We got our hands on one of the most anticipated titles of 2016, Ubisoft’s The Division. The game is set in a mid-crisis New York City and it’s the player’s mission to help restore order by investigating the source of a virus. Along the way you will team up with your friends as you take on the militant groups and the rebels who have taken it upon themselves to take advantage of the situation, and take control of the city and its landmarks.
The gameplay demo I got to play saw me and 2 friends start in a desolated area as we learnt the ropes of the game. It plays out like a traditional third person shooter. You take cover behind sand bags, vehicles, and other objects. You then aim and shoot at enemies, throw grenades, and use class specific items.
I took the role of a mid-ranged character. Keep in mind that you will build and mould your character to your play style and it can be changed at any time by equipping new weapons. My other two friends were a ranged class, and a support class. The ranged class is a sniper specific class that scouts from afar and communicates with you what is ahead. The support class is best for healing and mid-range damage.
The most important part of the game is communication. You cannot do it alone, especially when you are in the Darkness Zone, a PvP battleground where other teams from around the world meet to extract rare loot. That is were our demo toook a strategic turn. We entered this Darkness Zone and came across the other players who were playing the demo on the show floor at the same time. They had the same objective as us: extract the rare loot that needed to be decontaminated. You see whenever you come across rare loot in the world, it needs to be extracted before you can use it, and in order to do this you need to get it to a helipad and keep the other team from preventing your extraction for one minute.
Working as a team you can prevent this from happening by killing the opposing team, if they have not fired at you then you will be marked as Rogue. This state highlights you and makes you a hot target for other players. You can be in this Darkness Zone and keep to yourself without causing any issues. It does not mean that you are in this zone that you have to kill other players, but when you start, then expect a strong resistance.
You have to utilise your skill set which will be completely interchangeable in the main game. I had a grenade, and a sonar which I could use to highlight any enemies that were around our area. I also had a medi-kit that I could use to heal myself and other players. You can revive your team mates if you are close by, but they could also die if you do not get to them in time.
The game felt great to plat, the player was easily controllable and the cover mechanics saw me running in and out of cover and running to cover ahead of me without any issues. You just point your camera to a spot, and hold down A (X) to run to cover behind the highlighted object.
We spent around 10 minutes trying to get our loot extracted, and at the same time we stopped the other team from extracting theirs a few times too. The round ended as the demo came to an end, but I am pretty sure we could have got it extracted if we had more time.
I also had the opportunity to chat to Hamish Bode, community developer from Ubisoft Massive about the game. I had 10 minutes to grill him with question on the game.
Just how open is The Division?
The game is open to an extent that you can go anywhere you want from the start. You can go in any direction, you are not gated. So in terms of open world – very!
So you can go anywhere, but what about your gear? Will that limit you to what you can get done and who you can kill?
Yes, there will be parts of the world that will be too difficult for you to accomplish what you need to. So you can go to other areas, but good luck.
How does the game seamlessly merge the single player and multiplayer into one?
So there is no loading screens, we are on a team doing our missions and collecting loot, then we enter the Darkness Zone. This is an PvP area where matchmaking all happens behind the scenes. You will be in a zone where you cannot tell who is nice who is going to cause problems. It’s all one seamless experience.
What about playing solo and playing with friends?
You can do both and it will change your approach to each area depending on how you are playing. If you are playing alone you will go in with the skill set and weapons that will better suit your solo experience, and when playing with friends your roles will be divided up depending on how you want to play this time around.
What about single player? Do you play with NPCs? What about any offline play?
No, when you play The Division it’s either you and your team, or just you. The game is always online, but that does not mean you have to play with other people. For those who like to play alone, it’s completely possible.
What has been the biggest challenge creating the game?
It’s big, and we wanted to make sure that everything you experience is super engaging. We also wanted to make sure that the quality was as perfect as possible.
What made you decide to build you own engine for the game?
Well it let us reach that level of quality that we wanted to reach. It allows for the people who are building the engine to work seamlessly with the developers to create an idea that works the best across both the technical standpoint and the visual.
Do you see the SnowDrop engine being used for future titles?
That is hard to say; I really don’t work on that side of things, but for The Division it’s working very well. But it’s still in development so we could just keep making it better and better.
Tell me how the loot system will work?
The game is a RPG at its core so you will need to get stronger to accomplish what you need to do. The loot system is very deep so if you find a weapon that is quite rare that has a couple of mode slots that you can modify, or you find a legendary weapon that has even more slots that is a super-awesome item. You will be able to change the muzzle, the scope, the stock, all sorts of things. All of these things will give you an advantage over a certain situation, and improve on the base of your weapon.
Once you have fully upgraded a weapon and find something better, what happens to all your hard work and effort you put into the old weapon?
So you will find things that are better, it is a RPG. There are things to do with them and everything has value. You will be benefiting from that old weapon, we just cannot say how right now.
So between fighting off enemies in the Darkness Zone, gathering better loot, and levelling up your class and skills, it seems that Ubisoft is merging RPG with Shooter to make one massive title! The Division is set for release on 8 March 2016 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC and we can’t wait!