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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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It looks like the just-announced Starpoint Gemini 3 will be a significant departure from Warlords, previous in Little Green Men's space sim series. Rather than continue down the path of light 4X strategy and fleet management, the new game puts players into the cockpit of smaller craft. There's first-person cockpits, and you're able to meet characters face-to-face in planetary and station interiors. It's a pretty big change, considering the series has been a largely impersonal affair up until now. The game is due out some time this year - see the announcement trailer below.

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Economic space strategy game Offworld Trading Company will be far easier to play with friends soon - as of February 28th, the game's multiplayer will be available as a free, standalone game. Mohawk Games's extraterrestrial number-cruncher is still expanding, with more DLC due along with the multiplayer client, but the chance to play for free against other humans strikes me as the bigger deal here. With any luck it'll help put the game back on the radar for folks looking for a new kind of RTS - destroying your foes without building any tanks is a hard sell, admittedly.

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It's nice to see a game you love become big enough to inspire other studios, and it's hard to deny the similarities between Trident's Wake - released into early access today - and Helldivers. It's a four-player (offline or on) twin-stick shooter by Bacus Games with procedurally generated missions. Players work together to complete multi-phase missions while being hammered by waves of angry aliens. While outwardly familiar (yes, there's friendly fire), it looks like there's more focus on loot, character customisation and weapon upgrades. See the launch trailer below.

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Competitive parents are awful, hurling obscenities and abuse from the sidelines of the local under-10s league, but I can sympathise with the parents competing in One More Second. It's the middle of the night and their lousy baby is once again awake and bawling its head off. Both of this half-awake pair would adore even one more second of sleep, so these aspiring corpses roll around and flail and flap until one loses the slow-motion slapsies and gets up to sooth the lump of congealed screams. Go on, grab a pal and sit side-by-side to discover the QWOP-ish joys of parenting.

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I've always had an easier time playing 'bullet hell' shooters than more old-school ones like Devil Engine, which launched today. Enemies in those old shmups were positively ornery in their aggression, constantly pressuring the player with unpredictable mix-up attacks. Among the best of that late 16-bit era of shooting was Technosoft's Thunder Force series. Protoculture Games's debut feels like a proud tribute to those twitchy gems, complete with an intentionally limited colour palette, but a few ideas of its own. See the trailer below or snag a demo on Steam here.

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Anthem's Day One (minus two) patch has finally arrived, with one of the big 'High Level' fixes being its atrocious loading times, specifically when it comes to what Bioware refer to as 'older disk drives'. But how much have they actually improved by? Well, I've gone and re-tested the same HDD, SSD and NVMe SSD I tried on Tuesday to see what's what.

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Trials Rising launches next Tuesday, February 26th, but anyone interested can take it for a free spin right now - Ubisoft are running an open beta running until just before launch. The latest in Redlynx's long-running series of twitchy, technical platformers disguised as bike-racing games, this one feels a little bit more competitive than the sci-fi themed Trials Fusion. Still, under the hood it's the same game of precise jumping and amusing ragdoll failure, barely changed since 2008's Trials 2. See the open beta trailer and some initial thoughts from a series fan (me) below.

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Talking about a game’s influences is always a tricky business. Sure, developers love to give long talks about the artists they admire. About their inspirations, the concepts they remixed, the idols they wish to surpass. But there’s a difference between the influences they are trying to evoke consciously, and the many-finned chimeras swimming just under the surface of consciousness.

Take Sable, for example. When the game first got announced, everyone called it “the game that looks like a Moebius comic”. It’s easy to see why.

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There have been some stonking deals on AMD's Radeon RX Vega graphics cards of late, but this latest price drop on their RX Vega 56 card is just properly bonkers, as right now you can nab MSI's Air Boost OC model for just £250 over at Ebuyer and Overclockers UK. Add in free copies of Devil May Cry 5, The Division 2 and Resident Evil 2 as well as part of AMD's three free games bundle and that's one hell of a hefty discount.

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We'll need to wait a while longer to vandalise a village as a ghastly goose in Untitled Goose Game, as developers House House have announced they're delaying their sneak-o-antagonise 'em up from this spring to the vague time of "later in 2019." I'm happy to wait for a game this charming if it needs it, and this might also give me the summer to chase people around nearby villages as practice. East Linton, your knick-knacks and hats will be mine.

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Feature: Listen now or be mystified

Podcast: What are our favourite puzzle games?

A ten-sided device appears in your hands. Each side features a carving of a wild animal, but three of the sides depict the face of an RPS writer instead. Look, there’s Matt. And yes, this one is John. The side with Brendan is a bit grubby, but it’s unmistakeably him. Smells a bit weird. What could this mean? Of course! It’s the RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show. Perhaps if you press down on these three journo mugs at the same time… aha! A telling click, and the sound of a delicate MP3. You’ve discovered the latest episode. They seem to be talking about puzzle games.

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While Anthem technically doesn't launch until tomorrow, and has been out since last Friday for Origin Access subscribers, the "Day 1 Patch" hit BioWare's sci-fi looter-shooter overnight. It aims to address many of the technical troubles which have been evident in the test weekends and early access, which include long loading times, crashes, freezes, bugs impeding quest progress, and some--but not all--of the other problems Alice Bee has talked about. If you've been put off by what you've seen or played, voila, here's what's in the fixtank.

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Feature: Day one is a flexible term now

In Anthem’s first week, screw everything except the Storm javelin, TBQH

I was forming opinions about Anthem, EA's jetpacks-and-loot Destinylike, when they said that they’re dropping a big ‘day one’ update before the 22nd that supposedly changes and/or fixes a load of things. It’s downloading as I write this, making it technically a day one minus two patch, but it still bloody well say day one patch in the notes. I’m sure Origin Premier users feel catered to.

Calling this a day one update is a bit of a cheat. A sleight of hand so you won’t see that, tucked back up his sleeve, the magician is hiding a game that’s been out for a week already. If you didn’t know, you can pay EA £15 a month to get 'Premier' access on Origin, which grants you access to some games for free and some bonus content in their new games. And, in this case, you got Anthem a week earlier than the scum who don’t subscribe. This was not sold as early access. This was supposed to have been the finished article. So while I’m going to review the game with the patch included, I don’t want to let the state of the game for Premier users, who I would expect to be EA’s most valued customers, go unremarked upon by, well, me.

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Steam's experiment in selling plain ol' non-games-related films, shows, and videos is ending, as Valve say they're refocusing on, y'know, stuff to do with video games. Which is no surprise, because games are why people use Steam. They've removed the 'Video' section from the Steam Store menu and plan to stop selling a number of non-games vids, though folks who bought them will still be able to watch and download them. I'm thankful because this means an end to me getting excited reading descriptions of new Steam releases with fresh and interesting premises then being disappointed when I realise they're films.

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You know a game's good when it's got me doing news about a single new gun. The first proper Apex Legends update has thrown Havoc into the ring, resulting in a thousand games journos writing variations of this sentence. (Apex, for those that have spent the past couple of weeks on Mars or something, is a free-to-play battle royale FPS from the Titanfall devs.)

The Havoc is an assault rifle that takes a moment to charge up, but apparently "once those Energy rounds start flying, their high damage, high velocity, and low bullet drop make up for having to wait." Here is a trailer for the gun.

A trailer. For a gun. What have we become.

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I’ve never been a big fan of hunting, which is why I didn’t think I’d be so captivated by theHunter: Call of the Wild. But I don’t love it for the hunting. I discovered that, once you lay down your arms and forget about bringing home the venison, this hunting simulator becomes an amazingly relaxing experience. If you subvert its purpose almost entirely, it’s actually just a lovely walking simulator.

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There are few niches as specific as the one Red Candle Games have carved out with Detention and its successor Devotion, launched just yesterday. Both are sharp, unsettling but grounded horror stories that blend the supernatural with tales of real life in Taiwan in the not-too-distant past. While Detention was a side-scrolling adventure set in the 60s, Devotion is a first-person psychological study of a deeply religious family in the 80s. See the launch trailer below.

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Steins;Gate is possibly my favourite visual novel. A gripping, smart sci-fi thriller about a bunch of students who inadvertently build a time machine and end up in a whole mess of predestined trouble for it. It even got an impressive anime adaptation, though it did miss out on a lot of the finer points and branching story-lines. Enter Steins;Gate Elite, out now, a remake of the original VN by Mages, built around the animation, art and voice-acting from the TV version. It also comes with Steins;Gate: Linear Bounded Phenogram, a collection of ten side stories. See the trailer below.

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Please play the prototype demo of Baba Is You, so I'll have an easier time explaining why the full version - now due on March 13th - is one of the most exciting puzzle games on the horizon. It's the work of Arvi "Hempuli" Teikari, previously known for tiny but perfectly formed metroidvania Environmental Station Alpha. It's a puzzle game about re-writing the rules of the game by pushing key-words around like blocks. Lava Is Melt? A quick reshuffle, and Lava Is Float; the previously impassable lake of fire now hovering safely in the air above. Concept Is Brillo. Trailer Is Below.

Update: The level editor won't be ready in time for launch, but the developer informs me it's planned for a later update.

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Body-snatchers, government conspiracies and potentially extraterrestrial menaces are headed to The Sims 4 in its next add-on, the StrangerVille game pack, due out Tuesday, February 26th. Set in the kind of quiet desert town where apparently only this kind of thing seems to happen, there's a whole bunch of new paranormal detective activities to get tied up in, and a story to unravel. While clearly not as important as hoarding pets, it looks like a fun time in the vein of previous adventure-focused game pack Jungle Adventure. See the debut trailer below.

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Ian is a buff skellington who likes fishing and music - he can play a mean bass. Yes, you can see the pun coming a mile off, but it still works. Dan Martin's webcomic turned daft RPG, Deathbulge: Battle Of The Bands is the story of Ian and his pals Faye and Briff. They meander around a very silly world, kicking open doors and battling other bands through a music-themed combat system. It's currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter with a demo for you to try right now, which you should, as I've gotten a few good giggles from it. No knowledge of the comic needed - see a trailer below.

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With his final breath, I like to think that Resident Evil 2’s Robert Kendo cursed the lying huckster that installed his double glazing. ReMakesident Evil 2, clearly conscious of besmirching the good name of glass salesman the world over, fleshed out Kendo’s story into one of its most human scenes, but still left a haunting question mark hovering over the fate of him and his daughter, Emma.

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After 13 years of making and publishing adventure games in ye olde 2D waye, Wadjet Eye Games have revealed they're taking their first steps into the so-called "third dimension" with Technobabylon: Birthright, a follow-up to 2015's swell sci-fi adventure game Technobabylon. Hey, 'retro' is a moving target. Wadjet have shared a few screens showing what developers Technocrat Games are up to and coo, that's not half-bad. I'm just glad to hear more about this. We've known for a while that more Technobabylon was coming and here it is. Well, in picture form. The actual release is... who knows when.

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Feature: How long can an Apex Legends match go on for?

Apex Legends Ring – Circle sizes, Ring damage stats for each round

Apex Legends has innovated and rethought several aspects of the battle royale genre, but one thing they decided to keep pretty much as-is, and that's what Respawn have called the Ring. This Ring operates in much the same manner as the Storm in Fortnite and the Playzone in PUBG, forcing players closer together over the course of each match, and damaging those caught outside the border.

But there's a lot going on under the surface of this system, and we haven't found anywhere that explains all the stats and breaks down the different rounds of a match properly. So we thought we'd do it ourselves!

Our Apex Legends Ring guide will walk you through the rounds of a match, and the behaviour and stats you can expect from the Ring at each moment. We also answer questions such as: how long can an Apex Legends match go on for? And how small can the Ring get? Find out all this and more below.

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The publishers of click-o-strategy games from Crusader Kings II to Cities: Skylines are bringing our precious PC mods to console, teaming up with Microsoft to launch cross-platform modding support. Paradox Interactive are starting with Surviving Mars, 2018's pretty deece space colony game, and plan to bring mods to more of their Xbone versions later this year. While this change mostly benefits Xboners, isn't it nice that they'll get to join in all the fun we have on PC? Surviving Mars is even adding mouse and keyboard support on Xbone. Aw, bless, he thinks he's a PC.

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Did you ever read about the Ship of Theseus? I'm sure you have – the RPS community is, after all, a bastion of scholarly insight, where people can write about things like digital museums and heraldic devices and attract comments like “actually, Liu Bei's supposed Han ancestry has minimal DNA basis and I'll thank you to use the Harvard referencing system”.

But on the off chance it's slipped your mind because you've been binge-reading Ibsen or whoever, the Ship of Theseus is a classic thought experiment. In brief, if you replace every part of Theseus's ship as the wood decays, is it still his ship? Are things no more than what they're made of, or does something about an object transcend its components? And what the hell does any of this have to do with Age of Wonders: Planetfall, a turn-based 4X strategy game featuring jetpacks and acid grenades? The answer to the last one is that there are Elves of Theseus, too. Also Dwarves of Theseus and Borgs of Theseus. Crikey!

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As much as I liked what 2015 puzzler Snakebird was trying to do, bending birds up and around and through levels like avian contortionists, it was a bit beyond my ken and my patience. So huzzah, here comes Snakebird Primer, an easier follow-up pitched as being "for the entire family" - that's adults, grandparents, children, and spinster aunts who get frustrated when required to think more than three moves ahead. Released today, Primer looks far more on my level so heck yes I will flex this fowl.

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