The Infinite Zenith

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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.

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.

The Division 2: The Megumin Specialisation, Kenly College Expedition and The Manhunt for Hornet

“My name is Megumin, an arch wizard who commands explosion magic!” –Megumin, Konosuba

After defeating Aaron Keener in single combat, I found myself thrust into the Warlords of New York’s Second Season of Keener’s Legacy. In the days following, I spent most of my time in the streets of Lower Manhattan, with the goal of hunting down the remaining SHD caches before heading back over to Washington D.C. to begin the quest for the remaining specialisations and exotics. By sheer coincidence, the Kenly College expedition had opened up shortly after I returned. Expeditions in The Division 2 are a timed event that provides a different gameplay experience and offers unique rewards upon completion. Kenly College sent players to a segment of the Kenly College campus, which had been abandoned after the Green Poison outbreak, only for the Outcasts to take over. When the Outcasts ambushed a JFT convoy and made off with their provisions, they returned vital supplies to the college, where they were manufacturing improvised explosive devices and also had plans to turn the high grade communications technology towards causing devastation in Washington D.C. at a hitherto unprecedented scale. Fortunately, with the agent on station, the Outcasts plot is foiled, and over the course of a Saturday afternoon, I soloed my way through the three wings of Kenly College, single-handedly shutting down the IED manufacturing operation, capturing several servers and securing the subway station. Owing to the disruptive equipment employed at Kenly College, ISAC was unable to provide spatial data, and so, I found the biggest challenge to be locating all of the objectives. I have heard that the unique set-up of Kenly College meant that it would be immensely difficult to complete the expedition as a solo player, but fortunately, this was not the case; with a bit of tenacity and spatial coordination, as well as a bit of forward thinking to complete the puzzles the expedition presents players with, For my troubles, I was rewarded with the Diamondback, an exotic lever-action rifle with a very distinct look.

With Kenly College in the books, I next turned my attention to Keener’s Legacy and its manhunt objective, which seeks to bring Carter “Hornet” Leroux to justice. Defeated in a confrontation with a Division agent in the events of The Division, Hornet was brought back from the brink of death by Lori “Termite” Baker; through the events of both games, Hornet was on solid terms with Keener: listening to audio logs suggest that Keener genuinely trusted and respected Hornet, and this was mutual. As I tore through Washington D.C. and New York alike to complete the manhunt objectives, which entailed capturing control points, completing old missions and special bounty assignments, I slowly began neutralising Hornet’s lieutenants: besides Termite, there was also Luna, Huntsman and Titan. Because I’d procrastinated, it was a race against the clock to finish this manhunt before the season ended. The task of more or less going through the old missions again was daunting one: I had been just adequately equipped to deal with missions before, requiring time to remain in cover and pick off enemies in favour of the highly aggressive close-quarters techniques I employed towards the end of my time in The Division. However, a few things happened that would allow me to begin what seemed a very time-consuming task: after a chance encounter in New York resulted in my acquiring the Lady Death submachine gun, a highly customised CMMG Banshee that favours CQC, I possessed a tool that would make the manhunt far more straightforward. Besides an immensely lucky drop that gave me a Lady Death, I also switched over to the demolitionist specialisation, which gives agents a M32A multiple grenade launcher capable of dealing an absurd amount of damage. Assured of being able to swiftly down my foes in pursuit of the manhunt objectives, I was able to deal with each of Termite, Titan, Luna and Huntsman, unlocking Hornet’s location at the Tidal Basin. Hot in pursuit, I ended up defeating Hornet to secure the prize: a repair trap that scatters armour-restoring kits in a small area surrounding the deployed trap.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Expeditions were a bit of a mixed bag for players, and for good reason: with ISAC’s spatial mapping capabilities unavailable, navigating the halls and facilities of an unknown post-secondary institute was tricky. The Kenly College expedition involves three different wings of the college, each with three sets of tasks that send players through areas on certain objectives to complete. Completing all three tasks completes the wing, and finishing all three wings yields the Diamondback as the prize.

  • The library at Kenly College resembles the main library of the local polytechnic institute, which I’ve only visited before and during a winter Otafest event; in those days, I was collecting Otafest pins and decided to take advantage of the event to see if I could get one or two ultra-rare gold pins. To this end, I ended up exploring the polytechnic so I had a better idea of where everything was, and in the process, I found that the polytechnic institute has a better layout and architectural design compared to the university, featuring slick interiors and a modern construction.

  • By comparison, the university is much more drab, and even modern buildings feel quite uninspired. The university’s old library tower had been such an austere location that I avoided studying there, and I’d only ever used it once to check out Wayson Choy’s All That Matters during the summer, after reading The Jade Peony for my first year English course. This building was, as university lore goes, somehow not designed to handle the weight of books, and began sinking into its foundation once the bookshelves and books were loaded in.

  • In my first year, construction on a new library building had been under way, and finished in third year. I found the new building to be very vapid save for a brilliant space, the visualisation studio, on the fourth floor. This area, I would use for helping my lab demonstrate some of our absolute best, during open houses and the university’s fiftieth anniversary event. Here, I make my way through an eerily quiet study space that resembles the open study area in the library block of my university.

  • The expedition missions all have a similar setup: there are no enemies until one activates a terminal or begins dismantling explosives, after which the Outcasts will show up in force to stop the player. The numbers aren’t ever a problem: I had equipped the Lady Death, a superb submachine gun with enhanced critical hit chance and bonus armour damage that made it wonderful against all enemies, as well as the Stoner LAMG, whose 200-round belt allows for the longest uninterrupted firing of any gun in The Division 2.

  • The main challenge of the expeditions is the fact that it takes a little while to figure out where everything is, and there are a few places where process is deliberately obstructed by means of a puzzle where the agent will need to engage switches and fuse boxes in a certain order. Clues in the environment will help one to figure out this order (e.g. colour coded wires), but initially, it was a bit of a trial and error to figure everything out. The only consolation is that no enemies show up while one is figuring out the puzzles.

  • Once I’d finished the library block, I moved over into the student centre. Featuring restaurants, a coffee shop and lecture hall, the student centre brought back memories of my time as a university student: during my undergraduate years, I spent a great deal of spare time at the student centre, whether it be eating lunch in the hallways of the ground floor’s open areas, or else studying in a space on the top floor. As the years went by, I got my own space in the ICT building, and began spending more time here.

  • As I move through one of the restaurants at Kenly College’s student centre, it suddenly strikes me that my university’s student centre didn’t have too much in the way of dining options. There were only two restaurants, alongside a food court. With this being said, both restaurants were decent in terms of food quality. The food court’s Korean BBQ outlet stood as my favourite place on campus, offering generous portions of grilled chicken rice with honeyed potatoes for reasonable prices. We also had a poutine place, but this one only lasted a year before being replaced, to my disappointment.

  • For one reason or another, I had always imagined that the restaurant on the far side of the student centre, on the second floor, was reserved for graduate students only. However, as it turns out, this misunderstanding stems from the fact that I occasionally interpret things in a literal fashion and miss some nuance as a consequence. This restaurant had a special program for celebrating academic achievements: graduate students who’d successfully defended a thesis would be eligible for one complementary bottle of champagne. I ended up cashing mine in and celebrating with my old lab at this restaurant.

  • As I hunkered down beside a server terminal while ISAC worked its magic on it, I passed by a coffee shop. In my day, I never spent a penny on coffee, counting on a good night’s sleep and disciplined schedule to keep me awake. Conversely, my classmates and colleagues swore by coffee, counting on the stimulating effects of caffeine to give them a good boost in the morning, and each morning, the campus coffee shops would see long lineups as students awaited their cup of joe to kick-start their day. Overall, while I enjoy the taste of a properly-brewed coffee, I generally prefer tea.

  • Through snippets of audio logs and exchanges from Manny Ortega, it becomes clear that the Outcasts intend to use the Washington D.C. subway lines to deliver IEDs underneath the city. Even with Emeline Shaw’s death, the Outcasts continue to operate, having found new leadership under Carter Leroux (Hornet). They are my least favourite faction to fight, since their ideology of spreading anarchy, death and destruction as far and wide as possible means that despite lacking the discipline of the better trained factions, they possess a surprisingly diverse array of weapons and tools. Their disregard for life means they have no qualms sending in suicide bombers.

  • After Hornet assumes leadership of the Outcasts, they continue to follow a policy of laam chau, 攬炒 (jyutping laam2 caau2, literally “hug-fry”, similar to the Joker’s remark that “everything burns (together)”), the Cantonese slang for mutually assured destruction. Having seen this in practise, it’s something I’ve come to despise greatly, suggesting a complete lack of willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions and owning one’s decisions, as well as committing the effort to drive genuine, positive change. As infuriating as the Outcasts and their methods are, it gives me great satisfaction to fight them (especially the suicide bombers, who can often injure or kill their own if shot while rushing the player).

  • The fight with Spitfire and Kin proved to be even more challenging than the fight with Aaron Keener: both named elites have a special heat-based armour that melts physical bullets, rendering them impervious to conventional damage. Their ability is similar to the Scorch Titan’s thermal shield from Titanfall 2, and without knowing this ahead of time, one cannot just equip the incendiary turret or firewall specialisation to make an easy fight of the pair: only incendiary damage can cause any harm to them. Complicating things, both elites use incendiary rounds that ignite the player. Fortunately, for those caught unawares, there are boxes of incendiary rounds scattered throughout the student centre, as well as flammable containers: with these bullets and a little bit of patience, the two can be defeated.

  • The last of the assignments in the student centre involves freeing and keeping a remaining JTF engineer safe as she reroutes systems. Comparatively speaking, this is one of the easier missions, since the engineer will have a pre-programmed set of destinations to visit, and following her will allow one to wrap this one up fairly quickly. It took about three quarters of an hour to finish these two wings, and after ninety minutes, I had two of the three wings in the bag.

  • One of the aspects of Kenly College that I rather enjoyed were the various audio logs scattered around campus: it follows one of the students as she describes the return to classes, life on campus and some of the various day-to-day things she deals with, such as club activities, papers and the like. However, as the Green Poison spreads, her worries begin surrounding what the pandemic has done, and how she’s become concerned that a tickle in her throat might be the beginning of the end.

  • The last wing of Kenly College is set in their subway complex, which is a vast subterranean network of tunnels, pump rooms and HVAC machinery to rival the sewers of Enter The Matrix in size and scale. Here, the Outcasts have begun preparing their plans of exacting revenge against the world, and it’s up to the agent to stop them. Even more so than the Kenly College campus, the underground tunnels are a labyrinthine maze that is a nightmare to navigate.

  • From what I had heard online, I had been under the impression that Kenly College was impossible to do solo owing to the size of the map, and the fact that it was timed made it extremely difficult to complete. In reality, Kenly College is something that can be done solo: the challenge lies not in the strength of enemy forces, but rather, the lack of navigation ISAC typically provides, which makes it much harder to find objectives.

  • One particularly nice touch about the underground passages were the presence of various fungi that have begun growing on the floors and pillars. I’m no mycologist, and therefore, I cannot readily identify the species, but the presence of mushrooms indicates a damp environment and some sort of food source for the fungi. The presence of fungi indicates that there is excessive moisture, and left unchecked, fungi causes respiratory problems owing to the spores they produce.

  • Having an assault turret proved immensely valuable, and at this point in The Division 2, I’ve concluded that the assault turret’s ability to lock down choke points or serve as a distraction makes it my favourite skill to equip: during a difficult fight, it can be used to provide additional firepower against a tough individual, or in situations where I am out-numbered, the turret can be used to draw aggro while I flank my enemies.

  • In the end, I completed all of the wings in a single afternoon – the experience was somewhat draining, although not quite to the same extent as Blackrock Depths and the Molten Core had been. The Diamondback is the prize for finishing all three wings, and in practise, while a fun lever-action rifle to use with a very distinct appearance, the Diamondback is not something I will be using for serious combat. With this, I’ve finished the expedition solo, and while I’m considering trying the raids solo, I have a feeling that, like Molten Core, I won’t be able to do this alone: the two raids in The Division 2 offer enticing rewards for completion, but I may have to swallow my pride and join a group to get to them.

  • Once I finished the Kenly College, I turned my attention over to the Hornet manhunt, which saw me return to familiar locations as I collected all of the requirements needed to locate each of Titan, Termite, Luna and Huntsman. Of Hornet’s lieutenants, Luna proved the most infuriating to fight owing to where she spawned: Pier 26’s final area was an open space where boats are docked, although this did nothing to diminish her range. Her investigation brings players back to Coney Island, and in this post, I opted to show off Coney Island in more detail because I was able to visit by day.

  • The Division 2 absolutely looks its best during the day, and Coney Island is no exception. By day, the area feels like a desert, giving the amusement park and its attractions a very desolate, Metro Exodus-like feeling. Observant readers will have noticed that here, I’ve changed my appearance somewhat to rock a more old-west style.

  • For most of The Division 2, I was rocking an armour piece with the “Unbreakable” talent, which instantly repairs one with around 85 percent of their armour should it break from damage. This proved to be such a powerful asset in firefights, since it would buy me time to escape a perilous situation. Properly played, having this talent meant that I technically no longer required armour kits: there’s a cooldown, but keeping out of trouble long enough means that one has more or less self-refilling armour kits. As I began collecting pieces of the Striker’s Battlegear set, I ended up accidentally selling this chest piece, so one of my short term goals will be to acquire a new chest piece with good base attributes, such that I can reapply the Unbroken talent to it.

  • We’re now nearly a week into September, and it’s the Labour Day long weekend. In years past, this was a chance to go visit the mountains ahead of winter, but present circumstances meant it was a wiser idea to stay in town. During this weekend, I finished mowing the lawn and backyard one final time: the weather yesterday was a pleasant 29°C but quite smoky, so I spent the remainder of the day pushing through The Division 2 to complete the manhunt. Today, a cold front and low pressure zone pushed grey, cool and rainy weather into the region. As has been the custom of long weekends, I enjoyed dinner from a nearby Chinese restaurant: honey-pepper beef short ribs on broccoli, clay-pot fired tofu, seafood and chicken, deep-fried prawns with Maggi sauce and stir-fried Chinese broccoli with seafood.

  • The weather today was not quite conducive for a walk, but last weekend, the skies were absolutely gorgeous: this will probably be the last walk of the year where the largest park in my region has a summer vibe to it (deep blue skies, green grass and warm air). With the last vestiges of summer on the doorstep, I imagine that the leaves will begin yellowing soon as autumn sweeps in. Here, I’ll remark that originally, I had been planning to watch and write about Fragtime for the long weekend, but since I ultimately spent far more time than I should have in THe Division 2, this weekend’s post will be a gaming one.

  • Owing to the various missions I finished en route to Hornet, I accumulated enough demolitionist points to fully spec out my specialisation tree: at full power, the demolitionist loadout is a blast (pun intended). I elected to increase the damage for light machine guns, submachine guns and assault rifles, knowing that I would primarily be fighting at close quarters to medium range. The signature weapon, the M32A MGL, is a highly effective weapon for crowd control and handling Warhounds: a single shot is enough to take one out, and having now gone through the entire demolitionist tree, I conclude that, while bonus headshot damage is nice, the M32A’s versatility makes it more useful than the TAC-50.

  • For the curious, the demolitionist’s upgrades also include a boost to explosion damage, which, combined with the M32A’s raw destructive power, means that this is the closest one can run to the Megumin loadout: unlike Megumin, I have six shots and grenades on top of my usual weapons, meaning that even though I’ve chosen to specialise in explosives, I have more than enough firepower to last in a firefight. With this being said, Megumin’s signature ex~PLOSION~! does come to mind every time I equip the M32A, and while I’ve only really been running this setup for the past two weeks, I’ve become very comfortable with the demolitionist now.

  • The Hornet manhunt concludes back at Tidal Basin, where the Outcasts’ carelessness means that entire areas are doused with the Eclipse virus, which Tchernenko had successfully developed using the Green Poison as a template. It is capable of cutting through one’s mask and kills in seconds, but the repair trap will confer temporary immunity from its effects. The end of the manhunt means destroying Hornet’s supply of Eclipse, and then squaring down against Hornet himself. Equipped with Blinder Fireflies, Stinger Hives and automatic weapons, Hornet himself isn’t a particularly tricky fight, but he has hordes of Outcasts that fill the air with hot lead, making it tougher to fight him.

  • I ended up focusing on the Outcasts first, since every Outcast killed represents one fewer gun firing on the agent. With most of the Outcasts on the hovercraft dead, I focused on Hornet. Having the Lady Death and its bonus armour damage allowed me to make short work of Hornet. Once Hornet is down for the count, the manhunt draws to a close, and I breathed a sigh of relief at having finished the manhunt with just days to spare. Next time around, I’ll do things in my usual style (i.e. incrementally and well ahead of the deadline) so things can be a little more relaxed.

  • At the end of my first manhunt event, I found myself in possession of a complete Striker’s Battlegear set. I ended up using kneepads with additional armour and the exotic BTSU Data Gloves for its skill bonuses to round things out. For weapons, the Lady Death and Stoner LAMG proved more than enough to handle anything thrown at me. This is by no means a fully-optimised loadout, but it does strike enough of a balance for me so that I can deal and absorb some damage in most fights. The Lady Death is a particularly fun weapon to run with, and as I am now, I am able to swiftly down even the elites with only one magazine, bringing back memories of my TTK from The Division.

The Division 2‘s endgame has proven itself to be leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor: besides the array of specialisations and exotics to work towards, Keener’s Legacy was a phenomenal addition to the game that provides incentive to return and complete assignments for noteworthy rewards means that there is no shortage of activity in this game well beyond the normal endgame activities of re-running old missions at high difficulties to earn improved gear. Participating in the second season of Keener’s Legacy also had one unexpected outcome: I was able to acquire a set of Striker’s Battlegear, which returns from The Division. In The Division, the Striker’s Battlegear was a damage-oriented set that conferred damage bonus per shot landed. The classified variant of the Striker’s Battlegear rendered a player a veritable one-man army, capable of dishing out and tanking an absurd amount of damage. In The Division 2, the bonuses from the Striker’s Battlegear, while toned down, remain quite potent: the complete gear set requires four pieces and allows for a 25 percent damage boost after 50 consecutive hits. With the chest piece, the stack increases to 100, doubling the damage output. Having now found a full Striker’s Battlegear set and several exotic items, The Division 2 is beginning to handle a lot like it did with The Division. One wonders if classified gear sets might make a return, although for the present, I am rather pleased to have finally put together a loadout that resembles what I’d previously found to be remarkably effectual. With a good Striker’s Battlegear set, the Lady Death submachine gun and a fully-levelled demolitionist specialisation, I am in a much better position to push forwards with both my existing goals, as well as to face off against the Summit, a 100-level event that allows players to advance up a tower in a manner reminiscent to that of Sword Art Online‘s Alucard.