The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Third person shooter

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: El Sueño’s Endgame and Thoughts on Challenges in the Political Arena

“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” –Garry Kasparov

With Nomad team demolishing Santa Blanca’s production and smuggling capabilities, as well as degrading their influence and security arms, Santa Blanca’s operations in Bolivia are crippled, forcing them to adopt increasingly desperate measures. Amidst the chaos, Nomad team captures and extracts critical buchons, rebel leader Pac Katari claims the rebels have located El Sueño, but learn Katari has betrayed Nomad team and Bowman, deciding that the rebels must kill El Sueño to avoid being seen as American puppets. After rescuing Bowman, Nomad team head to El Sueño’s mausoleum and apprehend him. Before they can take him in, Bowman receives a call from her handler, who indicates that El Sueño’s cut a deal with the American government – in exchange for his cooperation in providing intel on other drug cartel leaders, El Sueño demands immunity. Although frustrated by this turn of events, Bowman reluctantly cooperates and takes El Sueño into custody. Bowman reveals that El Sueño’s a gold mine of information, and his connections will make him invaluable in operating against other cartels terror groups and weapons smugglers. However, once he’s outlived his usefulness, El Sueño will likely be returned to Mexico or otherwise start a new cartel. To stay one step ahead, Bowman decides there’s nothing left to do but take the fight to El Sueño when this inevitably happens. The outcome of Wildlands was widely regarded as anti-climactic and a disappointment by contemporary players, who felt that after all that effort, there should’ve been at least a playable confrontation with El Sueño, and that in effectively letting El Sueño walk, Wildlands appeared to have undone everything the players had accomplished in Bolivia. Admittedly, this outcome was what dissuaded me from immediately picking up Wildlands after its launch. However, once I had some time to mull things over, Wildlands actually ends up being a remarkably mature and insightful experience regarding the narcotics trade and politics in general.

I have no love for narcotics. Even in my hometown, a moderately-sized city in the prairies, narcotics are a problem, and for years, local criminal elements facilitated the manufacture and sales of various substances. The associated criminal activity and violence became a common part of the evening news, and as a youth, I often wondered why the local police and the RCMP wouldn’t just arm themselves and take the fight to them directly, interfering with their delivery, burning down production sites and sending gang members to an early grave. Wildlands provides the answer to why – even an elite special forces team, armed to the teeth with the finest weapons and most cutting-edge equipment, going in and directly dealing damage to organised criminal groups, however entertaining it is, is only a measure that yields instant gratification. Indeed, players dismantle most of Santa Blanca and leave the cartel in shambles as a means of getting to El Sueño, but even then, El Sueño’s value as an asset is related to his connections, rather than his involvement in the narcotics trade. If he were simply killed, a veritable treasure trove of intelligence dies with him. Someone else will come to power over what’s left of Santa Blanca and eventually create a new cartel anyways, and other cartels, terrorists and arms smugglers will continue to run amok. On the other hand, by taking El Sueño alive and using him as an asset, there’s at least an opportunity to begin investigating other organisations and acting on El Sueño’s knowledge. In other words, the goods and evils of this world aren’t black and white as one initially believes, and this is why here at home, law enforcement don’t resort to direct action against organised crime. The lessons of Wildlands thus become a powerful reminder of one important fact: all politics is an incredibly complex and intricate arena, and as a result of this, it is not tenable or productive for the layman to suggest solutions. Without considering how one action may have a cascade effect, potentially yielding an outcome even more harmful than the current situation. Wildlands forces players to give this some thought, reminding them that as easy as it is to pass judgement on politicians and governments for their actions from behind the comfort of a keyboard and with tabs open to CNN, those involved in a decision-making capacity often have their hands tied and must make calls based on the constraints of their system, whether it be knowledge that certain actions can be devastating, or their funding might be temporarily (or permanently) shut off if said decision happens to be in opposition with what a benefactor demands, even if it was the morally correct choice. Through Wildlands, players are therefore offered a modicum of understanding as to why it is not easy to simply grab a fireteam and play Ghost Recon with the local gangs. This is where Wildlands‘ outcomes shine – politics isn’t as easy as Reddit or Twitter make it out to be, and the opinion of the average social media user is far too uninformed of a source to be considered as anything approaching credible.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • For the time being, this is going to be my last talk on Wildlands – I’ve completely finished the main game save for Operation Silent Spade, and it was valuable to see how the game ended for myself. Previously, a part of me had held out on picking Wildlands up because of its endings: at the time, I didn’t feel that the payoff would be worth it despite the journey it took to get there. However, six years after the open beta ended, life experience has caused my thoughts to shift somewhat, and in the present day, I find that Wildlands‘ outcomes are plausible and moreover, enlightening.

  • While stories typically go with “happily-ever-after” endings to provide people with a feeling of satisfaction, endings can nonetheless be successful even if they’re less-than happy: in the case of Wildlands, the ending was necessary to convey the idea that there’s more going on than meets the eye, and black-and-white views of politics are mistaken. This nuance is presumably why period reviewers did not enjoy Wildlands‘ story; most gamers are accustomed to stories that paint the player as heroes, and knowing that one still remained unsuccessful, despite all of their effort in Bolivia, would’ve left more than one player unhappy with the outcomes.

  • I get this sentiment, since it took me over fifty-eight hours to finish every region in Bolivia, and after every successful mission, dialogue between Nomad team and Bowman gave every impression that player actions were having a tangible, positive impact. This is something that gives players incentive to continue – as players get further and see the results of their work, the more motivation there was to see how things turned out. This contributed greatly to how, as I got further in Wildlands, I became compelled to wrap the story up.

  • This was aided greatly by the fact that I had access to the game’s single most powerful anti-materiel rifle: the BMG-50A is capable of destroying helicopters in a single shot, even before the addition of vehicle damage bonuses, and this made it possible to evade Santa Blanca and Unidad patrols with ease. Having excellent tools likely accelerated my progress throughout Wildlands, and I recall that prior to picking up the Fallen Ghosts expansion, I only had access to the M40A5, a bolt-action rifle. In the absence of the BFG-50A, the MSR and HTI are suitable alternatives – these weapons aren’t semi-automatic, but still hit hard.

  • Having tried the other sniper rifles, I found that there really isn’t a comparable rifle to the BFG-50A. With this being said, the other rifles are fun to use, and I did find a satisfactory challenge in mixing my loadouts up in different scenarios. For most of Wildlands, I ran with the MDR and the BFG-50A, but towards the endgame, I also experimented with a variety of weapons. If memory serves, I ran the KRISS Vector with extended magazines when confronting El Sueño for the first time. Here, I say “first time” because Wildlands‘ ending system is a little unusual. When reaching the final mission, Wildlands will always give player the bad ending, where Bowman will shoot El Sueño in the head after learning he’s going to walk.

  • On subsequent play-throughs, if one has completed all of the regions and cleared out all of the buchons, as well as finishing the side missions, then players will be able to unlock the real ending, where Bowman reluctantly accepts her superior’s call and brings him in. The approach is quite unusual and unintuitive, with some players speculating that it was done because the developers had anticipated that some players would try to take down El Sueño immediately after clearing two of Santa Blanca’s four branches, and this would act as an incentive to finish the game off wholly. Altogether, the reasoning behind why Wildlands‘ story could come across as being janky is present, and as such, I do not begrudge the players who were dissatisfied about Wildlands‘ ending.

  • With this being said, once players reach endings, things can initially come across as being completely underwhelming: one has just spent tens of hours dismantling Santa Blanca and messing up Unidad, so when the chips are down, and the final confrontation with El Sueño is a cutscene rather than an interactive moment, one can feel as though their contributions were swept aside. Similarly, the real ending initially appears to undermine one’s efforts: Bolivia’s narcotics trade is in tatters, but the head of the whole operation will walk despite being responsible for the bloodshed. It takes a bit of thought to see why the story in Wildlands ended up this way.

  • As it turns out, suddenly wresting control from the players and giving them the sense that everything was for naught is deliberate, a commentary on government and politics. All too often, the people with boots on the ground, at the frontlines, do all of the work while the politicians get all of the credit, and Wildlands intends for players to feel this frustration. Despite having done very nearly all of the work and helping Bowman to put enough of the pieces together to find and bring down El Sueño, suddenly, the politicians above Bowman decide that some other action is more beneficial – despite the atrocities El Sueño has committed, he will not face justice and instead, be offered a deal.

  • Thus, to the people watching the news back home, El Sueño’s capture will be presented as a triumph of American justice, and the media will likely say that he will be tried for his crimes and summarily sentenced. The average person will never know of Nomad Team’s contributions, the blood that was shed in Bolivia to reach this point, or the reality that, far from facing justice, El Sueño will probably live quite comfortably so long as he is viewed as an asset. In reality, these under-the-table deals occur all the time, and justice is circumvented because it is convenient for the politicians.

  • This is why politics and foreign events is always a tricky topic to discuss anywhere: by the time the media gets their hands on a story, it’s already been filtered out and modified by the politicians. The media, despite claims of freedom of press, invariably is paid off to similarly paint politicians of certain factions in a positive or negative light. When a story reaches the masses, it’s been so heavily airbrushed and whitewashed that the masses won’t ever learn the truth. Because of this factor, it is remarkably difficult to form any sort of informed opinion on what’s going on with regard to current events, and I would liken this to abstraction of science concepts.

  • For instance, velocity is defined as the derivative of position with respect to time, v(t) = d/(dt) (x(t)). When abstracted out once, we can say that it is the rate at which position changes over time, v = d / t. Abstracting things out further, it becomes “how quickly it takes to get somewhere”. Things get muddy here because at this level of abstraction, the mind is inclined to think that this is speed. However, speed is a scalar quantity, and velocity is, strictly speaking, a vector quantity. By abstracting out too much detail, some essential information is lost, and it becomes clear that to understand velocity, there needs to be a certain amount of detail.

  • Similarly, when it comes to current events, by the time any information reaches the end user, so much has been redacted, filtered out and sanitised that one does not have any idea of what the real events were. Instead, our perceptions are shaped by what the media has decided to selectively show viewers. In the case of a story like Wildlands, people will never see or hear the details that went down. The irony of this is that players will have bore witness to the atrocities that went down, and more disturbingly, the lengths the “good guys” will go to achieve their aims.

  • One of the more unexpected and disturbing parts of Wildlands comes when Bowman interrogates one of the under-bosses by forcing him to very nearly overdose on cocaine. The moment was written to make players feel uncomfortable, and it is quite plain that, should the public ever learn about this, the thought of having a black operations being conducted in Bolivia would cause people to protest the government’s actions. Details like these compel players to think about things, and in the knowledge that the good guys do resort to questionable means, it becomes clear that things like “good guys” and “bad guys” are not as black and white as politicians and the media would have us believe.

  • Applying this back to how people learn of current events, then, it becomes easy to see how political opinions can become rooted in untruths: when the media presents a story that omits key details, people can only react to what they are given, and therefore, it becomes possible for the media to shape perceptions of things. In the above example, if people don’t discover how the CIA went about some aspects of the campaign in Bolivia, all the public knows is that a dangerous cartel was taken down, scoring the politicians points at the polls. This is why when it comes to current events, I tend not to give a knee-jerk reaction to whatever I’m being presented with.

  • For instance, there have recently been pressure to ban TikTok from North America over concerns that the app will relay personal information over to servers we have no jurisdiction over, and further to this, that said personal information could be used against the folks here. This sounds terrifying, at least until one realises that most social media apps developed here at home require the same access to a device’s information and more often than not, transmit that same data over to the developer’s servers so that advertisers can use this information for targetted advertising. In order for the media to be convincing, a single, consistent set of standards must be observed: either it’s okay for all apps to collect data like contacts, location and gallery from users, or it’s not okay for any app to collect this data, regardless of the developer’s origins.

  • While some rational thought will result in the conclusion that the story was overblown and unnecessary, folks who jump to conclusions, without stopping to think about the implications, will assume that said app poses a clear and present danger to democracy. Such people are more likely to espouse views opposing other nations and their people, sending them down a tumultuous path as they begin to see only the worst in others. It is disappointing to see how faith in the media can impact even the educated, and once more, I find an example in Danny “Toukairin” Nguyen, a Montreal-based research assistant who holds a PhD in psycho-education, and whom I’ve previously clashed with regarding Hong Kong, culminating in his ban from AnimeSuki.

  • Although Toukairin’s credentials are impressive on paper, his behaviours online are unbecoming of a PhD. At AnimeSuki, Toukairin previously supported violence against law enforcement in Hong Kong. Such behaviour was clearly in violation of forum rules, but Toukairin was only banned for a week (a mild slap on the wrist): it took my learning that he was running a duplicate account to get him permanently banned. Toukairin presently spends his days on Twitter, wishing harm upon those who disagree with his extremist rhetoric and slinging insults towards any political figure whom he holds personally accountable for society’s ills. It’s clear that despite being banned from AnimeSuki, Toukairin hasn’t learned anything at all; contrary to his Twitter profile’s claims of supporting a “saner world” and opposing “whining for cheap politics”, Toukairin’s ignorance only contributes to increasing enmity and discord in the world.

  • People like Toukairin are the reason why I maintain that, while everyone is permitted to hold their own opinion, the ignorant are not entitled to an audience (and certainly not agreement). Repeatedly being exposed to untruths eventually wears people down until they begin accepting said beliefs as holding merit, and there is always the risk of harm that accompanies allowing giving such individuals any validation at all. This is why I’m so vehemently opposed to Toukairin’s actions. Toukairin is a performative activist who does not genuinely care about or understand an issue, but expresses concern so long as it gives the impression he cares. However, for reasons beyond my comprehension, his rhetoric is occasionally retweeted, giving the impression that it is valid when this evidently is not the case.

  • Toukairin does not deserve any validation, and this is why I will continue to report his tweets until his account is suspended: when Toukairin is silenced and permanently denied an audience, then I will rest easier. To be frank, I had expected much more of someone with a PhD: post-graduate studies expose people to specialised knowledge, as well as how to spot the limits of knowledge and testing scholarly rigour. Normally, this should be a humbling experience; someone who is competent in their field will be well aware of what they don’t know, and an ethical academic will know when it’s appropriate not to share something. This is why I tend not to deal in current events here – the media isn’t giving a sufficient picture for any conclusions to be drawn, and even if they did, I’m not knowledgeable enough fairly converse about these topics in a manner that is meaningful to readers.

  • Although laymen on social media may give the impression of authority, I find that most people tend to base arguments on emotion alone, and this is why I hold that politicians and journalists alike should stop treating social media discourse as being indicative of the general sentiment surrounding a topic. The only way to really know what’s going on is to get boots on the ground and get one’s hands dirty. This is something that Wildlands absolutely excels in conveying to players. By having players experience things in such detail, they can form their own opinions about what Wildlands is trying to say. Some reviewers found the missions repetitive and difficult in Wildlands, and while this is prima facie a strike against the game, on closer inspection, the gameplay loop is actually a clever statement to players – being a special forces operator isn’t easy, and again, when extraordinary experiences become commonplace, they lose their lustre.

  • With this being said, I do concede the point that as a solo player, one’s experience is going to be comparatively limited compared to players who squad up and accompany their mates on adventures through Wildlands‘ Bolivia. Towards the endgame, I had worked out a very efficient approach towards completing the missions, which had become very cut-and-dried. On the average mission, I would call in a helicopter and fly to the objective area, then use rebel spotting to immediately locate every for in an area. Once I knew where all the hostiles were, I could then sneak into the mission area, complete my goal and leave before I was spotted.

  • In this way, even Unidad bases became much easier to deal with. As it turns out, when I’d been completing various regions en route to the endgame, I had managed to reach maximum efficiency and brought the cooldown times for spotting, vehicular drop-offs and mortar strikes to the minimum, allowing me to make full use of rebel support. These abilities, in conjunction with maximum damage resistance and weapon accuracy, made even the five-star regions manageable.

  • At one point, I had considered lowering the difficulty in Wildlands so I could complete missions more easily, but to have done so would be akin to admitting defeat. Generally speaking, I fare well enough on normal and hard difficulties in most games, and with few exceptions, I don’t normally turn down the difficulty in a given game. I prefer normal and hard difficulties because they’re challenging enough so that I can’t just waltz through things like a super-soldier, but not so challenging that I can’t stop to smell the proverbial roses.

  • The fact that the missions are set in regions with different terrain and aesthetics, coupled with the fact that one can freely switch between any weapons they have unlocked, and the fact that I was very nearly done the game, is what kept Wildlands from going stale towards the end. Here, I’m rocking the MP7: personal defense weapons in Wildlands are varied, but initially, they’re only of limited use because their limited ammunition capacity and short range. Over time, as one unlocks more attachments, PDWs can be kitted with extended magazines and long barrels that make them more effective at range without sacrificing too much handling for close quarters engagements.

  • On the whole, assault rifles are probably the most versatile weapon category in Wildlands, and even the starting P416 should be sufficient for players. With this being said, I primarily stuck with an assault rifle and sniper rifle during my run of Wildlands since the assault rifles handle well enough in close quarters, and having a dedicated long-range weapon made it easier to pick foes off. Initially, I was running a G36C and M40A5, but once I bought Fallen Ghosts, the MDR and BFG-50A became my mainstay. Having weapons I greatly enjoyed using contributed to my sustained interest and eventual completion in Wildlands.

  • Overall, it took me some fifty-eight hours over the course of ten months to finish Wildlands: I originally bought the game last May for a song during a sale, and picked up the Fallen Ghosts expansion a few months later on another sale. Originally, I’d been a little worried that it would take an inordinate amount of time to finish Wildlands‘ campaign – the going had been quite slow early on, and when I reached the later regions, the frequent patrols and well-defended enemy installations similarly forced me to slow down. However, with the unlocked skills and perks, plus weapons I genuinely enjoyed using, progress towards the end accelerated wildly.

  • Indeed, once I finished Koani and Montuyoc, I found my grove and began making my way through Wildlands‘ remaining five-star regions with ease. As it turns out, Media Luna and Flor De Oro are the game’s toughest regions on account of the frequent Unidad patrols, and even then, cautious players can evade them well enough to avoid direct confrontation. I found that, close to the endgame, even if I brought Unidad alertness to the maximum level, I could keep them off me indefinitely (at least until I ran out of ammunition), and on more than one occasion, I would destroy wave after wave of Unidad, leaving a convoy of burned out vehicles in my wake.

  • Rather than capturing the buchons as soon as they became available, my approach was to clear out all of the individual regions first before taking on the branch heads. Here, I approach El Yayo’s compound through a field, and the mission aesthetics brought to mind the likes of Taiwan’s Huadong Valley. Through listening to the in-game dialogue, I began to feel some sympathy for my quarry, and on missions where the goal was to capture, rather than kill a buchon, I got the distinct impression that these were individuals whose poor decisions locked their course with that of El Sueño’s.

  • This was one of the biggest aspects of Wildlands that I enjoyed: far from being a mindless shooter, Wildlands invites players to think about the implications of their actions. In the end, this unexpected side of Wildlands is what made the game worth playing through for me. Although I’d known about the ending long before coming in, ultimately, the journey it takes to reach the ending was rewarding and instructive. In this way, I finally finish a game that I’ve been curious about, and while my interest in the game has swung between “curious” and “disinterested”, I am glad to have taken this journey and saw things through to the end.

  • As a prize for defeating El Sueño the first time, players will unlock the ¡Silencio!, a modified SASG-12 automatic shotgun with a drum magazine. Its design brings to mind the custom automatic shotguns that Mouse used in The Matrix, and I did have a chance to try it out during my second run on El Sueño. In the future, I will be checking out Fallen Ghosts and join my friend on co-op adventures, although for the present, my journey in Wildlands comes to an end. This is my last post for the month, and now is a good time to note that I will be kicking April off with posts on Mō Ippon! and Char’s Counterattack. I had originally intended to write about Mō Ippon! today, but failed to account for the fact that this series has thirteen episodes rather than twelve – this post in Wildlands was actually scheduled for May, but this mixup has resulted in a change of plans, and I am glad to have gotten this one squared away.

With the capture of El Sueño and every last region in Bolivia cleared, I’ve completed Wildlands to a satisfactory extent. Over the course of fifty-eight hours spanning ten months, I believe my experience in Wildlands was quite comprehensive, offering me a chance to finish a story that had begun six years earlier. In the process, my thoughts on Wildlands have changed for the better; following the beta, my impressions were skeptical, with the controls as being the biggest strike I had against the game. Taking cover was unintuitive, and vehicle controls were a bit wonky. However, as I made progress in Wildlands and became more familiar with the controls, I simply acclimatised to things, and in this way, I was able to appreciate the mechanics and complexity in the game that makes it a blast for solo and group players alike. With fifty-eight hours of Wildlands behind me, the incredible work that went into making Bolivia a living, breathing world is apparent in small details within the environment, and AI behaviour in the game creates a highly immersive, compelling experience. Befitting an open-world game, players have nearly unlimited freedom in choosing how they’d like to approach a given problem, and the game doesn’t punish players for a style. Sneaking into an enemy facility undetected is incredibly satisfying, but so is fending off entire waves of foes if one’s cover is broken. Overall, Wildlands ends on a very satisfying and instructive note, and for sixteen dollars (ten for Wildlands, and six more for the Fallen Ghosts DLC), I definitely feel that I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of Wildlands. With this being said, I still have yet to complete the Fallen Ghost DLC – I originally picked this up to unlock the MDR and BFG-50A, the latter of which is a game-changer that revolutionises how one approaches things, but otherwise, have not begun seeing what the expansion content offers from a storytelling perspective. Further to this, as a result of a sale, my best friend picked up both The Division 2 (including the Warlords of New York expansion) and Wildlands (with the Fallen Ghosts expansion). Because both games support cooperative play, I am looking forwards to revisiting familiar locales with said friend – having played through both solo and thoroughly experienced the narratives, it will be fun to see what results with a squad-mate.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: Returning to Montuyoc and Conquering Koani’s Salt Flats Six Years After the Open Beta

“Usually, there is nothing more pleasing that returning to a place where you have endured hardship.” –Tahir Shah

On a cold winter’s evening six years earlier, the Wildlands open beta drew to a close. By this time, I’d fully finished exploring the starting region and Montuyoc, a high-altitude, barren province distinguished by the presence of a single large lake at its heart, and in the desert terrain, Santa Blanca makes this place home of their training facilities. The desolate, but beautiful landscape here was quite memorable, and when then open beta ended, I was confident that would be the last time I’d ever set foot in Montuyoc. Six years later, my journey through Wildlands has brought me back to Montuyoc: upon venturing into a vast, mountainous landscape devoid of vegetation and gazing out over the nearly-circular lake at the heart of this province, memories came back to me. Back then, I was a half-year into work with my first start-up, and we’d just pivoted away from providing 3D medical visualisations, which had been something I’d specialised in during graduate school, and moved towards use of Apple’s HealthKit SDK to provide clinicians with a means of efficiently capturing surveys from patients. By this point in my career, I had delivered my first-ever iOS app to a Denver-based computational oncology firm, providing the groundwork for their platform to have a patient-facing client, and through discussions with this firm, it was found that there was potential for electronic surveys using HealthKit, then a novel concept, to become widely used. A successful delivery and a clear path forward coincided with the running of Wildlands‘ open beta, and I found myself exploring Montuyoc a day after celebrating the start-up’s early wins (I spent an evening unwinding to handmade pizza and poker with the team). While the start-up would ultimately prove unsuccessful, my desire to return to Wildlands had endured over the years. I had longed to revisit Montuyoc under happier times, and now, with the full game available to me, my decision was to focus on completing the lower-difficulty regions first and build up enough of an arsenal to ensure that while visiting the higher-difficulty regions, I’d be able to evade Santa Blanca and Unidad patrols, or if the need arose, shoot a path to safety. My first incursion into a five-star difficulty region was met with immediate failure, and I had initially wondered if it was feasible for a solo player to explore these regions; in order to gain access to the under-boss and head of the Santa Blanca cartel, one must clear out the buchons in a region, and some of these buchons are located in the more challenging provinces.

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried: up until now, I’d depended almost entirely on my own patience, tactics and weapons to complete missions. I typically made use of the drone to scout out a base, entered quietly and slaughtered all within, then completed my objective. However, throughout the course of Wildlands, regions became more difficult. Patrols are more frequent, and bases begin equipping more sophisticated equipment, from alarm systems and gated security to anti-air missile platforms. Using the smaller toolset exclusively was not feasible, and I found myself being downed with nontrivial frequency. As it turns out, while exploring Bolivia, I’d also amassed a sizeable collection of skills and support options, too. The drone can be equipped with an EMP pulse, allowing players to disable alarms and generators from a distance without ever being spotted, or alternatively, outfitted with an explosive payload to deal lethal damage to objectives from afar. The AI squad accompanying players can be upgraded to perform more effectively in firefights and revive players more often. The rebels Nomad team have been helping out, through supply runs and side-missions, become increasingly lethal. When called in, they come in larger numbers and bring better equipment to keep Santa Blanca and Unidad occupied while Nomad completes their assignments. Mortar strikes from rebels allow Nomad to suppress difficult positions, and if one is in need of a ride, the rebels are happy to oblige. By making full use of Wildlands‘ options, players can craft solutions towards handling the mission at hand with greater confidence, and in this way, Wildlands does encourage players to use every tool at their disposal to handle a mission. More often than not, players settle into a routine of using the same tools and strategies to complete their objectives, and while a plethora of options mean players have a choice in how they wish to approach something, it also means that one can step out of their comfort zone to explore what’s available. This is one of the biggest draws about open world games, and in this area, Wildlands excels: by gradually increasing difficulty, the game naturally compels players to reach out and give more options a try, resulting in a significantly deeper and immersive experience.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The whole of Wildlands‘ Bolivia is beautifully-rendered. Here, I stand on the shores of a glacial lake in Inca Camina, a province located in the southwestern corner of the map. Despite being a six-year-old game, Wildlands still looks amazing – one can almost feel the brisk mountain air here. Such a sight was not possible six years earlier during the open beta, as only two regions were available to testers. In the past, Ubisoft tended to run their open betas during February, and full releases came out about a month later.

  • For me, open betas have often led me to picking up a title – by giving me a chance to see the gameplay, I was able to make a better call about things. With this being said, I ended up picking up Ubisoft’s titles during sales, and Wildlands was no different. The reasoning for this is that open world games take a bit of time to play through, and I admit that I was dissuaded by the fact that I will need to go back through all of the onboarding sequences and early missions. Once these first few missions are completed, however, the game really opens up.

  • While Wildlands and other Ubisoft titles like The Division are built on a game loop that feels repetitive (Wildlands, for instance, is a Ghost Recon branded Far Cry game), the fun of these games comes from the exploration element. There’s enough mission variety such that one is kept on their toes by a mission, and the large number of secondary missions available in each region are, strictly speaking, optional; one doesn’t need to capture every supply convoy or assist the rebels in every support mission in Wildlands in order to build up a toolset capable of taking the fight to Santa Blanca.

  • With this being said, taking on the secondary missions is highly useful because it gives players different perks. For instance, investing in the right skills makes a player much harder to detect and gain increased resistance to enemy fire. While a small increase may not appear substantial, being able to survive one additional bullet could mean the difference between successfully ducking behind cover, or dying and being forced to restart a mission. Similarly, unlocking some of the rebel support options can be a game-changer: once I gained access to helicopters, I could call one in and use it to quickly scout out a province, or very rapidly collect all of the weapons and attachments in a region.

  • This increased efficacy means that I’m actually down to the last three regions of Wildlands that still require completion, and while I technically can already take the fight to two of the Santa Blanca heads and force El Sueño’s appearance, I am aware that for best results, one should finish off before turning their attention to Santa Blanca’s leader. This was something that, six years ago, I didn’t think I’d get to do for myself. While Wildlands‘ open beta had impressed me, there were specifcs in the gameplay that I hadn’t been fond of, and a decided to sit Wildlands out.

  • In particular, I had stated that repetitive missions and wonky controls had diminished my interest in the game. However, these criticisms are only valid in the context of the beta: the retail game has a very wide range of missions. Beyond simple kill assignments, players might be asked to interrogate and intimidate an individual for information, capture and extract a high-value individual, destroy assets valuable to the cartel or my personal favourite, lure out a reclusive foe and shoot them down. Throughout these missions, players may see Bowman do increasingly questionable things to complete her task, and this leads one to wonder what may potentially happen after El Sueño is finally forced into the open.

  • On the other hand, my old remarks about the weapon mechanics in the game have remained consistent: weapons handle in a very satisfying manner in Wildlands, and I find immense satisfaction in landing a long-range shot from a distance on an unsuspecting foe. Over the past six years following the Wildlands beta, I found myself wondering more than once as to whether or not I should spring for the game, and last May, a chance sale convinced me that it was finally worth a return to Bolivia with Nomad team. I had originally planned to wait a year and see if Wildlands was right for me, but by 2018, things had become quite difficult on my end, and Wildlands fell to the back of my mind as other priorities appeared.

  • Folks reading through the posts I’ve written in February and Mach five years earlier will not see this mentioned anywhere – I don’t believe that it is necessary to write about all of the things in life,  but the time has come to share the story of what was happening for me back then. A year after the Wildlands open beta, my startup had made some costly choices, with the chiefest of them being the decision to hire a backend and Android developer who, quite frankly, had no competence in either backend or Android development. Three months after bringing this developer on board, we still had no prototype for an Android app, and the backend was a convoluted mess.

  • Despite these setbacks, I had been working on the iOS app that delivered our medical surveys, and this had intrigued a local health supplements manufacturer. Unfortunately, this developer had been invited to join the founder on a presentation, and during said presentation, the developer had stated that our app was incapable of the very things they were asking whereas in reality, I’d already had these features on iOS. The meeting killed any chance of a potential partnership being formed, and with it, any hopes of securing additional funding. This developer was summarily dismissed, but the damage was done. The founder would later confide in me that thanks to the work I had been involved with, there were other irons in the fire, and that the company’s winter would be behind us soon enough.

  • By this time five years ago, I attended a presentation of our software prototypes to prospective clients and investors: the university had been interested in the survey platform I’d been working on. This meeting had gone extremely well, and I still remember leaving the university’s medical campus in good spirits on that Friday afternoon – the founder was certain this was going to be our big break. Although things had been positive, and I spent a weekend enjoying The Division, at the time, funds were also starting to become very tight.

  • In the end, no deal with the university materialised, and by April, we pivoted yet again – this time, the founder was aiming to land a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). I recall a day where we’d walked down to their offices, and to them, the prospects of an app that could easily collect data from their clientele was enticing to the point where they had offered us both funding and office space. From a development standpoint, we were well-positioned for this, since at the time, we’d already had the foundations to build a successful app.

  • CHMA had hoped that by September of that year, we’d be able to deliver a prototype to them, and it had appeared we were back on track – an agreement was contingent on a working prototype, and we had most of the pieces in place from an app perspective. However, the aforementioned funding for my first start-up had been an issue, and by this point in the year, only I was still around full-time. Further to this, we were having trouble finding any back-end developers for the project. As it turns out, the computational oncology company I’d built an app for a few years earlier had run into a problem: their mobile developer unexpectedly resigned, leaving their app in a position where it couldn’t be released.

  • I was therefore brought on board to iron out the remaining list of issues (totalling twelve) and see the app through to its launch on the App Store. The price of this contract would inject a little cash into the start-up and allow us to get a backend developer, and I was told that the assignment wouldn’t be difficult. Longtime readers will be familiar with what happened next: I learnt that the issues in the app stemmed from a much deeper set of problems with the backend that a Winnipeg-based consultancy had developed, and fixing issues in the app made it abundantly clear the Winnipeg team had not delivered.

  • To mask this, the Winnipeg team did their best to shift the blame and give the impression that I was not doing my job. During one memorable demo, I had opened the app, only to find that the app was crashing because the expected keys from a JSON were changed. Fortunately for me, I had the presence of mind to record a video of the app working precisely as expected in the hour leading up to the demo, and I also had with me a capture of the Swagger documentation that precisely showed all of the expected keys in the JSON, plus a debug log of what was coming back now. From there on out, the computational oncology company allowed me to keep working on things and see the app to completion, while the Winnipeg team was forced to communicate their intentions more clearly.

  • Originally a six week project, the contract to get the app deployed onto the App Store took a grand total of twelve weeks and occupied enough of my time so that we completely missed the deadline for CMHA. By this point, I decided that I’d hit my limit and began looking around for new opportunities. When I had played through the Wildlands beta a year earlier, I had no way of foreseeing that this was the outcome that my first start-up would face, and after I managed to turn things around, I developed an interest to return to Wildlands and revisit the game under different circumstances. There is something cathartic about returning to something under happier times; this is what motivates the page quote.

  • Memories flooded back to me when I reached Montuyoc – the region looks identical to its open beta incarnation, right down to the springs adjacent to the large lake. Upon entering this province, I initially wondered if I was inadequately prepared to deal with the foes here; during an earlier session, I accidentally wandered into Media Luna in pursuit of a convoy and found myself overtaken by both Santa Blanca and Unidad forces. It wasn’t until later I learned that Media Luna was a five-star province in terms of difficulty. However, Montuyoc doesn’t have quite the same Unidad presence as does Media Luna, and as such, I was able to complete all of the missions on relatively short order.

  • With this being said, having the BFG-50A is a game-changer, and having now unlocked some of the other sniper rifles, I find that against vehicles, the BFG-50A has no peer. Even with vehicle damage bonuses present, the typical sniper rifle takes at least two rounds to destroy a pickup truck or SUV. On the other hand, the BFG-50A can take down all but the heaviest of vehicles in a single shot. This meant it was possible for me to one-shot Unidad helicopters and travel through Montuyoc unchallenged. In this way, I was able to reach and eliminate Carl Bookhart without any difficulty.

  • For this post, I’ve decided to check out the other region that I’d long been curious to check out: Koani (not to be confused with KyoAni, the venerable anime studio that’s graced the world with masterpiece anime like K-On! and CLANNAD). Koani is located in the farthest reaches of Wildlands‘ Bolivia and is composed of arid mountains to the east. To the west, the province is dominated by a vast salt pan stretching out as far as the eye can see. In real life, Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt pan and is known for its rich lithium content, which Santa Blanca are mining in Wildlands.

  • Owing to engine limitations, Koani’s salt flats do not flood – during rainfall events in Salar de Uyuni, a thin layer of water on the surface of a salt pan creates a breath-taking sight. Wildlands has dynamic weather, and I have noticed that when it rains, the ground does develop wetness rainfall accumulates. However, I’ve never seen rain in Koani before, and even if it did, I don’t think the water will linger on the ground to create a natural mirror of unparalleled beauty.

  • My interest in Koani actually comes from YouTube videos I watched shortly after Wildlands released in full – LevelCap had joined a squad with Matimi0 and JackFrags and were playing through Koani in one of their videos. With a squad, Wildlands becomes a veritable riot as dynamic events in the game, coupled with the variability of human players, create for some emergent, unexpected moments in the game that wind up being quite memorable. Besides more people to share amusing moments with, having human players makes taking on some tasks easier, since they are more flexible than the AI squad members.

  • With this being said, Wildlands is more than playable from a solo perspective, and it is in this area that Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy-branded games excel – while the games become a significantly more enjoyable experience when played with others, one can still become highly immersed in things when playing on their own. For me, the AI squad-mates are most valuable for their ability to do sync-shots, where one can assign a maximum of three targets that the AI will specifically target. This allows one to swiftly take down up to four people at once without being spotted. While there’s a cooldown here that doesn’t happen when playing with human squadmates, the AI in Wildlands is such that they can reach positions where they’re ready to fire much more quickly than humans can.

  • Koani proved to be a fun province to explore and fight through. There was one mission that proved most irksome: the task was to fly a stolen plane from the airfield back over to Media Luna, and it was here that I began to understand why Media Luna was so challenging for me. The entire province is crawling with SAM batteries, and while these automated anti-air missiles are slow-moving and have limited tracking (they can be dodged), they nonetheless pose a threat to helicopters and propeller-powered aircraft. I’ve managed to dodge them before, and losing a helicopter or supply aircraft isn’t usually a problem.

  • However, it was very irksome to lose an aircraft during a story mission, forcing me to restart things from a checkpoint. In the end, I managed to complete that particular mission after a few tries. Here, I comment that in Wildlands, flight controls have contributed to some missions being more difficult than others. Helicopters are relatively easy to control, but the single-prop planes are quite tricky to fly, and early in the game, I crashed my share of planes in trying to learn how to use them. While I could have circumvented that by focusing on the helicopter supply missions, I am ultimately glad to have taken some time to familiarise myself with the flight controls because this was helpful in a Koani mission.

  • One devious trick I employed as the regions got more difficult was to go and select a mission, but then deselect the mission. This allowed me to find a spot for some missions, clear them out of any hostiles, and then come in and complete whatever my task was without being detected or impeded. This only works in some scenarios, but it did make some of the missions significantly more straightforward to complete. While this might be seen as “gaming the system”, I see it as taking advantage of limitations in the game mechanics to make things a little easier for myself.

  • Whereas LevelCap, Matimi0 and JackFrags flew into the train cemetery in a helicopter and alerted the whole place to their presence, then laughed off the ensuing chaos, I snuck in, and with the unerring accuracy on the MDR, picked foes off until I could get close enough to my quarry. There’s no right or wrong way of playing Wildlands, and in fact, thanks to the flexibility available in Wildlands, I am finding myself wondering if one of my friends would’ve been interested in this game, which is admittedly outside of his area of interest. A few months ago, my friend had purchased a new laptop that came with a voucher for a Modern Warfare II promotion, but thanks to hangups with Intel and the retailer, he never got the key for the game.

  • It is a shame that my friend wasn’t able to get a complimentary copy of Modern Warfare II; while I have my doubts that Modern Warfare II will receive the same support as Modern Warfare did, the campaign is very enjoyable to play, and the co-op missions, despite not allowing for custom loadouts, offers a bit of fun, even if the variety is limited. Fortunately for my friend, his backlog of games is, like mine, staggeringly large, and at the very least, his current laptop will have no problems in running anything he wishes to. I’d love to be able to co-op with my friend in Wildlands: although the game’s higher-difficulty regions would give him some trouble, I’d be present, and we’d be romping through Bolivia like we owned it in no time at all.

  • For the present, however, I am going to continue my journey solo: my friend’s backlog is large enough without me adding to things. This screenshot here captures the scope and scale of the salt flats in Koani: the salt pan is so large that the mountains across the pan are simply not visible, and the blue skies seem to stretch out to infinity. I have driven vehicles here before, and it is quite fun to be able to drive at full speed without worrying about hitting something.

  • In the end, aside from a few hiccoughs here and there, I had no trouble beating Koani, and at present, I have only two more regions left to complete before all of the underbosses and section bosses are available. My plan for Wildlands is, after beating El Sueño, I will go back through and look at all of the additional special missions that have appeared on my world map, and then as time permits, I will also explore and write about the Fallen Ghosts DLC. While the MDR and BFG-50A’s performance have already made this DLC worth it, the actual Fallen Ghosts provides more heft to the story and extends out the Wildlands experience further.

  • My timing with Wildlands couldn’t be better: we’re on March’s doorstep now, and I have a special post in mind as we approach Girls und Panzer‘s tenth anniversary. Between all of the decade anniversary posts and the fact I’ve joined the local photography association a few months ago, things are going to ramp up as winter recedes and spring arrives: just yesterday, I volunteered to be a videographer for my old Chinese school’s annual banquet event, and while my lack of familiarity with the smartphone stabliser I was loaned meant I messed up a few shots, overall, it was an instructive evening. and I later learnt that the photography association is relatively new to video, making for a valuable learning experience. I could bring something new to the table if I take up videography, all the while learning how to take better landscape photos.

  • I believe now, my best move will be to pick up a smartphone stabliser of my own and become comfortable with using one: while I had been looking at getting a DSLR camera, it turns out that my iPhone 14 Pro’s 48 MP camera array is said to be comparable to a DSLR camera for daytime landscape shots. Once I learn more about shot composition and really get into photography, that will be when I invest in a proper full-frame camera. Back in Wildlands, I take aim at Boston Reed’s helicopter. In the absence of the BFG-50A, I imagine one would wait for him to circle the area before using whatever arms they had to shoot him down, but in my case, I was able to blow him out of the sky in a single round. Next I write about Wildlands, I will be dealing with my thoughts on the game and its themes; I’ve seen some interesting things throughout my journey that are worth mentioning.

At the time of writing, I have only five more regions to complete in order to lure out the under-bosses and section heads. Wildlands has proven to be remarkably enjoyable, and at this point, I’ve got enough of a toolset unlocked so that I now approach new regions with confidence, rather than doubt. In this way, I was able to complete Montuyoc a second time and advance to a province that I’d long been curious to visit. In a video dating back almost six years, I watched LevelCap, accompanied by Matimi0 and JackFrags, flying over what seemed to be an endless salt flat in a helicopter. The mission objective was to recon a train cemetery. The three discuss whether or not they’d rather just stay in the air and hammer their foes from below, but a sudden explosion forces them to land. After much laughter, the decision is made to continue on foot, and the video cuts to a medication air transport side-mission. LevelCap, JackFrags and Matimi0 later return to the salt flats to locate an important figure under the cover of darkness. Seeing this level of fun to be had led me to wonder what the remainder of Wildlands was like, and in the present day, I found my answer. The salt flats of Bolivia are set in the Koani province, and having now had the chance to complete the same missions I’d watched years earlier, I can say that, even on my own, Wildlands is a riot, being full of unexpected surprises at every turn. I marvel at how on some missions or escapades, I can sneak through an entire Santa Blanca or Unidad base undetected, and on other occasions, I’ve enjoyed a few good laughs from unexpected deaths resulting from my own carelessness. In fact, my most memorable moment comes from shooting down a Unidad helicopter and turning away, only to get buried by the helicopter’s remains in a way that prevented the AI squad from reviving me. Despite being an older game, Ghost Recon Wildlands is continually refreshing, and at present, I’m on track to finishing the game within a year of purchasing it.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: Clearing The Heart Of Bolivia and The Road To New Challenges

“In our age, there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” –George Orwell

Flying over Bolivia, the dense jungles beneath suddenly give way to a rocky desert. All attention turns towards a convoy of trucks driving along one of the craggy roads, and I move ahead of the lead vehicle before setting down the helicopter. I equip my drone, manoeuvre it just in front of the truck carrying medical supplies, and fire off a crippling EMP blast, stopping the convoy cold in its tracks. Switching over to my BFG-50A, I disable the escort vehicles and pick off stragglers, finally securing the truck. Nomad Team comments on how the supplies will help the rebels out, and for my troubles, I gain more points to spend on an increasingly large library of skills that will make the journey towards apprehending El Sueño possible. With this goal done, I turn my attention to the evening’s next task: picking up a new weapon attachment located in a remote hut perched on the side of a mountain. Ghost Recon Wildlands has proceeded in this manner for the past few months, and outside of the story missions, my time spent in game has proven to be immensely cathartic as I gambol around the countryside, exploring to my heart’s content. It suddenly strikes me that, while Wildlands‘ main story and premise meant that the game invites political discussion, the open world environment and ability to proceed at my own pacing has meant that, outside of the tense moments during story missions and the dialogue that Nomad team exchanges with handler Olivia Bowman, the verdant jungles and remote mountains of Wildlands‘ Bolivia feels remarkably removed from the endless debates and discussions that characterises political discourse. The sharp contrast here in Wildlands offers credence to the idea that not all art and media is necessarily political; one’s thoughts are unlikely to be about how their actions may impact a policy-maker a continent away when they’re sneaking through a village by a tranquil-looking pond in search of Santa Blanca medals or weapon attachments.

Where Wildlands does have Nomad team conversing with Bowman about mission objectives, or the implications of the latest successful assignment, insight is given into Santa Blanca and how the player’s actions are affecting the bigger picture. Taking out a contingent of Santa Blanca submarines will cripple their ability to smuggle narcotics, while capturing a social media influencer stymies Santa Blanca’s ability to spread propaganda. Nomad’s actions yield a tangible change and slowly pave the path towards capturing El Sueño. It is important to note that it is through the player’s actions that advance things, and in this way, Wildlands (or any other game with a large political component) speaks to the fact that all change is the consequence of tangible action, rather than words. To this end, Wildlands shows that it is ultimately through the player’s actions and decisions that Santa Blanca’s hold over Bolivia is lessened, and to drive this point home, Bowman is operating in the field alongside Nomad, rather than directing the team from the comfort of an air-conditioned office in Langley. This is the case in reality: although the media gives the impression that politicians are getting material work done while in office, more often than not, the average politician accomplishes very little. Wildlands therefore acts as a show of how it is the people down in the weeds who get the most useful work done, even if they won’t be recognised for their contributions later. During one assignment, one of Nomad team comments on how it’d be nice to have a statue erected in their honour for what they’ve done to make the world a better place, only for another squad member to reply that as Ghost Recon units, they’re not supposed to exist, much less be remembered. The situation Nomad team’s members find themselves in is a mirror of reality: the people who get the work done and are deserving of the credit are also those whose contributions are forgotten as politicians and the media scramble to occupy the limelight. However, in spite of this, seeing that one’s work has a tangible, positive impact makes it worth doing, irrespective of whether or not one is credited, and virtue is its own reward. For me, it is sufficient to know that I did something that was of value to someone else, and it was therefore pleasant to see Wildlands mirroring this notion.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I’ve been recently sidetracked by Modern Warfare II, still have yet to make my way through Metro: Exodus‘ DLC content and recently picked up a complementary copy of Star Wars: Squadrons through a promotion on the Epic Store, I’ve not forgotten my commitment to finish Wildlands to the best of my ability. Since last time, I’ve cleared out all of the three-star difficulty areas in Bolivia and have made some progress towards acquiring enough skills so I can take on the four and five star areas.

  • The four and five star areas don’t feature tougher enemies that can take more damage or hit harder, but instead, are more heavily patrolled. Santa Blanca and Unidad bases have more guard towers, alarm systems and generators, and they’ve got a more extensive network anti-air missiles. In these situations, having additional skills means being able to better identify where foes and points of interest are, before taking them out without being detected.

  • The EMP drone becomes an incredibly valuable tool in a player’s arsenal, since it can fly undetected into the heart of hostile territory and trigger an EMP that disables alarms. Once alarms are disabled, the patient player can then pick off snipers and methodically move into the base to complete their objectives. Three-star areas are the perfect place to practise one’s techniques, since the bases here are reasonably secure, but not so secure that any misstep will result in enemy helicopters being deployed to one’s area.

  • At present, I’m still currently using the MDR as my primary weapon, with the BFG-50A being an excellent secondary weapon – I’ve not made enough progress in Wildlands to begin the Fallen Ghosts expansion content, but the weapon unlocks this DLC provides are top tier. Although any other assault rifle could fulfil a similar role as the MDR does, there’s something about the MDR that makes it an especially appealing to use.

  • With the right gear and skills, Wildlands settled into a very relaxing pattern for me – I would go into a region in a helicopter and scout around to find all of the places where intel were, then pick up said intel. After I had an idea of where all of the campaign missions, skill points and weapon cases were, it was time to collect everything and finish the missions off. The variety of missions continued to impress, and there is actually more challenge in the missions where the objective isn’t to eliminate a target.

  • Beyond this, Nomad team’s objectives in Wildlands felt very cut-and-dried: in fact, listening to the exchange between the AI squad gave the distinct impression that for Nomad team, lighting up Santa Blanca cartel and Unidad alike was just another day at the office for these operators. While the dialogue is purely meant to create additional immersion, it did get me thinking, and this is what eventually led to the choice of topic for this post.

  • From the sounds of things, Nomad team is simply carrying out an assignment. While they’re special operators that act in the interests of the United States, despite being given near total freedom in how they go about finishing their work, their goal is simply to serve their nation by following orders. For Nomad team, politics is unlikely at the forefront of their thoughts when they’re sneaking through the jungle to avoid detection, or flying over from one spot to another. Being professionals, Nomad team is more worried about getting their job done, and while some moments do have them asking questions, for the most part, Nomad team sees their work the same way the typical person sees their own occupations.

  • This got me thinking: on a day-to-day basis, I’m not worried about politics or current events. Instead, I’m concerned most about what my tasks are, and how to get those done. While I do think about the bigger picture where required (e.g. ahead of meetings), for the most part, my focus on the typical day is implementing a given feature or sorting out a bug. This is partly because after a hard day’s work, the mind is in need of some rest and relaxation. Talking about current events is the polar opposite of this: political discussions can become very heated, and arguing with people is very draining, so the well-exercised mind tends to avoid these sorts of things .

  • There’s little time to be worried about what’s happening halfway around the world, and at the end of the day, I only read the news so I’ve got basic awareness of what’s happening. I’ve never understood why some people are so insistent on making their opinions of current events known to others, but after looking around, it turns out there’s one combination of traits that makes it seem like politics is a bigger deal than it is.

  • People without a focus or tangible objective in their lives may latch onto perceived problems and devote themselves into voicing concern for said issues. This happens because the human mind is inherently wired towards problem-solving and overcoming difficulties, so where there are no challenges to face, the mind may fabricate challenges to keep busy. This is the origin of the axiom, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; individuals with nothing to do might channel that restlessness into unproductive or harmful activities.

  • Coupled with the fact that social media makes it possible for most anyone to have an audience, the elements are in place for a social problem. While social media is not inherently evil, the problems it brought to the table resulted from the fact that ordinary people could suddenly become someone of note through virality. Traditionally, anyone who came to prominence did so because they were exceptional in their field and had the right amount of luck. On the other hand, social media algorithms pick content that elicits the most reactions, and since people tend to investigate the most emotionally charged content, polarising, shocking and misleading materials tends to be promoted. It is no joke when I note that a lot of folks out there don’t deserve their followers or audience.

  • The end result of this is that social media, far from being a meritocratic platform where the most useful content becomes visible, ended up becoming a place where extremist rhetoric and misinformation dominated. Those who post such materials do so not because they wish to legitimately inform, but because they believe they are owed an audience and validation. The combination of extreme opinions and a desire for attention results in an endless stream of online vitriol, one where there is no room for moderation. Perspectives such as mine are inevitably drowned out, and there is little opportunity to learn about sides to an argument that isn’t my own.

  • This phenomenon isn’t limited to social media, as online forums see disagreement of similar proportions. At TV Tropes, for instance, some members believed that the presence of like-minded individuals who enjoy writing lists of media tropes should have meant that any discussion on politics and current events at TV Tropes would automatically “[leave] one intellectually simulated, knowing [the users] had a productive and entertaining conversation”. In reality, the idea of any conversation at TV Tropes being intellectually stimulating is dubious at best because a vast majority of TV Tropes’ userbase lacks any real-world experience. As a result, most of the political and current events topics rapidly devolve into pandemonium as a result of users pushing their worldviews over others, versus making a sincere effort to communicate and understand other perspectives.

  • Similarly, over at AnimeSuki, political “discourse” isn’t very helpful. One “mangamuscle” operates under the belief that intelligent discussion consists of calling political leaders names and constantly reiterating that certain nations are evil. While those mangamuscle and similar-minded people believe themselves to be engaged in legitimate discussion, people like these are why I hold that a disinterest in politics most certainly doesn’t render one less intelligent or knowledgable: I hardly consider name-calling to be a hallmark of a “productive and entertaining” conversation.

  • Generally speaking, whether individuals participate in internet discussions about politics or current events, unless there is a clear desire to listen and learn from all parties, I’ve found that it’s best not to participate at all. Avoiding those who aim to shock and anger, and those who presume to lecture, isn’t especially difficult – most of the time, people post extreme content in the hope of driving engagement and validation, so if one isn’t going to reply, retweet or vote, then it would show both the originator and viewers that a given idea simply isn’t worth even the simple click of a mouse. At scale, the originator may eventually lose interest in the topic if they aren’t getting the desired reaction from posting about things.

  • More tricky to handle are those individuals who have an agenda to push and a formal background in political sciences or similar – Mark “Ominae” Soo is one user who frequents both TV Tropes and AnimeSuki, and in his forum posts, he makes it a point of posting news articles that are highly critical of one of the world’s nations. While I’m no stranger to this behaviour, Ominae has stated that he’s currently pursuing a Master’s of Strategic Studies at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and plan on a career in defense intelligence, with the hope of joining the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) one day. Given his goals, it is likely that Ominae is part of a larger, organised effort towards influencing online individuals into agreeing with the media’s lies.

  • Because individuals like Ominae appear to look like they know what they’re talking about, one may be tempted to agree with them: someone enrolled in strategic studies will constantly be working with military and security issues, and therefore have a strong knowledge of the area. Unfortunately, if one also possesses a very firmly-held set of biases, this can be highly detrimental – Ominae’s background allows him to be confident in his knowledge, but at the same time, Ominae also refuses to hear out other opinions, especially from those outside of the field. Individuals like these are therefore ill-suited for any sort of decision-making role at CSIS; if one allows their decision-making to be guided by ideology rather than fact, the public will inevitably come to harm.

  • As a result, I cannot say I’m inclined to see people like Mark Soo succeed in their aspirations. It is admittedly frustrating that some people strive to make a career out of promoting untruths and hatred for personal gain, but at the same time, I also acknowledge that there are simply not enough hours in the day to concern myself with these sorts of things. Posts like these are about the extent that I’ll write about outside of my area of interest – my typical modus operandi is to look at the shows and games I like, but occasionally, I find that it is helpful for me to get my thoughts on topics like where I stand on talking about politics and current events here.

  • The short of it is that no, I won’t be sharing my thoughts on the things that go on in the world, and when I do write about politics, it will be strictly within the realm of whatever work I am discussing. For instance, I am willing to share my thoughts on the narcotics trade and government responses to it in the context of Wildlands, but I won’t delve into my thoughts on the Canadian government’s legalisation of cannabis. I do not believe I can offer a vigorous, satisfactory account of why I hold the beliefs that I do in the blog post format, and for this reason, I tend to avoid bringing up current events.

  • When it does come to something I am knowledgable about, I am much more willing to explain myself. For instance, I am a major proponent of the delegation pattern in iOS development because it allows me to pass information between view controllers sharing a common navigation controller, and the approach, when done correctly, results in clean code (in turn improving maintainability and readability). This is something I can defend because I have experience in the area. Thus, in order to avoid troubling readers with ideas I’m not an expert in, I choose not to mention about real-world politics and the like within my posts.

  • With this, I hope to have given readers a satisfactory account of why I don’t talk about politics here. In my twelve plus years of blogging, this approach has served me well enough, and I therefore see little incentive to change things up. It’s more fun to talk about the things that I enjoy doing, and here, I will remark that Wildlands has a considerable amount of activities in it. Even in the regions I’ve cleared, there are plenty of secondary missions to complete, and they offer rewards that help with gameplay. Completing all of them will take a considerable amount of time, and I’ve determined that it is probably more time-effective if I were to complete enough of the secondary missions to get at the skills best suited for my style and move on to the tougher regions.

  • On several occasions, I have previously ventured into the four and five star regions unintentionally – this happens when I’m pursuing a convoy, and while I usually end up capturing my target, the problems would show up if I foolishly decided it’d be a good idea to also raid a nearby Unidad or Santa Blanca base. In this way, I would get my face pasted into the ground, and while at this point, I’ve dumped enough skill points into the AI squad tree so that I can get two revives, dying in a place where it’s not feasible to be revived and safely get out has left me wishing for a “skip revive” option at times.

  • Outside of these most harrowing of moments, I am free to explore Bolivia at my own pace. Previously, the game had looked amazing on a GTX 1060, but with everything maxed out on an RTX 3060 Ti, the visuals look almost photorealistic. Over the past few months, NVIDIA’s Lovelace high-end GPUs have launched, and more recently, news of the RTX 4060 Ti have reached my ears. Assuming the rumours are correct, the RTX 4060 Ti is supposed to perform similarly to an RTX 3070 and sell for the exact same price point of 499 USD. In this case, the RTX 4060 Ti would be completely underwhelming – the RTX 3060 Ti had retailed for 399 USD and is almost as performant as the RTX 2080 Super, an impressive leap in technology.

  • Similarly, the GTX 1060 had been impressive because it had around 90 percent of the GTX 980’s performance for half the price. As such, when it is possible that the RTX 4060 Ti will only match a RTX 3070 in performance and demand the same cost, there is little incentive to wait for the Lovelace series. All of the news means that my decision to pick up my current video card back in September was a good decision, and the RTX 3060 Ti is expected to last me a very long time. Out of curiosity, I took a gander to see if the MSI Gaming X variant of the card I had was still available, and it seems that they are completely sold out now.

  • Weather patterns do impact Wildlands, and one can find themselves in the midst of a rainstorm even from perfectly clear skies like these. I remember that during my time spent in the open beta, rain had hit me almost immediately after clearing the first mission, and Wildlands had been detailed enough to render players’ clothing becoming wet from the rainfall. For my screenshots, however, I prefer taking them under clear skies: Bolivia looks wonderful, and the deep blue skies evokes a summer-like feeling. While playing under full daylight means that stealth becomes trickier, they do make for easier screenshots. On the other hand, if there’s a high-stakes mission, I will reset the map and wait for nightfall before beginning an assignment.

  • Side-missions in Wildlands are fun, and give players a chance to let loose: on most missions, having a suppressor is mandatory to preserve stealth and avoid alerting foes to one’s presence. There is a skill upgrade that results in suppressed weapons dealing identical damage to unsuppressed weapons, and by this point in Wildlands, I’ve unlocked it, so there’s actually no need to ever remove my suppressors. With this being said, there is something satisfying about going loud. Some of the rebel-related missions do entail fighting off waves of Santa Blanca enforcers, and it is here where I find the most use for an unsuppressed LMG.

  • When free-roaming, I tend to run the BFG-50A without a suppressor: the gun is the hardest-hitting rifle in the whole of Wildlands, and its report when firing reflects the sheer amount of damage this weapon can do. This gun has been a game-changer, and coupled with the fact I’ve maxed out my anti-vehicle damage, air vehicles are no longer a problem for me. Similarly, I can leave an entire convoy of foes as a smouldering ruin without much difficulty.

  • In a manner of speaking, the Fallen Ghosts DLC has allowed me to play Wildlands with increased flexibility, and this has, in turn, allowed me to progress at a smarter pace. With this being said, however, my map indicates that I’ve actually yet to deal with any of the higher-ranking Santa Blanca members. I imagine that for some of the buchons, some of the missions won’t entail any shooting, so I am curious to see how things turn out once I clear out the rest of Bolivia’s tougher areas. I have a feeling that it is better to clear out all of the buchons, versus just taking down enough to force El Sueño’s hand.

  • The takeaway from this jumble of a post is simple enough – I don’t like participating in online discussions of current event owing to the overwhelming ignorance and prejudices out there (as mangamuscle of AnimeSuki has been kind enough to demonstrate), and I see no reason to mention my own opinions regarding current events in a given blog post because they are neither here nor there. Beyond this, I do appreciate how Wildlands does suggest that politics or not, it is ultimately individual action that makes the difference, and as such, I find myself excited to continue on with this game.

  • The missions ahead will certainly be trickier than anything I’ve faced up until now, but at the same time, I’ve also got access to a wide array of skills and a better understanding of my arsenal. With this being said, these are interesting times – Battlefield 2042 has reintroduced the class system and implemented something in line with what I’d been hoping for, while Modern Warfare II just announced a new Japan-themed DMZ map, and while I’ve no previous DMZ experience, the map is intriguing enough for me to give it a go. I’ve also reached the halfway point in Sam’s Story in Metro Exodus‘ expansion content, and things have kept me quite engaged. I am, in short, very busy, but I should definitely make some time to push further in Wildlands – I’ve been itching to go back to Montuyoc, and it does look as though I’ve got the weapons and skills needed to survive there.

Longtime readers will likely wonder why I do not discuss current events, specifically, federal policy and foreign affairs here, even where some of the topics I write about are more conducive towards such conversations. The main reason behind this is that as a blogger, I have a responsibility to readers. My aims are to be truthful and fair, and political discourse stands contrary to these goals because, in the absence of any vigorous evidence, anything I state is strictly opinion. This blog’s core focus are anime and games, and while I may occasionally offer some of my thoughts on the systems anime and games present, stepping into things like foreign affairs is outside the scope of my discussion: readers come here to see what I make of a character and their place in a given story, or perhaps pick up trivia on the differences between a Barrett M82A1 and an M95. Beyond this, it is not my place to rattle off my personal beliefs and demand viewers listen to said beliefs, especially since I am no expert in many of the things I hold an opinion in. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some hold that they have an obligation to talk about politics because these matters impact them in some way. While is true to a limited extent, talking about things on social media or forums won’t change anything, and instead, my only obligations are to keep abreast of things and respond accordingly. I find that folks who spend a considerable amount of time writing about their beliefs online are doing the least amount of useful work while at the same time, making the largest effort in an attempt to look relevant. Simply put, people who do not spend time on forums, Reddit or Twitter trying to persuade others of their beliefs or spreading a certain brand of thought, have more time to get legitimate work done. As Wildlands suggests, those who prefer maintaining a low profile and fulfilling their obligations are the folks who will affect positive change most effectively, and even if they’re not going to be recognised or celebrated for their contributions, the importance of their actions cannot be understated.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: The Dynames Loadout and Reflections on Retiring a Workhorse GPU

“Skills are skills; the same way tools are tools. How they are used defines the user, not the tools.” –Megan Derr

Folks familiar with Gundam 00 will remember the Dynames, one of the lead Gundams that was equipped for long-range anti mobile suit combat: the Dynames carries a GN Sniper Rifle and in Gundam 00, pilot Lockon Stratos utilises it to provide fire support at range, disabling and destroying mobile suits from such distances that return fire is not feasible. For close-quarters combat, the Dynames also carried a pair of GN Beam Pistols – these had a much higher rate of fire than the GN Sniper Rifle, and despite being significantly less powerful on a per-shot basis, could still deal serious damage to enemy mobile suits. Owing to its loadout and specialisation towards a marksman role, the Dynames remains a fan-favourite: the Dynames’ weapons are most faithful to loadouts that can be equipped in contemporary titles, and in Ghost Recon Wildlands, players can mirror the Dynames loadout by carrying a sniper rifle into combat with any pistol. Because Wildlands is a game of stealth and patience, the sniper rifle becomes the single most important tool in any player’s loadout: one can use these rifles in conjunction with a suppressor to pick off foes from extreme distances and whittle down the size of an enemy force guarding points of interest with only a low risk for retaliation, or target things like alarm towers and take them offline to prevent foes from calling in reinforcements. However, similarly to the Dynames’ handling characteristics, sniper rifles take a modicum of skill to use, and in Wildlands, sniper rounds are impacted by bullet drop. To make the most of these precision tools requires patience and familiarity with a rifle’s characteristics, but at the same time, folks willing to master their rifles will find an incredibly versatile and powerful tool for clearing out entire areas without being spotted, making easier to complete objectives and fade back into the shadows as Ghosts are wont to doing.

Having spent most of my time in Wildlands with the M40A5, I found a tool that was quite tricky to use – players can find the M40A5 early on and immediately gain access to a solid long-range option, but players do not have access to the higher magnification optics, which limits the weapon’s utility. Further to this, because bullet drop is quite pronounced, it may take beginners time to acclimatise, and the M40A5’s bolt-action mechanism means that the weapon is very unforgiving when it comes to missed shots. To be a sniper is to invest effort into learning the weapon’s traits and positioning oneself so some of the weapon’s shortcomings can be mitigated. However, the payoff for learning the techniques behind being a good marksman is enormous – a good sniper can eliminate threats that can result in a much less desirable direct firefight, and getting used to the M40A5’s traits provides one with an instructive experience, one that carries over to Wildlands‘ other sniper rifles. As one acquires more sniper rifles, the course of Wildlands changes: faster-firing semi-automatic rifles are effective for engaging multiple targets sequentially, while the bolt-action rifles provide exceptional stopping power that make them useful against armoured foes and materiel. Of note are Wildlands‘ 50-calibre rifles, which are so powerful, they can one-shot vehicles, and of these rifles, I’ve unlocked the BFG-50A as a result of having made the decision to pick up the Fallen Ghosts DLC a few weeks earlier, when the package went on sale for six dollars (down from its usual twenty). The BFG-50A comes with all of its attachments and optics unlocked, so the problem of needing a dedicated high-magnification optic evaporates, and because the BFG-50A is semi-automatic, it is more forgiving of missed shots compared to the M40A5. With its fifty calibre rounds, high power scope and an increased rate of fire, the BFG-50A has completely altered the way I approach situations in Wildlands. I can destroy alarm boxes from a great distance and not worry about reinforcements showing up, and if things become a little too heated, I can blow Unidad and Santa Blanca helicopters out of the sky trivially. In this way, Wildlands now feels completely different: while skill and experience are doubtlessly essentials, having improved equipment cannot be understated. Many missions that would’ve felt intimidating now feel more straightforward, and while I take great pride in completing my assignments with what is available to me, both in games and reality, I will not deny the joys of having access to better gear.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post on Wildlands is the last one where I’ll be using the venerable GTX 1060 to capture my screenshots: this video card had been an incredible deal and offered superb value for its price tag. When it released, the GTX 1060 traded with the GTX 980 for half the price. I still remember having some difficulty in procuring one – the card was released in July 2016, and I ended up picking one up in late August. However, compared to the situation in the present day, things back in 2016 were a little more straightforward, and I still remember giving DOOM and Battlefield 4 a spin, being impressed to find that I was able to maintain very smooth framerates even with everything maxed out.

  • When I built my current desktop back in March, I decided to go without a video card and reused the GTX 1060: it still performs just fine, although there are definitely situations now where the frame rates begin dropping. My decision to pick up the RTX 3060 Ti was motivated largely by the fact that my local computer store was doing a sale on the MSI Gaming X card: the card ordinarily retails for 730 CAD, but on that one day, it was going for 110 dollars off, dropping the price down to 620 CAD. This puts it the closest to the MSRP I’ve seen since the card launched, and after weighing my options, I felt that the card would be more than adequate for my requirements.

  • The decision was also based on answering the problem of whether or not I’d pick up a perfectly suitable upgrade now, with a known price, power draw and certain availability, versus waiting for the RTX 4060, a more powerful card that is rumoured to draw up to 230 Watts when under load, but supposedly only offers marginal gains over the RTX 3060 Ti. Between the (speculated) underwhelming performance for a video card of its class, coupled with unknown availability and prices, I felt it wiser to hedge my bets on the RTX 3060 Ti. Thus, I ended up picking the MSI Gaming X RTX 3060 Ti up last Wednesday, and the next day, the price had increased to 650 CAD.

  • This left me immensely grateful to have caught wind of the deal when I did, and with this acquisition, my new PC build is fully completed and ready to shine, just in time for winter. Over the past summer, I’ve spent a great deal of time capitalising on the long days to explore and enjoy culinary experiences that were unavailable for the past two years, but as the summer gives way to autumn, and then winter, I will be spending more time inside to escape the frigid Canadian winter. Although I enjoy the outdoors very much, when the thermometer dips below -40ºC with windchill, I prefer unwinding with a good virtual experience.

  • Contributing in part to the swiftness of my decision was the fact that I had read extensively on video cards within my budget and performance expectations, so when the flash sale came, I could pull the trigger quickly. With the RTX 3060 Ti, I am confident this new machine will gracefully handle what I have to throw at it, including the upcoming Modern Warfare II title, and in a rare moment, I also will remark here, with a degree of smugness, that my completed PC is about thirty percent more powerful than that of Awkventurer’s while at the same time, costing a third less.

  • Awkventurer is a travel influencer and streamer who produces solid content, but had taken to Reddit to ask for suggestions when building a new machine. At Reddit, Millillion offered incomplete advice and failed to account for Awkventurer’s use cases, resulting in a machine that is about four hundred dollars more costly than what she’d intended to use it for. While Millillion’s seventy-six thousand points of karma look impressive, and Millillion spends hours every day answering questions, I feel duty-bound to reiterate that there is no substitute for expertise and experience – had Awkventurer asked me for help rather than Millillion, I would have landed on a build that would be more cost effective without compromising performance.

  • Shortly before picking up the RTX 3060 Ti, I would end up buying the Fallen Ghosts DLC: it was clear that Wildlands was something I had come to enjoy greatly, and Fallen Ghosts adds a new campaign experience similarly to how Warlords of New York extended my enjoyment of The Division 2. When Fallen Ghosts went on sale for 70 percent off, the decision became an easy one; while I won’t likely go through the actual story missions until I finish Wildlands‘ main campaign, the DLC also gives me immediate access to two weapons which ended up changing how I play Wildlands at a fundamental level.

  • My immediate impressions were that Fallen Ghosts was worth it: right out of the gates, I gained access to the MDR and BFG-50A. The Desert Tech Micro Dynamic Rifle (MDR) is a classic with me, returning from The Division as an excellent assault rifle that has access to automatic fire, unlike its The Division counterpart, which only fires on semi-automatic. The MDR was a solid addition to my arsenal, and during my time with it, I found the MDR to be reliable as a marksman rifle for medium range engagements, as well as being versatile and manoeuvrable enough to switch over to automatic fire for close-quarters engagements if cover is blown.

  • In The Division, the MDR was an exotic assault rifle that was unique for only having a semi-automatic mode, and dealt bonus damage to enemies under a status effect. This made it a very situational weapon – the weapon was best paired with anything that burnt or bled foes, and I do remember the six-piece classified Firecrest set, with the Big Alejandro and the Intense talent, was quite effective with the MDR. However, I typically prefer to run with a six-piece classified Striker set with The House and Bullfrog. Wildlands‘ MDR is significantly more versatile and is useful in a much greater range of scenarios.

  • The real star of the show, however, is the BFG-50A. It’s the only semi-automatic anti-materiel rifle in the whole of Wildlands, and its recoil is only matched by its raw damage. Against personnel, the BFG-50A almost feels like overkill, with semi-automatic fire allowing one some wiggle room should they miss their first shot. However, it is against vehicles where the weapon truly shines: the BFG-50A is capable of destroying light vehicles and helicopters with a single shot even without the vehicle damage bonus, and I imagine that when fully upgraded, the BFG-50A will become the go-to solution for getting vehicles off my back.

  • I ended up marvelling at both the efficacy of my new toys in Wildlands and the power that the RTX 3060 Ti confers over the September long weekend, although here, I remark that I ended up spending more time outside than I did at my computer. The weather had been superb, and I took advantage of the Monday off to sleep in. After spending a morning with the housework, I prepared my first-ever Irish Nachos with a recipe that my local pub is known for: ground beef, cheddar cheese, red bell peppers, Jalapeños and grape tomatoes with chives on a bed of waffle fries. The final result was surprisingly delicious, considering it was my first time making this dish, and when paired with salsa and sour cream, it proved to be a hearty and delicious lunch.

  • In the afternoon, I ended up going for a ten-kilometre walk, which brought me to a little-known but still gorgeous lookout affording me a wonderful view of the city centre. The weather on Monday was especially pleasant – the high was 19ºC, a comfortable reprieve from the high twenties and low thirties we’ve seen all August. Summer is fast coming to an end now, and the days are beginning to shorten again; when I waken up at six to hit the gym, it’s dark outside. I am rather excited to see winter arrive this year, and being able to game on the coldest days of the year isn’t a bad way to unwind.

  • Looking back, it was pure luck that I was able to pick up an RTX 3060 Ti when I did – the card officially launched back in December 2020, but the ongoing microchip shortage, coupled with extremely high demand resulting from the global health crisis, meant everyone was struggling to find the hardware for their machines in a time when having a pint with mates or watching a movie wasn’t possible. Coupled with unscrupulous people who use bots to empty out entire stocks for scalping “cook groups” and cryptocurrency mining operations, common folks have found it near-impossible to buy GPUs at reasonable prices.

  • While demand for GPUs will lessen as the pandemic recedes, I do not imagine that scalping or cryptocurrency mining will diminish any time soon. Similarly, the supply shortages will likely continue to be an issue. This is why I decided to jump on the opportunity to purchase an RTX 3060 Ti; the perfect storm of factors could potentially make the 40-series very hard to come by. For this reason, I’ve also decided to pre-order the new iPhone 14 Pro rather than pick it up in-store once it launches on September 16. I’ve been running the iPhone Xʀ since September 2019 when my last company loaned me the device for testing (when the company dissolved, I was permitted to keep the phone).

  • Prior to the iPhone Xʀ, I was running an iPhone 6, which I bought in 2015 and accompanied me to two conferences, Japan, Denver, Winnipeg and F8 2019. My personal policy is to only replace my device when Apple stops releasing iOS updates for my device. When Apple released iOS 13 in September 2019, I learnt my iPhone 6 was not supported, and since then, I’d been looking to buy a new iPhone so I can keep up to date with development work. The iPhone Xʀ has acted as an interim device and has performed extremely well: in fact, it still feels speedy and responsive, and as a development device, the iPhone Xʀ has remained satisfactory, allowing me to fully test features that require a physical device.

  • The iPhone Xʀ would easily last me another two years, but I’d been planning on upgrading once Apple released a notch-less phone simply because it would represent a new UI approach, and so, when Apple announced their newest line of devices yesterday, they had my undivided attention. The iPhone 14 Pro introduces the new “Dynamic Island” pill for its front-facing camera and sensor array, and after seeing how tightly integrated it is with the software, the merits of having a physical device to test concepts for the Dynamic Island became apparent. As the first iPhone to have the Dynamic Island, running an iPhone 14 Pro would give me a head start in experimenting with different UI concepts.

  • Although I don’t imagine that I’ll see much use from the A16 Bionic chip or 48 MP camera right out of the gates (both of these premium specifications far exceed my current requirements), the additional power does mean that the iPhone 14 Pro would serve me extremely well until Apple no longer makes iOS upgrades available to it. To this end, the iPhone 14 Pro has proven to be increasingly attractive as a replacement for my iPhone Xʀ: although 300 dollars pricier than the standard iPhone 14, having premium features will be helpful in my line of work as it could help me explore new features earlier.

  • Back in Wildlands, I complete the latest mission, which entails capturing El Chido and extracting him to a safehouse. The capture missions are always the most tricky to complete, and even with a new loadout, it still took me a few tries to get it right – having new gear makes things slightly easier, but it still ultimately boils down to ones’s skill. For this particular assignment, patience is the ultimate asset: I ended up spotting all of the Santa Blanca enforcers on sight, picked off most of the enemies and in a stroke of luck, shot at the vehicle El Chido was trying to escape in, causing him to get out and take cover. I subsequently grabbed him, shoved him in the same vehicle and drove off.

  • I would end up losing the Santa Blanca forces following me shortly after, although my vehicle had taken enough damage to start smoking halfway through the drive. I subsequently relieved a civilian of their SUV and used it to make the remainder of the decidedly casual drive to the safehouse. With this mission complete, my exploration of Malca comes to a close. With this done, and having now found a loadout that’s working well for me, I will continue to press forward in Wildlands and see where things end up. The next time I write about this game, I will be featuring screenshots of the game running with every setting maxed out. 

  • In the meantime, Battlefield 2042‘s second season has begun, and I’m having a considerable amount of fun playing through things. Besides an engaging new map, the RTX 3060 Ti means I’m maintaining good framerates. Battlefield 2042 has come a very long way since its launch, and the game is gradually reaching a state where it is consistently fun to play. I also will be resuming my journey in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – I put the brakes on things back in August to make a dent in Jon’s Creative Showcase, but with a little more time available now, I’m looking forwards to finishing the campaign off, before returning to Half-Life: Alyx.

For the past six years, I’ve been running the NVIDIA GTX 1060 (6 GB). This video card has long been praised as being one of NVIDIA’s best video cards in that it strikes a balance between performance and price: although no longer capable of running the latest titles at 1080p with everything set to ultra, it remains a competent card. However, it is less suited for running VR titles and 1440p gaming. To this end, I’ve been long debating whether or not I would hang onto the GTX 1060 and wait for the next-generation RTX 40-series. My decision was made last week, when the local computer hardware store ran a sale on the RTX 3060 Ti – ordinarily retailing for 730 CAD (554 USD), a chance flash sale saw the price drop to 620 CAD (470 USD). This is only 70 USD above the MSRP, and it was not lost on me that the RTX 4060, which would be the tier I’d be looking to buy, wouldn’t be available until somewhere in 2023. The new 40-series are said to be a dramatic improvement, but also have a much larger power draw, and moreover, availability and pricing are both unknown. Waiting for an RTX 4060 could mean paying more for a card that has a higher power requirement and waiting until mid-to-late 2023. After weighing my options, I ended up making the call to pick up the RTX 3060 Ti (an MSI-branded after-market card). While this card won’t dramatically improve my experience in things like Half-Life 2 or The Master Chief Collection, the difference in performance is night and day in something like DOOM Eternal and Battlefield 2042. In the former, I finally have access to real-time ray-tracing, which results in a game whose visuals blow my socks off. In the latter, I can maintain a smooth framerate and not worry about hardware limitations costing me in multiplayer matches. Here in Wildlands, the game runs with everything maxed out at a solid 90-110 FPS. Although Wildlands looked quite good already, the RTX 3060 Ti allows me to run the game in a way that renders it photorealistic. In 2017, even the GTX 1080 wasn’t able to run Wildlands at 1080p when everything was turned up (only the GTX 1080 Ti was capable of this). Fast forward to the present, however, and advances mean that one no longer need a 920 dollar video card to run the game with everything set to ultra. Altogether, I’ve found the RTX 3060 Ti to be a fitting acquisition – my PC build is now officially complete, and bonus points goes to the fact that the specific RTX 3060 Ti I was able to buy, an MSI Gaming X, has a superior cooling solution and RGB lighting, a step up from the single-fan EVGA 1060 SC I’d been running before. With this large jump, I’m rather excited to continue my journey in the newer titles and revisit older titles with a fresh coat of paint in the form of real-time ray-tracing, as well as press further into Half-Life: Alyx with better frame rates. The GTX 1060 has been in service for six strong years, and at present, it’s time to retire it. I will be keeping this card as a backup, since it’s still in excellent condition, but moving ahead, I look forwards to sharing screenshots that are a little sharper and more detailed than before.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: Returning to Resume The Fight Five Years Later

“I love coming home, especially with a victory.” –Dominic James

During the cold dark of February five years earlier, I drove out to my founder’s place for a team pizza party and poker night. This evening coincided with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands‘ open beta, and I still vividly recall wrapping up a mission before driving out into the comparatively balmy weather. After settling in, we went about making our pizzas from hand-made dough, before challenging one another to poker. Despite not knowing any of the rules behind poker, I found myself learning quickly, and after three matches, ended up breaking even. The evening’s festivities were punctuated by discussions of where the start-up was headed, and at this point in time, the company had been around nine months old. I’d finished delivering an app for an American computational oncology firm, and the focus had shifted towards utilising a similar technology for handling medical surveys. We had been in talks with the university, and a handful of research labs had expressed interest in signing on to test things; although I’d been a novice in iOS development at the time, I was working towards building a functional prototype. In the five years that has passed, this company has since gone under, leaving me with a few years of iOS experience and a lingering wish to play through Wildlands in full. This opportunity would present itself by May, when Wildlands went on a sale. After picking up the game and returning to Bolivia, I resumed my journey of working to dismantle the Santa Blanca cartel, which has gained control of several regions in the country. While the Bolivian government establishes La Unidad to fight the cartel, the cartel’s power meant only a truce was reached. Months later, the United States deploys members of Delta Company, a black ops team to Bolivia with the aim of taking down the cartel and bringing their enigmatic leader, El Sueño, after a DEA Agent was executed. Unlike a majority of the titles I’ve played previously, Wildlands is a tactical cover shooter, encouraging players to recon their surroundings and pick their targets before engaging them: open firefights are discouraged, as even a few bullets are enough to put an operator out of action, and when enemies realise what’s up, they will swiftly call in reinforcements.

The end result of the combat system in Wildlands creates a game where patience, stealth and tactical play is rewarded. Wildlands speaks to the importance of planning out one’s moves before taking any action, and being flexible for the inevitable moment when even the best-laid plans fail. Missions typically begin with taking up an overwatch position and using either one’s drone or binoculars to tag as many foes and other environment hazards, like alarm towers and mounted guns. Subsequently, one must work out a plan to take out enemies simultaneously to avoid detection. If one is successful, no alert is raised, and one can then mosey on into a hostile facility and complete the objective, whether it be collecting intel, intimidating Santa Blanca lieutenants for information or assassinating a higher-ranking member of Santa Blanca to begin dismantling their drug empire. This is the easier route, and more often than not, impatience or ill-timing means that a body is spotted, or a shot is heard, leading Santa Blanca patrols to become suspicious. Players can still employ stealth here to dispatch any threats before the team’s cover is blown: a quick trigger finger and thinking on one’s feet can still preserve the element of surprise. However, if everything goes pear-shaped, players must now ready themselves for a firefight and use every tool at their disposal to survive. Completing a mission is still possible, as is eliminating the reinforcements that show up to the party, but the differences become apparent: if one doesn’t plan accordingly, the combination of adaptive thinking and skill can still save the day, although things become significantly riskier. Conversely, the patient and observant players can sneak into an installation, complete their objective and fade back into the shadows before anyone even knew anything was amiss, speaking to the incredible difference that a little bit of planning can make. It feels incredibly satisfying to coordinate with teammates and drop up to four patrols simultaneously, move to another position, pick off any stragglers and clear out a base in this way.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I played Wildlands, it was early March in 2017, and I’d been rather looking forwards to a trip to Japan. Back then, I was nine months into work as a novice iOS developer, and this was during a time when the start-up I’d been with was still on a good path: we were working on apps that would help medical researchers, clinicians and doctors follow up with their patients by providing surveys that could easily be completed. Originally, I’d been brought on as a Unity developer to lead the production of 3D visualisations, since this is what my graduate thesis was on, but over time, the American computational oncology company suddenly decided they needed an app more than they needed the visualisations.

  • This sudden change led to the dismissal of several developers, and my reassignment from Unity to iOS – I had planned on building my own iOS projects in my spare time until I’d developed enough skills, but this represented a chance to really pick up Swift. While we were on the hunt for a suitable backend developer, I spent most of my days learning the ins and outs of completion handlers and delegation, two features that are indispensable for mobile development. At this stage in my career, I was a complete novice with UIs; another coworker handled building the view controllers and getting Auto Layout to play nice.

  • By late February, we had gotten enough done to demo a prototype to some of the researchers at the local university, and our founder decided to celebrate this milestone with a pizza party and poker night at his place. This coincided with Wildland‘s open beta, and I vividly recall driving out into the winter night to enjoy some poker after spending a quiet Saturday afternoon exploring Bolivia. One of my other coworkers, a physicist with a keen eye for programming, also was a deft hand at making pizza dough from scratch, so we enjoyed an evening conversation over hand-made pizzas before starting the poker tournament.

  • After an enjoyable evening, I drafted out my post on the Wildlands beta and concluded that the game was not for me. The main drawbacks in Wildlands, I claimed, was the fact that all of the missions in the beta entailed sneaking into an enemy-held area and killing a high-value target. The movement system had felt janky and difficult – driving was especially difficult, and I found the cover system to be quite unintuitive. Moreover, everything in Wildlands was far apart, and this made travelling between areas of interest to be a chore.

  • As with The Division‘s open beta, my impressions five years earlier stemmed from the fact that in the open beta, fast-travel had not been available, and moreover, not all of the missions were available. However, curiosity about the game has lingered for the past five years, and upon a chance sale back in May, I decided to pick the game up for 10 CAD, reasoning that at this price point, it would represent a chance to explore Bolivia and see just what taking down El Sueño entailed. I thus began the game, took down my first Santa Blanca lieutenant and found myself impressed with the game.

  • While vehicles remain terrible, the movement system isn’t quite as floaty and inconsistent on foot as I remember. I thus began making my way through Itacua, the starting region. This time around I had a decent arsenal of weapons already – besides the starting P416, I had access to the LVOA-C and G36C. Before even attempting any of the story missions, one of my first goals was to locate the M40A5: having a good sniper rifle had allowed me to pick off distant foes with consistency during the open beta, and as bolt-action rifles can be suppressed, these weapons become excellent tools for softening up a site before entering the fray.

  • The gameplay loop in Wildlands‘ full release is considerably more impressive than the beta – mission variety is greater in that some missions involve sneaking into a mansion and planting listening bugs, while others will ask players to destroy slot machines and tables at a Santa Blanca casino. My personal favourite involved flying the drone into a politician’s room and capturing him in the middle of an indecent act for leverage over the Santa Blanca cartel. With this, my desire for mission variety is satisfied, and all of the other activities in Wildlands are preparation leading up to these missions.

  • To support players in a hostile land against overwhelming odds, players are equipped with a skill tree. Exploring the land will yield skill points, and completing supply missions provides provisions that are used to unlock and enhance traits, as well as gear performance. Right out of the gates, I opted to improve my weapon stability and maximise the number of sync shots Wildlands provides, allowing me to coordinate with AI squad members and take on up to four hostiles at once. From bolstering the drone’s range and battery life, to obtaining an under-barrel grenade launcher and even reducing the amount of time AI squad members can revive one with, these skills will become essential as one plays increasingly challenging regions.

  • The most useful skills early on should be spent on the drone and firepower: having the means to destroy helicopters and ground vehicles with a few rounds would be an immensely helpful trait, since blowing cover often causes reinforcements to show up with vehicles. For my part, I’ve tended towards stealth and make tracks when Santa Blanca calls in vehicles – over time, hostiles will stand down if the player cannot be found. This allows one to either disappear back into the wilderness, or clear out the remaining hostiles at a site. The latter approach was helpful in missions where I had to linger, and I vividly remember taking out a helicopter before destroying a Santa Blanca casino.

  • On the topic of casinos, I ended up buying Poker Night At The Inventory 2 during a Steam Summer Sale, but never got around to playing it. This year’s sale saw me pick up Half-Life: Alyx, an impressive and immersive title I’m moseying through; I’m gaming a lot less now as a result of the beautiful summer weather. This summer’s been fantastic for getting out, and I’ve spent many weekends capitalising on the weather. Weekdays have also been pleasant: I go to the office on Wednesdays as a change of pace, and of late, the food trucks have been present every Wednesday.

  • Yesterday, I went in so I could have a comfier environment for the longer meetings, and a food truck I’d never tried out was there: the Family Fry Guys is a food truck specialising in fries and poutine, and while they only have simpler poutines on their menu, this was plainly to their advantage. I ended up trying their pulled pork poutine – the pulled pork was impressive, being juicy and succulent. Family Fry Guys nailed the poutine with their thick-cut fries, savoury gravy and squeaky cheese. With this, my longing for poutine has been sated, and now, I’m left wondering what I should do on my Friday off. I’d been originally looking to visit a poutinerie, but two pounds of poutine is all the convincing I need to spend my Friday off a little differently.

  • While I would have loved to take a longer trip to Japan, the logistics surrounding travelling abroad right now are still nightmarish, and so, rather than one large vacation, I’ve opted for the odd Friday and Monday off here and there. These days off can still be quite enjoyable: I already took a Friday and Monday off a few weeks ago, using this time to explore a side of town I’d never been to and spend time with family at a provincial park we’d similarly never visited. As tempting as it might be to stay in and game, watch anime or blog all day, it is not lost on me that vacation time is special, and as such, my desire to unwind away from a screen outweighs my desire to do something that I could do on a weeknight.

  • For my current run of Wildlands, I’ve equipped the G36C, an excellent all-rounder that was already unlocked for me. By default, the starting P416 is an okay performer early in the game, and while it is eclipsed by other weapons, all of the assault rifles in Wildlands can deal with a foe in as little as a single shot to the head (or a few round if impacting centre mass). The high damage model means that firefights are over very quickly if one can place themselves tactically, and this minimises the chance that one is downed by enemy fire.

  • For almost all of my firefights, I leave my suppressor on: in Wildlands, suppressors are the norm, and leaving them on allows for one to sneak around and pick off foes, who will only be come suspicious and investigate the sound of a suppressed shot. On the other hand, firing a gun unsuppressed increases bullet velocity and penetration, but firing a round immediately alerts foes to one’s positions and renders them on alert. Players can freely take suppressors off and put them on, allowing them to quickly adapt to a different situation as the situation demands.

  • I remember how during the Wildlands beta, I ended up travelling from Itacua to Montuyoc. According to the maps, Montuyoc now has a difficulty rating of five, meaning that enemy bases are heavily fortified, have excellent guards and possess an intricate array of alarms and defenses. Conversely, in Itacua, bases are lightly guarded, and one can sneak in without having to worry about detection. As one levels up their skills and unlocks more equipment and perks, every tool in one’s arsenal will be needed to deal with the threats at tougher bases.

  • Although it’s easy to get lost in Bolivia and focus purely on the mission at hand, Wildlands does have a bit of a political tilt to it, as do many games that Ubisoft publishes. Unlike games that are geared purely for relaxation (such as Among Trees), shooters often are tied to commentary on current or recent events. Wildlands deals with the moral ambiguity of the drug trade, and in fact, reminds me a great deal of Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, in which the unnamed President of the United States authorises a black operation against drug cartels and ends up doing a backdoor deal that leads to John Clark’s men being killed by cartel enforcers.

  • Clear and Present Danger represented a reminder of why the War on Drugs is not going anywhere any time soon, showing how democratic governments abuse their powers, as well as how compartmentalisation of large organisations removes accountability in the name of maintaining the status quo. Clark and the Navy SEALS with him see none of this: all they know is their mission, and as such, there is no context for them to consider the consequences of their action. As such, when the government decides that having a black ops team running around behind enemy lines could be inconvenient, it’s easier for them to allow their own soldiers to die.

  • Wildlands‘ story sounds strikingly similar to Clear and Present Danger‘s, except since this is a game, the narrative won’t have the United States suddenly betraying the player and their team. However, through audio logs and communiques, it becomes clear that the players’ handler has troubles of her own when dealing with Santa Blanca, and that this mission is somewhat of a personal one to her. I relate to Bowman in that I have no love for narcotics or the drug trade, having seen what they do to people. This is an incredibly tricky topic because there are no easy solutions. As much fun as it is to cut the crap and send a wet team in to start lighting up drug dealers, the complexity of the real world means this is not a solution by any stretch (a real solution involves education and social support, implemented over several decades).

  • Generally speaking, I try not to talk about my own political views in blog posts because readers don’t come here for listening to me share my thoughts on current events and the like; compared to, say, my thoughts on whether or not delegation or notifications is better for sending information back to a view controller, my knowledge on politics is meagre, and my main rule about blogging is that I don’t try to sound more knowledgeable than I am about current events because this could lead to a misinterpretation of events. Instead, I prefer sticking to my strengths, and note here that in the context of a video game, I do have a bit more room to talk about how well a game presents certain topics.

  • This belief isn’t one that everyone shares, and I have noticed that some folks allow politics to overtake their lives to the extent where that’s all they’ll discuss. I understand the frustration surrounding the direction in which the world is headed, and while it can be gratifying to gain upvotes and retweets on social media, this does nothing to address either the issue or one’s unhappiness. There is a solution that Mark Manson outlines in his clever and helpful book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: we can actively choose to decide what matters to us and embrace life’s simplicities, and in excelling in the ordinary, well-being is found.

  • Back in Wildlands, I’ve finally entered the province of Pucara: El Sueño’s mausoleum is visible from here, and it’s an unnecessarily grand and ornate structure that prompts one of the AI squad members to remark they’d wished to be remembered to such an extent. Another squad member then counters that being a Ghost means not being remembered at all. I’m of the mind that a life well-lived is a life where one generates value for those around them in some way: not everyone who is remembered generates value, and not everyone who generates value is remembered.

  • While Montuyoc would’ve been a nice place to visit because of the large lake at the heart of the province, I’ll settle for exploring the other regions of Bolivia in Wildlands first: the open beta had only given players a very limited taste of what’s available, and it became apparent to me that my first impressions of the game notwithstanding, the retail version is a full-fledged experience that is anything but repetitive. Besides a larger variety of missions, emergent events mean that every single session is different. For instance, here, I was aiming to clear out a Santa Blanca outpost, but owing to the way things were lined up that day, I ended up drawing the ire of a nearby convoy.

  • On any other day, it would’ve been a simple and straightforward matter of synchronously taking out the five hostiles here, grab the intel and then leave, but things simply lined up in a way to make things more thrilling. Viewers will have noticed that I predominantly play Wildlands during the daylight hours. This is a deliberate choice, since it is under daylight that Bolivia’s at its most beautiful. At night, while guards have less visibility, and stealth becomes even more powerful, the scenery isn’t quite as exciting. Granted, if I wanted to play Wildlands like a real Tom Clancy novel, I’d play exclusively at night.

  • This is made possible by the fact that in Wildlands, there is an option to change the time of day. I can’t remember if this was available in the open beta, but here in the full release, it allows players yet another option to play the game in the manner of their choosing. Wildlands excels in providing players with options: there isn’t really an optimal way of playing, and this is where things get exciting. If one wished to run exclusively with a suppressed bolt-action rifle and submachine gun, one can do so. Alternatively, players who want to push their third-person firefight skills to the limits may choose to run an unsuppressed light machine gun and pair it with a shotgun.

  • The game further encourages customisation by providing players with a gunsmith, which allows for swapping out various attachments on one’s preferred weapons. It is not lost on me that Modern Warfare‘s gunsmith is very similar in style, and in fact, it may have been inspired by Wildlands‘ gunsmith, since there are large similarities in the UI and UX. The gunsmith in Wildlands is a ways more sophisticated than the weapon customisation options in The Division and The Division 2, and looking back, I’m surprised that I did not appreciate this aspect of the game during the open beta as much as I presently do.

  • The gunsmith in Wildlands adds one more facet to the game in encouraging players to explore: throughout Bolivia, weapons cases and attachment cases can be found in each region, and locating them permanently adds them to the players’ loadout. Outside of a firefight, this option actually allows one to switch over from a stealth-based setup to one that favours direct combat. On several occasions, I’ve used this to my advantage: during objectives to defend a radio from attacking Santa Blanca forces, for instance, I was able to swap off my M40A5 for a light machine gun.

  • From this point onwards, I’ll make my way slowly through the remainder of Wildlands‘ campaign and continue the journey I’d started five years ago. I will occasionally return to recount some of my misadventures as I make more progress throughout Wildlands; the game is quite large and has proven enjoyable enough to the point where I am considering picking up the Fallen Ghosts DLC, since it’s on sale at the time of writing: besides extending the campaign further, Fallen Ghosts also adds the MDR and a Serbu BFG-50A. I’ll sleep on this decision before making a call, but at 6 CAD from its usual 20 CAD, this doesn’t look like a bad deal at all.

One of the biggest challenges that I encounter in any open world game is where to get started. Typically, after an opening cinematic, players are just dropped into the world with a single objective, and this can create a feeling of being overwhelmed, as one is uncertain of what the next move is. However, this single objective provides players with grounding: whether it’s meeting allied forces or helping them with a goal, a game’s first few moments set precedence for what can be expected from the remainder of the title. In Wildlands, the first objective after insertion is to locate a Santa Blanca lieutenant and liberate rebels being held at a Santa Blanca site. These rebels, after being freed, help provide vital support for the player, and with the first goal done, CIA contact Karen Bowman will open the rest of the world to players. With a semblance of what to do next, the open world of Wildlands thus becomes easier to navigate, and one can begin the lengthy trek of clearing each region out and disrupting El Sueño’s operations enough to draw him out. This is the appeal of open world games: like reality, starting out is often difficult, but once one begins, one gathers more information and accrues more experience, making it easier to make decisions and take action. In this way, Wildlands acts as a rather curious metaphor for life itself; starting out is difficult, but once one finds their footing and approaches problems with both planning and an eye for improvisation, things will gradually fall into place. Having now cleared out three of the provinces in Bolivia, my journey in Wildlands is just getting started, and it feels great to return in the present: in the five years that have passed, my first startup no longer exists, but I have accrued five more years of experience, and I am curious to see what kind of learnings I will pick up here in Wildlands.