The Infinite Zenith

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Yoshika Miyafuji and the Frostbite Engine, or, Strike Witches: Road to Berlin and The Road to Battlefield V

“Hikari Karibuchi was able to take out a Neuroi Hive in the Arctic cold! With a Liberator pistol!”
“Well, I’m sorry. I’m not Hikari Karibuchi.”

—Obadiah Stane and a scientist on miniaturising the Arc Reactor, Iron Man

Earlier this week, it was announced that Strike Witches would return the story to Yoshika Miyafuji and the 501ˢᵗ Joint Fighter Wing. In a thrilling trailer, Yoshika and her fellow Witches deploy from the bomb bays of a B-17 Flying Fortress into the countryside below. They are immediately surrounded by a Neuroi swarm vastly outnumbering the swarms seen in the movie, beginning a fierce engagement. The trailer closes with a distraught Yoshika resolving to protect everyone. Set for release in 2020, this marks the triumphant return of the 501ˢᵗ, after Brave Witches followed Hikari Karibuchi’s time in St. Petersburg: it’s the first time we’ve seen Yoshika and her friends take to the skies since the Operation Victory Arrow OVAs, marking a welcome return to the familiar Witches that really kicked things off. With the likes of Strike Witches The Movie and Operation Victory Arrow setting the precedent for what Strike Witches can potentially cover, expectations are high: while Strike Witches‘ first two seasons were best known for their weekly enemies and flimsy excuses to stare at pantsu (which is unsurprisingly and, should remain, illegal in all jurisdictions outside the realm of fiction), The Movie began developing a deeper narrative about what being a Witch meant, and Operation Victory Arrow explored different aspects of new technology, the strength of resolve when one is fighting for their homeland and how trust is lost and gained. These substantial changes in Strike Witches gave the series a new meaning and the possibility to explore a world that had been surprisingly well-developed and detailed, for a series that was once meant to provide gratuitous pantsu moments. Thus, when Brave Witches came and continued to hone this pattern, crafting a meaningful and engaging story with new characters, it became clear that the world of Strike Witches definitely could stand on its own and explore a wide range of interesting themes. As a result, when we turn the story back to the 501ˢᵗ, expectations are high for this group of Witches to impress and make the most of their world to create a compelling narrative.

Although the date seems quite far off, being 2020, there are a few factors that make this timeline much more palatable. For one, this new Strike Witches series, titled Strike Witches: Road to Berlin, is going to be a televised broadcast, which corresponds with a concrete timeline of when audiences will be able to watch this; Girls und Panzer: Das Finale has no known timeline, and so, could conclude in 2023 at the current rate of progression. The Witches’ deployment from a B-17 Flying Fortress also seems to resemble the Narvik Grand Operations opening cinematic, where British Paratroopers make a jump onto the battlefield. Readers wondering why this post has all of the metadata tags and title of a Battlefield V post have their question answered here: Battlefield V returns players to the World War Two setting, and Strike Witches is set in an alternate-history version of World War Two. Alluded to in my previous post, the shared setting means that players who also happen to enjoy Strike Witches will finally be able to run with some of their favourite Strike Witches loadouts in the Frostbite Engine. Moreover, with a powerful new customisation system projected for Battlefield V, I imagine that players could fine-tune weapons, and even cosmetic features, so that they can more closely resemble their favourite Witch should they be inclined to make a purchase for those items. This aspect of Battlefield V has drawn a considerable amount of flak and will be the subject of a discussion for another day; at present, I am content to simply run with the same weapons and setup as the Witches of Strike Witches, and believe that it will be necessary to learn more about the customisation system before attempting to run around as Lynette Bishop, Gertrude Barkhorn, Georgette Lemare or Nikka Katajainen.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In this post, I will be mixing talk of Battlefield V with talk about Strike Witches: my story with Strike Witches dates back some seven and a half years, when I picked up the first season out of curiosity. Those I knew recommended against watching the anime on reputation alone, but once I got into Strike Witches, I found a simple and modestly entertaining series during its first season. The second season was more or less a carbon copy of the first, merely being set in a different setting and also began exploring the limits of magic.

  • Here, I give the German MP-40 a go: an open-bolt, blowback-operated submachine gun firing 9×19 mm Parabellum rounds at 500-550 RPM, giving the medic class a viable close-quarters weapon. Battlefield 1‘s medics were largely relegated to medium range combat, and only had the Federov Avtomat as a closer range weapon. This is contrary to the medic’s role of being in closer ranges to heal and revive teammates. One interesting tidbit about the MP-40 is that Battlefield V‘s soldier is holding it correctly: holding the magazine itself could move the magazine out of position, causing the weapon to stop firing.

  • With a selection of submachine guns and semi-automatic rifles available to the medic, this class will become much more versatile and useful now. I believe in Strike Witches: The Movie, Erica Hartmann also holds her MP-40 in the correct manner, gripping the weapon closer to the magazine housing. While typically rolling with the MG42, as Gertrude and Minna does, she switches over to the MP-40 after her MG42’s barrel overheats mid-combat.

  • Running with a proper Karlsland Witch loadout in the finished Battlefield V will largely depend on how the game treats the MG42: this general purpose machine gun could be configured as either an LMG or medium machine guns. Since Battlefield V chooses to balance MMGs by making soldiers unable to aim down sights unless they have their bipods deployed, I did not utilise the MG34 to any real extent during the closed alpha, and a MMG configured MG42 would force players to adopt a more defensive style. Conversely, an LMG-configured MG42 would allow for players to play as aggressively as do the Karlsland Witches.

  • By comparison, bolt-action rifles are much rarer in Strike Witches: the anime allows the Witches to carry heavy arsenals without effort on virtue of their magic, so they can carry heavier weapons into combat, including the Type 99 cannon and Boys Anti-Tank Rifle. Running an authentic Lynette Bishop loadout, then, is impossible, since the mechanics of Battlefield V are such that heavier weapons would necessarily be mounted. However, this isn’t going to stop anyone from being effective with the bolt-action rifles and semi-automatic rifles: I managed to land consecutive kills here with the Karabiner 98k while defending a point.

  • While my performance at the start of the closed alpha was quite poor, once I became accustomed to moving around more slowly, with squad-mates, and chose to play a more defensive game, things turned around dramatically, to the point where KD ratios exceeding 1.5 became the norm. Battlefield V has gone the extra mile to encourage a more tactical play-style: by deliberately limiting players’ ammunition capacity, this prevents camping, while the shorter time to kill encourages a more defensive play-style that is far removed from the aggressive swarming tactics that worked so well in Battlefield 1.

  • The end result is that a shorter time to kill and reduced ammunition capacity forces players to move strategically, picking the best times to press forward and attack, or else defend a position. Things are much more skill driven, and this will hopefully result in much more consistency in one’s experience: it only took me around five hours to get comfortable with Battlefield V‘s approach, whereas with Battlefield 1, I am forced to accommodate for random factors that impact my gunplay.

  • Even though the sweet spot is completely removed from Battlefield V, I nonetheless found sniping to be superbly enjoyable: close to the alpha’s end, I was nailing back-to-back kills one enemies. By this point in time in Battlefield 1, I’ve largely stopped playing within my rifles’ sweet spots when running as a scout: the Enfield Silenced is a superior all-around weapon and aiming for the head will ensure a one-hit kill regardless of the sweet spot.

  • I speculate that Road to Berlin will likely deal with the Human-Neuroi War’s later stages: in World War Two, the Allied forces’ assault on Berlin marked the closing stages of the war, and in Strike Witches, we’ve seen the equivalent of The Battle of Britain in the first season, and the Liberation of France during the second season. With Nazi Germany being the final part of the war, it stands to reason that Road to Berlin will see some of the fiercest fighting seen in Strike Witches to date. The trailer certainly seems to suggest this: the sheer number of Neuroi on screen far surpasses anything seen previously, even in The Movie.

  • While the closed alpha saw players running around in the frozen hills of Narvik, Battlefield V has also showcased concept art of other locations, including Northern France, Rotterdam, Arnhem (so, players will get to recreate the Battle of Arnhem in the Frostbite Engine and play as Perrine), and North Africa (fans of the 31ˢᵗ Joint Fighter Squadron Afrika will rejoice). This is particularly exciting, and in some of the more open maps, such as amidst the rolling hills and sleepy villages of France, it might be possible for some heavy armoured combat to take place.

  • Bringing the sort of tank combat that ought to have been seen in World of Tanks and Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match will be one of the other things I’m looking forwards to seeing in Battlefield V: even if the scale of the tank battles are smaller, the fact is that the Frostbite Engine is incredibly sophisticated and in previous iterations of Battlefield, tank combat has been quite satisfying.

  • The new mechanics of tank combat in Battlefield V forces tankers to play more strategically: much like how infantry carry less ammunition, tanks now have a finite pool of shells for their main cannon and secondary machine guns.  Reloading is a slow and nerve-wracking process, leaving tankers exposed to enemy action. As such, it is no longer viable to shell buildings to the ground, or camp in some remote corner of the map and pick off distant foes. One must make every shot count, but when rounds connect, they are devastating.

  • Going purely from my impressions of armoured warfare in the closed alpha and how tanks are quite fragile against Panzerfaust rounds, the Daigensui-ryu is utterly worthless in Battlefield V: charging into an urban area without any infantry support will doom any tank, even the mighty Tiger I. This individual’s infamy has passed into the realm of obscurity now: five years previously, they’d been reviled for starting a brutal flame war arguing that Black Forest’s practices in Girls und Panzer were a proper display of the school’s skill, and Shiho’s preparedness to disown Miho was justified.

  • With the revelation that Shiho cares very much for her daughters despite her outward appearances, it is quite clear that the old flame wars amounted to little more than a waste of time. Supplementary materials further show that Shiho is a good parent, but struggles to make her feelings known. So, she hides her doubts behind a veneer of toughness. I watched the flame war from the sidelines at the time, since I was entangled in trying to finish my honours thesis program at the time, and looking back, I believe that Shiho’s inability to make her feelings clear could give the impression that she’s cold and unyielding.

  • While I may espouse that Battlefield V is Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match as it should have been, featuring much more dynamic and skill-driven gameplay, a part of me wishes that they would port Dream Tank Match over to the PC. However, I imagine that Dream Tank Match will release for PC the same way Half-Life 3 will release for PC, so having DICE bring new stories of World War Two into life in their engine is more than a satisfactory substitution: it’s like losing a dime and finding a dollar. I’m glad that Battlefield V will be exploring some of the lesser-known battles of the Second World War, and in a later post, I will be dropping by with the last batch of closed alpha screenshots and my own wishlist of what I hope Battlefield V will have in terms of content.

  • The Bren gun in the closed alpha was a mixed bag: initially, I struggled to perform with the Bren because of its low rate of fire and longer time to ADS. This meant I was losing firefights frequently, trying to use the gun in a way that it was not meant to be used. However, once I got the hang of it, I began playing more defensively, hanging back and picking off enemies at range while providing suppressive fire for allies, and the Bren became a powerhouse weapon that I went on several killstreaks with.

  • The Bren is yet another weapon that illustrates that with enough time, one could get used to a weapon and its mechanics to get more out of it: by the end of the closed alpha, I was tearing apart enemies with the weapon between the Bravo and Delta capture points in conquest, using my ammo pouches to help teammates resupply, and building up fortifications to provide our positions with more cover. While the fortification system is useful and fun, one of the things I did not see in the closed alpha was the ability to build a snowman for bonus morale points.

  • The Bren’s slower firing rate and unwieldy iron sights might make it a bit of a challenge to use at extreme close quarters, but at some ranges, it is possible to hipfire the weapon and score kills with it. In order to run with Perrine’s Arnhelm Bridge loadout, I would also need to have a PIAT handy. Because of the class system, it may or may not be possible to pull this off, since the PIAT is an anti-tank weapon and likely to be made available to the anti-vehicular archetype for the assault class. American-made Bazookas might also be available as a viable anti-vehicle weapon, and looking through inventories of World War Two-era anti-tank weapons, the list is extensive.

  • This post was largely written about Strike Witches: Road to Berlin, and before I wrap up, I’ll explain where the page quote is sourced from – I’ve been doing some catch-up with some of the MCU movies that I did not watch previously, by beginning with 2007’s Iron Man. During one point in the movie, while tasking his scientists to replicate the Arc Reactor, Obadiah Stane yells at the lead scientist at their lack of progress. The page quote, then, is a modified variant of the quote: I was most impressed with how Brave Witches handled their Neuroi Hive fight, being a true example of teamwork and resourcefulness. As a result, Yoshika and her fellow Witches have a rather tall order ahead of them – they must put on an equally good showing without resorting to the ridiculous antics that were seen at the end of seasons one and two when the 501ˢᵗ took out their hives.

  • The ribbon system was very inconsistent in the closed alpha, and I imagine that ribbon criteria will likely be tuned before the final release. Here, I earn one for resupplying team mates, and with this final screenshot, my part-Strike Witches-part-Battlefield V closed alpha talk comes to a close. I’m sure that readers might be disappointed to learn that this post has no screenshots of Road to Berlin, but I do have a stockpile of Battlefield V closed alpha screenshots to make use of, and a post talking about Strike Witches with five screenshots would not be too exciting, either. Upcoming posts are less likely to disappoint readers – I am going to write about the second Yuru Camp△ OVA very soon, having recently watched it, and there’s also Harukana Receive‘s second episode to look at, as well.

The Battlefield V closed alpha provided a fine opportunity to run around with some of the weapons that will feature in Battlefield V; the time to kill at present is very low, and with semi-automatic weapons having next to no spread, their laser-like precision at range creates an interesting challenge in which semi-automatic weapons become sufficiently powerful to dominate gameplay. The Gewehr 43 and StG 44 in semi-automatic mode are so versatile that they may render the other weapons obsolete if not properly balanced. Fortunately, there is a solution: adding increased recoil to semi-automatic weapons forces players to learn their pattern without requiring changing spread and damage mechanics. Skill-based shooters are largely built around recoil control, so if Battlefield V can stick with modifying recoil patterns and modifiers, as well as reload times, for different weapons without affecting damage, then each weapon will have a consistent behaviour that one can learn over time. Mastering these patterns confer improved experiences over time and also provides an incentive to better oneself: there is a sense of accomplishment when games reward players for taking the time to learn their mechanics. Players who invest the time in learning their weapons and archetypes will help their team substantially and may also bring about more Only in Battlefield™ moments that make the best titles of the series so captivating to play. Similarly, in Strike Witches, Yoshika started out as a bit of a joke, but her persistence and determination to do right in the name of her friends and duty led her to become a hero of sorts. With at least a year-and-a-half between the present and Strike Witches: Road to Berlin‘s release, I imagine that there will be a sufficient amount of time to go into Battlefield V and unlock all of the necessary weapons and equipment needed to run with the same, or at least, a very similar loadout as their favourite Witch.

Battlefield V: Initial impressions of the closed alpha

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” –Jimmy Dean

This is probably a post that none of my readers were expecting and comes out of the blue: a few days ago, I received an email from EA with an invite code to the Battlefield V closed alpha. The intent of this closed alpha is to provide players with an idea of how Battlefield V‘s new mechanics handle, as well as for developers to gather data on performance and usage statistics. Unlike previous closed alphas, Battlefield V‘s closed alpha has no NDAs in place, and so, I’m allowed to share screenshots of my experiences. Returning to the World War II period, Battlefield V was marketed as being completely unlike its predecessors: the attrition mechanic was introduced alongside fortifications that favours slower, tactical play over run-and-gun tactics. After I finished pre-loading the closed alpha, I dropped into a match of conquest. My team was behind, but after I learned my way around the medic’s Gewehr 43, I began healing and reviving every teammate in reach. We eventually came back from our deficit to win that match, and in this moment, it became obvious that classic Battlefield conquest had returned in full – tickets count down, and more importantly, holding a majority of the flags will bleed the other team of tickets. In this manner, a well-coordinated team can mount comebacks that make conquest a particularly fun game mode: this was largely absent in Battlefield 1, but makes a welcome return in Battlefield V. With a default ticket count of 800, matches last roughly half an hour, which is perfect for my schedule. Battlefield 1‘s conquest lacked the same excitement and relied on Behemoths as an unsuccessful comeback mechanic, but matches were consistently half an hour in length. The return of classic conquest with a reasonable ticket count means that conquest is now much more exciting, while at the same time, fitting with my schedule. However, there’s much more to Battlefield V than just conquest, and here, I explore some of the things in Battlefield V that are fantastic, and things that need work before the completed title can release.

Firing the semi-automatic Gewehr 43 carbine at distant foes and scoring my first kill of the closed alpha highlights one of the most important change Battlefield V makes to gunplay. Random bullet deviation is gone, and weapons are now consistent in how they fire. Semi-automatic and single-fire weapons are as precise as their users, and automatic weapons have a recoil pattern that can be mastered. Without random chance affecting firefights, the outcomes of an engagement boil down to skill alone now: powerful semi-automatic weapons meant that in the closed alpha, I found the Gewehr 43 a superb all-around weapon for the arctic fjord map in Norway. Suppression has also been reworked to be purely visual, so players under fire can still return accurate fire and potentially win a firefight if they are skilful enough. Having guns that handle differently, but reliably means that different weapons will suit different players. This will hopefully encourage players to try a wide range of loadouts to find ones that work best for them, giving incentive to unlock different weapons and equipment. The attrition mechanic is also a welcome addition to Battlefield – players can no longer regenerate their health fully after a firefight and only start with limited ammunition. To remain effective, one must stick with one’s squad and know the map well: health and ammunition is acquired from allied players and resupply crates scattered at important locations around the map. Supporting one’s team with healing, revives, resupplies and spotting becomes even more important than it did previously: a lone wolf player simply won’t last long, and players can no longer toss grenades on a whim. However, resupplying, healing and reviving are no longer easy actions. There’s a delay in carrying them out, forcing players to assess a situation, deciding whether or not they should go for ammunition or reviving a downed teammate. While perhaps starting players with a little less ammo than I’d like, attrition slows play down and promotes careful, strategic play. Destruction and fortification also changes the way Battlefield handles; it is now possible to undo destruction or else modify areas to give allies an advantage, while forcing enemy players to re-evaluate their next move carefully. Overall, Battlefield V is a slower experience: I died frequently treating the game like Battlefield 1, but when I slowed down to support teammates and defend capture points, things became much more fun. In particular, the medic class has benefitted from the changes and has come back in a big way for Battlefield V: this is much welcomed, allowing me to pick off distant enemies, then retreat to cover so I could heal and revive teammates.

Because we’re still early in Battlefield V‘s testing, the closed alpha also revealed numerous technical limitations that will need to be ironed out before launch. My client crashed on several occasions, and a system report indicated that I’d run out of RAM. Memory leaks and CPU consumption will definitely need to be addressed: the game largely runs smoothly at 60 FPS, but when I spawn in over-the-shoulder onto a squadmate, the frame-rate dips to 30 FPS. This lag has occasionally costed me: I died instantly because I could not move to respond to a threat. I’ve heard that the snow effects are all computed: the EA Play build of Battlefield V was particularly bad for it, and while toned down for the closed alpha, there were moments where performance became an issue. I vividly recall being killed by a guy that had looked like he was behind a wall, but had moved before the client could update it. Besides optimising performance, Battlefield V‘s movement system is nowhere nearly as smooth as it was previously. Vaulting over ledges is very clunky; some surfaces that should be easy to jump over were not passable, and it was common to get stuck in the level geometry. By comparison, players move like a dream in Battlefield 1. The new spotting system is also tricky: the only way to mark enemies on the minimap now is with the scout’s monocular, and hitting “Q” simply marks a spot on the ground. As a result, enemies are nearly invisible in their environment and can pick off other players uncontested. A system where hitting “Q” marks enemies’ last known location on the minimap, followed with a spotting animation, would be more visceral without making it too easy to hunt down enemies, as with earlier Battlefield titles. The UI still needs work so it appears in the right places, with the right feedback (it sometimes disappears after I’ve been killed) and also so it intuitively works for players (in my first half-hour, I did not know it was possible to switch back over to the classic map spawning system). Finally, physics and state related bugs must be addressed: I once spawned in with no weapons in hand, and another time, phased through the ground when I died and could not bleed out or be revived. These bugs are hilarious now, but will quickly become frustrating if not addressed for production.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Following the EA Play event, where attendees were able to try out Battlefield V for themselves and capture footage of the gameplay, other members of the Battlefield community were interested to try the game out for themselves on their own computers. After the announcement of the closed alpha, a small number of Battlefield players were invited, myself included. I note immediately that I’m running the closed alpha on a computer with an i5 3570k, 16 GB of RAM and an EVGA GTX 1060 SC. Performance for the most part is smooth, save for moments when the snow becomes too much or when I spawn back in over the shoulder of a squadmate. For this post, I feature some of my earlier screenshots of me getting a feel for Battlefield V – I will be showcasing some of my more impressive moments in a future post: while I was off to a rough start, by the last few days of the closed alpha, I was consistently scoring a positive KD ratio.

  • The Bren Gun is an iconic World War II light machine gun: developed after World War I ended, the Bren is a magazine-fed, gas-operated LMG firing .303 rounds at 500-520 RPM. Despite its cumbersome design, the weapon was reliable and counted as quite effectual. It’s also the weapon of choice for Strike Witches‘ Perrine H. Clostermann: in Battlefield 1, I ran with the Madsen MG as a stand-in, but with World War II being Battlefield V‘s setting, I will have a chance to run with authentic Strike Witches loadouts now. In Battlefield V, the Bren is a little unwieldy but hits reasonably hard when properly used.

  • The mountain village of Narvik is an absolutely beautiful setting, featuring both long range and close quarters combat. The real town of Narvik was the site of several battles in World War II for its strategic importance, and after Nazi Germany captured the port town in the opening stages of the Norwegian Campaign, Allied forces attempted to dislodge the defending German forces. They dominated the German naval forces, but were ill-equipped to deal with the dug-in Germans. Battlefield V recreates this experience – in Grand Operations, players will play as the attacking British forces or the defending German forces.

  • Because Battlefield V takes away random bullet deviation, tap-firing once again becomes viable, allowing the assault rifles to reach out further in their effectiveness. Here, I use the StG 44, the German automatic rifle that would form the basis for all modern assault rifles. Designed in 1942, it fired 7.92 x 33 mm Kurtz rounds at 550-600 RPM and had a detachable box magazine. Its automatic fire makes it effective at close ranges, and at longer ranges, tap-firing allows one to hit distant targets reliably. The StG 44 in Battlefield V pulls to the right and up slightly when firing, so with time, players could accommodate for this recoil and even hit distant targets while firing on full automatic.

  • The medic class can equip the Gewehr 43, equipped with a ZF4 4-power optic. This semi-automatic rifle was designed in response to semi-automatic Soviet rifles, and features many innovations in its design. Battlefield V‘s Gewehr 43 is accurate and reliable: every shot lands where players intend to land them, making the medic highly viable at long range engagements. After getting a feel for the Gewehr 43, I immediately found it a dependable rifle – I was hitting targets at a distance that I would have had no hope in nailing in Battlefield 1, and I suddenly find myself wishing the self-loading rifles of Battlefield 1 had this level of consistency.

  • Grand Operations are the centrepiece of Battlefield V, featuring multi-day skirmishes that depict campaigns of World War II. The mission available in the closed alpha is a part of the Narvik campaign, dealing with the British invasion. The first stage is set late in the evening and has the attacking British force work towards knocking out German artillery emplacements. The Germans must defend their artillery and eliminate as many attackers as possible. All of this is set under the Norwegian night sky, aglow with the aurora borealis – the sophistication of the Frostbite engine now is such that aurora can be viewed and enjoyed in a virtual space without the need of powerful solar activity and a ticket on board the AGB-5003, better known as the Shirase.

  • Battlefield V follows in Battlefield 1‘s use of the Frostbite 3.0 Engine, which has evolved to feature more realistic destruction and sophisticated physics-based rendering, giving players more immersion than previously possible. While Battlefield V has improved effects, its requirements are not substantially steeper than those of Battlefield 1: it feels like an incremental upgrade from a visual perspective, rather similar to how iOS 12 is an upgrade that brings subtle new features and performance updates to iOS 11 rather than sweeping changes. By comparison, when Battlefield 1 was announced, it was leaps and bounds further ahead visually than Battlefield 4, even though both games use Frostbite 3.0.

  • Battlefield V introduces an all-new mechanic in which downed players will slowly bleed out unless a medic revives them. This is actually a pretty clever mechanic that prevents players from skipping revives, which is a feature that I did not enjoy from Battlefield 1. By default, players will spawn back in if they bleed out fully, but they can stem blood loss and call for nearby medics to revive them. A new feature is that squad mates can now revive downed allies, as well, even if they are not playing as a medic. This allows one to save squad mates quickly even if a medic is not immediately available, and is balanced out by reducing the amount of health one gets back if revived in this manner. To slow down the revive trains of Battlefield 1, the revive animation in Battlefield V is longer and more detailed. While less efficient, revives feel much more visceral, and an obscene amount of points can be scored for reviving teammates as a medic.

  • While seemingly a side-task, fortification in Battlefield V has proven to be quite handy. I make extensive use of fortifications to create cover where their was previously none, allowing me to set up a reasonably well-defended sniper position in a pinch, and during one match, I noticed enemy players cleverly dropping behind cover and fortifying their position when I began firing upon them with the Karabiner 98k. No longer able to pick them off, I was forced to move on, altering the dynamic of play considerably.

  • Having the Stg 44 as an assault player means being able to run the Waltrud Krupinski loadout. I feel bad for playing the assault on some occasions: emphasising offensive play over support, one cannot heal or resupply teammates in this role. The assault class is intended to provide firepower at close quarters for clearing out capture points aggressively, and this firepower extends to anti-vehicle options. In the closed alpha, only the Panzerfaust is available, but with its high damage, a group of players can very quickly eliminate even the heavy tanks on short order.

  • The single most glaring issue with the Battlefield V alpha is performance: my machine is getting up there in the years, but it’s no slouch, and I’ve heard that individuals with much more powerful setups are still suffering from framerate drops. I’m not sure if others have encountered this issue, but the biggest problem for me was a memory leak that intermittently causes the game to crash. Battlefield 1 was very well optimised, and Battlefield V needs work to ensure that it is able to properly deallocate resources to better improve performance.

  • Here, I make use of the scout class and its Karabiner 98k to land my first kill with a bolt-action rifle. With the sweet spot gone, sniping in Battlefield V is a return to the days of old, where skill and judgement for landing headshots was the only way to be effective with this class. It took some time for me to become familiar with the bullet drop on the Karabiner 98k, but once I got the hang of it, landing headshots with this weapon was incredibly satisfying, knowing that every headshot was from slowly learning the ropes around the weapon.

  • Overall, the UI workflow needs a bit of an improvement: switching from squad spawning to the classic spawning system is very slow, and it is frustrating not to be able to change out my class from this screen. While many of the weapons or customisations are not available right now, I feel that Battlefield V also should make customising archetypes and weapons much more intuitive than it was in Battlefield 1, where the simplified menu made navigation cumbersome. In addition, it is bizarre that even after two years, Battlefield 1 does not allow players to customise their vehicle setups from the menu.

  • Running around with Perrine’s Bren was a riot: of all of the classes: while I was the least comfortable with the support class’ LMGs in Battlefield I, the Bren is very entertaining to use despite its obstructive design and slow fire rate: it’s perfect for the aggressive recon, and playing tactically, defending capture points, is the support class’ forte. The MG34’s slow deployment time and reliance on a bipod made it less suited for playing the support class in the frontlines: players who prefer a much more stationary approach will find this weapon more suitable for them.

  • I’ve spent around seven hours in the closed alpha in total. Yesterday was Canada Day, and although I was tempted to spend the whole of the day playing the Battlefield V alpha, it seemed more fitting to celebrate the nation’s 151th birthday by capitalising on complementary National Parks admissions. I thus strolled around Lake Minnewanka and the abandoned coal mining town of Bankhead by the cool morning air, retreated to the Silver Dragon Chinese restaurant for lunch (their house noodles, crunchy noodles topped with shrimps, chicken, calamari, scallops and vegetables, are delicious) when a sudden downpour rolled on the area, and then browsed the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site, where I looked at various preserved wildlife specimens dating back a hundred years.

  • The weather remained a moody overcast during the afternoon when I set out to walk the Vermillion Lakes trail, but upon reaching the Third Vermillion Lake, the skies began clearing up, and when I reached the First Vermillion Lake again, the weather had largely cleared out. Previous Canada Days were characterised by very warm weather, but this year, things were a bit chillier than usual, making the walk a very refreshing one. Others evidently were enjoying things, too: there were canoes gliding lazily about on the lake’s surface. I was utterly exhausted by the time we returned back to town and sat down to dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory at Cascade Mall; I ordered their steak and fries with a prawn skewer. Steaks taste fantastic after a good walk, and by the time dinner wrapped up, the rain had returned.

  • The time to kill (TTK) in Battlefield V is much faster than it is in Battlefield 1: it is similar to that of older Battlefield titles, and while it can be frustrating to be at the receiving end, the shorter time also makes combat more visceral. A short TTK encourages tactical play, forcing players to move cover to cover and be very mindful of their surroundings. The system is balanced with the attrition system, which prevents players from camping in one spot.

  • Submachine guns appear to retain their hipfire bonuses: here, I’m running with the Erma EMP. Firing 9mm Parabellum rounds at 550 RPM, the EMP is a fun weapon to use for extreme close quarters. By World War II, submachine guns became much more widespread, and a World War II game thus has much more liberty for weapon selections. A longstanding complaint, however, is the presence of reflector sights on rifles. These complaints indicate a lack of research: the EMP here is equipped with a Nydar 47 sight, which was introduced in 1945 for shotguns. While its mounting on a submachine gun might be unrealistic, Battlefield (save Battlefield 1) has long accommodated for weapon customisations that are not used in real life (such as my propensity of mounting a Chinese JH-406 Coyote sight to American rifles).

  • One of the most noticeable improvements in Battlefield V is that frequent grenade use is largely absent. I’ve died to fragmentation grenades maybe five times at most, and it’s amazing to finally run around without the ever-present risk of dying to lucky grenades as one would in Battlefield 1. From the sounds of things, grenades are still “smart”, with their fuses only counting down once they hit the ground, and I’ve not been too fond of this, since it allows players to throw grenades great distances to score easy kills, as opposed to using them to flush out enemies.

  • Having a Karabiner 98k means that I can finally run the Sora no Woto loadout in the Frostbite Engine: the primary weapon for the Helvetian forces in the anime, Battlefield V‘s Karabiner 98k is the only bolt-action rifle available in the closed alpha, and despite attrition mechanics limiting me only to two additional reloads, I managed to make extensive use of the weapon to pick off distant foes. The scout class of Battlefield V involves a much higher skill level than its Battlefield 1 incarnation as far as headshots go, but having tried the gadgets out, I think that the spotting flare is the only useful gadget: if I had time to pull out my binoculars and spot an enemy by clicking, then I probably had time to shoot them myself.

  • K-bullets were in service during World War I, and were still manufactured during World War II, although with their limited armour penetration (12-13 mm at 100 meters), it’s difficult to see them being reintroduced to Battlefield V, where we have the likes of Churchill and Tiger I tanks that are nigh-impervious to most infantry weapons. I’m not sure what kind of gadgets the scout class will get, but having tools to help with spawning and spotting are likely to be the case. It would also be nice to give the scout class limited anti-vehicle capabilities: earlier Battlefield games allowed scouts to carry C4. The archetypes system may give each subclass specialised roles to fit a specific objective or playstyle, so I’m curious to see how these will turn out.

  • Even now, I’m still amazed that I was fortunate enough to get into the Battlefield V closed alpha: with my luck still running strong, perhaps I should try my hand at getting into Kantai Collection through its notoriously challenging lottery system. I had preloaded the client as soon as I was notified, and on the day that the closed alpha became available, I had enjoyed a Swiss-mushroom burger and beer-battered fries while watching the England and Belgium World Cup game. Belgium scored the lone goal and won that game: when I played my first match of Battlefield V that evening, I joined a team that had fallen behind in tickets, but thanks to the re-implemented ticket bleed system, I ended up helping contribute to my team’s win.

  • The sidearms in Battlefield V fulfill the same roles that their predecessors did in earlier Battlefield titles, being useful for when one runs out of ammunition mid-firefight. In the closed alpha, each class uses the same sidearm, although because it’s very early, I imagine that like Battlefield 1, there will be different sidearms for different archetypes, and that there will be a set of sidearms that all classes can equip.

  • I’m actually not too big on the reinforcements mechanic, which is reminiscent of the killstreaks in Call of Duty, although Battlefield V‘s implementation is more driven by squad performance rather than individual kills, and appears to be an evolution of the Behemoths of Battlefield 1. So far, there have only been two reinforcements: the Sturmtiger and the V-1. The Sturmtiger was intended as an infantry support vehicle and was outfitted with a 380 mm RW 61 rocket launcher that allowed it to punch through enemy fortifications, while the V-1 was one of the first cruise missiles and can deal massive damage. I managed to try both out, and the V-1 is so powerful, it’s almost unfair.

  • Here, I finally try my hand with the armoured vehicles of Battlefield V: at long last, in a modern iteration of the Frostbite Engine, I get to seat myself behind the wheel of some of history’s most famous tanks, including the Tiger I. Long regarded as one of the most iconic of the German tanks, the Tiger I was characterised by its powerful 88 mm gun and heavy armour, allowing it to devastate Allied armour. The Tiger I is also Maho Nishizumi’s tank of choice in Girls und Panzer, being suited for her execution of the Nishizumi style.

  • Visually and aurally, tanks in Battlefield V feel powerful, although in the closed alpha, they proved to be quite fragile and could be blown apart by a few Panzerfaust rounds. As well, tanks are quite sensitive to bumps in the ground, and I recall an amusing moment where I flipped one of my tanks over, allowing the enemy team to shred it. However, when the tanks do connect, they can be a useful presence on the battlefield: here, I shell a distant British tank with the German light tank and annihilate it.

  • Battlefield V is Girls und Panzer in the Frostbite Engine, or as Gandalf might say, Girls of Panzer: Dream Tank Match as it should have been: learning a tank’s strengths and weaknesses is essential to victory, as each tank has different handling characteristics and a specific role to play. Unlike the luck-driven mechanics of Dream Tank MatchBattlefield V‘s tank combat looks to be skill-oriented. I’m hoping that there will be a dedicated armoured warfare-only mode that pits tanks against tanks only: it’s high time that DICE showed the world the might of the Frostbite Engine and proper skill against the likes of World of Tanks.

  • I would’ve gotten this post earlier, but today, I attended a LAN party and played Halo 2 old school on Xbox, with split-screen and the like. Besides catching up with friends, I also somehow managed to perform much better than usual: I’m terrible with console games, but today, managed a few double kills and even a killing spree, keeping my KD ratio above one and helping my team win several matches: during my final game, I scored the winning flag capture. Halo 2 is the game that really got me into shooters, and since the Halo 2 PC servers were decommissioned, I’ve been looking for a similar type of shooter. Battlefield has since filled that particular role. This was time spent away from playing the Battlefield V closed alpha, but in the end, I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on what my thoughts are for this current build.

  • The Panzer IV, Miporin’s tank of choice, also figured in the closed alpha as a medium tank. There’s an interesting bug where the KwK 40 L/43 anti-tank gun will shorten, making the tank resemble the Ausf. F1 variant, but zooming in and back out rectifies this. This visual bug will hopefully be fixed in newer builds of Battlefield V, and one other visual element I’d like to see fixed is the fact that some UI elements can be very difficult to see, especially amidst the white snows of Norway. Adding a translucent, glassy box to put the text on, as with Battlefield 1, would be one possible fix.

  • Here, I use the Sturmtiger to melt an enemy, and this brings my current set of thoughts on the Battlefield V closed alpha to an end. I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to give it a spin, and while it’s still rough around the edges, the core concepts of attrition, teamwork and fortification add new depth to the game, bringing back skill and encouraging tactical play. Performance issues, movement and the UI are my biggest gripes about this build, but my initial impressions are especially positive – by the time this closed alpha came to an end, I was nailing back-to-back headshots with the Karabiner 98k and having a ball of a time in helping my team out. I do have another post coming out in the future dealing with what I’d like to see in Battlefield V from a content perspective, as well as things that shouldn’t be in the Battlefield series, period. For now, with this set of initial impressions of the closed alpha in the books, I return to my usual scheduled posts: Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online‘s finale and the Violet Evergarden OVA are on the schedule, as is Harukana Receive‘s first episode.

On the whole, my impressions of Battlefield V is that this is a game that will put skill back into Battlefield. Random chance and luck won’t figure as much as knowing the map, one’s weapons and role in a squad, so players who take the time to play the game will be rewarded with superior performance. While the new mechanics are fabulous, there are some others that will take some getting used to or be tweaked slightly. Attrition really slows down gameplay, but it also limits players a little too much in its current state. Giving players 20-30 percent more ammunition capacity would give players more freedom once they’ve resupplied. I imagine that spotting will not likely go through many major changes, and so, despite me not liking it, I can see myself eventually learning the mechanics as time wears on, much as how I got used to the differences between Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 3‘s spotting. Beyond this, it’s a promising start for Battlefield V: once the technical issues are resolved, and the game is optimised, if the movement system is also improved to be a little smoother and intuitive, the new mechanics could very well usher in a new way to play Battlefield that takes the best of older titles while encouraging more tactical, methodical gameplay. This approach is, curiously enough, completely contrary to how I play shooters, but in offering something new, Battlefield V has persuaded me to change my approach and in the process, I gained a much richer experience for it. If my experiences in the open beta prove to be as positive, then the decision to purchase Battlefield V would be an easy one to make.

The Division: Onslaught, Exploring the West Side Pier and The Urban MDR

“We choose to…do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.” —John F. Kennedy

The Division‘s latest Global Event, Onslaught, allows players to deal one of burn, bleed or gas effects to enemies, and players may cycle through the different effects by reloading. The end effect is dealing additional status effects damage that can temporarily immobilise enemies and take them briefly out of the fight by lighting them on fire or disorienting them. By making use of the different effects, players can control fights in a manner of their choosing and engage enemies in a novel way that adds a bit of flair to the gameplay. While this global event was active, I decided to take advantage of the status effects to see if I could acquire more exotic caches, and also had the chance to explore the West Side Pier, a new area added to the game in the 1.8 patch. The northwestern side of mid-town Manhattan was previously inaccessible, but now, two new game modes and new places to explore have been added: I’ve not explored this area until now, but it is an intriguing place with a replica of the real New York’s Aircraft Carrier Intrepid museum. Here, the different enemy factions all work together against the players, and there are no civilians or allied JTF forces: it’s one of the most challenging areas of the game to be in outside of the Dark Zone, and offers the resistance game mode, where players square off against endless waves of enemies. It’s an entertaining mode that allows one to test their loadouts, and also offers an additional avenue of acquiring gear, although by this point in my experiences within The Division, the modes of acquiring gear have largely become irrelevant – high end pieces and gear set items have dropped with such frequency that they’re all I see in the game now.

With a reasonably viable setup in The Division, as well as the all-exotic loadout, my sights have been to acquire an Urban MDR. Modelled after the Desert Tech Micro Dynamic Rifle chambered for the 7.62mm rounds, the Urban MDR is a semi-automatic battle rifle with the Distracted talent, which allows the weapon to deal bonus damage on targets affected with status effects. It hits harder than other assault rifles and is comparable to the semi-automatic marksman rifles for damage, but in exchange, the vertical recoil on the weapon is stronger in the absence of a compensator, and the weapon can become unruly without a good under-barrel grip. The weapon is at its finest when used in conjunction with the Firecrest or Predator’s Mark builds with some Tactician’s Authority pieces, which allows the gun to almost always make use of the additional damage bonus, but in Onslaught, the extra status effects also allowed me to try the weapon out without needing to extensively modify my setup. The Urban MDR can be a fun weapon to use: it has the attributes of an assault rifle with the damage of some of the weaker marksman rifles. The end result is a weapon that has increased armour damage and a theoretical maximum magazine capacity of 44 rounds that fires slowly and hits like a truck: the Urban MDR is unique among the assault rifles in how it handles, and it looks beastly, as well. This is why I was looking to acquire an Urban MDR – the weapon has special attributes that add another, interesting way to playing The Division. However, up until now, my luck had not seen me find one. It was during the Onslaught event that I joined up with a team to take on the Warrengate Power Plant on legendary, and while we were wiped once during the boss fight, I managed to use another well-timed Recovery Link during our second attempt to help give my teammates a fighting chance. For my troubles, I got a weekly cache (having finished my quota of missions) and an exotic cache from completing the mission.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Battlefield 4 does not have a pink weapon skin, and The Division lacks a P90. When the Onslaught event began, I was just getting caught up with Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online. The closest I came to replicating the LLEN loadout is with any submachine gun with the pink camouflage: The House is an absolute beast, and is my favourite weapon for getting out of a tight spot. I normally go with grey or tan weapon camouflages to make myself more difficult to spot: the bright pink means I’m visible from a klick away and does not serve me well at all in places like the Dark Zone.

  • I engage rogue agents here on my own with the inevitable results. Because dying in the Dark Zone as a non-rogue no longer has any penalties to it, one of my favourite strategies is to bait rogue players into killing me repeatedly, increasing their rank and possibly trigger a manhunt. I’ve managed to do this on a few occasions: I’m completely geared towards PvE, having a maximum of a 70 percent boost to armour destruction, and so, when it comes to PvP, where critical chance and critical damage is more valuable, I’m much less equipped to do so with my main loadout.

  • I’ve found that the best way to enjoy the Dark Zone now is to simply not collect any item drops (unless they’re exceedingly rare). With no need to extract items (and the attendant stress that extractions bring), it is much easier to focus on simply clearing landmarks and evade any rogue agents that may be present. At this point in time, I’ve become geared enough towards PvE that I can burn through elites and named enemies without any effort: soloing landmarks in the higher sectors of the Dark Zone is very straightforwards now, and I’ve run into groups who’ve expressed surprise at encountering a lone player in a recently-cleared landmark that had moments before, been marked as available on the map.

  • Here, I make my way to a supply drop after helping out with a manhunt, conferring a small cut of the bounty. When I first began, I struggled to clear the elites guarding supply drops, and wondered if tactical link would be needed to deal with the enemies if I were going solo. This is no longer the case, as I’ve enough firepower to melt through the elites. I’ve heard stories of opportunists allowing other players to fight the elites while they engage survivor link and claim the supplies for themselves. My approach to supply drops is pretty blasé, and if another agent steals a supply drop I’m working on, so be it.

  • I admit that it’s become a bit more difficult as of late to match-make into legendary missions. I decided to give them a go for Onslaught, during which players have access to ammunition that deals burn, bleed and gas damage. Reloading allows one to switch the effect on the fly, and it is very effective to combine different effects together to control crowds of enemies. Here, I am fighting with three other players at Warrengate Power Plant. Notice that my weapon skins are quite plain compared to those of my teammates’: there’s a certain appeal about the desert tan colours, and for the most part, I run with simple skins to avoid standing out in the Dark Zone.

  • With this year’s E3 just a few days away, I look ahead into the future: The Division 2 was announced a few months ago, and a new trailer released earlier today, detailing the setting and showcasing the gameplay. When I first saw the footage for The Division from the 2013 E3, I was completely blown away by how beautiful everything looked. The launch version of The Division is vastly watered down, featuring fewer AR-type elements in its UI and also dialling back the visual fidelity to a considerable degree, but from a gameplay and content perspective, The Division was well worth playing through even though it may not look as impressive as what was shown in the E3. The new trailer for The Division 2 shows a very familiar game that looks like a straight upgrade from The Division. Things still look like they handle smoothly, but with a fresh coat of paint that hopefully will retain the AR-esque elements.

  • I can accept that this year’s E3 reveal for The Division 2 will might be light years ahead of the product that will be shipped to consumers from a graphics perspective. In today’s gameplay trailer, it is revealed that Washington DC will be the setting. The Division‘s Manhattan is beautifully rendered and highly authentic, but a sequel would become stale very quickly if it were to be set in New York again. I personally was hoping that The Division 2 would take us over to Asia: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul would have provided an incredibly refreshing backdrop for a continuation. An Asian setting makes sense because at the end of The Division, Aaron Keener escaped with the means to continue manufacturing the Green Poison. However, DC is a logical choice: Keener had intended to bring the world to its knees, and taking out Washington would’ve been a very powerful move.

  • The Division 2 will be set in the summer, so I wonder if there will be more interesting outfits available for selection. Besides the fact that there’s a (mostly) new setting, what would get me excited about The Division 2 would be the immediate inclusion of the same end-game content we now have in The Division 1.8.1: having gear-sets and exotics to work towards through ridiculously difficult missions, world-tiers to incentivise collecting better gear, high value targets to hunt, resistance to provide waves of enemies for testing one’s mettle and Global Events, plus the thrills of a Dark Zone would provide plenty of content for a newly-launched The Division 2, such that the most dedicated of players would not run out of things to do after hitting the level cap.

  • If The Division 2 launched with the same content as what is available in The Division 1.8.1’s base game, was set in an East Asian city and handles as smoothly as The Division does now (both from a gameplay and connectivity standpoint), it would be an easy day-one purchase for me. Given my experience with The Division, I would not hesitate to buy The Division 2 at full price – I’ve put in 135 hours at the time of writing into The Division, so I’m sure to get the bang for my buck if things turn out well for The Division 2. Here in my legendary run, I square off against a Lieutenant Sasaki. Our team got wiped out on our first attempt, and we were close to being wiped a second time, but fortunately, I activated my recovery link, bringing everyone back to life.

  • During the Onslaught event, I played missions to unlock weekly caches, which have a guaranteed exotic. When I finished the legendary mission and the weekly assignment, I returned to the base of operations to open them. Opening the weekly cache was a bit disappointing, but opening exotic cache I got from playing the Warrengate mission landed me the MDR. I was thrilled: while the MDR does not line up with my preferred play-style (I run a four-piece Striker set with the Ninjabike backpack), I wanted to have an MDR so I could mix things up. The weapon also looks exceedingly sleek.

  • My first inclination was to give the MDR a whirl: with its slow firing rate and extended mags, the MDR can take out entire groups of enemies before needing a reload. While somewhat lacking in stability, having good weapon attachments can make the weapon’s recoil more manageable. The weapon is definitely fun to use: handling like a cross between a marksman rifle and assault rifle, it burns through armour and allows for headshots to be scored. Bonus damage from the status effects in Onslaught makes the MDR remarkably effective, although its lower rate of fire makes the MDR a decidedly inferior weapon for close-quarters combat.

  • For any serious engagement in a legendary mission, the Urban MDR would not be my choice of weapon: my LVOA-C and The House have proven effective beyond any other weapon combination, so I’ve not looked back. However, with the myriad of ways to play The Division, it’s always fun to equip different gear-sets and weapons to give them a go. Here, I run through a vividly-lit alley close to the Base of Operations after blowing apart the open-world named elite and his entourage here: the warm, golden light brings to mind the moods of the Christmas season.

  • I figured the time was high for me to try out the Camp Clinton area of Manhattan – this was an area that I had previously not explored, but now that I had a setup that worked for me, and all of the exotic weapons that I’d sought to collect, I was properly outfitted to deal with the enemies here. There are encounter-style missions known as Alerts; coming in five varieties, they give Division Tech, equipment and target intel when completed. They’re quite fun to complete, but one challenge about the West Side Piers are that there is no in-fighting among the enemies.

  • Consequently, random groups of standard-type enemies can lay waste to unsuspecting players: I’ve never died to NPCs outside of mission areas until now, and for this reason, exploring the West Side Piers offers a thrill that is absent from other parts of Manhattan. As an end-game section of The Division to explore, the Division Tech earned from doing Alerts here is immensely useful towards optimising gear. I’ve burned through my Division Tech trying to improve gear pieces with reasonable configurations on them, and the updates are quite noticeable: enemies melt slightly faster, and I recover more quickly.

  • The USS Intrepid Carrier Museum can be seen here; the original USS CV-11 Intrepid was commissioned in 1943 and participated in several battles in the Pacific Theatre. After the Second World War, Intrepid was decommissioned, modernised and then recommissioned. Among its most noteworthy operations were the recovery of space capsules from the fledgling American space programme and in 1974, was decommissioned once again. It became a museum ship in 1984, and today, is a well-known destination in New York: the museum ship featured in National Treasure as a location where Ben Gates evades the FBI with help from rogue treasure hunters.

  • When I travelled to New York in 2011, I had a chance to visit the USS Intrepid for myself; Manhattan is a very active and busy place that gives Hong Kong a run for its money, and the traffic jams here are legendary. The Division really succeeds in capturing the strange sense of quiet following the Dollar Flu pandemic, and this is one of the main reasons why I ended up getting The Division despite having sat on the decision for nearly two years. I was dissuaded by the fact that the game did not have much in the way of end-game content, but by the time Patch 1.8 was introduced, The Division had much more to do even in the absence of the additional DLC content.

  • Having a good amount of armour destruction allowed me to survive a ways into each of the resistance missions as a solo player. These endless missions are a fantastic test of one’s gear and setup: with my four-piece Striker set, augmented by the use of a Ninja Bike backpack that lets me gain the ammunition bonus of the Lone Star set and the improved resilience against elite enemies from the D3-FNC build, I’m balanced to deal damage, absorb it from tougher enemies and also can operate on my own for longer before running out of ammunition.

  • With the proper setup, one can reach the tier two resistance caches on their own. There was a bug where one could get tier five equipment from caches earned from playing resistance on tier one difficulty if one switched back to tier five before opening them, but this particular issue has been rectified now. I’ve still yet to learn the waves and patterns of the resistance mode, having only spent about an hour experimenting with the different maps and their layouts: there are some tricks to improve one’s performance and make the most of the SHD tech pickups, which are used to unlock new areas, supply crates and gear caches, but with The Division nearing the end of its lifespan, I’m not too sure if it’ll be worthwhile to put too much time into things.

  • My original interest in the resistance missions were that they were said to be a fantastic place to farm for classified and exotic gear. However, considering the amount of time it takes to get to them, I feel that for folks who do not have any of the DLC, playing through legendary missions, weekly assignments and entering the Dark Zone is the more efficient route for getting gear. When available, Global Events are unmatched for collecting classified gear items.

  • In fact, looking through old conversations out there about The Division, I’ve noted that in older patches, classified and exotics were extremely rare. They’re not easy to obtain for a reason, but in my experiences, I’ve managed to amass a sizeable collection of exotics and have made some progress in collecting classified gear pieces as a predominantly solo player who occasionally teams up with others to complete legendary missions. That I’ve managed to do so is no small feat, and I’m a bit surprised that I was able to get this much milage out of The Division. This is what motivates the page quote: I recall that early in The Division, players were having trouble getting their gear scores up.

  • Having now done everything within the base game for The Division (except for the Incursions), one wonders if I have any plans to buy the DLCs. The answer is no: while it would open up new game modes to explore, most of these are dependent on teamwork for an optimal experience. The only DLC that would work for me is Underground, since this can be soloed, but I’ve heard that it’s also very repetitive in nature. Rolling for 15 CAD at full price, I’ve seen sale prices bring it down to 4.50 CAD. If the next Steam Sale offers a comparable discount, I might just take the plunge and pick it up.

  • Of course, for the next Steam Summer Sale (which begins in eleven days), my eyes are on Far Cry 5. While the discounts won’t likely be too substantial, considering the strong sales numbers, if I can get a price reduction closer to forty percent off, then I will pick up the game. Otherwise, I can hold off: I’ve heard that Far Cry 5 handles similarly to its predecessors from a gameplay perspective, but my main interest in the game was its setting, and this isn’t something I feel like I’ll be missing out on too much should I decide to wait for a better sale. While Far Cry 5 might be a game I’m on the fence about, this past weekend has also seen the release of new Battlefield V trailers and gameplay footage from EA Play.

  • The resistance modes were the first place where I encountered drones, which come in two types. Standard types have a red targetting laser, and shock drones have a blue laser. I’m not particularly fond of the latter, as they can leave players exposed to other attacks. Fortunately, with their weak armour and health, they can be disposed of fairly quickly.

  • In the footage of Battlefield V, I’ve seen the new fortification and team play mechanics, new maps and weapons, as well as the new UI. Fortification will provide a new way to counteract destruction, and seeing destruction play such an instrumental role in a Battlefield title means an increased emphasis on teamwork and tactical play. The only maps we’ve seen so far are in Norway, but the snowy terrain and aurora look absolutely gorgeous. The War Stories will also be introduced over time, and without a premium model, the game looks like it will keep on giving after it is purchased. I expect that Battlefield V could perform very well even without Steam Summer Sale-type events, and having seen a proper bit of gameplay for it, my decision on Battlefield V will largely be determined by how smooth the netcode is at launch.

  • If Battlefield V‘s launch is at least as smooth as that of Battlefield 1‘s, then it will be a very easy decision as to whether I pick up the game shortly after launch. For now, we return to The Division, where I’ve been playing around with the MDR and my all-exotic loadout. Having had the chance to try out the all-exotic loadout, it is a satisfactory all-around setup where I sacrifice firearms damage for more skill power. While quite entertaining to use, with all of the different bonuses the pieces confer, it is not as specialised towards my personal play style, and so, I don’t use it for team-oriented missions. Conversely, running all exotics for hard main missions isn’t too bad: that the all-exotic loadout is balanced means that it’s versatile enough for one to handle most missions without too much difficulty.

  • At some point in the future, I aim to return to the West Side Pier by day to see what it looks like here. With a reasonably effective build and more or less, all the weapons that I was looking to acquire, I have a feeling that my days spent in The Division will be more exploration driven now: I’ve still to complete all of the encounters on the eastern side of Manhattan, for one, but now that my gear allows me some survivability, I’m not too worried about dying while running around and simply taking in the scenery, which looks fabulous. I’m running The Division at high settings at 1080p and have a consistent 60 FPS on my five-year-old setup (albeit a setup with an upgraded GPU from 2016), so one factor that will directly impact my decision to buy The Division 2 will simply be whether or not my machine can run it.

  • Here, I fight in the last of the resistance maps, set in an underground facility called the Powerhouse. So far, while I’m very excited about Battlefield V and look forwards to seeing just what The Division 2 entails, most of the anime community is completely disinterested in the innovation that these games have. Much like some are downright dismissing the titles I find noteworthy, I am of the opinion that Nintendo’s E3 showing is unlikely to be impressive for me: games like Super Smash Bros and Kingdom Hearts do not look to be pushing the envelope for the technology powering games.

  • I’ve noted that the posts here on The Division (or other gaming posts) are given a cooler reception relative to my anime posts. I’m rather aware that my entire reader base consists of fellow anime fans who may or may not share my interest in shooters, and I think that the average reader coming here is likely looking for analysis of themes, explanations of plot points and random remarks on various scenes for anime. However, while these posts seem to offer a limited return for the effort it takes to write them, I note that I write this blog for myself as well as for readers – this is an electronic journal of sorts for me, and I enjoy recalling my adventures in games as much as I do writing about anime. While we’re on the topic of this blog’s logistics, I’ve decided to disable comments for posts older than two years on the basis that 1) this reduces spam and 2) it would be somewhat disingenuous to discussing older posts with readers when I cannot fully recall the rationale for some of my thoughts.

  • With this being said, I’m more of an anime blog than a gaming blog, so the focus of things will always be more anime-oriented. We thus look ahead into remaining posts for June, which we are not even halfway through yet. I am certainly going to write about Amanchu! AdvanceComic Girls and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online. As well, I am planning a special set of posts for the summer solstice, and I am also considering doing another post for the Terrible Anime Challenge series. Finally, news has reached my ears that Harukana Receive is going to begin airing on Friday, July 6. I’m debating whether or not this series will get an episodic review for the present, but even if it does not get an episodic review, if there was one anime for the summer season I am writing about, it is this one: at the minimum, I will follow the same format for Amanchu! Advance for Harukana Receive.

  • With the MDR now in my arsenal, I’ve more or less collected all of the exotics that I’ve set out to acquire. This is the all-exotic loadout I’ve always dreamed of having, and with this done, I feel that I’ve gotten the fullest from my solo experience of The Division. I may occasionally return to mess around with the West Side Piers missions and Dark Zone, as well as to try my luck with weekly mission caches (getting a Bullfrog would be quite nice, even if it is extraneous), but I think for the present, I am in a position to take a bit of a break from farming for gear in The Division and focus my attention on other things. So, readers disappointed that I’m not writing more about anime will likely be less disappointed: besides the remaining shows of this season, and the other Terrible Anime Challenge on the table, I’ve finally finished AIR from Kyoto Animation. I will be writing about AIR, and as well, my copy of Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai has finally arrived: no promises yet, but I am going to try and watch this ahead of Canada Day.

When I returned to the terminal, I bought global event caches and got a Damascus, an exotic M9 pistol. Opening the weekly cache landed me Shortbow Championship pads, which I had a superior version of already and proceeded to scrap. I turned to the last item, the exotic cache I got from finishing Warrengate Power Plant, and opened it. Against all odds, I got the Urban MDR. Despite its low gear score of 258 and average talents (Focused and Commanding), I finally had an Urban MDR in my inventory. I re-calibrated it, replacing Commanding with Brutal. I subsequently optimised it so it would hit harder and then took the weapon out for a spin against the various open-world named elites, and the free-roaming enemies of the West Side Pier. With the effects from Onslaught active, it’s proven to be a fun romp: the weapon is very efficient with its ammunition, and when an extended magazine is equipped, one can go through multiple veterans or entire groups of standard enemies before needing a reload if their aim is true. While the MDR’s semi-automatic fire is not suitable for my preferred Striker setup (I run with the House and LVOA-C exclusively now for missions), and it is dependent on status effects to be at its most effective, the MDR is nonetheless a fun weapon to use even in the absence of a dedicated setup: it’s great for mixing things up and experiencing things a little differently. I’ve heard that this weapon is incredibly rare in The Division, and consequently, being able to get an Urban MDR on my last exotic cache was such a stroke of dumb luck that I can’t believe it. While I’m seemingly on a hot streak, maybe I ought to get into Kantai Collection, where I’m sure dumb luck will let me register for the game and maybe subsequently solo Kantai Collection‘s 6-5 events with the basic loadouts that would make veteran players salty.

The Division: Counting Cards, Blackout and New Legendary Missions

“No matter what you or anyone else does, there will be someone who says that there’s something bad about it.” —Tom Clancy

The Division‘s latest update brought to the table two new global events, modifications to the gear system and drop rates, added two new legendary missions and also introduced a host of bug fixes to improve the experience for players. With Division’s 1.8.1 patch live, this is a game that’s continued to keep on giving – a far cry from when it first released, there seems to be no shortage of things to do at the endgame to keep things interesting. The latest Global Event, Blackout, introduces the shock ammunition modifier, which allows players to stun enemies and deal increasing damage as one runs or fires. The stun from shock ammunition provides players with a few critical seconds to duck behind cover or reload, and additional damage makes it easier to tear through The Division‘s infamously tough enemies. The end result is non-stop entertainment in making use of shock ammunition to explore the two new legendary missions: 1.8.1 adds Amherst’s Apartment and Grand Central Station as missions with The Division‘s toughest difficulties, and these two missions are well-suited for the mode. Besides new legendary missions, changes to the caches available for purchase with GE credits have been made, allowing players to purchase caches that guarantee pieces of classified gear from a certain set. Exotics have also been modified: exotic weapons that can be purchased from the vendor will no longer drop, and all exotics are now added to the pool of items that can drop from light zone bosses. These changes indicate that The Division, contrary to claims otherwise, is still going strong: Ubisoft has made it clear that en route to the upcoming The Division 2, they will continue to motivate players to get the most of The Division.

Having spent all of March in global events, I managed to acquire an all-exotic loadout through the legendary missions that I’ve played through. These missions are no walk in the park and for the most part, simply cannot be soloed by a majority of the players. Having tried them, I can attest to their difficulty, but since my last post, I’d also had some time to tune my loadout more finely, replace some gear and also optimise my favourite weapons. As a result, I’ve noticed that as of late, I’ve been able to melt enemy elites and veterans without too much difficulty: while working on weekly assignments, I’ve returned to the Dark Zone and burned my way through supply drops and even finished my first-ever contamination event solo. In legendary missions, I’ve become much more useful to my team, dropping enemies in less than a single magazine. The improvements to my performance have made legendary missions less daunting: the new missions are much more manageable than the old ones in that can be finished more quickly. The narrow passages and corridors of Amherst’s Apartment and Grand Central Station funnel the LMB soldiers into chokepoints that make them vulnerable to concentrated fire; a reasonably well-coordinated team can easily hold out and triumph in firefights. I’ve also begun to run with recovery link now, which has proven useful far beyond the other signature skills for legendary missions. During one Grand Central Station run, I lost my entire team to the final wave of named elites in the mission’s final segment. I was the last individual alive, and because I had recovery link, I was able to revive my entire team. This gave us enough of a second wind to complete the mission, and as the Blackout global event draws to a close, I’ve had a chance to enjoy the new legendary missions and acquire some new exotic weapons.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In order to complete the weekly assignments, I needed to return into the Dark Zone. It suddenly strikes me that beyond the fourth sector, I’ve not actually explored the Dark Zone in too much detail, and here, I clear a landmark in the third sector on my own during one memorable evening where a group of rogues were running around and eliminating anything that crossed their paths.

  • All of the group’s activities were showing up in the feed, so I made it a point to avoid them if they were powerful to shrug off repeated attempts from other players to take them out. Because I was mainly in the Dark Zone to hunt cleaners, we thankfully did not cross paths: besides cleaning out cleaners roaming the streets, I also descended into the contaminated zones to get at the cleaners down there.

  • In the Dark Zone, I’ve largely been unsuccessful with claiming supply crates because I was ill-equipped to deal with the elite enemies that spawn in, but with my current setup and the Blackout global event, I found that I was tearing through enemies like a hot knife through butter. I was able to claim several supply crates during my time spent in the Dark Zone, and these offer items that do not need to be extracted.

  • I’ve never soloed a contamination event up until now, and the only time I had done one of these previously was with a group that I randomly joined with. During that particular run, I managed to find a Big Alejandro, an exotic light machine gun, but lost it to a group of rogues. This time, however, I was able to clear a contamination event on my own and got a Medved for my troubles. Extracting it was an exhilarating experience, although since this wasn’t an MDR, I would not have been too bothered if I had lost the Medved – this is an exotic shotgun that fires slugs in place of buckshot.

  • While the Dark Zone might be the most lawless and desolate part of Manhattan available for players to explore in The Division, there are places that have a neat atmosphere to it. This street, brightly lit with its Christmas decorations, does not look anywhere nearly as intimidating as those parts of the Dark Zone dominated by biohazard markers, plastic coverings and endless garbage bags, for instance.

  • At the time of writing, I’m rank forty in the Dark Zone, and I believe that at rank fifty, I’ll have access to those high gear-score blueprints that would allow me to craft the weapons I most enjoy using. At this point, however, this seems a little unnecessary: I’ve more or less found all of my weapons through drops from regular combat, and I’ve found the setup that works best for me. I run with the LVOA-C with Destructive (increased armour damage), Unforgiving (increased damage output when low on health) and Accurate, and my House has Accurate and Deadly (increased critical hit damage).

  • These rolls seem to have worked exceptionally well for me, and so, I optimised my weapons to their maximum gear score of 286. I subsequently returned to the legendary missions to see how the weapons would perform, and The House truly shines. It is considered to be the best exotic weapon: its unique talent is “card counter”, which allows half of the magazine to do twenty percent more damage per shot. Coupled with a respectable firing rate of 850 RPM and the fact that the weapon can be fully customised, The House is an absolute beast of a weapon that makes it the exotic to have.

  • In practise, The House is obscenely powerful even without the Destructive talent: the weapon talent can be exploited by counting bullets, allowing a skilful user to consistently deal more damage with the weapon. I personally find the notion of card counting an amusing one: a fellow I know once declared that he would count cards in Poker, even though the method is intended for Blackjack and other card games in its family. We had a good laugh that game, and I ended up breaking even, winning back my buy-in.

  • I picked up my first house in a Superior Global Event Cache, and over the course of my time in The Division, found two more Houses. Neither of the new ones have as good of a talent roll as my first, but I’ll likely keep them around and see if I can roll better talents on them at a later date: as a firearms-oriented player, electronics-dependent talents are not my cup of tea. It really says something about a weapon when it is able to make even legendary missions more manageable – since I picked up a House, I’ve not failed a legendary mission yet.

  • In previous missions and events, I ran with the survivor link, which grants increased damage resistance and movement speed. While useful in some circumstances, it turns out that for legendary missions, the recovery link is superior in every way – being able to revive an entire team is beyond valuable. During one run at Grand Central Station, we’d cleared all of the LMB and were preparing to fight the four Agents that appeared. My teammates were probably still new to the Grand Central Station mission, and immediately, I found myself the only member of the team still alive. In the voice communication, one of my teammates shouted “T, T!”. The signature skill is by default, mapped to the “T” key.

  • I had been saving my recovery link exactly for such a moment: observant readers will note that I selfishly run with overheal and tactical pulse: I make extensive use of both talents in a given mission to stay alive, and having overheal allows me to get enough health to escape a pinch even if I’m out of med kits. I thus activated my recovery link, saved my entire team, and we regrouped to defeat the wave of agents. The map became littered with various items, and by this point in The Division, high end items drop with such a frequency that superiors have become utterly worthless.

  • With my experiences, I am now going to continue running recovery link as my signature skill for all legendary missions: while I initially figured that tactical link could be useful for boosting damage against bosses, and that survivor link could be great for escaping a difficult situation, being able to save one’s entire team makes the missions much more straightforward to complete. Why is there a random post on The Division, one might ask? The answer is two-fold: first, the Blackout event will be ending in a few hours, and second, this post was actually supposed to be a talk on Gundam: The Origin‘s sixth movie, but it seems that I underestimated how long some things take to become available on this side of the world.

  • Gundam: The Origin‘s sixth (and presumably, final) instalment screened in Japanese theatres yesterday. While the first to fourth instalments were available to watch very quickly after screening in Japan, this sixth movie has followed the fifth in release pattern. I believe that there will be a chance to see it later this month, so I will be writing about The Origin, just at a later date. Aside from The Origin‘s delay, yesterday was, by all counts, an ordinary Saturday on this side of the world. I ran a few legendary missions, and then stepped out to a pleasant spring afternoon to relax at a local bookstore, before heading off for dinner. It was steak night, so I ordered a medium-rare sirloin steak with sautéed prawns, asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes.

  • There’s nothing like a juicy, flavourful steak and tasty prawns to accompany some of the best weather we’ve had all year, and moreover, it’s great to see spring return to the world. Trees are starting to bud now, and grasses have become verdant with the warmer, pleasant weather. Spring has also returned to the world in my workplace: after a difficult year last year, it seems that things are turning around now. Of course, talking about it would mean going off topic, so I’ll leave this discussion of reality and return things back to The Division.

  • Here, I begin pushing into Amherst’s Apartment: the narrow confines of the mission means it’s actually quite difficult to get flanked, and despite the waves of well-equipped LMB soldiers, this legendary mission is also one of the quickest and most straightforward to complete. After some teammates set up a support station, it was a simple matter of switching over to the LVOA-C and firing until there were no more enemies left. In most games I’ve matched into, teammates have typically run with a support station, and when placed properly, these can be as useful as a well-timed recovery link: they automatically revive downed players.

  • If a nearby teammate is downed and I happen to be reasonably safe from fire, I will attempt to revive a teammate, as well. I have come to greatly enjoy legendary missions in The Division because, aside from incursions, these are the missions that really encourage team play. Because every member of a team is interested in the mission rewards, they will work together and help one another out even when they are not communicating by a microphone. It’s a far cry from the chaos of the Dark Zone, and seeing the cooperation in legendary missions have also made me appreciate the Dark Zone more.

  • I admit that it can sometimes be a bit irritating to matchmake and not find any groups available, or else match into a group with only one other player, then watching as the other player disbands the group because not enough people showed up to do a legendary mission. However, when things work out, they work out well. I’ve run into some interesting people during the course of my legendary mission runs in The Division, and I’m glad that by this point in time, people are not being kicked for having too low of a gear score.

  • Outside of The Division, DICE has made Battlefield 1‘s They Shall Not Pass DLC free for all players. I still recall buying the premium pass a year ago so I could play through the new French maps, and looking back, I have absolutely no regrets about my decision. Buying the DLC simply means paying to save time and play earlier. I will be doing a post in the near future on what it’s like to return to the French maps, which I’ve not played too extensively since the other DLCs came out: after more than a year of having bought the premium pass, I’ve finally had a chance to take the wheel of the Char 2C in a game of conquest, and the experience alone is meritorious of a blog post.

  • Over the past two weeks that Blackout was running, I’ve gotten more exotics than I’ve cared to count. While the Urban MDR continues to elude me (I’m looking for one simply because the gun looks cool; the MDR is best suited for a skills-oriented build), I’ve picked up a new Big Alejandro to replace the one I lost in the Dark Zone and it’s been a fun weapon. As well, I’ve also got a Heel now (an exotic DMR) and new shotguns, plus plenty of duplicates. Exotic weapons and gear can be useful, but for the most part, they serve a more illustrious role for me.

  • My loadout has not changed too dramatically since I last posted: I have an improved Strikers kneepads and a new M9 pistol that holds more rounds than my previous M1911. As well, The House has become a more regular part of my loadout since I learned of its exceptional performance. My gear score has also increased slightly, to 283. This pretty much brings my current post on The Division to an end, and looking ahead, I’ve actually got a bit of a surprise for readers: I have plans to do a mini-series for Yuru Camp△ this and maybe next month. I did mention that May looked a little sparse for anime, so as time allows, I will be doing something fun for Yuru Camp△. As for The Division, I will be returning when the Onslaught event kicks off in the future.

There is still one more new global event, titled “onslaught”, which will run at some point in the future. Similar to blackout, it is a damage modifier, and once it is live, I will likely take a look to see just how much of an impact the multiple damage effects have on gameplay. At this point in The Division, my quest to collect more gear pieces suited for my style continues, and while I originally thought it appropriate to stop here on account of repetitiveness, it turns out that playing through the endgame is much more entertaining than expected. While missions are repetitive to some extent, playing with a full squad of players against overwhelmingly powerful enemies have made each return to a legendary mission unique. Similarly, the uncertainty of ambush and betrayal in the Dark Zone adds a certain thrill to the game. In the fifth world tier, I’ve had reasonable success in matchmaking with other players to tackle legendary missions, and in the Dark Zone’s toughest tiers, the presence of manhunts and rogue agents continue to keep things exhilarating and fresh. My days in the Dark Zone now are largely PvE, although I also make a game out of evading rogue agents and, on good days, seeing if I can extract gear before rogue agents show up. The presence of other players makes it quite clear that The Division is certainly not barren or devoid of players: even now, there’s new content for players to enjoy. After blackout winds down, I’m going to take a short break and return to see what onslaught will be about. Perhaps, if my luck holds, I may even get an Urban MDR.