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Gaming on Linux

Article from Issue 194/2017
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Build the ultimate Magnum Opus for a Mad Max stripped of his possessions.

Intro

The Vulkan API has generated plenty of exciting news recently. The developers behind the immensely popular Unity game engine released a preview version of the editor with support for Vulkan, which means we should see Unity games using Vulkan in the not-too-distant future. Likewise, the porting house Feral Interactive (Tomb Raider, Mad Max, and Shadow of Mordor) has stated that it will be releasing Vulkan games in the future, although the recent Deus Ex: Mankind Divided uses OpenGL.

Meanwhile, at Valve's SteamDevDays, their Vive VR system has been shown off finally running on Linux using none other than the Vulkan API, rather than OpenGL. Interestingly, this was done on Kubuntu rather than SteamOS, although there were also signs that Valve has far from abandoned the platform. Numerous Steam Machines set up at the event were running SteamOS, including Rocket League and some of Valve's own games.

Fans of the hugely successful Civilization franchise were somewhat bemused when the sixth iteration was released without Linux support, after getting Civilization V some time back and Civilization: Beyond Earth as a day 1 release. The porting house Apyr has said that the feasibility of the port is still being analyzed, and we should hear news about it soon; so, fingers crossed. This hasn't stopped a few enthusiastic gamers from sending goodies to their offices on a couple of occasions, presumably to guilt-trip a port out of them.

Mad Max

A literal sandbox

Web: http://store.steampowered.com/app/234140/

Price: £24.99/$29.99/EUR29.99

Max has no qualms about taking on 15 enemies simultaneously in hand-to-hand combat.

This classic post-apocalyptic franchise has made its way off the big screen and onto Linux in what is one of the most expansive sandbox games we've seen to date – and certainly the most sandy.

The game starts off with Max losing all of his possessions, which lays the groundwork for a story revolving around building up what he lost. His most prized possession is his car, and building the ultimate machine (the Magnum Opus) from scratch and slowly upgrading it is incredibly satisfying. The game's other mechanics are numerous, including upgrading strongholds and Max's abilities to clear regions of threats by completing a number of different challenges, such as racing and brawling through enemy strongholds. Needless to say, the game is extremely varied, providing a range of things to do both on foot and behind the wheel.

Where the game does fall short is in the limitations of its interactions. NPCs are repetitive and lack any personality, limiting the world's immersion and lore, which is mostly explained through an encyclopedia-like system rather than characters and dialog. This also makes exploring somewhat less enticing, since the odds of finding any meaningful interaction and exciting side-missions are next to none. That being said, the game has some good ambient storytelling through its populated areas and abandoned relics from a fallen civilization. It also does a good job in conveying the scarcity of resources in its world, with water, fuel, and ammunition hard to come by, while having to feast on rodents and old dog food show just how much of a struggle it is to survive in this harsh world.

The graphics for this game are superb, with the barren wastelands managing to look fantastic. The lighting in particular makes the game look extremely cinematic, particularly at sunset, and rocky cliffs give impressive views of what little is left of Max's world. Plenty of gameplay hours are available that stay entertaining throughout, making Mad Max highly recommended.

Car combat is exhilarating, especially as the car gains new abilities and weapons.

Aragami

A visually stunning stealth game

Web: http://store.steampowered.com/app/280160/

Price: £14.99/$19.99/EUR19.99

Aragami's visual design and satisfying mechanics more than make up for the lackluster story.

This third-person stealth ninja game allows the player to make use of shadows to navigate around the medieval Japanese world and sneakily assassinate enemies. The visuals, although not the most detailed, make use of a very effective cartoonish style, which looks absolutely fantastic without hitting your graphics card with a sledgehammer. That said, it has some performance issues related to optimization, although many of these have been patched out gradually. The Japanese-style music also compliments the graphics well to create a decent atmosphere.

The story revolves around summoning of the lead character and uncovering his past, which isn't all that fantastic, but the game makes up for it in the gameplay department. Moving around stealthily and taking out enemies with a sword or demons is incredibly satisfying, and the game cleverly makes use of Aragami's cape, which glows to show the effectiveness of the current cover, leaving the interface uncluttered. The stealth mechanics are key because being seen leads to almost instant death, and killing enemies is actually optional.

Overall, this is a very good option for those looking for a stealth game, and although a little short, it's still a very satisfying experience.

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