And it seems to still have me confused about the game a little bit. The Division is a game that’s out not in a couple a months, but a handful of weeks, and also one that a few lucky journalists got flown all the way to Sweden to play last week. Sadly we couldn’t make the trip, but those that did ended up bombarding the internet with new gameplay, new details and generally mixed views on what they think about the entire thing.
One thing that does stand out though is this – The Division is an RPG at every corner, even when contextually things aren’t really making that much sense.
It’s something that I found a little jarring at E3 last year, and understandably it’s the same thing that has some critics scratching their heads at. Because The Division is a numbers game (that’s what RPGs tend to be) some enemies take an inordinate amount of bullets to take down. This makes a little more sense when you’re fighting an alien overlord ala Destiny, but struggles to be as convincing when it’s just a brute in a beanie. Still, it means stuff like gear, weapons and the loot you find play a massive role in the game, and that’s great.
The game itself is split into PvE and PvP just like any other MMO, and the PvE stuff is what not many people have had the chance to play. As seen in this preview from Videogamer, the entirety of The Division’s campaign can be completed in single-player (according to Ubisoft in the past too), but more often than not you’ll be taking it on with two other friends. In this PvE mode you won’t run across other players, but rather just AI. Rather intelligent looking AI too – which will flank you in a heartbeat if given the chance.
The Division’s base of operations changes as you make progress in the fully realised story mode, allowing your Agent to upgrade one of three branches – Medical, Tech and Security. These in turn offer more upgrade options, gear upgrades and missions to pursue but also have a marked impact on what your base looks like. This is a personal space for each player rather than a social hub, and the progress is reflected visually in the way it advances throughout your time in the game.
Of course PvE has its limitations, and staggeringly good loot is one of them. For that players will need to venture into the Dark Zone – the seamlessly connected (seriously, there doesn’t seem to be a single loading screen in this game) PvP area situated in the center of what is almost a 1:1 recreation of New York. It’s the one part of the game quite a few people have played already, and it still stands as the most interesting piece to me.
Having to wonder if your teammates will turn on you at any second adds a real sense of tension to the hunt for incredible loot in a truly hostile environment, and the way Ubisoft handles this portion of the game will be crucial to how the game functions as a whole. The guys over at Gametrailers seem to agree, although they weren’t too happy with the way gunplay felt overall.
And if you’re looking at all this gameplay and thinking “hey, they certainly doesn’t look like The Division I remember”, well then you’re right. Ubisoft are notorious for their spectacularly stunning reveal gameplay segments that seem to never translate to the end product, and The Division seems no different. GamesRadar put their new footage up against what was shown at E3 in 2013, and the differences stick out like a sore thumb.
And it’s not the case of a PC build going up against Xbox One footage either. I don’t expect any version of the game to look even close to the vision Ubisoft had three years ago. but hey, at least those cool Echo segments still exist.
For a game that is out in just over a month, there’s also much Ubisoft isn’t willing to talk about yet. We still have no idea how The Division is planning to be sustained past its initial release, with Ubisoft briefly mentioning that cosmetic DLC would be sold post-launch. They’re also playing coy about how the endgame works, and what level capped players can expect to challenge them. That’s the bread and butter of an MMO, so it’s odd that there’s literally no information on how it’ll work.
It’s these and a few other sticking points that make me even more cautious about The Division, even if some elements really win me over. It’s out March 8th, with the closed beta kick off next week.
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