The Division – 1.4 and Beyond

 

the_division_wallpaper1625For what felt like an eternity, those still playing The Division patiently waited for the 1.4 update to arrive with the hopes of curing the game’s woes. While the patch delivered some relief the game continues to show its flaws.

The quality of life improvements that patch 1.4 delivered have been well received. The little things like being able to mark gear so that it can’t be sold or deconstructed or being able to buy back gear that was accidentally sold may seem trivial but it is huge to those that play. Going through the grind to get that perfect piece of gear only to sell it by mistake was enough to make some quit the game. Even getting better loot drops from the World Tier system has been nice. Touring the open world and being able to get top level gear from any enemy has made it easier for those who don’t want the stress of Incursions or the Dark Zone to keep getting gear at their own pace. Perhaps the simple change of gear level to 229 was the most subtle but should not be over looked. Many of time a person was kicked for not having max gear score even though they played better with gear of a lower number.

Unfortunately, patch 1.4 was not the end all solution to all the problems of the game. With the more gracious amount of loot drops came the constraints of storage. Each character and the shared Stash can only hold so much and the need to constantly sort through gear can be a hassle at times. Then there is the changing of talents and skills. Changing things like critical hit chance and the like force players to rebuild their builds after relearning the mechanics of the game. One of the worst offenders in 1.3 still exists in 1.4, shotguns. Over-powered NPC’s and shotgun thugs in the DZ are still a problem. The hope to balance this weapon is somewhat dwindling at this point. Time to kill was something that Massive made a major point to fix with this patch and while it is better they accomplished it by making other sacrifices. The change was mostly mad by nerfing skills and rewarding DPS. These is a step backwards for the game taking it back to its 1.0 and 1.1 days when DPS was the key attribute as opposed to 1.3’s Skill build.

Looking ahead to patch 1.5 and Survival DLC there is a mix of emotions and messaging. Patch 1.5 is set to change things like skills and attributes yet again forcing players to learn again exactly how they will function. Gear score is another potentially unwanted change going from 229 to 256. As for Survival, it is unclear how this will be received as it will take away from players all the precious gear they have worked so hard for and ask them to start anew with nearly nothing. Some will be fully into this and other will avoid it all together.

Massive is over six months into the release of this game and it is still struggling. Every time a patch or DLC is released the player base is first filled with the excitement of things being fixed and getting new gear only then to be met with the lament of having to learn the game all over and grinding away at replacing their gear. The developer seems to take point with each patch to try to make the players play they way they want them to rather than the way the player wants to and that is something that is going to continue to drive people away from the game. The more Massive asks its players to do everything over again without offering much in the way of new experiences the more they will find less people enjoying much less playing the game.

Look for Survival and 1.5 to be a telling, if not breaking, point of the game and its future.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Titanfall 2 – Missing Pieces

titanfall2

Fans of the original Titanfall had great expectations for the sequel, for some those expectations are left unmet.

The verse and tone were set for Titanfall 2 by its predecessor and poor use of those assets were made with this game. The multi-player only original was a flash success on the PC and Xbox One platforms giving one of the best on-line versus experiences in a long time. The fast paced movement and agility of a pilot was balanced with the lumbering power of the giant titans. In Ttianfall 2 these things still exist but do not play or feel as good as before. Competitive maps do not have the same effortless flow where you could endlessly wall-run with carefully placed jumps previously players now find strategically placed objects set to hinder said movement by intent. The ability to scamper from wall to wall with precision has been removed as walls have been placed in the just out of reach area where a jump is bound to fail but trick you into trying anyway.

What was a beautiful multi-player versus system has been turned sideways for no more than the sake of doing so. Re-working an experience based system between games is nothing new and not the issue with Titanfall 2. Unlocking weapons and abilities has not been greatly changed and can still be easily handled. What is less amenable to players is the lack of ability to change one’s loadouts both on pilots and titans. It may sound like a small change but going from having three weapons to only two is drastic and conditionally harsh. In the case of a pilot-vs-pilot game it would be fine to have a load out of only two weapons both designed to decimate other pilots. When playing in modes that involve titans and pilots the two weapon system reaches a break. In the original game if you failed to slay your pilot nemesis with your primary weapon it was a quick switch to your secondary for one last chance but in this sequel that secondary may be your anti-titan weapon that could likely be ineffective at dispatching your foe. With your titan your are now hamstrung to preconfigured armaments. The developers made the choice to not allow players to mix and match titan abilities and weapons as they did before. If you find that you enjoy a titans primary weapon but not its other abilities you’ll just have to learn to live with it because you can do little else about it.

More proof that change isn’t always progress, look at just two examples. First the absence of the Frontier Defense game mode. This co-op mode was grafted into the original after its release and it absence is odd in the sequel. Granted it can be added in later as it was in the original but the fact that it was a prebuilt game mode makes it a peculiar mode to be missing. The only thought is that they wanted to limit the number of modes available to keep player counts up in playlists. The second instance is the change to rodeoing a titan. In Titanfall 2 you remove a battery and jump off. You only get to damage a titan if the battery is already gone when you rodeo it and you’ll get to drop a grenade into it. This is far less satisfying that ripping open the titan’s skull and discharging your weapon into it for the kill. Maybe removing a battery can be a strategic maneuver, especially if you can return it to a teammate, but it almost negates the fun and functionality of the rodeo.

For those that lauded the original for its lack of a proper campaign there is good news and bad news. Respawn took the time to develop an actual campaign with character and story to replace its somewhat hilarious excuse for a campaign from the first game. Playing as an actual character is positive for the story given the modern contention to make the hero nameless and voiceless. That was the good news, now the bad. The storyline is somewhat jerking and nonsensical taking you between events and places that are held together by reasons resembling fishing line. As for the gameplay itself, it was a sadly ill-conceived notion to make a campaign for a first-person shooter more of a platforming game than an actual shooter.

Where the original Titanfall stood out Titanfall 2 will lurk in a corner. By not furthering any of the most innovative points this successor doesn’t offer the same appeal as the original. Time will tell how much the thrill of replaying a game that was replayed ad nauseam with little change can keep this game alive.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Gears of War 4 – So Close But So Good

gears4_large_opt-7b31920efee146258aa0b4e06f6b3632

A few years back, Gears of War was one of the strongest franchises on the Xbox platform. With Gears of War 3 concluding the trilogy and seemingly sewing up the story line the franchise was at its end. Out of what may have been greed or just misdirected creativity, Judgement was as an attempt to spur on the Gear of War universe. With its failure, it was nearly inconceivable to think of another Gear of War game happening.

Gear of War 4 comes in from a very different angle.  Where Judgement tried to piggy-back on the Gear story line, Gear of War 4 tries to carry it forward. Although not a 100% success, the game does a good job to be true to old story while trying to build the foundation of a new one. The game begins with a prologue that can be an introduction for those new to the Gears series or a refresher for those more familiar with it. One miss step was how the story jumps to the main story line because if you had not been following the game’s development it may be easy to not understand the context of where his story begins. As the story continues, you slowly get a feel for the current state of the Gears’ world. There are multiple oppositions which can be both frustrating and interesting. On one hand anyone could be your ally but it is unclear who is the bad guy. As interesting as the story could have been, it wavered at points by trying to string reveals out too long. Certain reveals were obvious, some were well welcomed, others were head shakers, while others were jaw droppers. Given the spread of these, it was inconsistent to know which you were going to get at any point.

At the end of the story, you have the feeling of having taken a great ride but at the same time that the ride ended prematurely. The main story and main characters were enjoyable and interesting but there were too many instances of story lines not feeling complete. This is good in the sense that it sets many things up for the future of the franchise, however, it is also bad because it may not give some players enough reason to invest in and return to the game.

On a technical level this game is good. Almost everything feels good but there are a few exceptions. Chainsaw kills are just as gratifying as ever, but snapping to cover unexpectedly is frustrating. Accounting for wind when throwing a grenade is not fun but nailing an enemy with a drop kick across cover is satisfying. Graphically this is one of the best looking games on the Xbox One. Titanfall looked good for its time, The Division feel short of expectations, Rise of the Tomb Raider had great environments but this game just looks and feels good both in game and during cutscenes.

Horde mode is back but slightly changed. The basis of the mode is the same as you take on ever increasingly difficult waves of enemies. What has changed is how you go about building your defenses. You now have to build defenses from the fabricator, which was introduced in the story mode, and you can place them almost anywhere you desire. This is a change from the statically placed fortifications from previous horde modes. One change that is not as welcome is the economy. You no longer get money directly during play rather you have to collect it after killing enemies. This draws you out of cover and safety to get the money and exposes you to danger. This could be thrilling but it is more frustrating than anything especially since you need to pick up the money in order to keep building. The time between rounds is egregiously short since you need this time to not only collect your money but also to build your defenses.

Gears of War 4 is a welcome return of a beloved franchise. As much as it is loved it is also flawed. A few tweaks and adds could have greatly improved this game. Horde mode is enjoyable but some of the changes were not for the better. The story mode should have been more in depth than it was. In the end, the game is good and worth the time. The feeling of it being incomplete is what stops it from being great.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Luke Cage – Season 1 – Review

marvel-luke-cage-posterAs strong as Luke Cage is, it may be that the Marvel universe is getting weak.

Many will know that this take of Luke Cage is a direct off-shoot from the Daredevil series that Netflix also produced. The main character was introduced in said series and it also brings a few cross-overs. The same New York exists here that also existed in the Avenger movies. What seems odd is that although those events are referenced it seems that it has little to no effect on this environment. This left the series somewhat disconnected even with the direct ties that it had. Then again, this a problem Daredevil had as well so it shouldn’t be held against the Luke Cage series alone.

What we do get is something that is well intended but in many cases misses the mark. In Luke Cage we have a tragically flawed and tortured hero that doesn’t want to be a hero. A far too familiar superhero theme that is not played to its best in this series. One of the issues with the show is how long it takes to develop the main characters. What seemed to be important characters at the start of the series were thrown away earlier than expected and the pay off for doing so never came through. Other characters and their intentions are strung out too far when compared to their overall impact at the end of the first season. The season struggled with a pacing issue across its entirety and several episodes were microcosms of this problem. There were times that the show became nearly a pain to endure only to have a triumphant payoff at the end. Cliffhangers and anticipation could have been better used in the series and episodes.

Even with all of its issues, the series shows a great deal of promise. Despite the long drawn out reveal and setup of Luke Cage, Mike Colter plays a charismatic and affable role. He may be one of the best reasons to watch the show as to enjoy his performance. Along with his performance, Netflix continues to show that it has a solid production model with the sights and sounds of this show being some of the best do date in one of its original series. A huge tip of the hat goes to the soundtrack of this series not only for its selection and variety but more so for its placement and usage with the visuals of the show. The ways music and sound were used to draw the viewer in and convey emotion and intent were nothing short of inspired.

The most worrisome part of this series may be something outside of it. There is an over abundance of Marvel properties in release and in production at this point that we are nearing or may be at a saturation point. There will be a point at which the returns diminish for both we as viewers for enjoyment and studios for profit. It is somewhat sad to think that this show for all its merit may be at the fulcrum point not for its own doing but for its timing.

Personally, as much as I wanted to like the show I can’t help but feel that it left something on the table. There was a lot of hype for the show and that certainly did not help. If taken as a standalone product, outside of the overall Marvel universe, this could have been a more enjoyable series. It has many things going for it and even with as good as it was it still has room for vast improvements. Take the time to watch and enjoy it, knowing that at times it will not be everything it is capable of.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Destiny – Rise of Iron Incorporates Some Rust

 

For those bemoaning the delay of Destiny 2 this expansion probably is not what you were looking for. Rise of Iron had the chance to take another step in the path The Taken King took the game but alas it seems more akin to The House of Wolves in what it actually delivers to the game.

Previously I had written an article of things I thought would help make Rise of Iron a success. So let’s do a quick review.

Matchmaking for PVE

destiny-matchmaking

No improvement. Sadly the new strike list is still the only PVE portion with in-game matchmaking. It seems that Bungie just doesn’t want to bother with putting it in the game and is ok with forcing players to find other players elsewhere. Perhaps their thoughts are that with PlayStation’s Communities and Xbox’s upcoming LFG service they just don’t need to bother.

I still agree that the new raid probably shouldn’t have matchmaking but other areas could have benefited. With the addition of Archon’s Forge, matchmaking would make a difference as it is hard to randomly meet people there and it can be a struggle to get enough people there by other means for the top level events.

Better Chances for Loot

destiny-loot

I’m going to score a no for this one. When you initially start playing Rise of Iron you get better gear to use for infusion but it quickly becomes moot. Rare engrams will drop at up to 340 and that can help a character up their light level quickly. Plus, vendors sell 350 gear. Sure there are quests to follow to get gear but the rewards may be minimal based on your light level when you complete them.

The bigger problem is that once you hit the 340-350 range your progress significantly slows. Mostly because rare engrams still only decrypt to 340 and legendary engrams will only decrypt to 1-2 levels above your current level. Exotics will drop higher but then you have to either equipment them or sacrifice them for infusing other gear. This is one of the most frustrating parts of the expansion.

 

Improve the Story

destiny-story

To quote one of my favorite movies “mark it zero”. If anything, this felt more like a regression from what The Taken King did compared to what vanilla Destiny offered. Characters were barely flushed out, backstory was nil, and foreshadowing was absent.

How this is supposed to pass as story is beyond me at this point. As someone who plays mostly solo in campaign and PVE, not having a story to enjoy is a bummer to say the least. I know it is unfair to compare it to Bungie’s previous titles but I still expect better.

destiny-roi-00Other Issues…

I wish there were a list of positive things but I’m afraid that most things are either null or negative that I see in this expansion but let’s take a look.

  • Reuse of assets – Once you get through looking around the new social area, there isn’t much new ground to cover in Rise of Iron. The Plaguelands is merely an extension of the Cosmodrome and looks unforgivingly similar.
  • Rehash of quests – Even with new quests introduced they feel like old ones. Go here, collect this, go there kill this guy, talk to so-and-so in the social area, go do a strike, talk to so-and-so again, viola…reward. Some were easier than others but the reward didn’t necessarily meet with the effort needed.
  • Same old same old – Want to grind rank? Want to do the same patrols? Good, because now you have new bounties to get you rank(and XP) which you’ve been doing ad nauseam but your stuck with the same patrol missions to do so in the open world. They tried to change the high value target mission up with quarantine missions but it turns out to be basically the same thing.
  • Raid? – Yes there is a new raid and I have not played. Why? Well, the aforementioned issue with grinding to get my light level up has precluded me from reaching the recommended light level to partake in the event. Sure people are going into the event below the recommended level but I don’t think that I would enjoy the frustration that comes with doing so. Even if I do get to do the raid, I’m not sure it will be the saving grace that this DLC needs.
  • Other events – The Iron Banner and Trial of Osiris have already returned. I have not ever played Trials of Osiris and will continue not to do so because I can’t handle the stress level personally. I did play enough Iron Banner to rank all three characters to level 5 so don’t mistake my desire to play and enjoy this game. Sparrow Racing League has also been rumored to return, looking forward to that as well.

In conclusion, if one had purchased Destiny – The Collection, then this may seem like a fine add-on. For those of us that purchased it as an addition to all the previous content, it may feel like a let down. There is a great base game here but it is just not living up to its potential. This is still one of the best first-person shooters I have played on this generation of consoles but it lacks the content and depth that I desire to make me feel not disappointed. I will keep playing but I will still be in that mode of hoping for more and seeking out other games to fill that hope until Bungie does something more proper for what not only I want but for what others may desire as well.
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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Dude’s Chronicles 9-27-2016: On The Road Edition

If this post seems a little less polished that’s because it is. I’m several hundred miles away from home and I’m just throwing this together on my phone.

Entertainment

Not so much here, not even football. The preparation for and the act of traveling have not left me any time.

Games

Nope…stupid travel.

News

I don’t know. Bungie hotfixes and ARG???  Did No Man’s Sky falsely advertise??? 

That’s about it as I get ready for my return trip.

Dude’s Chronicles 9-22-2016: A Friend Returns

 

 

That’s right!

Entertainment!

I haven’t watched anything but football, college and professional, all week. That’s it. No shows, no movies. I haven’t even gazed out the window to see what was going on.

Games!

Whilst the anxious wait for 1.4 continues, Massive keeps putting out a lot of information but I keep thinking to myself “none of this is set in stone”. I hold a lot of hope for this as do others but the realist in me has to check my expectations.

What is here and what is real is The Rise of Iron. I’ll say it’s pretty good. It could have been longer but I would liken it to the length of The Taken King. Could have been longer but I enjoyed it and still don’t feel finished with it. From the posts picture, I obviously completed the Gjallahorn quest line. Nice to get the weapon quicker than I did in the original game. Now I have to lock it so I don’t delete it like a dumbass and have to buy it two weeks before they nerf it.

I’ll be playing some of each game the rest of the week. I want to keep my feet in The Division and I have two Exotic quests(Thorn and Khvostov) to do in Destiny. Just wish I had more time.

News!

  • Rise of Iron Raid! – Yea…I won’t be high enough Light Level to try it and I won’t have the time. sighes
  • Battle.net no more – It’s just a name change, remain calm. Blizzard is just trying to get everything under the Blizzard name. From what I understand, no functionality will be lost. Again, remain calm.
  • The Division PTS is live! – Early responses are positive. If any community will break a game it is the PC community. That is why I am ok with it not coming to consoles as we had many less issues than PC did.
  • Gears of War 4 trailer – I try not to get excited about trailers but I really want this game to get the bad taste out of my mouth that Judgement left.
  • For Honor’s beta was huge! – That’s great! So was The Division’s. So was Destiny’s. Those games were arguably broken at launch. I hope Unbisoft learns something from past experience and does a better job. The game looks great but it is not a game I have interest in playing. Nonetheless, I hope it does well and people enjoy it.

I’ll try to post next week but I will be out of town for work reasons. Reasons which I am against but hey, if you want to pay me to waste my time hundreds of miles away instead of at work…ok. Well, it’s not a complete waste…just not best value. You know like eating Taco Bell.

dudewantshisrug-profilePaul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.