Second Chances

I’ve always believed in second chances. To err is human and mistakes are inevitable in all elements of life. Unfortunately this philosophy rarely extends to video games if they fail to deliver top review scores and flawless performance from the off.

Some of the biggest titles of the last five years have done just this and were seemingly left behind and forgotten as quickly as they came about – just look at The DivisionHalo: The Master Chief Collection, Destiny 2 or No Man’s Sky. Each of these titles’ announcements were met with rapturous applause, only to suffer a lackluster launch and a rapid loss of players within weeks due to bugs, repetitive gameplay, lack of post-launch support and other blights.

Fast-forward to today and something is changing in these worlds. Halo: TMCC now has a programme of improvements already well underway, driven by a steady stream of communication and promises of not only getting the game up to standard but upgrades beyond the original vision. No Man’s Sky, infamous for its underwhelming release, has recently promised “the biggest update so far” in the form No Man’s Sky NEXT alongside a new enhanced launch for Xbox One X and other platforms.

Destiny 2 began to see a rapid drop in player support soon after a very promising launch, largely attributed to the rise of microtransactions and the growing discontentment within the community. Developer Bungie has very openly acknowledged the issues and has been publishing a detailed development roadmap to lay out all planned improvements and updates to take the game to the next level. They even held a “community summit” this week to gather feedback from top content creators and diehard fans.

All of these so far have yet to deliver fully on their promises, but if The Division is much of a guide on the matter then these titles may yet see a second wind.

Over the last three weeks I must have played more of Tom Clancy’s The Division than I did for the entire two years prior. Before release I was extremely excited for this game – I jumped in on the early tests, pre-ordered, binged it on day one and I had a fantastic time… until I didn’t. Along with many others who picked up the game at launch, my interest in the game died off quickly as the intriguing and desolated new world of post-disaster Manhattan was fast diminished by repetitive mission designs and spotty online services.

There simply wasn’t a lot to do outside of the main story missions which weren’t always that exciting to begin with. The saving grace would have been the Dark Zone, an intimidating PvEvP environment that offered the best loot to those brave enough to venture inside, but the connections were often weak and led to frustration borne out of lag-marred gunfights rather than the loss of your gear to a better player.

I soon shelved the game and didn’t even think of revisiting The Division for the next two years, despite my personal fascination with the idea of SHD’s elite sleeper agents and the fictional universe that came with them. Even when I saw new content announced at E3 included in the season pass I had paid for, I had zero interest in returning to the game. This was until a friend urged me to reinstall the game with the promise that “it’s a completely different game now” with so much more to do and a far more solid framework. Admittedly I went back into The Division highly skeptical of these promises and fully expecting to run around for 20 minutes and log off again, I’m still surprised I even bothered to give it another go. Contrary to my expectations, I ended up playing for well over 3 hours straight and kept coming back for more daily.

Players will now find daily and weekly challenges, High-Value Target missions, Global Events and more to complete regularly for big gear rewards, plus end-game world tiers to increase the challenge (and rewards) beyond Level 30. The paid expansions included in the Season Pass are also well worth the price, introducing procedurally-generated Underground missions, brand-new social spaces and rewards, a competitive PvP mode and my personal favourite – Survival.

Survival raises the bar for experiences in The Division with Manhattan battered by a brutal Winter, forcing the remaining inhabitants to go to extreme lengths to survive. You are sent into the Dark Zone as a Division agents to recover some vital antiviral medication, only for your helicopter to crash on the outskirts of the world, your gear lost in the frozen city. Survival drops 24 players into the world, each having contracted Sepsis with only an hour to live. The infection can be slowed with medication found around the city, but ultimately will only be cured if the player can extract with their objective.

Players are forced to scavenge buildings and crashed vehicles for crafting materials to build weapons and gear, fend off AI enemies (and other players if in the PvP variant) and loot them for weapons and equipment and keep their temperature in check with cosmetic items and heat sources before they freeze. The mode offers a mountain of rewards if you succeed and is a true adrenaline-pumper, especially as you proceed closer to extraction when the stakes are far higher.

All of the above makes The Division, as promised, a completely different game to the one I became tired of two years ago and has served as a stark reminder to me of the importance of second chances. In a world where the stream of exciting AAA titles never seems to end, it’s easy to write off an under-performing game in favour of the next big game on your watch list, and forget it entirely as the world moves on and more great games release.

Next time you sit down and wonder what to play, consider looking back over your catalogue of games you gave up on and maybe give them a second chance. Post-launch support is becoming more and more important and inevitably this will only continue to grow. Hopefully in a few months we can sing similar praises for improvements to Halo: TMCC or No Man’s Sky – only time will tell, but with success stories like this, the future is looking bright indeed.

What games have you revisited?

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