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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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Tis the season to be spooky, so you might fancy grabbing a free copy of Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs from Epic to keep you quivering until Amnesia: Rebirth launches next week. Piggy-wigs was quite different for an Amnesia follow-up, having been made by Everybody's Gone To The Rapture developers Thechineseroom rather than series creators Frictional Games, but it does have some jolly unpleasant parts. Defs worth a poke for the price.

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Feature: Roguehoplite

Have You Played… Hoplite?

Hoplite has been an instant install on any new phone I buy since before I'd left university. It's an unassuming turn-based roguelite where you play as a Hoplite deftly moving from enemy to enemy, from tiny map to tiny map, in search of a Golden Fleece. It's also the first thing that comes to mind when I try to dredge up a list of games that pare back their chosen genre until what remains is the absolute essentials and nothing else.

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7 minutes! It'd take me thrice as long just to get through character creation, at least. Baldur's Gate 3 may only offer a portion of the final planned experience right now, but even that lengthy chunk has been boiled down to a mere 7 minutes by speedrunner Cary “Professor Palmer” Palmer, who's figured out a way to quite literally jump through the entire thing in the blink of an eye.

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It is time, dear readers, to enter the Ring Of Pain. Simon Boxer's frightfully intense roguelike sets its trap today, hoping to ensnare you in a pit of terrifying owls, wretched monsters and some quite-good dungeon-delving strategy. There are great treasures and challenges to be found in the ring, after all - as long as you remember that the name isn't just for show.

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There's nothing quite like the first time you play Dark Souls. Sure, you can go back with new builds, try a new weapon or go for a no-hit run, but you'll never quite recapture the feeling of not knowing what's around the next corner. That's why a group of modders have decided to go and make their own Dark Souls "sequel", Nightfall, offering a whole new adventure with a completely new world.

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Who is Jack, anyway? And why, once again, has he delivered another box of play-on-your-phone party games for us to scream and laugh and have a merry old time with? While I still don't know Jack (geddit?), I do know that his latest batch of games has arrived on Steam, with The Jackbox Party Pack 7 bringing us a fresh batch of 5 new excuses to laugh, cry and curse at our mates all over again.

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Noita blasts its way out of early access today

Come, one and all, to mess with every last lovely little pixel in the excellent action roguelite, Noita, which leaves early access today. Nolla Games' witchy adventure will take you through procedurally-generated levels in which every pixel is part of a simulation. It really is a wonder watching all your spells alter and, let's be honest, destroy the landscape. The full release comes with a big update, adding even more spells with which to demolish levels. Excellent.

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Spaceships, it turns out, are kinda hard to operate. NASA aren't sending folks up in shuttles all alone, after all. Released today, Bomber Crew follow-up Space Crew is a tactical management game that tasks you with the smooth operation of an interstellar starship, daring you to keep the lights on with slightly too-few crewmates while aliens remind you how desperately thin the hull plating is.

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Go fast and leave a beautiful car crash. That's how you win in Cyberpunk 2077 - at least, according to the latest episode of trailer-filled dev stream Night City Wire. Tonight's stream was all about sharp suits and roaring engines, touring a behind-the-scenes look at Cyberpunk's near-future car parks, and going into the future history of why folks in the future are painting themselves in chrome and neon.

And if that doesn't do it for you, there's an extended bit where Keanu talks about motorcycles for like 10 minutes. What a lad.

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Autumn. Nature renews itself. Green shades turn to warm reds. The air gets chiller, the days get shorter. Kids return to school. Columns come and go. Games journalists become narrative designers. It's the circle of life.

But autumn is also the season when the laws of nature gets tweaked, and the dead wake up again to haunt the living for a day. Let's salute this column with an act of impromptu necromancy, then. One freshly resurrected Kieron Gillen, to talk about his un-life after games journalism. He's always been the goth-est of us, after all.

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By all accounts, the Oculus Quest 2 is a lovely bit of kit. Resident hardware buff Katharine reckons it's the best low-budget VR headset you can get your hands on in her Oculus Quest 2 review, with the caveat that you don't mind creating a Facebook account for it. Turns out, that last part may be more of a dealbreaker than first thought, with some new owners reporting that the social media monolith's overzealous account moderation is barring them entry to their shiny new headsets.

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Feature: 4K's the new 1080p

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s PC requirements are way more demanding than AC Odyssey

Assassin's Creed Odyssey remains one of the most demanding games you can play on PC right now, but having taken a closer look at Ubisoft's recently released PC requirements for Assassin's Creed Valhalla, it looks like Eivor and the rest of their Viking pals will be sticking a much heavier boot into our PC's performance than even Kassandra's mighty Spartan kick. In short, they're proper demanding these Valhalla specs, as what once passed for Ubisoft's recommended 4K spec in Odyssey is now only suitable for High at 1080p in ye olde England.

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Feature: Rawr, I guess

Podcast episode 113: the dinosaurs special

Yesterday Nate observed that he is increasingly becoming a single issue voter and that single issue is "beasts". This week, therefore, the podcast is about the best dinosaur games. There is, of course, some haggling over what constitutes a dinosaur (does it include all birds and some robots?).

Expect a lot of discussion of various incarnations of Jurassic Park, as you might expect. There is also a long tangent at the start about toilets because Matthew signed in to the recording as 'Toilet Lawyer', which is probably less expected, and a pretty credible impression of the Queen from Nate. Nate also recommends a bunch of early access or indie games that will be of interest to dinofans, although one of them is "I can't remember what it's called."

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Age Of Empires 3: Definitive Edition is out now

After 15 years, Age Of Empires 3 returns today with a shiny new expanded version. Like the AOE 2 Def Ed before it, Age Of Empires 3: Definitive Edition polishes up Ensemble's historical real-time strategy game to play nice with modern computers, rolls in all the old expansions, and adds a few new things too. Considering we've still not got Nate back from AOE2, I dread to imagine what this might to do him. We'll find asleep in the RPS treehouse in the morning with a mouse in each hand, two keyboards draped over himself like blankets, and two matches still going.

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Feature: The 'phant 'em menace

Ships in the knight: an Age Of Empires 2 match report

I've not posted about Age Of Empires 2 in a while, because there's been a lot of other things on, but I'm still plugging away with it - I start each day with a quick random match against the AI to keep my hand in, and once a week or so, I dare to enter the adrenaline-soaked APM hell of ranked multiplayer. I lose more than I win, but I'm slowly getting better. This match made me feel particularly good, and it had the plot of a classic farce (only with war elephants), so it seemed like a good one to relate to you. Get your Knight Vision Goggles on, then, and let's see how it played out.

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Airplane Mode is Flight Simulator for passengers

When Airplane Mode was announced, it seemed a fun joke: sit in a virtual aeroplane seat for the full duration of a simulated flight, trying to entertain yourself by watching films, eating plane food, reading the in-flight magazine, staring out the window, and all that. Upon its launch today, it's something else too, a weird virtual memory of a journey that's now wholly out of the question. Context, eh? I am just sorry it's not arrived under its original name, Flight Simulator, though I can imagine why that might've needed to be changed.

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Three unions that represent Blizzard employees in France called for a strike yesterday, following Activision Blizzard's decision to shut their office near Versailles. It's a move that potentially puts hundreds of jobs at risk. The unions claim the company "repeatedly denied" the closure plans, but suspect they've actually been planning it for a while.

"In 15 years, many of us left their homes from across Europe and beyond to join the company, people truly invested their whole lives into Blizzard success," they said. "This comes as a shock for employees who were not expecting that announcement."

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Sega yesterday announced plans to celebrate their 60th birthday by giving away a number of small retro-y games, including a Streets Of Rage-style demake of Yakuza and the prototype of a cancelled Golden Axe reboot. That last one has turned out to be a big surprise for some of the people who worked on it, who do not have good things to say about their experience of trying to resurrect the side-scrolling fantasy stabber. Not quite the pleasant nostalgic jaunt Sega had hoped for, this.

Update: Sega have responded with a statement saying they didn't mean to "dredge up painful memories" or "appear disrespectful", and have changed the Steam description. Read it in full below.

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I was always fairly lukewarm on the lore behind Blizzard's Warcraft games, if I'm honest. It seemed to be a case of "all shoulderpads and no substance", and I couldn't get why it gripped people so much. But then I got into Hearthstone. For whatever reason, the card game's take on the Warcraftiverse, which somehow manages to ascend to an even higher plateau of camp than the base material, really grew on me, and after five years of playing, I've ended up an accidental expert on this ridiculous body of lore. God help me, I even unironically loved the Warcraft movie, Shrek baby and all, and I'm not ashamed to say it.

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Feature: Devil's in the details

Have You Played… Lucifer’s Atoms?

It makes me a little bit sad sometimes, when I play something absolutely fascinating that also happens to have barely any chance of getting the recognition it deserves. These games aren't confined to obscurity because of the ol' David & Goliath narrative of plucky indies and all-powerful AAA ogres, but because they seem to be made without a care for mass market appeal. Lucifer's Atoms, from Peter Stock (the developer of the marvellous Armadillo Run), is one such game.

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Don't miss our superb hardware coverage

Just how good are AMD's first 4K Big Navi benchmarks?

We put AMD's Big Navi benchmarks head to head with the RTX 3080.

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Oculus Quest 2 review

A worthy if divisive successor to the Oculus Rift S

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Assassin's Creed Valhalla is less than a month away now, so Ubisoft are flinging out details left and right. They've made a whole seven minute trailer of them, in fact. The new video talks more about Eivor's unlockable skills and customising your Viking settlement. They've also published the recommended PC specs today, so you can get a gander at those too.

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Shh, nobody tell Sega that they've done their birthday backwards by giving away free stuff instead of accepting it. Sega are beginning celebrations for their 60th anniversary by giving away Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and Nights Into Dreams free for keeps, as well as some new games inspired by retro classics. Streets Of Kamurocho, seriously? That's a perfectly executed combo.

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These are your 10 most popular Prime Day deals

As Amazon Prime Day draws to a close, we've been sifting through our deals data to see which of the many, many discounts you, the RPS readers, liked the most. I should stress, all of our data is completely anonymous. We don't know who bought what, just what was bought. And man alive, you bought a heck of a lot of storage this year, that's for sure, driving the excellent 1TB WD Blue SN550 SSD to victory to become your most popular Prime Day deal of the last 48 hours. And quite right, too - it really was (and still is, I should note) a pretty brilliant bargain, and definitely my stand-out deal of the entire event. So here's what Amazon Prime Day looked like to you, readers - and I must say, I definitely approve of your very good taste.

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Rockstar have announced today that, as was previously rumored, they have indeed acquired Ruffian Games, makers of Crackdown 2 and helping hands on Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Ruffian is getting less ruff, adopting the new corporate family name Rockstar Dundee. Both say they look forward to working together on future projects, though they've not said yet just what those will be.

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I, like us all, have experienced times of acute stress in my life. I've had to retake all my A-levels, gotten a divorce, and undergone abdominal surgery that it took a month to recover from. I couldn't open doors or sneeze without being in pain.

None of this comes close to the experience of playing Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! with a broken keyboard.

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Looks like a data miner has potentially discovered footage of Warzone's new map within Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War's files. Someone posted four short clips over on Reddit which show multiplayer maps coming to Cold War, but their file names each begin with "wz_" which suggests they'll be reused as locations in the Warzone map. We may need to get our skiis on.

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The space-faring pilots of Eve Online have had quite a time with the evolving story that CCP Games cooked up for them. Those dastardly Triglavians have been throwing space wrenches in everyone's plans for months and now the fourth quadrant (space talk for "chapter") of the story has arrived. The Phoenix Quadrant will ask players to rebuild New Eden in the aftermath of the star wars.

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Feature: Markedly different

Hot take: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s map needs more quest markers

“Less is more”. A classic advertising slogan isn’t it? I imagine a minimalist house with shelves that fold away discreetly and a glass coffee table that sits in an expanse of glossy white. They’re often marketed as an economic use of space that cuts out any unnecessary noise. I don’t disagree! If anything, I can see the appeal. But I prefer homes with a bit of character. Sentimental objects everywhere, stacks of books strewn on desks, low beams and old fireplaces. These are the sorts of spaces I like, where all the clutter has history and gives the place personality.

Ubisoft clearly designed Assassin’s Creed Valhalla with a brochure of the former open, and I came away from my hands on demo feeling like the world they’d crafted was certainly beautiful, but largely devoid of things to do. Throughout my playtime, I craved the feeling Assassin's Creed Odyssey gave me, of barrelling through a map littered with icons and crashing into its caves and forts and chests. I wanted to dash between markers, but instead I was left spinning in the English countryside.

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