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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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Nowpunk and the politics of the personal in Neo Cab

Neo Cab is that game you’ve seen about being an Uber or Lyft style gig-economy driver, set in a dystopian sci-fi future. It has been described as “neon-drenched” because that is the only way we have thought of to describe “thing that is cyberpunk” so far.

“We don’t actually self-identify as cyberpunk,” said Patrick Ewing, creative director of the developers Chance Agency, and not a retired basketball player. “We call ourselves ‘nowpunk’.” Neo Cab is, he explains, about a world where we just continue on our current trajectory. “I do think that's the job of dystopian sci fi, is to warn you of something while there's still a chance of changing it.”

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While I was playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, I thought out loud, “Man, do I have a lot of questions about surgery in feudal Japan.” Less about how you operate on a man so that he wakes up and suddenly finds himself with a prosthetic, having remained peacefully unconscious throughout the entire procedure, and more about how feasible the shinobi prosthetic in Sekiro really is. Thankfully I have a place to ponder all these questions.

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Steam Charts: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO Edition

What mysteries lurk in all that ocean water? If Like Gulls Crying At The Dawn is anything to go by, you might not actually want to find out. On its surface, it’s a game about finding washed up messages from a shipwrecked traveller, but, just like the ocean, there are currents of deeper themes underneath. It also has less tortured metaphors than I do.

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Like Alice B, I’ve been playing Ritual Of The Moon for the past few days. In case you somehow missed it, she’s been keeping a diary of her adventures as an exiled space witch in the game, which is designed to be played for a few minutes every day for a month. The game was released on Friday and I like it very much.

I also like the bits of developer Kara Stone’s other work that I’ve played. Much of it has similar themes to Ritual Of The Moon, including both astronomy and astrology. As such, here’s a recommendation of one of her games to play, based on your star sign.

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Screenshot Saturday, a lovely showcase of all things upcoming games. Screenshot Saturday Sundays, where I pick just a few for us to gawk at, in the full knowledge that making games is hard and anything could happen to change, delay, or prevent the best-laid plans of these developers. This week: a library to escape the cold, an island full of friendly slimes, and skate tricks on an alien planet.

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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for going on wholesome walks with family you haven't seen in months. Not for reading the best writing about videogames. If you do that you are bad.

On Waypoint, Patrick Klepek profiled one of UKIP's candidates for the European Parliment. That candidate is Carl Benjamin, one of Gamergate's most prominent figures. Klepek highlights the depths of Benjamin's hatefulness, then stresses that we shouldn't take his defeat for granted.

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This week I’ve been exploring the nebula of Heaven’s Vault, but, like so many of the translations protagonist Aliya is trying to untangle, my playtime has been fragmentary. Picking through in half-hour chunks, I’ve become very appreciative of how the game preserves its own history. Loading up will give you a short but specific reminder of what you were up to before, and for more details you can dig into the timeline, which stretches back thousands of years but simultaneously keeps a helpful log of the events of the past few days.

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Exploring a bunch of ruins for mysterious glowing orbs is dangerous, it turns out, even if there are no monsters or even other people around. Esothe is primarily a game about exploring a world full of gorgeous ruins, but there’s plenty of places you might take a tumble and be greeted by a sickening crunch. When you’re mostly used to hearing birdsong and silence, that can be quite a shock.

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The latest Overwatch event, Storm Rising, takes our shooty-bang cast to Havana, Cuba, and the full escort map is available to noodle around in on the test servers before its launch in a couple of weeks. Like all of the game’s locations, it uses shortcuts to communicate place within the necessary constraints. There’s a rum distillery, of course, and a large sea fort presumably based on the Morro Castle. And then there are the cars.

Cuba is famously filled with 50s motors, but Overwatch’s cars are all futuristic, floating along without wheels. On most maps, they look basically the same as cars you would see today, other than their hovering capabilities, but in Havana they retain the aesthetic that you might expect. Except that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

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Fortnite Battle Royale is feeling more and more like a misnomer of late. Its most recent foray out of the genre is a competitive Creative World Cup, five trials based around specific challenges created by famous Fortniters, with a final running alongside the regular World Cup finals this July. Good news for those who are better at putting up walls than sniping through them.

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Ritual Of The Moon diary: day disaster

You may recall that yesterday I pointed out that I had started the diary just before I went on holiday for a week. I thought I would be very clever and play it while I was at home and keep turning copy in, and Graham would be like "Wow, thank you for putting extra effort in, have a raise and a bonus of a billion million quid."

The thorn in this particular ointment is that I forgot to put the save files on a USB, and as it turns out Ritual Of The Moon doesn't automatically sync save files to different computers via your Steam account because obviously it doesn't Alice, you buffoon, you imbecile of the highest order.

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Civic Beauties: the best upcoming city-builders

With the one-two punch of Tropico 6 and then Anno 1800 launching over the last three weeks, plenty have noted that the city-building genre is currently enjoying a spate of urban renewal. Indeed, it’s hard to keep up with current releases: as well as these giant games about colonising tropical islands, recent months have seen a string of small-studio hits - Foundation, Islanders, Factory Town and Soviet Republic, to name just a few. Then of course there was Dawn of Man. This neolithic gem from a two-man studio came out of nowhere - like Fred Flintstone climbing, shitfaced, through his window after nine hours at the Ape & Megalith - and ended up briefly conquering Steam.

We’re entering an exciting time for games about deciding where to put things, and this is just the start of it: there are dozens of build ‘em ups on the way, and for those of us who’ve spent the last twenty years wistfully remembering Caesar III, the horizon is alight with promise.

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Feature: UBOAT's U-boats are tubular tenements

The Flare Path: Topp Drawer

How humiliating. U-96, a WW2 Unterseeboot on the cusp of greatness, has just been sent to the bottom of the Celtic Sea by a Royal Navy ship named after a hardy perennial. Should I have taken her deeper after disembowelling that freighter with a couple of T2s? Should I have zigzagged more energetically when the boom-barrel deluge began? Perhaps my mistake was not diving the instant the broad-beamed British bedding plant turned in my direction? Attempting to torpedo alerted escort vessels is seldom sensible - you'd think an old Silent Hunter would have remembered that.

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Thank you and farewell, John Walker. That's him off now, off to a better place to... look, I do still half-suspect it's no accident he's scarpering on Good Friday, but surely even John wouldn't dare to return three days later and declare himself the second coming of games blogging? That's more a Kieron move.

This is Easter weekend, whether John rises again or not, so we'll be away both Friday and Monday. We have a few posts lined up over the long weekend but we'll be quieter than usual until Tuesday. We will then return... well, still a little quieter than usual because John won't be here. But in a way, John will be everywhere.

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

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Have You Played… The Bridge?

Before Monument Valley brought its Escher-inspired worlds to the iOS masses, there was The Bridge. Not to be confused with the excellent Scandi-crime drama of the same name (although it's arguably just as sinister thanks to the cold, dead, pupil-less eyes of the protagonist and the grinning, malicious balls everywhere just waiting to fall on your head), The Bridge is a twisty turny 2D logic puzzler from the minds of Ty Taylor and Mario Castaneda. And it's rather good.

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God's Trigger is out now, and unmistakably a big, loud tribute to Hotline Miami. Developed by One More Level, it takes the formula of Dennaton's hyper-lethal top-down shooter and bolts on (local now, online next month) co-op play, magic powers and a modern-day mythical story. Controlling a remarkably fragile angel-and-devil duo (tag-teaming if you play solo), there's a whole lot of shooting to be done between them and their targets; the four horsemen of the apocalypse. See the launch trailer below, focusing on the horsemen and their big set-piece boss fights.

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Infocom text adventures were some of the first PC games I ever played. I was too young to properly wrap my head around them at the time, but they still mean a lot to me. Thus, I'm happy to report that archivist Jason Scott of textfiles.com has uploaded the original source code for all of them to GitHub this week. Digital historians and aspiring coders alike can poke through the bones of these videogame dinosaurs, and hopefully learn a few things about the do's and do not's of text parser interfaces. You can find the code here in the Historical Source section of the site.

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After half an hour with Forager, I can already feel its compulsion loops getting their hooks into my brain. Developed by HopFrog and released today, it's a cute single-player game about a little pixel-person mining and crafting and looting in perpetuity, continually escalating spirals of numbers, equipment and levels. There's land to buy (full of resources), dungeons to delve (full of gold to buy land) and monsters to blat (full of components to craft into other things to make things faster). If the launch trailer (and free demo) below is any indication, those loops stretch on a long way.

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Transistor is free for the next two weeks on the Epic Games Store and it is my humble opinion that you should be playing it right now, because it is a gem. Currently my favourite of Supergiant Games's all-excellent lineup (with wizard-sportsball adventure Pyre a very close second), it's part action RPG, part turn-based tactical combat, and all classy. Set in a jazzy art-deco cyberworld, Transistor has gorgeous art and music and features a giant sword that is also a USB stick containing Logan Cunningham's most doting, boyfriendly voice. Nab it here, keep it forever.

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Feature: Which laptop will emerge victorious?

Acer Predator Helios 500 review: GTX 1070 vs Vega 56

Take a look at the specs of any of today's gaming laptops and there's a 99.9% chance it's got an Intel CPU and Nvidia graphics chip inside it. That's mostly because AMD haven't really bothered with gaming laptops for the last couple of years, but that's slowly starting to change. Case in point: Acer's Predator Helios 500 laptop, which is available in both AMD and Nvidia graphics flavours. The former has one of AMD's Radeon RX Vega 56 chips while the latter comes with a full-fat GTX 1070.

But rather than review each one individually, I thought I'd do something a bit different this time and get both models in and pit them against each other to see which one you should actually buy. After all, both laptops are roughly the same price in the US right now ($1898 for the Nvidia one and $1829 for the AMD), while the AMD version in the UK is around £300 cheaper, going for £1499 as opposed to £1769 for the Nvidia jobber. Which one will triumph? Let's find out.

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After a couple rounds of closed testing, Pagan Online launches into early access today. It's an action RPG that aims to make its moment-to-moment combat a bit more involved by cribbing notes from the MOBA genre, with less screen-filling spam and more dangerous enemies. It's developed by Mad Head Games and Wargaming, and rather than join the free-to-play options in the genre, it's to be a full priced commercial game, albeit a bit cheaper while it's still in development. Today's release is single-player only, with co-op due to be patched in soon. See the launch trailer below.

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Podcast: Watch us acting silly at EGX Rezzed 2019

I say “watch” because this week's podcast takes place in a real room in front of a real audience (don’t worry, there’s an audio version too). At Rezzed in London this month, we thought it’d be fun to re-enact three of the most memorable scenes of PC gaming, exactly as you remember them. So strap on your eye-wideners and prepare for some wonderful acting. Including a 100% faithful adaptation of the most notorious moment in any Final Fantasy game: the death of... Aerosmith?

Alice! Alice, what have you done to these scripts!?

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Grenade-spamming Guardians giddy on magical spacepop will continue to muck up Destiny 2 PvP for the next three weeks, Bungie have confirmed, saying they're unable to easily disable the special event item that's causing trouble. The Reveler's Tonic arrived in Destiny this week as part of the MMOFPS's colourful spring event, The Revelry, and can give players huge boosts to ability recharge rates. With the right character build, Guardians can constantly spam homing cluster grenades. That's silly fun in the Revelry event mode and general PvE, but it sucks to face in PvP - and especially the Crucible's ranked Competitive mode. Apparently, it'll continue to suck for the full duration of the event.

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Bye-bye RPS, thanks for having me

Today is my last day at Rock Paper Shotgun. Which is damned weird to type. As I chronicled at quite some length last week, creating RPS was a thing I helped do, along with Alec Meer, Kieron Gillen and Jim Rossignol. It is, in a very not real sense, my baby. It's weird to just walk away from your baby.

Except, and see if you can follow me here, RPS isn't actually a baby. It's a website. Walking away from a baby is a very terrible thing to do, because they're helpless idiots. RPS, in contrast, is, as I've mentioned, a website, and it's legally fine to walk away. But it still feels really weird.

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Future spies are the best kind of spies. What they lack in self-contained underwater [duck] breathing apparatus, they more than make up for with mind control and scary drones. By crazy random happenstance, those are just two of the tools available in Sigma Theory, a sci-fi cold war 'em up about espionage and global domination. It just launched in early access.

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

What's this? Your deals herald is a day early with this week's best PC gaming deals? Fear not, for it is the long Easter weekend, my friends, which means we're all going to be too busy stuffing our faces with chocolate eggs and the best Easter gaming bargains to do any work tomorrow. Plus it's a bank holiday. And an extra day off can only mean one thing - an extra day of deals! Because that is what I live for now. And man alive, is there an Easter sale bonanza going on this weekend. Everywhere you look it's deals, deals, deals. So let's dive straight in and cram as many deals eggs in our gobs as possible.

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Best PC gaming deals of the week - 18th April 2019

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