Focus on the Objective

If you’ve been following me for a while then you know I don’t really like shooters and I tend to hate PVP games. Especially those with no story based campaign. To this day I can proudly say that I have never played a single match of Fortnite. While I enjoy the art style and quirkiness, I absolutely loathe the Overwatch model. These games simply aren’t for me. So when I was invited to try the closed alpha for Rogue Company I went in assuming that I would dislike it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn’t the case.

I don’t want to write a full review of this alpha. Not only was/is it under an NDA, but it was also very limited in what was available so writing a full review at this point would most likely do the game more harm than good in a way that won’t necessarily be beneficial to consumers. What I will say is that the game blends a number of different styles together in order to make a very satisfying gameplay experience. It has the single life mechanic of a battle royale game coupled with the condensed maps and team mechanics of Overwatch. This is done in a first to five rounds won model. The two modes available in the alpha were 3v3 fights to the death and 4v4 objective matches. I enjoyed both modes. The pacing is very fast with single life elimination. The gameplay, though flawed mechanically in certain ways, is very well balanced and accessible to amateur players. The best way to describe it is the weapons are balanced in a way where the amateur shooting first isn’t automatically going to get creamed by the more experienced player like you see in so many other shooters.  The in game money system that allows you to upgrade between rounds worked fairly well and added a layer of depth to the game that I think harkens back to CS GO but in a more refined form. I have to say that it’s the first team based round by round shooter with no story that I’ve ever actually enjoyed playing.

Dark Souls 3 Screenshot 2020-03-14 12-57-00I spent most of my time playing the objective mode in the alpha. This was much simpler than Overwatch’s objective mode. It’s just a bomb in the center that you have to reach before the other team and hack with a single button held for about four seconds. Once the bomb is hacked you have to defend it for 60 seconds. The other team can re-hack the bomb and claim it for themselves. The same rules apply afterwards. Hold it for 60 seconds to win the round. The “problem” with this mode is that when combined with the single elimination mechanics it devolves into killing the four guys on the other team first equals a win. You can win the round by completing the objective, which takes the time to reach the bomb plus the time to hack the bomb plus the 60 seconds defending the bomb. This is how the mode was actually meant to be played. But you can also just kill the opposing team’s four members in a fraction of the time, if your team is better, and net the same results i.e. a victory for that round. As you can imagine, once people caught wind of this they stopped caring about the objective entirely.

I’m one of those people that actually care about the objective. That’s why I play(ed) the objective mode as opposed to the team kill mode. When I first started playing, I was misled into believing I was playing with people but was actually in the bot mode. I had so much fun. Not because the bots were easier but because they were playing for the objective. Rather than just going for kills, the bots had been programmed to play as if completing the objective was the only way to win. This made for a much more interesting and varied gameplay experience because while killing the opposition mattered and happened, it wasn’t the main focus of each round. Both sides played for the objective as their main concern. This shaped the way they approached the map and the firefights. Once I started playing with actual people, I quickly started to enjoy the game less. This was because human players didn’t care about the objective.

Dark Souls 3 Screenshot 2020-03-15 00-39-35Playing Rogue Company’s objective mode, and so many other shooters with objectives I’ve tried, with humans always ends up being the same garbage experience. This is because everyone except me always seems to think they’re playing slayer mode and just ignores the objective. This makes sense when you look at the framework for how these types of games work though. Notice that people who play shooters rarely discuss wins. Have you ever noticed that before? No one ever describes their win percentage when talking about how good they are at shooters. The talk about their K/D ratio. In a way this makes a lot of sense. K/D ratio is more effective at describing an individual player’s skills in the game while wins accounts for a number of external factors that aren’t all related to the individual player’s performance. You can be the best in the world but if you’re playing a team based game against the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best in the world and the other members of your team are crap then you probably still won’t win the match. Also, even when you do get a good team, the map layout usually gives one team the advantage. In Rogue Company, the objective location changes each round but it’s always to a particular spot from a preset list of locations on the map. These spawn points absolutely deal an advantage to one team over the other and I could see no formula for how these spawns were decided. Some matches my team got the advantage multiple times over and other matches the other team got the advantage more often than we did. It was random and yet clearly gave an advantage to a particular team. Factors like this play a huge role in determining why K/D seems to matter more than win percentage to most committed players of shooters.

KD Ratio meme

Another huge factor in why players tend to ignore the objective is the rewards system in these games. Rogue Company, like most shooters of this sort, has player levels. You amass experience based on your accomplishments and that experience levels up your account. Leveling up presumably has some benefit, but as this was an alpha, I don’t know what the particular benefits will be in this particular game. I assume it will be similar to most other shooters by being a mix of cosmetic options, avatars, and titles. There is of course always the prestige of having a higher level as well. Experience is given based on accomplishments but kills always net more than completing the objective in these games. Completing the objective may be the stated purpose of the game but the experience points given to the individual player for completing the objective never compares to racking up kills. So if you’re a player that cares about leveling up your account, it is the objectively correct decision to focus on getting more kills rather than completing the objective. Again acknowledging the fact that killing off the other team will get you a win even if you ignore the objective completely.

Ignoring the objective becomes the standard of play because it’s always profitable. This is so common that playing for the objective becomes a taboo. This was definitely the case in Rogue Company. As I said, I play for the objective. It’s what I like to do. It’s the reason I play that mode in these types of games in the rare instances that I do play them. I was criticized multiple times during the alpha for trying to prioritize the objective. People would take the time to jump on their mics or text chat to tell me to stop going for the objective and just focus on killing. That angered me, but I understood their reasoning behind it. The truth is that by being the only person on the map playing for the objective, I tended to die first fairly often. But let’s unpack that a bit. Seven of eight players on a map ignoring the objective and one playing for the objective and getting criticized for it should not be seen as acceptable from a game design standpoint. Why even make an objective mode if 87% of players are just going to ignore it anyway? Because there are simply too few players like me who will risk victory for love of the game. What should have happened was not that my three team mates criticized me for pursuing the objective but instead cover my ass so that I can get the objective before the other team does. That’s the intended way to play. But it’s not the common way people play.

greed is goodIt’s very telling when you look at the scorecards from the matches I played. It was extremely common to see something like me with the lowest score on my team but with the most objective completions while the person with highest score on my team would have zero objective completions but the most kills. It’s no wonder most players ignore the objective and I can’t blame them for that. But this, in my opinion, should be considered bad game design. Yes the gameplay loop is fun. Yes the combat is balanced. Yes the round to round character development system is well made. But if more than 2/3 of your players are flat out ignoring the gameplay methodology you’ve built into the mode then it’s a badly designed mode. And that’s not a knock against Rogue Company specifically. That’s a criticism of all these shooters. Because they all tend to have this same issue. So my question is how do “we” fix this?

There has to be a way for a developer to create an objective mode in a shooter that has a fulfilling gameplay loop, meaningful objectives, and encourages people to actively prioritize completing the objective(s) over mindlessly killing the other team regardless of the objective being completed. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know if it’s already been done, because I don’t play every shooter. But I do know that this is something that I’ve never witnessed before.

Overwatch-XP-ScreenI’ve got some ideas. Maybe completing the objective should net the individual player way more points. Like 10x that of a single kill. Or maybe the game shouldn’t let anyone get killed permanently until the objective is completed. Or maybe if the round is ended without the objective being completed everyone gets zero points or at least severely reduced points. I don’t know the answer but I do believe there’s a way to make a meaningful objective mode in a team based shooter where people on both teams actively care about the objective more than getting kills. But then we have to ask the question does it matter?

If 87% of players will happily ignore the objective in a game, maybe the answer is to stop building objective modes in these games. Clearly people don’t care about them. But is it that they simply aren’t made to be meaningful enough or that most players genuinely don’t want them but play in that mode for some other reason. Maybe they prefer the maps for example. In Rogue Company the objective mode maps were much more interesting than the one straight slayer map that was available. There is a risk that making an objective mode where players have to actually play for the objective could backfire on the developer. People might say they don’t like actually having to take the objective seriously and ultimately not play the mode. This is a real risk to be considered. But I believe that there’s a way to do it successfully. I believe that players will change their conduct when motivated to do so in an effective and meaningful way.

Rainbow-6-SiegeI don’t know if what I’m looking for in a team based shooter already exists. It may have been here for years and I just don’t know about it because of how rarely I play shooters. Maybe that’s exactly what Rainbow Six Siege is and I just don’t know about it. In any case, I want a team based shooter with Rogue Company’s fast paced gameplay loop with an objective mode that actively motivates players to take the objective seriously. Until then I’ll probably keep ignoring team based shooters with no story mode.

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Nothing if Not Generic

Every so often I do a post defending developers. This is one of those posts. A few weeks ago, I got into an argument with some people online about video games, as I often do. Basically we were arguing over which game in the Mass Effect Trilogy was the worst. Notice I said Trilogy so Andromeda was not included in the discussion. Otherwise that would have been the shortest argument in the history of the internet. I don’t want to rehash the entire argument but one thing that really stuck out to me was that some people said they thought Mass Effect 2 was the worst in the series because the gameplay was generic and they didn’t like the writing. Now I don’t agree with either of those points, but what I specifically want to discuss is the complaint of generic gameplay.

It’s become trendy to complain that a game is generic. In a way this is fair when every year we get another COD that looks and plays exactly the same, another copy and paste FIFA and Madden, and enough military 1st and 3rd person shooters to build a literal fort of stacked game cases out of. But as I’ve thought about it more I don’t think it’s fair to argue that gameplay, in and of itself, is generic. Or put more accurately, I don’t think it’s fair to complain about generic gameplay.

FIFA CoverThe word generic is derived from the word genre. Genre is defined in the dictionary as “a style or category of art, music, or literature”. Now assuming we include video games within “art, music, or literature”, which most people do, then it’s accurate to say that video games can be classified/organized based on genre. We know this is true because we have plenty of established game genres. RPG, third person shooter, FPS, platformer, battle royale, and so on are all established and widely recognized genres of video games. What this means is that there are established expectations for how a certain type of game within a certain genre will play. Yes a studio can try to alter or even revolutionize what that looks like but ultimately for a game to fit within a genre it needs to share a minimum set of gameplay characteristics with the gameplay expectations/standards used to define its declared genre.

For instance, it doesn’t matter how different the vehicles are or how crazy the physics work, for a game to be part of the racing genre it has to have the player controlling an in game object in order to get it from point A to point B in a limited amount of time. That time may be denoted with a clock or it may be denoted with other competing racers, but there has to be a motivating factor for the player to reach the finish line/goal as quickly as possible for a game to be part of the racing genre. No amount of innovation can change that because that’s what a racing game is. Yet no one would ever complain that a game where cars race from point A to point B on a map is generic. It is generic because it’s supposed to be. The game is intentionally trying to be included within the racing genre. If anything saying the game wasn’t generic would be the more noteworthy complaint/insult because it would mean declaring the game different from what it’s intended to be by its creators. This same logic can and should be applied to any genre of gameplay.

Gear of War 3The gameplay in Mass Effect 2, the gameplay in The Division, and the gameplay in Gears of War 3 can all be considered generic and it should be. Because they’re all third person cover to cover shooters. They are part of the same genre and were declared as such by their developers. They play the way they were meant to be played and that gameplay is what makes third person cover to cover shooter a genre. If they didn’t all play essentially the same way then they wouldn’t be part of the same genre, even if each individual game feels slightly different in various specific ways. For instance, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint does not have cover to cover maneuvers in the gameplay. Thus it isn’t a third person cover to cover shooter. When compared to the other three games, it is not generic. That doesn’t make it a better or worse game. Nor does it make it an original game. It simply makes it a game not classified in the same genre. And were Ubisoft to classify it as a third person cover to cover shooter then it would be both not generic and really lousy as far as other games in the genre go, since again it has no cover to cover mechanics.

We need genres. They’re important. They help studios/publishers convey what games are intended to be so consumers can purchase games they actually want to play. Imagine if we had no genres. You want to play a first person shooter and no genre based games classification system exists. So you go to the store and all you know is you want to play a game where you can’t see your character during combat and you have a gun. So you pick up a random game off the shelf with a character holding a gun. For example, maybe you picked up Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. On the front of the box is a white guy with a shotgun in one hand and a pistol in the other. So you buy it because the only classification information you’re able to recognize is guns are in the game. Now Uncharted might be an amazing third person adventure game with acceptable third person cover to cover shooting mechanics but it is a piss poor first person shooter. As far as first person shooters go it’s anything but generic. In this case generic gameplay would be a godsend. But that’s entirely the point of genres. The gameplay for each game within a genre is supposed to be generic. So for people to then turn around and complain that the gameplay in a game is generic seems rather odd because it’s supposed to be that way.

death-stranding

Notice that I’ve only discussed gameplay up to this point and that’s both intentional and important. Gameplay is and should be generic unless a studio is legitimately trying to create something new. Like Hideo Kojima with Death Stranding. That’s a genre that really we haven’t seen before. And note that I’m only talking about the mail delivery portion of the game with a specific focus on the walking/running, balancing, weight distribution aspects of the game. The combat and stealth aspects are old hat. And the term “strand game” isn’t a thing. But to call Death Stranding’s core gameplay loop generic would be inaccurate. Originality is bitter sweet though. On one hand the game is completely new and incapable of being categorized as a run of the mill clone of other existing games. On the other hand it’s really hard to sell a product when no one really understands what they’re supposed to be buying. As much as people love Kojima, Death Stranding didn’t sell as strongly as he had hoped it would. That’s not to say it sold badly. Just that it didn’t do nearly as well as more than one of his past works, and not for lack of attention.

The reality is that people like generic and there’s nothing wrong with that. Studios choosing to make games that people find accessible should never be seen as a bad thing. Especially if the studio is trying to tell a story. People often argue about whether or not story or gameplay is more important in a game. But I think that depends on the story being told. Some studios don’t actually care about the story they’re telling. They’re simply trying to sell gameplay. This is how I would describe Destiny. Or at least the first one since I didn’t play the second. But many studios are trying to sell a story. And more often than not the gameplay isn’t directly connected to the story. It’s merely a means of telling the story the studio wants to tell. That means the best course of action is to make the gameplay as accessible as possible without getting boring. Take our original example of Mass Effect.

Mass Effect 1 skill treeNow you can argue that BioWare wanted to create a sci-fi themed alien/robot shooting spree with overt story elements. But that’s not really what BioWare has ever claimed to be about. At least not before Anthem anyway. It’s more accurate to say that BioWare wanted to create an epic sci-fi fantasy story with easily accessible gameplay elements. At first they didn’t want to go full shooter because that was never their thing. But it also didn’t make since to make Shepherd a swordsman in the future setting. So they tried to make an RPG based shooter in a time before The Division. And honestly they failed. The gameplay in Mass Effect 1 is original and broken. It is not generic and we all suffered because of it. But the storytelling was excellent. And everyone agreed about that. That’s why BioWare switched the gameplay to a generic third person cover to cover shooter in Mass Effect 2. They realized the gameplay was hindering the player’s ability to enjoy the story and corrected that. Generic worked there because it works. And while those people I argued with didn’t agree, most people I’ve talked to on the subject would say Mass Effect 2 was the best game in the trilogy. And it’s that generic gameplay that made it so. Because people could focus on the epic storytelling, as BioWare originally intended.

If it feels good then it’s good gameplay even if you’ve played it 100 times before. I get so irritated when people play the sequel to a game and complain that the gameplay is exactly the same. It should be exactly the same save for improvements to flaws in the previous game’s gameplay or meaningful additions that make the gameplay feel better or more enjoyable. But changing the gameplay for the sake of changing it is stupid and people complaining about it not changing is even stupider. Like you wouldn’t go to a restaurant and complain the food tastes similar to the last time you ate there. It’s supposed to be like that. The changes and originality should come out in the story. Generic writing, unlike gameplay, is 100% acceptable to complain about.

dragon-ball-z-kakarot-wallpaperGameplay needs to be generic for various reasons, in most but not all cases. But storytelling should not ever be generic if the purpose of the game is to tell a story. That’s one of the main reasons I avoid FPS games. They lean too hard on the exact same storytelling tropes over and over again, because their target audience doesn’t seem to care much about story. How many more games about white guys fighting in WWII do we need? Generic writing is a bad thing and it has crippled the gaming industry in favor of better graphics and gameplay for a long time. There’s a reason people love Naughty Dog. They lead with story. People remember and cherish their games because they show them something different and compelling in terms of storytelling. That’s what people connect with emotionally. I complained a ton about the gameplay in The Last of Us. But I’ll definitely be playing The Last of Us Part 2. Because I do want to know what happened/happens to Joel and Ellie. I will absolutely play another God of War. Because I do care about Kratos as a character. But there are countless games I’ve played over the years that I don’t care to play a sequel to because the writing was generic. The biggest example being Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.

I don’t think there’s a more generic games franchise currently in existence than Dragon Ball Z at this point. They don’t even pretend to change things up anymore. It’s the same story over and over and over again. I loved Dragon Ball: Xenoverse simply because the story was slightly altered. But the joke was that your character was tasked with making sure the exact same story remains intact. Make a Dragon Ball Super game for goodness sake. Or a Dragon Ball game. I’d play the shit out of that. But I can only fight Freeza, Cell, and Buu from the perspective of Goku so many times. Even the Legend of Zelda franchise at least occasionally goes off the beaten path with games like Twilight Princess and Majora’s Mask. Writing in Dragon Ball Z games is so generic at this point that Goku can be described as its own genre of writing. Storytelling is when it’s absolutely OK to complain about games being generic.

Mortal Lombat vs Street FighterAt the end of the day, games are meant to be enjoyed. Gameplay gets reused because a large percentage of players enjoy it. Think about your favorite fighting game. Each one plays a bit differently and you tend to play the one(s) that you like the gameplay the most in. When the studio changes that gameplay in a later installment people lose their minds, like they did with Street Fighter V. And honestly they should have. Mortal Kombat feels different from Street Fighter and it always has. If you’ve been playing Mortal Kombat since 1992, the game has changed significantly over time. But it has never felt like Street Fighter. It’s always been a bit more fluid and arguably easier to play at an amateur level. If NetherRealm Studios made the next one slower and more methodical like Street Fighter, people would get mad. The gameplay is generic for both franchises and that is why both franchises have remained successful. Generic gameplay isn’t a bad thing. Bad gameplay is a bad thing and the two shouldn’t be conflated. So really the question players should be asking isn’t “is this gameplay generic?” It’s “am I currently in the mood to play another game within this genre?” Because when generic gameplay is a problem for the player it’s more the player’s current state of mind being at odds with the game rather than the game being poorly or lazily designed.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

DJMMT’S Top 15 Tips for Starting The Division 2

The Division 2 dropped last week and I am loving it. Ubisoft was kind enough to grace me with a copy of the Ultimate Edition. Now normally I would of course write a full review of the game. But because I already wrote a very thorough review of the beta, I decided that it wouldn’t be super productive for my readers to write a review of the full game because much of the experience is the same. That’s not to say that no changes have been made since the beta, because a number of crucial ones have in fact been implemented, to my surprise. But they’re mostly smaller details that don’t warrant an entirely new review. So instead I decided, for really the first time in the history of this blog, that I would write an easy starter guide for the game instead.

My intention here is not to give you a fully encompassing guide to The Division 2. I’m only at level 11 and I’ve only played it for just under 11 hours. There are people who are already much farther along and can give you very specific tips for specific sections of the game. I don’t want to do that. My intention here is that if you haven’t started the game yet, or haven’t really gotten past the tutorial missions, then this guide will help you settle into the game more effectively from the beginning. Now of course these are my opinions on how to most effectively play this game early on. Some of the tips will be obvious, others might be obscure, and not everyone who’s already playing the game will agree on all of them. So take it all with a grain of salt. Just know that I’ve been playing the game solo up to this point, I’m averaging about 1 level up an hour, and while I have died a number of times, it’s not often and it’s rarely a surprise when it happens to me. So without further ado, here are my top 15 tips to starting The Division 2, in no particular order.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.18 - 01.39.53.91

1. Solo Play is A-OK

The Division 2 is sold as a squad based third person loot shooter, and it is, but team based play isn’t a requirement early on. The truth is that other players are a hindrance in many ways when playing a game. They tend to slow you down and aren’t going to necessarily want to do what you care about past the current mission. Thankfully, The Division 2 doesn’t require you to play with others early on. In fact, it discourages it in many ways. You can’t even join a clan until you get to around level 10. It’s not based on level, because it’s a progress/achievement based unlock, but the required challenges have a difficulty minimum of seven with a recommended difficulty of 10. You don’t need a clan to play with randoms via matchmaking and friends, but really you don’t need them early on. You can very comfortably play the game solo for the early portion of the game. I haven’t played with a single other player and I’ve not struggled to clear any missions or side missions. I do die on occasion, but not often. Rather than jump into playing with others, you should use the early stages of the game to get a feel for it and figure out your preferred playstyle, skills, and weapon types.

2. Armor Number Only on Gear (Does NOT Include Weapons)

While there is a large selection of armor with various enhancements of various types, the reality is that none of this matters early on. You should devote no time to looking at buffs, specs, enhancements and so on when choosing gear until you’ve hit at least purple gear and chances are you can probably do that all the way up to gold gear or even post level 30 legendary drops. Just look at the armor number, because the increased defense will do way more for you in the early stages than buffs will. You will find better armor, often with better buffs, literally every time you level up so it doesn’t make any sense to put effort into trying to create a steady build until you hit the armor wall and stop finding better stuff every other mission. Just wear whatever pieces you find with the highest armor stats, change them out for the next better thing frequently, and don’t think about anything else. Ignore colors all together early on because you will often find higher rarity gear with lower defense stats than gear with a lower rarity. Choose the higher armor stat. Rarity only really matters once you start getting mods, which you won’t for quite a while.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.19 - 19.49.38.83

3. Craft Armor (Don’t Buy It)

There are two main reasons for this. The first is that the farther into the map you get, the better stores you’ll find. So purchasing anything from the early vendors is a waste of credits because it’s almost all trash compared to what you’ll find in shops later on. I did see one purple mask in the first vendor early on but it wasn’t worth the price compared to the mask I already had at the time, even though it was only blue rarity. But more importantly, crafting is a lot more affordable. Some crafts do cost credits to complete but the prices are always better than buying directly from the vendor. Your crafting potential corresponds with your level, meaning the higher your level the better gear you can craft. This also means that every time you level up you can potentially improve your gear right away if you don’t want to stick it out for a gear drop, which in my opinion you should. One note about crafting is that, like in the first game, it’s RNG based on a performance range. You should not craft anything unless the minimum armor stat in the range is higher than your maximum armor stat on whatever type of gear you’re considering crafting.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.18 - 00.37.52.08

4. Try Different Weapons

You are going to find a ton of different types of guns. Most of them you will have no point of reference for either in real life or in games. Some of them you might know, and because of that you’ll probably consider sticking to them. Don’t! Everyone’s playstyle is different when it comes to shooters but this is not a traditional shooter. Aim matters, but not as much as in a normal shooter. There are headshots and weak points, but those aren’t required to kill enemies effectively in this game. This is an RPG, which means everything goes by the numbers. You get additional damage and XP for getting headshots, but that shouldn’t be your strategy for how to approach the game. Just use base damage to calculate your effectiveness. Whether you hit center mass, a leg, or a hand, the damage is basically the same. So don’t worry about being super accurate. Instead think about total DPS. The number of shots is technically irrelevant as long as you can kill your target(s) without reloading. That’s not to say that you should just pick up a chain gun and forgo all accuracy. Different guns will feel better or worse for different people. The point is that you should never disregard a gun because it’s not your preferred style of weapon because in a numbers game it may actually do better for you overall. So don’t be afraid to try new guns you pick up while looking for that ideal weapon.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.19 - 19.49.16.35

5. Damage > Range > MAG > RPM

Just like with armor, you are going to find a lot of weapons and be unsure which ones to use. Now as I’ve already said, you should try different types of weapons, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a stat based component to picking which ones to try. As with armor, you should be picking the most baseline effective weapons you can find and upgrading whenever possible. But comparing guns is a lot more complicated than comparing armor. I’ve found that the most effective way to compare guns is by comparing their specs in this order. Damage comes first of course. As I said, this is an RPG. So it’s not about getting one great hit. It’s about getting the most effective combination of hits in the shortest amount of time. I don’t measure effectiveness based on number of shots. I measure it based on number of reloads. Now of course number of shots is a factor of number of reloads, but every gun has a different mag size and will be only as effective as the shooter and situation. You’ll also find some guns that have really great damage but garbage everything else and ultimately aren’t that effective. Shotguns are the worst about this. You will find some amazing shotguns. But their range is usually garbage. If an enemy gets that close to you it’s often already too late. And most shotguns have trash reloading times. So while damage is important, range is only slightly less important. I’ll take a slightly lower damage sniper rifle over a higher damage shotgun any day of the week because you can play from the safety of distance and cover while still getting a large amount of damage and often about the same reload time. Really you want something that’s effective at mid to far range for most instances but easy to aim in close distances as well. My favorite beginner gun is the Classic-RPK because the range is quite good, the damage is fairly good, and it’s fairly stable.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.18 - 01.03.03.71

Next you gotta look at mag size. Now again, it’s not about number of shots fired as much as number of reloads. But the number of shells per a mag defines how often you need to reload. Even if it’s one shot one man, which it rarely is outside of using an SR, that still means that a five shot mag only lets you kill five enemies before having to reload or change guns. Yes you do get to carry two weapons and a pistol at all times, but I wouldn’t recommend hot swapping rather than reloading every mag as a normal method of play. You really should have your second weapon as a special scenario gun, which I’ll get into later on. I can’t tell you what the right number of shots per a mag is for you, but I can tell you that you should be able to kill a group all standing in a cluster without reloading. Whatever weapon you’re using, if a group of enemies maxing out at six people, assuming none of them are heavy armored, aren’t all taken down without reloading, then you’re using the wrong gun. Later on you’ll get mods and buffs that can heavily speed up your reload time, but you shouldn’t rely on that early on because mods won’t be coming for a while and even when they do that’s a high risk way to play the game, and the reason I don’t suggest maining a shotgun. Once you do get good mods though, I’d say sacrificing mag size for better reload speed is worth the trade off in most cases.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.18 - 21.46.15.93

Last but not least. You should consider RPM. While your secondary weapons can have a lower RPM, because it’s a special case weapon, your main weapon really needs to shoot fairly quickly. Again, unless you’re running a one shot one man build, it all comes down to DPS in an RPG. So the faster you can shoot, the more damage you can get, and the faster your enemies will go down. What you really want to do, once you get there, is find a high damage high RPM gun with a decent to high mag size, put on a fast reload mod, at the expense of some mag shots (around 15%), and then you have a powerful gun that’s fairly accurate at mid-range that reloads at a competitive speed and not often. Currently I’m using an M249 B which deals 402 base damage, shoots 550 RPM, and has a 100 shot mag. This is hard to use in green rarity class because of the lack of mod slots, but once you find a blue one and the mods to go with it, it’s a top shelf gun for beginners and veterans alike. But ultimately when comparing any two guns, compare the specs in the order I’ve given even if it means putting down a gun you really like. Chances are you’ll be more effective now and eventually find the gun you like again with better stats in the future.

6. Use a SR as Your Secondary Weapon

I don’t really play too many shooters and because of that my aim is often a bit shaky. I can count all the successful snipe kills in PVP I’ve gotten on my fingers because I’m terrible at it. But the sniping actually feels really good in The Division 2. Like surprisingly good. So good that I’m genuinely starting to feel like I actually have talent. So even if you’re not traditionally a sniper, you should be one in this game. Specifically because of how it affects the rules of engagement. Again, this is an RPG. You don’t need headshots to get kills. They net more XP and damage, but if you have a good SR and you’re not playing above the recommended level threshold you should be getting one to two hit kills for hitting enemies in the finger. The range makes this gun worth using for two main reasons. The first is that a lot of enemies will be trying to snipe you or take you out from long distance. Closing that gap can be difficult, dangerous, and time consuming. It’s way easier just to blow them away from long range. The other reason is that you can engage challenges from outside the challenge area with an SR and the progress counts. Taking control points is a great example of this. If you can find a good location where you can see the enemies clearly without crossing into the control point boundary, you can engage them and they’ll pretty much never come after you. They’ll shoot towards you if they see you but they won’t try to storm you or flank you. They’ll stay in the control point area and let you pick them off like flies. And they will not respawn. Because of this, the SR is one of the most effect tools a solo player can use. And because of the RPG style of gameplay, you literally just have to hit the broadside of a barn to be effective with it.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.17 - 15.03.09.49

When it comes to picking an SR specifically, I say focus on base damage coupled with mag size. RPM and reload speed aren’t as important because you should ideally be getting one to two hit kills. At the same time, there are some lower damage fast action sniper rifles if that’s your preference but these will give your position away quicker and won’t get one hit kills, which gives enemies a chance to take cover.

7. The Junk Function is Life

As with the first game, you’re going to find a lot of junk gear but not want to throw it out right away. You may want to sell it, store it for specific uses, or deconstruct it. At no time should you just throw it away. In The Division 1, every single piece of gear had to be dealt with manually. You had to deconstruct one piece at a time. You had to sell one piece at a time. It was slow and annoying. In this game you have the junk function, as well as the favorite function. You can mark pieces of gear with either a junk or favorite mark. This is helpful for organization but also for efficiency. You can deconstruct all junk in one shot. You can sell all junk in one shot. There is zero reason to deal with trash gear one piece at a time ever again. Once you upgrade your inventory to max capacity, you can just keep collecting and marking junk till the bag is full and then throw it out in one shot for a profit or crafting components. One of the best improvements from the first game.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.19 - 19.51.49.56

8. Cover Is NOT Optional

If you played the first game then you already know this. But this is a guide for noobs so I felt like though it should be obvious it should still be included. This is a cover based shooter. You cannot Destiny or Halo your way through this game and rely on shot accuracy and DPS to get through firefights. You have to use cover. You have to reload while in cover. You have to use the move from cover to cover function. If you’re not in cover that means you’re either sure you’re going to get the kill(s), moving to cover, or about to die. Always be in cover no matter how weak the enemies are.

9. Use Armor Packs at the End of Armor not Life

You can’t refill life in this game. It refills automatically by not taking damage for a certain amount of time. You can refill armor though, with armor packs. Armor is the white bars floating above your life bar. As long as you have armor, you HP won’t be affected. You can carry a limited number of armor packs at any given time as well as find more from enemy drops and certain refill boxes. Armor also restores itself after firefights conclude but refill packs don’t. Your first instinct may be to use armor packs only once your life bar is nearly depleted, believing you can win the fight and save the armor pack for a worse situation. This is the wrong mentality. There are too many stray bullets, hidden snipers, unseen grenades, and other massive damage attacks to take this kind of risk. As soon as your armor is fully depleted, get behind cover and use an armor refill pack. You’ll replace it later. There are also upgrades that increase how many armor refill packs you can carry and automatically refill them in safe houses. I recommend getting all of these upgrades as early as possible.

Armor

10. Early Progression Should be Natural

This genre is known for its XP and loot grind experiences and yes The Division 2 absolutely has that. But it’s in the late/end game. The level cap appears to be 30 currently. You do not need to grind for at least the first third of that if not more. I haven’t done anything a second time unless I failed it the first time. I haven’t gotten stuck in any missions for an extended period of time. I haven’t struggled a ridiculous amount while trying to complete challenges. You can naturally progress through the opening chapters of this game just by completing the challenges available. Do the main missions, do the side missions, collect the SHD caches, and complete the projects at your own pace without forcibly grinding XP. The early game is set up so that it’s very balanced and fair for a solo experience. You should not even be starting the road to grind fatigue for at least the first 10 – 15 levels of the game.

When it comes to entering new areas, each one has a suggested level range. I recommend finishing all the available single completion activities in an area and collecting all the SHD caches before moving to the next area. Based on my experience, you should be at the half way point of the level range at a minimum before entering the next area. So for example, the third area in the game has a level range of 4 – 8. This means you shouldn’t try to go in there till you’ve hit at least level six.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.17 - 14.56.38.89

11. SHD Caches First

Right away the game will deal you lots of different activities including main missions, side missions, random activities, and SHD cache locations. You should absolutely go for SHD caches first. These net XP, but more importantly unlock your permanent upgrades. Upgrades have a huge effect on gameplay. And there are a lot of them to unlock. So before you run into missions or try to take down that special bounty, just take the time to collect the SHD caches first whenever you reach a new area. And on your way to them you can unlock the safe houses. This way you’ll get some easy experience, upgrade faster. and ultimately be more effective overall. Note that almost none of the upgrades have level caps/minimums and the ones that do all have minimums of level 30 because they’re specialty upgrades. This means that from level one you can start unlocking the majority of upgrades as you collect more SHD points.

12. Control Points are Fast Travel Locations

In The Division 1 you only had safe houses, main landmarks, and DZ entrances as fast travel points. You could also fast travel to main missions. In The Division 2 they’ve added control points. These are basically not so safe houses. They are points on the map that you have to liberate through combat and then once liberated they’re occupied by friendlies. You can use these as fast travel locations. This is super convenient because it means now when you die you don’t have to go all the way back to the nearest safe house which is often not really near your last death location. It’s just in the same map area. Control points are placed in much more accessible locations around the map area so you can get back to the action much quicker. You can also lead enemies towards these points and friendly NPCs will help you fight them.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.19 - 19.59.06.39

13. Keep track of Hyena Boxes

In The Division 2 the main villains early in the game are known as hyenas. These are just thugs that wonder around in gas masks terrorizing people. You will get familiar with killing them very quickly. In certain missions you will come across hyena lock boxes. These hold special items but require special keys to open. Sadly keys are very rare and you will almost certainly not have any the first time you find a hyena lock box. In fact, you probably will find a number of lock boxes before getting a key. I still haven’t exactly figured out what nets keys. I only have acquired one so far. But I’ve found multiple lock boxes. It’s for this reason that it’s important to take manual notes about the location of lock boxes. I use screenshots of the map and physical location to keep track of them. Now obviously there will be guides online for this, but if you’re trying to play without walkthroughs then you need to keep track of these yourself due to the game’s lack of a manual map marker function. Really I’d like to see that patched in.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.17 - 01.15.16.44

14. Pop Your Skills Prematurely

One of my favorite improvements from the first game, and the beta, is the addition of number based skill cooldown meters. You can see the exact amount of time it will take for a skill to recharge so you can use it again. But there’s a strategy to this, depending on the specific skill you’re using. There are eight skill types available with multiple versions of each type. Some of them are single use and have to go through an entire cool down cycle. But some of them give you a bit more control of the situation. The turret being the best example. When you use the turret to completion, the cooldown time is 117 seconds. But you can end any skill prematurely by holding down the skill button it’s tied to. Doing this cuts the cooldown time in half. Smart players will use this to their advantage. You can see how much life/time the turret has left before it will disappear. If you destroy it at any time before it dies naturally, the cooldown time is only 59 seconds. That means that if you pop it manually just before it breaks down you can use turrets two times as often. And you can use this trick for any skill that’s not a one off. So obviously it’s not gonna work for the seeker mine because that’s a one off explosion and will always need to fully recharge unless not used at all, which does happen from time to time. It can still die off after being out a certain amount of time so in that situation you should also pop skills as soon as possible to get the reduced cooldown times.

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Screenshot 2019.03.18 - 23.13.40.51

15. Turret is a Must (For Solo Play)

Of the eight available skills, all of which can be unlocked from the beginning, the basic turret is without a doubt the most effective skill for solo play. It really is like having a second man on the field. It auto-aims but can be directed at specific targets. It lasts a fairly long time unless destroyed. It has a 360 degree view so it can cover from just about anywhere on the battlefield. Its range is fairly decent. And most importantly it gets kills. A lot of AI support in games doesn’t finish the job. It does some of the work but leaves it to you to close the deal. The turret initiates the negotiation, negotiates the deal, and closes the deal all on its own. At the same time though, you can drop it and it won’t engage until you engage first or it’s attacked directly. This means you can set it up as part of a plan of attack without the set up starting the firefight prematurely. It really is the only required skill option for a solo player. Your secondary can be whatever floats your boat. I prefer the seeker mine but I’ve decided to try out other things for science.

That’s it for my start tips for The Division 2. If you have any more questions please leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them as soon as possible. You can also watch me stream the game almost daily on my Twitch channel.

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