Since its announcement, The Division has received constant comparisons to Destiny. As both games are something of an MMORPG (Massive Multiple Online Role-Playing Game) Shooter , this comparison is relatively fair. Destiny has had a pretty strong and loyal fan base since its release in Fall 2014. With The Division’s recent release, comparisons continue, and there is even speculation regarding what The Division will do to Destiny’s player base and future.
This article will compare the different aspects of The Division with Destiny to help reach some verdict in the battle of these two massive hit games. This will be the first of a two-part series. The second part will be published once The Division has received a little more development in its end-game content with DLC, raids, etc.
This time we will break down the story, the setting, the mechanics, and the itemization. This article is intended to break down the aspects that one will encounter before the end-game. The next post will consider the end-game in further detail.
One of the most common complaints levied against Destiny when it first released was its story. Players begin the game in Old Russia, being revived by a small, floating mechanical thing called a ghost. Guardians are accompanied by their ghost who assists them in research and discovery. while providing background information and commentary throughout the missions. Once players complete the first mission, they travel to the Tower, the last remaining outpost for humanity. There the guardian learns of the various threats to humanity, first the Fallen, and then the invaders from the Moon, the Hive. While trying to defeat the Hive on the Moon, guardians meet a mysterious woman, known as the Stranger, who warns of an even greater threat on Venus, the Vex. The guardian must find the Black Garden, the heart of the Vex, and destroy it. The guardian must travel to Mars in order to enter the Black Garden. There, players face the Cabal, an interesting species covered in mechanical suits. There is further development regarding technological inventions by the Cabal, but largely the Cabal are horribly under-developed.
Bungie relies heavily on grimoire cards, which can be found in game, to advance the story and to fill in details regarding the backstory. However, players can only access this information by going to bungie.net and reading each grimoire card. This approach was largely dissatisfying, and led to frustrations regarding the plot and history of Destiny’s world.
The Division begins some time in the future shortly after the smallpox virus has devastated New York. Someone released this deadly strain using currency and spread it quickly by taking advantage of Black Friday. A secret government organization known as The Division, has activated its sleeper agents in hopes of restoring stability and order in New York, as well as potentially providing assistance in finding some kind of cure to this virus. However, the first wave of Division agents has gone missing, and so the second wave must come in. This is where players will begin their journey. Story and side missions will unveil some of the events leading up to the outbreak, while also learning bits about how the virus was created and spread. Agents hope to find information that could lead to a cure, as well as find out what happened to the first wave of Division agents.
The Division seems to have learned from Destiny’s grimoire system by allowing players to listen to intel in game to learn about the history and to add depth to the characters and setting.
Verdict: The Division once again does a lot more by making things simpler. Destiny has too much going on, and it makes very little sense without carefully reading the grimoire cards.
Winner: The Division
Destiny takes place in the science-fiction setting of a post-apocalyptic Earth. Players (called Guardians) are able to explore Earth and a variety of celestial bodies, including the Moon, Venus, and Mars. After “the Collapse,” an event that ended the human colonization of the galaxy. Meanwhile, as the age of humans has waned, alien races known as the Fallen, the Hive, the Vex, and the Cabal occupy settlements on these planets. Guardians seek to investigate and to destroy the threats posed to what is left of humanity.
While the opportunity to explore entire planets in the solar system sounds like it would provide incredible opportunities for exploration, each planet is actually quite small. Players cannot freely roam anywhere on the planet; invisible boundaries prevent players from doing so. The design of each planet is unique and beautiful, there just isn’t much to explore. Each planet features a few iconic landmarks, but beyond that there is not much else going on in terms of exploration.
Interestingly, the setting of The Division is much more familiar and much smaller in scope. The setting is post-smallpox outbreak New York, specifically Manhattan. The Smallpox outbreak occurred on Black Friday, the monstrous shopping holiday the day after Thanksgiving. Agents are given the opportunity to explore the various regions of Manhattan. Along the way, players will encounter factions who are hoping to survive and capitalize on the recent catastrophe.
Players are not permitted outside of Manhattan, but rather than being stopped by invisible walls, there are actual walls and gates preventing such travel. Ubisoft has capitalized on all the facts we know about New Yorkers: they are proud, they are tough, and they love their city. Flowers and memorials to lost loved ones line street corners. Signs hang from windows about the resiliency of New York. The Dark Zone, a place where the disease hit especially hard is literally walled off from the rest of the area. There is a real sense of urgency and destruction in every square inch of this setting.
Verdict: While Destiny makes use of the solar system, The Division creates what feels like a much larger world on one small island in North America.
Winner: The Division
One important way these games are different is in the perspective: Destiny is a first-person shooter while The Division is a third-person shooter. Despite this difference, both games are very smooth and responsive.
For all the hype surrounding Destiny, there was a lot of potential for disappointment. For a game in the style of an MMORPG, would it be able to do all those things effectively and still be a solid shooter? The reality is that the controls and mechanics of Destiny are crisp and polished. The variety of guns and skills is quite enjoyable. Each of the three classes: Titans, Hunters, and Warlocks are very enjoyable to play. Upon release each class had two sub-classes (now three with The Taken King), which felt unique and were still fun to play. The ability to choose different perks associated with your jump, melee, grenade, Super ability, and even your basic stats provided some opportunities to diversify your character from others. However, like in many games, there is usually one build and one class that is the strongest at that particular moment. Destiny felt that pain.
Destiny offers some very interesting opportunities (who doesn’t want to throw flaming hammers?) to players. Each skill and button also feels very important, as grenades and melee abilities are quite powerful. There is a bit more to the game than pointing and shooting. Skill upgrades and perks are provided simply by leveling up and earning the experience.
One feature that Destiny has that The Division currently lacks is some mounted experience. Being able to drive a bicycle or a car or something would be pretty cool. While The Division does not have any kind of mount is does have fast travel.
The Division also excels in this area. Each gun type feels unique and is fun to use. Players can choose from a variety of grenade types as well. I found the switching between grenade types and using grenades challenging at first, but very effective in the right situations. However, unlike Destiny, there are no classes in The Division. Instead, players can choose skills from three skill trees: Medical, Security, and Tech. Each of these trees provides skills that help fill the archetypal roles normally used in MMOs (Tank, Damage-dealer, and Support). Players are not forced to lock in as one role or class, and you are able to switch freely between skill trees and talents by simply opening the menu. While this is easy and convenient, it does take some of the importance out of the choices.
The Division also features some unique skills in its mechanics. Players can plant a support station to provide healing to teammates, or they can lay down turrets to shoot oncoming enemies. In addition to skill selection, each skill can be granted particular perks. For example, that turret can shock oncoming enemies as well, providing some crowd control. These skills and perks are unlocked by upgrading your Base of Operations. The Base of Operations has some interesting upgrades, including stores, crafting material chests, which refresh on a timer. Strategizing which skills and talents you want is important when upgrading your base, but ultimately you will be able to upgrade everything.
One important combat feature in The Division is the ability to actively take cover. When you are hidden behind one object you can also hold a button to travel to another piece of cover with minimal risk. This allows for strategic gameplay.
Verdict: Both games feature excellent mechanics that make the game exceptionally fun and make each character unique. However, the unique abilities provided in Destiny and situational usefulness of each skill (particularly the melee) give it an edge over The Division.
Destiny features some really cool looking sci-fi futuristic weapons and armor. In addition, the class items (a sash for Titan, a cloak for Hunter, and an arm-band for Warlock) adds a neat visual boost to your character. Some really cool and uniquely designed items, particularly exotics, were excellent features in the game. In addition, players can earn dyes to alter the color of their gear, giving them a unique look, even if other players are wearing the same gear.
Items in Destiny level up as they are equipped to your character and you earn experience. As your gear levels, you are able to give each piece stats and bonuses that might be more useful (for example increased ammo capacity with a sniper rifle rather than with a machine gun you never use.) This allows some flexibility in your itemization in min/maxing your character.
Some critical changes to items have been made since Destiny’s release. One for example, is the function of the Light statistic on gear. While Light used to grant you higher levels, that has since been removed. Now Light allows players to do more damage and receive less. This has been a good change overall. Generally, at the low levels, gear is replaced at a pretty decent rate, which is rewarding.
Another divisive element that has received significant improvements since the game’s initial release is the Cryptarch and the decoding of encrypted items. Engrams, or encrypted items, are of a particular type, but must be decrypted in order to be used. This generates a random item of that type, associated with the rarity of the engram. This process can be extremely frustrating (especially at release when my first 10 Legendary Engrams turned into blues), but it is also quite fun.
In Destiny, there is very little usefulness provided by any of the vendors beyond the one or two pieces of gear you might buy. However, a weekly vendor, Xur allows players to purchase exotics and other rare items that are more likely to be upgrades.
The Division features realistic looking weapons and “armor,” which actually isn’t really armor at all. Rather the majority of your appearance is determined by purely aesthetic “Appearance” items. These items have no strategic value, but allow you to dress your character with your favorite hat, jacket, shirt, pants, and shoes. However, there is currently no dye system in place, but players can find different colors of the same item. While players cannot dye their clothes, they can give their weapons skins, changing their appearance. It is quite nice to be able to have your character look however you want without suffering from using less powerful gear.
The discovery of new armor or weapons does not have the same weight and sense of satisfaction as it does in other games. In fact, the pieces I tend to be most excited about are, in fact, the appearance items. I found the gearing process while leveling less rewarding than Destiny’s. I was often given few choices of weapon types in the early levels (I didn’t get a decent light machine gun until the late teens). Around level 20, I felt the gear system starting to improve, as upgrades became more frequent.
Gear can provide points to your damage (Firepower), health (Stamina), or improving skills (Electronics). Gear can also give bonuses to particular skills (like increased turret duration) or to Scavenging, which increases the likelihood of finding new and better gear.
If you find a piece of gear that isn’t perfectly optimized, players can alter the stats at the Recalibration Station in the Tech Wing of their Base of Operations. However, this process should be used sparingly in the early game, as it can be quite expensive. Vendors are quite expensive. In the 20s, I found a single item often costing one-third to one-half of my entire accumulated wealth, even though I had spent little money. There is a crafting system which allows you to use parts and materials to craft your own gear, but this, too, can be resource intensive, and many players would likely be better off saving these materials until the end game. One of the challenges in the early stages is that there are so many possible bonuses on gear, that it is very challenging to have anything close to an optimized gear set without spending a lot of money on recalibration.
Verdict: While The Division offers some really interesting item options, divorcing most of your gear from its appearance takes too much of the excitement and prestige out of finding new and better gear. Destiny’s uniquely styled armor and perk system along with the ability to dye your equipment gives it an edge over The Division.
From a consideration of the pre-end-game content, both games are incredibly fun to play. They both bring a ton of enjoyable and innovative content. Trying to consider both games fairly can be challenging. At the present time, I am enjoying The Division more than I enjoyed Destiny recently. However, I remember having more excitement about playing Destiny in its early stages; I could not put that game down for a while. The story for The Division is better, but there are definite frustrations in trying to get optimal gear while leveling. Nevertheless, the Base of Operations and the clear, streamlined leveling experience give The Division a slight edge.
Winner: The Division (but only barely)
There are many other aspects to consider between these two games, including Player vs. Player, the end-game content, DLC, raiding, replay-ability, and other features from each game. Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.