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‘Halo: Infinite’ may have a grapple hook, but it’s still a grind

The best thing I can say about Halo: Infinite is that it gets better as it goes. The single-player campaign starts out as a basic first-person shooter dripping in nostalgia juice, and it ends up as a rudimentary open-world shooter swimming in sci-fi tropes, starring everyone’s favorite emotionless space soldier and his co-dependent AI assistant.

As the first open-world entry in the Halo franchise and with more than a year of extra development time, I had high hopes for Infinite. Maybe too high. And even with a grapple hook, this game just can’t reach them.

I say all of this with love in my heart. I’ve been a Halo fan since Combat Evolved, and I have two decades of happy memories associated with the franchise, most of which I’ve re-lived while playing Infinite. That part has been a treat — there’s nothing like turning the corner in a random metal-lined corridor, or driving a Warthog down a narrow mountain path, and feeling that warm, gleeful sense of familiarity. This happens over and over again in Infinite.

Halo: Infinite

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Revamping old environments is the easy part, though. Halo Infinite is the first open-world entry in the franchise’s history, promising more exploration and spontaneity for Master Chief than ever before. However, in practice, the world of Zeta Halo is contained and largely linear, offering few surprises and little incentive to travel off the beaten path. There are bases to capture and hordes to defeat, but with such a cramped map, these sidequests pop up naturally along the path of the main storyline, and the game automatically switches the objective to whatever mission is nearby. Sidequests are folded into the campaign like this, and they become indistinguishable from the main missions. 

By the time I felt ready to get out and explore the Ring, I realized I’d already hit all the icons on my map.

Halo: Infinite

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That said, Infinite introduces new mechanics and tools that are really fun to play with, and the best of these gadgets is the grapple hook. There are no invisible walls in Infinite, and the grapple hook allows players to take advantage of Zeta Halo’s vertical space, scaling mountains and buildings in a series of pops and swings. The grapple hook opens up fresh vantage points for every battle, and it saved my Master Chief from falling to his death many times over. (I may have even sang, “Spider-Chief, Spider-Chief…” under my breath every now and then. Maybe.)

Playing with an Xbox controller, the grapple hook lives on the D-pad, alongside three other tools that get added to Chief’s arsenal as the game progresses: a shield, radar darts and a dash move that I rarely use. I’ve tried to deploy the dash, but I really don’t see the point when the grapple hook does the same thing, but faster and in more directions. 

Switching among these options on the D-pad takes some practice, but once that becomes second-nature, the hook, shield and radar make each fight more dynamic than Halo’s ever been. The grapple hook allows Master Chief to pick up objects from afar like guns and throwable explosives, it eventually shocks enemies on contact, and it lets players smoothly take over enemy vehicles. Infinite is at its best when it provides a rich environment for grappling, shielding and landing floaty in-air headshots, with enemies attacking from all sides.

Halo: Infinite

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Now I’m going to talk some shit about the grapple hook. I know, I just sang its praises, and I stand by everything I said, but I have to put it all in context. From my perspective, the most obvious innovation in Halo Infinite is its use of vertical space, aided by the grapple hook — but that’s hardly a new idea at all, and frankly, other games have done it better. 

To name just a few recent examples: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild made headlines in 2017 for rethinking vertical exploration in an open-world space; last year, Doom Eternal beautifully demonstrated the power of parkour mechanics in an FPS environment; and Insomniac’s Spider-Man series has perfected the art of high-swinging action. In comparison to games like these, Infinite’s mechanics aren’t innovative at all.

I bring this up because I think it’s a disservice to compare Halo Infinite only to other Halo games, rather than its competitors. After all, competition is the root of evolution — and that’s kind of Halo’s jam. I expected more from a pioneer of the FPS genre as it ventured into open-world gaming. Just because it’s new for Halo doesn’t mean it’s new for the industry.

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Call of Duty: Vanguard’s Multiplayer is Too Much of a Grind

Call of Duty: Vanguard has been out for a week now, and while it’s a decent amount of fun, its multiplayer mode has a slew of issues that hold it back. Aside from an unbelievable amount of bugs and glitches that impact progression, spawns, and perk usage, it also feels immensely “grindy,” to the point where new players could be at a severe disadvantage. It’s great that there’s plenty to do in the game, but Vanguard takes this to the extreme.

Recommended reading:

A catch-22

One of the game’s biggest issues is the fact that it takes a long time to level up weapons. Most primary weapons have around 70 attachments to unlock, and the best ones are typically reserved for the last portion of the weapon’s progression cycle. Some of the last attachments for each weapon give higher damage, increased critical hitboxes, and other benefits that give players a significant upper hand when used.

If you’re using a low-level weapon against someone with a maxed-out version of the same firearm, you’ll likely lose the gunfight, even if you start shooting first. Grinding for weapon XP has been present in most Call of Duty games thus far, but Vanguard places a major emphasis on spending a significant amount of time with each weapon — and those who don’t do that are at a major disadvantage.

Itra Burst progression in Call of Duty: Vanguard.

To put it into perspective, it took me around five hours to reach max level with the BAR assault rifle. Expert players can probably reach level 70 faster, but for the average player, it will take at least five hours to fully level up a weapon. The problem is that once a weapon is deemed to be “good,” it usually gets nerfed in some way, meaning you can’t simply level up one weapon and expect to do well. Even beyond accounting for frequent weapon changes, part of the fun of Call of Duty is experimenting with different builds. That means you have to stay up-to-date with the latest weapons by playing constantly.

A grueling process

The process of actually leveling up a weapon can be grueling, especially if you’re working on a semiautomatic rifle that fires slowly and has high recoil. At launch, it’s not as bad since the majority of players will be in the same boat, but if you wait and start playing well into the game’s life cycle, it’ll be hard to compete against those who have spent time leveling up their weapons.

There are 38 base weapons in the game to start with, so if it takes around five hours to level each of them fully, you should expect to play 190 hours to reach max level with each of them. But that only accounts for the base weapons. You can expect the inclusion of additional weapons every month or so, and if history is any indication, those guns will typically be “meta” since Activision wants players to stick around and try them out.

When Activision’s goal is to keep players around as long as possible, it’s easy to see why weapons take so long to level up. To an extent, it’s nice to have so much to do, but when time spent is tied to how well your weapon performs, it makes it difficult for newcomers and casual players to keep up. This could ultimately backfire and cause players to drop off prematurely.

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PS4 ‘cryptofarm’ reportedly used bots to grind in-game FIFA currency

Earlier this month, officials in the Ukraine busted what appeared to be a cryptocurrency mining operation that used thousands of PS4 consoles to mine crypto. That doesn’t quite seem to be the case. According to a new report, the consoles (and allegedly stolen electricity) were actually being used to farm and sell digital currency and accounts for EA’s FIFA games.

Ukranian news outlet Delo reported that PCs were running bots on the consoles to play FIFA and automatically earn an in-game currency. Players can use FIFA coins in the Ultimate Team (FUT) mode to either scoop up sought-after players on an open market or open controversial FUT packs in the hopes of unlocking killer additions for their squads. FUT packs can also be opened with real money.

Although buying or selling FIFA coins with real money is against EA policies, that hasn’t stopped a thriving black market for the digital currency. People sell coins or game accounts loaded with the currency to players who are desperate to build a dream FUT roster. One site I checked listed a PS4 FIFA 21 account with 5.1 million coins for $300 — enough to buy

Ultimate Team modes across EA’s sports games are enormously important for the developer’s bottom line. Last year, EA made $1.62 billion from Ultimate Team, which accounted for 29 percent of its net revenue for the fiscal year. “A substantial portion” of that revenue came from FIFA games.

Meanwhile, FUT packs and other loot boxes have drawn scrutiny from regulators in recent years. Since gamers can’t see which soccer players they’ll unlock when they buy a pack, some authorities have described the packs as a form of gambling. Belgium banned that type of game mechanic in 2018. This summer, perhaps in an attempt to stave off the criticism, EA started testing a type of FUT pack that allows players to preview the contents.

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No Man’s Sky Expeditions update introduces a new way to play, cuts the grind

No Man’s Sky received a new update today that changes the game in several big ways. The first hint at what’s new comes in the title of the update: Expeditions. Expeditions in No Man’s Sky will serve as a new game mode that players can embark on together, starting from a fixed point and completing milestones on the way to finishing the expedition as a whole. There are also some big changes to resource collecting and usage that intend to cut down on the grind in the game, which is exciting news for No Man’s Sky newcomers and veterans alike.

Hello Games says that expeditions will be split up into phases, which are themselves split up into milestones. Each milestone in a phase centers around some component of No Man’s Sky – for instance, in the example image Hello Games shared today, some of the milestones listed include lifting off from the starting planet and discovering 20 different creatures. Each milestone you complete will give you a reward, while each phase you complete will grant a unique reward. Of course, you also get something for completing an entire expedition, but those rewards are being kept secret for now.

Aside from introducing expeditions, this update also changes how we’ll complete missions. While mission objectives used to be identified by waypoints on your visor, now you’ll need to sweep the environment to home in on the objective. The idea, it seems, is to make the process of finding mission objectives more exploratory in nature, rather than just directing players from waypoint to waypoint.

We’re also getting visual enhancements to Explorer-class starships, rendezvous points that will appear along expedition routes, and sentinel combat enhancements. Hello Games has also changed the way we collect resources, reducing and rebalancing recipe costs and increasing resource deposit yields to cut back on the grind. Anyone who has made it more than few hours into No Man’s Sky can attest that the game gets pretty grindy at points, so this change is definitely a big one. We’re also getting cross-play discoveries and bases, so any discovery you make or base you upload will be seen by players on all platforms.

We’ve detailed many of the high points of today’s update, but to learn about everything included in the Expeditions update, check out Hello Games’ full patch notes. The update is live today on all platforms – PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC, Oculus, and PlayStation VR – so be sure to download it and take it for a spin.

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FFXIV: How to Level Grind and Take the Fastest Way to Level 70

With three expansions now under its belt, Final Fantasy XIV level cap has moved from 50 all the way to 80. That’s a lot of levels to fight, chop, and craft your way through, but we have some essential tips for the hardcore and casual player who’s in a rush to maximize their gains and reach the cap fast.

Over the years, Final Fantasy XIV has introduced a dizzying number of ways to gain EXP. It’s not as clear-cut as the classic MMO days of grinding the same mob cluster for days on end. The most time-efficient method is to rely on daily and weekly bonuses, those with ample time on their hands, plenty of snacks, and maybe a spare screen for some Netflix binging can master all the avenues to grind their way to the top. Here’s how to quickly reach the max level in Final Fantasy XIV.

Leveling Your First Battle Class

Final Fantasy XIV is built around battle content at the minute. You can absolutely live your life as a crafter or gatherer once you hit the level cap, but you’ll need to do so on a single battle class before you can turn your life around like that. You’ll need to plod through the game’s main storyline before you’re truly free to do your own thing.

There are plenty of ways to level up in Final Fantasy XIV, but new players should focus on the main scenario quests, something we touch on a bit in our FFXIV beginner’s guide. This way you’ll level up and experience the game and its locations as the developers intended. It won’t be a fast journey, but you’ll have to complete the main quests to do the top-tier stuff anyway, so you might as well just go with the flow.

Experience point boosting items are available — like the “Brand-New Ring” awarded through the Hall of the Novice questline at level 15, a headpiece through Recruit-A-Friend, or several signature outfits bought with real money through the online FFXIV item shop.

Leveling Another Battle Class

Final Fantasy XIV is different from most other MMOs. A single character is free to master every class, meaning side-quests will eventually run dry. To aid that, any battle class under your highest level class will always gain experience points at 100% the usual rate, dropping to 50% at level 70 and above. It’s an invisible buff we call the Armory Bonus, and it magically cuts the grind of leveling subsequent classes by a good margin.

That being said, side-quests aren’t the best way to grind levels on subsequent classes. They can send you on a goose chase for not a lot of exp. So what do you do? Well, there are a bunch of ways to level subsequent classes, and while some are faster than others, they’re generally far more repetitive, risking player burnout that much faster.

The ideal leveling process incorporates daily bonuses that make playing in bursts generally more favorable than rushing through the experience. But if you absolutely must grind your way to the finish line, choosing between FATEs and Deep Dungeon runs tend to be the go-to route.

Instanced dungeons

FFXIV dungeon grind

Before Shadowbringers released, running a dungeon at the unlock level offered the best EXP gains thanks to the Chain Bonus.

You won’t get that addictive time-limited EXP buff these days, but dungeon EXP was boosted to make runs less chain-focused/intensive gauntlets. What that means is dungeons are still a good way to grind EXP, but with new ones being around three levels between each other, the repetitive runs can get old fast.

You’ll get a bonus for your first run of each dungeon on a single character (not class), so if you’re new to the game, you’ll have plenty of bonuses to get from the dozen or so dungeons you’ll unlock at each previous expansion’s level cap.

AI Squadron Dungeons

If you’re not in the mood to run with real players, running select dungeons with AI squadron members can fill in.

You’ll have to contend with some wonky AI from time to time, but the raw killing power of these NPCs paired with massively increased exp rates can make short work of the 18-50 portion of the Final Fantasy XIV level grind these days. Reach the Second Lieutenant rank with your Grand Company to access them.

The FATE Grind

Once the bastion of level grinding, FATE farming isn’t quite the behemoth it used to be. Still, it’s a decent way to push through levels when you’re between optimal dungeon runs and/or waiting for a queue to pop. FATEs are found all over the game world, can usually be easily soloed with appropriate gear, and award a decent chunk of your exp bar for the few minutes they can take to complete.

In Heavensward zones and above, these can sometimes offer up 2x their normal experience points. Just look on the map for those 2x bonuses. Better yet, if you see the mention of the “stench of death” attracting a Forlorn Maiden to the field during a FATE, be sure to kill it to get a buff that will award 2x EXP on your next FATE clear, too. The boosts can really add up over time.

Deep Dungeons

Originally conceived as a fun pastime for players to test their wits as they climb the leaderboards, Palace of the Dead, and its Stormblood equivalent Heaven-on-High, is now little more than a glorified level grind goldmine. These randomly generated dungeon crawls grant a good amount of exp after every tenth floor. But be warned; die before you get there and you’ll be cast back down to the first floor in the set.

The Bozjan Southern Front

Unlike the last relic-specific zone we had in Stormblood — Eureka — the Bozjan Southern Front won’t have us gaining experience independent of our main level. It doesn’t release until October 13, but we already know that any class level 72 and above are welcome, with the typical relic grind it’s expected to deliver doubling up as an easier way to get secondary classes caught up with our max level roles.

Hardcore grind method – If you’re up for playing 12 hours a day, FATEs are, as they always have been, the way to go. Regular and Deep Dungeon runs are good, too, but they’re harder to double up with a source of entertainment — like a Let’s Play series on your phone. You can carry this on all the way to 80 or jump into the Bozjan Southern Front at 72 to add a bit of variety to the final dash.

Casual grind method – If you only have a few hours to spare each day, the game’s daily/weekly bonuses can get you a lot of EXP fast. Rely on Squadron dungeon runs and the Hunting Log to reach level 50 while avoiding matchmaking queues. Switch that up with FATEs if you run out of Grand Company currencies.

Get the Guildhest and Dungeon first-time bonuses when they’re relevant to your level, clear your weekly challenge logs, and focus on burning through any extra rested exp you’ve accumulated while at work, etc. At 50 and above, the hardcore method comes into effect again, but take it easy once the weekly bonuses have been spent, as you’ll notice things slow considerably after this point.

EXP buffs

Final Fantasy XIV has slowly introduced more and more ways to boost experience point gains. By stacking as many of these equipment pieces and consumables with the Armory Bonus, you can boost your experience point gains from battle up to as much as 250%.

  • Armory Bonus (100% below level 60, 50% thereafter)
  • Rested (50%)
  • Free Company Action or Squadron Battle Manual (Up to 15%)
  • Wearable items (varies)
  • Food (3%)

How to grind crafting classes

FFXIV crafting and gathering

A subset of classes in Final Fantasy XIV, Disciples of the Hand are a collection of crafting-based classes like Blacksmithing, Culinarian, and Goldsmithing. There are a total of eight crafting classes right now, and we don’t anticipate another arriving anytime soon. Leveling these classes can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but each one can help the other making each new class a little easier than the last. Just like combat classes, there are a few different ways to go about leveling.

Craft one of everything

While not absolutely necessary, new crafters can enjoy a burst of experience points simply by crafting an item for the first time. Notice that little checkmark next to that item you just whipped up for the first time? You can do that for any item on your recipe list, and doing so grants a one-time experience point bonus.

You’ll want all the practice you can get if you’re new to crafting, so ticking off each item isn’t a bad way to chip away at your experience bar. The more you raise the item’s quality, the more exp you’ll get when you finish the craft.

Custom Deliveries

Available at around level 50, these weekly turn-ins are quick and easy to pull off. Simply check the week’s delivery list, buy the necessary items from the appropriate vendor, and craft six of the requested items as best you can. You’ll earn plenty of experience points when delivering these items, and you’ll even get “scrips” used to purchase powerful crafting gear.

Grand Company turn-ins

Often overlooked these days, your chosen Grand Company will request a random level-appropriate craft from you each day at the turn-in counter. Just like levequests, handing in a high-quality item will net more experience points. It’s a quick and easy way to get some bonus experience each day.

Guildleves

FFXIV level grind levequests

Probably the best (and cheapest) way to level any crafting class at this point is to devote yourself to Levequests. These repeatable quests task players with delivering certain items to NPCs for a generous amount of experience points. They come in a few flavors, but “Charity” Guildleves, denoted with the image of two female crafters, tend to offer the greatest time/experience ratio as you can turn in 3 sets of items at a time.

The experience point rewards are generous and multiply for high-quality crafts. Better yet, most will reward you with the materials you used to craft the item in question, making it that much easier to repeat the Levequest over and over. If you’re rolling in Gil, you can even buy the required items and pass them off as your own.

Casual grind method – There isn’t much reason not to abuse Levequests all the way to the level cap. They’re fast, convenient, and award a metric ton of experience points compared to other methods.

Custom deliveries offer quick and easy bonus experience each week, and the scrips are an added bonus. Feel free to complete those if and when you’re able. Beast Tribe dailies like the Namazu and Moogles can offer a reliable boost each day.

Hardcore grind method – Craft, craft, craft. Preferably without using Quick Synthesis.

Buffs available

Like any class in Final Fantasy XIV right now, crafting classes can utilize a bunch of buffs to increase their gains. Stacking them will make for a much faster crafting experience and should be in effect at all times. They won’t do much when turning in Guildleves, but they’ll really help speed things along when doing actual crafts.

  • Rested (50%)
  • Company-Issue Engineering Manual (50%)
  • Free Company (guild) buff or Aetherial Wheel (Up to 20%)
  • Food (3%)

How to grind gathering classes

The final type of Final Fantasy XIV class is the humble Disciple of the Land. With just Fishing, Botany, and Mining available right now, these gathering classes are far less in number than their crafting counterparts – but they go hand-in-hand in numerous ways.

Leveling these classes will be fairly uneventful, but their predictability and relative simplicity make them great candidates for things to level while you watch a movie or listen to a podcast. Grinding still won’t be the fastest way, but it sure is less demanding of your attention. For those willing to pay a bit more attention, Leves will be the way forward yet again.

Grind by gathering

Similar to crafting classes, discovering a new item awards bonus experience points. If you see any “unknown” items on the gathering list when you open up a node, successfully gathering them for the first time will uncover their true identify and give a decent amount of bonus exp compared to each swing at the same item.

Chain bonuses for successful swings at the same item in a single node means farming the same Ash Log might not actually be a bad idea. Just uncover each new item in a new area and then go after the one with the best gathering chance. A simple swing and a miss will reset that beautiful chain bonus. Just stick a movie or audiobook on in the background and get to work.

Levequests

Gathering Levequests – or Guildleves –  usually ask you to gather a specific amount of items from a specific amount of nodes. Too many failed gathering attempts can lead to drastically reduced exp rewards.

It’s a good idea to burn Gathering Points (GP) on abilities during these missions to increase gathering percentages, so stock up on Cordials, bring some decent stat-boosting food, and hope the odds are in your favor. They’re not all too different from regular gathering, but they do require some simple math to ensure you hit their goals.

Collectables

FFXIV level grind gathering collectables

Locked behind the game’s first major expansion, Collectables feel like a combination of traditional grind gathering and Levequests.

Available through timed nodes, time management is key as you follow the clock around zones and rely on your class abilities to gather specific items. Get lucky with your appraisals and you’ll turn these items in for some very impressive experience points. Better yet, the scrips you earn for doing so can then be exchanged for some simple end-game gathering gear.

Ocean Fishing

Fishers have a unique way to reach the cap faster. Previously one of the more long-winded classes to grind, the Ocean Fishing mini-game has turned it into a breeze. We have a rather extensive guide up here, actually.

Whether you’re hardcore grinding or taking a more casual approach, hopping on the boat each hour Ocean Fishing starts up will net you the best gains. That’s a little fish pun for you there.

Grand Company Turn-Ins

Just like the crafting classes, your chosen Grand Company will request a new item each and every day. Deliver a high-quality item to them to get another chunk of exp added to your progress bar without much effort.

Custom Deliveries

Another repeated activity, custom deliveries are just as good for gathering classes as they are for crafters.

Identify the requested item on the list, locate it out in the field, and gather it at the highest collectability value that you’re able to. Turning in six of these gets you a big chunk of weekly experience points and some scrips to boot. You can use these on new equipment or books that will unlock gathering nodes, some of which are exceptionally rare and valuable.

Casual grind method – Until about level 15, you can hit several new nodes. Until level 60, roughly, you can rush Levequests. Collect some valuable gear, and then focus your attention on Collectibles and Custom Deliveries. You’ll find that you can get a significant bump up through Beast Tribe dailies like the Namazu. If you’re an angler, focus on tackling Ocean Fishing as much as you can.

Hardcore grind method – For this method, players should continue hitting the maximum level node they can chain comfortably. Be wary, though; that action could have a negative effect— players will face the consequences for the swings they miss mid-combo. Fishers, keep leveling up by hitting level-appropriate holes. Eventually, you can try spearfishing between Ocean Fishing runs. At that level, you’ll find the game is pretty similar to other gathering classes. 

Buffs Available

If you’re a gatherer, you can speed up the game and up the ante using experience-boosting tools, a lot like the crafting classes. Don’t waste the bonus items you win this way. These items have critical value for gatherers, unlike crafters, because you have to gather during Levequest grinds. To move quickly, we advise stacking as many things as possible and making sure you keep any Company-Issue Survival Manuals. Those disappear very quickly.

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