The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Tom Clancy

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.

The Division 2: The Manhunt for Faye Lau, Global Events and Opening Twenty Exotic Caches to Welcome The Year of the Ox

“All trust involves vulnerability and risk, and nothing would count as trust if there were no possibility of betrayal.” –Robert C. Solomon

After Warlords of New York revealed that Faye Lau had gone rogue, the question of what would happen next lingered on my mind: The Division had Aaron Keener escape before agents could take him down, and with this as the precedence, there was always the possibility that Lau might return in a future title. This was, however, not the case: the fourth manhunt season allows players to take on Lau. While Lau had been presented as a devoted Division agent in the first game, taking command of the New York City base of operations and supporting the second wave agents. However, the death of her sister weighed heavily on her mind, and after hearing out the other rogue agents, Lau disavowed the Division and took things into her own hands, joining the Black Tusk so that she could work her way through the organisation and reach a point where she could assassinate President Ellis for her own ends. After fighting through Camp White Oak, the agent finally confronts and defeats Lau, but this operation leaves more questions than it does answers. At this point in time, it does appear that most of the major players in The Division 2 are accounted for, and while the Black Tusk’s objectives and intentions remain a mystery, by this point in The Division 2, what is clear is that playing through well-treaded maps now have allowed me to refine my setup further; I’ve encountered no problems at all with everything up to and including the challenging difficulty. With everything in the books, the only goals left for me in The Division 2 will be to complete the assignments that will allow me to enter the Dark Zones, and subsequently, determine whether or not my current set up allows me to explore the two raid missions in any capacity. During the course of the fourth manhunt season, I also unlocked the technician specialisation and have since levelled everything up to completion, allowing me the full set of options for building and experimenting with different setups for solo play: more so than The Division, I’ve found that The Division 2 is even more solo-friendly than its predecessor.

The fourth manhunt season also saw me attempt the global events for the first time: previously, I’d not really paid attention to the global events, which are, compared to its predecessor, less intuitive. Whereas global events in The Division were always-on, The Division 2 requires that players manually activate them. However, once activated, players can complete challenges to unlock stars that go towards unlocking different rewards, and ultimately go towards purchasing crates. The global events of The Division 2 were unexpectedly enjoyable: “Golden Bullet” gave enemies the ability to use a buff that increased their damaged, but killing enemies who had this buff active or were readying it gave players the bonus damage. The prize for this was a gold-plated P08 Luger backpack charm, which looks amazing and was worth the effort to collect. The other event I participated in was “Reanimated”, where enemies are given an automated defibrillator that brings them back to life unless they were killed with a headshot. Headshot kills create a corrosive gas cloud that deals damage to nearby enemies. While the prizes for the second global event were less inspired, the mechanic itself was a tangible change to The Division 2‘s gameplay that proved quite entertaining. After both global events ended, I had enough stars accumulated to buy exotic caches, and coupled with the exotic caches I’ve earned from regular gameplay, I ended up filling up all of my available cache storage with exotic caches. Having now defeated Faye Lau, I’ve decided to open all of these crates to free up space. Because of how the loot pool works, the exotic crates only give what I’ve already picked up. However, unboxing twenty crates gave me enough exotic parts to recalibrate my existing gear: as a result of unpacking all of my exotic caches, I’ve now been able to build a near-perfect rolled Chatterbox and Nemesis, which are my mainstay exotic weapons.

  • Once the fourth manhunt season began, I played through it as I had the earlier seasons, but once the “Golden Bullet” challenge went live, I realised that it would be worth taking a look at how global events worked for The Division 2: the prize for completing all ten ranks was too tempting to pass up, and being a James Bond fan, I’ve always had a fondness for gold-plated weapons. The basic setup behind the “Golden Bullet” event was simple enough: enemies could construct golden bullet buffs, which made them immensely damaging to players.

  • However, if these enemies were ever killed, players would inherit the buff, making them more powerful, and consecutively chaining kills would keep the buff active for longer durations. As long as one were to be mindful of which enemies were equipping the buff next, one could maintain a near-constant advantage over them. Each global event comes with a set of challenges, and while I started a bit late, I caught on to the mechanics quickly enough, allowing me to reach the final reward tier before the event ended for that cool-looking golden P08 Luger.

  • While the Golden Bullet buff allows players to do massive damage to enemies, it isn’t quite like the original Golden Bullet from James Bond. My friend remarks that the Golden Gun is a true skill weapon: it is capable of killing an enemy in one bullet, and rewards players who have a sure aim and patience. The Golden Gun is balanced out by the fact that it is a single-shooter, and reload times are lengthy; missing a shot can be a death sentence. This is a high-risk, high-reward play style that really pushed players to improve their aim, although such mechanics do appear to be the hallmark of an older game, back when skill was worth something.

  • Here, I finished off the fourth field research level for the technician specialisation: the technician equips the P-017 missile launcher, a custom weapon that launches miniature missiles that lock on to multiple targets. This specialisation is focused around skill and hybrid builds, increasing one’s skill tier permanently by one level when the specialisation tree is properly kitted out and offering bonuses for destroying enemy skills. It’s not a specialisation I’ve gotten too much use out of, but after I unlocked it, it was fun to fully level it up and experiment with different setups. At the time of writing, I’ve now unlocked all of the three Year One specialisations and earned all of the point for their respective trees.

  • I have heard, however, that the demolitionist build with seeker mines and skill-oriented gear allows one to solo even legendary missions, so that could be something worth taking a look at in the future. The second global event I participated in was “Reanimated”, and here, I land a headshot on an enemy during the Tidal Basin mission. When I realised I had been quite close to filling my inventory with exotic caches, I decided to hold off on opening the caches and unbox them all at once, purely for fun. Completing assignments for the global events was a solid way of earning a few extra caches, and by the time the event drew to a close, I had nineteen exotic caches.

  • The idea behind “Reanimated” was that headshot kills would spawn a corrosive cloud that damaged nearby enemies, whereas enemies that were killed by anything other than headshots could get back up and keep fighting, in a zombie-like fashion. Having once-defeated enemies come back to life initially proved tricky, especially when I ran missions on tougher difficulties and directives to finish some of the assignments: after clearing an area and moving forwards, I could come under fire after dead enemies came back to life. As the event continued to run, I eventually wised up to this trick and killed enemies before they could fully reanimate.

  • Once I got used to the mechanics behind “Reanimated”, I was having a great deal of fun with The Division 2: the global events here are even more entertaining than those of the first game. Rewards from global events in both games made them worth participating in: The Division‘s global events were how I ended up completing my classified gear sets, and here in The Division 2, exotic caches can be purchased from the global event vendors: even if one is getting duplicates, exotic gear can be deconstructed for exotic parts, which are useful in reconfiguring exotic weapons.

  • Because some of the assignments for the “Reanimated” event required that I get headshots with a specialisation weapon, I did end up going back to my sniper loadout (Aces and Eights gear set, with the Nemesis as a primary weapon and the sharpshooter specialisation). It’s been a while since I’ve run with the TAC-50, and it is not lost on me that with the accumulated bonuses and stacks, a fully-charged round from the Nemesis can do more damage than even the TAC-50 can upon landing a headshot. The Nemesis has proven to be a fun weapon to use, although it is clear that this weapon is best suited for situations where one has a team drawing fire and keeping enemies busy.

  • One of the trickier assignments for the “Reanimated” event was to have every enemy come back to life while capturing a control point, all without leaving the control point’s boundaries. To achieve this, I could not kill enemies that were close to one another in rapid succession or be too aggressive, lest I land a headshot that permanently puts an enemy down. To this end, I wound up using a pistol and picked my shots slowly, so that I was assured body shots. I ended up successful at No Hope Hotel, and seeing the criteria for this challenge did lead me to wonder how The Division 2 was keeping track of this without negatively impacting performance. Since the game does know one’s position, I suppose it could always just record a user’s path and then compute whether or not any point on this path is outside the bounds of a control point while the control point was being taken. Once the points are recorded, a function could be used to check at the end of a successful capture and provide the rewards accordingly.

  • With the last target, I ended up returning to Lower Manhattan to finish the manhunt off. While the Warlords of New York missions were fun and refreshing when I first played them, returning to Lower Manhattan demonstrated to me that these missions were not like the Washington D.C. missions in that I couldn’t rush through them with superior firepower alone. In particular, I’d become powerful enough to completely remove Kajika’s armour and health before the climactic fight, but because of the way The Division 2 is implemented, the game didn’t count that as a kill, and I would have to wait for the final segment of his mission in order to defeat him.

  • I’ve not returned to Lower Manhattan since the last manhunt event, and the contrast between Washington D.C. is evident. Looking back, Warlords of New York proved to be a superb expansion to The Division 2, and considering that I picked it up at half price, I’ve gotten more than my money’s worth out of the purchase: as it turns out, having Warlords of New York‘s manhunts gave me reason to come back time and time again. At the time of writing, I have 193 hours in The Division 2, after a year and three months of play, compared to The Division‘s 204 hours over ten months. It is possible that, in the absence of Warlords of New York, my time in The Division 2 would’ve been much less, and it does feel like the expansion is necessary to have a full endgame experience.

  • On the first day of the Year of the Ox, my new year got off to a good start as I picked up my first exotic drop in while after melting an elite en route to a bounty; I managed to score another Bullet King with slightly better specs than the one I currently have. The Bullet King is probably one of the most noteworthy of the exotics in The Division 2 in that it never needs reloading, and I’ve found it a fantastic choice for situations that demand sustained damage – especially against the XB-31 Marauder drone and vehicles, the Bullet King has no equal.

  • The timing of this post was a deliberate one, to coincide with when I first wrote about the private beta two years earlier. As a result of trying to hit this milestone, it was a bit of a stressful run to finish the Manhunt off – of the games I’ve played of late, The Division 2 is probably one of the few that have successfully gotten under my skin. Most notably, the suicide Outcasts bum-rushing me at Manning National Zoo and the modified EMP jammers first encounter during the Jupiter manhunt stand as being the low points I had with The Division 2: losing progress because of unexpected mechanics is always frustrating.

  • While there are frustrating moments in The Division 2 that are quite unlike anything I’ve faced in other games, The Division 2 is an improvement to The Division in every way; since the private beta days, the movement system feels a little more polished, and the issues I’ve noted in the private and open betas have since been rectified. Overall, the game feels responsive and crisp: the only major performance issue I have with The Division 2 is that the game will (rarely) crash unexpectedly – The Division 2 doesn’t save mission progress, and being forced to restart a mission is unpleasant.

  • With this being said, across 193 hours, I’ve maybe encountered at most two to three hours of frustration, and the law of large numbers suggests that given that 98.5 percent of my time was otherwise positive, the game overall isn’t problematic. This is, strictly speaking, true: I simply happen to remember the worst moments more vividly than I do the positive moments. Fortunately, the list of positives about The Division 2 are too many to list – high on my list of things that I enjoy about The Division 2 is the fact that much of the game can be soloed, and thanks to Hunter’s Fury, my ability to challenge all foes is made much easier owing to the fact that this gear set is, for the lack of a better word, overpowered for the most part.

  • Whereas the initial fifteen percent bonuses to submachine gun and shotgun damage is fair, but equipping three pieces of the gear set confers twenty percent armour on kill on top of instantly healing the player, giving players a massive advantage. With all four pieces, enemies within fifteen metres of the player take an additional twenty percent damage, and killing these enemies stuns nearby enemies as well, as well as giving an additional five percent damage that stacks five more times. These traits make the Hunter’s Fury immensely powerful already, but I’ve got my own twist on the setup. Together with the Chatterbox’s talents, I have a submachine gun of prodigious power, and the Ninjabike knee pads allow me to continuously keep topped off even when out of combat, as well as giving me enough bonus armour when vaulting to escape difficult situations.

  • With this setup, missions on difficulties up to challenging are not a problem: even tougher enemies don’t really pose a threat, and as long as there are standard enemies to kill, I am able to continue fighting. The Hunter’s Fury set is not totally overpowered, however: it is weaker against individual opponents without an entourage of minions – whenever rogue agents show up, if I did not already buff the Chatterbox to increase its firing rate, I am left at a major disadvantage. For the most part, named elites always are accompanied by weaker minions, so I’m able to knock them out, stunning the elite long enough to deal major damage.

  • After blasting Circe, I picked up yet another Chameleon assault rifle. Despite being a fun weapon to use in some circumstances, it’s nowhere nearly as consistent as the Chatterbox. The Chameleon requires shots be landed before its bonuses kick in, but for the Chatterbox, its talents mean that reloading right before a firefight while close to enemies will allow the fire rate buff to take effect, and killing enemies refill half the magazine; so as long as one is getting kills, the weapon effectively has unlimited ammunition. I’ll still occasionally run the Chameleon for fun, but where I am looking for a quick run through a mission, the Chatterbox is my go-to choice.

  • I somehow managed to finish off everything yesterday, the second day into the Chinese New Year. The brutal winter cold still shows no sign of abating, rendering today as cold as it was the day I finished writing about the closed beta two years ago. With this being said, weather forecasts suggest that things could warm up for tomorrow, as the polar vortex begins moving away from our area. This will be much welcomed, although for now, there’s nothing like a hearty dinner to keep warm: to celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Ox, we had a poon choi (盆菜) yesterday evening for dinner. These dishes are a Cantonese festival meal consisting of an impressive array of ingredients layered into a bowl, and because it consists of a wide range of ingredients, flavours from everyone flood into one another, creating a highly distinct and rich flavour. Poon choi is said to date back to the Song Dynasty, and today, it is enjoyed during times of celebration.

  • During the Camp White Oak hunt for Faye Lau, I was equipped with the Achilles Pulse, named after the Greek hero Achilles, who was invulnerable save for his heel. This pulse identifies weak areas on a single target, making it an excellent tool for one-on-one fights against exceptionally tough foes like other rogue agents. In more conventional use cases, however, I prefer running the standard pulse; ever since I began using the Hunter’s Fury gear set, I’ve been able to free up a skill slot, and have experimented with a range of skills. I’ve found that the pulse is a great tool, allowing me to swiftly locate enemies and get into range to engage them.

  • The biggest surprise about the Faye Lau hunt was the fact that she ultimately ends up killing President Ellis, which only serves to increase the mystery behind what Ellis had been involved in, and to what extent. An ECHO log I found mid-mission suggests that Ellis was only a pawn in a larger and more sinister political agenda. I imagine that Lau had become disillusioned with these games and sought to end things on her own terms, and her dialogue to players suggest that she’s still convinced that going rogue was the proper course of action. The reasons agents have for going rogue are numerous, and one of the things players have long wished for would be making these game-changing decisions themselves, such as allying themselves with Aaron Keener and disavowing the Division.

  • Such a mechanic would require an all-new story to be written and packaged with the game; while this would no doubt add a depth to The Division in an unparalleled manner, I imagine that the development and resources would be nontrivial. Players can continue to dream, of course, and there are some times where these dreams are realised. For instance, a few days ago, Ubisoft released the original soundtrack for Warlords of New York, and players have been looking to hear the soundtrack for some time, especially the song that played when the agent squares off against Aaron Keener himself. As it turns out, this track is called City Hall Siege, and being able to listen to a remix of Precinct Siege with Keener vibes was a blast: I’ve been longing to hear this song since beating Keener back in August.

  • My final confrontation with Faye Lau proved to be anti-climactic – the game’s dynamic weather system suddenly felt the need to drape a thick fog over the combat area, making it impossible to see anything, and by the time I got close enough to Fay Lau to see her, she was already on the ground. Because of my setup, Lau didn’t even put up much of a fight: despite using an armour kit mid-battle and possessing some impressive gear of her own, the fact that my DPS was so high made this irrelevant. I suppose this was only appropriate, but it does come across as suggesting that for all of her beliefs, her end was no different than the other rogues I’ve knocked out.

  • Once Faye Lau was defeated, I returned to the White House and turned my attention to the twenty exotic caches I’ve accumulated. I knew full well that I would not be getting anything new with these caches owing to how loot tables are calculated in The Division 2 (that means no Bighorn, Eagle Bearer or Ravenous until I squad up for the game’s toughest content), but even then, I had been looking to see if I could pick up a better Chatterbox or Lady Death. After opening all twenty exotic caches, I wound up with three more Lady Deaths and two more Chatterboxes. One of the Chatterboxes proved to have a stronger set of base stats than the one I currently ran with, and in conjunction to the host of exotic components I now had, I could begin improving some of my exotic weapons.

  • My first roll with the Chatterbox was a near-perfect weapon with maximum bonus submachine gun damage and critical hit damage. The critical hit chance on this weapon isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty close, and I imagine that this small difference could prove helpful when I do decide to check out The Division 2‘s raid content in exploration mode. The Chatterbox has become my favourite exotic in the whole of The Division 2 for the fact that it is unrivalled at close quarters: with the right application, one can essentially keep their finger on the trigger for as long as a firefight is running. The Chatterbox pairs well with an assault rifle or rifle, which allows one to pick off more distant foes. The only downside about the Chatterbox is that switching weapons will cause the firing rate buff to be reset, and the Chatterbox’s base RPM renders it less effectual.

  • The Chameleon might not be the most effective exotic in The Division 2, and while it’s got a great firing rate and magazine capacity, its buffs do require that one enter a firefight first. The base weapon is unremarkable, but once activated, the buffs turn the Chameleon into a powerhouse, making it easily one of the strongest burst damage weapons in the game. The weapon’s low accuracy means it handles more like a submachine gun than an assault rifle, but when everything lines up, the Chameleon is a remarkably fun weapon to use. It has has the coolest-looking appearance of any exotic in the game, being a highly customised Kriss Vector with a special high-tech scope and a unique polymer coating that allows it to change colours in response to the environment.

  • Before I picked up the Chatterbox and its practically bottomless magazine, I ran with the Lady Death, which is an excellent submachine gun whose damage increases as players move around, and upon every kill, increases the player’s movement speed. I found it an effective weapon, although during prolonged firefights in PvE missions, the smaller magazine capacity puts it at a disadvantage. Conversely, the Lady Death’s traits make it perfect for PvP in the Dark Zone and other modes: being able to escape from bad situations and build up the damage buff makes this an effective choice. Since PvP features smaller numbers of enemies, the Lady Death’s thirty-two round magazine isn’t a concern here, as one could reload while running.

  • Like the Chatterbox, the Nemesis is an exotic that can be acquired through patience rather than luck: collecting the requisite parts during Invaded stronghold missions will allow one to construct one of the most entertaining sniper rifles in The Division 2. I completed this back in September of last year after spending a month of waiting for the strongholds to go on rotation, but the results were worth it: the Nemesis can, with the right perks and attributes, hit even harder than the TAC-50 upon landing a successful headshot, and in situations where I am engaging a lone, distant target, this sniper rifle has no equal.

  • If and when I’m asked, my favourite exotic equipment piece is probably the Ninjabike Kneepads, with the Memento Backpack being a close second. The Ninjabike Kneepads offer an instant reload when vaulting or performing cover-to-cover moves, allowing me always keep my active weapon topped off. This is how I keep the boosted RPM on my Chatterbox for entire missions. I’ve since swapped out the extra Hunter’s Fury mask for a Sokolov Concern mask, which adds a ten percent submachine gun damage bonus to ensure I’m even more effective in CQC. This is by no means a perfect setup: a fully optimised CQC loadout would require that I improve my critical chance probability and damage to the greatest extent possible. With this being said, I think that what I do have isn’t bad at all.

I imagine that with my current setup, I should stand a much better chance of being able to explore the Dark Zone in peace and even consider exploring the raid missions now. I recall attempting the latter with my Striker loadout some months previously and ended up quite unsuccessful, but now, with a loadout that basically gives me a very high DPS and never needs reloading, coupled with what some might considered to be overpowered, armour repair and self-healing capabilities, I am much more self sufficient and should be able to hold out for much longer in firefights, provided I can position myself to be effective. Having grown proficient with my setup’s strengths and weaknesses, I have no trouble with getting myself into a situation that lets me to fully capitalise on what my loadout has to offer. As a result, I now have a shorter TTK than I did even during the height of my time in The Division: named elites fall in the space of seconds when everything is lined up (this was most noticeable when I revisited New York to fight Kajika as a part of the Manhunt assignment, where I dropped his health and armour to zero before the scripted event kicks in and triggers the next part of the mission to become active). All of this was done without a fully optimised Chatterbox, so I am now curious to see if I might stand a better chance than I had previously with the raid missions. For now, however, Ubisoft has announced that they do intend on supporting The Division 2, and while I concede that the manhunts have become a little tiresome, it would be interesting to hear what Ubisoft has planned for the game as it enters its third year. Until then, I’ll take a bit of a break from The Division 2 and spend that time to unwind a bit more: this month’s been incredibly busy on all fronts, and so, every respite is something I’ve come to look forwards to.

MythBusters meets High School Fleet: Addressing Claims Surrounding Hai-Furi and Akeno’s Pinches on the High Seas

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes…as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons, than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.” –Norton Juster

In the aftermath of Hai-Furi: The Movie, I felt the inclination to revisit 2016’s Hai-Furi, which first began airing in April that year. Back then, it took many viewers completely by surprise: all indicators had suggested that this was going to be an easy-going series around discoveries made while training to become Blue Mermaids, a venerable organisation whose duty is to patrol the oceans and provide assistance and defense where appropriate. On her first day of class, Captain Akeno Misaki leads her destroyer, the Harekaze, into training, only to come under fire from her own instructor. In the aftermath, the Harekaze becomes wanted for alleged mutiny. In the ensuing chaos, Misaki and her crew get to know one another better as they work to clear their names, eventually unearthing a mystery behind their pinches. As the series continued running, viewers created their own speculations and theories regarding what was occurring. While generally interesting to read, some of these theories became increasingly ingrained as fact even as Akeno’s adventures began proving them to be untrue. Hai-Furi is the sort of anime that really requires an open mind to appreciate, and there are some claims that absolutely must be ascertained before one can start this series. In this post, I will be covering four myths surrounding Hai-Furi, which came about during and shortly after the first few episodes aired. When accepted as true, these myths significantly degrade one’s experience of the series, where the extraordinary events ultimately form the backdrop for a simple and straightforward theme: that bad luck is often-times only an excuse, and that the outcome of a given action is more likely to be successful when everyone is working as a team where the individuals trust one another to perform their role in a satisfactory manner. As Mashiro Munetani learns, luck has very little to do with things, and even what appears to be a setback, or the bad luck she is quick to cite, can become an asset with enough creativity and forward thinking.

The inert torpedo from the Harekaze sank the Sarushima

In the first episode, after the Harekaze arrives late at the rendezvous point with the Sarushima to begin their first class, Akeno and the others find themselves under fire from their instructor. The girls initially assume that this is a reprimand for being late and attempt to signal the Sarushima, but when nothing is effective, Akeno orders a training torpedo to be launched: realising that they’ll be pummeled to death if they continue to evade, Akeno chooses a course of action that sets in motion the events for the remainder of Hai-Furi. The crew thus put their training to use, firing a single inert torpedo that impacts the Sarushima and buys the girls enough time to escape. In the aftermath, the Sarushima appears to have suffered from noticeable hull damage, listing to the port and leaking oil. However, claims from Myssa Rei suggest that the Harekaze outright sank the Sarushima:

Wrong, in fact this is one of the things that the people at /a/ immediately contest — an armed 93cm Long Lance would have blown the Sarushima in half, as LSCs literally have no armor (or modern missile destroyers for that matter). They simply weren’t built to defend against an attack like that, because torpedoes no longer figure in modern (Cold War and onward) ship to ship combat. The Kagerou class could only launch one type of torpedo, as the Type 92 launcher was only made for the Long Lance in mind.

In every source I’ve looked and read, the Type 92 launcher, which is rendered EXACTLY how we saw, was only designed for the Type 93 1933 61 cm Torpedo, aka the Long Lance. IJN destroyers carried nothing else, and the torpedos that came later — the Type 95 and Type 97 — were made to be launched from subs, and would be too small to be launched safely from the Type 92. We’re talking a big difference here, as the type 95 and 97 were 53 cms. They wouldn’t fit snugly into a Type 92.

Now the fact that an UNARMED Long Lance would have sunk the Sarushima though? That’s where conspiracy theory and wild mass guessing steps in. According to the usual military enthusiasts, a PRIMED 93 cm Long Lance would have blown the Independence-class to smithereens, yet an UNPRIMED dud wouldn’t have made it list so much as in this episode… which could point that it was all a set-up.

  • Myssa Rei’s reasoning was that, since these mounts were designed for the Type 93, it stood to reason that the Type 93 was the only torpedo the Harekaze could have carried. However, discussions immediately deviated from the topic – while Hai-Furi had established Akeno specifically ordered a dummy torpedo loaded and fired, things immediately turned over to the question of how much damage a live Type 93 would do to the Sarushima, which is an irrelevant question with regard to what had been happening at the time.

  • The reality is that the Harekaze was equipped with Type 93 torpedoes with an inert warhead for training: Myssa Rei’s implications, in omitting mention of Akeno’s order, here would be analogous to suggesting that a rack for launching the AGM-114 Hellfire would only be compatible with live variants, but is otherwise unable to accept missiles outfitted with the M36 training device in place of its usual warhead. This is evidently not true: launchers are agnostic to the type of warhead the torpedo or missile is loaded with, as long as the missile casing is the right size and type, it will fit into the launch mechanism.

  • Thus, the torpedo mounts on the Harekaze would’ve accommodated both training and live torpedoes without any issue. There was never any doubt that the Harekaze had a stock of training torpedoes to use for exercises. The bigger question that this myth created was, how could a training torpedo have sunk the Sarushima? The answer itself is actually simple enough, and looking back, I now wish that I did take the time to step into the discussions and make my presence more visible: I imagine that by debunking Myssa Rei’s claims, discussions would not have gone in a cyclic, unproductive manner as it did.

  • The reason I did not actively correct or counter-argue with Myssa Rei had been because at the time, I had just been gearing up for my graduate thesis defense, and had simultaneously begun to do episodic reviews of Hai-Furi. Together, this was a very busy time: I was juggling the final draft of my thesis paper, the defense presentation itself and keeping abreast of all of the different speculation and theories that had surrounded Hai-Furi to ensure that my own posts adequately answered questions that might’ve been raised. Arguing with Myssa Rei did not seem the best use of my time, so I did not act, and in retrospect, the decision was both wise and foolish: by focusing on my work, I was able to pass my thesis defense with flying colours, but on the flipside, I allowed myths about Hai-Furi to endure.

  • Once the training torpedo hits the Sarushima, it leaves a sizeable dent in the hull. The ship begins listing to port, and evidently, the fuel tanks must’ve also sustained damage. However, even though the Harekaze’s crew imagine that they were in trouble for sinking an instructor’s vessel, no such thing has occurred. It typifies forum and image-board discussions to immediately jump to conclusions in a hive-mind like manner, and it was this mode of thinking where many of the misconceptions and errors about Hai-Furi came from.

Firstly, the Type 93 “Long Lance” was a 610 mm (24 inch) torpedo, not a 930 mm torpedo (probably a typo on Myssa Rei’s part). Being one of the most sophisticated Japanese torpedoes of WWII, the Type 93 utilised compressed oxygen as the oxidiser, greatly increasing the torpedo’s range and speed. Together with the 490 kilogram warhead, the Type 93 allowed small destroyers like the Kagerō-class to equip weapons capable of dealing damage to battleships at a range of 40 kilometres at a speed of 70 km/h. To put things in perspective, the best Allied torpedoes were the 530 mm Mark 15, which carried a 375 kilogram warhead out to a maximum range of 14 kilometres at 49.1 km/h (although the Mark 15 could reach a maximum speed of 83 km/h at a cost to its range). There were risks associated with these torpedoes, but in practise, the Imperial Japanese Navy recorded successes with the Type 93: for instance, four Type 93 torpedoes were used in sinking the USS Hornet at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in 1942. As it stands, modern warships are much more lightly armoured than their predecessors, instead, depending on electronic countermeasures to evade enemies over heavy armour. The Sarushima is modelled after the Independence-class littoral defense ships, which use an aluminium alloy hull and only possesses light armour, counting on its speed and ECM to evade enemy fire. Intended for shore patrol, intercepting smaller ships and anti-submarine warfare, the Independence-class represents a completely different use-case, and it is the case that a single live Type 93 could have rendered the Sarushima inoperable, overwhelming multiple bulkheads and creating a catastrophic situation where water would’ve filled enough compartments to eventually sink the ship, had the torpedo hit the wrong spot.

However, in Hai-Furi, the Sarushima only suffers from moderate hull damage; the very dialogue has made it clear that a training torpedo with an inert warhead was used. As for the amount of damage the training torpedo did to the Sarushima, we recall that the Type 93 torpedo had a mass of 2.7 metric tonnes: capable of reaching speeds of up to 96 km/h, at the close quarters that the Harekaze fired it in, even if no warhead was equipped, a glance at the relationship between velocity and mass finds that the amount of kinetic energy imparted by a direct hit is non-trivial. The light armour on an Independence-class would at least buckle a little from the impact, especially if the torpedo had struck whilst moving at high speeds, and given Akeno’s unusual luck, it is not out of the realm of possibility that she could’ve hit somewhere critical, breaching the hull and allowing water to seep in, creating the list seen in the anime. However, modern naval vessels possess watertight compartments so that, if one compartment is breached, it is immediately sealed off, preventing water from entering other areas. When the Sarushima was hit, systems on board would’ve prevented the hull breach from causing the ship to sink. Owing to their engineering, naval ships are very difficult to sink outright; for example, during a 2016 RIMPAC SINKEX exercise, a Perry-class frigate was used in a live fire exercise. With no crew on board, and all of the watertight compartments sealed, other vessels hammered this abandoned Perry-class. Without a damage control crew, the vessel still took a day to sink. Moreover, the Independence-class has a Trimaran hull, so the port impact would not have affected the starboard hull. Hence, it is clear that a live Type 93 is not guaranteed to have immediately sunk the Sarushima (even if it does mission-kill the ship), and moreover, an inert training warhead certainly did not sink the Sarushima. It is important to reiterate that at this point, the Sarushima was damaged, but not sunk: the vessel was later towed to port for repairs, while instructor Furushou was transferred to a different vessel.

Verdict: Busted

The Hunt For Red October‘s plot influenced Hai-Furi‘s plot in its entirety, and the entire staff watched the film ahead of production

Shortly before the third episode aired, the Hai-Furi production team released a special interview with script supervisor Reiko Yoshida on their official website. In this interview, Yoshida remarks that Hai-Furi had always been intended to be about overcoming difficulties, and that crossing the ocean became a metaphor for the series’ themes. As such, the series placed a particular emphasis about camaraderie on the high seas, and to this end, showcased different members of the crew and their unique points to really emphasise how life on a ship was conducted. As a part of the interview, Yoshida was asked about whether or not she was inspired by any other works while writing for Hai-Furi.

According to this the production crew watched The Hunt for Red October as reference material. Let that sink in.

問: なかなか参考資料が少ない作品だと思いますが、参考にされたものはありますか?
答: 吉田 鈴木さんから参考資料を貸していただいたり、映画はいくつか観ました。『レッドオクトーバーを追え』などですね。船内の生活の参考にしています。

Whether its[sic] for script reference, of just crew conditions, is up to debate.

Q: This is an original work with few references to existing works, but are there any references to other works?
A: I mostly referred to materials from Suzuki, but I also saw some films. For instance, I used The Hunt for Red October as a reference for what life on board (a ship) was like.

  • It was indeed Hai-Furi that led me to pick up and read Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October – at the time, I’d already been a fan of Tom Clancy, having read a handful of his Jack Ryan Jr. books, which followed the clandestine off-the-books group, The Campus, as they work to collect intelligence and action it in order to stop plots that threaten the United States. The Hunt for Red October had been described as “the perfect yarn” by former President Ronald Reagan, and upon reading it, I was very impressed with how the book managed to weave so much technical detail into a compelling story. I subsequently watched the film, as well, finding it to be every bit as engaging as the novel.

  • However, one thing also became apparent to me: all of the memes online that suggested Hai-Furi was The Hunt for Red October with hawt anime girls were wrong. A bit of tracing found that all of this ended up from Myssa Rei: originally, the interview at Hai-Furi‘s official site was posted to Reddit and initially did not receive too much traction. When Myssa Rei found it and posted the above quoted passage to both AnimeSuki and Tango-Victor-Tango, the idea immediately took off like a wildfire. Some fans even create fan art of The Hunt for Red October‘s movie poster featuring Akeno and Mashiro, while at Tango-Victor-Tango, a troper would write that there were enough similarities between the two’s plots: both involve pursuit of a “rogue” naval vessel.

  • When I first watched Hai-Furi, I had not read nor watched The Hunt for Red October for myself, and so, I could only remark on it. However, once I did finish, I found next to no similarities beyond this, and so, I dug a little further into the interview. Armed with my own rudimentary ability to read Japanese, I quickly learnt that Myssa Rei had, in fact, left out a great deal of context and (inadvertently, I’m sure) mistranslated the interview passage. The interview had been with one of the script supervisors, Reiko Yoshida, who mentioned that she specifically watched the film to gain insight as to the conditions inside a ship.

  • Nowhere in the interview did she suggest that other members of the staff also watched The Hunt for Red October. Yoshida’s mention of The Hunt for Red October was in the passing, and wasn’t an integral part of the interview. In spite of this, the lack of any other information resulted in memes being created, and misinformation being spread. When one reads the interview in full, it becomes clear that The Hunt for Red October was but one part of Hai-Furi, which had been intended to be a story about overcoming difficulties as a team.

  • The lesson learned from this myth is not to always trust someone’s translation work in full unless they are a professional: languages have their own subtleties, and Myssa Rei’s partial translation left out enough details such that it completely changed what the interview’s answers had been about. Instead, folks should always strive to reason through things themselves, and where applicable, use any appropriate resources to assist in the process.

Yoshida largely used scriptwriter Takaaki Suzuki’s notes to help with her work, and in the interview, she explicitly stated that she also watched The Hunt for Red October to gain a measure of how other works presented life on board a ship (in this case, the submarine, USS Dallas). In the interview, however, there is absolutely no indicator that the entire production crew had sat down to watch The Hunt for Red October, nor is there any truth in the claim that the overarching narrative in Hai-Furi was inspired directly by The Hunt for Red October. The Hunt for Red October was about CIA analyst Jack Ryan struggling to convince his superiors that Soviet Captain, Marco Ramius, was intending to defect, and the novel’s themes had been about the complexities of politics interfering with one’s ability to do what is right, as well as the idea that not everyone in another nation is subservient to their ideology. These themes were framed around a submarine chase and technical expertise from the submarine crews, as well as Ryan himself: the US Navy had intended to capture Ramius and the Red October, a Typhoon-class submarine equipped with a revolutionary silent propulsion system, something that Ryan was familiar with. Shortly after this interview came out, Myssa Rei quoted the passage above out of context and mistranslated it, resulting in the impression that The Hunt for Red October had served as the primary inspiration for Hai-Furi. This resulted in the preposterous claim that Hai-Furi was, in effect, an anime adaptation of The Hunt for Red October, since both series involved “a rogue ship is being hunted down by the world’s navies”.

When the interview is read in its entirety, however, Hai-Furi was written with a very different objective in mind: even before the anime’s story was fully presented, the full interview shows that Hai-Furi had always been intended to show how people grow and mature when placed into difficult situations. The idea to use a naval setting was simply because on a naval vessel, quarters are very cramped and narrow. Things that people take for granted become valuable or even absent, and so, it created an environment where trouble and adversity awaited around almost every corner. Thus, Akeno and the others needed to adjust to this environment and rise above their problems. Conversely, in The Hunt for Red October, the metaphor of using sonar to hunt for a rogue submarine was chosen to represent navigating political circles: finding the answers is akin to searching for a needle in a field of haystacks, but even then, skill and perseverance carry the day. It becomes clear that Hai-Furi and The Hunt for Red October only share the most superficial of similarities: both works take place on the high seas, but beyond this, strove to accomplish entirely different goals, tell different stories and present different themes. There is no basis to suggest that Hai-Furi was inspired directly by The Hunt for Red October at scale. This particular misconception resulted as a result of a mistranslation, and as a consequence of taking Yoshida’s words out of context; the lesson learnt here is not to take fan-translations of interview materials at face value, especially if they are sourced from individuals who do not have the skill or willingness to provide a correct, complete translation.

Verdict: Busted

Takaaki Suzuki tweeted a full justification for why powered flight doesn’t exist in Hai-Furi

The absence of heavier-than-air flight in Hai-Furi became immediately noticeable by the events of the third episode, when Kouko comments on how she wishes she could fly like a bird, without the need for hydrogen or helium, and Mashiro remarks it’s outright impossible. I myself had immediately noticed the absence of aircraft carriers out of the first episode and found it absurd that they’d be absent, especially considering that smaller carriers have been successfully used as helicopter carriers: while there may be no need for super carriers and power projection, helicopter carriers would be immensely useful for deploying rotorcraft, which have applications as emergency transport vehicles, search and rescue, observation and even carrying loads. Their utility would be immediately apparent in a world like Hai-Furi: helicopters do not require a runway to take off, and given how that the land had been submerged by rising oceans, it stands to reason that these aircraft would only become more valuable as a part of the Blue Mermaid’s tool set. This apparently was not the case: it soon became clear that heavier-than-air flight had never been developed at all in Hai-Furi. This was evidently a plot device: the presence of heavier-than-air flight would’ve allowed for the Blue Mermaids to trivially solve the anime’s story, and the restrictions were present precisely to give World War Two era naval vessels a chance to shine. For the same reason air and infantry support are absent in Girls und Panzer, Hai-Furi dispensed with heavier-than-air flight altogether to accommodate the story. This is understandable, but things became murkier once Myssa Rei claimed to have found a series of tweets from Takaaki Suzuki himself.

I think that people should be MORE worried about another tweet by someone connected with the production itself, rather than getting angry at how airpower was just taken out of the picture by authorial fiat (because the sheer butterfly effect this would cause is already driving some people up the wall). The extra information you seem to be referring to were kind of Q&A Tweets from Military Adviser Takaaki himself:

In addition, I wonder how many people watched script writer Takaaki Suzuki’s commentary on the setting for Hai-Furi. According to the commentary, it’s “a world where powered flight was unsuccessful”, so there are no blimps, aircraft or rockets that use onboard propulsion to fly. As such, aircraft carriers do not exist, either.

Furthermore, because Japan became resource-rich as a result of methane hydrate mining, there was no need for a Pacific War. World War Two became a strictly European conflict, and without aircraft, there was no need to develop effective anti-air weaponry. As such, more advanced anti-air weaponry from the latter half of the war will not appear.

  • Early in Hai-Furi, Kouko expresses a wish for heavier than air flight, only for Mashiro to reply with a blunt “no”, that it’s impossible. I did not particularly take exception to this fact, since Hai-Furi would’ve progressed very differently were air power available as an option. The choice to remove air power was done deliberately so naval ships from the World War Two era had a chance to shine in Hai-Furi – as aircraft carriers became more integral to naval power during World War Two, battleships were quickly pushed out of the picture. The Yamato, Japan’s greatest battleship, was defeated not by the USS Missouri, a similar battleship, but by aircraft launched from carriers.

  • Instead, I disagreed immediately with Myssa Rei pushing a few Tweets as being sufficient evidence for why air power never developed. Looking back, it was suspect that Myssa Rei chose to screencap the Tweets and upload the images to an image host, as opposed to providing a direct link to the Tweets themselves. While this was likely done out of convenience (e.g. if the Tweets were deleted, or the account were to become deactivated), a record of them would remain. However, this also prevented others from grabbing the text and translating it for themselves, which meant that for ease of discussion, forum-goers simply accepted Myssa Rei’s translations and interpretations to be true.

  • I was able to use Twitter’s findfor-since-until query to locate the original Tweets and grab the original text for a bit of machine translation. The results should not be too surprising: the original Tweets had not actually been from script writer Takaaki Suzuki as claimed, and moreover, were again, translated in an incomplete manner. Through Myssa Rei’s translation, it was implied that air power had simply been too hard to figure out, so people gave up on it. The actual text simply supposes it was unsuccessful, and gives no further explanation, meaning it was equally likely that powered flight went the way of the earliest electric cars after the internal combustion engine was developed.

  • As it was, I disagreed with Myssa Rei on this particular detail, and was met with a stony silence on the forums. It typified Myssa Rei’s usual modus operandi: since I was deemed unworthy of talking to them at the same level, I never got responses for any of the information or theories I put forward. However, in a curious bit of passive-aggression, Myssa Rei later edited Tango-Victor-Tango to read that I was a part of the “broken base” over the absence of air power. I had not been opposed to the lack of heavier-than-air vehicles, but rather, the assertion that it was simply too hard and therefore unnecessary to develop aircraft and helicopters.

  • I’m not sure how Myssa Rei would’ve actually found the Twitter posts in question, but I imagine that it was probably through imageboards. I’ve never particularly liked image boards, since their anonymous nature meant that people were often prone to abuses, with users posting fan theories and outrageous guesses that almost always turned out incorrect. For instance, 4chan’s anime boards speculated that the phenomenon caused by what was later known as the Totalitarian Virus was actually mind control, whereas I contended it was a virus. When I made this suggestion on AnimeSuki, I was told that this was impossible, and mind control made more sense. Once the later episodes revealed the phenomenon had a biological origin, discussion on that topic immediately ceased.

I will open by remarking that the Twitter account in question does not actually belong to Suzuki: Suzuki operates a Twitter account under the handle @yamibun, and specifies his birthday as being June 9. This profile is definitely Suzuki’s, as it openly specifies that he works as a writer and does screenplays. Conversely, the account that Myssa Rei cites, @hunini181202 (formerly @xBbZcxGT3KAVmR9) belongs to a military enthusiast who enjoys uploading military photos to Wikimedia Commons and lives in Ujitawara in the Kyoto Prefecture. Furthermore, @hunini181202’s profile lists the user’s birthday as November 16. The lack of overlap indicates that @hunini181202, who Myssa Rei cited as being Suzuki, is in fact, not Suzuki, who uses the @yamibun account. Thus, the conclusion is simple enough: the individual who made those Tweets about heavier-than-air flight in Hai-Furi is not Takaaki Suzuki, and in fact, is only stating that he has source material from Suzuki. We can thus discard Myssa Rei’s assertions that the lack of air power in Hai-Furi is justified on the basis of “authorial fiat”, having shown that Myssa Rei’s initial premise is false. However, in proper MythBusters style, this isn’t any fun, so those claims from the anonymous user are still worth considering. Thus, let’s suppose for a moment that Takaaki Suzuki did, in fact, argue that the lack of heavier-than-air flight stems from setbacks dating back to the Wright Brothers in 1903.

The primary point here is the assertion that heavier-than-air flight, like fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, don’t exist simply because the attempts to develop it failed, and as such, humanity simply discarded the concept and walked away without ever considering the idea again in the future. This is, quite frankly, an insult to Wilbur and Orville Wright, as well as every aviator who attempted to carry out powered flight prior to 1903: the Wright Brothers had struggled extensively to design a vehicle capable of powered flight. After testing various designs between 1900 and 1902, they determined that the Wright Flyer design was the most suitable and set about testing it. On their first trial, Wilbur crashed the vehicle, but it was repaired, and Orville took to the skies for a total of twelve seconds on a subsequent attempt. Although short, and their initial efforts resulted in the destruction of the original Flyer, the Wright brothers had demonstrated that powered flight was indeed possible. History would’ve dictated that, had the Wright Brothers failed, early aviators like Karl Jatho, Samuel Pierpont Langley or Alberto Santos-Dumont would have succeeded given enough time. History is dotted with individuals who were met with failures before success: the Dyson vacuum under went more than five thousand iterations before it worked, and James Dyson ended up creating his own manufacturing company to build them when large manufacturing firms declined to, Robert Goddard’s concept of a liquid fuel rocket was originally dubbed “impossible” but would form the basis for all modern rockets, and Thomas Edison famously experimented with a thousand designs before succeeding in creating the incandescent lamp. The lesson here is that humanity is largely a species characterised by a desire to explore and discover, so to suggest that humanity gave up on powered flight is to imply that as a species, we are not driven by innovation. So, for the sake of discussion, let’s suppose that is the case. Writing letters is effective enough of a form of communication, but it hasn’t stopped Hai-Furi‘s universe from developing tablets of the variety that Kouko uses. Consequently, innovation and advancement does exist in Hai-Furi, and since this contradicts the original idea, that humanity in Hai-Furi has stagnated, we can conclude by saying that it is the case that humanity is still advancing, the idea that humanity simply lost interest in powered flight is not an acceptable answer. As such, barring a more detailed explanation from Suzuki, this is not the answer we’re looking for.

Verdict: Busted

Methane hydrate mining cannot cause land to subside, so the alternate time-line in Hai-Furi is implausible from a geological perspective

At Tango-Victor-Tango, one of the tropes I’m least fond of are the “artistic license” ones: inaccuracies committed for the sake of story, in their own words. Tropes seem to love these, because it gives them a chance to show off their own knowledge and intellect. In Hai-Furi, it is supposed that because Japan was involved in the mining of methane hydrate (simply, methane crystallised into a ice-like material as a result of pressure extremities), their economy was stable and therefore, there was never any need to engage in any expansionism. However, Japan became highly dependent on the mining and sales of ice hydrates to the point where they over-mined, causing Japan to sink. Myssa Rei immediately posted the “artistic license” trope under geology, stating that:

The explanation given by Mashiro’s mother for the reason for the subsidence of Japan’s landmass being partly due to the over-mining of the undersea deposits of Methane Hydrate doesn’t make any sense. There’s a chance that she was genuinely misinformed, however.

  • There was actually one more myth I was originally looking to write about in this post – shortly before the first episode aired, a blog post argued that all of the characters’ nicknames had been based on popular cat names in Japan. I ended up asking for a source to prove this and received a link for a pet name ranking for dogs, dated for 2018. The names “Mike” and “Shiro” do not even appear in 2018, so that myth was so busted, it didn’t merit a full entry. As it stands, Akeno and Mashiro are not named after cats.

  • As Hai-Furi wore on, it became apparent that my speculations were consistent with what ended up occurring, and I found the series to be more than it let in on. Looking back at the discussions at various forums, it became clear that they were likely the reason why Hai-Furi had not been enjoyable for some: people spent more time arguing the withertoos and whyfores that the series original themes, which Yoshida had touched in in her interview, were completely forgotten. In my finale post, I praised the series for having a clear theme despite the hurdles the plot faced, noting that the inaccuracies and liberties taken did not detract from the messages of trust and teamwork even if they had been numerous.

  • However, in retrospect, beyond the mechanism for the Totalitarian Virus, everything else in the series stands up to scrutiny: Hai-Furi is not realistic by any means, but how the world was presented was sufficiently well thought-out that the story did work despite the fact that the series felt distinctly cobbled-together. Once the finale to Hai-Furi ended, many of AnimeSuki’s most active participants did not show up for the OVAs or film that followed. In the aftermath, I ended up working with another netizen to iron out the remaining issues at Tango-Victor-Tango. This individual was an active editor there, and I would help them with writing out the Hai-Furi page such that all of the speculation and outdated information sourced from image boards were removed.

  • This is the overhead view of Japan that led me to conclude that Hai-Furi‘s geography had resulted from a mining accident, rather than a global rise in sea levels. As it stands, I believe the four myths discussed, and busted, in this post are likely the main details I wished to address. The Totalitarian Virus is a central part of the story and therefore, one’s reception to that is a more accurate determinant of whether or not Hai-Furi would be enjoyable for them. That is to say, dismissing Hai-Furi on account of a torpedo’s damage, whether or not it lined up with The Hunt for Red October, plausibly explained away heavier-than-air flight or was realistic in its geological description of the mining disaster is to be mistaken.

  • Admittedly, re-watching Hai-Furi without any of the forum drama going on is how I prefer to watch this series. It’s now time to finish busting the last myth, finish off this post (which has reached 6649 words in length and took seven hours to write altogether), and then return to regularly scheduled programming: immediately on the horizon is Wednesday’s post for the tenth Road to Berlin post, and I need to get a move on the post for Halo 4, having beaten it last Thursday.

Evidently, the Tango-Victor-Tango Department of Geological Sciences does not have mining subsidence as a part of their syllabus: subsidence is the sinking or settling of ground downwards with little horizontal motion, and it has been shown that extensive mining activities can cause the ground to sink. In the case of natural gas deposits, there is a limit to how much the gas can be compressed before it enters the liquid phase, and liquids, being incompressible, will support soil layers above the gas field. Extracting the gas then results in a reduced pressure, and the mass of materials above the deposit will begin sinking. Methane hydrates do indeed have commercial applicability: the deposits around the world are thought to contain as much as ten times the volume of natural gas as known deposits, and Japan has expressed interest in using this as a fuel source: their geologists estimate upwards of 1.1 trillion cubic metres of methane hydrates in the Nankai trough alone. Real-world geological research has thus indicated that Japan does indeed have sizeable reserves, and in the realm of fiction, things have simply been scaled up. As such, excessive mining, coupled with the fact that natural gas extraction could in fact cause land subsidence, is not too far-fetched a concept for setting up how Hai-Furi‘s Japan ended up the way it did.

Experimenting with sea level maps, the image of Japan shown near the first episode’s ending suggests that Japan’s sunk by anywhere from 50-80 metres. However, the Korean peninsula looks relatively unaffected, whereas a 60 metre sea level rise (occurring if all of the world’s ice caps melted) would also be noticeable in that overhead image. The sum of these observations indicate that the sea level rise in Hai-Furi did not result from global warming as a result of burning natural gas: this was something that a few folks at Anime News Network concluded was the actual cause of the events in Hai-Furi, and the anime had simply gone with a different route to avoid the topic of climate change and its impacts on the world. When everything is considered, catastrophic climate change resulting from greenhouse gases was not the cause of Japan sinking: investigation of the consequence of extracting natural gas and assuming that a similar model can be used for methane hydrate extraction at scale finds that it is plausible for such a disaster to occur. Consequently, the claim that Hai-Furi‘s world-building is an example of artistic license in geology is untrue: while admittedly far-fetched, Mayuki wasn’t misinformed in any way. Such an occurrence is not beyond the realm of what is possible given the distribution of methane hydrate deposits around the world and is consistent with what is potentially known to occur with natural gas extraction.

Verdict: Busted

Closing Remarks

Having shown that the theories and research surrounding for Hai-Furi were oh-for-four in this post, the conclusion I leave readers with is really just to approach Hai-Furi with an open mind. Misplaced expectations will inevitably result if any one of these myths were on the viewer’s mind while watching Hai-Furi. The observant reader will have noticed that all of these myths came from Myssa Rei. It is not the intent of this post to cast Myssa Rei in a poor light, but to demonstrate the consequences of basing one’s interpretations and speculation about a series from incomplete details missing context, or speculation from disreputable sources like 4chan. Had I agreed with Myssa Rei, Hai-Furi would not be enjoyable. Akeno making a decision that resulted in the Sarushima’s sinking would paint her as bumbling and incompetent. If Hai-Furi had really been a retelling of The Hunt for Red October, the vastly different themes between the two works would mean that certain events would never reconcile. The lack of powered flight would speak poorly of society in Hai-Furi, giving very little incentive to suppose that the people in charge are competent and able. A lack of a plausible mechanism for explaining why the world was the way it was would imply the writers did not care enough for the final product to make a reasonable world for Akeno and the others, and consequently, there wouldn’t be a reason to root for Akeno, Mashiro and the others. All of these are untrue, and Hai-Furi is, in fact, a moderately enjoyable series.

The point of this post is to demonstrate how exercising my own judgement and forming my own conclusions allowed me to enjoy Hai-Furi. As such, in retrospect, I probably should’ve written this post much earlier, as this would’ve helped to smooth out any inconsistencies as a result amongst the other viewers. Looking back, a common problem that I’ve noticed with news and information of any sort is that, the first person to release it inevitably gains all of the credit for it, and their work is automatically assumed to be correct. Consequently, even if it can later be shown that the first person had been in fact, wrong, and a retraction is issued, the misinformation continues to endure because most people will not be interested in the recanting of outdated, incorrect information. I realise full well this is what’s happening here with this MythBusters-style post: even though I’ve busted four myths in a succinct manner, it is doubtful that Hai-Furi fans will read this post, much less realise that Myssa Rei had been completely mistaken about a great many things. While the ship has sailed for busting Hai-Furi myths (pun intended!), there are two take-away lessons from this post for readers that certainly apply to other series. The first is that when a series is airing, one should always make their own judgements and not allow influential-looking individuals to affect their impressions of a work. The second is that, for a series that has finished airing, someone who sounds authoritative about the work might not always be correct, and again, one’s assessment of said work should be based on their own judgements.

The Division 2: A New Exotic Collection, The Hunter’s Fury Gear Set and The Manhunt for Schaeffer

“There are some places in life where you can only go alone. Embrace the beauty of your solo journey.” –Mandy Hale

Since the events of the last manhunt, I primarily shifted my focus to on collecting exotic weapons and gear in The Division 2. In The Division, exotics were the rarest of the rare items, and for this, featured some of the must unique traits of any weapon in the game. The Division 2 took exotics a step further, allowing them to fundamentally change the way the game was played. Unlike The Division, exotics are now counted as being powerful enough such that players can only equip one exotic weapon and gear piece at a time, and moreover, there are some exotics that can be crafted following a quest chain, giving endgame players something meaningful to work towards: the Chatterbox requires that special parts be located in Hyena missions, while the Nemesis involves beating invaded missions. Between hunting for exotics and working on the different specialisation field research, The Division 2 has continued to remain highly engaging during the interim between the two manhunt seasons: the latest Manhunt entails hunting down Bardon Schaeffer, leader of the Black Tusk Specialist Unit who believes that eliminating the SHD is a necessary step to saving America. After a lengthy hunt in tracking down and neutralising his subordinates, it turns out that Schaeffer is hiding out at Coney Island. Despite his versatile loadout, the agent manages to bring him down, although even in his absence, the Black Tusk remain a formidable and dangerous force. The task was made easier by the collection of exotics I’d accumulated since the second manhunt, and for this third manhunt, I made a concerted effort to acquire all of the exotics in The Division 2 that do not involve pre-order bonuses, raids or legendary missions. At the time of writing, I believe that save the Dodge City Holster, I’ve got every exotic available in The Division 2 that can be acquired through solo play, bringing me back to where I had been towards the end of my time in The Division. In The Division, the Classified Striker’s Battlegear was the go-to option for anyone looking for a high damage build that vastly improved the performance of any automatic weapon. However, I found that The Division 2‘s iteration was far less effectual than it had been relative to my Classified Set, and after acquiring a Striker’s Battlegear set, I found myself distinctly worse off than I had with my previous gear.

The Division 2 would remedy this not long after, by introducing Hunter’s Fury: this gear set is intended for close quarters combat, and the set bonuses facilitate an aggressive, high-risk-high-reward play-style. The initial bonuses for having two active gear pieces are a fifteen percent boost to submachine gun and shotgun damage. At three pieces, players will recover a fifth of their armour and all of their health on each kill. Finally, when at least four pieces are equipped, the Apex Predator talent is unlocked. All enemies within fifteen metres take an additional twenty percent damage, and killing an enemy will disorient all enemies within five metres, as well as granting an extra five percent damage on top of this for ten seconds. Having the chest piece increases the duration up to half a minute, and equipping the backpack increases the range of the Apex Predator bonus to ten metres. Purely driven by damage, the Hunter’s Fury is the ultimate gear set for solo players favouring CQC, turning individual agents into an unstoppable wrecking ball in close quarters, whose rampage is only constrained by a need to reload and the fact that one is rendered less effective for long range combat. The weaknesses in the Hunter’s Fury gear set’s range can be offset by careful use of cover, while the constraints imposed by reloading can be trivially solved by adding the Ninjabike Messenger Kneepads, which favours cover-to-cover and parkour movements. To further enhance the Hunter’s Fury, the Chatterbox makes for a powerful primary weapon: it’s a custom P90 with a powerful set of talents. The first is that every kill refills half the magazine (a maximum of thirty rounds per kill), and moreover, reloading will increase the rate of fire by twenty percent for every enemy within a range of fifteen metres, up to a maximum of five stacks. The synergy between the Hunter’s Fury, Chatterbox and Ninjabike kneepads results in a build that is downright unfair: the gear set boosts damage at close quarters and provides healing, so I can wade into a firefight, down an enemy to stun the group, reload to secure the increased firing rate, and then mow down enemies back-to-back with a super-charged P90 without needing to reload. Once a firefight ends, I can then use the Ninjabike kneepad’s talent to top off my magazine without losing the bonus firing rate. Careful reload management and positioning means I have an immensely powerful build that allows me to maximise damage and constantly repair and heal without needing to dedicate skills or gear attributes towards defense: having now spent upwards of 160 hours in The Division 2, I have a build that is tuned to my preferred play-style, and moreover, as of the next title update, the inclusion of an optimisation station will allow me to further refine my gear.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Besides a new season’s worth of content, The Division 2 also introduced “The Summit”, a new game mode in which players finish the floors of a building with the aim of progressing to the hundredth floor for a prize. The fact there’s a hundred floors brings to mind the likes of Sword Art Online and Aincrad, which similarly had a hundred floors. The Division had a similar concept dubbed “The Underground”, set in the subways of New York.

  • Conceptually, The Summit game mode sounds fun, but I’m unlikely to play it because it doesn’t fit in with why I play The Division 2. Granted, there are other players who do enjoy the mode, and I am getting this mode for free since I purchased Warlords of New York, so I do have something else to do if I’m feeling up to slaughtering NPCs: I’m certainly not complaining about this game mode in any way.

  • I only ended up playing The Summit so I could finish off one of the requirements for the earlier Manhunt missions. Manhunt has been surprisingly fun, and the progression system has provided plenty of incentive to play: awards range from gear set items, to cosmetics, blueprints and even exotics. Reaching certain ranks in the Manhunt progression guarantees the new exotics, and this has been a fantastic way to collect some of The Division 2‘s best weapons and equipment.

  • I’ve heard that properly geared players can solo even legendary difficulties in The Summit, since the mode does scale for solo players somewhat. This would probably be the only way to get the Bighorn exotic assault rifle on my own, since I don’t particularly have an inclination to join groups for legendary missions. While a large part of The Division 2‘s best content is behind group activities (specifically, raids and legendary missions), a reasonably determined (and lucky) player could still collect most of these items without too much difficulty.

  • The main appeal about The Summit is that no two playthroughs is exactly alike, since the floors and setups differ every time one starts anew. Earlier iterations of the game allowed players to choose which floors they’d start on, but now, all players are reset to level one, but then save points are more frequent, and leaving a match at a level will only result in the player starting one level back (so if one were to be on floor 25 and left before finishing, they’d start on level 24 the next time they returned). On top of this, determined players who reach level 100 in The Summit will receive an exotic cache for their troubles.

  • The closed-in environment in The Summit means that CQC-oriented weapons like submachine guns and shotguns become immensely powerful: the Hunter’s Fury gear set was specifically designed with The Summit in mind, and after breaking in the set here, I realised I was onto something big: up until now, I played with a much slower, methodical pacing, but with the Hunter’s Fury, I can return to my play-style from The Division, where I played with a much more aggressive style.

  • Because the Hunter’s Fury limits me to close quarters combat, I’ve begun experimenting with loadouts, allowing me to switch my specialisation, equipped gear pieces and skills on a moment’s notice. This enables me to adapt to a situation and capitalise on a range of perks and talents depending on what the mission calls for. The downside to changing loadouts mid-mission is that it will empty out one’s special ammunition for their signature weapon, so switches must be made in a strategic manner if one makes extensive use of their signature weapon.

  • I’ve found that the signature weapons are merely another tool in the player’s arsenal, rather than a game-changer that allows one to individually change the tide of battle. For the third Manhunt season, I had focused on levelling the survivalist specialisation, which proved to be surprisingly entertaining. The crossbow and its explosive bolts, while dealing less direct damage than the M32A1 and having less range than the TAC-50, are a fun option that can one-shot Black Tusk warhounds. The other bonuses the specialisation confers is increased resistance against elite enemies, as well as enhanced healing in a team. This is very much a group-oriented specialisation, and I’m sure that I would’ve gotten more use out of the survivalist specialisation were I to squad up with other players.

  • A part of the Manhunt had included taking on Aaron Keener again. This time around, he was trivially easy to beat: knowing that the Eclipse virus doesn’t immediately harm the player, I was able to close the distance to Keener and melted him on very short order before he could do any real damage. During the early parts of the season three Manhunt event, I primarily ran with the Lady Death exotic submachine gun, whose main bonuses are increased critical hit damage with player movement, and bonus melee damage. The weapon’s main limitation is its small magazine size, but the reload is very quick.

  • With the damage bonuses from the Hunter’s Fury, shotguns go from being modestly useful to monstrosities at close quarters: most enemies now fall in a single shot. The Sweet Dreams, an exotic SPAS-12 shotgun, thus becomes particularly entertaining: a few shells will destroy all but the most heavily armoured of enemies, and in a pinch, the Sweet Dreams’ unique talent allows one to knock out veteran enemies with one melee strike.

  • After finishing off the first Manhunt target, I found myself one step closer to Schaefer; during my first-ever Manhunt, I initially struggled to locate the bounty targets and assumed that they were for the ordinary bounties. The Division 2 is generally intuitive, but there are some aspects that do not make sense off the bat. Compared to its predecessor, The Division 2 has a lot more to do at the end-game, but the tradeoff for increased content variety is that some things are not explained quite as well. Once I figured out how the Manhunt bounties worked, however, it was simple enough to finish them off.

  • Since September, I’ve been completing the weekly SHD Acquisition missions for the guaranteed exotic caches that the assignment gives. Players must donate resources to the Projects Officer (one of food, water or components, together with any combination of polycarbonate, ceramics, titanium, steel, cloth or receiver parts), and in exchange, will receive an exotic cache, a named item, and a blueprint, plus specialisation points for the active specialisation. This has been a fantastic way of keeping busy in the game: by raiding resource convoys, one can top off fairly quickly, and then completing missions and lighting up bad guys will provide the other resources.

  • In this way, I’ve gotten several exotics that I found immensely useful, including the Ninjabike Messenger Kneepads, the Pestilence LMG, and even a Bullet King LMG. However, the exotic caches are a bit of a gamble: I remember going three weeks in a row where I got nothing but Sweet Dreams. The plus side about exotics are that, if one should receive duplicates, they can be broken down for exotic components, which can be used to reconfigure other exotics.

  • On one particularly wild run, while I had been focused on other things, I wound up picking up not one, not two, but three exotics: the Acosta Go Bag, another Coyote Mask and my second Chameleon assault rifle. This run happened during the Thanksgiving Long Weekend: that Saturday, I had just finished writing about GochiUsa BLOOM‘s first episode and had gone for a nice walk in the afternoon, so as the evening set in, I decided to try and make some progress in The Division 2. I ended up finding three exotics over the space of an hour.  While there were two duplicates, the Chameleon was rolled better than my previous one, which I’d gotten randomly from clearing a hard control point.

  • For a time in September, I had my sights set on the Chameleon assault rifle: its unique talent gives a bonus based on which part of the body one hits with it, offsetting the fact that the weapon initially has a poor base damage. Headshots increase critical hit probability and damage, body shots increase base damage by up to 80 percent, and leg shots makes a reload speedier. The weapon handles more similarly to an SMG than an assault rifle, and is only really useful in some scenarios, but when all of the buffs align, the weapon can melt through named characters in the blink of an eye, and on top of that, looks downright awesome.

  • Since the Chameleon is an assault rifle despite having the handling of a submachine gun, I typically don’t run it for serious missions: the Hunter’s Fury is geared towards SMG and shotguns, so typically, I’ll run the Chatterbox with either an assault rifle, rifle or LMG depending on what the mission requires. One aspect about the Hunter’s Fury gear set I particularly liked, beyond its bonuses and attributes, was the fact that the backpack was stuffed with arrows, making it a solid choice when running the survivalist specialisation and its crossbow.

  • By the events of the third Manhunt, I’d also unlocked the gunner specialisation, which favours controlling enemy movement and suppressing them with sustained fire. The M134 mini-gun fires 7.62mm rounds at a blistering 1000 RPM, and holds up to 150 rounds in its drum. Reloading is quick, and equipping the M134 also temporarily boosts one’s armour, allowing agents to wade into a firefight and deal out an absurd amount of damage. The gunner specialisation proved much more fun than I’d expected, and it very quickly became a personal favourite, being suited for close-quarters engagements where I can mow down entire groups of enemies quickly.

  • Opinion on the Chameleon is generally mixed for most players, and in practise, I’ve found it to consume ammunition at incredibly high rates. With the perks from the gunner specialisation, however, I can regenerate ten percent of my ammunition capacity every minute, and with the right specialisation perks, I can even regenerate the 7.62 mm rounds for the M134. The requirement for obtaining M134 ammunition is to score multi-kills without letting go of the trigger, and I’ve found that this synergises very well with the Chatterbox: by wading into a group of enemies and overwhelming them with Hunter’s Fury, entire squads are decimated without once letting up on the fire.

  • While the M134 is powerful, it is less effective against named enemies, and I’ve found that on the whole, a Chatterbox fully buffed with the improved firing rate bonus, in conjunction with the stacked damage bonuses from the Hunter’s Fury gear set (and bonus damage from the specialisation) will tear enemies apart even more quickly than the M134. I’ve not really focused on dealing bonus armour damage this time around because the other perks mean that I’m dealing enough damage now to equal my old The Division build, where I had 60 percent bonus armour damage on my Striker set.

  • During one invaded mission at the Washington Grand Hotel, taking out a named enemy landed me a Pestilence LMG. As an exotic, the weapon’s special talent is to apply a debuff on enemies that deals damage over time, and when the afflicted enemy is downed, the debuff transfers over to the next nearest enemy. My Pestilence also had bonus armour damage, making it a decently powerful option for squaring off against tougher enemies, and I’ve found it to be a fun LMG to have around. While not shown in this post, I also found a Bullet King. This is probably the most distinctive LMG in the whole of The Division 2: sporting a golden finish, the Bullet King’s unique talent allows it to never require reloading, and so, its effective magazine size is one’s LMG capacity. This gives the Bullet King the greatest potential for sustained damage in all of The Division 2.

  • The Bullet King goes well with my Hunter’s Fury gear set, but during a handful of missions, I found that being restricted to close-quarters combat left me at a distinct disadvantage. During my quest to unlock the firewall specialisation, I ended up creating a long-range build centred around the Aces and Eights gear set, which emphasises sniping: one of the field research assignments had been to complete the DARPA Labs mission on hard, and Brenner was defeating me at every turn, since I couldn’t get close enough to damage him. With a sniper-oriented set, and the capacity to hit for up to seventeen million points of damage with the headshot bonuses, however, I shredded Brenner with a pair of well-placed headshots from my Nemesis exotic sniper, which took me the whole of September to gather the parts for.

  • Here, I square off against a named elite named “The Westie” – it is with some amusement that I remark that MrProWestie is one of my favourite YouTube channels, and his content on gaming, especially with Battlefield and Call of Duty: Warzone, is relatively well-known, so I wonder if this is a clever shout-out. I fonud MrProWestie’s channel while looking for Battlefield 1 content some years ago, and stuck with it because he’d been fond of adding Wilhelm Screams into some of his videos. At the time, I’d already been following LevelCap and JackFrags: LevelCap’s videos are generally the most cut-and-dried, offering a good range of opinions and perspectives, while JackFrags injects the most humour into his. MrProWestie is a happy balance between the two videos, and I’ve gotten most of my Battlefield news from these three YouTubers.

  • Because of their approaches, I respect each for being consistent, fair and bringing something noteworthy to the table. Back in The Division 2, I returned to Coney Island for the last few segments of the manhunt. At this point, I’ve played enough of the Year One maps to know them as well as any of the locations in Washington D.C., and I believe I’ve mentioned this last post: Coney Island looks amazing by day. On my first play-through, I had gotten the map at night, with all the carnival rides and midway alit. However, the small details in each area are at their best during the day.

  • As I reach the ball field, a bolt of lightning strikes the ground, creating a literal bolt from the blue. I imagine that the weather effects had been intended for when it rains during this segment of the mission, but since there’s dynamic weather in The Division 2, there can be some unusual occurrences. It was a stroke of luck that I captured the lightning when it struck: even in video games, lightning bolts occur quickly, and are therefore difficult to capture for screenshots. On an unrelated note, I have been closely following the sentencing trials for Chow Ting and Wong Chi-Fung: verdicts were delivered yesterday. I found the verdict to be very lenient, especially when considering the damage these two have dealt to Hong Kong (Chow Ting only received a 10 month sentence, while Chi-Fung was sentenced to 13 months’ imprisonment). However, knowing that those who have caused chaos and division to society will now face the repercussions for their actions brings me a sense of vindication. In particular, it was with great satisfaction to see Chow Ting dissolving into tears after the community service order her lawyers were seeking had been rejected in favour of a ten-month sentence.

  • Actions have consequences – just because someone has a pretty face and half a million Twitter followers does not render them above the law. Those on social media can complain vociferously now, but it will be little more than a pointless gesture: change in the real world is affected by those who possess a modicum of skill and a willingness to work hard, not those who believe a large follower count is the single determinant of success. With Chow Ting and Chi-Fung behind bars, I look forwards to a quiet, peaceful and serene winter break, one that I will kick off by knocking back a victory soda. Back in The Division 2, having now unlocked the firewall specialisation, I now only need to finish off the technician’s field research: my aim is to have most of the field research done so that come season four, I can focus on earning specialisation points to max out both the firewall and technician. The K8 Jetstream Flamethrower is a compact weapon capable of projecting a jet of flame out a short distance, dealing massive damage to those caught in the blast, and reminds me of Elon Musk’s Not A Flamethrower in terms of appearance. Unlike the Not A Flamethrower, the K8 deals serious damage, and the fuel for it is earned simply by killing enemies at close range.

  • This Manhunt marks the first time I’ve ever faced off against a Hunter. Hunters are the single most lethal individual enemy in The Division and in The Division 2, have been given superior armour and firepower over their earlier counterparts. These enemies carry a range of skills and moreover, are able to emit a jamming signal that renders one’s skills ineffectual. Furthermore, they are equipped with a combat axe and can kill players in one hit at close quarters. Beating this Hunter here is just a part of the mission, but elsewhere in The Division 2, Hunters can be summoned and drop special masks that can be collected.

  • I think that after season four ends, it might be worthwhile to go back and try collecting the masks: at that point, I imagine that I’ll have all of the items that are worth collecting, and in the next update, with the optimisation station, I can simply focus on making my current gear as powerful as possible. Back in the season three Manhunt, radio chatter indicates that there’s more to Schaeffer than meets the eye: he references a Natalya Sokolova, but not much more is known about her.

  • At long last, it’s time to face off against this season’s prime target: Schaeffer is armed with an SVD and an AUG-A3 rifle, along with airburst seeker mines, sticky bombs and jammer grenades. It was during this fight where I realised my Hunter’s Fury was probably not going to work well against Schaeffer: Hunter’s Fury is designed for dealing with multiple, weaker enemies, whereas against individually strong enemies, the healing and repair perks, plus the ability to stun nearby enemies, are largely irrelevant. In this fight, I came close to death on two occasions, and ended up beating Schaeffer using the Mk. 46, a modified M249 firing 7.62 mm rounds.

  • It turns out that defeating Schaeffer will drop another Momento exotic backpack for me, which was pretty neat. I still need to do the Jupiter Manhunt, which had ran before I picked up Warlords of New York, but fortunately, I was able to unlock access to it during the previous Manhunt, so that is something I can look at before the next set of events. According to the developers, the next major update for The Division 2 will become available in just a few days, and besides the optimisation station, I’m also excited about the game’s increasing inventory capacity from 100 items, to 150 items, and the increased number of loadouts from four to sixteen.

  • This image here indicates my current preferred loadout for PvE activities. It’s not exactly an optimised setup by most standards, but I’ve been having a great deal of success with it in all missions up to and including the challenging difficulties. Things have certainly come a long way in The Division 2, and at this point in time, I’m definitely feeling at home: I’m now as familiar with missions as I had been during The Division, and have the confidence to deal with almost anything in the game on my own. As such, next season’s Manhunt is an exciting one – I’m supposed to be fighting Faye Lau. This offers a bit of closure on the story set up in Warlords of New York, and with that to look forwards to, I’ll be turning my attention next to Halo 4, which I finished yesterday. The post is going to be a larger one and therefore require a bit of time to write out.

Altogether, I’ve now reached a point in The Division 2 where I’m completely comfortable with a loadout that I’ve had the chance to put through extensive gameplay. At this endgame, I am now confident in my ability to engage and survive fire-fights at higher difficulties: the current setup I have has allowed me to remain effective up to and including challenging, so completing different assignments, field specialisation and events has offered a refreshing experience that reminds me of my old build from The Division. With this build, I’m far more effective than I had been previously in The Division 2: Invaded missions that I barely could complete at level thirty on normal difficulty are now trivially easy to finish, and the Black Tusk’s Warhounds or mini-gun wielding tanks, which previously demanded I always carry an LMG at all times, could now be dealt with in a single magazine from the Chatterbox, leaving me free to equip a different secondary weapon for longer range fire-fights, or double my ability at close quarters. With the dramatic change in The Division 2‘s pacing as a result of the synergy in my loadout, I’ve turned my attention towards completing the field research for the different specialisations. In this post, I’ve brought the Survivalist up to maximum level, unlocked and maxed out the Gunner specialisation and recently acquired the Firewall, which is another excellent close-quarters specialisation. At the time of writing, the only specialisation I have left to unlock is the Technician. Altogether, it would look that I’ve made reasonable progress in The Division 2 as a solo player, and so, a little more than a year after I picked the game up on a Black Friday sale, I can say that The Division 2 has been a superb experience all around, featuring much more to do than its predecessor: I managed to hit The Division‘s endgame and had an all-exotic loadout within a half-year of picking that up, but here in The Division 2, the journey’s been a bit longer. However, it was by no means a grind, and at present, now that I’m rocking a setup I’m happy with, all eyes turn towards the next title update and the fourth manhunt assignment, which, unless I’m mistaken, will bring back a familiar face as the primary target.