Archive for The Division

Anthem vs The Division 2: Open Beta Face-Off

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2019 by Rabidgames

We don’t often see two massive, open-world(ish) titles pushing out open betas to try to convince people just before their respective launches in such a short time. While Anthem is more of a sci-fi game with futuristic tech and rather fantastic enemies, The Division 2 is a slightly futuristic-ish game with human enemies. And well, both are always-online loot shooters with a “games as a service system” so lets compare the shit out of them!

One thing – let’s not pretend an open beta is more than just a demo. If you really have to test your servers or your game that late in development, you’re fucked anyway.

It’s been a few days to let the open beta experience of The Division 2 sink in, so let’s get going now and see how both open betas fared!

Technical stuff

GRAPHICS: Anthem looked nice and impressive, whereas TD2 (let’s be lazy, shall we?) looked a step down from its predecessor. Both betas were plagued by pop-ups and other problems, but this point goes to Anthem because the world actually looks stunning at times.
Anthem-Division 1:0

SOUND: This is a tough one. Both games weren’t too convincing in the sound department, and both betas showed signs that there is still some work to do in both cases. However, TD2 had some serious issues with the weapon sounds. giving Anthem the edge here.
Anthem-Division 2:0

STABILITY: TD2 had issues in the closed beta, but so had Anthem. In Anthem’s open beta however, it was very common to either not be able to connect or to get thrown out of the game when connected, which happened on a very regular basis, making the game unplayable for tens of minutes at times. TD2 on the other hand, ran fine with very few connection issues and very few hiccups.
Anthem-Division 2:1

STARTING OUT: Anthem was cumbersome – Going from the hub veeeery slowly to the hangar area took a while, and going back to report and get the next objective was the same drag. Matchmaking was also rather weird and sometimes resulted with no results, wasting’everybody’s time. TD2 was more fluid from the get-go, and running inside hubs can help. Sadly, neither beta offered an easy drop in/drop out service, which seems odd in this day and age.
Anthem-Division 2:2

Beta Content

CUSTOMISATION: Both betas show not much in terms of character customisation. Anthem let us lightly customise the Javelin and our loadout, TD2 let us lightly customise our agent and the loadout, too. However, it felt easier to try out different builds in TD2 as you could do so on the spot instead of collecting orbs that were sent to the hub. All the cosmetic stuff you found to individualise your character was also more accessible than the convoluted way to change the colour of the Javelin (which also was lost when rebooting the Anthem beta the next time).
Anthem-Division 2:3

THE WORLD: We got to see most of the world of Anthem. It looked nice, yes, but also devoid of many landmarks or points of interest. You also had to actively look for activity beyond angering wildlife because it was pretty empty. TD2’s overgrown and green Washington DC was full of life, be it animals, friendly or hostile humans – there could be danger just around the corner all the time, so it’s easy to see who wins here.
Anthem-Division 2:4

WORLD BUILDING: The hub in Anthem felt static and sterile, filled with static NPCs, pointless dialogue choices and “not available in beta” signs instead of actual dialogues in most cases. Just like the rest of the world, it felt empty, even a bit trivial After you did missions, you came back and it was all the same. TD2 showed a world you rebuild and actively change. After all, you literally re-build the world in TD2.
Anthem-Division 2:5

MISSIONS: Anthem had some missions and one end-game mission. And free roam. TD2 had some main missions, lots of repeatable side missions, free roam was part of the world anyway, and also one end-game mission. While both are mostly go from A to B to kill C, Anthem was quite boring as it felt pretty generic, whereas TD2 offered more interesting levels that required some tactical planning. Being able to explore and discover seamlessly between missions and free roam is an easy win for TD2.
Anthem-Division 2:6

Gameplay

MOVEMENT: Obviously, flying around in a vertical world is cooler than walking and running around. You can fucking FLY!!!
Anthem-Division 3:6

SHOOTING: Technically, that’s a point for Destiny here. Shooting isn’t too great in either Anthem or TD2 compared to Destiny’s only strength. But between those two, TD2 actually had a more diverse cast of weapons at its disposal and shooting them felt slightly more “real” and satisfying.
Anthem-Division 3:7

ABILITIES: To be fair, Rabidgames has a weakness for the primer/detonator combat of Mass Effect that is also built into Anthem so that’s a strong point for the Bioware game. The abilities in TD2 felt a bit nerfed, making it harder to use them to our advantage. They’re not useless, but not as fun as the combos in Anthem.
Anthem-Division 4:7

GAMEPLAY VARIETY: Well, both are shooters. You aim, you shoot, boom, splash, splatter. But while enemies in Anthem are either weak or bullet sponges – and could be easily copied over from DestinyTD2 offer variety with its human and robot opponents. Firefights in Anthem’s open beta all played out the same in the categories grunts and bosses. You shoot until they fall, and sure, bosses eat 10,000 bullets for breakfast, resulting in extremely boring circle and shoot orgies while occasionally escaping super attacks. TD2’s fights were a bit harder – you needed to cover your flanks or you were wiped out. Also, a screen full of enemies, drones and remote-controlled bomb-cars in a narrow room was an intense feeling, and bosses there had visual armour you can shoot off to finish off the boss quicker.
Anthem-Division 4:8

THE LOOT: We got weapons and other goodies only after missions in Anthem, which didn’t felt satisfying. At all. And the selection was even less interesting than in Destiny! In TD2, you can play with new loot on the spot, which made playing around with builds and mods more fun. Of course, the endgames in both games will show how good loot really is, but for now, it seems you can do more with it in TD2 – from crafting weapons to donating it to friendly settlements, you shouldn’t sell all you have.
Anthem-Division 4:9

THE SYSTEMS: Now, this is a tough one judging from the beta. Both are RPGs that let you build, craft and customise the gear you like. Anthem pretty much has the mission -> rewards -> customisation loop, while TD2 has more – you upgrade your base and settlements, you open up checkpoints to control districts (where you then open up a door with loot). Plus, you get to see your changes in TD2’s world. In RPG terms, both are pretty light though – the dialogue choice in Anthem are a joke though, if you think who did it!
Anthem-Division 4:10

THE FINAL RESULT: Anthem 4, The Division 10

Rabidgames thinks: It is inexplicable why Bioware/EA chose an outdated version that was a technical nightmare to proudly show off Anthem. It also didn’t do much to tell anything worthwhile about what’s going on. The Division 2 however showed us how the game starts, what’s going on and how many of its systems work together. Substance over style sums it up nicely – Anthem had a nice world with cool flying, but that’s about it. The Division 2 offered lots of content to be experimented with.

It’s no surprise The Division 2 beats Anthem in the beta contest because of those factors, which shows EA either doesn’t get what a beta is these days or that Ubisoft is more confident enough to show us what they got up their sleeves. Or both.

That being said, expect Rabidgames to get Washington D.C. up and running in The Division 2 soon. Anthem must wait, also because the “final” game itself is far from final …

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The Division (Beta) or A Better Destiny?

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , on February 22, 2016 by Rabidgames

The comparison with Destiny makes sense in many ways: Just like the (in)famous Bungie shooter, Tom Clancy’s The Division is an co-op online (and in both it’s questionable why it’s gotta be always online) shooter with light RPG elements, it takes place in a kinda post-apocalyptic world, and in both betas, the story remains abstruse – at best.

But there are differences – while Destiny feels like an arcade story in a sci-fi world far, far away, The Division’s catastrophe-ravaged version of New York feel darker, grittier and more realistic. You can almost feel the despair and the drama, the deaths and the pain in the mostly empty snow-covered streets of Manhattan.

In terms of gunplay, Destiny feels more like the winner – The Division’s guns don’t have the intuitive feel to them. You get used to them, and sure, one-hit kills with snipers rifles are always fun, and the mix of handguns with infinite ammo (that’s where realism says farewell) and two slots for either sniper rifles, shotguns, assault rifles or SMGs is still okay. Modding weapons makes them more unique, and in the full game, crafting promises some more width. Same goes for the rest of the equipment – The Division has plenty of slots to customise your avatar – plus some for appearance such as jackets, hats or shoes.

When it comes to gameplay, there’s a bit of running and exploration (you can enter some buildings and subway stations), and of course, lots of shooting. Some side missions involve you listening to “echoes” (conversations from the past somehow restored) and then following clues – nothing deep or immersive, but a welcome diversion in for sure. There’s also lots of intel and other collectibles hidden across Manhattan, providing us with some back story. Additionally, the old trick “hearing emotional stories from people you’ve never met before still gets you invested” works once more, giving this game already more emotional depth than Destiny has ever had.

In The Division, you also need to gather 3 different resources to expand your base, which in turn grants you new skills and perks for either medical, tech or security wings (security not accssible in the beta), and each section has 10 upgrades. There are tons of upgrades locked in the beta, but judging from the various screens, fingers crossed for some interesting ideas. There are also quite a few vendors in your base, and crafting is done here as well.

Then, there are the dark zones – it’s basically PvP, everyone is pitted against everyone. Yes, you need to play as a team to get to some good gear, but everyone can betray the team in The Division’s rather weird take on PvP. Unfortunately, it is possible you survive the betrayal of your team and some random guy kills you from afar. Well, the beta might be the right point to realise this … There needs to be more balance otherwise it pays off to be doing nothing and gaining the spoils – yes, Wall Street is close but games should be escapism, right?

Now, is The Division any good? Well, there is some potential, and if expanding the base and exploring Manhattan can entertain for more than 10 hours, it might well be worth it. But after Destiny’s hollow shell there is room for doubt, it is fair enough to doubt not to buy The Division blindly if you have zero interest in the dark zones or PvP in general, plus there’s doubt there actually is enough story and content to play the game on your own.

Rabidgames hesitates: After Destiny empty promises, the saying “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” comes to mind. The reviews and word of mouth will show if The Division can become what Destiny utterly failed to be at launch – an online game where you choose how social you want to be, with plenty of content for old-fashioned gamers who want to play on their own. And once more, it makes you wonder how fleshed out the game could have been without the online gimmick …