I’m standing on top of a hill overlooking an enemy camp. I’ve scanned the entire base with my drone and taken out a few of the roof-bound sharpshooters. It’s time to stealthily make my way down into the camp itself. I start to work my way down the slope, but I don’t cut a deep enough path, and my stamina runs out. I begin to stumble and roll down the hill, looking more like Rowan Atkinson than an elite soldier. I hit the bottom, only for a drone to see my pratfall and alert the whole camp. It’s time for a pitched firefight, which should be tense situation with low stamina and an injury from the fall, but I clear things up easily by simply consuming a health syringe.
In the reveal announcement for Ghost Recon Breakpoint, it looked like the experience would lean hard on the idea of survival. New features like an injury system, a greater focus on stamina, thirst, and weapon maintenance were meant to reinforce the feeling of the Ghosts being trapped in occupied territory. The reality of Breakpoint was a game that was still as accessible as Ghost Recon Wildlands.
I found the survival aspects to be negligible during most of my time playing Breakpoint. You have to drink water to restore your max stamina, but the stamina level drops so slowly that it’s rarely a problem. Injuries occasionally are a problem in combat, but the health syringes heal me so quickly and I rarely run out of them. The changes in stamina in regards to navigating steep slopes is probably the one thing players need to keep in mind, as going down a steep hill costs stamina and running out will see you tumbling down and potentially dying.
Otherwise, Breakpoint is about as arcadey as Wildlands was. This isn’t something that should’ve been wholly surprising, as Ubisoft was clear to let USgamer know that Breakpoint was going to be functionally similar. Ubisoft even explained that certain mechanics, like using equipped gear to manage temperature in certain environments, were scrapped in favor of accessibility.
“What is very important for us is that you must not be misled by all the survival,” Breakpoint creative director Eric Couzian told USgamer back in May. “I think the game is as accessible as Wildlands. We want the world to be part of your experience. The world can affect you badly or in a good sense. It’s a real balance. Moreover, there are different levels of difficulty that you can select. If you don’t want to go into this aspect, it’s easy to get rid of it. It’s a question of tuning. You can play arcadey if you want, or more into the simulation way.”
It is difficult to make survival mechanics meaningful in games that aren’t directly focused on survival. In games that aren’t directly about survival, mechanics that require you to eat, drink, or maintain shelter can sometimes feel like topping up meters. I’ve felt that in games like State of Decay 2, No Man’s Sky, or Minecraft; the additional systems simply add tedium to the overall experience.
But some players vastly enjoy those experiences, especially when the game is purely focused on survival as your primary aim. Hinterland Games’ The Long Dark is difficult, but getting through another day in the survival mode feels like accomplishing something meaningful. There are moments when planning, perseverance, and the luck of the draw combine to create some fantastic moments that stick with players. I can vividly recall moments in XCOM 2 and FTL where I felt like I legitimately overcame mechanics focused on survival and scarcity.
Even on its highest difficulty level, some players believe Ghost Recon Breakpoint falls short of what they want. Since the launch of Breakpoint, one of the common requests from players is a new hardcore survival mode, ramping up the injury and thirst systems, while also adding eating and sleeping to game. Many of these requests also tend to ask for a removal of the RPG-style gear score system if you activated the survival mode.
“This is the main thing I’ve asked for in the feedback questionnaires thingies: instead of perma-death, focus on the survival aspects. No fast-travelling, no shop/garage at the [bivouac], etc. As much as I (and a fair amount of people it seems!) may not like the changes from Wildlands, it will have its fans—makes sense to spin the more realistic slant into a separate game-mode,” wrote one user in a popular Reddit thread requesting a survival mode.
“From the first trailers shown of Breakpoint way back in May, a lot of us watching thought we were in for a much more realistic and challenging survival-esque experience. While it does look like the vision for Breakpoint was a lot more hardcore earlier in development, for whatever reasons it has since shifted into a more streamlined accessable experience. There isnt anything wrong with that on its own and it’s always a good idea to have a standard, non-hardcore mode in your game to reach a larger playerbase, but a lot of us still want to experience the gameplay seen in that first 14 minute trailer, showing Nomad running for his life wounded and bloody from the squad of Wolves,” wrote Reddit user Regicide_451.
That user also compiled a list of features that they’d like in such a survival mode. These features include the removal of health regeneration, a more punitive health system, a stronger focus on bandaging wounds over the instant healing syringes, dehydration, hunger, and a more detailed system surrounding rations, which only offer buffs in Breakpoint. Other respondents in the thread asked for a temperature system like Red Dead Redemption 2’s, where location, weather, and temperature would matter.
Ghost Recon Wildlands saw the addition of a hardcore difficulty in its second year. Ghost Mode features friendly fire, permadeath, a single weapon loadout, a new gear management system, and a reloading system that mimicks real weapons: if you reloaded too early, you’d lose the bullets left in the clip. Players suspect (or hope) that Ghost Mode will return in some fashion for Breakpoint.
“[The] return of Ghost Mode is a no brainer. Let us use our already leveled characters in Ghost Mode instead of having to start over. This turned off a lot of new players that never gave the mode a chance. But of course, it should have no HUD, no Health regen, remove gear score. With exclusive rewards that will make new players want to try it out,” wrote Ghost Recon forum user Edimus1. Another user then chimed in with another key request: “No permadeath. “Wildlands Ghost Mode was great minus permadeath,” said Reddit user Kingbankai.
Personally, I think Ubisoft needs to focus on other specific mechanical changes, but ultimately I’m always open for more options. Given the response to Ghost Recon Wildlands, there are a large contingent of players who want to enjoy the dream of being elite special operation soldiers, without diving into a heavy military sim like Arma 3 or Insurgency. With Ubisoft’s history of supporting titles for a very long time, I’d like to think that Breakpoint will get the love it needs to paper over its biggest issues, and maybe even respond to the cries of avid survival enthusiasts.