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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.

Tom Clancy’s The Division: Power, Security and the Superior Loadout

“Our tools keep getting better, and as a result of that, our lives keep getting better.” –Tom Clancy

Moving through Midtown East, I push through to the Warrengate Power Plant, which has been overrun with the Rikers, a grouped formed of escaped convicts from Rikers Island unified under Larae Barrett’s rule. The site provides power to Manhattan in The Division, and the Riker presence poses a threat to the island’s electric grid. After clearing the power plant out, the time has come to pay Larae a visit and put an end to her control over the Rikers. In an intense firefight with her and two cronies, I managed to defeat her. The Last Man Battalion (LMB), however, still retain full control of assets critical to helping the JTF restore function in Manhattan, and Paul Rhodes sends players to take control of a rooftop communications array. After fighting through hordes of enemies, the engineer carrying out the repairs completes his task. The restored communications allows the JTF to better ascertain the situation, and Captain Roy Benitez decides the time has come to assault a major LMB position at Queens Tunnel. Disabling turrets and making my way into the heart of the site, I clear it out and secure weapons, as well as gear for the JTF. On the offensive now, I assist the JTF in pushing their way to Grand Central Station and manage to repel a desparate final assault by the LMB. With the completion of this mission, I wrap up all but three of the main campaign missions of The Division, and the accumulated experience has pushed me to level twenty-seven.

In the campaign’s latter half, missions remain doable for solo players, but there were missions that were trying. In particular, the rooftop mission proved exceptionally challenging: while I was able to engage enemies and reach the engineer without difficulty, the boss, coupled with close-quarters fighting and limited cover made the final fight a gruelling one even on standard difficulty. I found myself wishing I had another player to help provide cover fire while I reloaded, or else could help with flanking the enemies. Eventually, I managed to defeat the boss here and was able to continue with the game, but altogether, it took me some two hours to beat the level. Larae Barrett and her leftendants were similarly challenging: their heavy weapons shredded my player, and I began exploring the different abilities here. I eventually began running with the cluster seeker mine, a powerful crowd control option against the NPCs, and upgraded my first aid ability to the overcharge mod, which provides overhealing and is perfect for solo play. Once I became familiarised with these abilities, I was able to move through missions and control crowds more effectively. I’ve also unlocked the Survivor Link signature skill; the signature skills are powerful boosts that The Division has described as being able to turn the tide of a battle and so, should be reserved for special moments. Survivor Link increases defense and resistance to damage, as well as running speed. I’ve yet to unlock the other two – Recovery Link recovers players to full health, revives nearby downed allies and provides an overheal, and Tactical Link bolsters weapon damage. For now, I’m running Survivor Link simply for the fact that I have it, but both Recovery Link and Tactical Link look to have their own value for a solo player: the former is a fantastic safety net for the event that I sustain lethal damage, while Tactical Link looks excellent for situations where I’ve got the drop on enemies and require a damage boost. As I wrap up the last missions in The Division and finish upgrading all of the wings at HQ, I’ll unlock the last of these skills and put them to the test.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • At level twenty, with a fully specialised loadout, I began moving into the Eastern side of Manhattan. Some eagle-eyed readers may note that my ammunition capacity fluctuates occasionally; this is a consequence of equipping different backpacks, some of which provide a bonus on the amount of ammunition I can carry. I’ve found that ammunition capacity is not particularly important during the campaign missions; resupply crates are found in sufficient frequency so that I never run out before important events.

  • The Warrengate power plant is modelled on the Consolidated Edison Building on the East River at 15th Street. This facility is a natural gas-fired power station that also provides steam to Manhattan, and in The Division, is the main installation where power is generated. The Rikers have planted explosives in the entire facility, with the aim of knocking out power and introducing anarchy to the Manhattan streets.

  • The interior of the Warrengate power plant is incredibly detailed; with pipes snaking everywhere, old-school valves alongside more modern implements and the like, the facility in The Division shows a combination of the building’s age and subsequent retrofitting to use newer technologies. While most of these details might be lost during an intense firefight with the Rikers, I’m superbly impressed with all of the details that have gone into interiors in The Division.

  • While The Division is intended to be a multiplayer game, players are made to acclimitise to the game’s mechanics and gear system in the campaign. The campaign was a clever means to present a story to the players, rather than allowing some folks to skip directly into the PVP elements, and while players can group together to complete missions, I found that playing through these missions alone conferred a more immersive and authentic experience.

  • For a time, I stuck to engaging bosses with the belt-fed LMGs owing to their deep ammunition pools: the M60 and M249 each have 100 rounds available to them without any magazine modifications, and so, can deliver a blistering hail of suppressive fire down-range. While bosses are immune to being suppressed, LMGs nonetheless are a good option in fights where they are accompanied by minions, being able to continuously deal damage.

  • On a note that’s completely unrelated to The DivisionGochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Dear My Sister~, the OVA following up to GochiUsa‘s second season, is set for a home release on May 30. I will work to have the internet’s first review for this post, and presently, I’m eyeing a post with forty screenshots. We recall that Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s first episode will release in March, right around when Yuru Camp△ and Slow Start‘s finales are: in light of this, I’m going to roll back the talks for Yuru Camp△ and Slow Start, as my instincts tell me that there’s rather more interest in Girls und Panzer than the aforementioned shows.

  • TheRadBrad characterised the Lexington Event Center mission as the most disturbing mission in The Division, and right out of the gates, it’s immediately apparent as to why this might be the case: the bodies of JTF operatives are hung at the front gates, with a creepy message seemingly written in blood right below. The building is modelled on the 69th Regiment Armory, a  Beaux-Arts style building that finished construction in 1906. While originally built to house the National Guard, the facility has also been used to host art shows.

  • As unnerving as the Lexington Event Center is, I cannot help but be impressed at the small details in the environments; the warm lighting and Christmas decorations are reflective of the fact that the site was to be used for hosting Christmas events prior to the Green Poison’s propagation. In the close quarters of the Lexington Event Center, I switch over to an SMG: while I typically run with an assault rifle as my primary weapon, I constantly switch out my secondary weapon to suit whatever environment I’m in. Marksman rifles and LMGs are my preferred choices, although I may occasionally introduce an SMG into the loadout to improve close quarters efficiency.

  • There’s an ECHO beacon in this room that details the fates of the dead JTF soldiers: a few were forced to drink what might’ve been anti-freeze and died from poisoning, some were shot and others were tortured for the Rikers’ depraved amusement. It’s worth taking a moment to look through all of the ECHO reconstructions, and here, I note that of all the factions, the Rikers are my second favourite to engage (the Cleaners remain first): Rikers are hulking brutes and are larger than the standard rioters encountered, making them easier to hit.

  • Once the building is cleared of Rikers, players head to the roof where they will find Sargent Ramos, a JTF operative captured by the Rikers. With a strong hatred for law enforcement, the Rikers have taken to brutalising the JTF, but at least a handful have survived. Once Sargent Ramos is rescued, he will call in other JTF operatives to help with the battle. While having the additional guns afforded by the JTF support is nice, the operatives turn out to be quite ineffective against what’s upcoming.

  • Larae Barrett is protected by two massive brutes hauling LMGs around. This was probably the first major challenge I encountered: Barrett herself stays out of the fight until the two are eliminated. I quickly found my typical approach completely ineffectual against them and experimented with a variety of skills to distract them long enough to land rounds on them. In the end, I switched over to the seeker mine, using it as a guided grenade to blow away armour and deal damage to the bosses. With enough patience and use of seeker mines, I eventually took the two brutes down.

  • In retrospect, a long-range option might’ve been better against Barrett herself, but without the two LMG-wielding brutes, she’s much easier to neutralise. Several belts of LMG and a few seeker mines later, I managed to finish what was one of the tougher missions to solo in The Division. By this point in the game, specialised items begin dropping with a much higher frequency. I still break them down to convert them into weapon parts, while standard items, I sell for credits.

  • After the effectiveness displayed by the seeker mine, I set about looking at modifications to my skills with the goal of seeing if I could further extend my survivability. I ended up rolling with the overdose modification for my first aid, which is focused on solo players and gives overheals, at the expense of a longer cooldown time and reduced effectiveness on allies. I also switched over to the cluster seeker mine, where the mine breaks into smaller mines that independently seek out targets. While dealing less damage than an individual mine, it’s great for causing multiple enemies to lose health over time.

  • The rooftop communications relay mission was probably the toughest mission I’d faced in The Division up until this point: the mission began innocuously enough: I made extensive use of my cluster seeker mines to quickly disperse crowds and move towards the communications tower at the mission’s end. From a distance, I picked foes away before moving on, and as a snowfall moved into Manhattan, I closed the distance to the antenna.

  • Once reached, players must defend a JTF engineer so that he can perform modifications to the antenna. The Rikers send several veterans and elites against the player: the cluster mines again proved their worth in crowd control, and I eventually found myself face to face with the boss, Glass, and his minion. It was here that my strategy broke down completely; I was mowed time more times than I cared to count, and the long walk back to the antenna, coupled with the wait for the exchange between the engineer and Paul Rhodes to end, was immeasurably frustrating.

  • The problem in the fight was the unique combination of Glass carrying a lethal close quarters weapon, having a powerful minion, and the fact that the rooftops offer no cover or long-range options, forcing players into close quarters. Furthermore, if players decide to attempt the long range option, Glass or his minion will make straight for the engineer and shred him in seconds. I tried a variety of tricks here, including deploying a support station with the life support modification so I could revive myself, but this was not too effective. Of all the missions in The Division, this was the one point where I wondered if I would have to break my solo-streak and matchmake with someone to help me overcome the challenge.

  • In the end, I managed to lure Glass into the lower area, hammered him with the seeker mines and grenades, as well as sustained fire from an LMG. He eventually fell, and I took to dealing with the remaining minion: without Glass around, the fight was considerably more straightforwards. After two hours, I finally managed to beat the mission: it was a thrilling moment, showing that enough determination meant that the journey to level thirty could be done solo, after all.

  • Under a brilliant blue sky, I began the Queens Tunnel Camp mission to infiltrate and seize control of the LMB communications hub. I’ve been looking through some older discussions of The Division,  and one player managed to go from level one to thirty in the span of ten days, including the completion of all of the wings. Considering the difficulties I faced with some of the missions, I wonder how many hours of those ten days were spent just playing The Division. If we assume this player put in roughly the same time that I did, then it would take around forty five hours to go from level one to level thirty. This works out to around four-and-a-half hours of The Division each day, which is hypothetically feasible provided one has a considerable amount of free time on their hands.

  • By comparison, I prefer taking my time and enjoying the sights (read “I have work and other titles to play”). Even though I’ve got some thirty eight hours of time in The Division by the time I hit this side of Manhattan, the game continues to impress me with its visuals. The buildings have become taller and more imposing, creating a fantastic skyline. On the topic of that particular individual, I think one of my goals in The Division will be to beat his gear score after hitting level thirty.

  • After punching through the tunnels, I entered a large room doubling as a makeshift server room. After clearing it, one of the NPCs had dropped a superior piece, my first of the game: these gloves far surpassed any of my other equipment. From here on out, superior equipment drops became far more common for me. I’ve heard that some folks have gotten superior gear through the Dark Zone or through crafting, but one element about the road to level thirty is that equipment becomes obsolete very quickly: playing the game normally will allow one to fully update their loadout to be effective as one levels up, making it unnecessary to expend funds and crafting materials on new equipment.

  • The Dark Zone offers a different experience for obtaining gear: some players recommend entering prior to level thirty in order to both gain a better understanding of game mechanics, become familiar with the layout, and to access better gear. However, my trick was to kill a few of the named enemies that I encountered in the regular areas to update my gear prior to the campaign missions. Here, I finish with clearing out the LMB so I could subsequently disable the servers and communications grid.

  • Once communication assets are under friendly control, players have one more task: to take control of the munitions depot and weapons stockpile. The LMB are encountered with increasing frequency towards the game’s end, and unlike the other factions, possess superior armour, weapons and tactics. I was expecting a fight akin to the one encountered with the Rooftop Communications Relay mission, but having level-appropriate gear meant I was able to neutralise the LMB sent to engage me without any issues.  I usually end up deconstructing the awards that missions give me, since better gear often can simply be found by playing the game.

  • After the Queens Tunnel Camp, the final security mission is Grand Central Station – after disabling the automatic turrets, players must take back the site. I’ve heard that the mission has a game-breaking bug where the turrets will remain active and cannot be disabled if one dies before hitting a checkpoint after the turrets but after disabling them. I’m glad I played a bit more conservatively during this part: the prospect of active turrets is an unsettling one, as these weapons can shred a player in the blink of an eye, and nothing short of finding a panel to disable them will work.

  • I therefore count myself as extremely fortunate that I did not encounter this particular issue during my run of the Grand Central Station; apparently, the bug is still occuring in the game as recently as July 2017. One of the largest train stations in the world, the current Grand Central Station building was finished in 1913, and subsequently hosted an art gallery, as well as acting as a venue for musical performances. The station saw renovations during the 1970s, and presently, is undergoing expansion, with a new terminal opening in 2023. While featured in The Division, the mission does not actually see players enter the building.

  • The tracks tunnels and collapsed tunnels underneath the station suggest at the chaos that was introduced following the Green Poison epidemic. I’ll take some time now to provide an update on what’s happening here for the remainder of February now that we’re a ways over the month’s halfway point – first order of business is that I’m rescinding my plans to write about Violet Evergarden at the halfway point as originally planned. While the world the story is set in is incredibly rich in background and vividly depicted, my experience tells me that Violet’s journey to understand the phrase 愛してる(romanised aishiteru) will span the entirety of the fourteen episodes the anime is set to run for.

  • Consequently, I do not feel that I can offer a complete and fair discussion of the anime at the present. The end result is that I will be returning once Violet Evergarden is finished to do a whole-season talk on the show, but for now, I do not believe that I can write about Violet Evergarden on account of my incomplete understanding of what the anime’s aiming to deliver to audiences. DICE has also announced that Battlefield 1‘s Apocalypse DLC is set for release on February 20, which was much sooner than I expected. These factors together influence my decision to push the Violet Evergarden talk back, and in the meantime, folks can look forward to some screenshots of Battlefield 1‘s final DLC (although I am quite certain some will unfollow me for this heresy!).

  • In the real world, work’s been a bit slow as of late, although it’ll definitely pick up in the near future. On Friday, I sat down to lunch at a nearby British pub for a delicious, well-seasoned medium-rare steak sandwich and fries. We’re now in the Family Day long weekend, and I spent most of the day playing through The Division, doing the encounters to accumulate enough wing supplies to bring each wing to a hundred percent completion. After lifting in the morning, I went to pick up some 干炒牛河 (beef hor fun) and 陰陽飯 (fried rice with a white shrimp sauce and tomato-chicken sauce). It’s been snowing the entire day, and I’m greatly looking forwards to sleeping in a little tomorrow and Monday.

  • Returning to The Division, I finally approach the Grand Central Station terminal, and after making short work of the LMB soldiers here, regroup with the JTF, who inform me that I am to dig in and repel the impending LMB assault. Naturally, this corresponds with a boss fight, and I found that the cover I so judiciously made use of on the way to the terminal now became an impediment, making it difficult to engage the LMB attackers rushing my position.

  • As with the Rooftop Communications Relay mission, the close quarters made it quite difficult to get a good shot at Captain Foley from afar, and at close quarters, I was annihilated. However, over the span of the next half hour, I figured out that Foley would not get closer to the player so as long as I did not use my seeker mines or grenades, and so, was able to fire on him until his armour and health were depleted. The firefight was so intense that my M60’s barrel began glowing red, as visible here. It’s such a nice touch that The Division included this detail. With Foley in the books, I wrap up the penultimate of the wing missions in The Division.

  • Exiting the Grand Central Station mission, I have an all-superior loadout. This is something I never imagined I’d be able to reach after The Division‘s beta ended, but here we are. Having tested it against free-roaming bosses in the light zone, I’m reasonably confident that I’ll be able to reach level thirty in no time at all, although once I hit thirty, the goal will be to transition my entire loadout into high-end items, as my current gear is rendered obsolete. During The Division‘s open beta, a handful of high-end items were available to players to encourage exploration, although these weapons would only be present in the beta: high-end items are only open to level thirty players in the final game. I missed out on getting them owing to lacking the Dark Zone funds and level during the beta, but having looked at their stats again, it turns out that even specialised weapons in the final game far outstrip them in performance.

Besides continuing to push through The Division‘s campaign as a solo player, I’ve also managed to upgrade my entire loadout to superior items. A step up from specialised gear, superior gear is characterised by their purple icons and vastly improved statistics compared to equivalent level specialised items. I’d long heard that players begin seeing superior items drop at mid-twenties, and this turns out to be true. During the Queens Tunnel mission, I encountered my first superior drop when moving into the server room; these gloves ended up being a ways better than anything I had previously, and as I continued with the missions, I began swapping out more of my inventory, replacing specialised items with superior ones. Having reached level twenty seven now, my entire loadout consists of superiors, and I’ve been experimenting with different setups to ensure a reasonably balanced setup, as well as to ensure that my equipment unlocks the pair of weapon talents available to superior weapons. These talents are separate from player talents and will passively improve the weapon’s performance in some way. My current setup uses the Enhanced G36 assault rifle, as well as the First Wave M1A marksman rifle. Occasionally, I will switch my marksman rifle out for an LMG or with the M44, which is the single most powerful weapon in my inventory: a critical shot can hit for up to eighty thousand points of damage. I’ve been trying these weapons out against the open-world bosses that roam the streets of Manhattan, and the M44 is obscene – five rounds are enough to neutralise some bosses from full health and armour to zero. With this kind of firepower, I’m curious to see how I fare in the upcoming missions, the Russian Consulate and General Assembly.

Tom Clancy’s The Division: Journey Across Manhattan and Reaching Level Twenty

“I’m afraid if I dig any deeper, no one’s going to like what I find.” –Jack Ryan Sr., Clear and Present Danger

Over the past month and some, I’ve pushed further into The Division‘s narrative: with the Base of Operations minimally functional, I’ve retrieved samples of the virus from the contaminated greenbacks in a large shopping mall and returned them to Dr. Kandell, who works out that the virus is a manufactured and genetically-modified form of smallpox originating from one Gordon Amherst. In addition, with the flamethrower-wielding cleaners threatening Division operations, players are sent to deal with their napalm supply hidden in a construction site. Along the way, players slowly recover infrastructure necessary for Manhattan to function again, and make a chilling discovery; the first wave of Division agents became rogue after they were overwhelmed with the breakdown of order. These agents began working with the “Last Man Battalion” (LMB), a private military organisation that swore revenge against the government for leaving them behind with no support after the initial responders were ordered to withdraw. Completing missions have led to much more being revealed about what’s happened in this frightening vision of just how fragile society is, and in the twenty-four hours I’ve spent in The Division, I’ve also developed a bit of a better understanding of the game’s mechanics far more than was possible in the beta, allowing me to better survive firefights and continue with my solo experience of the journey to level thirty.

I’ve found that the levelling system in The Division is quite reasonable: while it will take some time to play through, at no point in the game did I find things too unimaginative, jejune or repetitive. Playing through the different main missions and side missions, each with their settings and premise, and listening to the dialogue meant learning more about what’s led to the events in-game to occur. While there are only three kinds of enemies, the different locales make the firefights interesting. This is the way to move through the ranks at a smart pace: encounters offer limited experience points compared to playing through main and side missions. During my time in The Division, I’ve also worked out my own strategy for dealing with items; I tend to sell all items that are of the standard quality or below for credits, while breaking down specialised items for crafting parts. In becoming more familiar with the game, talents, skills and items, I’ve become a bit more durable over the course of my solo run. Surviving firefights become a matter of making use of cover and equipment to turn the tides against overwhelming odds, and I’m feeling as though this is what it means to be a Division agent: resourcefulness and determination against adversity. After twenty levels, The Division‘s main campaign remains highly enjoyable as a solo player, and I’m curious to see what is in store for me to as I push towards the full level thirty.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I stand in front of the Broadway Emporium here prior to starting the next of the main missions, which involves entering the Broadway Emporium mall and hunting down infected greenbacks for traces of the virus. The wide open spaces of this building make a long-range bolt-action or designated marksman rifle a highly useful tool. At this point in The Division, my primary weapon was an assault rifle of some sort, with a long-range weapon as a secondary weapon.

  • In The Division, assault rifles are the middle-of-the-road weapon choice that is ideal for the campaign: they offer a good balance between fast firing rate and accuracy at range. Not quite as damaging as submachine guns at close quarters and not quite as precise as a marksman weapon, they are quite versatile and can be paired with almost any other weapon type in the game. I’ve stuck with a good rifle, usually the SCAR-L or G-36, as I’ve progressed through the missions.

  • While New York itself looks amazing, the buildings that players can enter are depicted in equally impressive detail: barring the flames licking the mall’s structure on the right of this image, there’s evidently a Christmas vibe in the building. Things such as abandoned merchandise and general mall clutter add to the sense that New York was evacuated in haste prior to the events of The Division, giving a superior sense of immersion.

  • For main missions, going in at the recommended level or a level above will usually yield the best experience for solo players: in The Division, the player’s level corresponds with the sort of equipment they can utilise, and having good gear is necessary to survive encounters with enemies. In cases where I encounter enemies at my level, sufficiently good gear has allowed me to absorb multiple round without losing a bar of health, and similarly, encountering elite enemies with weak gear means I can lose my entire health bar in the blink of an eye to one or two rounds.

  • With this being said, it is possible to survive and emerge triumphant in firefights against enemies of a higher level: good use of cover and abilities go a long way in improving survivability even when one’s weapons and gear are not quite up to snuff against tough opponents. Early on in The Division, players don’t need to worry too much about specifics in gear, such as talents or other attributes. My first goal was to gradually begin replacing all of my worn gear with standard gear, and by level ten, I had all green items.

  • The construction site details in the napalm production site mission are nothing short of impressive, and making my way through the area, my first goal was to destroy the napalm tanks. They can be set off using a pistol, even at range, and this conserves on primary ammunition: the pistols in The Division have unlimited ammunition. While this is unrealistic, it was a deliberate design choice to prevent players from running out of options when their primary ammunition was entirely spent.

  • I’ve never actually run into a situation where I’d run out of ammunition before: supply boxes are sufficiently frequent during the campaign missions such that I can always remain well-equipped before stepping into a major firefight. Resupply boxes out in the field will only restore one’s stockpile of ammunition; special boxes at safehouses will fully replenish grenades and med kits along with ammunition.

  • During this mission, I found myself pinned down by a sniper as the sun began setting, but as I had a LMG handy, I was able to suppress the sniper, switching over to my G36 rifle to finish him off. The suppression mechanic in The Division works against non-boss enemies: when they are affected, they will stay in cover and not return fire until the suppression has worn off, giving players a chance to close the distance between themselves and their enemies or gain a moment’s respite to heal up or reload.

  • I’m averaging a consistent 60 FPS in The Division: my GPU is no longer the bottleneck and I can play the game on higher settings than I did during the beta. The fresh snowfall here, coupled with the orange light pipes on the ground, gave this scene a highly unique composition. The locations where campaign missions are set are designed similarly to dungeons in other MMORPGs, being quite linear as to direct players down a certain path, but the levels artwork is of a superb quality.

  • The Napalm Production Site mission ends with a faceoff against the Cleaners’ leader, Joe Ferro. An ordinary sanitation worker with a fondness for radio, Ferro turned into a psychopath in the aftermath of the virus and believes that the world must burn in order to be cleaned of the virus. As a boss, Ferro is equipped with an uncommonly powerful flamethrower and has heavy armour, although being a Cleaner, he also carries with him fuel tanks that can be shot to deal massive damage. In my fight against him, I lured him into the top floor and took advantage of his low mobility to defeat him: ducking away and circling him to evade his weapons meant I could empty magazine after magazine into him without fear of reprisal.

  • The most impressive feature in The Division is probably the weather and lighting effects, which can completely change the way the game feels. While I’m running out in open daylight here under beautiful skies, there are plenty of opportunities to gaze up at the moon by night, or else find oneself caught in white-out conditions. The New York area has historically seen major blizzards and extreme weather, and on average, the city averages around 66 cm of snow per year.

  • There are numerous encounters scattered around the streets of mid-town Manhattan, but because they offer relatively small amounts of experience compared to side missions and main missions, I only participate in them if they’re between me and another objective. Missions are common fare: recovering supplies and fending off enemies, defending supplies from enemies, helping JTF forces defend against enemies or disrupting arms deals that invariably lead to firefights with enemies. I don’t go out of my way to complete them, but they can be fun for testing out new weapons that players have acquired.

  • I’ve never been too fond of the missing person side missions, since they involve a great deal of running around and occasional bit of getting lost, but in general, side missions are quite enjoyable. They’re particularly useful if one is trying to reach the level requirements for a main mission, as they offer good experience and gear pieces.

  • The Times Square Power Relay mission is unique in that most of it takes place on the streets of New York rather than inside a building or subterranean location. After a brief fight through the subway system, players return to the surface to continue with their mission. Like the building interiors, subways and other underground installations are incredibly detailed. The Division is probably what Enter The Matrix would have looked like had the latter been developed in 2013 rather than 2003.

  • Amidst the deserted roads of Manhattan near Times Square, I take cover behind a vehicle as enemy forces begin arriving. A fog covers the area, giving it a bit of a chilling quality, and my loadout meant I would engage my opponents from a distance. The long-range weapons in The Division take the form of either bolt-action rifles or the semi-automatic DMRs. The latter can kill an at-level enemy with one headshot, while DMRs cannot do the same but compensate with their superior rate of fire, and because rate of fire is valuable in a game where opponents occasionally swarm players, I value DMRs as my long-range solution.

  • For the longest time, I continued to run with variations of the SVD Dragunov: I’ve got a classic style one here with the wooden stock, but I prefer the more modern-looking versions with the synthetic polymer stock. The original Dragunov was conceived with the aim of being a squad-support weapon rather than a dedicated long-range weapon. With a high rate of fire, light weight and even attachments for a bayonet, the weapon is widely recognised and appears in a diverse array of films and games.

  • I run into the infamous bullet king for the first time here, and as I was sporting weak weapons well below my level, I couldn’t deal much damage to him, forcing me to make a tactical retreat. I would later return at level fifteen, armed with a level-appropriate weapon and promptly wasted him. Best known for a glitch that allowed players to farm drops from him because he continued to respawn so as long as his minions were still alive, this issue has long been fixed, but the roaming bosses are a great way to collect some level-appropriate specialised weapons.

  • Investigation of Amherst’s apartment also provides an opportunity to explore the inside of Manhattan apartments, which, while a bit on the smaller side, are nonetheless well-furnished and offer their occupants with a good amount of living space. I most vividly recall Lord of War‘s Yuri Orlov, who lived in The Prasada, which is located at 50 Central Park West and West 65th Street. Originally built in 1907, the building was renovated in 1919 and offers a beautiful view of Central Park, as well as the surrounding cityscape. Amherst’s apartment is obviously not as ritzy.

  • We’re around halfway into the first month of 2018, and by now, most of the Christmas decorations have been taken down. January is long considered to be one of the more depressing months of the year primarily because of the fact that the festivities of Christmas are over, and the cold weather in conjunction with reduced daylight hours leads to a reduced production of serotonin, in turn resulting in reduced happiness. Eating a good diet, with more fish, and frequent, regular exercise seems to be effective at warding off the blues.

  • Of course, players are treated to what could be counted as a year-round Christmas in The Division on account of the fact that it’s always winter and the Christmas lights are always up. Now that I’ve got The Division, I wonder what it’s going to feel like when I return to the game in the middle of summer; where I am, July and August daily highs average around 23°C, a far cry from the frigid start we’ve had to the start of 2018.

  • A few days ago, I caught wind from Girls und Panzer‘s official Twitter channel that Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s first episode will be released on BD and DVD on March 23. Using this as a precedent, there will be three-month gaps between the theatrical screenings and home release for each of the six parts in Das Finale. Of course, there’s been no news of when episode two will be screened, but I imagine that Das Finale will follow a similar pattern as that of Gundam Unicorn or Gundam Origin, releasing episodes every half-year.

  • Some die-hard fans of Girls und Panzer have taken the pain of travelling to Japan for the singular purpose of watching Das Finale and reported their impressions of it to online forums, where fortunately, the discussion has largely been suppressed by folks who wish to stay away from spoilers. Even if they are only flying in from the Philippines, where a plane ticket from Manila to Tokyo is roughly the half the price as flying from Vancouver to Tokyo, such an endeavour is ultimately a hugely wasteful application of funds.

  • Earlier today, I sat down for dim sum in Chinatown. One of my longtime indicators of how good a place is for dim sum is the quality of their har gao or dai zi gao: the best ones are prepared with a thin wrapping that is sturdy, and there should also be plentiful shrimp on the inside. It’s been around nine or ten years since I last went to the restaurant that I visited today, but their har gao and sui mai are as good as I remember.

  • Besides har gao and sui mai, we also ordered a fried shrimp dim sumfeng zhao, sticky rice, seafood yi mein and a variety of other things. The restaurant in question is located right at the heart of Chinatown, and while it’s a smaller restaurant, their food is fantastic. As we wrapped up our lunch, a snowfall rolled into the area, and the city center began feeling like the streets of Manhattan during a snowfall. The snow continued to fall on and off, and it’s expected to slow down later tonight. Back in The Division, I walk through one of the side pathways through a park area, and I’ve got a suppressed pistol equipped. Suppressors in The Division are supposed to extend the range that enemies can be shot at before they actively engage the player, but in practise, beyond making one’s weapon look cool and sound slightly different, they’re not too effective at the ranges I typically engage enemies at.

  • When Faye Lau discovers an Agent transponder signal emitting from the Police Academy, the player is sent to investigate. Fighting through the building, players soon learn that a Division Agent has gone rogue, and is forced to engage him in order to complete the mission. These rogue agents are much tougher than standard enemies and even bosses, as they have access to abilities and talents of their own. Furthermore, they can hack players’ turrets and drones.

  • It was during the fight against Scarecrow, one such rogue Agent, that I began making more extensive use of the LMGs in The Division: they can either be magazine-fed or belt-fed. Magazine-fed LMGs have a higher rate of fire and shorter reload time, while belt-fed LMGs can deal more damage per round and have a much greater ammunition capacity. Their accuracy improve as they are fired, making them highly effective against bosses, and I quickly found that a properly-outfitted M249 was my ticket to victory over Scarecrow.

  • I’ve heard that The Division is perhaps one of the best video game depictions of Manhattan around, with Crysis 2 not too far behind. I’ve only ever visited Manhattan during a vacation back during 2011, and Manhattan is a fast-paced, hectic place to be, more so than even Hong Kong. The unique premise of The Division offers a chance to explore a virtual version of Manhattan without all of the hustle and bustle, showing that for all of the incredible buildings and activity in Manhattan, it’s really the people that make this place special.

  • I eventually acquired a specialised M60: while slower-firing than the M249, it is able to consistently output damage, and so, it was with this weapon that I took to my fight against the named boss Corporal Wright. Sustained fire tore through his armour and made quick work of him and his minions. Named bosses roam the streets of Manhattan, and in the regular parts of Manhattan outside of the Dark Zone, respawn every four hours. At my level, they drop specialised items, but I’ve heard that they can also give high-ends and phoenix credits once players reach level thirty.

  • My opinion of free-roaming in the grid roads of Manhattan hasn’t changed since I played the beta, but the ability to fast travel between locations significantly cuts down on time spent running through the city streets when one is on a mission to finish a story-related level. However, there are times where exploring slowly can be fun, and the presence of crafting parts, special cases and bonus areas incentivise players to take the time and smell the roses, as it were, in-between missions.

  • By level twenty, I’ve achieved something I’d been looking to do since I finished The Division‘s open beta: all of my gear and weapons are specialised. My next goal will be to gradually convert my entire loadout into superior items as I draw closer and closer to level thirty, and as time allows, begin replacing those items with high-end items. My journey in The Division will continue as I push towards the northeastern corner of Manhattan, where I’m expecting a showdown against the LMB, but for now, I’m going to turn my attention towards a reflection on Kotomi’s arc in CLANNAD: I can’t believe it’s mid-January already. Upcoming anime posts will include the after-three talks for Violet Evergarden and Yuru Camp△; there are a large number of interesting shows this season, and of these shows, I might also write about A Place Further Than The Universe if time permits.

Despite my time spent in The Division, I’ve not ventured into the Dark Zone as of yet: my interest in The Division is first and foremost, fully experiencing the campaign in all of its glory. However, the atmospherics in the standard areas of New York remain superb, and even after twenty-four hours of The Division, stepping out into a snowstorm or watching as a sunrise bathes the Manhattan skyline in a morning light never seems to get old. The Christmas atmosphere furthers the charm of The Division, and it is superbly enjoyable to wandering around the parts of Manhattan that were inaccessible during the beta. While I’m entering a game nearing the end of its life-cycle, I’m making steady progress towards my first milestone. The endgame is entirely focused on improving my gear, and while this could be a bit of a chore, I’ve heard that the better items have a good drop rate since the game’s patches. It will be interesting to see if I can improve my gear score once I do hit that first milestone, but for now, my sights remain resolutely set on making it to level thirty so that I can fully experience the events following Division agents after the second wave’s activation.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus- Episode Zero Reflection

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. –Jimmy Johnson

After Blazkowicz finishes off beating up Nazis and sends General Engel to Davy Jones’ Locker, there are three other Resistance fighters, each on their own adventure to undermine and destabilise the Nazi regime with their own unique talents. The expansion content to The New Colossus introduces former quarterback Joseph Stallion, the OSS Agent Jessica Valiant and Captain Gerald Wilkins as playable characters. In Episode Zero, players briefly play as each character – Stallion breaks out of a Chicago Nazi facility and steals a Panzerhund, Valiant infiltrates Nazi bunkers in California to find information on Operation San Andreas, and Captain Wilkins moves through an Alaskan base on the first steps of stopping Operation Black Sun. It’s a taste of what’s to come in each of the upcoming DLC packages: as a result of having picked up The New Colossus on launch day after curiosity took me, I received Episode Zero free of charge, as well. Each of the newly introduced characters have one of Blazkowicz’s contraption abilities, allowing them to be played in a certain manner, and their stories each serve to extend the depth of what’s happening in the world of Wolfenstein following General Engel’s death, furthering the world-building that Wolfenstein has excelled in since The New Order released.

The biggest draw about The New Colossus DLC are the play-style choices that are imposed on players. Because each character has a slightly more limited version of the contraption upgrades Blazkowicz has, each new character force players to adopt a particular playstyle that they might have not otherwise made extensive use of in The New Colossus‘ main campaign. Stallion’s extensive football background allows him to tackle opponents, withstand explosions and throw things further, but he’s not capable of stealth to the same extent as Blazkowicz or Valiant. Valiant can sneak through ventilation shafts as Blazkowicz could with the constrictor harness and excels at reaching spots that others cannot access, but she’s also vulnerable whenever situations devolve into a direct firefight. Captain Wilkins’ Kampfwanderer gives him the ability to access high ground, similarly to the battle walker upgrade. Each of the characters do not have any of the perks that Blazkowicz has, and weapon upgrades are gone, forcing players to play more carefully in each of the segments. It’s a fun approach to The New Colossus that showcases a different adventure to Blazkowicz’s, and Episode Zero does a succinct job of setting the stage for what players stand to experience should they choose to buy the DLC.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The full DLC, titled The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe, for Joseph Stallione’s story was released back in December 14 of 2017. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I actually had Episode Zero available in my account: this DLC is only available for players who pre-ordered the game or bought the season pass (both of which are risky manoeuvres), but it seems that buying the game on launch date seems to have been sufficient to make me eligible for Episode Zero.

  • Episode Zero released on November 7, a week after I began playing through The New Colossus, and I did not beat The New Colossus until eighteen days later. After clearing through the Übercommander missions, I finally set my sights on Episode Zero, which begins with Stallion. It felt a bit strange to have lost all of the perks that I unlocked through the main campaign, and my weapons were sent back to their starting incarnations. Fortunately, exploring the mission will find weapon upgrade kits for Stallion’s weapons.

  • Unlike The New Colossus‘ campaign, however, the upgrade system in the DLCs seem more similar to those of The New Order, where upgrades players find will be specific attachments for a weapon. I acquired a drum magazine and the nailgun upgrade for the submachine gun, which was my preferred weapon for this mission on account of ammunition availability: rifle-calibre rounds were more uncommon. The close quarters hallways seen in the first section of Episode Zero means that dual-wielded weapons on full-automatic are the most effective.

  • Stallion’s football experience confers him abilities equivalent to Blazkowicz’s ram shackles prior to upgrading them, and are on the whole, slightly less powerful: I don’t think it’s possible to tackle a commander and have them explode into chunks of meat and a shower of blood as Blazkowicz can do, but for the most part, Stallion can sprint through metal grates and take out soldiers without too much difficulty.

  • Going purely from Episode Zero‘s preview of all the DLCs, I feel that Stallion’s is probably the most unremarkable of the three: it’s set in a bunker that appears largely recycled from assets seen in The New Colossus‘s main campaign. While I’ve heard that Stallione gets to fight on Venus, the setting had already been explored in The New Colossus: I’ve seen some footage of The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe, and the fact that it looks fun notwithstanding, I think that I will wait for the other DLCs to be released before I make a concrete decision as to whether or not I’m grabbing the season pass come the next Steam Sale.

  • Stealing the Panzerhund results in some gameplay reminiscent of when Blazkowicz was rampaging through the ruined streets of New Orleans: the flamethrower is absolutely vicious in the narrow hallways here, and will make short work of any opponent. Its armour can be replenished from pieces dropped by enemies.

  • Panzerhunds were the bane of my existence when I was forced to fight against them during The New Order: when one broke into the Kreisau Circle’s headquarters, I expended more than half of my ammunition stores trying to stop it. By The New Colossus, however, heavy weapons and contraptions make the fights a bit more straightforward, even if the Panzerhunds seen in The New Colossus are supposed to be more powerful than their counterparts in The New Order.

  • After seizing the Panzerhund and escaping, the story shifts over to that of Agent Valiant in The Diaries of Agent Silent Death. Her stealth-driven gameplay is rather more exciting, forcing players to choose their battles carefully; Valiant seems less durable than Stallion and Captain Wilkins, making it imperative to make use of the shadows to get around without being caught. She starts Episode Zero with a knife and a suppressed pistol: in spite of its weak damage compared to other weapons, it can be used to silently dispatch foes with a single, well-placed shot to the head.

  • There’s an entire roast suckling pig with potatoes and vegetables that can boost Valiant’s health up by a hundred points, overcharging it. However, with the ability to keep overcharged health as with The New Colossus‘ campaign with the right perk, Valiant’s health will slowly deplete back to 100 points over time. While I lamented the lack of burgers in Super Spesh’s All American Diner during the Roswell Übercommander mission, food items are scattered through the game, and one of my preferred techniques for situations where I had been low on health was to collect health items after I’d reached a particular increment.

  • Since health recharges up to a maximum of twenty points to the nearest multiple of twenty, finding three donuts could allow players to go from 20 points of health back to 80. This system is a fine balance between the recharging health of Halo and the non-regenerating health of games like Half-Life 2, allowing players improved survivability while maintaining their attention on keeping their health in a good state.

  • The Diaries of Agent Silent Death is set to release later this month, and I’m actually curious to see what it will entail. If Episode Zero is a reliable indicator, Valiant’s maps are a bit more exciting than those of Stallion’s, being styled in an ostentatious manner with golden monuments, Nazi artwork and the like. Here, players will find themselves in large rooms that seem to be made of nothing but locked doors, but fortunately, there are small openings that Valiant can make use of to sneak through and access new areas.

  • Valiant does not last very long in straight up firefights with only a mere pistol, but once more powerful weapons and some armour is found, the tables are turned. This recording studio feels quite similar to the courtroom seen in the mid-game of The New Colossus, but there are differences enough to make the mission feel unique. Being a spy of sorts, her missions look quite exciting, and I’m a bit curious to see what Operation San Andreas will entail.

  • During my playthrough, I managed to remain stealthy right up until near the end, where I ran into a Supersoldaten and set an alarm off. Fortunately, I managed to sneak into one of the ventilation ducts and continued on deeper into the facility, out of range of the alarm. I did not manage to find any of the upgrades for Valiant’s weapons save the suppressor for the pistol, and admittedly, it does make me feel a bit under-prepared to enter new areas without the marksman optic mounted to the assault rifle.

  • Valiant’s mission ends when she reaches the documents archive where the file she’s seeking is held. The file’s sitting out in the open and once she finds it, her part in Episode Zero comes to an end. In the end, I barely made it to the final part of the mission, with only twenty health remaining, and stopped to look around the details in this area before wrapping the mission up.

  • Evergreen trees can be seen out the windows of Captain Wilkin’s mission in Episode Zero; his mission deals with the experiences he has in Alaska while trying to stop Operation Black Sun. I don’t think I’ve seen any shooters set in Alaska, and the last time I was in Alaska was many years ago, on a cruise to the Inside Passage. It’s absolutely beautiful here, being a place where snow-capped mountains merge with the ocean to create a unique landscape.

  • The Amazing Deeds of Captain Wilkins is supposed to deal with the “Sun Gun”, a planned Nazi weapon that would have been placed 8200 kilometers above the surface of Earth and have a surface area of nine square kilometers. The weapon would have worked by focusing the sun’s rays onto a narrow point on the surface that would have hypothetically burned through cities and even boil away bodies of water. The Sun Gun was well ahead of its time, and Nazi scientists predicted that it would take at least fifty years before such a weapon could be built.

  • Captain Wilkins is equipped with the Kampfwanderer, which performs similarly to the Battle Walker, allowing him to take the high ground over his opponents, and here, I deal with Nazi soldiers standing between him and the objective: Episode Zero has him fighting through a facility set along the western coasts of America (as evidenced by the evergreen trees), with the aim of softening up a Nazi facility and destroying a heavy weapon at the facility: here, I finish off the remaining Nazi soldiers firing at me, leaving naught but a pile of bodies in my wake.

  • In English, the phrase “bury the hatchet” stems from American tradition, where hatchets or tomahawks were buried in a peace ceremony to signify disarmament. Its origins tie in with the idea of making peace with a past conflict, but in Wolfenstein, “burying the hatchet” takes on a whole new meaning. English idioms are rather interesting, and despite my background in English, there are many phrases that I remain unfamiliar with. The Chinese similarly have what are called chengyu (成語, jyutping “sing4 jyu5”); some of them are pretty intuitive and make perfect sense, while others are quite obscure.

  • Of all the DLCs, I’m most looking forwards to seeing The Amazing Deeds of Captain Wilkins, especially if flying to the Sun Gun space station and engaging in space combat is a part of the missions. Here, I reach the control room and clear it of remaining hostiles so I can make use of the control panel. Level designs notwithstanding, one thing that I found consistently enjoyable through each of the characters was their extensive exposition and the fact that they give monologues similar to Blazkowicz’s, offering further insight on their personalities.

  • By the brilliant  morning light of the West coast, I prepare one of the defensive cannons and aim it towards the much larger weapon to destroy it, bringing an end to Episode Zero, this discussion and the end of my Wolfenstein II writings for the present. I still find myself impressed that buying The New Colossus on launch date gave me access to Episode Zero; in the end, while it was a bit costlier to do so, I ended up saving quite a bit of time, so I find that I did get good value for my decision. Looking ahead into January, I’ve got my Yuru Camp△ post inbound in not more than a few days, and I’ll be wrapping up Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! soon.

For the present, while I’m convinced that each of the three DLC packages, one each for Stallion, Valiant and Captain Wilkins, are likely to be quite fun in their own right and add newfound well-written stories into the Wolfenstein universe, the sample of the gameplay through Episode Zero suggests that there’s no new weapons, enemies or abilities. Furthermore, The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe, already released, seems to be quite short – if this instalment’s length is an indicator, then the DLCs together will likely add around five to seven hours of additional content in total (compared to the nine advertised). When one looks at the price tag of 30 CAD for the season pass, it’s probably not worthwhile to pick the DLC up in the absence of a good sale. For the present, then, I have no plans in continuing my adventures with Stallion, Valiant or Captain Wilkins – for one, I still need to go back through and beat The New Colossus on the Fergus timeline, which gives me access to the Laserkraftwerk. Of course, once I gain a bit more insight as to what the DLC offers once all of the instalments are released, and if a good sale should appear, I could change my mind and pick things up to continue what folks have concisely described as more Nazi Slaughtering Goodness.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus- Übercommander Missions

“Some things are so unexpected that no one is prepared for them.” —Leo Rosten

Enigma codes in Wolfenstein: The New Order unlocked new difficulties for the game, and while they were a curious addition, did not offer too much incentive for collection. By comparison, The New Colossus provides a new application for Enigma codes: they drop from commanders, and when a sufficient number have been accured, they can be decoded to unlock the location of an Übercommander, high-ranking commanders working directly under General Engel. More heavily armoured and armed than standard commanders, Übercommanders oversee entire regions and are hypothetically capable of succeeding General Engel. Thus, eliminating Übercommanders would remove the Nazi presence in the United States, and from the perspective of a continuation, it would mean that the American resistance against the Third Reich would be strengthened after all of the Übercommanders are dealt with. Each mission is set in a familiar area explored in the campaign, and a large number of enemies, including standard commanders, stand between Blazkowicz and the Übercommander. However, while the areas might be familiar, some of them have a new twist to them, being set during a different time of day, or else has seen extensive modifications since Blazkowicz last visited. When all of the Übercommanders are dealt with, players will unlock a special Übercommander mission that is called “Riverside”. Set in a pitch-black bunker with more robots than soldiers, it’s a complete change of pace from the missions previously. The eerily quiet, dark settings seem to conceal a greater evil, and it is with unease that Blazkowicz steps into the bunker, armed with only a flashlight against the enemy that is the lack of light. Fighting through hordes of robots and the occasional soldier, players eventually reach the final Übercommander, who is standing out in an open area overlooking the river, unattended save one Zerstörer guarding him.

In an intense but brief fight, players will take on the Zerstörer and finally, the Übercommander himself, completing the kill-board and ensuring that General Engel’s chokehold over the United States come to an end. Entertaining and concise, Übercommander missions are separate from the campaign and serve to further the story in The New Colossus further, providing players with an additional element to explore in the game. Their primary advantage is conferring upon players an opportunity to backtrack and explore areas further, allowing for collectable items and weapon upgrade kits to be found if they’d previously been missed. Being able to go back and find weapon upgrade kits is a hugely useful feature: players who may have missed them now have the chance of collecting them again. Considering the sheer intensity of the fight awaiting folks who reach the Zerstörer fight on board the Ausmerzer, which is a challenge even with fully-upgrade weapons and contraptions, it is most wise to have weapons that give players all possible options. In combining extended story elements with fair gameplay, the Übercommander missions represent an advancement in The New Colossus, providing an incentive to make use of Enigma Codes and replay missions, in turn giving the game a bit more replayability beyond the original campaign missions.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the Übercommander missions, the Übercommander’s position is given by a blue outline around the commander signal. Here, I am in the Penthouse by night, rather than evening, and the shift in lighting makes fighting Nazis a great deal more interesting. Prior to each mission, Blazkowicz sets out in a submarine, helicopter or later, to the Venus base, a flying saucer of some sort. After arriving in each area, Grace gives him a bit of a primer, and then it’s off to the main attraction: Nazi killing.

  • Here, I return to Mesquite, where the Nazis have turned Blazkowicz’s former home into a film set, where they intend on filming Blazkowicz’s life story. Under the cover of darkness, Blazkowicz must sneak through the guarded set to locate the Übercommander, and looking around, it’s astounding to see just how much has changed since the events of the campaign. It was here where I back-tracked to find one of the weapon upgrade kits: during the chaos of the campaign mission, I did not bother looking for the upgrade kit and so, missed it.

  • Stealth is typically the best way of getting through a mission without sustaining heavy damage, but against the likes of Supersoldaten, stealth is pretty ineffectual. The end result is that more often than not, I found myself engaging in firefights. The plus side is that taking out a Supersoldaten gives Blazkowicz a heavy weapon, which can be used to waste any reinforcements that subsequently show up.

  • While the campaign did not allow Blazkowicz to draw his guns in downtown Roswell and was set during a parade by day, the Übercommander mission returns Blazkowicz to downtown Roswell at night, amidst streets patrolled by Nazis and Klansman of the KKK. Tempting it might be to sneak up behind one and bury a hatchet into the base of their skull, or else mutilate them with high-powered weapons, the more prudent thing to do is silently dispatch them with a suppressed pistol before breaking off into the alley to the right.

  • The Roswell mission was one of the few places in The New Colossus where I ended up unlocking the Ghost achievement, which entails making it through an entire district without triggering the alarm. By nightfall, some of Roswell’s landmarks come to life, including the theatre, which is set to screen a propaganda film. On the topic of films, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Girls und Panzer Das Finale, but the information is about as abundant as information for Half-Life 3, which is to say that it doesn’t exist at all.

  • Because it is an utter waste of effort to wonder when Girls und Panzer Das Finale is coming out for the folks who don’t have the disposable income to fly to Japan for each of the six instalments, I’m going to return to The New Colossus; here, I find myself outside of Super Spesh’s All American Diner after sneaking by a massive robot. The front door is closed, and there are several ways of getting in. The most stealthy approach would be to use the constrictor harness and crawl through a vent at ground level, but the battle walker allows one to climb onto the roof and hop into the diner undetected. Players with only the ram shackles could run into a bit of trouble here with noise.

  • After some looking around, I worked out the way in by means of the battle walker and managed to sneak into Super Spesh’s diner undetected. By night, the bright lights make the venue an inviting one, and it would have been nice to stop here for a burger and onion rings. However, with Super Spesh gone, there’s no option for food, and after briefly exploring the kitchen to see if there was any food lying around (Blazkowicz can eat food items, such as doughnuts, to regain a small amount of health), I proceed into Super Spesh’s secret hideout.

  • Because I did not set off any alarms during this mission, the Übercommander was completely unaware of my presence, and so, I was able to finish him off using a stealth kill. Subsequently, I explored Super Spesh’s hideout and found the weapon upgrade kit hidden in the level; there are some districts where the weapon upgrade kit can only be found when revisiting it on the Übercommander mission, making the Übercommander missions worth replaying.

  • I’ve heard that some players were able to get more than the twenty-one weapon upgrade kits available in The New Colossus by exiting the mission and saving after one was found, but there’s little point in collecting more than the maximum, since there are only seven upgradable weapons in the game. Overall while I missed the Marksman rifle, which had excellent optics and a versatile alternate fire mode that turned it into an assault rifle, as well as the double barrel shotgun, The New Colossus brings to the table more versatile weapon upgrades and more flexibility in choosing the path one takes in upgrading their weapons. The shooting overall was generally quite fun.

  • I’ve noted in an earlier The New Colossus post that the Lasergewehr would probably be my favourite weapon in the game overall for its sheer power and versatility at almost all ranges. However, as a heavy weapon, it’s limited by its unwieldiness, so for conventional weapons, I would stick to the Sturmgewehr assault rifle: while slower firing than its predecessor in The New Order, the weapon nonetheless has reasonable hipfire and acceptable RPM for close quarters, while the attachment of a marksman optic allows the weapon to transform into a thirty-round marksman rifle.

  • I know that today is the release of Yuru Camp△, and I’ve just finished with watching the first episode; I’m saving the rest of my remarks for a proper discussion later, so my first real post of 2018 will deal with Wolfenstein. With this being said, Yuru Camp△ has met expectations in its narrative and visuals, while exceeding expectations with its soundtrack. I’ll aim to have a proper talk for it after I wrap up Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter‘s finale, which is airing tomorrow – a post on my first impressions of Yuru Camp△ would therefore come out either Saturday or Sunday.

  • So far, 2018’s been off to a smooth start, with warm weather and a clear set of goals for work. The Steam Winter Sale also ended earlier today, and I think this is the first time since 2013 where I sat out a Steam Sale. This year, my eye is on Far Cry 5Metro: Exodus and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, so I’m likely to save for those and in the meantime, play through some titles that I’ve not opened since I picked them up in earlier Steam Sales. For instance, I still have yet to complete the DLC in Valkyria Chronicles and play through Skullgirls.

  • The end goal of every Übercommander mission is the collection of a death card from each defeated Übercommander. After players secure it, they are given the option of returning to the Eva’s Hammer, or else linger in the district a bit longer. The latter is definitely an option for players looking to find all the collectibles in the game, now that all hostiles have been properly dealt with.

  • Once all of the Übercommanders are taken care of, players unlock the Riverside mission. The mission requires eight enigma codes to unlock, and if one is short enigma codes, the best place to farm for enigma codes is the Penthouse district of New York, where the close quarters make finding commanders a straightforward task. The mission begins normally enough, but as Blazkowicz descends deeper into the Nazi bunker here, he is plunged into total darkness.

  • The only light for most of the mission comes from Blazkowicz’s flashlight, as well as any small point lights that have no emissive properties. Even if one is armed to the teeth with all of the fully-upgraded weapons and contraptions, there’s an eerie mood in the bunkers quite unlike anything seen anywhere else in The New Colossus. The first hint that this secret mission exists is that players do not earn the pair of achievements for taking out all of the Übercommanders and completing the kill board after the “last” mission on the map is dealt with.

  • The labyrinthine tunnels of the bunker makes it extremely easy to get lost, and occasionally, I found myself going in circles in this area. The combination of the tunnels, coupled with darkness, makes this a mission that has terrified some folks playing through the level, although I would count said individuals as lightweights, since Blazkowicz is sufficiently armed to deal with all threats encountered in the tunnels.

  • The minimalistic, barren designs of the concrete walls inside the bunker have led at least one guide to wonder if the mission was originally intended to be a part of the game but removed after, given seemingly incomplete design as evidenced by the bare-bones assets and lack of lighting. However, rather than detracting from the experience, the level design succeeds in creating a sense of unease in players who venture into the black depths of the facility.

  • I concede that there might be some jump scares for folks who move faster than they can see with their flashlights, but a careful, methodical playstyle will allow one to make it through the bunkers without much incident. Stealth in this mission is a bit of a mixed bag, since alerting enemies to one’s presence isn’t a good idea, but on the other hand, there are no standard commanders to bring in reinforcements, and the suppressed pistol isn’t particularly useful here.

  • Close to the end of the seemingly endless tunnels, I managed to take out a Supersoldaten and promptly took its Lasergewehr, allowing me to push onward into the facility. Soon, I spotted a ladder leading players back to the surface. It’s the first bit of natural light in the level since things began, and standing out in the open is the last Übercommander. However, he’s not alone, being guarded by one Zerstörer. I decided the fastest way to wrap things up was to rush the Übercommander and kill him quickly to grab the death card (which freezes the time) and exit the level before the Zerstörer could waste me.

  • Of course, players feeling up for the challenge could try to take on the Zerstörer, but any sort of carelessness will result in a quick death. This brings the first of my two post-campaign The New Colossus posts to an end, and somewhere before January ends, I’ll do a talk on Episode Zero, the first chapter of the DLC. In the meantime, posts coming out in the near future are for Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter‘s finale and my opening impressions of Yuru Camp△. In addition, I will be looking to do a talk on Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! once its finale comes out (likely on the upcoming Monday) so that I can wrap up the last of the Fall 2017 anime. Finally, because we’re coming close to the ten-year mark after Kotomi’s arc in CLANNAD finished, another post on CLANNAD will be inbound shortly.

One further improvement of the Enigma Codes of The New Colossus is that they are also a bit more straightforward to unlock, being a simple patter-matching exercise. The sum of their contributions to the narrative, ability to allow players a second (or third) chance in unlocking game-changing upgrades and occasionally presenting an area as being different than when first encountered in the campaign mean that overall, The New Colossus is able to make superior use of its Enigma Code and Übercommander mechanic to encourage replay on top of the fact that players can go through the campaign a second time to attempt it using a different special weapon. It’s a pleasant surprise for a standout single player campaign in a market where most campaigns are usually regarded as an afterthought, while not a full game in its own right, the Übercommanders missions ultimately succeed in providing a few additional hours of time spent in The New Colossus. For the folks who’ve gone through The New Colossus already, there’s a pleasant surprise waiting for those who have also taken the time to finish the Übercommander missions if they’ve not already done so, and individuals who’ve yet to finish them will find further incentive to warm up The New Colossus again.