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  • Stuart Turton's books The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle and The Devil In The Dark Water

    I've been thinking a lot about video game recommendations recently. Specifically, things like, "What game would you recommend to someone who's never played a video game before?" and, "What kind of games would you recommend to people who read a lot but don't necessarily play games very much?" My answer to both questions would probably be What Remains Of Edith Finch in the first instance, mostly because it has a really good story and its controls aren't too intimidating. But this week I realised I rarely think about the inverse of that last question: "What books would you recommend to people who play lots of video games but don't have much time for reading?"

    Happily, I now have two solid answers, and they both come from the highly talented Stuart Turton: "The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle" for fans of Outer Wilds, The Sexy Brutale and Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries, and The Devil In The Dark Water for The Return Of The Obra Dinn likers.

  • A screenshot of Before Your Eyes showing the Ferryman, a dishevelled humanoid dog dressed as a sailor.

    Supporters only: Hayfever enhanced my experience with Before Your Eyes

    The only good thing to come out of forgetting my eyedrops

    I developed this new allergic reaction this year, namely that my eyes feel like they're being blowtorched if I don't plop some miracle liquid into them regularly. They water and itch and I spend a lot of time blinking, which sort of feels like how a rusty shop grate sounds as it lowers.

    I realised quite quickly into my playthrough of Before Your Eyes that I'd forgotten to administer the holy water. And in a game where time skips forward as you blink in real life, I thought I'd royally messed things up. But it turns out that having an allergy actually enhanced the experience.

  • Commander Shepard stands facing the camera on the deck of the Normandy in Mass Effect, banks of cool orange computers behind her.

    I wish there was a directory to look up developers that did specific things in games that I love. I know LinkedIn will list people's jobs like Storyboard Artist or Narrative Designer, but one thing I've actually learned in this job is that these titles can mean wildly different things at different companies. And they're not specific enough for my needs: I want one that goes "person who did the animation for the opening credits on Episode 4 of Tales From The Borderlands" or "absolute hero who wrote the character barks for Warcraft III".

    I have been playing the Mass Effect Legendary Edition recently because I am only human. And for whatever reason it has made me really want to find and congratulate "person who did all the diegetic computer noises in Mass Effect".

  • Image for Joke's on you, I actually like the second half of Resident Evil 7

    It might be my secret super power, but I seem to be unusually good at avoiding spoilers. I just don't see 'em. Indeed, despite the fact that Resident Evil 7 came out four years ago now, the only thing I really knew about it before I started playing was a) it was set in the horrible Baker mansion, and b) the second half is a lot more action-focused than the first, which a lot of people don't seem to like. Until now, I never really understood why that was. In fairness, I still don't really get it if I'm being honest, because having finally waded through the end of Resident Evil 7 earlier this week, I'm here to tell you that I actually liked the second half of Resi 7, and I don't care who knows it. Time to rock some boats.

  • Image for I salute the artists on Glass Masquerade 2 going all in on scary-meets-horny

    As you may or may not be aware, I spent all of last week in a small house in a converted seedbarn. There were a non-zero number of rooms with black mold. There were also no activities to engage in, and I couldn't carry my PC tower down there, so I just had my MacBook. My games that week mostly consisted of watching the overfed young blackbird I named The Idiot Child (who fledged but didn't want to leave and kept trying to get back into his nest; I assume he thought if he managed it his parents would just shrug and keep bringing him food forever).

    Luckily, my laptop can also run Glass Masquerade 2: Illusions. This is a jigsaw game inspired by stained glass windows, and I love it because those stained glass windows are from the most ridiculous church ever dreamed of. I played a billion hours of it last week.

    I will preface this by saying that Glass Masquerade 2 is a genuinely good puzzle game. There are different difficulty levels, so you can have the game automatically show you where to place some edgy bits if you need help getting started. At the same time, the shapes you end up placing are very unlike standard jigsaw puzzle pieces, so it's a fun little challenge no matter what difficulty you choose.

  • Image for I'm slowly becoming obsessed with video game book shelves

    As someone who likes to read a lot when they're not playing games, I'm always intrigued by what video game characters have on their bookshelves. Usually, it's a pretty fruitless endeavour. Occasionally there'll be individual books we can pore over as in-game items, but more often than not, any actual bookshelves in games tend to just be awash with a mass of wordless spines with colourful decorations on them, as artists, understandably, probably don't have time to come up with an entire library of unique book titles. But I always take a look regardless, because you never know when someone might surprise you - and a couple of games I've played recently have really good ones.

  • Image for I'm a sucker for a good menu noise

    After I lived and breathed NieR Replicant for review, I looked back on my play time with a mixture of fondness and pain. The payoff of the fifth and final ending was worth the effort, but good lord was it a test of resolve. It was brilliance nestled in multiple layers of gift wrap, and I was happy to call it a day once I'd seen the final (x5) credits.

    But one thing I haven't stopped thinking about is the menu sounds. NieR Replicant has excellent noises for its start menu and inventory management, both of which aided that sense of being transported to another world of monsters and emotion.

  • Artwork of the Baker Family from Resident Evil 7, showing a zombie family sitting round a dining room table with plates of gore and mouldy food stuffs.

    I had very good intentions when I started playing Resident Evil 7 for the first time earlier this year. "Resident Evil Village doesn't come out for months," I said to myself. "It's a 10-hour game, that's plenty of time to get this finished." Reader, I have not finished Resident Evil 7. After finally beating old Mr Baker down in that claustrophobic basement with the swinging meat sacks, I put down my controller and walked away. It had been a particularly stressful evening of dying, chainsawing and more dying, and I needed a break. I had intended to go back, but recently when I've had a spare hour or two to decompress with a game, I've more often than not gravitated towards a quick round of lovely chill Dorfromantik than put myself through the remaining horrors of the Baker estate.

    I did, however, finally go back to Resi 7 last night, and golly, as much as I hate the horrible rotting corpses of the Bakers three, I had forgotten about the sheer horror of Ethan Winters' mangled hand. Look away now if you don't want to lose your lunch.

  • Image for I think games should adopt anime openers

    Booting up a video game in 2021 is a boring affair isn't it? An obligatory slideshow of publishers and developers, followed by a "press any button to start" prompt. A big logo, a sultry tune, perhaps. That's your lot.

    Last night I tuned into the latest season of My Hero Academia, an anime that I've followed for several years now. I was excited to see my favourite characters again, but also for a new opener. And its explosion of noise and colour didn't disappoint, so much so, that it got me thinking: I wish this was a thing in video games.

  • Nioh 2 character showing half their normal form and half of their yokai spirit

    I played brutal action-RPG Nioh 2 religiously for weeks. If I had a controller in my hand, more often than not, I'd be fighting a horrid demon for the umpteenth time. Then I just stopped for no real reason - other than maybe because other games came out and I wanted a break? I don't know.

    But what I do know is that I'm genuinely scared to boot Nioh 2 up again. My mouse has glanced over it numerous times, but I've bailed at the last second. I get this overwhelming feeling of, "I am totally disconnected from this world", and I think I've finally identified what it's called.

  • Image for I want more games to redefine what 'survival' means

    I think we can generally agree that one of the main functions of video games is wish fulfillment. They let you believe you might not only be a powerful and competent person, but also the most powerful and competent person in the universe (and if that is not the case, why do Bethesda games even exist?). And, that being the case, survival games occupy a strange twilight world for me. I really wish I was good at them, because I really like the idea of most survival games.

    I can barely survive my actual life when that includes sitting in a nice warm flat eating roasted, salted cashews from a bag that was sealed by a huge and complex robot the size of a warehouse, that was created specifically for the bagging and sealing of roasted, salted cashews. So pretending that I would, if I got stranded on an island or survived an apocalypse, be at all capable of doing anything other than lie down and wait for death to come to me is pure power fantasy. Except, I am very bad at most survival games.

  • The Lich from video game Loop Hero levitating in the air

    I went into Loop Hero with only two expectations: I'm probably going to like this given the rave reviews it received, and if there's a hint of idle game here I'm all for it. I'd hoped it would be the sort of game I could leave to its own devices, you know, set some foundations, press play, and collect my rewards a few hours later.

    Nope, this wasn't Loop Hero at all. I had to place things, and make difficult decisions, and keep tabs on stuff. Too demanding for me - just way too much. Not idle enough.

  • Image for Spacebase Startopia does this one weird trick that all base building games should copy

    Alright, so it's not that weird, when you sit down and listen to me explain it to you. But it's also something that I've never seen before. Maybe I'm a fool of the highest order, and loads of games have been doing it for years. If so, please cite those games in the comments.

    In Spacebase Startopia (a spirtual sequel to 2001's Startopia) you become the administrator of a big donut-shaped space station. A large part of your job (in fact, the largest part) is building rooms that provide different services, and thus fill the different needs of your alien vistors. There's a berth for sleeping and eating, and a disco for dancing and possibly dropping space Es - although this is not represented in the game, I just assume nobody could dance like those aliens do without chemical help of some kind.

  • Sora, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse joining swords as the three musketeers

    Supporters only: Kingdom Hearts should have been my GOAT

    Listen, I was really into Squall as a teenager, okay...

    I was 14-years-old when Kingdom Hearts first came out in the UK. I was big into Disney and I'd just come off a pretty intense Final Fantasy streak where I'd played VIII, a bit of VII, IX and then the rest of VII again in fairly quick succession. I almost couldn't believe my luck. Far from being some kind of crazed fever dream I'd imagined while doodling in my notebook at school, this game was 100% real. It combined two of my most favourite things in the whole wide world, in what was rapidly becoming my new favourite genre of games. It should have been a match made in heaven. Then disaster struck, and its name was Phil.

  • Screenshot of a rural town scene in Dorfromantik

    On finishing work for the day, I normally power down my PC and retreat to our living room downstairs, either settling in for some TV with our cats, or reading a bit of my current book with our cats. Our cat Midna (named for the similar-ish markings she shares with The Legend Of Zelda character) is particularly friendly when we're in the living room, wedging herself between my shins if I've got a blanket over them, or scooching into the tiny gap between me and the arm of the sofa. It's nice. Cosy. Chill. Peaceful.

    I'm telling you this because nearly every night this week I have foregone a big chunk of our usual evening cat cuddling routine in order to carry on playing Dorfromantik, a very relaxing hexagonal city-builder from tiny German team Toukana Interactive. And yes, I don't know what's got into me, either.

  • Image for I am trapped in a mechanical keyboard clickscape

    I'm typing this right now on a mechanical keyboard. I bought it years ago, when these clacky rectangles first started sporting rainbow lights. It has these Cherry MX Red switches, which feel okay, I guess. But since I've been working from home a lot, I want something that makes my fingers come alive. The hunt for a suitable rectangle has both proven fruitful, and fruitless. I have learned about different switch colours and keyboard sizes, which is great! Unfortunately, I am also trapped in an abyssal plane of clicking noises from which I'm unsure I'll ever escape.

  • A mech battle in Supreme Commander

    Supporters only: My love-hate relationship with office multiplayer games

    Holding the line in Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance was the absolute business

    Matthew and I have been rewatching old episodes of the US Office recently (it is such great comfort TV, lemme tell ya), and the other week we got to the episode in season three where Jim is introduced to the wonderful world of Call Of Duty lunchtimes with his new colleagues in Stamford. Having clearly never played a video game in his life, Jim is very much out of his depth when the lights go down and everyone dons their favourite headset, and he's repeatedly berated by his exasperated co-workers about letting the side down.

    I empathise a lot with Jim during these episodes, because I have definitely been 'that person' on the office lunch squad who just isn't as good at Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (and Bad Company 2 Vietnam) as everyone else. Our games never got quite as heated and competitive as the ones in The Office, but their average lifespan would always follow a similar pattern. We'd all get into it and play it for a few weeks, one person would go away and research the meta game in their spare time to dominate the rest of us, and then no one would want to play against that person and we'd move on to something else. We had some good times as well, though, and to this day one of my fondest video game memories is finally winning a game of what we affectionately referred to as 'HOLD THE LINE' in Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance.

  • A screenshot from Final Fantasy XV which shows Noctis and Ignis stood next to eachother, posing for the camera. Noctic has his arms crossed, while Ignis is turned to the side.

    I've been bouncing between many games of late, mainly co-op adventures with friends so we can stay in touch through *gestures wildly, frantically* this. But if no-one's around, I'll hop into Final Fantasy XV to spend some chill time with my virtual buds.

    And there's one member of this merry band who I've grown to really appreciate, perhaps more than any other AI-controlled companion I've encountered before: Prompto, the one who documents our road trip through his camera shutter. I want him in every game I play from here on out.

  • Image for I have met the litRPG genre of books, and I do not understand it

    Supporters only: I have met the litRPG genre of books, and I do not understand it

    Fail on turning the page; you die from an arterial papercut

    Listeners of the Electronic Wireless Show podcast will know that I like books, which is why my recommendations at the end of episodes are wot I read recently. Readers of this website will know I love RPGs. It was with some interest, then, that I discovered the existence of a genre called litRPG. It is apparently hugely popular, but I was totally unaware of it. I spent this week getting to grips with an upcoming Audible Original called Rise To Glory, by Alex Knight

  • Artwork showing the lead character from Mistwalker's Fantastian

    Supporters only: Will JRPGs ever let go of grinding?

    Or are fast forward buttons and sending monsters to alternate dimensions the way forward?

    Earlier this week, Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi unveiled his next RPG, Fantasian. Described as a "diorama adventure", as it uses real, handcrafted dioramas for its various locations, Fantasian looks pretty neat. There's still a lot we don't know about it at the moment, but one thing that really stood out during its initial reveal was its cool-looking battle system, in which you can send any monsters you encounter to an alternate dimension and biff them altogether at a later date so they don't interrupt the flow of exploration. Sakaguchi calls it the "Dimengeon Battle" system, and it sounds absolutely genius.

    Alas, the game is only coming to Apple Arcade at the moment, so it may never appear on PC, but the way Sakaguchi describes Fantasian's battle system has been stuck in my head all week. He talks about it specifically as being a "quality of life improvement to the classic JRPG genre," and it got me thinking. When did "quality of life" become such an important part of modern JRPGs, and will it change our relationship with our favourite JRPGs of yore?

  • Sam and BB doing a thumbs up and peace sign in Death Stranding

    As you may have seen earlier this week, I spent much of my downtime this month reading the official novelisation of Hideo Kojima's courier hiking sim Death Stranding. It was quite a strange experience, if only because so much of what I loved about the game wasn't present in the novels at all. The landscape you spend so much time analysing and assessing in Death Stranding is barely mentioned over the course of the books, and even the deadly BTs get surprisingly little air time for how often they seem to get in your way. But the strangest thing of all was how it depicted Sam's relationship with his jar baby BB, and it made me realise that all the weird, extraneous mess in its overall design is actually pretty darn important when it comes to establishing some of its later story reveals. I love a good game story as much as the next person, but when it's not supported by gameplay, something definitely comes a cropper.

  • Image for Voyage is a lovely co-op game that I enjoyed playing by myself

    It is Monday. It is damp and grey. This morning I thought the men were finally taking down the scaffolding outside our flat, and we would finally see the light of day again for the first time in about 6 months. But no, it is not to be. Thus, I have engaged in what is called 'self care', by spending my lunch break eating a giant cookie stuffed with Nutella and playing Voyage.

    Graham posted about Voyage the other day, and told me I would probably like it. Guess what? He was right! I don't admit that to him often, so this is a real banner moment. The pitch from me to you is: a Studio Ghibli version of Journey, made in Europe.

  • A group of hooded villagers rush through a snowy wilderness carrying a chest of sleeping husky pups in Carto

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that ice levels in games are the absolute worst. The only good one there's ever been was in The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and that's because most of the time you got to chill out in a cosy mountain chalet with cute yetis who fed you big hot bowls of soup. The rest need to be fired into the sun, if only so they can un-chill the heck out. Because let's face it, we all know the drill. Oooooooh, look, it's all slippy-slidey over here, and ooohh watch out, there's been a dramatic increase in the number of bottomless cliffs in this area, so you better not fall to your doom, oooooooooh. Give me a break.

  • Image for A trip in Final Fantasy XV reminded me of Albania

    It had to happen at some point, didn't it? I, the JRPG-liker, installed Final Fantasy XV. My main reasoning behind the purchase was simple: it promised a roadtrip with the lads, all of whom have great hair. Both these things are currently out of reach for most of us in lockdown.

    So yes, I was aware that a large portion of my time in FFXV would be spent reclined in a car. What I didn't expect was to be reminded of a trip I took to Albania within the first hour of playing.

  • Mono from Little Nightmares II, a small boy with a brown paper bag on his head, runs down a corridor holding a torch. Tens of wooden dummy hands are reaching for him from behind locked metal doors

    So, the last couple of things I reviewed were both horror games: Little Nightmares 2 and The Medium. They're also both a slightly different kind of horror game. Most games that style themselves as psychological horror, I have found, are actually mostly jump scares, with the psychological aspect provided by either some tentacles or cornices that look a bit genital, or the scattered pages of a diary detailed a woman's descent into madness because of something her husband and/or children did.

    Little Nightmares 2 and The Medium are both actually genuinely trying to mine psychological themes for their horror - indeed, in the latter you actually go and have a root around in a person's subconscious at some points - but as I observed in my review of The Medium, it didn't really scare me at all. Little Nightmares 2 did.

  • Artwork of Squall Leonhart holding his gunblade from Final Fantasy VIII

    Final Fantasy VIII (aka: the best Final Fantasy game) turned 22 years old yesterday, and just before a small part of my soul crumbled to dust at the thought of it being two whole decades since I first played it, I said to myself, "Cor, Final Fantasy VIII still has the best soundtrack, doesn't it?" From the chill vibes of Fisherman's Horizon to the heartfelt sorrow of The Oath, Final Fantasy VIII's music remains one of Nobuo Uematsu's finest scores in my humble opinion, so what better way to celebrate this momentous anniversary than with a countdown of its very best tracks?

  • Image for This Kindle e-reader feature is like Dark Souls. No, really

    I recently picked up an Amazon Kindle e-reader, in the hope that it would help me read more and, I don't know, save me from lugging a tome around when travelling? (Not like we're doing much of that anyway! Ha ha ha kill me).

    Having now done some reading on this dark slate of mystery, I am a firm believer that it's home to a feature that is more Dark Souls than any other feature described in article proclaiming that something is like From Software's sublime action-RPG.

  • Image for Go home, Assassin's Creed Valhalla progress emails, you're drunk

    I finally finished Assassin's Creed Valhalla last night. 100 hours I've poured into that game. It was good! I enjoyed it a lot. Naturally, there are still a couple of things to mop up here and there. There are two more targets on my Order of Ancients assassination list to send packing and one more big county to conquer, plus a myriad of other side bits to wipe from the map, but in terms of Eivor and Sigurd's mad old storyline, I'm pretty much done. I kid you not, though. When I opened my inbox this morning, I had an email from Ubisoft telling me how I could 'spread my influence' now that I've 'forged alliance with two key allies in England. Two!? How about 12? Go home, Valhalla progress emails. You're drunk.