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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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Feature: Twinkle twinkle

The Joy Of the stars in Planetarian

We easily take the stars for granted. The starry sky is something we can see every night, and while the starscape changes with the seasons, an untrained eye wouldn’t know the difference. While we think nothing of looking up at the stars and the moon at night, in another reality it would be impossible.

In Planetarian: The Reverie Of A Little Planet, Earth is plunged into a global war that kills most of humanity. Dangerous man-made ‘Gods of Death’ still roam the land, killing anyone that stumbles into their path. A corrosive acid rain falls across the planet, drowning plants, rusting metal, and hiding the sky. The scant few remains of humanity struggle to survive the aftermath of a war they didn’t start.

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Feature: YER A WIZERD 'ARRY

Have You Played… Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?

If only we could go back to a time when we weren’t all a bit embarrassed by the franchise, eh? Well, with video games, you can! Picture it: it’s 2004. Things haven’t all gone terribly wrong yet. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is in the cinema, the best Harry Potter film yet (and to this day, if you ask me). And it has a video game tie-in!

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Epic Games not coming up with their own dance moves continues to cause trouble for mega-popular shooter Fortnite Battle Royale. As reported by TMZ, actor Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks in The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air) is suing Epic for cribbing his famously daft dance for use in the game as a premium emote sold in-game.

Ribeiro is in the process of copyrighting the dance, and while I think the concept of short, comedic dances being intellectual property is a bit mad, this isn't unprecedented.  Rapper 2 Milly is is already looking to take the studio to court, and others have complained before. Plus, as you'll see below, this isn't the first game to use the Carlton Dance.

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Tomorrow is unpatch day for Battlefield V, after a messy storm of backlash last week from players over tweaks to its time-to-kill. In an attempt to make the game more accessible to newcomers who might have been dying too quickly, Dice tweaked damage figures - detailed here - to make bullets just plain less deadly than before. Unfortunately, this went down about as well with existing fans of the game's balance as you'd expect. In an apologetic statement on Reddit, the developers have announced that tomorrow the game will be reverting back to its original deadliness.

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Make love, not war, or at least repurpose the wreckage of failed mech-war into a charmingly smoochable partner for a lonely rampaging monster. Kaiju Super Datetech is a cute little free game from Powerhoof (makers of Regular Human Basketball and arcade hack n' slasher Crawl) for up to four local players plus party pals, working together or in teams to build NotGodzilla a date. Players control little office workers, hopping around, carrying bits of robot and scaffolding and bolting new gubbins on as you race across the scrap-heap wastelands to to meet your tall, dark and scaly partner.

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Feature: The best 4K HDR gaming monitor that doesn't cost the earth

Philips 436M6VBPAB review: Our new 4K HDR champion

Every time an HDR monitor arrives on my desk, I say a small prayer to the gaming monitor gods: "Please, PLEASE let this one be good." I don't care if it's hideously expensive like the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ or Acer Predator X27, I just want one that does HDR well and does it without a boat load of fuss and settings twiddling.

Readers, my prayers have been finally answered, and they come in the form of the giant and ever-catchily named Philips 436M6VBPAB. This jumbo TV-sized 43in 4K HDR monitor is arguably one of the best gaming monitors I've ever laid eyes on - and if that wasn't enough, it also supports both Nvidia and AMD graphics cards and only costs £673 / $797 (or £530 in the UK as part of Scan's Christmas deals promotion). What more could you possibly ask for?

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It's no surprise that Capcom's support for Street Fighter V isn't over, but I am a bit shocked that its fourth season of new characters has already begun with new fighter Kage. Available now, this angry lad (his name literally translating to "Shadow") is pretty much a beefed up version of old palette-swap villain Evil Ryu. Now apparently cosplaying as a secondary character from Homestuck, or - more likely - some kind of Oni, Kage is a teleporting, air-dashing, punchier and generally meaner take on Ryu's familiar style. Give him a peek in the debut trailer and breakdown vid below.

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We've got our fist look at Pagan Online in action, Wargaming and Mad Head Games's MOBA-inspired action RPG. Far from the over-the-top heavy metal fantasy excess of its debut trailer, I feel that Pagan Online looks rather restrained compared to Diablo 3, and definitely less wild than Path Of Exile's massive monster-swarms. Mad Head Games also talk of players building up a stable of unique characters (another MOBA-like element), instead of spending ages tweaking character builds on a single hero. Take a peek at a bit of hacking, slashing and avoiding AoE markers below.

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While I was being dragged down to the depths of England last week (business reasons), Forza Horizon 4 was pushing higher into Scotland with the launch of its first expansion, Fortune Island. The fictional new hunk of rock has sprouted off Scotland, seemingly drawing inspiration for roads and landmarks from a number of places around the highlands and islands, including Skye. It's a wild and rugged landscape which needs to make no concessions to reality, basically (though some real Scottish landscapes seem to consider reality optional, in my experience). Also, it has hidden treasure. And a Morris Minor with wooden trim.

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Feature: What's the scoria?

Ashen review

If you’re summoning Dark Souls, you have to be prepared to make a deal with the Capra Demon. In this pact, you will be granted the power of From Software’s ideas, yes, but you will also be doomed to comparison. You’ll only be seen in the light of that which came before. Ashen has made such a pact, and it invites that comparison especially often. It sticks so closely to the Souls formula it could be a dream Hidetaka Miyazaki once had. But lapsed hollows who look closely will also find that it uses the template to create its own mythology and its own admirable spirit, one of restoration rather than decay. If Dark Souls is a tale of perpetual, cyclical death and redeath, Ashen feels like tramping through a creation myth as it’s still being told. I like it a lot.

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Feature: The games the cool kids bought this week

Steam Charts – Blood From A Stone Edition

Hey, remember the good old days? Those giddy times I like to think of as last week? When the Charts felt fresh and new, filled with potential, as if any interesting game could take a top spot? Well, forget all that because it's all gone to shit again.

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Read our finest PC game reviews

Insurgency: Sandstorm review

Argh, it's in my eyes

15

Gris review

Obvious beauty

27

Fallout 76 review

Big Mike is doing business

100
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Feature: 2018's best second impression

The RPS Advent Calendar 2018, Dec 17th

Oh, you want to see what's behind door number 17 on our advent calendar of 2018's bestest best PC games? It's no good charging straight at it, trying to slide a finger into that little cardboard gap in the hope of wrenching the thing open. You'll only break a fingernail and tire yourself out, you poor love.

No, you need to come at it sideways. Find the weak points. Go for the hinge.

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Just Cause 4 stuck its landing about as elegantly as a Victorian flying machine made from long-johns, strawberry shoelaces and seagull wings - here's John howling about its numerous misfires in our Just Cause 4 review - but developers Avalanche aren't giving up on it yet. Steam reviews currently average out to the dreaded Mostly Negative, with the vast majority of thumbs-downery prompted by the presence of more bugs than the family movie box office in 1998.*

Undeterred (well, probably quite a lot deterred, let's be honest), Avalanche recently pushed out the first big JC4 patch, which attempts to wrestle the most overt boo-boos to the ground - including fixing texture pop-in, making keys remappable and menus less miserable, and overall 'stability fixes'. They also promise that this is "just the start of the work we are carrying out," with more patches planned next year. They're also "very sorry to hear" that so many people have had a rubbo time with JC4, if that helps any.

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Much as every Christmas cracker must contain a paper hat and every Christmas stocking must give a satsuma, every Christmas's gaming must include Skeal. No one knows when this tradition started but it's tradition, and so we must play Skeal. I'm sure many of you already celebrate the season by playing Skeal with your family round the hearth, laughing and singing together, but for the uninitiated I'll explain: Skeal is a free slalom skiing game which teaches us the true meaning of Christmas - power, pleasure, and pain.

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There's a reason you don't hear much about witches, which is that they're not real. There's a separate reason why you haven't heard much about Witchfire's witches since The Astronauts announced their first-person occultist bosher last year - the devs are only eight in number, and they have all been very busy.

In a recent blogpost, The Vanishing Of Ethan Carter devs announced they're about to get a bit more chatty. Weekly dev updates are due to start this Wednesday, while the announcement itself gives an overview of progress so far. It's looking very pretty, quite swish, and rather creepy.

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Feature: Argh, it's in my eyes

Insurgency: Sandstorm review

I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. It pains me to write that. I’m RPS’s shooty boy, the kid with the crosshairs. I chomp M4A1 rounds for breakfast. But an average round of Insurgency: Sandstorm tends to chew me up instead, then squat over me while informing me about my poor life choices.

I think I’m having a good time?

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Feature: Isn't she lovely?

A gallery of ways that Gris is beautiful

Good morning! A lot of people had their end-of-year work parties this weekend, including us. But now it's Monday again. It's too early for... anything. You've got loads of wrapping to do and because you're not in your 20s any more, the hangovers last for three days. So here is something soothing to stare at, meditatively. Pick out little details. Stay in bed a bit too long because the floor is very cold.

In my review I said that Gris might be the most stunning game I have ever seen. It's an assessment I stand by, despite not being a huge fan of the story framework that stunningness (stunability?) is deployed around. Gris is probably a must play for anyone interested in illustration or animation.

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Epic Games have melted down Infinity Blade twice in one week. First they scrapped Infinity Blade, their mobile action-RPG series, and now they've removed the Infinity Blade they added to Fortnite Battle Royale in homage to it. As I explained after Epic added it, Fortnite's Infinity Blade was overpowered to the point of ruining the game at all levels from pubs to Epic's $1 million Winter Royale tournament. They had planned balance tweaks to tone down the murdersword but nah, they've conceded that they straight "messed up" and should think harder before adding any more of these 'Mythic' items.

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The creator of Stardew Valley has temporarily set aside working on his next game in favour of making adding more free content to the much-beloved farm-o-craft-a-fight-y life sim RPG. Eric "ConcernedApe" Barone has been mighty secretive about his next game, not saying what it even is let alone when we might get to play it, so it remains in the nebulous future. Before he gets back to work in this mystery game, he plans to form a development team to keep Stardew updates rolling while he's occupied.

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Feature: Read more

The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for SHOPPING OH GOD THERE'S STILL SO MUCH SHOPPING. You can also read the best writing about videogames from the past week.

"What the Popularity of ‘Fortnite’ Has in Common With the 20th Century Pinball Craze" is a Smithsonian headline that made me both curious and vaguely tired. I'm glad the former feeling won out, because Clive Thompson's historiography of pinball is fascinating.

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Feature: Make a decision!

Priceless Play – 15 December 2018

Is there anything quite so glorious as being right? The smug playground-satisfaction of pulling out an "I told you so," or (even better) the long-con revenge of living well? Of course, every good thing has its price. For every instance of being right, there must exist an equal and opposite instance of being wrong. The less enjoyable forfeit of "You were right, and I was wrong. Vanessa Hudgens does play her doppelgänger, Lady Margaret Delacourt, Duchess of Montenaro in hit Netflix original film The Princess Switch, and she doesn't have a heretofore unknown identical twin." Sometimes it stings to be wrong. But it means you put yourself out there -- and that's commendable.

When we're having trouble juggling responsibilities, decisions, and judgement, our good friend Video Games comes in. For some, the holidays are looming ahead. For another few, this means spending time with family. Your experiences could run the gamut! Tensions might be running high. Maybe you need to practice admitting you were wrong. Or maybe you need to practice being right. Maybe you just need a break from deciding anything at all. For whatever you need, I hope here lies the remedy. You decide.

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Excellent stealthy-stabby sequel Dishonored 2 and its also-excellent standalone expansion Death Of The Outsider have followed in the steps of other games late in their lives and removed Denuvo DRM. Arkane and Bethesda likely figure that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar - those who buy the game and provide a Bethesda store or launcher login will get a pair of new (if minor) perks. You get a Disho-noired black, white & red graphics mode and the option to replay any mission with your choice of powers, plus the pre-order bonus items for Dishonored 2.

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Subnautica - Unknown Worlds Entertainment's excellent aquatic survival adventure - is currently free to grab and keep forever on the Epic store, making it probably the most tempting reason to look at the shop after exclusives like Hades and Ashen. Released less than a year ago after a lengthy ride through early access, Subnautica is a gem. As someone who doesn't ordinarily like survival craft 'em ups, I still got into it, exploring its thoughtfully designed cavern networks and alien ruins as I delved deeper underwater. The game is free for the next two weeks, so swoop on down and grab it for free before it goes back up to £19.49/€20.99/$24.99.

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Seemingly in response to Epic's grand announcement of their own games store and subsequent PR barrage at The Game Awards, Discord have announced they're going to be offering a better cut on games distribution too. As of next year, the recently-launched Discord game store will be open for self-publishing, with the company taking 10% (less than Valve's 30% and Epic's 12%, more than Itch's split-how-you-want), leaving developers with 90%. In their announcement, Discord state that "it does not cost 30% to distribute games in 2018", and I've doubts it ever did once we went digital.

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Feature: Cheap games, graphics cards, monitors and more

Best PC gaming deals of the week – 14th December 2018

Welcome one and all, your deals herald has returned from her Day That Shall Not Be Named mini-break. There's still a bit of residual trauma associated with that dark, dark day (dealsdealsdeals), but a week spent playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey for reasons even I can't fathom has been one heck of an antidote. It's probably because I've been challenging all that endless, repetitive deals-checking frenzy into Odyssey's equally repetitive stabbing objectives. All I've got to do is loot one treasure you say? Sure! That's like a big fat 80% off sticker compared to some objectives I've previously completed, I will do that right away, no problem. Anything to get one more golden proclamation across the screen that makes it feel like I'm accomplishing something.

But enough Odyssey rambling. You're here for the deals! And man alive are there some good ones, particularly if you're looking for some cheapy cheap games. And it doesn't even involve any murdering random foot soldiers in the bushes either. Result.

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Videogames are awesome (and also one word), but the industry making them has some undeniable problems. The newly-established Game Workers Unite UK, now an official branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) hopes to make things a little better for folks in the business, reduce worker exploitation and improve diversity. We've all heard tales of soul-shattering crunch, unpaid overtime and people axed from jobs with little warning and even less severance pay, so as far as I'm concerned, this is a good, sure step in the right direction.

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Best PC gaming deals of the week - 14th December 2018

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Best PC gaming deals of the week - 9th November 2018

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Best PC gaming deals of the week - 2nd November 2018

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