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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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Tiny Bird Garden Deluxe is a game about filling your life with over a hundred colourful, adorable birds. So, pretty much life goals.

It’s similar to popular cat-collection mobile game Neko Atsume, except – while I realise I’m about to make the mistake of having an opinion online – I personally prefer our feathered friends. Also, this one’s on PC so we can actually write about it.

Here’s a trailer so you can see what it’s all about. Birds! Hats! Birds in hats!

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Part point-and-click adventure, part music album, part storybook, part poem, part fairy tale – She And The Light Bearer talks about blending a whole lot of things into one game. But above all else, is it ever pretty.

Just look at the way the foliage moves and the light filters down from above in its trailer:

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Winter has come to Fortnite Battle Royale, with the mysterious Ice King breaking free of his sky-orb to coat the island in a layer of crisp snow.

I hate the cold, and therefore I am obliged to hate the Ice King, but I must admit it’s all rather pretty. Some players who witnessed the event captured it for the rest of us:

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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for finally sorting out the shelves you've been meaning to put up for the past two months. Or for bribing a housemate to do it for you. Or for reading the best writing about videogames from the past week.

On Eurogamer, Emily Gera asked the team behind BadCupid how they go about procedurally generating romance. BadCupid involves placing bets on procedurally generated dates, an idea that already sounds fantastic before you learn those dates can be between people like Jane Austen and the Necrodancer from Crypt of the Necrodancer.

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How much, exactly, would it cost you to be the proud owner of the domain ‘pundit.xyz’? What about ‘eloneliness.com’?

If you think you’ve got a good guess, you should try out Domain Pricing, which will pit two names against one another and ask which you think is the more expensive one to get your hands on. (Bear in mind that some domain names may be not safe for work. And that they’re usually the most valuable ones.)

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Zombie choose-o-drama The Walking Dead: The Final Season released its third episode this week, after a short delay as Telltale sadly closed its doors and Skybound took over development (thankfully with at least some of the former workers on board).

I haven’t finished it yet, because who has time to finish video games nowadays, even episodic ones that are only a few hours long. But I did play and enjoy the second episode close to its release, and a combination of choices – and mistakes – I made stood out to me, so: here is a story of how I messed up.

Spoilers for episode two below!

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Whether or not the Overwatch League should implement hero bans has been a hot topic among fans and professionals lately. Those who are behind the approach believe it'll mix up a stale meta, but it's hard to say for sure until we see it in action.

Luckily, some players will be taking it for a test drive (albeit unofficially) in tonight’s Tournament of Future Champions, run by Dallas Fuel and Team Canada coach Justin "Jayne" Conroy. Before a map begins, the two teams will be each able to select one character to eliminate from play, and one to be protected from bans.

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Priceless Play – 19 January

Before I started my PhD, I was an Inbox Zero kind of person. I used labels. Folders. Conditional filtering! These days, I might as well have a permanent out-of-office message. This isn't to say that I never read my e-mails, but rather that they get filed into a section of my brain which I have deemed, "Later." Within the distant confines of Later, I promise myself that when the "right time comes round for it," I'll remember whatever e-mail or Tweet or Instagram post I was looking for, and I'll be able to pull it out at the perfect moment. Reader, I do not. Welcome to Spring Cleaning.

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What are we all playing this weekend?

Remember remember, the nineteenth of January, with gunfire, treason, and- hang on, this must be a misprint in my 'On This Day...' cat calendar. Let's see. Ah! Wikipedia says January 19th, 1986 saw the release of the first IBM PC virus. Sadly that's not in The Malware Museum and Wikipedia doesn't list a catchy song to commemorate the event so I guess we're about done here.

What are you playing this weekend? Here's what we're clicking on!

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Free-to-play team shooter Dirty Bomb never drew the crowds it deserved. Slightly wonky business model aside (now no longer an issue - the game is proper-free now), it was fast, satisfying and skilful stuff. Not surprising, as developers Splash Damage are as veteran as they come - they're the crew behind the excellent Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory back in 2003, and several iterations on the formula since. They've got a lot to teach, and have released their original design document for the game (formerly exclusive to Kickstarter backers) free for all. Grab it, an art-book and the game's soundtrack here.

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A raytraced Quake 2 might be a fun retro showcase of shiny new hardware, but Quake 1.5 is what you really want to be playing right now. Assembled by modder "bloodshot12" (although its full credits are extensive), it's a cocktail of mods for Id's original Quake that aims to retain its aesthetic, but upgrade everything else. That means new, detailed weapon models, monsters (some from the excellent Arcane Dimensions), levels and more. Today's release is technically a beta, but well worth playing, and dead easy to set up too. Find it on Mod DB, or check out a trailer below if the fancy new boss above isn't exciting enough.

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The Creeper World series are strategy games unlike any other, and Sin Vega reckons they have the best monster of any game, even if the title is a bit rubbish. Part tower defence, part traditional RTS, part fluid dynamics sim, I've been a fan of Knuckle Cracker's quirky if utilitarian-looking series for years now. The next game in the series - Creeper World 4 - will be the first to properly delve into the third dimension. With any luck, it'll bring new depth (figurative or otherwise) to my years-long battle against an endless tide of caustic blue goo. Take a peek at an early trailer below.

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The Endless universe continues to live up to its name - both Endless Legend and Endless Space 2 are expanding once more next week. On January 24th, Endless Space 2 bulks out its espionage options in Penumbra, while Endless Legend's Symbiosis expansion will let players control a race of sentient mushrooms and tussle with giant roaming crab-beasties. It's nice to see Amplitude Studios still pouring time, love and vision into these two rather lovely games, even if only the maddest of players will have the time to master both. Trailers for the expansions below.

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Most of Tom Clancy's The Division 2 might be friendly and cooperative, but the lawless Dark Zones are returning in the sequel, giving players a chance to fight each other over some of the game's best loot. It's not quite as cutthroat as it used to be, thankfully, thanks to Ubisoft Massive protecting starting areas with automated turrets and player stats being normalised for a fairer competition - most of the time. There are also three Dark Zones, each one emphasising a different style of play; long, mid or short range combat, respectively. Take a look at how it all works in the handy info-vid below.

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Feature: Cheap games, graphics cards, laptops and more

Best PC gaming deals of the week – 18th January 2019

Happy belated New Year of Deals, everyone. Having fully recovered from the depths of CES jetlag, your deals herald is back, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for another year of bringing you the best PC gaming deals around. You'll have to hold me off the stairs by my coat tails before you can get rid of this deals herald, and boy howdy do I have some good deals for you this week. We've got graphics cards, games, laptops, SSDs, the lot. Read on for your weekly dose of those sweet, sweet discounts.

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While we still don't know what Bungie plan to do differently with Destiny now they've wrested their MMOFPS series out the clutches out Activision, franchise director Luke Smith has muttered cryptically about seeing "a bright future, with roots in a memorable past." He drops a few references that have some fans dreaming real big about what might come, but it's still all hazy.

In the near future and more certain, however, a patch is due at the end of the month to buff weak weapon types, including many auto rifles, scout rifles, and sniper rifles. It'll fix a few irritants with the Black Armory DLC too.

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Into the Bruxnerverse: getting to know the frogs and aliens of Grace Bruxner

Grace Bruxner almost delayed the release of her latest game, The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game, which is a cute adventure about a frog trying to find a ghost. But then she changed her mind because she wanted to make sure it released near Hitman 2. Close enough that news stories mentioning both would be on gaming sites at the same time.

"Like, it'll be an article about Hitman and then an article about Frog Detective and that's really satisfying to me, to be mentioned with Hitman," she says, laughing. "Because they're such similar games!"

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Katana Zero makes time for more interesting twitch combat

Katana Zero is much more than it first appears. And it first appears to be plenty. A side-scrolling reflexy beat 'em up, painted in very pretty pixels, with a character who cannot take a hit. It's a surprisingly interesting weakness to give your ninja-esque mass murderer, who is fast-paced, all dashes and slides, rolls and manic combat. And yet on top of that there's the temporal meddling, some peculiarly introspective downtime, a novel and fascinating conversation system, and the fact that your incredibly vulnerable character is in fact, um, immortal.

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For reasons I cannot fathom and that are probably lost to the bowels of their marketing department, Western Digital have decided their high-performance Black line of NVMe SSDs were in need of a face lift for 2019, because apparently gum stick-sized storage drives don't look 'gamer-y' enough already. The result of their somewhat baffling nip and tuck is the Black SN750, which I think you'll agree looks exactly the same as last year's Black NVMe SSD albeit with a slightly different sticker on the front.

Or at least that's true of the regular version of the Black SN750, as there's also going to be a special heatsink edition available sometime next month. That one does look a bit more upmarket and 'gamer-y', if such a thing is possible, but that's not the one I've been sent for review. Instead, you'll have to make do with wot I think of the normal Black SN750 for now. Can it beat our best gaming SSD champion, the Samsung 970 Evo? Let's take a look.

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Feature: A tourist's take on quadcopter sims

The Flare Path: Drones On

Need to paralyse an international airport, drop hand grenades on infidels, or shoot a spectacular intro sequence for a puffin documentary? You, Sir/Madam, require a drone and drone operator. In preparation for the day when the majority of jobs in the UK involve quadcopters, I've spent the past week learning how to manoeuvre faithful digital facsimiles of these agile aerial peeping Thomases. Thanks to a selection of relatively cheap and free PC sims, I am now - in my own mind at least - Dr. Drone... The Dronemaster... Stone the Drone.

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Some scurrilous hornswaggler yesterday gained access to an Atlas admin account with dominion over the piratical survival sandbox's North American PvP servers and used it to, in the words of developers Grapeshot Games, "cause some devastation." This appears to have included summoning a great many sea beasties as well as, ah, driving around in World War 2 tanks and raining warplanes from the skies. To undo the devastation, Atlas rolled those servers back to a backup from some five-and-a-half-hours earlier. Skulduggery may be supported in Atlas, even encouraged, but only approved skulduggery: no ducking, no bombing, no heavy petting, no tanks.

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On the first day God created light, and saw that it was good. On the 18th trillionth day he created mods, and saw that they were better. ModDB, a site that serves as a nexus for mods of every flavour imaginable, has branched into publishing. "Modularity is a new games publishing division", they say, "with a focus on investing in and supporting games that are created by modders, inspired by mods, or have strong modding support themselves."

They've already teamed up with devs Vox Games to launch Meeple Station on Steam Early Access, a cute-looking space station sim styling itself after RimWorld.

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"Daddy, why are you cross?"

"Because, my little one, someone's just added some lovely-looking raytraced lighting to seminal 90s first-person shooter Quake II, but I am unable to experience it myself because I don't own an RTX-series graphics card. Now repeat what I just said back to me flawlessly, or you're sleeping in the shed again tonight."

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It's rare for strategy games to go all-in on their story mode, but the initial early access success of steampunk zombie RTS They Are Billions has opened up the chance for developers Numantian Games. In a big development blog post on Steam, they declare their plans to extend the game's stay in early access, with the scripted campaign mode debuting in its entirety on launch day. It's understandable why they'd need a bit longer, as they're now claiming the campaign will weigh in at an evening-devouring "40-50 hours of content", though they're not skimping on the other facets of the game.

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Mortal Kombat 11 is looking every bit as blood-drenched as ever, but perhaps a little smarter than usual, systems-wise. Unveiled today during a big-budget live event, NetherRealm's next in the ridiculously over-the-top fighting series looks to be doing things a bit differently. Heavy-hitting moves and fatalities are still gory fun, but winning looks like it'll require a bit more consideration, juggling new offensive and defensive special gauges. See how it all works in the massive trailer-dump below, including a bunch of fighting and a peek at the new story mode.

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Breach will eventually be free-to-play, but those brave enough to put money down on QC Games's early access asymmetric 'dungeon brawl' can jump in today. It's effectively a second try at BioWare's sadly cancelled Shadow Realms, from a team led by ex-BioWare folks. Breach can be played solo or in co-op with up to four players, but is intended to be played with a fifth controlling a 'veil demon'. The demon acts as a restricted dungeon master, summoning monsters, placing traps and occasionally possessing a mini-boss to get in a few sneaky attacks. Take a peek at the launch trailer below.

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If you're plum tuckered out from Plunkbat and find Fortnite too Plunklite but still want to battle in a royale way, you might fancy a crack at Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout. Activision today launched a week-long free trial of Cod Blops 4's battle royale mode and only that. Everyone is invited to try what all the kids are calling Blopout from today through to next Thursday, January 24th. As one of the many who looked at Blopout with interest after burning out on Plunkbat but didn't fancy buying without trying, sure, I'll have a go.

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