“A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe, and fifty times: It is a beautiful catastrophe.” (- Le Corbusier)
New York is by far a great destination for business, leisure, glory, pride, and all the madness that comes with it. Needless to say, New York is a chaos of happenings, both good and bad, and Le Corbusier’s quote roots to the simple idea that the city is a cacophony of beautiful sounds. That being said, The Division all takes place in this city – the so-called city of dreams.
Being a writer from Baltimore, an American city not too far off New York, Tom Clancy created a universe in which Ubisoft Massive, the developer of this title, exploited and innovated in. The Division offers a unique MMO shooter experience that differentiates itself from other games of the franchise. After shipping out shooters from series like Far Cry, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six and Watch Dogs, how can The Division make an impact?
First and foremost, the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic universe whereas you have pretty much access to all of the modern technology: turrets, health packs, smart weapons and drones to name a few. It doesn’t go as far as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – it pretty much offers what you can find in a military black market store. Being Black Friday and all, the most sacred of holidays in the United States, the population was struck by a viral epidemic, resulting in hell. Chaos already reigns over New York, but there is a limit, some control if you wish. With this storm hitting the city, all hell is loose.
Oppression, extremists, radical groups, robbery, death…everything bad that can happen, does, and it is all portrayed very clearly in the game. The city, well what is left of it, needs you. This is when you come in!
As an agent of The Division, you have been summoned to New York by the Joint Task Force for some damage control. You are the elite of the elite, a sort of SEAL if you please – basically you are the last hope organization in times of major crisis. As part of training, you can withstand and survive any possible situation, but nothing gets you ready for a solo mission where you are against the rest of the city . Use all of your skills and available technology to face and defeat this chaotic New York.
New York is a mythical city in the real world; it is a place where dreams turn to reality – “if you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere”, some would argue. In The Division, the city looks disastrous and crumbles from every corner. The now ruined city is decorated with dead NPCs, abandoned vehicles and buildings, broken glass, and shady characters. The elements that ultimately represent the idea of post-apocalypse are all very present and well portrayed– it is a scary view to see the beautiful city we know look like such as wreck. If you have ever visited New York, the view comes to quite a shock. Don’t worry though, some of its beauty have been preserved, but how long will that last?
Even in Time Square, the liveliest of all places, is overwhelmed with sickness and despair – the population invite terror and mayhem. Everything about the setting is plain dark.
However scary it might seem, the game invites you to explore every corner. It is one of the biggest ones after all, so curiosity kicks in from the get go – you don’t need the game to remind you. Since you are facing such a large area, there are bound to be an equivalent amount of people in it. Unfortunately, there is a lot more walking than shooting. New York has lost its bread and butter, and is now subject to a stretchy and static open-world. Once you have complete missions in a certain zone, you have no real reason to return, unless you are looking for some collectibles.
Just like in any chaotic situation we can face in the real world, some of The Division’s characters take advantage of what is going on. As you explore New York, you will come across inhumane NPCs. This isn’t a Silent Hill game, but some of those folks are scary and dangerously armed. Those encounters defend The Division by offering intense action moments – this is when you feel valuable as a soldier. Be careful, however, because those NPC’s, as dumb as they might seem, still punish you with death-dealing shells, so relying on aiming is a must.
You can’t possibly do any damage control blindfolded; you have access to some of the best technology and weapons have to offer. As an elite marksman in an MMO open-world, you are given a lot of options when it comes down to taking action. When The Division was unveiled, it was said to offer a unique gameplay experience, but what are the elements that reflect that?
First of all, shooting takes an important role in the game. Just like any other TPS or FPS out there, those mechanics matter. If you are familiar with other games of the series, then you are in a safe zone because the controls aren’t so different. For new players, they are intuitive and easy to master. Yes, there is a lot going on, but the way everything is mapped makes sense and is very accessible. Aim and shoot with L2 / R2, run and melee with L3 / R3, use the D-Pad for your special items (grenades, special actions, etc.), the commands are easy to grasp. The only downside about those controls is the fact that you can’t really crouch. In a sense, it’s like having a car without a cup holder…not indispensable, but very frustrating when you need it.
Equipment also take on an important role in this title. Your character can have up to 3 weapons (pistol, primary and secondary weapon), as well as a six-piece armor: bullet-proof vest, backpack, gloves, holsters, headpiece and knee pads. Each piece of equipment has an influence over three important statistics: Firearms, Stamina and Electronics. While Firearms is directly responsible for the damage your weapons deal, Stamina is responsible for your health pool. As for Electronics, it dictates the effectiveness, and sometimes damage, output from skills. For instance, if you have high points in Electronics, the turret you would spawn would be more efficient; it will deal more damage.
Just like in World of Warcraft and Borderlands, for example, gears are rated by color. Normal are in grey, Standard are green, Specialized are Blue, and Superior, Purple. If you are geared with mostly grey, that means you are below average and should be weary of all of your stats. You will quickly realize that completing a mission doesn’t necessarily provide you with enough gear to take on the next. The best thing to do is to roam around and grind for good stuff, or craft something worthwhile.
As you progress through the game, the city will hide useful materials that can be used for making anything from armor to electronics. It shouldn’t be surprising to mention that the higher the gear level you want to craft is, the more resources are required. Weapons are also very customizable, which adds a lot more flavour to the experience. The best part about them? Not only can you make them look the way you want, but each one has its own distinctive feel.
In addition to gearing up and focusing on set stats, you can also allocate points using a talent tree system divided into three branches: Medical, Tech, Security. Each one offers a certain type of support. For example, Medical unlocks useful skills, such as marking opponents, healing allies, providing damage boosts, revive friends, etc. Security, unlike Medical, gives you protection by spawning covers, protecting you against bullets, and increasing your personal armor. As for Tech, it allocates skills that allow you to deploy turrets, use sticky bombs and mines, and more. In The Division, a player can put up to two points in each branch, giving you a lot of flexibility towards how you play the game.
However, to unlock certain skills, you will be given parts from missions and encounters. From that point, all you have to do is upgrade your base using said pieces, are you are set. The more skills you unlock and test out, the closer you will be from finding the perfect mix suited for your gameplay style.
Regardless of the skills and weapons you have, it is crucial to take your environment into consideration. Not only does New York provide a gruesome, but fantastic view of a post-apocalyptic ideal, it also offers an incredible battleground. The potential of the broken city isn’t taken for granted here. Whether it is to save yourself from others, hide and play tactically, or trap your enemies, each part of the city can be used at someone’s advantage, so positioning is key. Think ahead!
The goal in The Division is pretty clear: you must find the antidote to the virus, locate the culprit responsible, prevent him for resuming his activities, and save the city from total destruction. In order to achieve that, you will have to complete missions leading to the final chapter. Preventing you are a few important groups that will stop at nothing to take you down.
- The Cleaners: Who wish to cleanse the city by burning everything to the ground
- The Rikers Gang: A violent bunch from the Rikers Island Prison aiming for power and greed
- The Rioters: Thugs and outlaws trying to survive by any means
- The Last Man Battalion: A wire group paid to protect the assets of wealthy organizations
Of course, the game isn’t limited to main missions, but also has secondary quests that can be useful for intelligence collection, gather resources to help the citizens and gain better gear from the Joint Task Force. If you wish to get some of those purple ones, this is the best way to do so. As you complete some of those side quests, you will definitely gain experience and level up, but also move towards unlocking new skills, talents and perks. They are all related to the chaos happening in New York, so at the end of the day, they will make you a better agent and player, and ready you for what’s ahead.
In addition to the campaign mode, which basically resumes to the main missions, players have access to a special area called the Dark Zone. This quarantine zone is where all the player versus player versus environment (PvPvE) takes place. Entering this zone tags you as ‘targetable’, meaning that other players on the same server as you can see you, and kill you. Just like in the campaign portion of the game, the Dark Zone also has missions and loot. Since you are playing for higher stakes, the loot is a lot more useful and powerful – you will also rank higher and face equally ranked players.
The Dark Zone isn’t a place where mistakes can be made – you have a lot to gain, but also a lot to lose. In this area, a new mechanic was introduced: The Rogue Protocol. As aforementioned above, the Dark Zone puts players against others and AIs as well. As you enter, you are tagged as a non-hostile agent. However, the second you take down another agent, you will become Rogue. It is important to mention that as a non-hostile player, shooting a rogue doesn’t make you into one; you have to shoot yet another non-hostile opponent. Unfortunately, when it comes down to feeling, characters you face compare to sponges in the way they tank bullets. For instance, you can shoot 30 rounds from a sub-machine gun and still have to reload and shoot some more before downing them.
This element makes sense in terms of what kind of stats and equipment are equipped, but gameplay wise, it fails to deliver relevance. This is also a standard outside of the quarantine area. However, all of the effort you put into killing someone is greatly rewarded, so there’s that.
Being a contaminated area and all, you can’t just take anything from there and leave; you are required to go through an extraction process. The loot is great and if you want to use it outside the Dark Zone, you must go through the steps of firing a flare gun and wait for the helicopter to arrive. Caution, however, because shooting the flare gun alerts others, so you might want to keep your head and weapons ready for any encounters. Anything that was looted within the zone can be lost and stolen by other players. However, it is impossible for them to steal anything that has already been secured and extracted.
The Division surprises on many levels, especially when it comes to aesthetics. It offers a solid gameplay and unique PvPvE experience. Set aside the repetitive missions, generic theme, and monotonous setting, the game offers a wonderful view of a post-apocalyptic New York; a very imaginative and realistic virtual representation of a “what if this would happen”. In terms of character customization, the court is pretty big and offers a lot of space thanks to the easy to use talents, perks and equipment stats. Compared to shooter whereas you must tackle the game Rambo-style, The Division opens many doors as too how you can take it on. Unfortunately, it’s open-world feels bland and static, and zones have no real reason to be revisited afterwards. As for the Dark Zone, the core of The Division, it is a fantastic experience, but only has relevance once you reach level 30.
Playing The Division brought me back to the good times I was playing Borderlands 2. Both might be very different from one another, but they do share some similarities. It is interesting in The Division to force players into discovering new skills, however, I found that not only are there not enough to go by, but limiting a player to two skills per tree is a little excessive as a rule.
Besides that, the Dark Zone is definitely an interesting feature of the game. While I was playing, I discovered many ways to fool others with proximity mines hidden under health packs. Sometimes, the game brings out the evil in me, and I am glad to be able to play a game where I have such freedom to express myself. As a World of Warcraft player, I enjoy games that allow me to swap from PvE to PvP, and The Division does just that.