The Division is finally upon us, and the question everyone wants to know is: was it worth the wait? The short answer – yes. At first, The Division seemed like business as usual. The game is being advertised as an MMORPG, and it may appear as just another shooter. Once you start playing however, you would be mistaken to see it just as that.
The game starts off explaining a bit of what has happened in New York. A virus has spread, bringing Manhattan to its knees. The Division’s take on Manhattan, is one of the most accurate I have ever witnessed in a video game: from staples such as Madison Square Garden and Times Square, to small details such as billboards and advertisements. The world is cleverly realized, and being from New York, it drew me in right away. For a game of this scale, the graphics are quite impressive. Lighting effects look great; the dynamic weather system also shows some variety to this world. Character models look sharp and detailed. Even something as small as the under barrel of a gun glowing red due to overheating is thrown in, or the tires deflating when shot.
You are put into a hub known as the “safe house”, where you can stock up on ammo, buy guns/equipment/mods, party up with other agents and so forth. As you dive a little further into the game, you eventually unlock your own “Base of Operations.” This acts as both a personal space that no one has access to but you, and as your headquarters of sorts. You go on missions to unlock three wings (Medical, Tech and Security) early on, which are the focus of many side missions and a way to help you upgrade new abilities. These abilities are broken down into three “trees”, which can be changed on the fly. Each is based on your progression within each wing. As you upgrade certain aspects to your wings, you unlock the corresponding abilities as well as talents and perks. You are free to roam the map as you please for the most part. However, each area has a recommended level requirement which determines the difficulty in that specified area for all missions. Every mission can be played with up to three additional players, and difficulty can be adjusted to get better rewards. I found the idea of building up a base intriguing, as I generally like the idea, but prefer not to get too involved with every aspect of it. I feel this is why the way The Division has done it clicks with me. I am presented with options to upgrade each wing at my leisure and with prefixed talents and upgrades, giving me more time to focus on missions, rather than base building.
The RPG elements in The Division are strong. Equipment management quickly becomes a key aspect of the game, and you start to realize this isn’t just your typical shooter anymore. Each agent can equip various pieces of clothing, primary weapons, and a sidearm. The weapon customization is pretty robust, although I found it to be a bit confusing at first. Depending on if the gun is more compact such as an SMG, its attachments are different. Attachments are sold as “mods” at the mod vendor in various safe houses, as well as your personal base. This caused some confusion at first, but nothing that can’t be figured out easily. Weapons and clothing all have varying rarity similar to Destiny, which adds to an overall score for three attributes that make up your agent: DPS (Damage per Second), Stamina, and Electronics.
DPS basically amounts to the more damage your firearms can do, the higher your DPS stat. Stamina attributes give your overall health pool a boost. Electronics on the other hand, increases the power of your skills. So if you are building a medic, you will heal more. Whereas if you are building a damage dealer, you do more damage. If you build a security specialist your abilities will have more durability and a reduced cool down.
From a technical standpoint, I haven’t run into any major issues. Servers so far have been stable for the most part. However, there were times when my teammates had issues connecting to the game. A simple reset fixed this, however, it was still cumbersome. One issue I did have was regarding the controls. I found it a bit cumbersome to have separate buttons to take cover as well as to climb/vault over cover, nothing that doesn’t take some getting used to, but an interesting design choice.
As far as The Division’s PVP (Multiplayer), it is known as The Dark Zone. Basically, teams of four partner up and compete for rare loot against other teams of four. The twist being that your own teammates can turn on you and take the loot for themselves. I went through this with a few buddies and it was definitely an interesting take. Any items found in the Dark Zone are considered contaminated. The only way to leave is to go to an extraction point to get a helicopter, which will take you and your squad out with items intact. The twist? At any given moment, other squads are fighting for that same extraction point. Needless to say, it gets hectic and at one point eight other players surrounded my squad. I definitely want to explore this more as I continue the game.
The Division definitely left an impression on me for the better. The gameplay is solid, and the mission variety is nice. However, I am concerned to see how it holds up as time moves on. I still find it odd that you can’t crouch or prone in the game, and going into cover is really the only option to alter your stance. Not to mention considering this game is DRM (always online), if there is an issue with servers, you can’t do anything in game (even the missions outside of the Dark Zone which always involves NPC’s). I also found it odd that there is no type of “takedown” if I were to somehow sneak behind someone. With that said, I knew that going in, and just wanted to point it out for those that may not know.
Stay tuned at VG tribune for more on The Division in the coming weeks.