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Rock Paper Shotgun – PC Game Reviews, Previews, Subjectivity

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There's a new Dragon Age on the way, according to the moody teaser shown during December's Game Awards. Forgot where you left off? Best start catching up with Dragon Age: Origins then, with the rather lovely Qwinn's Ultimate DAO Fixpack mod. As the title suggests, it's your one-stop shop for polishing up the game and fixing up all the little issues Bioware never had the chance to officially patch. It even reinstates a handful of lost dialogues and events to the game - nothing too dramatic, but a good foundation to start with, though you may want to buff it up with a few more choice mods before starting.

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Feature: Terrans for nothing and Zerg for free

Best StarCraft 2 mods: huge RTS campaigns you can play for free

StarCraft 2 remains an RTS esports favourite nine years from launch, but its mod scene never got the love or attention it deserved. Despite Blizzard's support, an in-game mod browser, powerful editor and even a short-lived premium mod program, a lot flew under the radar. While some mods and standalone missions remain popular in the StarCraft 2 Arcade, we're going to be diving deep into the biggest, best and newest single-player campaigns available. Whether you're an RTS veteran or don't know what a Zerg is, there's something for you here.

The icing on the space-cake is that all of this is completely free. StarCraft 2's first episode - Wings Of Liberty - has full mod support, and Blizzard made it free back in 2017. Every one of these campaigns can be played start to finish, fully intact and without a scratch on your wallet. Impressive, considering one is a full modernised remake of the original StarCraft and its expansion.

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Feature: Armless fun

Pikuniku review

Do you remember those jelly-like toy octopuses you had when you were a kid, which you throw at a window or wall? They'd half-stick/half-walk their way down the surface, their legs glooping on and off as they rolled in a semi-controlled fall. That's what the character in the ridiculously delightful Pikuniku most immediately reminds me of. It's just the way he walks. It's the most adorable thing there is. And he kicks too.

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Wednesday, January 23 2019 will be a day remembered in infamy. The day that the human race committed, inexorably, to self-destruction. The day that cardsy-roguey titan Slay The Spire left early access and got itself a full release. Such a lovely game, such a lovely game. You can check it out any time you like, but you can never Save & Quit.

And so I bring you these words as a dual warning: 1) BEWARE OF THE INCREDIBLE VIDEOGAME AND THE TERRIBLE THINGS IT WILL DO TO YOU 2) the price is due to be raised at any point between now and the 23rd, so get in quick. (Except don't, because it will destroy you).

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I'd missed that 2016's first-person spooker Layers Of Fear was getting a sequel but: oh, it is. No, not Observer, the ace cyberspooky game that developers Bloober Team made next, an actual sequel with a number and everything. Layers Of Fear 2 is its name, and wandering a spooky boat telling the tale of a suffering actor is its game. They've even got a proper fancy actor to narrate this terrible tale, Tony Todd, who you might know as the Candyman or Worf's brother off Star Trek. Here, hear his ace voice in this new trailer.

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Supporter funded post: I SPEND A LOT OF TIME STARING AT THE SAME GAMES, OKAY?

The weird things I’ve noticed when benchmarking video games

You may have noticed I've written a fair few words about Nvidia's new RTX 2060 this week. It's a good graphics card and I like it a lot. If it had existed three years ago when I wanted to get Matthew a graphics card for Christmas that could play The Witcher III at 60fps at 1440p on max settings, I probably would have bought it instead of the GTX 1070 I ended up getting instead because it seemed like the best compromise at the time.

Of course, the only way to tell if a graphics card is any good is to play some games with it. Specifically, the same three-odd minutes of said games over and over and over again so you end up with a uniform set of data you can use to compare and contrast across a wide variety of cards, resolutions and graphics settings. And let me tell you, you start to notice some really odd things when you've played the same 90 seconds for the 1800th time in a row.

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Feature: Because Steam Graphs didn't SEO as well

Steam Charts: Hard Truths Edition

Don't be scared. It's OK. I've got you. Hold my hand. Tighter. Come on. We can do this together. You and me. Lets... Steam Chart.

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"Make something that makes something", goes the tagline for Procjam. It's an annual game(ish) jam that invites designers to come up with a procedurally generated something - but those projects aren't the only wonders it spawns.

Every year also sees a new edition of Seeds, a companion zine where participants are invited to explain what they've done. It's also open to essays on any AI-related topic, and 2018's crop was strong.

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Feature: The dwarves could only afford a dog for their zoo

Dwarf Fortress diary: The Basement Of Curiosity episode two – flailing in a pool of dwarf pus

Last time on the BoC: Expedition leader Lorbam shepherded her dwarves to the Jungle of Hides, where they spent the spring digging out a home in a lush valley. Rakust the lumberjack got his leg bruted by a tree, and Imush the craftsdwarf got extremely excited about bins.

Author’s disclaimer: Once again, things get pretty weird here. Accordingly, I should remind you that I’m not truly the writer of this column: the game Dwarf Fortress is. And I have limited control over said game. Essentially, my role is to report on its decisions, and attempt to recognise patterns amidst the electric madness.

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Pirates have once again proven themselves incapable of civil behaviour, as salty early access survival sandbox Atlas has been hit by ne'er-do-wells dropping terrible whales and other oddities all over the world - for the second time in a week. While Thursday's whale of a time was down to a "compromised" admin account, according to developers Grapeshot Games, Sunday's cetacearama was down to "a technical exploit" they say they've now closed. Once again, Grapeshot took all the official servers temporarily offline and rolled back the North American PvP servers to an earlier backup. Naughty pirates.

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It's been almost three years since we all braved one last trip into the crumbling Kickstarter mines to drag System Shock back into the daylight. Night Dive's modernised do-over of the proto-immersive sim has clearly suffered a few trials and tribulations during the protracted Remakening process, but I'm struck by how similar the latest video is to the relatively spanky demo build I played back in 2016.

But though the game would seem to have stayed the same, the same cannot be said of the lighting. It's so glowy. And foggy. And delightfully menacing.

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Read our finest PC game reviews

Premature Evaluation: Atlas

What's a pirate's favourite letter?

22

Resident Evil 2 review

Undying affection

46

Pikuniku review

Armless fun

10

If you go down to the woods today, there's a chance you'll be spied on by creepy teenagers. Co-op stealth horror game The Blackout Club now has a splash of asymmetric multiplayer, with an early access update adding an invasion system that lets one child turn stalker. The "Enter The Stalker" update tasks one invader with recording the meddling kids, until an invisible monster drags them off into an extra-dimensional void. So much for Big Society.

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Feature: Light up all the circles

Have You Played… Full Tilt! Pinball – Space Cadet?

Ah! What sordid juices have I produced in the darkness of your brain, reader? Don’t try to hide it. I know all sorts of hormonal fluids are frothing through your bloodstream at the sight of this wondrous pinball contraption. Don’t panic. It’s happening to me as well. The meaty surge of nostalgia courses through us both, for we are both alumni of this sly bumper-filled space vessel. Once, we were cadets, you and I. Cadets not only of space, but of Windows XP.

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Tiny Bird Garden Deluxe is a game about filling your life with over a hundred colourful, adorable birds. So, pretty much life goals.

It’s similar to popular cat-collection mobile game Neko Atsume, except – while I realise I’m about to make the mistake of having an opinion online – I personally prefer our feathered friends. Also, this one’s on PC so we can actually write about it.

Here’s a trailer so you can see what it’s all about. Birds! Hats! Birds in hats!

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Part point-and-click adventure, part music album, part storybook, part poem, part fairy tale – She And The Light Bearer talks about blending a whole lot of things into one game. But above all else, is it ever pretty.

Just look at the way the foliage moves and the light filters down from above in its trailer:

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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for finally sorting out the shelves you've been meaning to put up for the past two months. Or for bribing a housemate to do it for you. Or for reading the best writing about videogames from the past week.

On Eurogamer, Emily Gera asked the team behind BadCupid how they go about procedurally generating romance. BadCupid involves placing bets on procedurally generated dates, an idea that already sounds fantastic before you learn those dates can be between people like Jane Austen and the Necrodancer from Crypt of the Necrodancer.

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How much, exactly, would it cost you to be the proud owner of the domain ‘pundit.xyz’? What about ‘eloneliness.com’?

If you think you’ve got a good guess, you should try out Domain Pricing, which will pit two names against one another and ask which you think is the more expensive one to get your hands on. (Bear in mind that some domain names may be not safe for work. And that they’re usually the most valuable ones.)

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Zombie choose-o-drama The Walking Dead: The Final Season released its third episode this week, after a short delay as Telltale sadly closed its doors and Skybound took over development (thankfully with at least some of the former workers on board).

I haven’t finished it yet, because who has time to finish video games nowadays, even episodic ones that are only a few hours long. But I did play and enjoy the second episode close to its release, and a combination of choices – and mistakes – I made stood out to me, so: here is a story of how I messed up.

Spoilers for episode two below!

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Whether or not the Overwatch League should implement hero bans has been a hot topic among fans and professionals lately. Those who are behind the approach believe it'll mix up a stale meta, but it's hard to say for sure until we see it in action.

Luckily, some players will be taking it for a test drive (albeit unofficially) in tonight’s Tournament of Future Champions, run by Dallas Fuel and Team Canada coach Justin "Jayne" Conroy. Before a map begins, the two teams will be each able to select one character to eliminate from play, and one to be protected from bans.

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Feature: A collection of nearly-missed gems

Priceless Play – 19 January

Before I started my PhD, I was an Inbox Zero kind of person. I used labels. Folders. Conditional filtering! These days, I might as well have a permanent out-of-office message. This isn't to say that I never read my e-mails, but rather that they get filed into a section of my brain which I have deemed, "Later." Within the distant confines of Later, I promise myself that when the "right time comes round for it," I'll remember whatever e-mail or Tweet or Instagram post I was looking for, and I'll be able to pull it out at the perfect moment. Reader, I do not. Welcome to Spring Cleaning.

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Feature: WELL?

What are we all playing this weekend?

Remember remember, the nineteenth of January, with gunfire, treason, and- hang on, this must be a misprint in my 'On This Day...' cat calendar. Let's see. Ah! Wikipedia says January 19th, 1986 saw the release of the first IBM PC virus. Sadly that's not in The Malware Museum and Wikipedia doesn't list a catchy song to commemorate the event so I guess we're about done here.

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

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Free-to-play team shooter Dirty Bomb never drew the crowds it deserved. Slightly wonky business model aside (now no longer an issue - the game is proper-free now), it was fast, satisfying and skilful stuff. Not surprising, as developers Splash Damage are as veteran as they come - they're the crew behind the excellent Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory back in 2003, and several iterations on the formula since. They've got a lot to teach, and have released their original design document for the game (formerly exclusive to Kickstarter backers) free for all. Grab it, an art-book and the game's soundtrack here.

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A raytraced Quake 2 might be a fun retro showcase of shiny new hardware, but Quake 1.5 is what you really want to be playing right now. Assembled by modder "bloodshot12" (although its full credits are extensive), it's a cocktail of mods for Id's original Quake that aims to retain its aesthetic, but upgrade everything else. That means new, detailed weapon models, monsters (some from the excellent Arcane Dimensions), levels and more. Today's release is technically a beta, but well worth playing, and dead easy to set up too. Find it on Mod DB, or check out a trailer below if the fancy new boss above isn't exciting enough.

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The Creeper World series are strategy games unlike any other, and Sin Vega reckons they have the best monster of any game, even if the title is a bit rubbish. Part tower defence, part traditional RTS, part fluid dynamics sim, I've been a fan of Knuckle Cracker's quirky if utilitarian-looking series for years now. The next game in the series - Creeper World 4 - will be the first to properly delve into the third dimension. With any luck, it'll bring new depth (figurative or otherwise) to my years-long battle against an endless tide of caustic blue goo. Take a peek at an early trailer below.

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The Endless universe continues to live up to its name - both Endless Legend and Endless Space 2 are expanding once more next week. On January 24th, Endless Space 2 bulks out its espionage options in Penumbra, while Endless Legend's Symbiosis expansion will let players control a race of sentient mushrooms and tussle with giant roaming crab-beasties. It's nice to see Amplitude Studios still pouring time, love and vision into these two rather lovely games, even if only the maddest of players will have the time to master both. Trailers for the expansions below.

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Most of Tom Clancy's The Division 2 might be friendly and cooperative, but the lawless Dark Zones are returning in the sequel, giving players a chance to fight each other over some of the game's best loot. It's not quite as cutthroat as it used to be, thankfully, thanks to Ubisoft Massive protecting starting areas with automated turrets and player stats being normalised for a fairer competition - most of the time. There are also three Dark Zones, each one emphasising a different style of play; long, mid or short range combat, respectively. Take a look at how it all works in the handy info-vid below.

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Feature: Cheap games, graphics cards, laptops and more

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

Happy belated New Year of Deals, everyone. Having fully recovered from the depths of CES jetlag, your deals herald is back, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for another year of bringing you the best PC gaming deals around. You'll have to hold me off the stairs by my coat tails before you can get rid of this deals herald, and boy howdy do I have some good deals for you this week. We've got graphics cards, games, laptops, SSDs, the lot. Read on for your weekly dose of those sweet, sweet discounts.

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