Tag Archives: Ubisoft

Trying my best to be a team player and not get hypothermia in The Division

tom-clancy-the-division-survival-gd-impressions

Tom Clancy’s The Division sure has had an interesting year and change, and I’m actually quite mixed on the game. Like a piece of delicious chocolate that is marred by the powerful taste of disgusting coconut, there’s good and there’s bad. It did make my list of my five favorites for all of 2016, but I know that a lot of that backing had to do with simply just how much time I put into it over the few months I dug deep over getting all them dumb collectibles. However, I quickly found that the end-game material was less appealing and eventually drifted away from snowy, apocalyptic New York City as my shallow pool of online friends greatly dwindled, returning briefly to play a bit of Underground, its first expansion last summer.

Since then, two more expansions have dropped, namely Survival and Last Stand, bringing about a number of changes to The Division‘s inner workings and plethora of systems involving math, as well as making running around the Big Apple worthwhile even after hitting the level cap. Well, not entirely worthwhile, but more. There’s still a hollowness to the running around, but at least new meters are filling up and check-boxes are being checked on a frequent basis. I’m really good at the daily challenges involving destroying weapons and gear for crafting materials that I’ll never ever use; I can hold the stick in for days.

Well, instead of devoting a post to each piece of DLC and clogging up Grinding Down in all things The Division, I figured I’d lump everything together for one single critical damage attack since I’ve now gotten to dabble in every expansion though I do not claim I was often successful. In fact, I mostly died a bunch. Still, there are thoughts, so out into the contaminated snow we go…

Underground was the first expansion released for The Division and focuses on exploring the uncharted underworld of New York City. Players are tasked with chasing after enemies with up to three other Agents through a maze of tunnels and subways. Or, if you are like me, you’ll play it solo and on the easiest difficulty in hopes of finding all the collectibles which, thanks to the randomly generated levels, are found only on a wing and a prayer. I think I’ve collected five of one type and four of another so far and have leveled up my overall Underground rank to about 13. As you level up this rank, you can modify each run with restrictions, like being unable to use your abilities or even have a mini-map, and being successful with these turned on results in greater rewards. There are a few scenarios you can play through, and a solo run with no modifiers can easily be completed in 10-15 minutes, which, when there was not much else to do in The Division, was enough to occupy my brain and hands for a bit.

In the Survival expansion, players must–and hear me out first–survive as long as possible after a horrible helicopter crash. I’m not sure why I included the adjective horrible there, as if there is such a thing as a delightful helicopter crash. Anyways, this expansion is quite different from Underground, as well as the main campaign. You are alone in an extremely hostile environment, and the only way to continue breathing and making it back to safety is by gathering essential supplies and high-tech equipment to call for help and get your frozen butt extracted back to your base. It is without a doubt my favorite mode to play, as it feels extremely fleshed out and there’s a lot of tension in every move you make, considering the longer you hesitate the more likely you will die.

Now, by essential supplies, I’m talking about scarves and jackets and, I guess, weaponry, but this mode is all about the clothing on your back because you not only have to worry about being hit with bullets but also hypothermia; you combat the elements by dressing appropriately and huddling near trashcan fires. This mode makes clothing matter and exciting, though the fact that you are sick and in constant need of medicine can be too stressful. This is why I don’t play things like The Long Dark or Don’t Starve–there’s too much to worry about, and I really just want to wear comfy clothes and walk slowly from one waypoint to another, enjoying the view. Still, Survival is exactly what I wanted to see from The Division‘s DLC–a unique endeavor that forces you to think strategically instead of simply hiding a wall or car and blind-firing until all the enemies are on the ground.

For Last Stand, things become a little more traditional. This DLC pits teams of eight against one another on a section of the Dark Zone where the goal is to capture and hold as many terminals as possible. Naturally, the team that holds more terminals builds up their score quicker and wins. Sounds both simple and familiar, yes? Well, there are a few wrinkles. Such as the fact that enemy mobs still roam the battleground area. Players can eliminate these scrubs to earn a currency used during the match to build defenses like turrets or scanners that detect enemy movement in a designated area. Lastly, all gear is normalized to make things as fair as possible…if a bit uninteresting.

I’ll probably continue to poke at The Division throughout 2017, especially since Ubisoft plans to remain supportive of the game for the near future, even offering up two more expansions for no cost to the player. I suspect I’ll revisit Survival the most of the three DLCs as it offers something very different from the standard experience. Look, this game has been and remains often confusing and clunky, and yet I enjoy the firefights, dressing up my avatar, and the idea of having a full gear set that really plays to my strengths, which are healing other players and taking potshots from a safe distance. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but the dream is enough to keep me logging in now and then.

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War is about repeatedly killing a man for an Achievement

valiant hearts healing hero gd post

I watched Karl bleed out more than a dozen times before finally saving his life. It is by far not my proudest accomplishment to date as a grown man that plays and enjoys a wide variety of videogames, but it is one that has stuck with me since popping this Achievement in Valiant Hearts: The Great War:

valiant hearts healing hero achievement icon
Healing Hero:
Save Karl for the third time without making any mistakes (60G)

You’re welcome. Also: I’m sorry.

In Chapter 4-5: Saint Mihiel, you’ll be playing as Anna at Emile’s farm. She discovers a badly hurt Karl and immediately goes into nurse mode, which is represented as a…rhythmic quick time event. Not sure how else to describe it. I imagine it’s a bit like playing Guitar Hero, but instead of all the button prompts falling from the top of the screen to the bottom, you are working left to right, along a path emulating something like a heart rate monitor. The desired button presses start out simple, but quickly escalate in variety and amount as you get further into healing Karl’s wounds.

Here’s the rub. The Achievement’s description is not crystal clear, and you have to make it through all three of the healing QTEs without making a mistake for it to work. If you mess up on one of them, your best option is to let Karl bleed out–in other words, purposely miss the button presses until it fails. Thankfully, you don’t have to go back and redo all three instances of the QTE, just the one you goofed. I ended up having to kill Karl a bunch on the third and final QTE, which is naturally the most difficult of the trio. You also do all this to a glorious soundtrack of a child screaming and Karl’s failing heartbeat. Over and over. Yup, it’s brutal for all parties involved.

Fast forward several months from abusing poor, weakened Karl, and I’ve also gone back and found all 100 collectibles in Valiant Hearts: The Great War. Yes, a hundred pieces of actual history, such as urine-soaked rags, periscopes for use in trench fights, and numerous hand-written letters home from soldiers. It turns out that I hadn’t missed that many during my initial playthrough, but in my silly and sometimes too dramatic mind, the act of going back and finding these hidden items seemed like a real arduous task. It was not. I grabbed everything I was missing in a few hours over the holiday weekend, and it was nice to see that the game autosaves the moment you find a collectible, which meant I didn’t have to finish each and every level I dropped into…as that might’ve been too much.

With that, there’s nothing left in Valiant Hearts: The Great War for me to do. That’s fine. I need to begin clearing up storage room on my Xbox One. Yes, already. I do hope to see more unique, small titles like this from Ubisoft. It’s a somber adventure, quite different from a lot of the company’s other output, but the industry needs more unique takes on tough subjects. This could have easily been a quickly forgotten third-person action game or, worse, a lackluster first-person shooter that did what it could with the war’s weapons and tactics (hi, Battlefield 1!). Thankfully, we got something more memorable.

Grabbing all of The Division’s collectibles so you don’t have to

gd post the division all collectibles and jackets

Maybe this says a lot about my personality or how I’m wired, but I can’t not collect things in a videogame if there are things there to be collected. Especially if all you have to do is run around a map and pick up said objects with minimal obstacles in the way, and that is most definitely what you can do in Tom Clancy’s The Division. There’s even a great perk that unlocks all the collectibles as icons on the map once you finish all the missions in one area, which I purchased as soon as humanly possible. The feeling of euphoria is strong both when the map updates with a dozen icons to pick up and after I grab them all for my greedy, self-serving purposes.

There are a disgusting number of collectibles in The Division. A total 293 items to be exact. Here, allow me to break them down for you…

  • 24 Survival Guide
  • 130 Phone Recording
  • 40 Incident Reports
  • 16 Crashed Drones
  • 20 Missing Agents
  • 63 ECHOs

Last night, I finished getting them all. One after the other after another, and this is after a couple weeks of plugging away at this task while friends in my gaming group were killing rogue agents in the Dark Zone or bashing their heads against walls in the ultra-difficult “Falcon Lost” Incursion mission, which, they quickly gave up on after learning that Ubisoft is not giving out mission rewards for it due to people glitching their way to victory. Hmm. See, once I begin collecting collectibles, I can’t stop until I have them all. Especially if there’s a bonus reward to boot, such as an Achievement and special piece of cosmetic gear.

Without any further delay, here’s my level 30 character (level 37 in the Dark Zone, pfftt) wearing all the different jackets awarded for finding sets of collectibles spread across New York City’s disease-ridden map:

Meadow Jacket, for finding 24 Survival Guides

Meadow Jacket, for finding 24 Survival Guides

Highland Jacket, for finding 40 Incident Reports

Highland Jacket, for finding 40 Incident Reports

Sierra Jacket, for finding 20 Missing Agents

Sierra Jacket, for finding 20 Missing Agents

Rose Jacket, for finding 63 ECHOs

Rose Jacket, for finding 63 ECHOs

Frost Jacket, for finding 16 Crashed Drones

Frost Jacket, for finding 16 Crashed Drones

Shoreline Jacket, for finding 130 Phone Recordings

Shoreline Jacket, for finding 130 Phone Recordings

Look, the majority of the clothing options in The Division are drab and nearly identical. I try to make my outfit as bright and stylish as possible, and it’s quite challenging. So it is a great disappointment that three of these reward jackets–Shoreline, Highland, and Meadow–look almost exactly the same. Ubisoft has some gall to ask the player to collect 130 cell phone recordings, many of which are uninteresting, throwaway bits of story and banter, and then give them a jacket that is barely indistinguishable from the one you get for collecting a fraction of those collectibles in a different set. I personally think my character looks best in the Rose Jacket and don’t plan to change out of it unless something else nicer appears in future downloadable content.

That all said, I really can’t recommend anyone going out of their way to get all the collectibles in The Division. If one of these jackets strikes your fancy, then sure, focus on it and grab just those items to unlock it. I’m sure many of the other players out there, like me, beat all the story missions and hit the level cap before beginning to tackle these checklists, so it’s not like the XP you gain for getting them even does anything. The collectibles are definitely not scattered along the main roads/areas, meaning it is unlikely you came across many as you fast-traveled from your Base of Operations to whatever mission you wanted to do next.

I suspect I’ll not be dipping into The Division as much going forward, having completed a big part of it now besides Dark Zone stuff, raising my gear score (I think it’s around 178?), and missions on crazy hard difficulties wherein I die a whole bunch. Which is weird, because I worked so hard to get a fancy new jacket, and I have no future desire to wear it out in the world, to strut my stuff. Perhaps I’m ashamed of what I did, of the ridiculous lengths I went to. But I had to know, and now you know–choose wisely.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #30 – Valiant Hearts: The Great War

2016 gd games completed valiant hearts

Enter, the Great War
Full of puzzles, trench combat
Disharmonious

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War can bloom even on a battlefield

valiant hearts gd early impressions

I don’t know much about war, but I suspect I’m more knowledgeable when it comes to details related to World War II than World War I. Mind you, this is not me saying I’m knowledgeable at all. Just more familiar with how things went down from 1939 to 1945. Blame it heavier on popular entertainment media than my limited history school lessons, as I probably absorbed more from things like Band of Brothers and The Saboteur than anything else. As for World War I…well, I know it was one of the deadliest conflicts, with some absolutely terrifying weapons of war used. Like severe mustard gas.

So, naturally, there’s not a plethora of games based on this happy-go-lucky time period, though I did recently puzzle my way through Covert Front‘s alternative take on World War I. Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts: The Great War is also a puzzle adventure game, released in summer 2014 and developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, and walks the path of being both fun to play and educational. Evidently, the game was inspired by actual letters written during World War I and focuses on four different characters: the Frenchman Emile, his German son-in-law Karl, American soldier Freddie, and Belgian nurse Anna. It’s a heart-twisting story of love and survival, sacrifice and friendship. There’s also a dog you can continuously pet.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is divided up into four chapters, and each chapter is split into several sections. Most of these sections you to clear an objective in order to progress through the story, like solving environmental puzzles or acquiring specific items related to the situation. Other sections mix the action up, such as surviving heavy gunfire, stealthing past enemies undetected, and, my personal favorite, rhythmic car chase scenarios set to classic songs where you have to avoid obstacles in the road. Also, each of the four characters is able to interact with the world based on who they are, such as Emile shoveling through soft ground, Freddie cutting barbed wires with his shears, and Anna treating patients’ injuries through a mini QTE. When available, the characters can order the dog to carry objects and push levers.

Despite the tone and horrific historical details, I’m really enjoying my time so far in Valiant Hearts: The Great War. It’s got a fantastic, cartoonish art style, and the puzzles have not gotten too complicated to the point where I’d want to throw the controller away. Even if they do, there’s an in-game, timer-based hint system, if you need an extra clue on what to do with the dog or how to sneak by that watchful sniper in the tower. Toss in some relaxing piano tunes for when you are reading up on days past, as well as a soothing narrator, and this is a strangely tranquil gaming experience amidst all the explosions and mortar shells. I’m somewhere in the middle of chapter two currently, so I don’t expect this to last that much longer, but that’s okay. It’s bite-size, but so far quite filling.

Lastly, I keep thinking from its title that Valiant Hearts is somehow related to Vandal Hearts, a PlayStation 1 tactics RPG that I regret trading in back when I was young and dumb (but haven’t written about yet). Alas, the two are no more related than…well, I tried for the longest time to think of some witty war comparison here, but came up empty. Germany and Canada? Meh. If you’ve got a killer line, drop it in the comments.

The Division’s straightforward formula has been activated

tc the division further impressions

I’ve been playing Tom Clancy’s The Division–from here forward more succinctly written just as The Division, because, really now, I don’t think Tom Clancy the author man had anything to do with it–for about two weeks now, plugging away at keeping virus-laden Manhattan, New York as safe as one possibly can during these tough times. I’ve also given a lot of bottles of water to those in need for clean, sometimes trendy, attire, and I’ve also done my fair share of shooting “bad” dudes in the fleshy bits while hanging back to heal my teammates and distract enemies. It’s a cover-based shooter, for better or worse, and good fun with a group of friends.

The story has promise, banking on at least my fear about both chemical warfare and the mass hysteria that unearths during the annual Black Friday shopping event, which, with every new year, begins to expand and trickle into the Thursday prior. Maybe even starting on Wednesday night for some greedy stores. Anyways, a smallpox pandemic called “Green Poison” is spread on banknotes and then circulated around, forcing Manhattan to be quarantined by the government. The U.S. government jumps into action, activating sleeper agents in the population who operate for the Strategic Homeland Division to assist emergency responders, now called the Joint Task Force (JTF), in restoring order. You play as one of these agents, doing things like retrieving important personnel and combating criminal groups, like the Rikers, which are escapees from Rikers Island.

To be honest, and I don’t know if this is because I’ve played the majority of story missions cooperatively with a group of chatty souls, where it is often hard to pay attention to cutscenes and ambient dialogue, but the story seems like all premise and nothing truly substantial. I’ve rescued people, but they aren’t interesting or important to much else that happens afterwards, and every scenario is built around getting the Division agents into a room full of low barriers and red, explosive barrels to have a chaotic shootout. That’s fine and all, considering the shooting gameplay is solid and enjoyable, but a lot of the action doesn’t feel very purposeful. Especially when you walk away from a story mission with only a new weapon blueprint and some XP.

I completed the last main story mission a few nights ago, and the reason I know it was the last main story mission is because a screen pops up afterwards, telling you about going into the Dark Zone and promising more content in the future. I don’t really even know what happened. I hid towards the back while my higher level teammates shot down a helicopter. I thought we were looking for a cure or a means to get there, but I don’t know why we did this, and why the plot ended here. Seems like it stopped too short, and the rest of any story bits can be picked up via the hundreds of collectibles scattered across the map. I’d like to tell you that I won’t go and get them all, but this is me…I love setting a waypoint and heading to it to grab a thing.

If anything, The Division has a fashion problem. Which is unfortunate, because it’s the aspect of the game I’m drawn to the most. Yup, you read that right. I’d rather play dress up than shoot up. I love dressing up my avatars in games like The Sims or Animal Crossing: New Leaf or Fallout 4. It helps bring out both my personality and theirs, and getting a new piece of clothing to try on is exciting. Not in real life, but digitally…yes. I can’t really explain it. Alas, the clothing drops in The Division are drab and dull and barely contain any character. I’ve mostly leaned toward outfits that feature sharp oranges or blues to at least stand out a bit in this colorless world. Thankfully, your clothing inventory is separate from gear and has no limit, but it can still be overwhelming to sift through in search of a new hat or pair of hiking boots.

I hit the level cap of 30 last night, which now unlocks daily missions–basically the same story missions you’ve already done, but at a higher difficulty with the promise of good loot–as well as high-end gear. Which means a gun that does more damage, a backpack that provides more health, and so on. You know, numbers going up. I haven’t experienced much of the Dark Zone yet, with intentions of entering it after checking off most of the story-central stuff. Unfortunately, I still have like three hundred different collectibles to get, not an exaggeration, as well as two more wings to upgrade back at my main base of operation. I suspect I’ll keep playing, certainly to get all these items, but also because I bought the game’s season pass, and there’s more content down the road. Hopefully it’s more than just a bunch of generic-sounding missions that force you to aim a gun at someone who is also aiming a gun at you.

Overall, I’d say that The Division is a pretty good game, with some severe weaknesses when it comes to its story and mission variety. It is at its most enjoyable when playing with friends, telling stories, making jokes, and occasionally paying attention to the dangers that actually lay ahead. Running to and fro across the map by myself reveals just how lonely of a time one can have in Ubisoft’s diseased New York City, and getting into firefights along the way results in either being amazingly easy or the most difficult struggles of your career as a secret agent. I prefer a crew and playing a part in said crew, which, for me, is to toss out a turret to distract enemies while running around and ensuring everyone is healed up. I’ll also occasionally fire a bullet at someone. It’s camaraderie that keeps The Division together, keeps me navigating through less-than-impressive menu UI. Without that, the sickness will win.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #25 – Tom Clancy’s The Division

2016 gd games completed tom clancy the division

New York very sick
You have been activated
To shoot bad humans

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.