I like The Division’s Matchmaking

I’ve had good luck with matchmaking in The Division and think it is very good. I can’t quite put my finger on why I think it is superior to Destiny’s matchmaking, but I think it just works better. In Destiny, I’ve always hated playing with randoms for Strikes, but the PUGs I’ve played with in The Division have been good.

Perhaps the first thing is that The Division doesn’t force you to group up, at least for the normal missions (which are all I’ve tried). If you’re good enough, you can solo them, though that’s quite a challenge most of the time. If you choose to group up, it is very easy. You can choose to matchmake from the map or from the start of the mission. So far, it has worked very well for me, and I haven’t run into any AFKers, which have been so prevalent in Destiny. In fact, the randoms I’ve played with have been as good or better than I am.

The only downside of The Division’s matchmade groups comes are the end of the mission. In Destiny, the fireteam is dissolved and you go back to orbit. In The Division, you come out of the mission’s building, blinking in the sunlight, standing around in confusion figuring out what to do next. In other words, you’re still in the group. If you travel to your base or a safe house, you’re still in the group. You actually have to leave the group to get back to your own instance of the world. This isn’t a terrible burden or anything, but it is slightly uncomfortable. I don’t have a great suggestion on how to fix it, either, so it’s something that we’ll have to live with, and that’s okay.

 

Filling in the AssCreed gaps with Revelations

I finished Witcher 3 and enjoyed it a lot. I look forward to the release of the 2nd DLC so I can go back and enjoy even more Witcher. I’ve also been playing a fair bit of The Division, though my main character is only level 19. But I wanted to play another plot-based game, so I pulled Assassins Creed: Revelations from my vast unplayed-game collection.

AssCreed Revelations is the 3rd game featuring Ezio Auditore, first seen in AssCreed 2, so I call it AssCreed 2.75, since AssCreed 3 introduces a new protagonist (and I haven’t played 1 or 3 or the most recent ones, but I have played and really enjoyed 2, 2.5, and 4). This time, Ezio is in Constantinople (now Istanbul), and I love the way they portray the architecture of the city. One of my favorite parts of playing the Ezio series is exploring famous cities, including Florence, Rome, and finally Istanbul. The care that Ubisoft puts into the creation of these city models and the background text descriptions is terrific. It’s like a history lesson that I’m participating in and stabbing people (though only people that need stabbing).

The management of the team of Assassins to do side missions is a little tedious, though not bad, but the tower defense mode is just plain awful. I am doing my best to try to avoid it by not pissing off the Templars too much and bribing the Heralds to reduce my notoriety. Overall, though I’m enjoying the game, though I don’t actually expect any “revelations.” In fact, as with most of the AssCreed series, I expect to be at least as confused about the plot at the end of the game as I was at the start. Perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I hear from friends that it is another cliff hangar and not much will be cleared up.

Nearly done with Witcher 3, and I’m okay with that

I’ve been playing a lot of Witcher 3 lately. A whole lot. Like to the exclusion of nearly everything other than eating, sleeping, and working. Sure, I’ve poked my nose into The Division’s business, but only a few hours.

I’m finally closing in on the end of the plot, and I’m okay with that. I feel like I’ve had such a good experience in the game and have enjoyed the characters enough that I’m fine with getting to the end of the story. I don’t normally feel that way about great games – I don’t want them to end, and sometimes put of playing the ending for months, like I did with Dragon Age: Inquisition. But in this case, I’ve spent so many hours with Witcher 3 that I want to reach the climax. I know there will be more I can do afterwards, and I may do so once I buy the DLCs, so it isn’t like I’ll be locked out of playing anymore. And I’ll be happy to move on to something else for a while.

That being said, someday I’m gonna have to finish Witcher 2. I’ve started it twice, then got distracted (most recently by Destiny), so stopped playing. I’ll need to start over top remember the plot, but I’m fine with that. I’m also looking forward to the Fallout 4 DLC dropping next month. Of course, I bought all the DLC for Skyrim and never played them – once I finished the story line, I stopped and always intended to go back, but never did. Maybe it is time for that too…

My hope is that I can play more of The Division and I will check out the Destiny update coming out next month. But in the next day or two, gotta finish Witcher 3!

Had a much better time in The Division last night, but the checkpoint system needs work

I gave The Division another shot last night and had a much better time. I didn’t experience any annoying glitches, and a friend helped me through that pesky Security Wing mission. That’s a pretty hard mission to solo – they’ve really ramped up the difficulty since the beta, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

Despite having good fun, I think the checkpoint system is pretty broken. In most games, a checkpoint happens after you reach a certain milestone, but before you start the next phase of the mission or combat or whatever. In The Division, the checkpoint I was stuck at last night was when the JTF person was trying to disarm the bomb in the tunnel and the enemies were already inbound. Each time I died or the mission failed (and that happened a lot), I had just a few seconds before the enemies showed up. Well after failing so many times, I needed a biobreak, but there was no way to stop the action. So I just had to abandon my character to death as he stood there while I took a leak. This is disappointing.

While I didn’t look for a way to abandon the mission, I did try to run out of the tunnel, but even that didn’t work, because as soon as they killed the JTF agent, the mission failed and I was dumped back to the checkpoint. At one point, I actually quit the game, then I noticed a friend was online. I asked her for help on the mission, because she’s higher level than me and obviously knows what she’s doing (and it’s way more fun playing with her than solo). When I reloaded the game, strangely enough, it put us after the checkpoint, as if the bomb was already disarmed. So I essentially skipped that part of the battle, which is somewhat disappointing.

So I think the checkpoint design/placement should be rethought a little so checkpoints can give respite. But other than those annoyances, The Division went well last night.

Disappointing night in The Division. Going back to Witcher 3

I had a decidedly un-fun night in The Division, so I rage quit and went back to playing Witcher 3. The first problems were glitches, while the final straw was people.

After being unable to get to Manhattan on Monday night due to Ubisoft’s servers being melted into puddles of goo, when I started the game last night, I was stuck in Brooklyn without any obvious way out. The missions were all done, so there were no pointers to get me out of the map. Luckily, I found a guide on YouTube that showed the way to go through the streets to activate the final cut scene (and why did that Osprey blow up, anyway?) and get me moved on to Manhattan. So that was the first glitch, but not the most annoying.

Next, I set up my Base of Operations and started the first mission in Madison Square Garden. Then I got bitten by a bug that also bit me in the beta and has obviously not been fixed: I got glitched into a wall. In this case, as I was evading some enemies, I glitched inside a wall and furniture. No movement I did could get me out, so the baddies walked right up and killed me. In the beta, I glitched into a column in a subway station, and that state persited even after reloading the game (luckily I had grenades so I could kill myself and respawn). So the night started on a negative and got worse.

Then a friend and someone else joined me in the game, and we quickly proceeded to start the second mission (one that wasn’t in either beta). This was a pretty hard mission, but we were going along pretty well. Then the other guy separated from us to do who knows what, and he was higher level, so he was practically carrying the other two of us through the mission. So my friend and I started dying, then my friend went AFK for quite a while. There was no communications during this time. so I had no idea why everyone abandoned me. So I punched out of the group, decided I wasn’t having fun, quit the game, and went and played Witcher 3 on my PC.

I presume I’ll try The Division again sometime soon, but I’m pretty sick of it at the moment.

Unsure about buying The Division after playing the beta

I played the beta of Tom Clancy’s The Division on PS4 over the weekend (not sure why they need to keep flogging poor old deceased Tom Clancy to promote the game, but I understand Red Storm Entertainment was involved). I liked it quite a bit. It was atmospheric and tense, and I felt like I had a real sense of purpose in the game. But I’m not sure that’s enough to convince me to spend $60 on the game when it comes out.

Comparisons to Destiny

Many folks compare The Division to Destiny, and they’re not wrong. Both are always-online shooters where the player controls one of the few good guys left in an effort to save the world (or New York, whichever). The gunplay in Destiny is a lot more fun than that of The Division, but some of that is because Destiny can have crazy interesting future¬†weapons, while The Division has gun models much like we have now. The Division is a bit finicky when it comes to aiming down sight (ADS) and scopes. As with Destiny, left trigger (L2) brings the gun up so you can sort of see down the sights, but if you have a scope, you need a stick press to actually bring the scope to your eye. This is unwieldy and slow (though perhaps more realistic than Destiny’s rapid scope movement), so scopes may not get as much use as in Destiny. Perhaps this is because of the shift from 3rd person view to the through scope view, while Destiny is already first person, so the shift is less significant.

Destiny has a player vs player (PvP) mode in which players compete against each other in the Crucible. This is somewhat tacked on and distinct from the normal missions in the game. The Division, however, has the “Dark Zone” area of the city which looks like all the others, but PvP is enabled. In the Dark Zone, you still fight NPCs and get loot, but you can also fight other players and get their stuff too. Loot from the Dark Zone is contaminated, so you need to airlift it out. This involves calling down a chopper, waiting for it, and attaching your stuff. Well, during all that time, you’re a huge target for both bad guy NPCs and griefer players who know exactly where you are and what you’re doing. Once you shoot another player, you’re marked as rogue and other players can shoot you without penalty. But, it is way too easy to accidently hit someone, and sometimes I’m certain I was shooting a rogue player but it thought I was shooting at a non-rogue one, so I was marked rogue even when I didn’t want to be. The Dark Zone play was fun and intense, but a lousy solo experience (because of the griefers that are waiting for you). As a group, it is good.

The normal missions are ok solo, but are way more fun as a group, but they got very “same-y” quickly. The impression I got from the beta is that it will be big, dynamic, and fun game, but mostly for group activities. Since I tend to like playing solo at least some of the time, I’m not yet convinced that The Division will be ideal for me. I realize it was just a beta, so there is obviously much more content that they didn’t show us, so I’m reserving judgment for a while yet.

Getting towards endgame in Fallout 4 and I’m not exactly pleased

This post contains spoilers for Fallout 4, though because I haven’t finished the game, it doesn’t contain endgame spoilers. If you don’t want spoilers, go back to Twitter and read about Blade and Soul and its boob physics.

I have been really enjoying Fallout 4, but I think I’m getting near the end. I’ve spent the game recruiting settlements to the Minutemen, grabbing Technical Documents and Viable Blood Samples for the Brotherhood of Steel, killing synth enemies of the Railroad, and, in general, hating the Institute for kidnapping my son and killing my wife. Now that I’ve finally made my way into the Institute, I think they’re a bunch of misguided dopes that need to be stopped, but not necessarily to all die. Unfortunately, based on the way I see the upcoming conflict, they and perhaps some of my other current allies are going to have to be killed.

It looks to me that the game isn’t going to give me a way to make peace between all the factions. Hell, I’m the General of the Minutemen, I hang out with the leader of the Railroad, I am the father of Father of the Institute (there was a helluva spoiler, so don’t say I didn’t warn you), and the Brotherhood of Steel likes the cut of my jib. If anyone could preserve the peace and make all factions get along, it would be me. But as far as I can tell, I’m going to be forced to choose a faction, and that will make me some enemies. Already, both the BoS and Railroad are a little pissed that I chose to enter the Institute with the help of the Minutemen. I’ve been asked to undertake missions against the Railroad for the Institute. The Battle at Bunker Hill had me going in with an Institute tough guy to recover some synths from the Railroad that was trying to hide and protect them. This turned into a huge battle between the BoS, the Railroad, and the Institute with lots of deadies and lots of loot to be collected. I managed to stay neutral by not shooting anyone, so I haven’t ruined my reputation with the factions yet, but clearly I didn’t like to go up directly against the Railroad and BoS.

In the long run, I’m going to have to betray the Institute, since I think they are the worst of the bunch. That dick at the head of the BoS may make me go up against them too. So all in all, I’m not happy that the game is forcing my hand to make war, when I could be a peace maker..

Disaster in Destiny

For the first time in weeks, I played Destiny last night, and I made a huge mistake. My Warlock had a bunch of the SRL helmets that I’d won during the excellent Sparrow Racing League matches in the mailbox, since I don’t have a ton of vault space. Now these were nice helmets, ranging from about 310 to 318 light, so I could use them to infuse into my combat helmets to raise their light level. Alas, I didn’t have enough armor materials to do that, so I left them in the mailbox as storage. (Anyone who plays Destiny sees where this is going.)

A friend and I did three Heroic Strikes, which resulted in a bunch of lousy blue engrams (mostly arm armor – why does Destiny think I need more of that?). These crappy blue engrams pushed the valuable high light level SRL helmets into /dev/null. All I have left are 2 helmets with light 212 and 213. Oh NO! I was pretty bummed… Oh well, easy come, easy go. Now back to Fallout 4.

Enjoying the Heck out of Fallout 4

Since I last wrote, I played a lot of Destiny. I would even say too much Destiny, with the terrific Sparrow Racing League (getting all 3 characters a Class S license, but never getting any 320 gear), followed by Iron Banner where I got all 3 characters to rank 5. And that’s pretty much the last Destiny I played (other than getting the nifty Warlock helmet from Xur this weekend).

I’ve been playing a lot of Fallout 4 and enjoying it quite a bit. I loved Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, and I’m enjoying this just as much. The combat is pretty good as are most of the missions. One of the things I most appreciate about Fallout 4 is the writing. I love finding notes and holotapes from people that survived the war but were then trying to find each other or get home. Some of the stories are quite convincing and moving. The developers didn’t need to add so much flavor to the wasteland, but I’m sure glad they did.

I mostly like the four factions (though I have not met the Institute yet – more below), though some of the missions get a little tedious. Some of the escort missions from the Brotherhood of Steel are annoying, because the escortee tends to like running up to Deathclaws and the like. [Spoiler alert – don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want a minor spoiler.] While looking at the Fallout 4 Wiki, which is a good idea to make sure I don’t miss anything in the buildings I explore, I saw evidence that in the endgame, the factions will turn hostile to each other and, for example, try to attach the Prydwen, the BoS’ airship. I’m disappointed that I’ll be forced to make a choice to attack or protect one of the factions if I want to see the endgame content. I’m pretty happy being the General of the Minutemen, a Knight of the Brotherhood of Steel, and a Railroad operative. Having to choose and making enemies isn’t something I’m looking forward to.

I like the voice acting quite a bit, especially Tim Russ (Star Trek’s Tuvok) as the captain of the Prydwen. Some of the NPCs, especially the guards on Diamond City, have too limited a phrase list, so it gets a bit tedious. It’s almost as bad as the “arrow to the knee” of Skyrim. But overall, the voice acting and behavior of the NPCs and the player’s companions is good and convincing. The background stories are well done too, though I heard Cait’s story last night and it was quite disturbing and sad.

One of the things I don’t like about Bethesda games, and this one is no exception, is that enemies attack on sight, even if I am so much higher level that they are but gnats to be squashed. I remember in Oblivion when I was the Champion of Cyrodil and had braved Oblivion, but stupid bandits would attack me everywhere I went. So tedious. LOTRO has a nice system where if you’re several levels above the enemies, you can walk through and they don’t attack unless you attack them. Freelancer, from way back when, had a neat system where you could hear the radio chatter from other pilots, and I remember a bunch of baddies scanning me and saying “Nope, not gonna mess with that guy” or something similar, followed by them steering away. Why a modern game can’t do such things at least as well, I have no idea.

 

Started the Destiny King’s Fall Raid on Hard Mode

Last night, thanks to a great bunch of Guardians, I managed to take my roughly 300 light level Titan in the hard mode raid in Destiny. While I was clearly the weakest player, we managed to do quite well up to the Deathsinger sisters. So this is not an article about the raid per se, but rather about the crazy “random” number generator Bungie seems to have employed (much like the one in the old Dilbert cartoon that keeps repeating the same number over and over).

I started the raid with a 310 chest armor that I’d managed to get my first time in the normal raid (lucky!) and a 303 raid hand cannon. I also had 310 exotic arms on for a while, but had to switch them out so I could don Saint-14’s helmet for the actual combat portions. Since all my other items were in the 290s, the best I could do was either 299 or 300, depending on what gun I needed (my sniper was low 290s, sadly).

So at the totems, I got nothing interesting, but I don’t think anyone else did either. The Warpriest dropped two machine guns. Yes, two machine guns, one 305 and one 314. I presume that’s because I was getting the normal and hard loot at the same time, but seriously, two machine guns? Then, Golgoroth dropped two chest armor pieces, one 315 and one 305. Well, I was already wearing a 310, so this was the least helpful to my overall light level, but I’ll take it, since now my other characters can infuse stuff up to over 300.

Because my light was so low, I wasn’t good at keeping Golgoroth’s gaze, as the multitude of death balls he was shooting at me quickly killed me. So I was able to jump down and somewhat help kill him from the puddle of goo. I was almost always the lowest damage dealer to the bosses in the raid, sometimes only by a little, but always about half the damage of the highest players. So light level really does make a big difference. I died more easily too, as my armor was less effective.

So now, the Deathsingers. I got picked to be the jumper at least 6 times in a row! No randomness there – the damn game was totally out to get me. And while I tended to make the jumps okay, I kept getting turned around once I slammed the first sister, so I was slow getting to the rest of the team to protect them with the aura. So it went badly and was freaking stupid that it kept choosing me rather than a more capable Guardian. I had to leave before we could succeed, which likely greatly increased the chances for the rest of the team.

So thanks to a very supportive and friendly (and very capable) team,¬†I managed to experience a lot of the hard mode raid, which was great. On the other hand, the crazy duplication in drops and repetition in the selection of the jumper make me think Bungie has it out for me. Oh well, they have it out for you too, so at least I’m not alone.