The Infinite Zenith

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Tom Clancy’s The Division: How Global Events and Yuru Camp△ Led to the All-Exotic Loadout

“I’d rather talk to people who do things than complain about other people who do things. I say they’re idiots.” —Tom Clancy

Since I last wrote about The Division, I’ve put in an additional forty hours into the end-game. The Division 2 was announced, and an unveiling will likely occur at this year’s E3; in the build-up to this, Ubisoft has held a month-long series of Global Events, which modify gameplay throughout The Division. There are four types of events: Outbreak, which focuses on headshots, the close-quarters Assault, the bombastic Strike, and Ambush, which favours tactical play. These events add a considerable amount of incentive to revisit The Division, and by my admission, I’ve spent the past month playing almost nothing but The Division: the modifiers introduced by Global Events have made it possible to pull off stunts that ordinarily would not be possible. I’ve managed to solo challenging missions on my own with these modifiers, and have even partied up with random players on legendary missions. These missions feature LMB forces that are far deadlier than standard enemies: for most players, solo play in legendary missions is not an option, and so, like Rin of Yuru Camp△, who learned the joys of camping with a group, I’ve come to experience a side of The Division that I might have otherwise skated over. The Global Events were a powerful motivator in leading me towards the Legendary missions; in these missions, I found a completely different side to The Division, facing enemies unlike anything I’d seen previously. Through basic teamwork, I managed to help out my groups in prevailing over foes of overwhelming calibre, earning new equipment and gear in the process to build an all-exotic loadout, something that I was looking to accomplish ever since reaching level thirty.

In the process, it would seem that I’ve more or less experienced the thematic elements of Yuru Camp△ from Rin’s perspective as a consequence of the Global Events. Although it’s take little persuasion beyond the possibility of exotic caches, playing with a group of randoms in The Division aligns very closely with Rin’s learnings in Yuru Camp△: much as how I went through a majority of The Division as a solo player, completing missions and counting on my own wits and resourcefulness to get by, Rin enjoys the solitude of camping on her own, calling on her experience to plan out a time that she enjoys. However, when she begins travelling further on her own, the unknown surprises her and leaves her uncertain of what to do next. Reaching higher world tiers in The Division was a similar experience: there comes a point when solo play in The Division breaks down: without that perfectly rolled gear set and weapon talents, in conjunction with the right skills and perks, players can be eliminated very easily, much as how Rin would require more experience before camping further on her own. However, with a party to work with, teamwork allows individuals to achieve together what would be very difficult to accomplish independently. Rin discovers this when camping with Nadeshiko, and I found this out in The Division during the Global Events, when I accidentally used matchmaking and joined a group of players doing a mission I could have soloed. The advantages of a team led me to wonder what legendary missions were like, and I decided to try the Time Square Relay mission; Rin similarly consents to camping with Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Aoi and Ena when remembering Chiaki’s assistance and the companionship that Nadeshiko provided when they camped at Lake Shibare. For her open-mindedness, Rin is rewarded with an unparalleled camping experience, and for my troubles in trying out group play in The Division, I now have an all-exotic loadout.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • One of the challenges in the Dark Zone at world tier five is that unlike the other world tiers, which were largely empty, there are plenty of people in the tier five Dark Zone. Extracting gear solo is nigh-impossible not because of enemy NPCs, but other players looking to prey on solo players. As a result, I’ve largely stopped using the Dark Zone to get good gear, but the Dark Zone remains fine for just entering and testing one’s loadouts against the tougher enemies in here.

  • I would suppose that it could be fun to collect gear for a good PvP build, then call in extractions and attach onto the chopper a single item of no value, then attack the players who’ve turned rogue for fun. A simpler method that wouldn’t involve any new gear on my part is to simply run around to every extraction site and request an extraction: besides saturating would-be-rogues with enough bogus extractions so they wouldn’t know where to run, calling in extractions would also spawn enemy NPCs that can be killed for Dark Zone experience. My journey to leveling up in the Dark Zone has slowed to a crawl ever since the Global Events went live, as I’ve been quite interested in seeing how the different modifiers impact gameplay.

  • Today’s page quote is another Tom Clancy quote; as a bit of a stab against armchair experts and those believe virtue signalling has value, I similarly believe that the only people whose opinions are worth respecting are those who do something: it’s far easier to talk to someone who’s actually gone and done something, as opposed to people who while away their days on the internet and never end up putting in an effort to create or do something meaningful. A Place Further Than The Universe deals with taking this first step: like Yuru Camp△, the anime reminds viewers that these first steps can be easier with friends and well worth it. So for all the folks out there who count themselves as inadequate, I would argue that it’s never too late to start out on this journey and become people who do and make, rather than people who can only complain.

  • Different players have different strategies for dealing with rogue agents; after being killed by a rogue on one occasion, I coordinated with another solo player to get some revenge. For my troubles, I got some Dark Zone funds and recovered all of my gear for extraction. On another occasion, I was killed by a group of rogues, tried coming back for revenge and got their leader down to around half health before he opened up his comms and apologised. I get that people are playing in the Dark Zone for fun, and I’ve accepted the risk of dying to rogues, so when rogue players happen, my inclination is to simply respond in kind for fun, so if a player no longer wishes to play the rogue game, I’ll leave them in peace.

  • I’ve had a non-trivial number of exotics drop from Light Zone bosses: my first-ever drop was the Caduceus assault rifle, which was one of the two exotics featured during the open beta: the Cassidy was the other weapon. At the time, I did not have enough Dark Zone funds or rank to buy one, so one of my goals upon reaching thirty was to acquire some of these named weapons. Before one of the earlier patches, exotic weapons appeared as named high-end weapons, but named weapons eventually became exotics, with their own colour scheme. Light Zone bosses only dropped the Caduceus, Tenebrae and Skulls MC Gloves, but a patch will allow all exotics to drop from anywhere in The Division.

  • The biggest advantage about being in a team is that I can run with skills that I might not otherwise use. For challenging missions, I’ve felt that the most useful skills are the life support variant of the support station and then a combination of tactical pulse and flame turrets (which set enemies ablaze and deal damage while preventing them from firing). Seeker mines are also useful for flushing opponents out, and the ballistic shield in conjunction with a four-piece D3-FNC set could also be useful in drawing fire away from teammates.

  • For my part, I’ve been running with a 4-piece Striker set, with an extra piece from the D3-FNC and Lone Star set so I could gain an advantage while using automatic weapons. In conjunction with the Ninjabike backpack, I gain the D3-FNC’s 15% protection from elites and doubled ammo capacity from the Lone Star set. This is my preferred PvE build, allowing me to solo reasonably well. I’ve heard stories where players were kicked from groups for having low gear scores: gear scores are only a rough indicator of one’s actual performance, and one of the reasons why I remained at gear score 278 for the longest time was because the gear I was running with actually worked.

  • I explore the northeastern side of Manhattan, just north of the General Assembly. By night, the area is quite beautiful, with all the blue Christmas lights aglow, and it is here that the more impressive-looking buildings are found. Of course, the area is populated by roaming LMB, so exploring is no walk in the park, but now that I’m properly outfitted, the NPCs roaming the Light Zone are no problem at all to deal with.

  • The northern ends of the Dark Zone, from sectors seven onward, are supposed to be home to some of the Dark Zone’s toughest NPCs, and the mission to reach the sector nine safe house was a harrowing one. I found that running in the Dark Zone and killing groups of NPCs is a lot less stressful than attempting to extract gear from it: in my experience, would-be rogues tend to leave one alone if they do not have any gear.

  • During the assault global event, I decided to give the legendary missions a whirl and spawned in with a group of well-equipped and coordinated players in the Times Square Relay mission. I typically run with survivor link for this mission so I can increase my resistance to damage and speed while carrying the fuse parts. This legendary mission is probably the most straightforward to complete; players fight against waves of LMB soldiers, but there’s enough cover and open spaces so that one can simply put down a support station and then slowly pick away at the enemies incoming.

  • The items awarded for completing a legendary mission aren’t always impressive, but what does make legendary missions worth attempting is the fact that they award exotic caches, which contain a guaranteed exotic item and provide some Division Tech, as well. I’ve found that besides their illustrious nature, their performance in combat actually varies. There are some occasions where an exotic weapon or gear piece is useful – the first Caduceus I got wasn’t too bad spec-wise, and I ran with it in conjunction with the M700 Tactical.

  • With my older loadout, I predominantly kept my distance and sniped enemies: the M700 was powerful enough to deal serious damage to enemies in Legendary missions, and I switched over to the Caduceus to finish off enemies at closer ranges. Here, I am partying with another group in the Warrengate Power Plant mission. We started off with a team of three, and another player joined the group later. Despite its close quarters environment, I was able to make use of my marksman rifle, picking off opponents from a distance while teammates did the remainder of the work.

  • The main reason why running with a team in legendary missions works is primarily because a diverse array of skills increases survivability and damage output. As well, save for explosives and offensive skills, enemies can only focus on a single target at a time, so having teammates allows one player to run distraction while others finish an opponent off. After a harrowing twenty minutes, our team managed to complete the mission, earning me yet another exotic cache that put me one step closer to an all-exotic loadout. During this mission, I died and was revived by a support station more times than I cared to count.

  • The Napalm Production Site mission on legendary really depends on the team one is running with: a coordinated team with properly configured weapons and skills can do quite well. On my first run, I succeeded in clearing the map to collect the mission rewards, but during one memorable attempt, our team continued to get wiped, and since it was getting late, I ended up leaving the group so I could catch some sleep.

  • This was no fault of the group’s, but rather, the lateness of the hour: we had gotten to the very end and were wiped twice by the agents we were up against, but I had an early start the next day. One of the reasons why this mission had been more difficult was because of the Strike event, which sees enemies exploding when killed. While they deal minor damage to those around them, the effects overall are not particularly impactful, so players cannot count too much on them to help them. Assault was a fun global event: at close ranges, players deal increased damage.

  • On missions where there is a need to slowly carry a heavy object to a target point for insertion, I always run survivor link. Almost all of the teammates I’ve matched with run recovery link: I cannot begin to state how useful this is, since I’ve been saved by a teammate’s recovery link more times than I’ve cared to count.  When used in the right situation, a player can revive his entire group to keep their run going. Slow and steady wins the race in legendary missions, so I’m tempted to say that a team of four, running three recovery links and one survivor link is probably the way to go – tactical link boosts damage, but the number of enemies encountered means that the decreased time to kill ends up being less important than being able to keep teammates alive.

  • I’ve heard statements dating back a year that state The Division was on its last legs, and this seems to vary at present: there are some instances where matchmaking is as simple as hitting the button and then joining another party, but I’ve also had situations where matchmaking was unsuccessful. Overall, I think that matchmaking is only really necessary once one gets close to the gear score limit; below that, acquiring new gear is reasonably quick.

  • The ambush global event is by far my favourite: standing still, one can do considerably more damage against opponents. The effects were profound enough so that I could solo the Lexington Event Centre mission on challenging mode with my standard overheal and tactical pulse skills. The roof and basement segments of the mission are the most challenging, but with the ambush effects active, I was consistently hitting for 1.2 million points of damage with my SRS A1 rifle on critical headshots. Since finding one, I’ve made extensive use of it to great effect – in the absence of the global events, it hits for around three hundred thousand points of damage when landing a headshot, and can take out most Light Zone bosses in two shots.

  • The M4 rifle was a weapon I did not use with any frequency while going levelling up in The Division – the damage was not quite there despite its accuracy. However, once I picked up the LVOA-C variant, the LVOA-C became my go-to assault rifle: I’ve recalibrated it so it has the destructive talent, which bolsters damage to enemy armour. In conjunction with the armour damage bonus that assault rifles have and its high rate of fire, I’ve found the LVOA-C to be the perfect weapon for solo missions against armoured opponents: I can melt through them without too much difficulty.

  • My curiosity was piqued, and I decided to give the Rooftop Comm Relay mission another whirl: with my current setup, I walked through the mission and melted all in my path. Defending the engineer at the end, during which I had to fight Glass and one of his cronies, had been a considerable challenge when I first went through the mission, but having geared up, it turns out that Glass was no challenge. I’ve tried to focus on armour damage, and some of my gear pieces have bonus elite damage, so unlike my first run, this one ended very quickly.

  • Curiosity led me to attempt the General Assembly mission on my own: for the most part, I was aware of the fact that at hard difficulty, the missions do not pose a significant challenge for me, so entering the mission, my main interest was to see how capable I was of dispatching Colonel Bliss’ helicopter without resorting to the automated turrets that I made use of when beating the game for the first time.

  • As it turns out, eliminating Bliss’ helicopter turned out to be an exercise in patience. I would’ve liked to see more vehicular bosses in The Division, along with more anti-vehicular options in the game, as well. This is something that could be done for The Division 2: one of the things I mentioned back during the days of the beta was that travelling from point A to point B was quite slow, but this was before fast travel was unlocked. While going on foot has since proven to be okay in The Division, and vehicular combat is not strictly necessary, it would still add a bit more variety to engage enemies in vehicles.

  • The main question now is whether or not I would pony up for The Division‘s DLC, once I’ve done everything in the endgame (I still need to give Resistance and Incursions a whirl, plus the HVT missions). The answer is going to be a no: while I greatly enjoy The Division, the fact is that The Division is a game that’s reaching the end of its life cycle, and there are other titles that I’ve neglected as a result. I still need to complete the “Behind Her Blue Flame” missions in Valkyria Chronicles, play more Skullgirls to gain a better idea of how I feel about the game, and go through Ori and the Blind Forest.

  • With the Ambush event over and things returning to Strike for an encore, I decided to give Lexington Event Centre another whirl on challenging, but got my face kicked in at the roof. I predominantly snipe in The Division and only fall back on automatic fire when enemies begin closing the gap: by sniping, I pick enemies off at a more methodical pace, allowing me to control the engagement. As a result, when enemies get closer to me, I am no longer in control: this particular play-style means that I run with a Striker set, which confers damage bonuses for landing consecutive shots with automatic weapons.

  • I enjoy being a marksman, and while one might say that having a Sentry’s Call or Hunter’s Faith set would let me capitalise on this, my reasoning for running a four-piece Striker set is so I increase my damage at closer ranges. I snipe to whittle numbers down, and then using the Striker set, in conjunction with a good assault rifle, I can tear through enemies quickly. Classified gear is hard to come by, so I decided to diversify, slotting in a single piece from the D3-FNC set to gain protection from elites, and a single Lone Star piece so I can increase my ammunition capacity.

  • All of this is facilitated by the NinjaBike backpack, which acts as a wildcard for gear sets: rather than specialising in any one style, the NinjaBike backpack allows me to enjoy benefits from a variety of gear sets and I’ve attributed having this to helping improve my survivability in various situations. Apparently, the NinjaBike backpack was less valuable in earlier builds, helping players dampen their losses in the Dark Zone when they were killed.

  • During one legendary mission at Times Square Power Rely over the past weekend, I joined a match where I was made leader. I switched over to a pulse turret and the recovery station: by now, I’d become reasonably familiar with the way enemies spawned, and so, did my best to keep the group alive. I must’ve done alright, if no one in the group quit out at any point, and while one guy disconnected, we were joined by another fellow who definitely carried their weight. I noticed that no one was running the recovery station, so I used it to help keep teammates alive at choke points, and the pulse turret helped me keep Sargent Wilbur busy: he’s immune to all damage except that dealt to a small plate on his backpack, but pulse turrets work on him. While my turret chipped at his health, a teammate snuck behind him and finished him off. With the other threats dealt with, our mission ended successfully.

  • While we might be into April, I’m a bit surprised that winter has not left us yet: forecasts predict cooler weather for at least another week in my parts, and I’ll be looking forwards to when spring really returns to the world. In The Division, the perpetual winter weather is perfect for atmospherics, in-game, but in reality, winter weather is known to have a profoundly negative impact on one’s well-being. With this in mind, one of the things I’ve longed to do since buying The Division is to play this game, after work or on a lazy Sunday, during the hottest day of the year.

  • Before I wrap up this post, I will show readers what my preferred PvE loadout looks like. The NinjaBike backpack acts as a wildcard, allowing me to run a four-piece striker set and gain two-piece bonuses from the Lone Star and D3-FNC set. I will mix things up depending on what I’m doing, but this loadout’s really worked well for me. As my primary weapon, I run the LVOA-C with the destructive perk, which allows me to rip through enemies with relative ease, and the SRS A1 acts as my secondary. I have deadly and destructive on it, which makes it great for longer range engagements. I admit that my setup was inspired by TheRadBrad’s, although he runs with a six-piece Classified Nomad set for survivability in the Dark Zone. Since I don’t PvP, I’ve opted to go with a damage-oriented build: if I could customise the naming for my loadouts, this one could probably be called “The Shimarin”.

  • Here’s a setup I’d never thought I’d ever be able to collect: the all-exotic loadout. This loadout is made up of Barret’s bulletproof vest (increases damage while skills are on cooldown), Ferro’s oxygen mask (continue shooting even while on fire), Shortbow Championship pads (grenades explode slightly faster), Skull MC gloves (damage increase if one has no gear set bonuses active) and Colonel Bliss’s holster (sidearms hit harder the more consecutive shots one lands) in addition to the NinjaBike backpack. I’m running the Liberator and the Centurion. As well, I also happen to have The House SMG, which I got during a very lucky drop. It’d be awesome to have an Urban MDR and Bullfrog, but until the RNG favours me with these weapons, I’ll continue to run with what I’ve got.

Admittedly, I’ve perhaps played a little too much of The Division over the past month; the climb through the world tiers and corresponding increases in gear score have been a remarkably fun journey. The uncertain thrill of being in the Dark Zone at tier five means that I’ve largely kept to running around landmarks and supply drop events: extracting gear that I’ve found has typically resulted in my being attacked by groups of rogue agents. Since I’m geared for PvE rather than PvP play, such encounters usually end with my death, but a sign of The Division‘s maturity is that I don’t necessarily need to go into the Dark Zone to get Phoenix Credits and gear. Rogue players don’t tend to attack people without the contaminated loot bag, so I’ve had no difficulty in running around the Dark Zone, clearing out landmarks and occasionally going for supply drops. The short of it is that The Division‘s been great fun, and with the announcement for The Division 2 a reality, one can only wonder what the sequel will deal with: the first game left quite a bit of the narrative open, and with Aaron Keener still on the loose with the chemical makeup of the dollar flu, there’s plenty left to explore from a storytelling perspective. I’m personally hoping that The Division 2 will be set in Asia: Hong Kong or Tokyo would represent fantastic places to set The Division‘s gameplay, and beyond my own speculations, it’ll be very exciting to see just what lies in store for The Division. For now, however, purely for bragging rights, I can say two things: first, I’ve got an all-exotic loadout (practicality notwithstanding) and second, I’ve surpassed MeoTwister5 in terms of gear score.

Far Cry 4: A Lesson on Patience and Applicability in Contemporary Movements

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” –George Bernard Shaw

After pushing through into North Kyrat, Ajay liberates the remainder of the provinces and ultimately is made to choose to make Amita or Sabal the leader of the Golden Path. In my playthough, I ended up choosing Amita and shot Sabal. In a titanic assault on Pegan Min’s stronghold, the Golden Path are successful in toppling his regime. Finding Pagan Min, Ajay learns of his family history, and Min allows him to place his mother’s ashes inside a shrine. Min leaves on a helicopter, leaving Kyrat to Ajay. With Amita in control, Kyrat becomes a drug state. Had I opted to go with Sabal’s ending, he would have turned the nation into a theocracy. Regardless of which ending one chooses, the ramifications are less than optimal – this is the core lesson in Far Cry 4, that regime changes very nearly always have unforeseen consequences owing to the complexity of even the more disagreeable political systems. Far Cry 4 thus becomes a thought experiment to illustrate what might happen when one is given the means to destablise a regime and introduce change through force of arms, bypassing activism and protest in favour of violence. While Ajay is given enough background to make decisions and carry out his actions, the constraints result in Kyrat being oppressed by a new regime. In my case, having chosen Amita to lead the Golden Path, Kyrat’s citizens are now entangled in the production of narcotics, which will create problems for other nations, as well as internally. A leadership under Sabal would see oppression of at least a similar calibre to Pegan Min’s rule: given that we know what the outcomes are now, it might have been preferable to leave Pegan Min in control because at the very least, what to expect from his regime is known. At the end of Far Cry 4, the game succeeds in conveying the message that supporting a cause to bring about change, without full awareness of what that cause is trying to accomplish, may result in system equally or more undesirable than what was already present.

The events of Far Cry 4 provide players an opportunity to experience a war from the perspective of someone who has the capability to make a tangible impact, and the endings warn players that it is possible that, when folks supporting a cause achieve what they’d set out to accomplish, the end result may not be what they were expecting. The setting and thematic elements of Far Cry 4 give the impression that the game is another perspective of the Tibet 2008 uprisings, deliberately coinciding with the Beijing 2008 Summer Games. Ubisoft gives power to the player, acting as an external third party who is free to explore Kyrat as they will and do as they choose. By shifting power into the players’ hands, Far Cry 4 imagines a scenario where that the folks supportive of the complete and total removal of the Chinese presence in Tibet are given the means to do so. As players move through Kyrat and whittle away Pegan Min’s power, the authoritarian regime weakens and crumbles. However, the end result was rather undesirable: Kyrat’s residents end up trading one hell for another. Far Cry 4 thus suggests that, had the Tibet Uprising accomplished its goals of removing the Chinese presence, they might have encountered additional difficulties afterwards – there is no guarantee that the new leadership would bring about the change that people sought, and that a third party intervening may simply create more problems. The parallels bring to mind organisations that conducted a widespread campaign to promote an independent Tibet during the 2008, and through its narrative, Far Cry 4 implies that organisations or groups could be doing more harm than good, if they are not fully aware of the consequences of rapid change and nonetheless continue to push their agendas forward.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The Buzzsaw is a signature MG42 that has double the ammunition capacity of a standard MG42 with the extended magazine, and coupled with its pointpoint accuracy and high damage resulting from the 7.92×57mm Mauser rounds, the mere fact that I have the weapon means that for all intents and purposes, I’ve beaten Far Cry 4. The weapon will kill all enemies in less than three rounds, can rip ground vehicles and helicopters apart in seconds and even force the largest of wildlife to yield.

  • Unlocked after liberating all of the Belltowers, the Buzzsaw is so powerful that there is no game to play: Ajay can clear out entire outposts without ever reloading, and reinforcements sent to support Royal Guard soldiers become victims of the weapon. To balance the Buzzsaw out, it would have been more appropriate to give the weapon increased recoil so it cannot be fired for sustained periods of time on full automatic. This way, other LMGs could be given superior automatic fire accuracy and make them more useful.

  • Of course, things are what they are, and having the Buzzsaw made many missions trivially easy. Most of these screenshots for my second Far Cry 4 post date between late August and November of last year – I was pushing to finish Far Cry 4 towards the end of 2017 so I could begin Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and The Division.

  • I previously mentioned that vegetation can be set ablaze with any incendiary weapon or even the repair tool. I recall an evening where I spent running around Kyrat, lighting up Royal Guard soldiers with the repair tool and setting them on fire for comedy. Repair tool kills have been something I’ve not made a point of getting since the days of Battlefield 3, where it was bloody hilarious to force a reaction from other players who were killed by the repair torch. In Battlefield 1, the Kolibri is the equivalent weapon for humiliating other players.

  • Here, I run with the Kriss Vector, one of my favourite weapons in The Division: I’ve outfitted the Vector with a similar configuration here that I felt I would most likely run with in The Division (at the time, I did not have The Division), mounting the medium range optics in conjunction with a suppressor. While a fun weapon to use against groups of lightly-armoured opponents, the Vector is stymied by a lower range, and is not as versatile as an assault rifle in Far Cry 4, so I did not run with the Vector with any great frequency during the main missions.

  • By this point in Far Cry 4, I accumulated enough cash to buy all of the weapons and their signature counterparts. Having good weapons makes the mid and late game a far cry from what things were at the beginning: while the basic AKM was a weak weapon with poor accuracy, having access to the full spectrum of guns in Far Cry 4 made the game much easier to play. Stealth operations became straightforwards to perform, and in a stand-up firefight, all enemies fell before the might of the Buzzsaw.

  • I realise that this post comes a ways later than expected: I beat Far Cry 4 back in early November prior to starting my journey in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and remark that I actually began my journey in Far Cry 4 on Christmas Day in 2016. During Christmas Day of 2017, I pushed further into Wolfire’s Overgrowth, and finished the game; the campaign is a bit short but quite fun. The fighting mechanics are solid and satisfying, and having beat the Overgrowth campaign, I will aim to get a post out for the game at some point in the future.

  • After finishing all of the Longinus missions, players unlock the LK-1018, which can fire laser-guided rockets similar to the rocket launcher of Half-Life 2. More powerful and effective against air vehicles than the RPG, I ended up using this weapon only when free-roaming the world: on missions where my goal was simply to finish them, the Buzzsaw and AMR are superior anti-vehicle options.

  • I chose to write about Far Cry 4 now, rather than earlier because of the fact that we’re very nearly about to see Far Cry 5‘s release on March 27. Having taken a look at the system requirements, I’m a bit surprised that Far Cry 5 can in fact run on my current computer on acceptable settings – I’m a 1080p60 gamer, and this requires an Intel i5 clocked at 3.4 GHz, a GTX 970 and 8 GB of RAM. The requirements aren’t too steep at all, and I might just pick the title up as a summer shooter: history suggests that Far Cry 5 might just see a 20 percent discount during the summer sale.

  • For 56 CAD three months after the launch date, Far Cry 5 could be well worth the price of admissions if Far Cry 4 was anything to go by: overall, I put in 48 hours into Far Cry 4, and ended up with a 80 percent completion rate, so if I were to spend a few more hours, I could probably wholly do everything in the game. My metrics for determining whether or not a pricey Triple-A title is worth it is whether or not the game costs six dollars per hour or less, which is roughly what it costs to watch a movie.

  • The AMR (Anti-Materiel Rifle) is the ultimate single-action rifle in Far Cry 4: being the signature form of the Z93, the AMR inherits the exceptional damage and slow rate of fire of the Z93, while introducing a HEIAP (High-Explosive Incendiary/Armour Piercing) round that can make short work of anything. Vehicles explode when shot, while large game are so grievously damaged that skins cannot be recovered from them. The main downside to the AMR is that as a signature weapon, it cannot be outfitted with a suppressor, limiting its effectiveness in a long-range role.

  • I’m not particularly fond of shotguns in Far Cry 4, since they do not always guarantee a one-hit kill on enemies. However, there are some missions that require one to kill HVTs or wildlife with specific weapons, which encourages players to try new weapons and make use of novel strategies to make these weapons work. I normally pick off all of the guards in an area from afar, before attempting to finish off the HVTs using the required weapon.

  • There are a few points in Far Cry 4 where Ajay either falls under the influence or where the narrative slips into an alternative plane known as Shangri-La, a mythical land where the gameplay mechanics are completely different. They’re quite distinct and memorable for their unique designs, but overall, I did not end up playing through all of the Shangri-La missions, only doing enough of them to unlock all of the weapons.

  • In the end, the best long-range weapon is the semi-automatic SA-50, which, while having a lower damage per shot compared to the AMR, offers a much higher firing rate and can be customised. This means a suppressor can be added to the weapon, making it the perfect choice for clearing out fortresses and outposts without alerting anyone to my presence. Clearing outposts without being detected and without any alarms being set off provide experience bonuses, and while players initially must choose between defensive and offensive upgrades, completing the game will allow Ajay to unlock more or less everything.

  • With every available skill unlocked in Far Cry 4, Ajay can survive three times as much punishment, move faster, reload more efficiently, perform more powerful takedowns, carry more gear and so on. While Ajay was quite weak as Far Cry 4 begins, at the game’s conclusion, the skills, weapons and player familiarity with the perks allow Ajay to be a veritable one-man army. Even the superior Royal Guard of North Kyrat stand little chance against Ajay.

  • I’ve not been too fond of the bows for their projectile drop and low firing rates, so I never made extensive use of these weapons for stealth or hunting. By comparison, the automatic crossbow is easy to use, featuring a high projectile speed and firing rate: it is perfect for close-quarters stealth engagements with multiple targets and the ideal hunting weapon, swiftly dealing with wildlife without damaging their skins. Where stealth is necessary, the automatic crossbow is the top sidearm for the job, and I found myself switching to this from the M79.

  • While most of Kyrat has a verdant, vibrant landscape, some parts of North Kyrat have a more distinct feel to it, with browning vegetation that evokes a sense of autumn. It is here that Kyrat’s toughest enemies are faced, and I take a few moments to look back ten years ago today, which was when an anti-China rally was set to go forwards. Some of my classmates were ardently trying to encourage fellow students to participate in rallys downtown in front of the Chinese Consulate to protest the Chinese government’s response to events in Tibet during the 2008 Summer Games. I antagonised them by declining to participate, feeling that it was unreasonable to expect that immediate change was realistic, and that all actions required consideration to avoid the sort of thing that might arise in Far Cry 4.

  • The argument devolved very rapidly; while I attempted to present the arguments outlined in this post as the basis for why I would not commit to their protest, one of the individuals backing the other party immediately resorted to ad hominem attacks. Claiming that “some of the things [that I] have written are incorrect”, and that I “should only respond if [I] want to discuss issues respectfully towards [my] opponent”, they concluded with the demand that I “owe [them] an apology for being inconsiderate to [them]”. The unique situation in Tibet means that what they sought (an immediate and complete removal of the Chinese presence) may have potentially created new social problems that would have not benefited the people in the area: my mere suggestion that change should be slow if it is to persist was somehow offensive to them.

  • I stress that I am not opposed to the idea of human rights, nor do I hold that China is blameless, but rather, I oppose actions and organisations who are so focused on one goal that they neglect the bigger picture, and the fact that change must be gradual. In the decade that has passed, I remark that the Dalai Lama has stated that his goal to be what is called the Middle Way: rather than full independence, he calls for cooperation and coexistence, understanding that an extreme course of action will similarly have extreme recourse on the people. Slow, methodical change is evidently preferred. Consequently, I owe this individual no apology – it is not my responsibility to be concerned that their feelings are hurt because of the realisation they cannot contribute to a change within the span of their lifetime.

  • The individual above asserted that opposing them constituted as harassment, and so, can be seen as being the precursor to the modern-day virtue signallers, folks who play the victim or take offense on the behalf of other groups for the sake of improving their own image. This is an issue that has become more prevalent, and as of late, such groups have protested everything from video game journalism to democracy in Hong Kong as conducted by one Joshua Wong and his cronies. The former sparked a massive internet war that ended being of little consequence to those seeking to change the industry, and the latter, while ostensibly promoting democracy, created major disturbances in Hong Kong, blocking traffic and damaging property that undermined the movement’s credibility.

  • As a consequence, I believe that Marco Rubio’s nomination of Joshua Wong and the Umbrella Revolution’s participants for a Nobel Peace Prize to be, for the lack of a better word, a complete and utter mockery of what the Nobel Peace Prize to be about. The folks who participated in the Umbrella Revolution amount to little more than entitled youth who do not understand what hard work entitles. In the knowledge of the unreasonable real estate market in Hong Kong, which makes it difficult for Millennials to buy a house, it is understandable that there is dissent. However, throwing the equivalent of a tantrum, as people Yau Wai-ching did, is unacceptable. Her story is that she refused to take an oath that would have allowed her to join the Hong Kong legislature.Wai-ching showed willful disrespect towards the system and discarded a chance to potentially help her fellow Millennials out. These actions are contrary to what individuals deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize might do.

  • Positive change in society is built on the shoulders of the hard-working, not the vocal – activism and protesting has its limits compared to sustained hard work and a clear game plan, so I’ll leave the topic aside and return to Far Cry 4. Here is another segment of Far Cry 4 set in Shangri-La: as an ancient warrior, players only have access to an enchanted bow, but also gain a powerful tiger companion. Enemies take the form of mysterious spirits, and these missions allow players to learn more about the mythical aspects of Kyrat. I prefer these missions to the psychedelic, drug-fuelled chaos of the Yogi & Reggie missions, which gave me a headache in trying to complete them. Humourous characters they were, their impact on gameplay was much less enjoyable, and I only did enough of their missions to advance the story.

  • The Shangri-La missions are quite linear in nature, and end with players reaching large bell that they must cut free and allow to toll. The real-world location is a city of 130 000 people in Yunnan Province of China, but when the name is mentioned, James Hilton’s description of a paradise in his novel, Lost Horizon is what comes to mind. In his novel, Shangri-La is a Himalayan paradise far secluded from the world, where the residents were immortal and eternally happy.

  • A glance at some of the beautiful scenery up in the Tibetan Plateau, Sichuan and Yunnan will speak volumes as to why Hilton set his fictional paradise up here. From colourful pools of Huang Long, to the vast salt lakes in the most remote corners of Tibet, the landscape up here is beautiful beyond measure, and one of my dreams is to visit this part of the world for myself. Kyrat features none of these landscapes: its design is more similar to the terrain found in Bhutan, a small nation that reports a very high social development index and happiness despite its status as a least developed country.

  • I ended up choosing Amita’s path for fun: at the end of the day, one’s choice is not particularly relevant, and one of the things I’m wondering about Far Cry 5 is whether or not it will create a more impactful ending based on the decisions that players make. With this being said, the strengths in Far Cry seem to be the exploration component, so even if Far Cry 5 does not have a true user-chosen ending, I’m sure the game itself will be solid from a technical perspective.

  • We come to it at last: the final assault on Pegan Min’s fortress. There’s hardly a need for stealth here: equipping the loudest and most powerful weapons in the game, I accompanied the Golden Path on a full-scale siege of his fortress. With the Buzzsaw, AMR and LK-1018 in my inventory, I struck the facility with guns ablaze and very quickly cleared out all resistance without any difficulty. Golden Path forces will assist Ajay in his siege, but my superior firepower meant that this was quite unnecessary.

  • Far Cry 4‘s co-operative component and guns for hire: the latter can be called in to assist with operations to take on liberation of outposts and fortresses, but during my run of the game, I relied on neither to help out. While they could add a bit of amusement to the game, I prefer running missions without computer-controlled NPCs so I can fully control my approach towards completing an objective – there’s always a chance that they might break stealth and set off an alarm prematurely.

  • Officially, my journey in Far Cry 4 ended eleven months after I began the first steps to the campaign back on Christmas Day of 2016. Throughout the summer of 2017, I continued to play through the game with a non-trivial frequency and wondered why I did not play it sooner. For the most part, Far Cry 4 is superbly enjoyable – there are only a few repetitive elements. Besides the animal hunting missions, I was not a particular fan of the arena mode; I needed to reach rank ten to unlock the Bushman, the best assault rifle in the game, and after I finished this, I continued on my way with the campaign.

  • Destroying Pegan Min’s solid gold statue will bring the main campaign to an end. I chose to spare Pegan Min and sat down to dinner with him, listening to his final speech before he leaves Kyrat to Ajay. I’m well aware of the secret ending and will give it a go in the near future. With this post in the books, I’m going to look at doing posts for Wolfire’s Overgrowth and Sansha Sanyou for my Terrible Anime Challenge series before we reach the end of this month, which will see the Yuru Camp△ and Slow Start finales. My schedule over the next few weeks will be a bit chaotic, so posts will be written and published on a best efforts basis: I anticipate that things will settle out in April

From a gameplay perspective, Far Cry 4 proved to be remarkably entertaining, and a sobering theme aside, the game itself is actually quite light-hearted and humourous in nature. There is no shortage of activities to participate in within Far Cry 4, and the world of Kyrat is fun to explore, even if most of the map is repetitive in design. One of the most notable elements in Far Cry 4 is the fact that Pegan Min’s Royal Guard speak Cantonese; it was hilarious to hear enemies insult my family and demanding that I drop dead. The weapons in Far Cry 4 are also immensely satisfying to use – there is an impressive array of weapons Ajay can equip and use. While the gameplay is reasonably straightforwards, Far Cry 4 offers an incredible array of modifiers: from weapon customisation and skills, to syringes that impart benefits, Far Cry 4 allows players to approach any situation in any manner of their choosing. The world-building in Kyrat is also top-tier: from Shangri-La missions to random journal entries and design elements in the environment, Kyrat is highly immersive. All of these gameplay aspects, in conjunction with a narrative relevant to current events, makes Far Cry 4 both entertaining and thought-provoking. The game is very much worth the price of admissions, and also sets the stage for the upcoming Far Cry 5, which is set in Montana – although the core mechanics of Far Cry 5 look similar to those of Far Cry 4, I’m curious to see what a virtual Montana looks like, and the prospect of fighting off a fundamentalist doomsday cult is also enticing. Releasing later this month, I will be keeping an eye on Far Cry 5; if I can run the title, there is a chance that I may pick up Far Cry 5 as a title to experience during those days where the weather is not conducive towards being outside.

Tom Clancy’s The Division: That First Foray Into The Dark Zone

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” –John F. Kennedy

The Dark Zone is the final frontier in The Division, being the central part of Manhattan where those afflicted by the Green Poison virus were taken for quarantine, with the aim of curing them, but with the overwhelming number of victims and constant threat of riots, the area remained a contentious one. The JTF that were initially sent in, along with the armed forces, eventually withdrew once the power went out, leaving their equipment behind. This area has long been advertised as the pièce de résistance of The Division, being a lawless, unregulated area of Manhattan that rewarded risk-taking and punished the unprepared. Featuring tougher enemies, and gear that must be extracted, the Dark Zone offers a completely different experience in The Division, and during the days of the open beta, I entered to gain a sense of what the area was like after reaching the level cap. When the beta concluded, I decided that if I were to ever pick up The Division, I would likely spend a bit of time just to explore the Dark Zone. However, being an area where I could easily be eliminated by powerful enemies or rogue Agents, I decided to reach level thirty in the game first so I had access to the full set of skills, talents and perks to maximise my survival and ability to acquire gear in the Dark Zone. My experience in the beta was that folks largely kept to themselves, and there had only been a few instances where I found myself being hunted down by groups of rogue Agents: the Dark Zone’s main threats were tougher enemies, which I wondered whether or not I had been sufficiently equipped to deal with.

With some trepidation, I thus entered the Dark Zone’s lowest tier, and immediately after exiting the checkpoint, I found myself under fire from a group of veteran enemies. Ducking behind cover, I emptied my weapons in to them and levelled up seven ranks by the time the firefight was over. Picking my way through the deserted streets, I stumbled across a landmark and found myself face to face with a group of elites and a named boss. The firefight that ensued was a brief one that saw me triumphant; with a host of newly acquired high-end items, I made my way towards an extraction point and sent my items off for decontamination. Subsequently, a supply drop landed nearby, and I cleared out the host of elite enemies guarding it. During this hour in the Dark Zone, I only ran into one other player, who arrived at the extraction point to get his gear out of the Dark Zone. We briefly provided covering fire for one another while waiting for the helicopter to arrive and parted ways after our gear was secured, but beyond this, I’ve yet to run into other players in the Dark Zone. Lacking any ambient music, roaming civilians and radio chatter, the Dark Zone emanates a completely different feel compared to the other parts of Manhattan, which is referred to as the Light Zone – there’s an unnerving stillness here, and coupled with details in the environment, such as the mountains of body bags and burned out structures, the area conveys a sense of foreboding and tension not found even in the campaign missions in The Division.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My old post on the Dark Zone was published precisely two years ago, although things are rather different now in many regards. After finishing Unknown Signal, I began hunting named elites in the light zone to ensure my entire loadout had gear score items (as opposed to items with levels); this brought my gear score up to 177. There are a host of means to attain good gear – the main way to acquire equipment that fits one’s play-style is to purchase blueprints for weapons, gear and accessories of interest. The best blueprints and items can only be bought with Phoenix Credits, which drop from named elites and caches, as well as being earned through completing daily and weekly missions. The payoff for these credits through group missions, considering the time spent, is actually quite small.

  • This is why I’ve returned to the most desolate part of Manhattan after two years: the payoff seems to be a bit more suited for my play-style in that I can enter the Dark Zone, explore contaminated areas and fight Dark Zone enemies to earn caches, and then extract the items. Dark Zone enemies include standard ones, as well as veterans and elites; their presence is denoted by purple and dull yellow health bars. What make them tougher is the fact that they are protected by armour that must be blown away before the health itself can be whittled down. In large groups, these enemies can be devastating for solo players, making it imperative to make good use of cover and crowd control techniques: some skills make it easier to manage large groups by stunning them or distracting them.

  • While I largely ran with assault rifles and LMGs in The Division‘s campaign, occasionally shifting over to a marksman rifle as the need arose, the end-game is rather different. I’m running with SMGs more frequently now owing to their improved accuracy and short reload times; in close quarters, this allows them to quickly stop enemies rushing in. Their additional critical damage bonuses make them perfect for a highly mobile play-style, and in conjunction with a good marksman rifle, allows players to handle threats at all ranges effectively. However, my preferred primary and secondary weapons largely depend on both what my requirements are, as well as what the most difficulty-appropriate weapons I have available are.

  • Because I’d not entered the Dark Zone previously, I leveled up twice from shooting out one veteran NPC, and in the space of ten minutes, reached Dark Zone rank ten after engaging a named elite. Here, a gear set piece is seen dropping: characterised by a teal marker, items in a gear set will confer bonuses if one has more than one of the pieces equipped. They specialise a player for certain roles, and The Division also introduced the concept of loadouts so players could quickly set themselves up to be effective as a support or offensively-driven player to help a team out, switching out to gear more suitable for solo play in other instances.

  • I can’t quite remember if Landmarks with elite enemies were present in the open beta, but in the full game, they’re populated with elites and named elites. Clearing them out will provide rewards for the player. Unlike the Light Zone, named elites will respawn in ten minutes rather than four hours, making it possible to devise a route for killing off the elites, moving to the next area, and then returning to kill them off again. In this manner, players can amass a sizeable collection of items and caches in the Dark Zone.

  • The large yellow bag with the biohazard markings on it telegraphs to other players that I’m carrying contaminated items, including caches. Some folks suggest running the Dark Zone and leaving all drops, using the Dark Zone only to level up until one reaches rank fifty, after which the vendor in the sixth zone will begin selling blueprints. This is to dissuade would-be rogues from stepping in and stealing one’s gains. However, since the beta, the Dark Zone’s mechanics have changed so that going rogue usually is more detrimental than beneficial. Further to this, players cannot accidentally become rogue by shooting at non-hostile players. Instead, players must announce their intention to turn rogue.

  • Extractions are among the most stressful events in the Dark Zone: once player fire off a flare, it telegraphs to other players that an extraction is in progress and immediately results in the spawning of several waves of NPCs who will swarm the extraction zone. Some extraction sites are notorious for having close quarters environments that are difficult to defend against: the parkade in zone two is one such instance, and I died here several times to NPCs before running in, pulling out my dropped gear and making for safer extraction sites in zone one.

  • My first ever-attempt at securing a supply drop was met with success because I happened to be nearby: once deployed, I ran over and opened fire on the elites guarding the box. After scanning them with the tactical pulse, I moved in and mowed the lot of them down. I’ve attempted to capture supply drops on a few occasions; it’s important to have enough time to reach them, since they are guarded by elite enemies. I have access to a trump card to help with the fight: besides using consumables to boost damage and stacking this with the tactical scanner pulse, there’s also the signature skills.

  • The observant reader will note that I’ve got the tactical link signature skill here. Doubling rate of fire, halving reload time and dealing bonus damage, the tactical link skill is The Division‘s equivalent of Trans-Am or the NT-D. I’ve not used in the Dark Zone at the time of writing, but while testing it, I managed to cut a named elite down within a space of ten seconds. Like the Trans-Am System and NT-D, signature skills vastly boost one’s performance for a short period and then requires a long cooldown, during which the skill is unavailable for use. Here, I receive the contents of the supply drop. Once items from a supply drop are acquired, the drop self-destructs, and these items directly enter the player’s inventory.

  • Here is the moment where I run into the only other human player in the Dark Zone during my first few hours. We provided covering fire for one another while awaiting the extraction, and went our own ways after that; one feature I noticed here was the ability to hijack an extraction. While this could be amusing, truth be told, there aren’t enough incentives to do this.

  • The post title is admittedly inspired by ARIA: The Animation. I finished watching all three seasons of ARIA a year ago, and never got around to writing about it. Peaceful, cathartic and presenting an exceptionally well-built world, ARIA is counted to be one of the greatest slice-of-life anime of all time, bar none. Having seen it for myself, I can see where this assertion comes from, and further remark that if remastered in a faithful manner, I could see myself watching all three seasons of ARIA again.

  • Like the Light Zone, there are subway entrances in the Dark Zone that invariably lead to contaminated areas. Most subway areas in the Dark Zone have a contamination level of four, so it will take a level four filter to keep one alive in these areas. Entering with a filter below this level will result in the filter wearing down until the player sustains damage. The subway tunnels occasionally see contamination events where the contamination level rises up to six, instantly killing all those who enter. At level five, players may enter to try and take out named elites. Clearing an area successfully will provide players with new equipment that go directly into their inventory.

  • I’ve yet to try out the contamination events, mainly because I’m always quite far from a subway entrance when they occur, but on my trips into the subway tunnels, I’ve always found a good number of crates to open: this is where most of my sealed caches come from, and while they may not always provide the gear one seeks, they are a fantastic source of Phoenix Credits. There are named elites that prowl the tunnels with their entourage of minions, and they will drop items, as well as Phoenix Credits, making entry into the tunnels a good idea (provided that a contamination event isn’t just about to begin).

  • Because The Division is a gear-based game, where the end goal really is to collect increasingly better equipment by ways of a variety of events, there’s innumerable discussions out there on what builds are optimal for a given play-style. Gear Score is invariably at the centre of all discussion, and one important thing to note is that a higher gear score item might not inherently be superior to a lower gear score item. I constantly tinker with my weapon talents are active, as they confer additional bonuses that help with my survival. There will come a point where I will re-roll weapons, but I feel that at World Tier Two, the time is still early to be spending resources on Blueprints and recalibration.

  • The relative quiet of the Dark Zone means that I’m usually forced to completely clear an area on my own, but one of the older tricks is to get a few good shots off against enemies; if other players finish them off, one will still get credited with Dark Zone experience. Going from these screenshots, the Dark Zone has not changed too much since the days of the beta, and it does feel a bit nostalgic to be running through this part of Manhattan again.

  • The gas station visible here on the left is adjacent to my favourite extraction zone: during my run in the open beta, I camped behind a pile of crates while working on a presentation on the Sunday before the beta was set to close. I was in the middle of my final graduate course and was working on a presentation of some sort. This was prior to my travels to Laval, and I remember that the weekend of The Division‘s open beta was a busy, if fun one. It feels fantastic to return with full gear and explore the area again.

  • The Division has seen considerable changes since it launched back in March two years ago, and I’ve read that higher Dark Zone sectors no longer give better gear: as of the current patch (1.8), all sectors have the same drop rates. What does separate the higher sectors from the lower ones is the number of named elites: players well-equipped to fight in higher sectors will simply get more gear. Of course, curiosity will lead me to explore some of the higher sectors, and there’s a mission in sector nine that I’ll eventually look at completing.

  • The Library in Sector Two was infamous during the open beta: I recall being waylaid here by rogue Agents, and other players have recorded the same. Back then, I was not equipped to deal with them and so, played the evasion game, while TheRadBrad manages to take them out in a hilarious manner. These days, the Library is a landmark home to some named elites, and the amount of open space here meant that it was viable to sit back and snipe them.

  • After clearing out this landmark, another piece of classified gear dropped for me. I initially wondered what the drop rates on classified gear was, but it turns out they’re not as rare as I thought they were. The “rarity” metric is actually somewhat misleading and is better described as quality (e.g. “high-end” items have more desirable attributes than “superior” and so on): at level thirty, high-end items drop more frequently than anything else. I played World of Warcraft years ago, and initially assumed that “rarity” corresponded to “probability of getting the item”; I imagine that the same thing holds true in World of Warcraft as it does for The Division in that rarity is only a measure of quality.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I don’t have any pictures of the Dark Zone being a “dark” place, so I’ve added this extraction here to rectify that. The Dark Zone is a relatively quiet place by day, but at night, it becomes downright eerie and even intimidating. The atmospherics in the Dark Zone are unparalleled, and very few games have managed to create such an unsettling atmosphere as effectively as The Division has: every time I exit the Dark Zone, it’s like a great burden has been lifted from me. The tensions are tangible, and this is one of The Division‘s greatest strengths. I intend to see just how far I get on my own before either I reach the gear score limit, or the servers shut down: I’ll return occasionally to write about The Division, but in general, readers can expect this blog’s usual repertoire of anime posts to resume.

Having entered the Dark Zone and successfully extracted my gains on several occasions now, I’m going to continue exploring the higher-difficulty areas at a much more casual, relaxed pace: my main aim in The Division now is to improve my gear score such that I reach the final world tier. Once this is done, I will continue to enjoy exploring Manhattan’s last unexplored realms without worrying about being blown away by exceptionally powerful enemies or rogue Agents, as well as for bragging rights. I’ve heard that the Dark Zone is an unfavourable place for solo players, but I am curious to see the extent to which this statement holds true. With a bit more time in the Dark Zone, I’ll also unlock a special vendor and begin accumulating enough Phoenix Credits to buy some interesting gear: it’ll be quite interesting to test just how far one can get on their own in The Division, as well as seeing whether or not solo players can acquire exotic weapons and gear without joining any groups. Besides the Dark Zone, I’m also curious to see how I fare in some of the end-game missions and assignments; I’ll occasionally return to recount my experiences in The Division, as well as share some of the more amusing or entertaining things I’ve come across in the end-game. Finally, there are a handful of encounters and side missions on the eastern side of Manhattan that I’ll need to wrap up.

Tom Clancy’s The Division: Russian Consulate, General Assembly and the Unknown Signal

“Ideas are important. Principles are important. Words are important. Your word is the most important of all. Your word is who you are.” –Tom Clancy

As it turns out, having all superior gear entering The Division‘s last set of campaign missions translates almost directly to the ability to tear through the levels and waste even named enemies without much difficulty. The Russian Consulate is the first of the missions I had left in my story: after learning of virologist Vitaly Tchernenko’s knowledge of Green Poison, the player is sent to the Russian Consulate at Murray Hill so he can be extracted and questioned. Fighting through the ornate halls of the consulate, players eventually reach the library where Tchernenko is hiding. However, despite being able to convince Tchernenko to accompany the player, LMB arrive and extract him. In spite of this, players are able to gain access to Tchernenko’s work, allowing Dr. Kendall to investigate the virus further. Players must also fight another First Wave Division agent. Once the consulate is cleared, players move to the United Nations building in the General Assembly with the goal of taking out Colonel Bliss, who is making a last stand. Moving into the UN building, players will take on two rogue First Wave agents and eventually square off against Bliss himself. Tchernenko is nowhere to be found, and while the remaining forces in Manhattan can begin working on the vaccine for the Green Poison, as well as begin restoring function and order to Manhattan, the loss of Tchernenko in conjunction with the disappearance of one Aaron Keener suggests that he managed to escape Manhattan, with the aim of using a more virulent form of the Green Poison and the highly sophisticated Division technology to bring the world to its knees. Once Bliss is defeated, players receive an unknown signal in which Keener addresses the player, inviting them to join him and his conquest to rule the world; in the chaos and despair, First Wave agents were swayed to betray the Division and joined Keener. Faye Lau also congratulates the player on having done so much to help bring order back to Manhattan, but remarks that even with things under control, much still remains to be done.

While The Division might be a tactical third person role-playing loot shooter, its premise is certainly an interesting one worthy of consideration: through exploring the various locales of Manhattan, listening to conversations amongst Division agents, JTF staff and various recordings scattered in the world, it becomes apparent as to just how extensive the damage to society was through the introduction of a weaponised biological agent modelled off a virus thought to be eradicated by vaccinations. Inspired by Operation Dark Winter, The Division explores the government and society’s ability to respond to a fast-moving pandemic: Dark Winter had found that existing infrastructure was not equipped to handle biological warfare, lacking surge capabilities. Further to this, the results showed that the media would not be effective in conveying information, slowing down citizens’ access to medication and potentially exacerbating panic. In general, Dark Winter was a sobering reminder that the complexity of modern society, and the interdependence of different systems on one another made our society highly vulnerable to attack. Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector explored this from the cyberspace perspective, and The Division reminds players time and time again of just how destructive pandemics can be considering how ill-prepared our infrastructure and policies are: it is only through the intervention of a powerful stay-behind force and the resolute belief in doing good that The Division‘s protagonists are able to slowly bring society back from the brink. While suggesting that it takes extra-governmental power and an uncommonly strong faith in people for society to survive given our current infrastructure, The Division also shows that people who believe in others, as well as themselves, can be successful even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I bet no one was expecting a thematic discussion on what The Division is about here: when The Division is mentioned, people’s minds immediately go towards the Dark Zone and the uphill journey of accumulating good gear. However, for me, The Division is more than being merely about collecting gear: it’s a powerful bit of speculative fiction that warns us of just how vulnerable our societies are and what can happen if the right people do the wrong things. The game is a reminder that we shouldn’t take stability and security for granted, and that these are things working hard to preserve.

  • Of course, I imagine that these social topics are far removed from the minds of the players, so I won’t go into too much more details about it in the figure captions. Here, I make my way further into the Russian Consulate after clearing out the first group of LMB soldiers. The ornate decorations are quite befitting of a Russian site, and I note that I’ve not played a game set in a ostentatious locale with Russian or European architecture since the days of 007 NightFire. It was therefore such a treat to be able to walk through these environments again in modern-generation graphics.

  • I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this previously, but I’ve known about The Division since late 2013, when I was perusing a gaming magazine at the local bookstore. The premise intrigued me, as did their E3 demo footage, which blew me away with its impressive visuals. While the finished product is quite different than what the E3 presented, my intrigue in the game remained; by early 2016, the open beta for The Division was announced, and I was excited to play it. I think I got around eight hours into the open beta before it ended, spending it doing the two available story missions and in the Dark Zone.

  • When the beta ended, I remarked that The Division would be worth buying if it could deliver sufficient content. While reviews initially dissuaded me, Ubisoft has been adding to the game, and the journey to level thirty is a reasonably-lengthed one. I took forty-two hours to reach level thirty, and this includes time spent exploring the game, as well as adjusting my loadouts. I bought the game on a sale back during Black Friday last year; by my metrics, I’ve already gotten my money’s worth for the game, since it now costs less than a dollar per hour spent in the game.

  • The Russian’s intelligence capabilities are alluded to in this mission: upon finding the server room, radio chatter deals with what the Russians are doing with this amount of processing power, and it is remarked that normally, this would go towards reconnaissance, but in light of the crisis, the processors are turned towards genomic applications. It turns out that Tchernenko has been using the grid to sequence himself, and Dr. Kendall requires all of this data to continue research against the Green Poison, but before the data can be downloaded fully, it is remotely terminated.

  • One of the cool things about The Division that very few games have implemented in full is a dynamic day and night cycle, so one thing I’m going to be looking forwards to is reattempting this mission as a daily mission during the day: in 007 NightFire, players can only fight through Drake’s Austrian castle by night, and I’ve long wondered what the place looks like during the day. In The Division, day and night cycles mean that there will be opportunity to explore this level again.

  • The interior design of the Russian Consulate switches between classic Russian and more modern styles. While the spaces in the consulate are mostly close quarters, a good marksman rifle is surprisingly effective in some areas with more open spaces. On a per-shot basis, the M4 is the most powerful bolt-action rifle I’ve encountered: before stacking critical damage bonuses on top of it, I could hit consistently for around 75 thousand points of damage with headshots. Its main disadvantage is a slower firing rate and small capacity. To make the most of this weapon, one must land consecutive headshots, which is very difficult considering the mobile nature of The Division‘s firefights.

  • I usually experiment with a variety of weapons to see what works and what does not; the M1A is probably the best marksman rifle in the game, striking a balance between firing rate and damage per shot. Optics are rare to come by, so one of my goals at the end-game will be to buy blueprints for a good set of high magnification sights. The artwork and lighting create a warm environment befitting of the diplomats and politicians that work in this building.

  • Along the way, I found a green laser sight that looks amazing. In shooters, I’ve been very fond of green lasers because they are much more vivid than red lasers; green light stimulates more photoreceptors than red light, which is why our eyes are more sensitive to green wavelengths than any other wavelengths. I recount a story in my undergraduate studies, where I paid more attention to a lecture if the instructor was using a green laser simply because it stood out more. Consequently, having blueprints for a green laser sight would also be quite nice.

  • The firefight in the library is intense, and there’s a heavily armoured LMB soldier in here awaiting players once the rest of the LMB have been neutralised. Tchernenko has locked himself in a panic room and will only agree to go with the US Army, but once players put him on the line with Kendall, he agrees to accompany the Division to safety. Before players can get through to him, the LMB forcibly take him. There’s no way to rescue him in The Division, but players will not fail the mission for having been unsuccessful in recovering Tchernenko.

  • I am briefly reminded of my days in graduate school when Kendall and Tchernenko begin discussing their work; Kendall is familiar with Tchernenko’s findings as a result of a previous conference. It’s been some time since I published to an academic conference, and in Laval, my paper was selected as one of the best papers, after which I was invited to submit an extended paper to the International Journal of Virtual Reality.  My current work is far removed from VR and AR, but as the field of apps and software is constantly evolving, it is not implausible that I may eventually returning to some VR and AR work.

  • The long, open courtyard at the Russian Consulate is why carrying a good long range option is wise: the courtyard is filled with LMB soldiers, including an elite sniper who can blind players. By this point in time, LMB elites and rogue Division agents will employ the same skills that players have access to. Earlier in the server room, a support station was dropped, allowing enemies to heal themselves, and later, the Division agent Hornet is equipped with cluster seeker mines. This is a somewhat challenging fight in the absence of good equipment, but with a marksman rifle, things become more manageable.

  • After cleaning up the first wave of enemies, I cautiously made my way towards the waypoint. It turns out that red light visible here is merely an emergency light and not the laser sight for a turret or some enemy sniper’s marksman rifle. Because there’s no way to save Tchernenko, there’s no real rush here to pursue him at full speed – once players reach the end of the courtyard, the objective changes, players instead must defeat Hornet in a one-on-one battle.

  • Hornet has the power to hack turrets that players deploy, so strategy guides recommend using seeker mines against him. After eliminating the remainder of the minions accompanying him, Hornet will keep his distance, and this is the part where the marksman rifle really shines: I had no difficulty putting Hornet away, standing in stark contrast with the protracted fight against Scarecrow. When I began the Russian Consulate mission, it was nighttime, but by the time I got to the end, day began breaking.

  • Finishing the Russian Consulate mission illustrated that I was ready for whatever final challenges had awaited me, and with this mission in the books, I decided to wrap up some of the remaining side missions before I continued, as well as get my wings up to full completion. Completing all of the main missions won’t yield enough supplies to finish each wing, so players must also do encounters. The encounters are generally quite short and can be done quickly, and there isn’t too much variety in the encounters.

  • Yielding sixty supply units apiece, encounters entail rescuing hostages, securing supplies, recovering supplies, assisting JTF or else activating virus research data stations scattered throughout Manhattan. Of all the encounters, my least favourite ones are the ones where I must bring supplies back to a container and the virus research ones: the latter involve data scanners that are hidden about, and it takes some time to find all of them.

  • I was short one upgrade for each of the medical and tech wings after finishing the Russian Consulate mission, so my first priority was to gather enough supplies to fully upgrade them. During the process, I leveled up twice: the reason why there aren’t many screenshots of me doing these missions is because they can be a bit dull, and so, I’ve chosen not to show them. It took around an hour and a half to wrap up enough encounters to fully upgrade each of my skill wings.

  • As sunlight breaks over Manhattan, the entire area is thrown into sharp relief. The downside about reaching level thirty ahead of finishing the General Assembly mission was that I would be fighting enemies scaled up to me in terms of strength and durability, rather than the level twenty-eight enemies that one would ordinarily encounter, so I also took out a few of the roaming bosses in the light zone to get some upgraded gear. I thus entered the General Assembly mission with the MP5 ST.

  • Armed fully with each possible update, I made my way to the far east side of Manhattan to take on the General Assembly mission. At level thirty, my level indicator has changed into a proficiency indicator, and ever four hundred thousand points, I earn a proficiency cache, which contains high-end items, possibly exotic (named) items and some Phoenix Credits. This currency allows players to buy blueprints for top-tier weapons from the vendor at the base of operations.

  • While I initially started the General Assembly mission with the cluster mines, I switched back over to the tactical scanner pulse, and here, I’m running with the Tactical Link signature skill, which would confer increased damage. I’ve noticed that experience gain is much higher for surviving firefights and killing named enemies at level thirty: this is plenty of incentive to make headshots, which now provide a much larger scoring bonus.

  • With the JTF providing support, the players are free to make their way into the UN Assembly building to continue with their mission. The laser sights for the automated turrets are visible here, although players needn’t worry about them: the JTF will address these, as well. I’ve found the JTF to be moderately effective, especially with regards to giving enemies something else to shoot at besides myself, and so, after picking up some explosives, it’s a straight shot to the parkade area underneath the building.

  • It is nice to have the pulse option again: being able to locate enemies is critical, and the added bonus of dealing additional damage against enemies that have been scanned makes firefights more straightforwards. Paired with a good submachine gun, even the purple and dull yellow enemies no longer were a serious threat. I’d been running assault rifles as my primary up until now, but the higher damage output at close ranges means that I’m finally open to using them in my primary slot. Assault rifles, on the other hand, have better range and accuracy, making them good all-around weapons.

  • The United Nations was established after the Second World War in 1945 to replace the League of Nations in maintaining international order and stability, and while it has been credited with successes, especially peacekeeping missions during the 90s, the UN today is ineffectual in its function: sanctions against rogue nations go unheeded, peacekeeping missions are fewer in number and their concerns have even shifted towards the irrelevant, such as a well-publicised but exceptionally poorly-written report on cyber violence. The report in question is filled with grammatical errors, insufficient citations (which even included a link to a C-drive directory) and suggests that all online hate is motivated purely by identity politics.

  • The UN’s credibility took a further hit when two individuals, self-proclaimed “experts” in the field, were invited to address the commission: they were, in effect, championing the idea that telecommunications should be censored so that their feelings are not hurt, while on the flipside, certain individuals should be allowed to say whatever they please. All of this occurred back in 2015, prior to The Division‘s launch, and since then, it seems that for the most part, this UN report, and whatever those two speakers had to say, have fortunately not had too much of an effect in either the enjoyability of games and the flow of information within the internet.

  • The negative impact that the people participating in virtue signalling have had on the world is what motivates the page quote: Tom Clancy believed that one’s word, their commitment to something, is singularly important, and this is something that those who engage in virtue signalling lack. The fight against the second rogue Division agent here in the UN Assembly, and the sheer resistance players encounter, is a fantastic visual analogue for the sort of pushback people might encounter while trying to convince the world of the fact that virtue signalling folk are acting to further their own interests without a genuine commitment to the cause they are supposedly promoting.

  • After beating the second rogue Agent in a short firefight, the time has come to take on Colonel Bliss himself. While radio chatter suggests he got away, it turns out there’s a chance to stop him yet. Bliss was originally assigned to protect Wall Street assets and performed his duties with honour until his men were abandoned. He thus joined with Aaron Keener and has employed the LMB towards furthering Keener’s goals, but is betrayed by Keener. Unlike the other bosses, who fought on foot, Bliss is in a helicopter that has access to a powerful chain gun, missiles and flares.

  • While a properly outfitted player can focus fire on Bliss’ helicopter and blow its armour away without using the automated turrets, I was minimally equipped to deal with the armour and so, I used the turrets as suggested. Once the armour is gone, any weapons the player has got will quickly weaken the helicopter and destroy it. In the aftermath, a host of high-end items dropped to the ground, and after playing around with my loadout, I found the stats that worked best for me. I subsequently proceeded to the final mission, titled “Unknown Signal”.

  • Besides playing the living daylights out of The Division, this has been a relaxing, if somewhat eventful, long weekend. I spent the whole of yesterday taking it easy (as well as tending to some cleaning), and today, I went for a bit of a walk with one of my friends on account of the nice weather, before going out for Chinese New Year dinner and catching up with family (among the things on the menu included wonton soup, grilled ribs, deep-fried pork, yi mein and crispy chicken). There’s a science fair tomorrow morning that I’ll be helping out with, as well, so as soon as I mash “publish” on this post, I’m hitting the hay.

  • The last mission leaves a bit of an open-ended conclusion to The Division, and what happens next is anybody’s guess. I’ve heard unverified rumours that The Division might be getting a sequel, and it would be quite interesting if another similar game were to be set in a European or Asian city, involving another Division’s efforts to stop Keener. His escape with the virus blueprints is particularly chilling, so a story aimed at stopping him would be the most logical next step. For the time being, however, I’m done with the main campaign, and I’ll be occasionally returning to The Division to get my gear score up, accumulate more Phoenix Credits, and experience the end-game at my own pace.

  • This is what my final loadout looked like when I finished the General Assembly and Unknown Signal missions. With this, it means that I’ve done something that some feel to be a nightmare: I’ve completed The Division‘s entire campaign solo, without once using specialised ammunition or deploying my signature skill. I did not spend any of my credits on gear, and all of these high-end items come from the drops acquired during General Assembly. Looking ahead, I don’t think there will be any more anime posts for this month – Battlefield 1‘s Apocalypse comes out tomorrow, and it seems I’ve hit level thirty in The Division at just the right time for this update. I’ll be returning to see how the new maps and weapons play out since trying them out in the CTE. As well, I’ll also be making my way into the Dark Zone to see just how survivable it is for a solo player in the near future.

All of the missions in The Division are visually impressive, but this is especially apparent in the final two missions, which definitely feel at home in a Tom Clancy novel. The interior of the Russian consulate is well-decorated with distinctly Russian elements, feeling very similar to Rainbow Six Seige’s Kafe Dostoyevsky (itself modelled after Cafe Pushkin): from the well-furnished office spaces and chandeliers in the great halls, to the bar and pool room, the place simply seems like a place where allies of the Jack Ryan administration or the Campus might operate out of. Similarly, the vastness of the UN Assembly building is captured in superb quality. The fight against a rogue First Wave agent happens in the very same council chamber where major decisions affecting the UN’s policies are made. Even amidst the chaos of each mission, I nonetheless found the time to really enjoy the environments that I was exploring. At this point in time, I adopted a slightly different play-style: switching out my cluster seeker mines for the tactical scanner pulse, I returned to the approach I utilised previously to scan out enemies before jumping into the fray, and this time, with bolstered critical damage, I began making more extensive use of the submachine guns, which I’d largely ignored up until now. Coupled with a good marksman rifle, picking my way through these missions was superbly entertaining and also much more straightforward than I anticipated. I thus ended my campaign of the game in a solid manner, and will begin my journey into the endgame with a gear score of 137. My first task is to bolster that up, and then decide where I will go from here.