The Division – How To Keep Us Playing
The Division is a mix and match of genres all culminated into a single, intriguing package by Ubisoft Massive that cannot be easily described or compared to other games. The Division fills its own niche in the gaming industry, and it does so extremely well. With enjoyable combat, an intriguing story (if not a little vague and for the most part pushed to the background), an incredibly detailed world and its crown jewel, the Dark Zones, I can see this game being a long-lasting favourite of mine.
Throughout this review (of sorts) I will discuss my viewpoint on various aspects from a stage of 24 hours of gameplay and also at 48 hours of gameplay. This way, you can get a feel of the experience at 2 different levels of playtime and hence show, in part, the longevity of the game.
The Story of Tom Clancy’s The Division
The story itself is very interesting, following the story of two sleeper agents (the player and his accomplice/superior) who work for a top-secret government agency; The Division.
After the rapid spread of a genetically enhanced version of the smallpox virus spread throughout New York during the Black Friday sales, the two agents find themselves trying to rebuild New York, reclaiming it from the criminal entities who have taken it upon themselves to run the city in its’ mid-crisis state. I won’t mention any more to avoid any spoilers, but I found that the story (for better or worse) takes a back seat to the incredibly deep world that engulfs you.
The Division’s New York
The masterfully created rendition of New York shows a harrowing vision of the effects of a disease completely overrunning a major city. As you traverse the city, you constantly come across dead bodies (both civilian and disaster aid agents alike) littering the streets.
Some of my most vivid experiences have come from civilians stumbling towards me, only to fall to the ground dead mere metres away, or finding “Cleaners” (one of the 3 criminal factions you encounter) holding up civilians or even kicking their limp bodies. It’s hard-hitting moments like these that you find around almost every corner of The Division’s New York, testing your morality and I absolutely love it.
It is very rare that a game can hit you right in the feels as hard as The Division does and I find it to be an extremely involving experience, truly taking you into the world and showing you as much of it as possible, to the tiniest of details. There are a number of collectibles that can be found that further involve you in the world, revealing phone conversations, situation reports and even holograms of events that occurred before your arrival. Some of these hologram events (labelled ECHO recordings) portray horrific events such as civilians that are supposedly infected being burned alive by flamethrower-wielding Cleaners, showing the player how harsh the world has become.
The Dark Zone
The Dark Zones represent the most intriguing and unique part of The Division. Best played with friends (or run the risk of being annihilated by a larger group of players) the Dark Zone is a PvPvE zone where uneasy friendships can be made and shattered in an instant. Any gear found within the Dark Zone must be extracted at one of the designated zones before it is truly yours, and if you die you lose all of the gear you had collected during that life. This creates opportunities for players to “go rogue” and kill you to take your hard-earned rare
This creates opportunities for players to “go rogue” and kill you to take your hard-earned rare gear, though this does come at a price. A bounty is put on any rogue player’s head, and any other players can freely shoot and kill them without running the risk of going rogue themselves.
This produces some incredibly tense moments as you try your hardest to stay alive while the rest of the server are trying their best to kill you and collect that bounty. The entirety of the time spent within these Dark Zones is incredibly involving and constantly has you on the edge of your seat, a feeling that I have honestly never felt for such a long period of time in a game. I could play in the Dark Zones for hours upon hours since no two experiences are the same, and I feel that the true value of the game is held within them.
Unfortunately, Massive have basically segregated (both physically and conceptually) the single player and dark zone sections of the game, having two different levelling systems for each that both complement each other but frustratingly make it so you must play both. The single player content is by no means a bad game but once you play within the Dark Zone you realise you’re only playing the single player to be able to get more involved in the Dark Zone component of the game. I feel the two should be intertwined so that the experience from the dark zone can carry into the story more, rather than overshadowing what I find to be a great storyline.
The single player content is by no means a bad game but once you play within the Dark Zone you realise you’re only playing the single player to be able to get more involved in the Dark Zone component of the game. I feel the two should be intertwined so that the experience from the dark zone can carry into the story more, rather than overshadowing what I find to be a great storyline.
24 hours of gameplay later and the Dark Zone has taken on an entirely new shape since hitting level 30, with the six zones rebalanced to accommodate. DZ01 and 02 represent the level 30 zone, while 03 and 04 are designated 31 and 05/06 as level 32. The higher level zones spawn higher level enemies who in turn will drop better gear, as well as provide much more of a challenge in killing and creating an extremely tense atmosphere.
Since a recent update, the rogue status rewards have also been improved to make it more viable and hence more players are happy to give it a go. This has enhanced the key aspect of the dark zone, where previously it was unused due to the crippling setbacks incurred upon failure to survive as a rogue agent. Every time you enter the Dark Zone you know you’ll have a different experience to the last time and this greatly benefits the longevity of the game.
Game Mechanics and Endgame Content
As a loot-based shooter, it certainly has a grinding element to find the best gear in the game, though this doesn’t factor in anywhere near as much as in other games that use a loot-heavy system. The combat is very RPG-like with its damage model, sometimes requiring multiple magazines of ammo to eliminate a boss or even the rarer, heavily armoured enemies, but even the more common weapons are usable.
As you reach higher levels you tend to find the rarer gear more often, as well as having access to the Dark Zone, the best place to find the best gear.
The classless skill system also adds another element to combat, making the game a much more fluid experience. With a range of defensive, offensive and support-based skills, players can use these to suit a number of different playstyles. Skills like first aid, which instantly replenishes your health as well as (when enhanced) reviving downed teammates, seeker mines that can deal heavy damage to nearby enemies and even a mobile riot shield become an invaluable and integral part of the combat, particularly in the harder difficulty modes such as Challenging.
After 24 hours more gameplay time, I still find The Division to be a very enjoyable experience, particularly when playing with friends. After reaching level 30 (the maximum level for a single character) a whole new part of the game becomes available in the way of daily challenges.
The daily challenges entail redoing selected story missions on a higher difficulty, rewarding the players with extra loot and Phoenix Credits (the premium currency used in the game). Thankfully, there are no micro-transactions for Phoenix Credits and you have to earn them, which is easily achievable if you put a little bit of time into the game.
There are two missions available on Hard and one mission on Challenging from the 4 available on this mode, which is only unlocked after completing the final mission. In total, this amounts to a possible 80 premium credits per day just from daily bonuses, which can easily add up.
For instance, High-End blueprints can cost anywhere between 70-190 credits, ranging from attachments and mods at the lower end to weapons at the top, while buying a pre-made piece of gear will usually cost more than that. This means you can basically buy a high-end blueprint every day or two for consistently playing an hour or two to complete the daily missions.
However, it should be noted that the Challenging missions are no walk in the park. They are basically impossible to complete with less than a full squad of four and incredibly difficult with a group of three others found from matchmaking, as they require a high level of teamwork. One of the four missions I have yet to complete due to the sheer difficulty of it, yet I still love this challenge. As someone who stupidly enjoys the difficulty of Dark Souls I absolutely love it; this kind of challenge is sadly hard to come by in modern games.
There is also an array of DLC on the horizon, both free and paid. With the incoming Incursion DLC, we have free content that will offer a new mission type to be played. These incursions offer a new mission type, supposedly more difficult than the challenging mode missions currently available, taking the form of a wave-by-wave survival setting with a new, completely different boss to defeat at the same time.
The first incursion, set to drop on the 12th of April, is a boss which takes the form of an APC impervious to bullets that will require other means to defeat, hopefully creating a new, fresh gameplay experience.
These incursions offer another way for players to get rare, advanced gear at the endgame phase, as well as adding some welcome features such as loot trading, new enemy types and even a new Dark Zone element! This will mean that air drops will sometimes spawn in the Dark Zone, giving players something new to fight each other for, along with some other gameplay and system tweaks.
Not much news has been released on the paid DLC department other than that there will be three paid expansions – Underground, Survival and Last Stand – which will add new areas along with new elements to the Dark Zone. The longevity of The Division will most likely hinge on this extra content, as it will hopefully freshen up the experience and allow even more enjoyable hours spent in game, keeping the player base happy much like Bungie achieved with Destiny.
Ultimately, I still find myself going back to this game whenever I have the time since I am still truly enjoying it and I hope that Ubisoft Massive play their cards right with the DLC to keep me playing for as long as possible. If you think this The Division is a game that would interest you, I highly recommend giving it a go and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.