The Division: Very Early Impressions

Graev and I picked up our copies of The Division yesterday to fill the gap in our list of evening co-op games that we like to play together. Prior to purchasing the game I kept seeing people referring to this idea of “massively multiplayer” and even weird hints at open-world and even elements of DayZ. Those are definitely way out of left field because The Division is neither a massively multiplayer game, nor anything remotely like DayZ or a survival game.

The Division is a third-person shooter game with hints of RPG, but definitely not a game I would ever comfortable say fits the RPG bill. RPGs have choices, and The Division is more of follow the story experience where you shoot bad guys, get gear, and level up. If there are decisions in the game, I certainly haven’t seen any.

The world is a mixture of seamless lobbies and mission phases. For example, safe houses contain other players. You walk through the door and ‘bam’ you are suddenly faced with a few dozen other players. You walk out that door and they stay there and you’re in your own world. If you group up with people then you’ll see them outside. There’s only one area of the game where it’s more about PvP and seeing other people, and that’s called the Dark Zone.

The story is intriguing. I like the idea that someone created an epidemic in New York causing the entire city to go into chaos and be quarantined. This special group of people who are like good guy sleeper agents are activated to go in and fix things. Fun premise.

The engine is fantastic, and gunplay is very tight. I really like the cover system — especially being able to select different cover and then automatically transfer to it even when it’s far away. Gear has a nice level of customization and variety/diversity. I think finding cosmetic items and weapon/armor upgrades will be fun, especially in the Dark Zone areas where you have to export your gear safely in order to keep it.

One critique I have about the shooter side of the game is that the enemies are spongey. They’ll soak up lots of bullets despite looking like normal people — I think they ARE normal people. I don’t know many humans who can take a full clip from a M4 and still be running around. Head shots really, really matter in The Division. Putting it on Hard Mode makes the spongey feel way worse.

The missions are neither here nor there so far. Focusing on the gameplay model too much would actually be a detriment to the game for me because it ultimately boils down to running around a world to find quest markers. If I were to think about it really hard, technically the game is about forming groups and going out on missions with the “open-world” being more of a pseudo-open-world experience — almost an illusion. But again, don’t overthink it. You’ll find encounters and more of an “open-world” experience the further you progress, but it’s definitely not an Elder Scrolls kind of open-world experience.

Co-op is fantastic. Graev and I have had no problems grouping up together and running missions. The Division really integrates nicely with the PS4 friend list as well as the Ubisoft accounts.

Bugs have been annoying. I had a glitch where right in the first 5 minutes of gameplay I was halted for an hour trying to interact with a laptop to “activate” my agent. I had to do a work around where I ran 200 meters away, did a matchmaking gimmick to find a group, then fast travel back to the house to activate it in a different phase. How that made it past QA boggles the mind.

The Division is, so far, a great third-person shooter with light RPG elements. Definitely worth the buy. I’ll integrate these thoughts with later thoughts for my more formal review. So far, I’d say 8/10.

  • I agree with everything except what fits your RPG bill. I don’t think decisions (beyond what you mentioned: Equipping Gear (and Skills)) make RPGs what they are, otherwise any linear plot, character progression based game would NOT be an RPG (eg. Final Fantasy series). Anyways, it’s a disagreement over terminology, which is minor.

    I think The Division would have benefitted more from a Faction system (I haven’t noticed one). You are on the same team and you are against the same 2 other types of bad guys: Rogues and The Cleaners.

    I would compare it to TES and say that it’s very similar to those games with the exceptions:
    – You do not get quests/missions from random NPCs. Missions come from one NPC in each hub and one Job Board in each hub, as well as being presented on your map as you travel around.
    – There are no cities, per se, with merchants. There are hubs, which are small, with 2 mission providers (point 1), a gear vendor and a stash.
    – You cannot assault whomever you feel like. There are no faction decisions.

    Those are probably some of the defining factors of TES (aside from lore), but it’s still a comparison I’ll make.

    Fun game, at any rate. I played for another hour last night. If you want some easy XP, head to the nearest Dark Zone with a sniper rifle and try to find Flamethrower NPCs. You can shoot their tanks and it will instagib them. They will likely one-shot you, though, depending on your level difference. The lowest levels are 11, I think.

  • I dabbled with it in the beta and while I had fun with it I do not think I will be paying full price for it, the content just seems thin to me. To be fair though that was beta and only a fraction of content was available, I just do not know if it gets much deeper. It seems to me the only difference between that level 3 baddie and that level 23 baddie is hit points. The bullet sponge thing has been a big point for lots of people but I just look at it like some of the hits or just grazes or misses. I know, kind of silly but whatever. I do love the move to cover mechanic… that is pretty great.

    Lokked makes a great point above about factions. I think the game would have benefited greatly from a multi faction system and it could have seamlessly been worked into the lore. Instead of one agency trying to clean the mess up it could be that plus a mercenary group working for a private company trying to exploit thing and another that is a group of mercenaries working for some really nasty bad organization. Oh well, it is the way it is.

    I was surprised when I went into the bz how little pvp I encountered. Again, that could have been just the beta but more people seemed interested in hunting npcs down than they did other players. That being said I did see one gun battle at an extraction site and noticed two combatants were taking on a rogue agent. He was taking cover behind a car and taking shots at them as they were waiting for the chopper to come in. Normally I do not engage in much pvp but if I understood the system right the fact that the agent was rogue meant he was an aggressor on neutral agents… so I shoot him in the back. It was kind of satisfying.

    For me I think one of the biggest hurdles, in addition to the story content being kind of meh, is that I do not have anyone I play online games with and I think the bz really would be more enjoyable with a team.

    All in all I will probably pull the trigger, pun intended, when I see a lower price but I just can not justify $60 on The Division yet. Especially since I have the bill for the HTC Vive coming in the next two weeks 🙂

  • I actually tried to get my money back from Steam after 6hrs played, but I guess too much time had passed since I purchased it. My impression hasn’t changed after 30hrs or so. Having to shoot a human enemy for 3min straight to kill it because it’s a boss? The setting just doesnt work for this type of mechanic. Another blogger suggested it would be perfect if the setting was from Xcom. Lots of alien species, also occasional human factions. But I’d call Division a waste of money currently.

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