Platforms: Xbox One, Windows 10, PS4
Reviewed On: PS4
Developer: Ubisoft Massive
Distributor: Megarom Interactive
Release Date: 8 March 2016
Related: PlayStation VR Dated and Priced
Although The Division does not feel like a new IP, its stance on RPG elements, and new post-viral world, make it feel rather new compared to other Tom Clancy titles in the series. If it didn’t have Tom Clancy in it’s title, you would mistake it for a brand new franchise. Although it at times battles to find its own identity, The Division is a solid action RPG, with solid core mechanics and a buddy system which could rival many MMOs today.
Two weeks after smallpox infected New York City, sleeper agents have awoken with one mission, take down the thugs that have taken hold of the city, and help restore its public services back to their former glory. Society as we know has fallen, and The Division has been formed to take it back, one department at a time.
The Division is set in a massive open world New York City, where with the lack of infrastructure, it has now been deserted and lies in the hands of factions dead set on taking control of it for their own gain. When you are not exploring the alley ways and switching on radars, you are exploring the many landmarks of the city in main missions best completed with friends. The city is divided into several districts which make for a decent level scaling system. As you progress through the game and level up, you will then move onto other other areas with harder enemies.
The city is packed with many side missions, this of which can take a few minutes, and those of which you breeze through with time to spare after killing waves of enemies. Side missions can become rather tedious, and at times you cannot tell the difference between the water supply you switched on before, and the one you are doing now. At the least, the side missions are the best way to gain XP and level up. You will find yourself completing every single one of them in each district, not because they are exciting to do, but rather they reward you with XP and blueprints you can make use of to build new weapons and gear.
When it comes to the main mission, those that require matchmaking of some sort, these are where the game truly shines. Each mission is a constant struggle for power. From the moment you enter a mission to the final boss of it, you and your friends are in a constant gun fight with some intense moments. As you push the enemy away, they then turn the tables and you find yourself pulling back to a earlier area to avoid being flanked. It’s a fun a rewarding experience and at times I really felt that these missions offered the best of game’s moments. The missions also take you to some great locations like Madison Square Gardens, all the way to restoring power to Time Square. This, combined with the intense action if each mission, make the game truly shine.
Each time you complete a mission, be it a side mission of a main one, you will obtain points across three departments, Tech, Security, and Medical. Back at your Base of Operations, these points will come in handy as you will use them to level up your departments, unlocking new skills, perks and traits. Unlike typical RPGs, your level does not unlock new skills, rather slots to place the skills you unlock through these upgrades, in them. Medical focuses on healing and support, Tech is your damage like Seeker Mines and Sticky Bombs, and security is all about shields and defense.
When it comes to the gear system, the game works across a point system too. Each weapon and piece of gear with have a damage counter and defense rating. Along with that, each with also have their own attributes which slot into three character boosts namely DPS, Health, and Skill. Equipping gear that associates to each boost is all about how you play the game and how you prefer to have more health than damage. When you reach higher levels, you will find superiors and high-end gear which compliment all three boosts rather than one or two.
Although the system works, there is no real noticeable difference between a weapon you started with and the one you have at the end of the game, other than the damage you do when shooting it. Each weapon in the later game also have traits which are automatically unlocked when you have a set amount of DPS, Health, or Skill level. As much as this is a great feature, the game fails to make it a must-have, so you never actually worry about these traits. It is kind of a “if I have it, then good”, but you will never actually go out of your way to make sure you reach a set DPS stat to unlock this trait. This is because the traits are never fully realized and the set mechanic behind each one is never really felt in game.
Reaching level 30 is a grind, as side missions can become mundane, but the Dark Zone, the PvP portion of the game, has its own level system, so once you have hit level cap, you will be forced into it to start levelling up and gaining more powerful gear. The Dark Zone requires you to kill NPCs, loot their gear and extract it at a certain spot. This gear is somewhat better that the gear you would find in game, and this is the biggest issue with the game, as post-game content should not rely on PvP to gain better gear.
Sure you can head on in and find a good team to take you through the zone, but if one guy woke up this morning and decided he was going to kill everyone he saw and loot their gear, then your experience is going leave a bad taste in your mouth. I suppose the direction Ubisoft wanted to take, was to steer away from traditional PvP and try something new. The Dark Zone is not a bad place, but it could be filled with bad people, which is the gamble you take when going in.
The Division has the perfect balance of co-op and PvP. The Dark Zone brings a fresh new take to post-game content, as much as it should not be relying on it, but it’s fun nonetheless. The world is huge, and at times it feels a little dead. Running from point A to point B can get a little tedious, especially when you have done everything possible in that area. Thank the heavens for a fast travel to and from safe houses in each zone. What makes The Division so appealing is it’s enjoyable gun fights, especially with its main missions. They always kept me on the edge of my seat, and although they took about 30 minutes each, it was a solid piece of content to chew on for that time. Once I hit level 30, things change a bit with daily missions and the ability to replay missions on challenging difficulty, opening up more content to work through.
The Division will be another one of those games that some people hate while others worship it. I for one found a little bit of my favourite genres in it, which made it a great experience. With expansion packs lined up for the rest of the year, and new free content updates, you cannot go wrong with this game if you love shooters, RPGs, or both of them in one game.