus, or a reward if you win the next round.
If you're keeping track here, that's an autobattler with positioning and random treasures. For all that Storybook Brawl is like Hearthstone Battlegrounds, it's also a lot like genre progenitor Auto Chess. The sheer number of random elements causes games to vary wildly from one to the next. Layering a hero character on top of artifacts, both drafted randomly from a huge pool each game, and the large pool of characters to buy, some of which combine well and some of which don't. And don't forget the spells. Storybook Brawls is a very, very crowded game.
That's perhaps its real problem. More than some derivative creature design or simple mechanics, Storybook Brawls feels unfocused. While it has the advantage of being a standalone game, it's still struggling for a unique identity among the varied mechanics of what is still an unexplored game genre, and rather than focus on one or two things as being most interesting, has instead thrown everything at the wall. They've got the rest of early access to see what sticks.
A mere 24 hours after our last check-in with Call of Duty: Warzone cheaters, there's a new reason to watch your back around suspicious players. It seems that Warzone cheaters are now capable of forcing a player's game to crash under certain circumstances, a lesson that 100 Thieves streamer Thomas "Tommey" Trewren learned the hard way during a July 1 livestream.
"This user just joined our lobby, said hello and then gave me a dev error? Please don't tell me it's a new thing where players can force dev errors," Trewren tweeted yesterday. He included a clip of the encounter in a follow-up tweet, which you can watch below.
You can now (or maybe even have been able to for a while?) force a dev error on another player. pic.twitter.com/CAirpu41d2July 1, 2021
In the clip, the hacker (who appears to have a jumbled username of symbols usually impossible to use in Warzone) joins Trewren's lobby and starts asking the streamer if he'd like to know anything about Warzone, likely referring to how the cheats they're using work. Trewren, obviously annoyed that a hacker is boasting about their exploits on his stream, denies.
The hacker replies, "None? Zero? Not even like how I'm doing this?" You can hear the hacker start typing through their mic and a few seconds later, the stream freezes. Trewren had received a "dev error" screen not visible to the stream, meaning the game completely crashed. This was apparently the second time the same user had joined the lobby and seemingly forced the error. That's a little worrying!
As several responses to Trewren's tweets have noted, the sudden crash may have to do with the hacker's unusual username. Overloading a game with long strings of text and symbols that it's not designed to handle is a method of forcing server crashes that has existed in other games—I watched it happen many times in Rainbow Six Siege before Ubisoft fixed the exploit. This is just my best guess at what the hacker is doing here, though their impossibly complex username is notable considering most cheaters opt to blend in with an unassuming name like xxDelta_POG47 or something.
Forcibly crashing the game is a pretty intimidating trick, but there's probably no need to panic. There's a good chance this crash was only possible because Trewren 1) was targeted as a popular streamer and 2) somehow left his squad open for the hacker to join. If a hacker has to be in your squad to lock up the game, then the millions of average Warzone players probably don't have much to worry about.
Still, it's a reminder that Warzone's cheating epidemic is a big problem that Activision hasn't properly addressed since the game launched over a year ago. We've reached out to Activision for clarification about this potential hack and will update the story if we learn more.
The screenshots for The Witcher: Monster Slayer are cracking me up. It's a mobile AR game like Pokémon Go, in which you search for creatures while viewing the world through your phone's camera, except it's based on The Witcher, so instead of a big-eyed Bulbasaur you might run into a gnarly-ass griffin on your roof, or find a mutilated horse in the park. Neat!
The news today is that The Witcher: Monster Slayer will be out this month, on July 21, for iOS and Android. It's made by Polish developer Spokko, which Witcher RPG trilogy creator CD Projekt acquired in 2018. You won't be meeting CD Projekt's version of Geralt outside of a Starbucks, though, as Monster Slayer is set "long before the time of Geralt of Rivia," the developer says. (Way back when Starbucks existed, I guess.)
There are human characters who speak to you, though. Spokko says that quests in Monster Slayer won't be superficial, but rather "deep, story-driven adventures inspired by the Witcher series." I'll hold judgment on that until I've seen more than a guy who looks like he drank too much at a ren fair crying "save me Witcher'' from a municipal park path.
Aside from that scene, the gameplay trailer from last year (embedded below) also shows glimpses of how we'll track monsters with witcher senses, fight them (looks like a simple blocking and slashing timing game), investigate horse decapitations, and stock up on potions. The takeaway for me is that Monster Slayer isn't intended as a visual toy: The novelty of running into a waterhag in the park is somewhat appealing, but there's a game to play here, too. We'll see if it's any good later this month.
It's a curious time for The Witcher and CD Projekt. The Witcher 3 is regarded as one of the best PC RPGs ever made, and in the six years since its release, its world has only become more popular. The first season of the Netflix Witcher show starring Henry Cavill was a hit, and generated a wave of new interest in the Andrzej Sapkowski books that the games and show are both based on. And yet, there's no big new Witcher RPG in development that we know of. CD Projekt is also maintaining spin-off card game Gwent, but otherwise appears to be focused on rescuing the legacy of Cyberpunk 2077, an OK game that failed to be the triumph that The Witcher 3 was to so many.
On Friday, July 9, CD Projekt is collaborating with Netflix to put on WitcherCon, a pair of livestreams where we're going to learn more about the second season of the show and other Witcher-related media. The Polish game maker has already said that it isn't going to announce a new Witcher game there, though. If it's working on one, it's being very quiet about it, although the idea hasn't been ruled out.
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As for The Witcher: Monster Slayer, it'll be free-to-play when it releases on July 21. We're not sure what'll be for sale in the app, but Pokémon Go sells Pokeballs, essential items which are earned by playing, too, and various boosters that increase XP or attract Pokémon—it'll probably be stuff like that.
If you're up for leaving your PC to fight endriagas (giant scorpions) while roaming the Dank Wilderness (an empty lot somewhere), and have an Android phone, you can pre-register for the game on Google Play—which just means you'll get a notification when it's available. It'll be on iOS, too. And someone will definitely get it running on PC with fake GPS coordinates, making everyone who's legitimately walking around parking garages looking for strigas angry. We'll take it for a spin in our own municipal park later this month.
As per last week, we are back once again to have a little chat about the week that was in video games. We still don’t have this setup as a “proper” podcast, but a podcast is what this essentially is. Look out for a full podcast launch in the near future, where hopefully the show will have an actual name, plus musical jingles and things to make you think we’re a professional outlet and not a bunch of people in casual clothes broadcasting out of bedrooms.
But, this is not that podcast. This is myself, Alex, Sherif, and Dorrani talking about what we’ve been playing and a few hot topics of the moment in the games industry.
Listen for thoughts on Chivalry 2, again, which Sherif has been having a blast with, and an impromptu rundown of almost every video game movie ever made – what is better out of Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu? There’s also a nostalgic look back at the online shooters we all used to play, some of us having to stretch a lot further into the past than others – not naming any names. And we try to wrap things up with a think about what Kojima’s rumored Xbox exclusive game is going to be, and only go slightly off topic.
I won’t ruin it, but Alex also brings up a “classic” game from his childhood, that isn’t about the famous TV alien, Alf. He’s also shocked at how hard golf is in real life.
We’re experimenting a bit with the format, but what do you think? Would you like this in audio form every week? Do you have any suggestions for the podcast’s name? Let us know in the comments.