Early Days in The Division

The City of New York is the site of the fall of civilisation, the budgie in the mine that’s snuffed out as a precursor the same happening across the globe. A contagion known as Green Poison spreads from dollar dollar bills y’all on a greed-fuelled November friday in the near future. People die. Some survive, and then as we humans play to our nature, people die again.

The Division, a secret government agency that’s known in a way but still many kinds of secret, activates their agents with their Mighty Morphin decoder watches, and then away they go. And die. So the Division activates their NEXT batch of agents, the seconds, the backups.. Namely, the Players and the NPC’s who’ll boss them around.

Yes if you’ve ever talked to another player (and there’ll be chances aplenty in the game if you haven’t), there’s a good reason why they’re on the B-team.

The Division (the game, not the agency at the heart of The Division – the game, not th— oh you know) is a quasi-futuristic roleplaying shooter that sets its sets beyond the tower climbing, bad-guy-killing, collectible finding, zone unlocking, trappings of an quintessential Ubisoft game with an offering that’s less of a by-the-numbers open world that might propel it beyond expectations and restore some credibility to their brand.

Players can explore a messed-up-er version of New York (well, part of it) and slowly work at restoring order.

Once you’ve got your homebase and start kitting it out with upgrades to medical, security and tech wings, you’ll unlock a bunch of new abilities, but also see the influx of civilian refugees that start crowding your base and generally giving that feel that you’re making a difference and giving hope to people with every headshot.

Aside from the amount of content available, most of what’s different about the game as it is now, and what it was in the closed beta is about refinement. Yes, enemies are tougher, especially in the Dark Zone, and you can now craft, but all those good moments about how the game plays and feels just work together.

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There’s plenty of buildings to ascend, enemies to suppress (poimanently), findables to collect, safe houses and areas to uncover, and… yeah, we know. We can ridiculously reduce with the best of them, but even in their similarities, the tone of The Division is different to other Ubisoft games.

A lot of that comes from the characters, be they the NPCs at the base, the civilians you encounter, and even the enemies. While sure, every second rioter is apparently named Alex, what works so well in The Division is that nobody feels like a larger-than-life cut-out – they feel like regular people who are out of their depth, trying to get by, and making the best of a shitty situation.

There are some things that could be improved. Character customisation isn’t where it needs to be for something with so much player crossover, and the muted hues available makes it feel like the agents are clothed exclusively by Tarocash. The Division could even go for some high-vis gear for those low-vis days that the game does so beautifully.

While it’s possible to go through a lot of the missions on your own (though you might wanna do as many sidequests and activities as you can to boost your stats and gear), it really shines when playing with others.

Having done the Hudson Refugee Camp mission thrice now (once alone, twice in a group), what stood out is that it never stopped being a challenge. Enemy waves scale to the level and the number of the players –  running it alone might seem lowly populated, but a big squad means facing swarms of enemies.

That these missions are no cakewalk means by the time you finish, you’ll be ready to pop into the Dark Zone to blow off some steam.

Good luck with that.

The opposition that you face inside the Dark Zone from NPCs is big, and they’re as much a threat now as other players are. It’s still the people you encounter that will give you the biggest lurch in the pit of your stomach, as you never know who you can trust. Spoilers, it’s nobody.

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