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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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Feature: Bug-eyed moansters

Journey To The Savage Planet review

My clone wakes up in the hell pod for the dozenth time, and I am immediately desperate to leave. Martin Tweed, proud president of the universe's 4th best space exploration company, yells at me from inside a cheesy company FMV memo. The ship's computer lectures me about our dwindling supplies of resurrection goop. The Grob machine will not stop bleeting. Fortunately, there's a planet out there to be explored, exploited and catalogued. All of it is colourful, most of it is gooey, and some of it is hostile. Far too much of it is fart jokes.

Journey To The Savage Planet is a romp, and a worthwhile one. It hasn't quite left me feeling full, but I am a picky eater.

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Rat-dodging monarch restoration sim Dishonored is getting a tabletop roleplaying adaptation this very year.

Announcing the news last week, publishers Modiphius say they're working "in close collaboration" with the games' creative director Harvey Smith, also famed for his work on System Shock and the first two Deus Ex games. That's some pedigree, alright.

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A fancied-up rerelease of a venerated WW2 squad tactics game sounds grand but the reality of Commands 2 HD Remaster is less splendid. Following its launch on Friday, many players have complained about bugs and poor performance - a surprising problem considering it doesn't look wildly different to its original incarnation 19 years ago. The makers responded over the weekend, saying ah, yeah, whoops, we'll try to do something about all this. They're working on a patch, though don't say when we should expect it.

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Last week, Psyonix revealed they're going to stop supporting Rocket League on Mac and Linux, ending the ability to use any of the online functions on those platforms. They explained that it was "no longer viable" to support Mac and Linux as they continued to upgrade the game with "new technologies".

This was a bit of a vague reason that naturally left a lot of fans asking questions - but now they've said they can't justify upgrading the tech on platforms that house less than 0.3% of their active player base.

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Last week I settled an old argument. Well, lost an old argument. RPS contributor Richard Cobbett had always told me Zak McKracken was a terrible game, and oh boy, he was right. Which reminded me of our other decades-long feud: Zork - Grand Inquisitor.

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If you're thinking about buying a VR headset to get yourself ready for Half-Life: Alyx later this year, then you may be interested to know that the HTC Vive Cosmos is currently on sale again in the UK. It originally launched for £699 when it came out last year, but Amazon UK have now dropped the price to £549, making it £50 cheaper than it was over Black Friday.

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Feature: The several stages of griefing

The joy of harmless griefing in Wattam

Griefing, a term applying to any bad faith behaviour in an online game, whether it’s ruining things for your group or harassing other players, has reared its ugly head since early MMOs like Ultima Online. The behaviour existed even further back in MUDs, text-based multi-user dungeons, before the term griefing had been coined. Yet, going by the popularity of Untitled Goose Game, there’s clearly a perverse pleasure in bringing chaos upon a community.

Which brings me to Wattam, a game of action, exploration and puzzles, and like Untitled Goose Game, it's an offline game that could be viewed as a microcosm of online spaces. Think of each of Wattam's sandbox islands as a server and the hundred-odd objects around the world as its users. While the core of Wattam is about building connections with each other, it’s also about explosions and poops, sometimes at the same time.

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Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic was the first big boy game I played, so the possibility that EA are working on a remake/sequel/some sort of sequelley remake does make me go a bit tingly. One of the two tipsters claiming to be in the know has been right about Star Wars goss before, and they say it's a straight up remake. Another source suggests the project will take elements from both KOTOR and KOTOR 2 and spin them into something more like a sequel.

I'd be game for either. I want to meet my space friends again, even if they will be different and weird.

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Feature: No, see, you're LOOKING for the valley

Have You Played… A Valley Without Wind?

You have a game or two like this, in your mind somewhere. It lurks. You wouldn't necessarily say it's a particularly good game, or even your favourite. You might even forget it exists for long periods. But occasionally, perhaps twice a year, or every two or three years, you get an unaccountable craving to play it again.

That's what A Valley Without Wind is to me.

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The organisers behind China's League Of Legends Pro League have put the tourney on indefinite hold. The recent coronavirus outbreak, which has so far claimed 56 lives and infected 2,000 people in China and beyond, has scuppered plans to kick off week 2 of the LPL on February 5th. Instead, the esports season has been given a time-out until this outbreak blows over, and digital sports can be played without risk of potentially deadly infection.

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Fifteen years. Five UK Prime Ministers. Both my entire High School and University runs combined. Through it all, Black Mesa has been there, churning away, promising that one day it'd be done. After eight years, it was. Sort of. Released a Xen-less mod, it would take another eight years for the developers behind the notorious Half-Life remake, Crowbar Collective, to finally be done with it. Posting on Steam earlier today, the team announced that a full, final version of Black Mesa is imminent - with a 1.0 preview due for public testing any day now.

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Read our finest PC game reviews

Premature Evaluation: Eco

It's not easy being green

35

Vestaria Saga I: War of the Scions review

I swear it's not Fire Emblem.

19

Wattam review

Wattave I just played?

11

You snooze you lose, Twitch. Activision Blizzard this week announced a multi-year deal with Google to stream future esports events solely through a plucky little website called YouTube. By nicking exclusive rights to broadcast big-hitters like the Overwatch and Call Of Duty Leagues, Hearthstone and such, Google hope to kick-start their struggling attempts to kickstart streaming on YouTube and topple Twitch's reign over the medium.

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I'm not really sure I "get" Mooncharmer. Released last month by Paws Menu's Michael Berto and artist Joost Eggermont, Mooncharmer is a self-described "visual moment" - collectively an interactive diorama, a Bandcamp EP and (if you pay up) a collection of media "arranged musically", Mooncharmer isn't even really something you play. Leave the game running and it'll chug along of its own accord, strolling and resetting at a steady pace.

What I am sure about, however, is that Mooncharmer is a delight. A lovely little lunar dance to enjoy for five fleeting minutes.

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Card-shuffling strategy Duelyst is powering down next month. Such is the way of free online games, sadly. Bidding farewell to Duelyst in an announcement on Friday, developers Counterplay Games are "saddened to announce" that all servers will officially close on February 27th at 11pm (3pm PST). If you've ever wanted to give it a shot - and from the reception it got in the RPS treehouse, you really should - that's four weeks to give Duelyst one last bash.

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Feature: Read more

The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for starting violin lessons. Seriously. You should all be very glad you don't live near me. Here's the best writing about videogames from the past week.

For Vice, Cameron Kunzelman took a look at a book where an academic tries to figure out what indie games are. In this confusing and ever-changing world, it is easy to forget that indie games are the ones about geese.

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This week, Rocket League announced plans to stop supporting Mac and Linux versions, we learned Stardew Valley has sold so very many copies, Lunar New Year sales kicked off, and it looks like support for unionising the games industry is growing. Read on for more of the week's PC gaming goings-on in our News Digest, and do also check out the Weekly Updates Update for some of the week's big patches.

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You could've just called it Season 12. Instead, I have to report that - after being pushed back another two weeks - Fortnite Battle Royale: Chapter 2: Season 2 will finally launch on February 20th. As they say, though, good things come to those who wait. Those extra two weeks of Season 1 will come with new Overtime Challenges, an unannounced two-week long limited event, and allow Epic a little more time to bring the game over to their brand new physics engine, Chaos. Should be a banger.

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Japanese animator and illustrator Taro Oono (official site) may also be one of the most prolific game developers you've never heard of. But despite launching dozens of tiny interactive vignettes convened with domestic life, family antics and gorillas, you won't find his catalogue on Steam, Epic or even indie-centric Itch.io. For a little under a year, Oono has been posting his collection of short, hand-drawn microgames directly through his Twitter.

After all - they're only gifs.

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Ark: Genesis, the monstrous next expansion for Ark: Survival Evolved, has been delayed. Again. Well, half of it, at least. While the first bit of Ark's massive two-part expansion was set to embark last December, its release was later pushed back to January. This week, Studio Wildcard regret to inform us that we'll need to hold on a little longer before building a bungalow on a sea turtle, with Genesis now scheduled to arrive on February 25th.

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Feature: Roguelites, clickers, and city sims for troubled times

Priceless Play – 25 January 2020

I know a game is good when I write down a to-do list with pen and paper. Games are great for goal-setting, but they're also great for goofing around and goalless, meaningful mindlessness. This is why I'm a big fan of roguelite games, which feel like endless loops of manageable tasks. Weirdly, the endlessness of them never really feels onerous. Instead of feeling frustrated with my failures, I view them as opportunities to try again. This is common rhetoric in games -- they allow us to fail, iterate, and try again -- but I rarely experience this feeling so acutely outside of roguelites, city sims, and resource management games. Rogulites comfort me in times of tumult! Worker placement soothes me! For the love of god, someone give me a farming sim to sink hours into!

Here are some games to get swept up in. May you find comfort.

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A deadly new disease is spreading its way across China and East Asia. With over 840 confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like Coronavirus confirmed this month, concerned players are looking for ways to cope with the threat of infection. Increasingly, they're turning to Plague Inc: Evolved. Ndemic Creations' outbreak management sim saw Steam player counts skyrocket in the last few days. Keen to avoid an outbreak of disinformation, Ndemic have warned against using their global sickness sim as a basis for real-world disease control.

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Following up last year's Age Of Empires II: Definitive Edition release, Xbox Game Studios are planning a beta period for the Age Of Empires III: Definitive Edition for registered Insiders. If you took part in Age 2's beta sessions, the developers say they are structuring Age 3's beta a bit differently. Sessions will be shorter and more focused, with multiplayer beta times beginning in February.

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As GDC's yearly survey of developers says in their report "unionisation and labor practices remain hot topics in the game industry." The last several years have seen many reports of game developers being overworked—that thing we call crunch—to finish the biggest games each year. If not stories of crunch, it's reports of major layoffs instead. No surprise then that talk of unionising continues to grow.

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Post-apocalyptic RPG Wasteland Remastered - which just looks a Wasteland remake let's be honest - has bagged itself a release date, so you'll be able to get your hands on it on February 15th. InXile Entertainment’s remaster was announced back in June 2018, and it's essentially a big old re-do of everything from the original 1988 game, with all-new audio and graphics.

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None of us have enough games that we've bought and never played, right? Last year Epic contributed to my digital pile of still-wrapped games with their constant freebies. Weekly free games will continue through 2020, Epic said last week, so the stack shall grow higher. This week's freebie is the puzzle game The Bridge. Next up to bat is Farming Simulator 19.

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"I should go check on the Frictional website," I thought to myself when I woke up this morning. I'll call it a premonition, though I clearly wasn't the first to have it. If you hadn't heard, Frictional Games, developers of Soma and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, recently updated their website nextfrictionalgame.com with a spooky pulsating little symbol. It morphed once already, and has morphed again, beginning a merry chase of YouTube videos and hints presumably related to Frictional's next game.

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Last night the Apex Legends devs treated us to a stream to announce all the new things coming to the game's fourth season. Amongst those announcements, we got our first glimpse at Apex's next character, beefy wrestler Forge.

Except, Forge wasn't who most Apex fans were expecting to see. Over the last few months, there have been easter eggs and teasers galore (not to mention some leaks and datamines) suggesting the edgy red Legend, Revenant, would be making a proper introduction to the games. At first glance it looks like he's been left out, pushed back and forgotten about - but if you look a little deeper on EA's website, it seems Revenant is still very much on the cards for Season 4.

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