Best PC gaming deals of the week

If you’re not entirely out of money by now thanks to Steam’s rather massive Summer Sale, or if today is the day that you’ve been paid, welcome! It’s time to take a look at the very best deals that the last week had to show us, so let’s get to it.

As usual, we’ve got deals that’ll work in the UK, deals that’ll work in the US and some deals that will work in both the UK and US, as well as presumably many other places. Let’s get started.

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Have You Played… Sethian?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

In Sethian you find an alien computer and, as an archeologist of such things, you must decipher the language of its ancient users. It’s a very clever piece of interactive fiction that I happily recommend despite a glaring central problem, which was summed up perfectly by a comment on my original review:

“You’re essentially trying to talk about philosophy with a chatbot,” it said, “while possessing the linguistic ability of a toddler.” Read the rest of this entry »

Civ 6, EUIV and Endless Legend designers on how their strategy games create the illusion of a world

Big, slow, sweeping strategy games expose their rules in a way no other game does. Call of Duty doesn’t have floating numbers above enemy heads, telling you their movement speed, for example. But in most 4X and grand strategy games, there is no attempt to hide exactly how everything works: the stats, their interactions, are all laid out and plain to see. Yet these games are utterly dependent on their ability to evoke a sense of place, scale, and history – they have to be much more than just a fancy chessboard, they have to feel alive, or they’re just not much fun. How can these games survive and thrive under such conflicting pressures? I spoke to three of the world’s top strategy game designers, from Firaxis, Paradox and Amplitude, to find out. Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: The Infectious Madness Of Doctor Dekker

There have been surprisingly few FMV games in the wake of Her Story. It’s a high bar to try to reach. So does the incredibly ambitious The Infectious Madness Of Doctor Dekker [official site] reach it? Here’s wot I think. Read the rest of this entry »

Podcast: The Electronic Wireless Show talks Caveblazers, The Witcher 3, and Orcs Must Die

Jingle jingle, it’s the RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show. This week we discuss the ongoing Steam summer sale and bare our respective piles of shame. Editor-at-arms Graham also joins us to talk about spelunking roguelike Caveblazers, while Pip takes on the free-to-play Orcs Must Die! Unchained and Brendan marches on with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

But wait! There’s also an interview with the creators of “roguevania” Dead Cells, and we take some questions from listeners too. But most importantly, we introduce some extra jingles from our music man, Jack. Come and listen, educate yourself.

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How Gwent has evolved in its journey from minigame to multiplayer gem

Gwent [official site] is both one of the best PC minigames and one of its best collectible card games. Its first version, playable in The Witcher 3, is a smart minigame fantastically integrated into an RPG. Its free-to-play standalone version, which recently entered open beta, is a brilliant reinvention of the game for a multiplayer, competitive setting. Rather than opting merely to give a great minigame its own .exe, developers CD Projekt Red have clearly re-evaluated the rules from the ground up, radically altering Gwent so it works by itself. Gwent has retained its identity in the transition but it has also become a game that’s fun to play with other humans.

Gwent has evolved, and the continued existence of both versions provides a unique opportunity to ask how and why. Rarely do two games with the same structure and objectives exist side by side. It’s a terrific opportunity to investigate how Gwent has been adapted for its new purpose. Read the rest of this entry »

Unknown Pleasures: Steam’s latest hidden delights

Welcome back to Unknown Pleasures, our weekly wade through Steam’s ever-deepening sewers to find ten sparkling new releases that perhaps have not enjoyed the attention they deserve.

This week: absurdist sports medicine, roguelike vs poker vs match-3, bumblebee simulation and chimp-powered internet. Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Played… Black & White?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

I was vibrating with excitement by the time god game Black & White came out, having read umpteen development diaries about its physics, its AI, its morality system, its gesture controls… So many ideas! So much potential. Read the rest of this entry »

Premature Evaluation: Colony Survival

Every week we cast Brendan into the early access wilderness to see what friends he can make. This time, he recruits some peasant help to run a farm in Colony Survival [Steam page]

To look at the videos of Colony Survival you might think it a top-down city builder or a blocky management sim. In reality, it’s a Minecraftbut. That once safe and sound (now vastly oversubscribed) subgenre that sees you building a personal castle out of giant blocks from a first-person perspective and fending off nightly monsters, like a really lonely King. But here, you’re not so alone. Colonists in the form of AI-controlled helpers can be recruited to farm crops, mine ore, grind flour and cook bread. This is Minecraft-but-with-serfs.
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State of the Art: The monsters of Prey

Prey's Typhon

I’m only a little way into Prey [official site] at the moment but one of the most interesting aspects for me is the monster design. I love pausing the trailers to peer more closely at their glitchy, weird forms without worrying about being killed. The monsters in question are these hostile lifeforms which all come under the bracket of “Typhon” but there are different species of Typhon within that.

The differing shapes, sizes and movements make it easy to distinguish one species from another. There are the scuttling spidery, crabby Mimics, the tentacled, floating Telepaths, the humanoid Phantoms… But there’s a common visual thread – all of them are these glitchy, threatening oilslicks whose forms never quite settle. Even when dead their surfaces ripple and shimmer. Emmanuel Petit (lead visual designer) and Jason Timmons (lead visual effects artist) offered their expertise so we could unpack the design of these writhing oddities. Read on to find out why the idea of colour palettes makes the team laugh and how they repurposed foliage tools for monster silhouettes! Read the rest of this entry »

Wot I Think: Darkest Dungeon – The Crimson Court

The Crimson Court [official site] has transformed Darkest Dungeon into a turducken of cruelty. Every layer of the tactical RPG is now laced with poison and jam-packed with barbs that pierce and tear with every bite. What was already an extremely challenging game has become considerably harsher and unyielding, so much so that even gluttons for punishment may balk at the prospect of fighting the new vampiric menace.

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Northwest Passages: Reaching for the Beaufort Sea

My noble mission to travel the infamous Northwest Passage using only my wits and salty sailing sim Sailaway [official site] continues with all the recklessness of a manic toddler. Last time the crew and I got stuck in water a metre deep after we made the definitely joint decision to detour into a place called Terror Bay. But nothing can stop this valiant vessel. The Bluster & Guesswork will not know failure. It will not know disruption. It will not know defeat! I mean, it’s a boat, it won’t know anything.
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Frostpunk asks why we survive, not just how

In the first week, we put the children to work. They weren’t forced into dangerous jobs, so we told ourselves, but when you’re living on the brink of extinction, what work is truly safe? One afternoon, a man collecting coal complained of numbness in his arm. Frostbite had taken hold. We could have left him to die but instead we opted for an experimental treatment.

He lost the arm and he’s no longer capable of contributing to our dying society. One more mouth to feed with no body of work beneath it. What should we do?

Frostpunk [official site] is a city-building survival sim from the studio that brought us This War of Mine and it is beautifully bleak.

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Retrospective: Darksiders II – Deathinitive Edition

Returning to Darksiders II [official site] nearly five years after I first reviewed it, for a worrying time I wondered what on Earth I’d been on about. I remember absolutely loving the game, and writing a rave review back in 2012, so why was I struggling to even want to carry on in the first hour? It turns out, it just has a really dull first hour, because ten hours in I’m so utterly engrossed, and want to rave about it all over again. Read the rest of this entry »

My struggle in Passpartout: The Starving Artist

Passpartout: The Struggling Artist [official site] is a painting sim in which you must splatter some canvases in the most talented way you can and hope that the discerning public will take notice of your genius. But you can only do this with the most rudimentary artist’s tools. Imagine if making bad pictures in MS Paint was a profession and you got paid hundreds of dollars for each poorly sketched sailboat you drew. That’s this game.

I tried to become famous in my own lifetime by painting a variety of wholesome scenes, including a series in which a recurring motif known as the Stretch Man dispenses various vital fluids on the people of the earth. Here’s how I got on. Read the rest of this entry »

Steam Charts: Sale away, sale away, sale away

The Steam Summer Sale is here to rescue us from the same old games! Hooray! Hooray! Hoo-whatnow? Oh for crying out loud, the usual games are all on sale too, aren’t they? Read the rest of this entry »

The RPG Scrollbars: Gameshow For A LARP

This week saw the return of one my all-time favourite TV programmes, Channel 4’s The Crystal Maze – the knockabout silliness of a team, thankfully not usually including Louie Spence, bopping around four time-zones (Industrial, Aztec, Medieval and Futuristic) in a quest to recover magic time crystals, win distinctly underwhelming prizes, and ideally not look like a complete arse. It’s a wonderful show. But, sadly, not one I can really justify talking about while pretending to write an RPG column. Luckily, it is but part of a great lineage – the wonderful world of British TV LARPing.

Just not the kind where you’re going to see many lightning bolt, lightning bolts.

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