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Here are some of my favourite artistic and silly bots
We are witnessing a three-horse race to the death of Twitter. Will Twitter's technical infrastructure collapse after the staff who know how to maintain it are fired, leaving the would-be God Emperor of mankind rotting upon his failing Cobalt Throne? Will Twitter shut down due to financial collapse? Will people simply leave Twitter? All I know is, I'll miss the Twitter bots which go down to collateral damage, the automated machines which tirelessly post art, poetry, jokes, stories, and probably dog photos. Here are some of my favourites!
Like everyone else
Supporter posts mean I can talk about things that aren't PC games - at least that aren't PC games yet - and this weekend I used a giftcard to get God Of War Ragnarök, the hacktion-dadventure sequel to the God Of War soft reboot. So far I am finding it, you know, fine, by which I mean it is good and fun but also almost exactly the same as 2018 one, right down to the tension between Kratos and his son Atreus. Their dynamic seems to have largely pressed the reset button so they can do a character growth again, with the differences so far being that Atreus is now taller and his voice has broken, Kratos doesn't call him "Boy!", and also he won't shut up under any circumstances.
Dave the Diver (character) is a bit out of practice, but he's an easygoing sort and it doesn't take much to convince him to get back in his flippers to look into the local anomaly at the behest of his arms dealer "friend", who would be clearly bad news even if his name wasn't Cobra.
Said anomaly fills with new sea creatures from all over the world every time it's visited, and possibly building-sized terror beasts and ancient merfolk, but Cobra's sure it'll all be fine, so in you go, mate. It's certainly pretty down there if nothing else, and Dave the Diver (game) is, if nothing else, a rare game that makes the usually tedious water level a bit of a treat to wander round in.
Oh my god, just WORK
Obviously, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in the pleasurable side of PC hardware. Building a PC (or even just swapping out a component) can be a series of lovely little tactile moments: the peeling-off of plastic wrapping, the K’nex-like click of a graphics card slotting into place, the soft whoosh of the fans on a first successful boot. Great stuff, and of course, that’s all before games start coming out of it. What’s not to like?
Oh, reader, so many things. So many, many things not to like. Gaming PCs are still only computers, after all, and computers break, often and for reasons that may be invisible to the most intensively trained eye. Introduce this volatility to a line of work that involves handling a lot of sometimes heavy, usually expensive equipment, and enjoying those little pleasures will eventually come at a cost. Namely, time spent dealing with arcane troubleshooting practices and the occasional spot of minor personal injury.
And helped me process some of my anxiety
I toyed around with this intro a lot, because I didn’t want to start with a super pessimistic bang. But, for lack of a nicer way to put it, I’ll simply say things are looking pretty scary out there, huh? Capitalism is failing, the economy is crumbling, and normal people have nothing left to give. It’s something I've been thinking about a lot lately, but I don’t really talk about it. I keep it all inside, like a microwave holding a ball of tin foil while it spins on full power.
At least, that was the case until I played Citizen Sleeper. It’s a rather simple RPG inspired by tabletop roleplaying games, giving you a limited number of action dice that you can spend each day to receive consequences. Mechanically, it doesn’t stretch much further than those actions and consequences, meaning I can instead focus on connecting with characters. In its simplicity, I found a cathartic way to process my thoughts on lots of scary stuff happening in our actual world. I also realised that Starfield, the big space game looming on the horizon which I was previously pretty excited about, just doesn’t seem appealing anymore.
BIG PIG BIG PIG BIG PIG
What's the mark of a great boss? Cool moves, I suppose. Cool armour. A cool demeanour as you enter their arena. Having previewed both Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty and Wild Hearts, I've come to discover that the mark of a great boss is one of these things, none of the rest, and 500 pounds of ham. BIG PIGs are in, and they are here to do a high-pitched squeal and charge to the top of the "Trending Bosses" list.
Easter eggs! Hints! References! Other things!
The other week I played a short demo for the upcoming Resident Evil 4 remake. You’d think being lucky enough to actually play the damn thing would have numbed my hyper-fixation about it a touch, but, nope. I’m afraid not. It turns out the guy who owns eight physical copies (and four digital) of the original Resident Evil 4 is still pretty excited to play the remake. Who ever could have predicted this?
The day my preview went live, Capcom showed off a couple of additional bits as part of a hefty Resident Evil showcase. Alongside a fresh story trailer the company also discussed the various gubbins you’ll receive if you fork out for the game's special edition as well as a short gameplay demonstration. Surprising no one, I’ve watched these clips so many times I now have a load of thoughts that are not only completely useless but are taking up vital brain space I usually reserve for things like pin numbers and dates. If I don’t vent all of this garbage out of my skull there’s a chance I’ll forget my Mam’s birthday again, something that genuinely happened once when I was 17 and I haven’t stopped feeling guilty about it since. I bought her a plant from a Tesco Express three days later thinking that would help. It didn’t. This event haunts me more than any Resident Evil jumpscare ever could.
I, like many people I know these days, will only watch a YouTube video if it's either less than 5 minutes or more than an hour long. YouTube evolved a while ago into a platform for long-form video essays, and I for one am happy about it. Even better: Jenny Nicholson just released an almost four hour video on an uncompleted attraction in Utah called Evermore. Evermore is a sort of theme park-slash-immersive-theatre that appears to have been beset both by uncontrollable world events and bad management, but I still want to go because it looks pretty fun(ny).
I did think about what games I would like to become immersive experience theme parks in this kind of vein, though, and I gotta say... I'm coming up empty.
The coming release of Dwarf Fortress But For Humans may be making many colony/management sim devs nervous, but Stardeus ought to find some room for itself anyway.
RimWorld is the more direct influence, really. Instead of a planet's surface, your little blobby torso people are stuck on a spaceship, which you need to rebuild around them using a fleet of robots as they gradually wake up from stasis. If you know the genre well, it will be reminiscent of several games, but its balance of survival, management, and creative building makes for a refreshingly forgiving experience at the current default settings.
It is also an excellent Steam Deck game
It's been an interesting exercise playing Triangle Strategy and Tactics Ogre: Reborn in quick succession lately. I've now played both Square Enix strategy RPGs for around six hours apiece now - starting with Tactics Ogre for my preview the other week, and following it up with a Triangle-shaped chaser. I didn't have any history with either game before now, but it's become increasingly apparent that they're effectively cut from the same tile-based cloth. And I mean, exactly the same. They're so similar, in fact, that it's kinda hilarious Square are releasing them so close together on PC, with Tactics Ogre's release on November 11th following little more than a month after Triangle Strategy.
At the same time, though, their approach to story-telling couldn't be more different, and comparing and contrasting them like this one after the other has been both fun and enlightening. Triangle Strategy, for example, is about 80% cutscene, 20% fighting for its first six hours, while Tactics Ogre is pretty much the opposite. And yet… I think I sort of prefer Triangle Strategy? Let me explain.
And sometimes it's even more fun than whatever else I'm playing
I've been playing an awful lot of Overwatch 2 recently. As you'll know if you've played either of Blizzard's near-identical hero shooters, Overwatch 2 lets you queue up for a match as a particular hero role, which ensures balanced team compositions but also can mean a wait of several minutes before you get into a match. Cue me scouring my Steam Library a few days ago for a quick little time-waster to fill those gaps. And after a few failed attempts, I discovered it. Or, more accurately, rediscovered it.
I don't think I could handle an Elden Ring 2
Without a doubt, Elden Ring has spent hours of this year floating around my mind, like a parasitic gargoyle making a nest out of my stringy brain matter. Many of my thoughts on Elden Ring have been positive, as I'm still awestruck by the quality and scope of its open world (among many other things). But I admitted I'd reached my exhaustion point, which abated briefly, then came back with full force by the end.
Honestly, as much as I admire the game and its brilliance, I reckon it might be a bit too much for me. And as FromSoftware set the Soulslike standard, I find myself hoping that future Soulslikes don't get too caught up in trying to mimick Elden Ring.
A bog full of curiosities
Sometimes, I just want to wander around an aesthetically pleasing landscape with nice music doing menial tasks - and that’s exactly what I got from Paradise Marsh, a lovely little wildlife game from LazyEti. I’ve been playing some pretty intense games recently, throttling my game controller as I run away from literal waves of rats in A Plague Tale: Requiem and shifting my detective brain into overdrive grappling with the excellent mysteries in The Case of the Golden Idol.
I desperately need a game to sink into, basically Lo-fi Hip Hop Beats to Relax/Study To: The Game, or the equivalent of a deep body massage but directly onto my brain. Paradise Marsh has been the exact tonic I’ve needed, a chill bug-collectathon where you wander around pleasant, pastel landscapes discovering lots of fun little curiosities. It’s wonderful.
Having recently complained about managing traffic in building games, it is only natural and right that I now praise one that is entirely about managing traffic.
I've had an eye on All Quiet Roads for months, but between Tile Cities and Blink Planets it seemed a bit much to throw this recommendation at you as well. But a game exclusively about the thing I hate most holding my interest this well has to be respected. All Quiet Roads also balances relaxing, freeform play with stressful, occasionally overwhelming challenges, giving it a tonal variety that I wasn't really expecting from such a simple concept.
Ubisoft are masters of the moreish
A little while back, I went to Cornwall with some friends in the hopes we'd detox on lovely beaches and coastal walks. Somehow, we managed a mental cleanse between horrendous downpours that knocked us sideways and made our socks all soggy. And while we cocooned ourselves in metal and waited for these bouts of terrible weather to subside, we played disgusting amounts of Assassin's Creed: Valhalla.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, we racked up a solid 60+ hours of game time. I'd wake up and see my friend clearing map markers. I'd pop out for a quick run (yes, I ran on my holiday like a chump) and return to see both of my friends clearing map markers. Did we enjoy it? Sometimes! But then, why couldn't we stop playing? The Ubisoft Effect, I reckon.
It's so good it kind of makes me angry
Last week I reviewed New Tales From The Borderlands and I really didn't like it. This was upsetting to me; this may come as a surprise, but I try to avoid playing and reviewing games I think I won't like. I don't want to go out of my way to be mean, and I also don't want to spend hours not enjoying myself. I go into almost every game I play actively wanting to enjoy it (the exception being things like Succubus, which I can only assume are trying an avant garde technique to plumb new, unexplored depths of badness on purpose).
As it turned out, a lot of other reviewers did like it. I'm not going to object to that, because it takes all sorts to make a world, and so on. Rather, it made me wonder if I'd sort of hallucinated how much I liked the first Tales From The Borderlands. How fantastic it was, managing to be both the best Telltale game and the best Borderlands game in one, was a big part of why I was so excited for New Tales. It came out a long time ago, and I hadn't played it for a while. Maybe it wasn't how I remembered. Maybe I'd changed, you know?
Never cross the archivists
Although I try to recommend things that you can't simply try for yourself, I'm making an exception here because the spirit of this column is to report back on good things, and free or not, Blackhaven is a very good thing.
It's about starting a job in a museum and archive based around a former tobacco plantation, and run by the extremely wealthy descendants of its owners. It's not about what great people they were. It didn't feel like trauma porn, but obviously I can only speak as a ludicrously white person from another country.
What it is definitely good at it is representing real historical research, and who gets to write the history that suits them.
We talk about our recent Have You Played revival, and how we might build on the RPS 100: Reader Edition
Hello folks. Sorry to have to start another Letter From The Editor with an apology about how terribly late it is, but honestly, I'm not entirely sure where the time has gone. One minute it was June, and then suddenly... almost November!? I'm sorry everyone, truly. It has, in part, been another period of almost being able to announce some things, but also not quite. We're still working to get our proposed RPS Game Club off the ground, for example, but finding a good quality source of regular game keys for it has proven to be an elusive endeavour, to say the least. I'd imagine this will probably be a project for 2023 now (a delay, how quaint!), given how close we are to the end of the year, but I'll keep you posted as soon as we've got more to share on it.
Things that are happening though, is the return of The RPS 100, which you may have seen us post about earlier in the week. This is our annual countdown of our favourite PC games of all time, as voted for by the RPS Treehouse. This year's list is quite different to the one we did last year - we do, after all, have pretty much a brand-new team in place now - and I'm looking forward to sharing that with you all next week. We even got our art team to make a special fancy header image for it this year and everything! Plus, if you were one of the people put out by our (accidental) glossing over of a certain immersive sim last year, you really won't want to miss it.
The real horror Halloween is online matchmaking
I loved Overwatch when it first came out. When the original game was fresh and new, I was experimenting with the characters just like everyone else. I found my niche in support, and got to be a pretty decent player with Mercy and Lúcio (I was particularly proud of the latter, because I flatter myself that he's quite difficult to play well). Then, you know, life happened. I didn't have as much time to play, and I just kind of stopped playing Overwatch.
I appear to have nodded off or something, because there are now 35 heroes on the roster, and Overwatch 2 is out. What. Who allowed this? I wish to speak to someone in charge. Jeff? Jeff From The Overwatch Team? Are you there? Jeff is still in charge right? Wait, wh-
You go on without… uh, you?
It's probably a coincidence that I have a headache, but it seems appropriate for how out of my depth One Many Nobody was starting to make me feel. You've likely seen similar games, but this one mixes the usual 2D pixel puzzle business with some hazardous platforming, and a cloning system that rapidly move beyond the obvious "standing on your own shoulders" uses.
The balancing of all that didn't quite work for me, but I'm generally fairly averse to puzzle games and demanding platformers, so you ought not to count that against it. If you're more the type to take apart a puzzle step by step than to wing it while your subconscious yells from the sidelines, this could even be a real gem.
Bad science is also FUN science!
A thousand apologies, friends, for the gap in your Nate Files timeline. Unfortunately, while on a deep sea dive to retrieve the tapes of episodes 13 and 14 (an expedition funded by supporters; your generosity is always appreciated), my ship was attacked by a large and unusually toothsome whale-like creature. The cursed thing took a huge bite out of the side of our noble vessel, The Squiggled Egg, and we were forced to abandon ship. It was only by the grace of the botswain Hughbert Threads that I'm alive to write this post today, as the man gave his life beating back the foul beast, giving a large part of the rest of the crew time to get away. Alas, in the confusion, I only secured episode 14, and episode 13 is now lost to time. That is definitely what happened, and not that the digital recording got mangled somehow.
Still, episode 14 (which is now episode 13, even though I say 14 in the recording) is now here for you to enjoy. It's all about bad and obsolete palaeontology - the weird ways people in history interpreted fossils, and why.
My new obsession
If there's one thing that brings stability to my life, it's the escapism of reality TV. Below Deck: Mediterranean had me covered last winter (alongside its Sailing Yacht spin-off), as I watched super yacht crew toil to meet the demands of the wealthy and unhinged. Then Love Island stepped up to fill a large portion of my summer with curated chaos. One guy confessed "I licked her tit or whatever," in a shock revelation to his betrothed.
What's on the reality TV menu for winter? Ainori Love Wagon: Asian Journey, baby. It's on Netflix and I'm convinced it shares great parallels with some of my favourite RPGs of all time.
It's not out on PC until next month, but the console demo has been a surprise charmer
I keep forgetting Valkyrie Elysium's PC release date is later than its console one. The action platformer came out on PlayStation late last week, but it's not coming to Steam until November 11th. So far, reviews have been quite middling, which isn't wholly surprising in some sense, but having played the public demo the other week, I'm not ashamed to say that I had a pretty all right time with it! Based on two hours of play time, I'd say it's very much in the same kind of vein as your Bayonettas and Nier: Automatas, and I'm 100% down for that.
I will and won't miss you
It feels odd saying "Overwatch 1", but Overwatch 1 occupies an important place in my personal and professional life. And all things considered, I do not miss it in the slightest. I spent so much time straining against the game's tug-of-war matches that I simply grew tired of trying really hard at it - or perhaps more accurately, trying not to launch my head through the nearest plaster wall.
Clearly, there was a time where I adored Overwatch, though. A time when I'd grind solo-queue most evenings until 3am, in a bid to climb the ranks ever higher. To what end? My own personal satisfaction, I suppose. I'd eventually hit Master (let me brag just once, okay) and then a few months later, I applied for a job at Gamer Network writing guides about Overwatch's intricacies. I moved to Brighton for my first proper job. Now, with Overwatch 2's release, it all feels like it's come full circle.
Archtower is a roguelike and therefore bad, but... hnnnnnnngggh I like it. I might even come to love it, considering it's already so enjoyable even with a few years of early access left (a fact I forgot until I reached a "work in progress" marker several hours in).
You climb a tower and splat monsters and culty magic nerds. You loot, and avoid traps, chug red liquids, and occasionally die and have to start again. But I enjoyed every moment, and never once hit the usual aggravating points that push me out of the genre. It's good stuff all round, frankly.
And I filled it with bottles
A couple of weeks back you may remember that I played the early access build of Gloomwood, a very good Thief-like that currently snaps shut just as you reach the best bit. The Richard Gere holding a necklace of video games. One thing that I do not dwell on in my feature, though, is that I was hamstrung not just by the early access limitations of the game. For almost all of the first playthrough I did, I thought that you could neither heal nor store items in Gloomwood. I was like "Wow, this is a really hardcore stealth sim."
You can, of course, do both of those things in Gloomwood. It's just, I am an idiot.
Sometimes, you look forward to a game's release and it's very disappointing. Sometimes, it comes out and it's... fine. Kinda good, even. Only once does the game come out and it's fuckin’ SPIDERHECK WOOOO!
Imagine Nidhogg, cross it with Webbed, give it solid single player options, and throw in one of the sickest game soundtracks I've ever heard. I'd hoped Spiderheck would merely be as fun as it looks. It instead consumed me. Neverjam have united my love for Webbed with my love for chaos, and it's more glorious than I dared to hope.
Roger Federer's retirement has got me thinking about AI sportspeople
For whatever reason, I decided that I'd start last weekend with Roger Federer's retirement speech. I'd literally just woken up and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, only to emotionally destabilise my morning with an eight-minute-long video in which one of, if not the greatest tennis player of all time poured out his heart. Even his great rival Rafael Nadal couldn't hold back his tears, which said it all, really.
As one's mind does in momentous occasions, it turned to Nintendo Switch Sports football and how its small roster of players may be one of the best representations of talent in a sports game that I've come across. Come on, humour me here.
There's a definition of "pure" that's proscriptive; a dogmatic adherence to surface details and strict rituals. I'm genuinely not thinking of any specific game, but many 'retro' inspired games fall into this way of thinking, and many more fans cut a good one down because of it.
Itorah, however, feels pure in the sense of capturing the essence, the heart of a good retro platformer, not just going through the motions to technically qualify for an arbitrary category. Aeons ago, it would have ported comfortably to your GameBoys and gramophones, and probably look just as pretty and feel just as good in motion, judging by the talented art direction on show here.
Man, I was worried this week. I've had a string of possible reports that were all disappointingly tepid. Then I played Trail Out, a chaotic crash-and-ram racing game with, for some reason, a story mode about a former stunt driver who is very much some guy. I'm still not sure if he's talking to himself, through the fourth wall, or to his dog. His best friend wears a gas mask and lifts weights in the junkyard without breaking eye contact.
The racing is very solid, but more importantly it has character. Odd, odd character.