Editorial #44

April 8, 2016

The Inverse Exponential fun problem with The Division - The Plateau effect.

It is with a heavy heart that I write this article, but I haven’t lost hope yet. Much like a father who learns their son much prefers Soccer to Hockey, I’ll live in the vague denial that eventually things will turn around and we can all live in harmony. I still think The Division can bring sexy back and make me sink another 80 hours into it with no problem, they just have to do a few things right.

 

This was to be Ubisoft’s love letter to me. Back when this game was first announced I was astounded. I became the hype, I was hype incarnated, much like a phoenix Moltres on RedBull my energy levels were greatly surpassing the 9000 threshold without the assistance of Kaio-ken. Never before had I seen a game so goddamn pretty! excluding Final Fantasy and Crysis, and -- The weather was just so crazy good, and the atmosphere finally fit in with the kind of sandbox playground I wanted to explore, it gave me hope for a FPS RPG that was to set the bar for how they should be. The advertised gameplay set my heart ablaze and I could feel the fire burning through my fingertips.

 

And then I waited.

 

Oh boy did I wait, I waited a long fucking time, I kept myself in the dark, I remind myself of its beauty every now and again to remind myself that I wasn’t going to be stuck in this bland hell of fuckery that was the era where Call of Duty: Ghosts through Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 was. Holy shit do not get me started about Battlefield Hardline and the jokes that was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. They were dark times my friend.

 

Then came the technical previews, the slight ball tickles that were the engine footage, and all the little things that would stifle a slight flutter in my chest and expand into never ending hyper monster that was starting to grow into a out of control typhoon. Waves of emotion came crashing through me and I was starting to lose it. When the everlasting fuck is this game going to come out.

 

Again I shroud myself in darkness, the best way to cope with this sort of unrelenting force is to pretend it doesn’t exist, much like my Student Loans or Final Fantasy XV or the inevitable heat death of the universe.

 

Then it arrived.

 

I had gotten so good at distracting myself with CS:GO that I had almost completely forgotten this title was coming out this year. I had gotten caught up in the fun of case openings and losing my knives on betting websites to realize that my messiah was about to leave the cave. I thought the ads and promotions that lined the EB Games were just to remind me that “Hey buddy, you got another six months until this game comes out, better pre-order, ahyuck.”. This was fantastic news, I immediately put down the money and got my game the following day.

 

The first few hours were great.

 

I had become obsessed, I wanted to know all there was to know about this game. I was forced to wait to install my physical copy, but patience was key, I had waited years for this game and I wasn’t about to let a hour get the best of me. Then the Day One patch, of course, yet another hour. Thanks, shitty Bell internet. I played until I couldn’t keep my eyes open and my conscience told me that sleep was needed in order to go to work the next day. I sat at my desk working and checking reddit during breaks to better myself at the game and learn the mechanics and fuck ups that other people were having. “Make sure you don’t sell all your stuff, deconstruct everything, use a SMG”. Yes, YES, knowledge is power! I was learning from my experiences and the experiences of others and I had become great.

 

Or so I thought.

 

The actual problem with The Division is that you can’t exactly get amazing at it. There is very little in terms of how “skilled” you are at the game that actually makes an impact on how easy things can get. I’m sure there are hoards of people now who have gone far beyond the scope of my loadout and have obtained some of the insane weapons this game has to offer. I know they have, I’ve seen the videos. There is just one massive problem with this game and it is that it’s a huge time sink.

 

Don’t waste my fucking time.

 

I am great at mechanics of the game, there is nothing new here, RPGs and FPS are my jam. This is another problem the game has, instead of making the game skill based it’s just “How much time do you have to take to kill this enemy”. The enemies themselves aren’t difficult, they just give the illusion that they’re difficult. Giving them massive health bars so that they eat up more bullets than a loose pack of wolves at an all you can eat sheep buffet, doesn’t make them any more or less difficult to take down. It’s just how long is it going to take before I finally meet the bullet quota. They all have the same basic 3 states: swearing, running, attacking and covering. You can tell when they’re going to throw a grenade since they’re little indications, but it’s just a part of the “attacking” state.

 

Actually, there is very little in this game you’re unaware of. There is some serious hand-holding going on in this game. It’s like Ubisoft decided to be an overzealous Black Hawk mother and is guiding me throughout my entire bullet sponge filled bananza. It’s great to have a constant SitRep, but there is very little left to the imagination. I suppose if I wanted to be immersed and unaware of what situation I was getting into I should go play Rainbow Six: Siege, but that game has it’s own set of problems to be discussed at another time. The whole game isn’t exactly a massive tutori-- *lights flash, epiphany occurs* The Division is “Waiting In Line Simulator FPS Tutorial 2016”. Teach me how to quickscope Ubisoft, my time to be a real MLG gamer is now. I’ll construct my Dorito crown and get back to you soon.

 

Sure, having the enemies a few levels above me two-shot me is fine, I get that, classic RPG nonsense but this disgustingly brutal in the late game. The late game where you spend 80% of your time. The time you spend just constantly driving hot sharp pieces into metal into humanoid terminators that bleed actual blood and curse at me and have about the same aiming as the Imperial Troopers in Star Wars. Unless they’re the fucking snipers who are goddamn wallbanging aimbots who fucking 360 quickscope you across map while facing the other direction. WHO THE FUCK DECIDED THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE THE GODDAMN FLASHLIGHTS FROM BATTLEFIELD 3, AS IF LENS FLARE WASN’T A FUCKING DESIGN TABOO AS IT WAS, LET’S JUST MAKE THAT A CORE PART OF THEIR CHARACTER, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.

 

For real though, the Challenge Mode in The Division isn’t so much that the enemies flank you in new ways, or that there are mini-bosses, it’s just that there are more enemies, they put a decent amount of pressure on you since they have unlimited ammo, mile long health bars and apparently the best kevlar ever conceived of in the history of the universe and that’s it. They just take more time to make into freedom cadavers and that’s the end of it. The illusion of difficulty by wasting my time, it’s fucking boring. You spend copious amounts of time just sandblasting people for merger rewards, it’s similar to working 4 hours for a paid lunch and then you find out that the lunch is just a dry turkey and cheese sandwich and there is no condiments to go with it and then you get the privilege to work for another 4 hours for the right to go home for evening and start all over the following day.

 

I thought I was signing up for a good time.

 

Enter the Dark Zone, this is probably one of the few saving graces for this game and why I’ll probably bother playing (sparingly, mind you) until the DLC drops. It’s fun to walk around what is probably actually the difficult part of this game. Again it is not so much the game itself that makes this part exciting but rather the fact that there is another human bastard out there who might take advantage of a situation and murder my face at any given moment. They don’t have radar presence, I can’t gauge how they react to my actions. I can’t predict a single thing they will do and that makes them terrifying. PvP is what is keeping this game alive for me. It is disgustingly fun and I can’t understand how they could make this part so well and then slightly tumble with the offline interactions. Perhaps I’m right and the other parts of the game are simply tutorials on how to have basic life skills in the Dark Zone but that makes things a little awkward.

 

It is almost implied that the Dark Zone was supposed to supplement the other gameplay and that’s where things get a tiny bit blurry for me. You see, the reason I spend so much time doing the Dailys and the other activities in the game is to perform better in the Dark Zone. It’s this strange shift from the beginning where you reach level 10 and then you should probably take occasional trips into the blood-soaked oasis that is the DZ to buff your gear to make the missions easier take less time, and then continue to level up and save NYC. I thought that’s what we were doing here, saving the city, taking back the city, making Faye Lau proud.

 

That’s not exactly the case.

 

I understand that the DZ is the ultimate problem child in terms of the game’s plot setting, but it’s where basically all the meat and potatoes are in the end game. This being the case there is no progression, you don’t save shit. The whole city remains the goddamn same from start to finish. Your Base of Operations is the only thing you really influence and that doesn’t even take you to the end of the missions to do and then what? I just keep doing the Encounters and Side Missions just because I feel like it?

 

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

 

The lack of any sort of reward is a massive problem here. For a game that takes so much from Diablo III and Destiny, it lacks the fundamental spark that makes those games great, they’re fun as fuck to play and they reward you justly. Is there a disgusting amount of grinding in Destiny and Diablo III? Yes. Is the core game fun? Yes. Does the game give you rewards sooner than later and often times come as a surprise and completely act as game changers, fucking GOD MODE for 15 minutes type feeling exist? Hell to the fucking YES. Those unexpected legendary drops were amazing. You get one and become a goddamn force to reckon with, you just shit on foes left and right and feel like a king for a day and you realize, there are more of these out there for me to go get, LET’S FUCKIGN DO THIS!

 

I don’t have that moment in The Division. Ever.

 

As stated before, every enemy in this game is a bullet sponge. My god-tier weapon just shaves their health bar just a tiny bit more than the legendary drop I got at level 20. The exotic you decide to use in Destiny completely changes how you have to play the game. My High-End Vector ACP 45, it behaves just like any other Vector ACP 45 in the game except maybe it’s perks and damage are a little better, but you use the weapon just the same and you have to use cover and spray just like you did before. I’m not asking to be a god and walk around destroying all in my path with hellfire (I mean that would be cool), but I am asking that something needs to happen. Two tapping kids in Crucible with a Hawkmoon is vastly different than picking someone off with a MIDA Multi-Tool, which is different from spraying someone down with Hard Light. Yes those are all different weapon types, but even the Hard Light behaves entirely different from the Zhalo Supercell and there is a time and place for either weapon (one is PVE focused and the other PVP). I understand that yes, the ACP and the M4 do in fact shoot differently but they lack character.

 

The High-Ends don’t differ much from the Superior it seems. They’re not exactly game-changers. They don’t shoot lasers or have incendiary effects or blast piss lightening or scream dubstep. I understand we’re going for realism, but it’s doing a real shit job at that as well. What they could do is make my High-End act more realistic and either stagger my opponents or two-tap them or something. Wouldn’t that be cool? Just have your weapon actually behave like an actual weapon instead of feeling like a fucking water pistol? Just slowly work your way back from a game that is super RPG focused and just have that slightly melt away into a game that is more strategy and realism based. Your spraying days slowly get tuned into a well oiled machine of realism and destruction of SWAT like behavior and gritty life and death gun simulation.

 

That’s asking for too much.

 

What they should do is just make it like more like Diablo (since they love to just take concepts from that game) and just let me deal millions of damage to my enemies and make them blow up into tiny bits of blood and flesh. Mow down entire rooms of enemies in seconds and move onto the next room. That would be entertaining alright. Making me grind for drops and 3-4 different kinds of currency is not entertaining. Forcing me to look up cheeses and glitches to make the grinding faster is not entertaining. Using up all my materials to craft shit weapons so I have to go grind for more material or walk around the goddamn city picking up scraps like a fucking homeless man is not fun.

 

What happened to the engaging part of the game where the beginning had you hooked. The story was meh, but the mowing down of enemies, the progression, the excitement that was so tightly woven into each and every mission you complete completely dies off the second you hit level 30 and have completed your base of operations.

 

I understand the DLC is coming.

 

Covering up the lack of content with predetermined upcoming DLC seems a little bit like a cop out. At least when you finished the missions in Destiny you felt like you accomplished something. When I completed the missions in The Division I sort of felt like I had just tipped my toes into the water. Some of the evidence videos were great, there are shining pieces of this game that really draw you in but it’s a little too fragmented and too far in between.

 

We’ll have to wait and see, I’m sure this game will pick up again, even great games go through a period of stagnation before they can arise from the ashes. In the meantime I have more cases to buy in CS:GO.

 

clearskyy

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