Summary: Tom Clancy’s The Division has players assume the role of Division agents in which they find themselves caught up in an epic conspiracy, forced to combat not only the effects of a manmade virus, but also the rising threat of those behind it.
Developer: Ubisoft Massive
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Released: March 8th 2016
With a game as multi-faceted as The Division, it seems prudent to review sections of the game separately as experiences with the game can differ across the main game, the dark zone and the end game. To begin with, the main game is undeniably more content-packed than I was expecting. While there are the seemingly unnecessary hundreds of collectibles often found in other Ubisoft games like Far Cry, some of these collectibles however were truly poignant and some even shed more light on the story. I’m not saying that the campaign element of this game is anything ground-breaking, because it certainly isn’t. However, there is enough there to sink a fair few hours into and almost enough to actually get you invested in the story. If your gripe with Destiny was the lack of a story, you may still feel that way with The Division but in my experience it is nowhere near as stripped back as Destiny was at launch.
I want to stress how this game shares many qualities with Destiny because if you sunk a lot hours into that game grinding, looting and praying to the RNG gods then you might find yourself in the same situation with The Division. The main campaign missions can all be played with a 4 player squad and have 2 difficulty modes of normal and hard. Hard will have you tackle stronger enemies but the XP gains are identical no matter the difficulty so your sole reason for completing these missions on hard will be for the better loot available for doing so. While some may see it as a minute detail, I think it is important to note that a 4 man squad feels like the sweet spot for a game like this and I ran through almost every mission with a full team of friends. That’s the silver lining here, you can choose to play through the campaign solo or you can decide to play through with your friends. It’s nothing new, but the seamless nature in which The Division executes this is pretty impressive.
Just like how the core mechanics were a redeeming factor for Destiny, The Division benefits greatly from clean, well-executed third person mechanics. As a big fan of third person shooters, I can say you probably won’t feel it being as good as a game like Gears of War but it works regardless. With any third person shooter, you will suffer the odd grievance where the mechanics end up doing something you didn’t want to do in game but for the most part the movement and mechanics are very clean. There’s nothing fancy or unprecedented here but the snappiness lends itself greatly to the enjoyment of the game.
You will also be tasked with building up your Base of Operations. Ubisoft games do tend to feature this base-building component in various ways. Whether it’s your village in Far Cry Primal or your club in Assassins Creed, this looks to be something Ubisoft intends to keep around. And to their credit, I think they’ve pulled it off best with The Division. In the game, you have 3 bases that require upgrading; Medical, Tech and Security. In order to unlock and then upgrade your base, you will have to complete main missions or ‘encounters’ that award various amounts of upgrade points for a particular wing. Each wing of your base offers different abilities, skills, talents, and perks so choosing which ones you want to prioritize could prove to be central to your experience with the campaign. For instance, I primarily focused on the Medical and Security wings personally so I could provide more of a tank/support role within my group. The Base of Operations provides another layer of complexity to The Division that is welcome when prioritizing which abilities you wish to gain first. With only 2 skill slots available, it pays off once you’ve specialised which role you wish to play.
The abilities system is very sophisticated and, while the whole thing may seem a little daunting at first, you’ll quickly find yourself accustomed with the systems in place. The active abilities are known as skills and these provide your character with your special equipment. For instance, skills range from a healing station, a ballistic shield, a sticky bomb, a turret, and more. It’s here that you’ll have to decide if your skills will focus on CC, damage or support. However, one very special aspect of this system is that you’re able to switch up your entire abilities on the fly, meaning you can change roles within seconds. This flexibility is very welcome and definitely helps in a lot of situations.
The enemies you will face in Manhattan can prove to be fairly challenging and if you get ahead of yourself, you’ll find yourself dying quite often. My team and I decided we wanted to get to end game as soon as possible so we found ourselves rushing through most of the campaign and main missions. In this time, you will encounter four different factions: Rioters, Cleaners, Rikers and the Last Man Battalion. The Rioters are Low-life thugs who took advantage of the situation to steal and kill and carry a handgun or baseball bat. The Cleaners are firefighters who now believe the only way to eradicate the virus is to burn everything and as you can probably guess, they carry a flamethrower. The Rikers are prisoners who escaped from Riker’s Island prison who take their revenge on authority and often carry a shotgun or an SMG. Beware of the shotgunners because they can be deadly. The LMB are mercenaries who took advantage of their brute force to take control of the city and they often carry sniper rifles or assault rifles. While in your first experiences with these enemies, they may seem complex and difficult, you quickly learn their weaknesses and the lack of variety in enemies really does make the game feel more repetitive after you have sunk quite a few hours into it.
The game that you have probably heard a lot about within The Division is the Dark Zone which, after all, the mode that Ubisoft are putting a lot of emphasis on. Essentially, the Dark Zone is a walled-off quarantine zone in the middle of Manhattan, with the goal to stop the contagion of the once as flu suspected virus. Linked seamlessly with the rest of the game it is the place for PvP-fights and at the same time contains the most powerful and rarest loot in The Division. This is the only area of the game that allows for PvP but it seems to have one big problem; there’s no benefit to taking part in the PvP or, so to say, going ‘rogue’. This has been a hot topic of concern for many DZ players who feel that the risk of going rogue and the huge losses you face when dying as a rogue is simply too great compared to the minimal reward for doing so. Because of this, you’ll often see players in the DZ simply farming named bosses and this completely defeats the purpose of the DZ. Instead of the intense, dangerous PvP area we were promised, we instead get yet another farming route that diminishes the whole purpose of the DZ. Thankfully, Ubisoft Massive have promised that changes to the DZ are coming very soon so I don’t want to focus too much of the DZ and may even provide an updated score once this overhaul comes in because at this point, the DZ simply isn’t what it was hyped up to be.
As someone that reached the end game a day or two after the game came out, I’ve not had quite a lot of time playing the end game and have completed every challenging mission available. End game in The Division centres on the new currency that unlocks at level 30 called ‘Phoenix Credits’ that are crucial to attaining the high end gear we all covet so much. You will also unlock a new difficulty called ‘challenging’ but trust me when I say you do not want to be attempting these fresh out of level 30 because you will be eviscerated. My team and I learnt that one the hard way. In challenging missions, not much is changed with the actual mission structure but the enemies are immensely tougher and you will need to attain high end gear before standing a chance in these missions.
However, personally, I’m now at a point where I’m fully stocked out with high end gear and most of these missions have become a bit of a breeze. Lexington and Lincoln Tunnel in particular can be completed very quickly with a good team. Missions like Russian Consulate and Warrengate Power Plant will still provide that intense experience even to players stocked out with high end gear because these missions are invariably harder than some of the other challenging missions available right now. The game offers daily missions whereby you can attain up to 80 phoenix credits for completing 2 missions on hard difficulty and one mission on challenging so there’s still reason to continue playing but right now I find myself thirsting for more content and the ‘Incursions’ that are coming soon in a free update.
Seamless and accessible co-op gameplay
Clean third person mechanics
Addictive and fun gameplay
Flexibility of ‘classes’ and ‘roles’ within a team
Some bugs and technical problems (Yes, we all hate ‘Mike’ by now)
Can get repetitive by the time you reach end game
Final Score: 8/10