Elder Scrolls Online
The Division BETA report
Pictures provided by Hearns
- The Graphics are Amazing
- The variation of Weapons & Abilities is Great
- The PVP (Darkzone) is Addictive & Intense
- The PVE Content could be repetitive
- The UI feels extremely Awkward at times
- The environment feels expansive and empty
To start with, this game is a Third Person Shooter (No Suprise There) this means that you'll have an over the shoulder view at all times unless you are experiencing a cut-scene or zooming in with a scoped weapon. Cover is a very important aspect of the game, but it uses the cover system reasonably well and is reliable. At no point did we have lack of mobility options, the game made it easy to traverse the harsh terrain, and allowed you to climb up and over certain obstacles, giving you a real sense of freedom.
After just a short introductory clip you are plunged into a dilapidated city plagued with problems, and it becomes obvious early on that you will play a pivotal role as an agent to bring order to an otherwise lawless zone. There are some character customization options to choose from, but you can't change anything manually due to the fact it's BETA locked. You could however cycle through some presets that looked good enough. From what I can tell there are some nice features there to make you stand out from the crowd. With some help from a commander and some brief instruction, you go about setting up a base of operations by completing a series of small tasks. The tasks themselves are very simple, having you complete a short mission in various stages in the city zone while introducing you to some important characters that I assume will play a large part of the PVE story. These missions carry little challenge however, and I believe they are just tutorial quests, giving you a feel of what the game offers.
The base of operations offers 3 major zones: Medic Wing, Tech Wing, Security Wing. Each area of the base of operations can be upgraded over time, giving you access to new areas and upgrading your abilities. This is also where you'll find your local vendors to purchase your new items. I didn't time how long it takes for the stores to refresh but they seemed to have good items for sale regularly, with some great variety including attachments, weapons and armour.
The UI (User Interface):~
The UI has been designed to fit into the game world realistically by trying to give it a purpose in the world around you, for those familiar with games like Warframe, you will understand what I mean by this. The games UI is a projection from a shoulder piece that gives you access to your inventory and map system.
While it looks aesthetically pleasing we found it to be clunky and sometimes awkward to achieve the desired results. The weapon modification screen is particularly fiddly, requiring you to go through several screens, and not always being clear about activating mods on your weapons. However after spending some time getting used to this, it did get much easier, but it's still worth mentioning.
It also plays a role with your investigative roles during some of the interesting side missions available for discovery. The tech projection allows you to recreate vital moments in the games history to solve mysteries, and was required on at least two side missions.
You aren't short on firearms, right from the beginning we found we had access to several good weapons, whether you will have access to all that outside of the BETA is yet to be seen. You can carry 2 main weapons and a sidearm and have access to various grenades from a hotkey. There are several grenades available in-game such as frag, incendiary and flash. From what I can tell you can have any combination of weapons in your main two slots, this includes all the weapons we tried without any negative impact on performance. The sidearm is the only gun in your arsenal that has unlimited ammunition, other weapons require you to loot ammo off dead enemies, or restock at the ammo boxes spread out around the city and mission areas. The weapons I personally came across are as follows:
- Assault Rifle
- Marksman Rifle
- Submachine Gun
- Double Barrel Shotgun
Each weapon has various real world models such as the 'Classic AK47' and 'M4 Carbine' giving it a very modern feel, and allowing you to have a good look at your favourite classic weapons. You can open any weapon in the mod screen giving you many options to customize your weapon with attachments that you can earn from missions or purchase from the in-game vendor.
Each weapon feels very unique and carries its own stats. The statistics of the weapons don't change a huge amount within its own class. For example an 'AK47' & 'M4 Carbine' are both in the assault rifle class, so the stats are very similar in most regards, but the small tweaks between the two make a big difference to the playstyle you want to play.
Abilities & Perks:~
Due to the fact that this is essentially an RPG, you will find the character progression is quite nice, offering you access to 3 class lines of abilities that can be swapped and changed at will aslong as you are out of combat. There is also a 'Character Perk' section that allows you to further enhance your playstyle, although it was BETA locked.
The abilities available to us were as follows:
- - The medic field that could be both deployed personally and via a dart gun, healing everyone within a vicinity, crucial for PvP and survivability.
- - The deployable turret was a useful damage tool to enemy AI and was great for distracting enemy players, denying them access to certain lanes and suppressing them. It has a good health pool and couldn't be shot down easily, although I think this will change.
- - The sticky grenade was a deployable grenade that could be shot and manually detonated. This was valuable for dealing with enemy mobs and was a great tool to kill an enemy player.
- - The ballistic shield protects you from some damage but limits you to sidearm only for the period of the ability, allowing you to get from cover to cover, or soak some damage in a pinch.
These were the only abilities available to us during the BETA sadly, but there looks like there are many more in the works. Each ability can be modded when you have the required area (Tech, Medic, Security) upgraded in your base of operations, giving you new side effects or changing up the skill entirely.
The environment is expansive with lots of areas to explore, but it feels somewhat empty with NPC's in an interactive loop at times. The voice acting seemed good enough, but NPC's would randomly run away at the slightest thing such as a melee in mid air, leading to some hilarious but utterly pointless AI interactions. Of the two missions that were available to us only the subway mission really stood out, the second was a rescue mission. Both were very easy, and although you can replay missions on a harder difficulty, I don't think it will have enough challenge for a good group. There are mission rewards that are given at random, the mission screen will tell you that you will receive a type of weapon, but the stats and cosmetics will vary greatly.
The types of places you visit throughout offer different things to see, some have Christmas decorations still up due to the games timeline on Black Friday ( The story is still a mystery ) What I will say is that the environment is gorgeous, giving you breathtaking views of a cold and harsh city life that has engulfed the area.
The weather does seem to be somewhat dynamic, changing slightly but not drastically area to area. Most of the time you will be in the snow, sometimes you will have small blizzards, fog or icy clear air. All of these areas are so well designed that I really have nothing bad to say about them cosmetically, I just really wish that there was more to do and interact with at times, but it certainly has potential.
You will often come across thugs in your travels, junkies and thieves are somewhat of a common sight. You will find a broad variety of enemy types, all acting in a certain way to assumingly help you develop specific tactics to deal with enemy mobs. The ranks for these enemies are as follows:
- Named Characters
Common enemies tend to all act the same and have access to basic weapons such as pistols, SMG's and some ballistic shields to tank some extra damage. The elites have better armour and access to flamethrowers, grenades and sniper rifles. As the enemies rank up they require more gun time to take out, but are not a complete bullet hose, headshots hurt them immensely and will reduce armour rapidly. The named characters however are much tougher to kill, often having multiple abilities to add to their tough armour with heavy weapons to boot. I really wish we had met some enemy characters or figures that were memorable, but I really can't think of any unfortunately. All the enemies seemed to have very similar voices, all repeating the same things very often, making fights seem a little dull and repetitive.
The enemy AI is worth talking about, as most of the time we got defeated by the enemy AI, it was because they were running in at us going 50-cent style with SMG's and pistol whipping us. Due to the fact the game is a cover system, shooting a moving target that's standing next to you is actually quite challenging, and I really think the game needs work in this area. At the moment a well organised group will have no problem taking out multiple targets, with little to no difficulty aslong as the enemies engage you as intended.
The PvP part of the game is where things really got interesting for me. You can access an exclusive area in the game called a 'DARK ZONE' which gives you access to a new area of the city for up to 4 players in a single group. As soon as you arrive you are cut off from all communication to the PvE base of operations and you are on your own. You will be placed in a zone with other players all looking for the same thing as you (Good Loot Swag) and many of them will kill you to get it. The motto here is kill or be killed in many cases, and I would recommend coming to this area with a group.
The main aim here is to explore the area and collect some good loot, either from the high level PvE enemies or from other players. However you will not earn loot immediately, you will be required to 'Extract' your loot to acquire it permanently. Dying whilst you have it on you will mean it will be dropped on the ground for an enemy player to snag. If you happened to be killed by any of the high level enemy AI in the area, your death location will be marked on the map, but you have to get there fast or other players may come across it.
You can carry only 6 items of loot at one time in the Dark Zone, so you must extract as soon as you have several pieces. Indication that you have loot is implied by having a yellow hazard bag on your back, this applies to you and all players in this zone. To extract your loot you must find an extraction zone on your map, and pop a flare. Once the extraction has started you have 1.30 mintes to wait for the pickup, during this time all players within your area will be alerted that an extraction has started, and may come to either extract themselves, or to kill and rob you of your loot. Once the helicopter has arrived you have 15 seconds to load up your loot on the plane, and it's only until this 15 seconds is up that your loot is finally safe and transferred into your stash at your base of operations.
Whilst in the Dark Zone you are not forced to fight other players, many roam around unhindered. Players that do decide to engage in combat with other players are marked as rogue players, and have a distinctive white and red skull on their shoulder. Once you have attacked a player you will have the rogue status for only 20 seconds, this is just in-case you attack a friendly by accident (Happened to me twice) but if you engage an agent until death you will have the rogue status for 1.20 minutes. Each consecutive kill increases this time by a minute each from what I can gather. If you kill a certain amount of players you will be burdened with the manhunt symbol for 5 minutes, although I can't recall how many you needed to kill to get it. A manhunt symbol means everyone in the immediate area can see you on their map, alarming them that you have killed many players, and will most definitely have some good loot. The rogue state level is applied to the whole team, regardless of who attacked first.
Communication is automated, so as long as you have a microphone connected you will immediately transmit your voice to players nearby. This was not entirely clear but you can set this as push to talk, which is extremely important for discreet conversations about mutilating nearby agents in private (My bad random guy we slaughtered, completely oblivious that he could hear our schemes to rob and murder him)
To close my personal review I will say that the game impressed me with its graphics, and fresh take on the third person shooter. The environment is rich with possibilities but it's just not quite there for me yet. I believe more can be done to bring the world alive around you. The investigation mode was intriguing and made good use of your HUD to bring past events into view, allowing you to see what happened in areas where a crime was committed etc. I believe this mode could be used for intuitive ways for you to interact with NPC's and the world around you.
The missions we had may have been early, but I think it's telling. The missions were straightforward, allowing you to repeat the missions immediately on a harder difficulty for greater rewards. With this in mind if there are not enough missions to sustain the RPG elements, I feel we may get an automated matchmaking service to cycle through the missions for casual players where you grind over and over again for a chance of getting that one good weapon. This is very typical for an MMO and I really hope they don't butcher the experience with antics such as this.
The guns were good and varied, I'm looking forward to seeing much more from the title in terms of late game variety. I think that the weapon modification is robust, allowing players to really personalise their weapons to the taste. There is also a weapon skin slot that couldn't be used in the BETA, hopefully you can further customise your items with this option for some great combinations for PvP bragging rights.
The PvP side of things is where the game is really at. Here I see a squad of 4 Zodiac guys really dominating the world arena, getting great loot and doing what we do best. The manhunt award was particularly intense and knowing you could be mobbed at any moment when you have that 1 great piece of loot makes the situation intense and fun. I do feel however that this way of playing could eventually get repetitive, and I hope they combat this by adding new modes into the game either immediately, or eventually.
Watch the video below to see RoyalMonkey in action in the PvP area:
by DistributionII on 2017-04-24 05:26:36