Hands-On With Skull and Bones and The Division 2

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Tom Clancy’s The Division 2

When Tom Clancy’s The Division 1 released, it was unlike any game we had experienced at that time.  It was fun, dark, and visceral. However, a lacking story is what pulled a lot of people out of the game, as the missions felt repetitive.  Ubisoft corrected this later on by initiating several updates that brought a lot of players back, all so they could prepare for the next chapter in the story of The Division.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 takes place in Washington D.C., months after the attack on Black Friday.  By now, the plague has mostly disappeared, but now it’s time to rebuild the word. Though, certain factions have opted to build this new world in a new image, one that favors the few and not the many.  The Division are the last line of defense against tyranny and are brought to D.C. to restore some semblance of order.

Our demo took us through one mission, as 4 of us teamed up, each using a different class.  My character used the Demolitionist specialization, which means that I wielded a sweet grenade launcher.  Despite needing special ammo to use it, I found that killing enemies on a frequent basis and taking our stronger ones generated this ammo quickly.  This allowed me to blast my team through the halls of some of our nation’s capital’s most sacred landmarks.

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Much like the gameplay trailer shown, our mission was to take out the enemy threat that had seized a crashed plane, riddled with supplies.  While the trailer made it known that the plane was Air Force One and showed the team going through the trees, this mission didn’t take us through the plane like they did, so it was unclear if this was also Air Force One, or just a mission similar to it.  Nevertheless, our path took us through museums, the DC streets, and then to the plane.

From my two playthroughs of this mission, I noticed that the game has improved considerably.  The models are mostly the same and even the mechanics haven’t changed that much, but it’s noticeable that this is a much smoother game.  It’s also a lot more challenging. I found myself needing a revive more often than I thought I would, especially at the airplane. Waves upon waves of strong enemies poured into the crash site and without much coordination, it made it hard for us to succeed in taking out the enemy threat.  It became clear early on that teamplay and coordinated strikes are the recipe for success in The Division 2. Furthermore, I love that Ubisoft is using a brighter setting to symbolize the rebirth of America, whereas the first game’s drab and dark setting signified its darkest days. Somehow, the brighter environment makes for a much more enjoyable experience, possibly because there’s more to see.  Or maybe it’s because it makes feel more inviting. Whatever it is, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 looks like it’ll be what we hoped the first Division would be. With free story installments planned out, a different environment to play through, and RAIDS, it’s got me excited to jump back into the world of The Division.


Skull & Bones

Ever since Ubisoft Singapore debuted their Black Sails/Pirates of the Caribbean-like pirate game, Skull & Bones, I’ve been chomping at the bit to know more about the game.  As we all know, the game is based around the same mechanics that Ubisoft Singapore perfected in the Assassin’s Creed series, most notably Black Flag.

The demo we played revealed a more sophisticated ship selection method than previous versions of this method.  You can play as a more balanced ship The Black Horn, a faster ship with weaker weaponry The Jaeger, or a slow tank with powerful weapons The Royal Fortune.  Once our ship was chosen, we went on our way to play through some all-out naval combat.

Mastering the mechanics took a bit of time to accomplish.  There were the obvious firing methods on port and starboard, but you didn’t have to shoot just cannons.  Instead, you could switch between mortars and other methods of destructions. Furthermore, there were front-end cannons equipped to chase down any retreating foe.  Moreover, what could make or break a vessel was aim. Too many times, I found myself on the brink of destroying an enemy ship, only miss above or below them and get crushed as punishment.  However, the most impressive part of the ship is that each one had its own special ability. For instance, The Black Horn has a ram that could rip a ship into pieces, The Royal Fortune could fire rapid-fire shots non-stop, and The Jaeger could launch a flurry of what looked like rockets.  

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The real meat of the game is playing and joining with others on the high seas, especially when fortunes do not bode in your favor and it’s a time of Hostile Takeover.  This mode means that formidable enemies are roaming the seas looking to pillage all of your hard-earned treasure. That’s why grouping up with pirates can be beneficial.  Fortunately, we were under favorable conditions, which means that the seas are a little calmer with merchant ships. That didn’t stop the group of users in this demo from collectively ganging up on the one player in the room who had backstabbed all of them, the dread pirate Player 9.  Watching the collective yell and jeer at this pirate made the whole experience that much more entertaining and had me recalling the friends I know who would definitely do the same, but with way more expletives. It’s definitely a game to play together, amongst friends.

What did surprise me about the game, though, was its lack of interaction on land.  Unlike its cartoony competition, Sea of Thieves, Skull & Bones sets itself apart by having a realistic artstyle and not doing too much away from the ship.  When I asked the developers about it, they said that you can go to port to upgrade and customize your ship/pirate but the majority of your time would be on the ship, itself.  This was indicative when going to a nearby island and uncovering buried treasure. The game utilized a cinematic rather than the manual approach of having the gamer walk around and find it themselves.  Whether that makes or breaks the game will remain to be seen.  Nevertheless, Skull & Bones was so good, so fun, and so enjoyable we couldn’t help ourselves but to nominate it for E3 Best of Show!

Stay tuned tomorrow for my breakdown of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey!