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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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Feature: Embrace the octopus

Unity of Command 2 review

The awesome destructive might and continent-shrinking mobility of a WW2 army came with strings. While an antique army could fragment at will and locust everything it needed from the countryside it passed through, its 1939-45 equivalent was an essentially indivisible organism, a tangle of dangerous tentacles emanating from a cumbersome organ-clump of vital support staff, equipment, and stores. The unmissable Unity of Command 2 recognises this with a set of mechanisms that are masterpieces of abstraction, and in doing so, breathes new life into operations ludologised countless times before.

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While I've stopped flying and am too dim for sims, goodness me Microsoft Flight Simulator still makes me coo and gasp in awe of planes. They're like birds, but made of metal! Powered by science rather than magic! And their guts aren't full of stones and digestive acids so you can go inside! Truly magnificent. My mooning continued last night with a new trailer for the upcoming pilot sim, which also revealed some of the planes and manufacturers who've signed up. These include the Boeing 747, I plane I am told is known as "the queen of the sky" for reasons I would rather not know.

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Dust off that beige robe, reader. Jedi: Fallen Order came out overnight, and you don't need to pop off to a galaxy far, far away to jump in. The folks behind bangers like Titanfall 2 and Apex Legends have put together the first proper singleplayer Star Wars romp in years, letting you blast fascists through a beautifully complex star system as a sword-slinging, force-flinging slice of white bread. At least the robot's cute, eh?

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The year is 2049.

My avatar, managing Tottenham Hotspur, is 67. Harry Redknapp is long dead. Chris Smalling is my assistant manager.

Now, as I finally wind down my Football Manager 2012 playthrough through an unholy combination of bugs and, well, having won everything, the future beckons. I’m having an existential crisis and the line between real and fictional is melting.

But let’s start at the beginning.

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Feature: For a "shadow" "desert" it was plenty light and lush, actually

Shadow Arena shakes up the battle royale genre with a cast of action heroes

Black Desert Online developers Pearl Abyss are in the process of branching out of their MMO roots, having announced a clutch of new games this week. But while they might be working on games as far removed as a shooter and a cutesy monster catch ‘em up, it’s Black Desert’s battle royale-esque spinoff Shadow Arena that’s furthest through development. I got my hands on it at G-Star in Korea, and talked to lead producer Kwang Sam Kim about how it takes as much inspiration from Tekken as it does Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds.

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Feature: One Off The List

The 8 least qualified Jedi in Star Wars games

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is out today, letting you follow in the roguish bootprints of young force punter Cal Kestis, played here by Archie of Archie comics. In celebration of his boyish padawan appearance, and the way he uses a deadly weapon like you’d use a torch app with dodgy permissions to find your keys, let’s make a list. A list of the least qualified Jedi (and Sith) in PC games.

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Variable State, the studio being the striking vignette 'em up Virginia, today announced their next game. Last Stop is a supernatural mystery in present-day London with three playable characters who get tangled in the same quite strange and awful spookening, and I'm well up for it. While Virginia had no dialogue (to excellent effect), this one's a proper chatty one with voice acting and all, and the English voices combined with everyday sci-fi shenanigans mean I'm already unfairly thinking of Doctor Who. Look, watch the trailer and draw your own connections.

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The revamped PC rereleases of Bungie's classic console shooter series Halo will kick off with Halo: Reach on December 3rd, Microsoft announced today. Reach was the fifth Halo FPS to be released but will be the first to come from The Master Chief Collection cos it's a prequel to the lot. Have a gander at the new trailer below.

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Today's a big day for Age Of Empires. A revamped version of the second game launched this afternoon (and it's still jolly nice, our Nate said in his Age Of Empires 2 Definitive Edition review) then tonight we got a first look at the all-new Age Of Empires 4. It's set in the medieval era and ooh, I do quite like how that old cartoony look is being translated to modern 3D. Have a look for yourself.

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I thought the post-apocalyptic horrors of Wasteland 3 couldn't surprise me but goodness me, I'm chilled to the core. I've seen all the usual torments--nuclear winter, cannibalism, slavery, torture, famine--but I was not prepared for the sight of a giant robotic Ronald Reagan. My god, what have we done? We must change our ways before it's too late. We can't let this vision become reality. The vision's coming up fast too, with InXile today announcing a launch date of May 19th, 2020.

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Dontnod Entertainment today announced their next teen story 'em up, named Tell Me Why. It'll see two twins trying to unravel grim mysteries of their childhood, a problem compounded by Tyler and Alyson Ronan having different memories of the events. Sticking to Dontnod's beloved northwest America, this time it's pushing into small-town Alaska, and mate I'm well up for whale-watching. Have a peek in the announcement trailer below.

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Now that everyone has a battle royale and a subscription, everyone wants a cloud gaming service too. Google's Stadia launches next week, and Microsoft today announced that their own Project xCloud is coming to PC. In the cloud gaming way, it'll let people play Xbox One games on even a crappy old PC (it was initially made for phones and tablets) thanks to streaming video technomagic. Unlike streaming services which ha-ha-hilariously people expect people to pay full price for games, xCloud will let you stream Xbox games you own as well as those you have access to through the Xbox Game Pass.

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Feature: Honey, they shrunk the story elements

Obsidian’s next game is Grounded, co-op survival about being shrunk

Transforming the ordinary into the fantastical. It’s a tenet of Magical Realist fiction, Brechtian theatre, staring too long at your hands while on edibles, and now Grounded, a new survival RPG from Obsidian. It features four plucky teens, a shrink-ray experiment and a mundane back garden transformed into a vast, dangerous, colorful wilderness. Gnats are now the size of your face. You can build trampolines from spider webs, or armour from acorns. Part Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and part Ark: Survival Evolved, Grounded is a game brave enough to ask, "What if those tiny cartons of fruit juice with the sippy straws that America calls ‘juice boxes’ were like, absolutely massive?"

I recently watched a short presentation at Obsidian HQ and got a chance to chat with Grounded’s director, Adam Brennecke. Typical to the storied studio, there’s very few aspects of Grounded that haven’t been approached with a world-builder’s eye for detail and place. Even with Obsidian keeping some big story and setting reveals close to their chest, there’s a lot to get through.

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Obsidian Entertainment, the gang behind The Outer Worlds and Alpha Protocol, have announced a new game and it is... not an RPG? It's named Grounded and it's a survival game with more than a whiff of Honey I Shrunk The Kids, having us play as kiddywinkles shrunk down smaller than creepy-crawlies. Trying to survive in a garden looks a touch more challenging at that scale. We'll be able to tell you more in a wee preview real soon but, for now, here's the announcement trailer.

Update: Even sooner than I thought, the embargo has lifted - check out our Grounded preview.

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After two years ferrying tiny passengers around in early access, Tracks - The Family Friendly Open World Train Set Game (to use its full name) left pre-release station earlier today. Forget you're well into adulthood for a moment and settle down on the digital carpet, tip open the toybox, and indulge in a long-forgotten nostalgia while you put together a fun-sized wooden village. Isn't that nice?

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We all know Red Dead Redemption 2 is a gorgeous looking game (at least when it's not crashing and freezing), but holy moly does it look stupidly good in ultrawide. Specifically, the kind of ultrawide made possible by Samsung's new CRG9 monitor, which is an even higher specced version of last year's ludicrous 49in, 32:9 CHG90.

Whereas the CHG90 had a resolution of 3840x1080 (making it effectively two 1080p monitors stuck together), the CRG9 bumps that up to 5120x1440, increasing its pixel count to the equivalent of two 1440p monitors strapped together instead. It's a mad thing to behold, and man alive if there was ever a screen tailor-made for Red Dead 2's cinematic cowpoke antics, this is the one. Let me tell you, it is stunning.

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Stare at the abyss, they say, and the abyss stares back. Stare at Korean publishers Pearl Abyss, and they'll announce a handful of new MMORPGs. The company behind Black Desert Online unveiled no less than four new online games at Korean convention G-Star this morning. While two high-fantasy adventures keep well within their wheelhouse, Pearl Abyss also announced two radically contrasting games: a high energy kid-friendly monster catcher named DokeV and Plan 8, a grim n' bloody shooter from one of the minds behind Counter-Strike.

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Feature: "I made this game to […] worship the devil" - stephen, caught on tape, exclusive.

A Panel Shaped Screen meets thecatamites

Stephen "thecatamites" Gillmurphy is a familiar presence in RPSland. In the past years we covered many of his games, from the blood-soaked RPG Space Funeral to the Kafkaesque Murder Dog.

His latest game, 10 Beautiful Postcards, is a wandering simulator about exploring hotels — and like all his games, it's wonderfully weird. But where does this developer get inspiration for his ideas? Are DRUGS the answer? Or does he use something even more morally dubious, like COMICS? Rock Paper Shotgun, here to bring you answers.

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Feature: Bigger than before

Age Of Empires 2 Definitive Edition review

Age Of Empires 2 is, as far as I’m concerned, the greatest real-time strategy game of all time. And with the release of Age Of Empires 2 Definitive Edition, it’s… well, it’s still that. But now, there’s a lot more of it. It’s brilliant. Still, virtually every design decision its quality rests on was made twenty years ago, and what few changes have been to its inner workings are fairly conservative. Make no mistake: this is much more of a compilation job than it is any kind of reimagining.

But then, crucially, there’s also nothing added that dilutes the success of the original, either. While its early-2000s successors, Age of Mythology and Age Of Empires 3, were both good games, they suffered from their attempts to innovate on a proven formula. Altering the formula of a classic is always a risk - and in Ensemble Studios’ case, it was one that didn’t pay off. Bravo then to former modders Forgotten Empires, who tinkered with the game they loved long enough to inherit it, and yet never went too far. While the king of RTS games still doesn’t have a successor, he’s looking bloody good in his old age.

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There are just five days to go before Google Stadia launches on November 19th, but after answering a bunch of questions via a Reddit AMA yesterday, it would appear Google's cloud gaming platform will be launching without a number of key features. Chief among them is no streaming in 4K, HDR and 5.1 surround sound for those logging on via a PC, meaning the only way to make the most of what Stadia has to offer (which is the entire point of paying for a Stadia Pro subscription in the first place) is to hook one of Google's Chromecast Ultra devices up to a TV.

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It's good to be King. This week, Crusader Kings 3 game director Henrik Fåhraeus donned a crown and cloak to lay out his vision for the big ol' threequel. It's the first in what Paradox say will be a monthly series of video diaries diving into the creation of a political powerhouse. Episode one is all about the big picture, and how the team want to bring some contemporary grandeur to the sprawling, occasionally awkward series.

That kinda thing requires a certain regal flair, don't you think?

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Did you miss it? Legends Of Runeterra, a League Of Legends CCG spin-off, debuted last month by briefly opening up access to a lucky few. Runeterra won't start its proper closed beta in earnest until early 2020, but you've got one more chance to try your hand before Riot's card-shuffler enters hibernation. Runeterra's next preview patch kicks off today at 4 pm UK time, introducing new drafting mode Expeditions.

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It's been a wild week for Human Head Studios. They finally launched Rune 2, the oft-delayed sequel to their third-person Viking murderer from way back in the year 2000, then shut down and immediately reformed under Bethesda as Roundhouse Studios. I was surprised by this, but my surprise is nothing compared to what Rune 2's publishers felt. "We found out about this news when you did," they said yesterday, and they'd been counting on Human Head being around for ongoing support. They assure they're working to fix bugs and will continue their post-launch content plans but sheesh, that's a surprise alright.

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Epic Games have only gone and launched a new game, Battle Breakers. It's a turn-based "hero collector RPG" thing about building and upgrading an army of heroes, a game with so very many numbers and resources and timers. Battle Breakers seem built for idle tapping on a pocket telephone on the bus, watching explosions and numbers popping off as you wind home through the dingy streets of Romford, but it is out on PC too. After Epic scrapped Paragon and gave up on the new Unreal Tournament, I'd half-assumed they had binned Battle Breakers too and gone all-in on Fortnite Battle Royale. Nope! Huh.

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Feature: Try before you buy.

Sparklite is a roguelike which runs on FOMO

On the surface, Sparklite is as generically, pleasantly roguelikelike as it's possible to get. You wander around randomly generated areas, clubbing baddies with a wrench and spelunking in sinkholes for treasure, before taking on big gits in caves. The story is bland as weetabix, there are secrets to be found everywhere, and there are helpful items that give you new abilities. The game is pretty good. But the thing that made it stand out for me - the thing that made it different - is the way it teased me with shiny new gadgets, and then snatched them away from me.

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Feature: It's chess, with lasers!

Have You Played…Khet 2.0?

While none of the Auto-battlers out there are what we would know as "chess", their existence did make me think of Khet 2.0 - a digital form of laser chess. Laser chess has you move pieces with mirrors, an the aim is to shoot the opponent’s King (or get them to shoot it themselves with your Machiavellian manoeuvring).

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Put that six-shooter away, cowboy. While it looks mighty purdy on desktops, Red Dead Redemption 2's PC debut has been anything but smooth. From framerate dives to hard crashes and issues getting the game to boot in the first place, a fair few outlaws had trouble experiencing the wild wild west during last week's troubled launch.

This afternoon, Rockstar offered two gifts to tide troubled fans over: an apology for the game's sorry state, and a complimentary care package for players who bear through the pain.

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