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Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s stamina buff undermines the game’s survivalist promises

Latest patch still doesn’t do much to separate Breakpoint from The Division

Soldier struggles up a snowy mountainside in Ghost Recon Breakpoint Ubisoft
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s sizable title update arrived on Tuesday. It doesn’t fix everything, of course — another big patch is due later this month. But it’s noteworthy in how quickly and how far the changes walk back the survivalist promises made in the game’s original marketing.

One of the biggest changes, apparently to benefit the Ghost War PvP mode, is the across-the-board endurance buff. With it, a player’s base stamina increases 66 percent — and it also regenerates 75 percent faster. The stamina lost by slipping or sliding down Auroa’s many steep inclines is also cut in half.

While this puts the focus squarely on running and gunning and other immediately fun activities, it removes yet another differentiator between the Ghost Recon and The Division series: survival gameplay, or at least performative/role-playing gestures that pretend you’re an operator working behind enemy lines, someone who can’t simply physically overcome the enemy.

The canteen is, or was, an expression of that. After a long run on foot — and in single-player, my longest were to get away from the Wolves, whenever an Azrael drone got me — it was there to restore stamina instantly. Canteens also required filling, which made stopping at a creek or other freshwater source a useful act. It’s the difference between eating food in Fallout 4 or eating food in Fallout 76. The former is mainly for cosmetic or role-playing effect; the latter is more necessary thanks to draining stamina bars.

But in Breakpoint’s PvP, it seems that stamina was way too low to keep things competitive, hence the stamina buff. Now you have operators who can perform as heroically and superhumanly as they in Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, which feeds the whole thing back into the sameness problem that Ubisoft’s president himself called out in a call with investors, explaining why Breakpoint has failed to excite players.

“They need a survival mode where stamina is more impactful,” noted redditor Bobnice31 in the franchise’s official subreddit.

“So what you’re saying is, that you want the original vision for this game before they dumbed down everything,” replied mfinite. Quite cogently, I might add.

Ubisoft Paris, the designers of Ghost Recon Breakpoint, may be queueing up that kind of split experience. Two weeks ago, in a forum post acknowledging the game’s lackluster launch, they alluded to “a more radical and immersive version” of the game that would give players greater choice over how they experienced the game.

“One of the key elements of our vision for Ghost Recon is to immerse our fans in a gritty and authentic military experience,” Ubisoft said at the time. “In line with this vision and the feedback we received, we are working on a more radical and immersive version of Ghost Recon Breakpoint. We also want to let you tailor your experience to the way you want to enjoy the game, since freedom of choice has always been part of the Ghost Recon DNA.”

Of course, a survival mode would drive Ghost Recon Breakpoint wholly into single-player territory, and the game makes it clear that it was designed for multiplayer experiences. But it’s hard to argue; it’s the way I would prefer to play the game (assuming I could also have AI teammates, which are coming at some unspecified later date) and it would certainly be distinct from The Division 2.

To be fair, the canteen wasn’t very useful or interesting in the first place — there were rations a player can craft or consume that would accomplish the same purpose. It also is in the same equipment slot as the binoculars — although I got the same results looking through a sniper scope (or just using my drone) as I did the binoculars, without the extra steps necessary in the weapon wheel.

But again, the stamina buff and the mooted canteen illustrates how Ghost Recon Breakpoint wasn’t all that different from The Division 2 to begin with, and the changes that Ubisoft Paris has implemented don’t do much to gain separation, either.