Monday, 2 May 2016

The Division - My role

My role in the game is primarily dictated by my preference to play as part of my friends' team.  To be honest, I'm not a role/loadout nerd so concentrate on getting my team role and it's loadout organised and just run with that when I'm doing solo. Basically, I'm a bit lazy.

Broadly speaking, I am a marksman. I like playing a support role in my team, giving covering fire from the back and overwatching my fellows then jumping in close when they need some medi help. For close-up occasions I am currently running the AUG Para SMG, for close protection or when I am in danger of being over-run.

Support  Marksman
Unlike a sniper, I like the ability to be closer to my teammates (literally, just behind their backs) and I have picked an accurized assault rifle so I can 'mix it' when needs be. My teammates are quite aggressive players, so this means I can't afford to get too detached from the group and have to be ready to jump in if I have to medi or revive.

For this reason, I have settled on the High-End Tenebrae - which, in reality, is just a fancy SCAR 'H' - which I crafted from blueprints that are available from the vendor back at the Post Office base. The Tenebrae suits my preference for the FAL type rifle, as the SCAR 'H' (H is for 'Heavy') is the spiritual offspring of FN's FAL (The SCAR rifle also being manufactured by FN). In the real world both the FN FAL and the FN SCAR H are chambered for the 7.62 x 51mm NATO round.

My Tenabrae Set-Up
Being a marksman rifle I think stability, accuracy and damage are pretty important, but being able to critical hit is also a very potent facet of a set-up for this type of rifle. So my gun mode collection is currently as thus...

Scope - CQBSS scope (8x), Headshot Damage: 19.50% ~ Accuracy: 21%
- The CQBSS scope is - in my opinion - a great hybrid marksman scope. Some try to stick a high-zoom telescopic sight on their marksman rifle (indeed, the Tenebrae comes with a 12x zoom scope by default) but as I work closer in I like a lower zoom and a more open reticle.

Magazine - High Velocity: 7.59% Critical Hit ~ Magazine Size: 87%
- By default, the Tenabrae comes with a 20 round mag and if you use the rifle as I do, as a part-time assault rifle, you will soon find this very limiting. Getting your mag size up should be a priority, with critical hit as another high priority.

Vertical Grip - Initial Bullet Stability: 37.50% ~ Accuracy: 20%
- Stability in a high-recoil rifle like the SCAR H is important, without it your gun will be jumping all over the place as you maintain a steady follow-up shot stream. A bit of accuracy never goes amiss either, so keep crafting your favoured grip for better stats!

Compensator - Horizontal Stability: 36% ~ Stability: 36%
- Stability again! I haven't bothered with a suppressor (however cool it looks on a marksman rifle). This gun is loud and proud!

So, as you see I have concentrated on stability to offset the recoil of this heavy gun, plus some damage/critical and finally, I have added a bit of an extended magazine (this really makes a difference if you want to use your marksman rifle as a semi-assault rifle as the basic mag only holds 20 rounds).

But, I am constantly trying to refine these mods by re-crafting to see if I can improve the stats on them. For example, I am re-rolling my magazine frequently to try and up the size of teh mag closer to 100% and also to see if I can get the critical hit up.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Division - Done!

Well, not really done but, rather, I have completed the basic 'story mode' element of the game. This is the solo and co-op AI-adversarial part of the gameplay and lead you through a plot which uncovers the who and why of the bio-terrorist attack that is at the heart of this game.

All investigations into the plot of The Division are completed. I found 100% of
all the clues which build up who was responsible and why the bio-attack on
New York happened. You don't have to do this, you can progress without doing
absolutely every part of this 'paper chase'.
Simply put (no spoilers here), the story mode is a sort of training event which leads you to what Ubisoft was perhaps hoping would be the icing on the cake of their blockbusting game - your Dark Zone incursion! The initial part of The Division has you - aside from investigating and revealing the plot - upgrading your weapons and abilities and honing your skills to a point where you can confidently cope with the challenges of the game's PvP arena.

I chose to do every element of the investigative paper-chase in the game - which had me scouring Ubisoft's virtual New York for 'clues' - but this game of 'hide and seek' is optional. My BIG clan friends chose to skip this, only completing a proportion of the story-driven tasks as a bi-product of completing the main and sub missions. I am, however, a bit anal about such things!

My player character as he was when I completed the story mode of the game.
To me, Ubisoft did not make the completion of the investigative part of the game as integral to game progression as it perhaps should have been. The fact that you can 'skip past' the whole plot-line if you want detracts from its relevancy and questions why you have a plot at all if it has no bearing on your progression to the finale. But, apparently, some players don't like stories and just want to shoot!

Anyway, by the time you reach level 30 you should be a fairly adept user of the game's mechanics and ready to face other players directly in the gladiatorial area of The Dark Zone. The flaw in this is that this zone is inhabited by some very (very) high-level players (who have no lives) and you will have your butt handed to you when you encounter them...A bit of a flaw i Ubisoft's plan!

Role on the DLC is what I (and many others) are saying.

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Division - My impressions

The past couple of years has been rather disappointing gaming years for my gaming mates and me. The major 'blockbuster' games failed to ignite our passion and our little friendly gaming clan has somewhat disintegrated as we all went our separate ways with a variety of single player games that piqued our individual interest (at one point I got heavily into Sniper Elite 3, which none of my friends showed any interest in)!

So I was taken a bit by surprise at the title that has gotten us back playing together, as it isn't our usual first person shooter, multiplayer online battlefield game. In actual fact, it's Unisoft's The Division.

First-person to third-person
I'm tempted to ask what happened to second-person, but I'll skip that! Since BIG clan - that small group of casual (more interested in drinking while playing) gamers got together we've always been interested in FPSs. From Battlefield to Call of Duty (when pushed) to Bad Company and Borderlands, we've always preferred our twitchy gun action 'in our face', so to speak.

The action can be intense sometimes, especially if you opt to enter the PvP
'Dark Zone'. Outside the zone, the AI enemy is only a challenge in numbers.
I already mentioned Sniper Elite - which is third-person - and my failure to interest my friends in joining in the co-op goodness of this game, and yet, when I think about it, Sniper Elite 3 and The Division have certain things in common. Maybe it was the background story of The Division that enthused my mates and got them to overcome their aversion to playing a third-person view character?

New York, New York
I missed all the hype about The Division completely, that's how far out the loop I am with games these days. So when my clan-mate BIG-Magnus contacted me to tell me to 'buy it now' I was a bit non-plussed. A third-person co-op shooter based in a post-biological-disaster New York? That didn't sound like 'our sort of thing' (and bad memories of DICE's ill-fated Battlefield Hardline popped into my mind for some reason).

One of the strange story-telling vehicles for the game is a sort of augmented
reality device, called an 'echo'. This shows you events that have taken place
during the disaster which overtook New York, like puzzle pieces.
But I'm so glad I wasn't put off because The Division was no-where near the insipid and bland experience of Hardline. For a start, it's not a mass multiplayer online free-for-all - it's a group co-op (sort of) 'RPG', third-person shooter that also has a multiplayer PVP facet.

But what captures your attention most of all about this game is the absolutely stunning digital reconstruction of a post-apocalyptic New York. It's so immersive.

My search pattern through just one of the 17 districts which make up this virtual
New York. You can opt to skip the story 'puzzle' and simply hit the side and main
missions. But in doing so you loose something of the atmosphere of the 'plot'.
Now, I've just been playing Fallout 4, so I thought I knew what good post-apocalyptic Americana looked like. But, The Division makes Fallout 4's world look like a Disney cartoon!

The gameplay
OK, forget about the super enthusiastic hyperbole about how good a job Ubisoft has made of their New York - what's the game like?

One of the areas where the excellent graphics crosses from simple eye-candy
into being an active part of the gameplay is the changing winter weather. Here
a sudden 'white out' blizzard makes gun-play a might difficult!
It's OK. The storyline is fairly interesting and the associate 'plot' based co-op paperchase (masquerading as an RPG) can be challenging at certain times, but I found myself in the same 'shoot and loot' territory as Fallout 4, without some of the crafting incentives of that game (though there is a supplementary crafting element to The Division, it isn't as central to the game as it was in FO4).

There is a paper-thin attempt to get you involved in a building process, but it's a pretty linear pre-scripted event. As you progress in the game you collect items and credits which allow you to upgrade your main base. And as you 'turn back on' the city's utilities, security and medical facilities you - in turn - receive more perks and talents that help you with your combat.

Searching through rubbish can be one of the challenges as you have to keep
a sharp eye out for discarded loot and 'investigation' items. Mobile phones are
scattered about the map and by listening to voicemail you build up a sense of
what happened during the disaster.
But this is no Fallout 4 'base building'. You are restricted to pre-set elements which you can reactivate in your base, the only thing you can determine is what order you choose to turn things back on. And in the end, the overall effect is the same.

Shooting, weapons and adversaries are likewise so-so, but the missions are fun enough if you play with friends (the challenge increases with more players). Modification and types of weapons are a bit limited and there are no 'super-weapons' (forget any sort of alien plasma doomsday pistol), weapons are restricted to the limitations of real-world technology (sort of).

A game within a game, if your priority is gun-play or an integral part of the
storyline. The 'intel' you collect as you go along reveals the 'plot'.
However, about level 18-20 (out of 30) you twig to the routine and that upgrading weapons and perks and what-not is just a means of cranking up the challenge of some very similar looking missions. It all feels like pre-level 30 is just 'training' for what Ubisoft hoped would be the main event as far as challenges is concerned - the Dark Zone.

In conclusion
The Division starts well, but ultimately cools down in the excitement it can illicit from the player. I think Ubisoft missed a trick when it didn't open up the chance for you to actually join one of the gangs as part of the storyline - in a similar way to how you can choose to join a faction in Fallout 4. This would have opened up the possibility of a variety of different endings to the game, thus making it a little less linear. Plus, let's face it, it's fun to be 'bad'!

Technically, you are not alone (whether you play solo or co-op) in your quest to
bring order back to the streets of New York. These NPC's are part of the 'JTF'
militia which patrol the streets and take on criminal activity. But you will find
them a somewhat impotent force, and often - amusingly - only turn up AFTER
you have resolved a problem.
No matter how complex the game, and the reconstruction of New York, all road lead, inextricably, to 'Rome' as it were.

I really hope Ubisoft rectify some of the sameyness of the missions in the forthcoming DLC, because if they do that they will have a classic game on their hands (at last). At any rate, The Division is a road sign which points to how games worlds can be...My friends and I spend a lot of time wondering what a Battlefield title would be like with the level of detail that there is in The Division.

As a solo game, you will not, I think, want to play this game through more than once. As I said, the fact that you can't play it through the first time a 'good guy' and then play it through again as a gang member or as one of the adversarial groups is a real faux-pas on Ubisoft's part. However, as a co-op game, it does offer you a lot of fun as your friends and yourself make it hard for each other to complete fairly straight forward missions!

But wait, there's more...
Now, the above is a sorta fair overview of the game - it's looks gorgeous, but it's flawed. But I don't want you going away thinking what's the attraction then?

An almost completely insignificant aspect of the game, but one that gives me a
'feel good' buzz, is the handing out of aid to 'civilians'. I would have been even
more happy if Ubisoft ha included even more humanitarian missions.
I have thoroughly loved playing this game - because, to my mind, 'playing' the game means taking part in the paper-chase across and exploring (digitally at least) one of the world's great cities, New York. The shooting bit is a bit of a plus!

Believe it or not, I have enjoyed some of the touches which are little more than asides in the game. The giving out of supplies to the locals, being heckled at from windows by the Native New Yorkers! The only thing that is missing is the local food shops not being open and I would feel like I was on vacation in The Big Apple.

Once again, a tiny touch that has no real effect on the game but is a wonderful
aspect of the atmosphere of the world Ubisoft has created is the 'heckling'.
New Yorkers 
Now, I will stop at this point as all my commentary - thus far - has been based on my experience as a player pre-level 30 and pre-completion of the storyline part of the game. I did do a couple of Dark Zone incursions, but up until now I have been involved in The Divison as a game that, in many ways, feels like Borderlands (and, dare I say, even a bit like some of Left4Dead 2) in that I've been playing a co-op, story-led, shoot and loot action game.

By the time you reach level 30 (and perhaps even earlier if you are an avid fan of watching vlogs about the games you play and how to improve your play) The Division changes slightly. It becomes a bit more serious - if the whole story about biological armageddon wasn't serious enough for you - and you really start to begin to hone your skills in preparation for serious Dark Zone PVP battles.

So, more about that later.

As to the story-driven aspect of The Division, I would rate it 3.5/5...Can the Dark Zone adventure lift it to a 4/5?

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Into the Dark Zone!

I was sort of forced into this. I was going to wait until I had completed the basic story mode before moving onto the more adversarial 'Dark Zone' - but I caved into peer pressure.

There is a lot written online about the merits (or otherwise) of The Division's Dark Zone, the sum of which has turned me off trying it out. So being dragging in was probably the best thing, in the end, otherwise, I might have put it off until I had tired of the game and never tried it. And this, as it turned out, would have been a real shame.

I'd allowed myself to be put off on the insistence of one of my gaming friends that the (quote) 'Darkzone is shite'! Which just goes to show you shouldn't always listen to your friends, because I really enjoyed my first DZ experience...

I was told after this first trip into the Zone that I had an easy session and that most trips are a lot more hairy. I hope that is the case because I'm ready for the challenge.

But at its heart, it's quite a cool idea and can be pretty exciting - although the caveat is that it may turn out to be a one trick pony. The fury of a hard gun fight against strong odds, then the nerve-wracking experience of getting to the pick-up zone and - finally - the heart pounding defensive stand to protect your haul (also, there is the little matter of getting back out of the zone alive).

I can see how this will be appealing, and a challenge, the first - maybe - dozen times, but after that?

One facet of this I haven't mentioned is the Rogues Agents. Other human players who inhabit the Zone and can be neutral, or a right pain in the bum!

'Manz28' (the level 27 player in the center) intervenes just as we are about to make our extraction
of booty from the Dark Zone. Luckily, there were more of us so he and his mate thought better of
trying to rip us off! Fighting off two sets of adversaries might have ended badly for us.
We met two rogues on our trip, but they were the same level as my friends and didn't bother us. Had there been more of them, or they were of a higher level or there were less of us they could have made things very difficult for us. They could have could have 'mugged' us for our booty.

This potential intervention adds a bit of unpredictability, which raises the tension.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Division (PC)

Another long drought in postings brought on by another long drought of computer games. There have been a couple of games that fleetingly grabbed my interest - most notably Insurgency and Fallout 4 - but their attraction was short-lived, particularly as my game-playing friends never took to them.

However, and I have to say rather unexpectedly, I have been enthused by the recent release of Tom Clancy's The Division on the PC...

The Division (PC) - New York in winter!

Set in a post-apocalyptic New York...Yadda, yadda, yadda...

Shoot stuff and collect stuff, basically. But the game is worth mentioning for it's absolutely gorgeous environment. The gameplay maybe run of the mill - and there are questions about its longevity - but there can be no question about the fact that - graphically - Unisoft have raised the bar. It's really hard to imagine going back to Call of Duty or Battlefield gaming environments after playing The Division!

Trudging through the winter cityscape with its eye-popping level of detail is a sheer pleasure in itself, and in some ways the missions get to become something of a side-event as you tour their version of New York.

Of course, shooting stuff does still get the blood pumping at times - at least, until you realise that one encounter with the gangs of bad guys that roam the wrecked shambles of the city is very much like another. To distract you from this, there is a fair amount of searching and being rewarded upgrades, but over the course of time, you realise that the actual progression through these upgrades is somewhat limited in the advances they can actually deliver. They really only suffice in 'keeping you afloat' in terms up your levelling up.

TheDivision 2016-03-20 11-14-11-22

Don't get me wrong, this game isn't another cul-de-sac - as was Fallout 4 - but there is an ever growing fashion for 'crafting' among gamers (as a reason to collect 'stuff') that isn't quite satisfied in this game. Neither is the base development aspect much more than perfunctory - there is no base building here, as there was in Fallout 4.

Weapons and combat are 'OK'. Though I have yet to undertake the PvP component of the game by entering the much dreaded 'Dark Zone'! (The consensus among commentators is we wait until we hit level 30 before we venture into that zone and take on real human adversaries.)

Cleaning up the Cleaners, in The Division (PC)

There are some really nice touches, like the 'civilian' survivors that are dotted about. Some games provide cityscapes that just feel totally empty - looking at you Battlefield 4 - but in The Division there are people about, many of them are just 'hiding' It's rather amusing - and quite immersive - when every so often an NPC opens the window of a first floor apartment to shout at you or - in one quite bizarre situation - started taking photos of me 'doing my thing'!

But interaction with the civvies is quite limited, which is a shame.

Well, that's my thoughts so far, but I'll end on a positive note, The Division has engaged my friends and I, to such an extent that we have been getting together online again after a long hiatus. So, for that, it has definitely been well worth the purchase.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Fallout 4 settlement building tip (PC)

I know I haven't been posting regularly, but that's because between work and playing Fallout 4 I've not had much time to do anything else! And on the subject of Fallout 4...

I will be doing a 'review' - well, not a review really, as by now all the reviews you'll ever need have been done. What I will be doing is giving a report on how I feel the game has developed, for the player point of view, now I am about (I estimate) about mid-game-ish.

This will be a video walkthrough of a couple of my settlements with a rambling commentary about the game. But in the meantime, here's a rather useful video if you a settlement building fan and a PC user. There's been lots of very nice videos done by Xbox players on how to exploit the object clipping 'glitch' in oredr to make structure fit together better, well here a PC version I've just found...

ALSO...Another annoying thing you will come across - and you are a bit anal about your settlement building - is the dead body glitch in the game. This is bloody annoying and is noticeable when you try to clean up your settlement area after you have cleared out the bad guys...Some dead bodies just keep reappearing no matter what you try. Here's the 'cure'...

Hope these tips help you out.

I'll be back when I'm ready to do my Fallout 4 player experience video.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Dusting off this blog!

A little life update so please feel free to skip this if you want. This is mainly a chance for me to get the last year or so of activities (or inactivities) off my chest...

So, what's been happening?

Middle age mostly. A hard as I tried to put it off it has caught up with me and I have finally succumbed to doing 'grown up things'. The main thing is that 'we' (and by that I mean the wife) decided about a year ago that 'we' would not be moving house...

This came as something of a surprise to me as I didn't realise that we were seriously considering it. I thought all that looking in estate agents windows was just her being nosey. But no, as usual I was being naive and there was - it seems - some sort of actual plan. In any case, that plan changed, we would be staying put.

Hooray, you would think I would say - but this quickly turned into a resounding 'booo' when I realised what that meant. You see, fellow chaps, that is wife talk for 'we shall now be upgrading our current house to the way I want it'. And there, in a nutshell, is where my life of sloth and hobbies disappeared into a dark abyss.

Not that the wife is all to blame - the fact is that over the past year work-work has also become a huge pain in the arse as well. But of course, I can't change that because (double-trap) 'we' have become used to the income and that income is needed to do up the house the way she (sorry 'we') want it! Double whammy!

The icing on this s**t-cake is that - as a side-effect of all the house 'improvements' - I lost the use of my attic man-cave, which has now become the house dumping-ground. I can squeeze into my gaming chair - but to be honest, the act of gaming is no longer the relaxed and enjoyable past-time so I haven't done much over the past six months (I'm one of those nit-picking people who cannot sit down and do things unless the workspace around me is ordered and tidy).

So, there you have it, my year of hell.

I have been reduced - hobby-wise - to a small 'TV dinner' sized table in the front room to do my hobbying on. Needless to say, this has precluded all but the smallest projects (so most of my hobby blogging has been done on my '' modelling blog). All my bigger projects, or projects that need some space (or are smelly) have been abandoned until I can get the attic back.

In effect, this post is a run-up to this years 'New Year's Resolution'. And my resolution for 2016 is to get some of my hobby time  and hobby space back. (Ironically, one of the aspects of the idea of us moving house that I did relish was the notion that if we got a house with a big garden then I might finally get a shed!)

Middle age sucks...It's just one big race to accumulate objects and nest-build before you die.

Rant over. (I promise I will have a proper Milgeek post soon.)