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Editorial

The Division Turned Out To Be Pretty Good – Now What?

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After I recently wrote about withholding judgement on games until they were actually released and we were able to play them, it was refreshing to see The Division (mostly) live up to its hype. That’s not to say that it’s the perfect game, or that it doesn’t have significant issues that need to be addressed very soon, but the game’s mechanics are solid, and it’s generally fun and enjoyable in most respects.

For the most part, The Division‘s take on New York is well-realised. The story is…well, it’s ok. I don’t think it’s going to be winning any writing awards, but the narrative is at least cohesive and has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. The “echo” system also works well here, giving you a snippet into the past in a particular area that can be quite illuminating when it comes to revealing aspects of the main story, as well as ordinary civilians that were caught up in the outbreak.

But after you get to level 30, have amassed a respectable roster of gear, have done all of the challenge missions, have reached Rank 50 in the Dark Zone (good luck with that last one by the way) – what’s next?

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The Division has two weather modes: light snow and heavy snow

The Division‘s first major update – which will be available for free to all – is entitled Incursions, and will drop on 12th April on all platforms. The biggest new feature will be the first of several planned end-game raids, said to be “extremely challenging,” where the best guns and loot will drop. These “Operations” (or “Incursions,” Massive keep flip-flopping over their actual name) will likely be orders of magnitude more difficult than current challenge missions, that many players are easily able to breeze through if they’ve received some good luck from the RNG gods.

And on the subject of RNG… there’s still a lot that needs to be fixed. In particular, high-end (yellow) Division Tech is still far too difficult to obtain, but is required to craft the best items in the game. As it stands, you have to venture into the Dark Zone, hope to find an unlooted Division Tech box, and then further hope that the Division Tech you obtain will be of the rarest quality. Essentially, you’re looking for a unicorn standing on the back of another unicorn. Massive have said that they are aware of player concerns when it comes to Division Tech and that changes are coming, but there are no further details at this time. Gating off the best gear with such a heavy brick wall like this is shortsighted and, if not changed quickly, will lead to people simply abandoning the game when they find out they need to farm an open PvP area for a scarce resource whose quality isn’t guaranteed to even be what they need.

I suspect that Massive and Ubisoft didn’t expect players to blaze through all of the game’s existing content this quickly, because the Division Tech wall is abrupt and severe. Given that it takes three high-end Division Tech to craft a single endgame item – with no guarantee that the item you craft will have the stats or talents you want on it – this has rightly had many players up in arms about how difficult and completely RNG-oriented the system is. There’s nothing wrong with something being difficult, but there is something wrong with making it such a small chance that you’re more likely to win the lottery twice than find what you’re looking for.

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All of these people died while looking for High-End Division Tech

Still, changes are coming, and we have to wait to see exactly what they are.

Online connectivity for The Division‘s servers has generally been good. Launch night was dicey, with the game’s servers going down for an hour or two a couple of hours after release – swiftly followed by all Ubisoft’s servers, games, sites, and Uplay as well. I’ve had the odd disconnect here and there, but on the whole it’s been reasonably solid.

There’s still some showstopping bugs, the most vicious of which is related to crafted backpacks, and results in you being unable to login and play the game at all. There’s really no excuse for that sort of thing in 2016, and this issue is not slated to be fixed until the 12th April update, leaving hundreds/thousands of people unable to play the game they’ve paid at least $60 for. There are other issues, including stats not displaying correctly after switching gear (something of a drawback in a loot-based game), map waypoints not being able to be set, Dark Zone landmarks not spawning correctly, and others. None are as gamebreaking as the backpack issue, but they are things which are detracting from the game and need to be fixed ASAP.

So yes, The Division mostly delivered (unless you’re one of the few that can’t even login), but isn’t perfect. No game is perfect, but I’ve enjoyed the ~200 hours I’ve put into it so far. Hopefully the raids actually turn out to be a challenge and high-end Division Tech ceases to be such an RNG-based drop. If these two things come to pass, The Division may be the long-term success that Ubisoft have been hoping for.

It’s unclear as of yet how these changes will affect the single-player side of the game – it’s almost guaranteed that the raids will add nothing for those who are just looking to explore the besieged city on their own, though the improvements to gathering and crafting will certainly be a boon to all players, those who are just looking to enjoy themselves by themselves and those with a more social focus. For those of you who are still on the fence about The Division‘s single-player prospects, check out our coverage here and here.

The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.

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I write about PC games and sometimes it even makes sense. I'm a refined Englishman, but live in Texas with my two young children whom I am training in the ways of the Force.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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