Role-playing mechanics, loot, shooting and enemies who need plenty of lead pumped into their skulls. And for once, I’m not talking about Destiny! Ubisoft’s big tent-pole game for the year is almost here, and interest is running high in what appears to be a fancy-pants RPG with some meaty shooting layered on top of it.
Of course, it could be something wildly different to what we’re expecting, but who knows? Fortunately, we do know some stuff, gleaned from years of development and a hands-on session or two. Let’s get to it.
New York City. A hive of scum and villainy, with danger lurking around every single corner of this bacterial cesspool of despair. And that’s just on a regular day of the week. The Division has you exploring what’s left of New York after a biological attack has turned the isle of Manhattan into a massive death-zone.
Thanks to an event known as Black Friday, in which tainted bank notes helped transmit a deadly virus across the US of A, New York is but one of many cities that have fallen out of government control and descended into anarchy.
The nearish future. Probably.
So what’s my role in all of this?
It’s been three weeks since everything went to hell on the mother of all Black Fridays. With the US government stretched to their limits as they attempt to reclaim the formerly united states of America, Directive 51 is activate. As a newly sanctioned covert ops operative, you’ve got carte blanche to do what you need to do so that law and order can be restored.
But don’t expect any military backup, as you’re on your own behind enemy lines. Fortunately, there’s more than one Directive 51 agent operating in New York. Time to team up.
So how does it handle then?
There’s been a lot of comparisons to Destiny when it comes to The Division. But whereas Destiny is a shooter dressed up in MMO and RPG gear, The Division is a proper RPG that is itself dressed up in shooter and cover-based action garb. It’s all about your personal growth as an agent, from cosmetics to the gear you carry with you.
There’s two key factors that craft your gameplay experience as an Agent: Loot and Skills. Skills naturally provide permanent upgrades, with various disciplines unlocking the skills that suit you best. On top of that, Talents serve as passive buffs that enhance your skills in the field. Loot is what you’d expect it to be: Grab good gear, have better results when out in the wild and staring down the wrong end of a flamethrower.
How many skills to pay the bills?
Three in total: Medical, Tech and Security. Medics provide support and keep your team alive, Security agents specialise in defence and Tech operatives get a lot of fancy toys to play with. What makes The Division a little bit different to similar setups, is that these skills can be swapped out on the fly, thus creating a deeper tactical opportunity for players and teams. Hopefully.
I take it that a simple bullet to the head isn’t going to be a viable strategy, no matter what John Wick has to say.
Nope! That’s the RPG side of The Division coming into play. While a bullet to the head is good, you’ll need to level your way up and increase your skills if you want to start popping off a few insta-kills on lower-level foes.
What’s this BOO that I’ve heard so much about?
That’s your Base Of Operations. A personal headquarters, your BOO is a stronghold that you get to constantly upgrade throughout The Division. At the bare minimum, you can use it as a storage room for all your loot. Start working on some missions however, and you can turn your BOO into a factory for skills, upgrading your abilities and making your agent that much more deadly.
You’ll also find vendors, mission requests and loot while you manage your skills before heading out into New York.
So what do I actually do in The Division?
You shoot, you take cover and you shoot some more while praying that your bullets will actually be effective. What The Division is attempting to do, is to make a seamless world for you to explore. New York is one massive playground of various boroughs, with every single effort that you put into a mission contributing towards the end goal of saving the city.
From side quests to main missions, your actions are going to help save New York. And those missions may involve killing dangerous gangsters, protecting repairs on sewage systems or rescuing hostages.
This zone is a little bit dark…
That’s the aptly-named Dark Zone. There’s no proper multiplayer mode such as deathmatches or capture the flag in The Division, with social online activities being found in these hotspots. Dark Zones are filled with enemies, and features no friendly fire option when you’re dealing with another player that you encounter. Pretty much the most dangerous area in all of New York, safety isn’t guaranteed in the Dark Zones.
Can I trust my friends in the Dark Zones?
Probably not, and definitely not if I’m in your team. While working as a cohesive team will help you save the day and earn some great loot, you’ll also be able to stab your friends in the back with bullets and steal all of hard-won loot. Just be aware, that the second that you go rogue, everyone else will know about it, and trust you even less.
Right, how about a taste of the game before it’s out then?
You’re sort of in luck. If you’ve pre-ordered, you can take part in a closed beta this weekend from January 28, with Xbox One players getting a whole extra day. Be aware though: It’s a hefty 26gb download.
So when is it out?
March 8, hombre. (RIGHT NOW)
PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Microsoft’s massive black box is the lead platform on The Division, so it may be worth keeping your options open for that platform. Here’s what you’ll need to run it on PC.