I have finally done it. I have completed every mission, done every side quest, upgraded my base of operations to 100%, and saved the city. With over 30 hours of gameplay, I can say that I have played enough of The Division to give it an honest review and honestly, the game is pretty amazing. It has everything that you would expect, plus more promised in the coming months.
Ubisoft has a long, great history with the Tom Clancy series of games. Whether it be Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, or Rainbow Six they have all been garnished with high ratings. The Division is no different. With the feel of an MMO and the play style of an RPG, it is no sweat getting lost for hours in the wintery, mostly dead streets of New York City where a disease dubbed “The Dollar Flu” has ravaged the streets. It is up to the Division, a group of special agents that are only called in when things are at their worst, to track down the cause of the flu and help scientists better understand what is happening and how it can be stopped.
Face Your Future
You start by creating your character, which is slightly underwhelming. There are a very, and I mean a very limited number of choices in character facial customization. When in groups for missions, I often take screenshots of my character next to 3 others that look exactly like me, like a sort of triplet murder squad.
Your character is thrust into the open world of New York City with the bare essentials. From here, you play to earn weapons, armor, mods, talents, and abilities. The best place to start is armor and weapons. The city itself is beautiful. Ubisoft really did an amazing job of recreating real streets in New York, filling them with snow, and adding in a bunch of nervous, freezing, accusatory New Yorkers. The game also has a very drastic weather system. You can go from bright and sunny to a blizzard with zero visibility in 5 minutes. This can kick up the level of difficulty at any minute and is actually a really nice touch that pulls away from the classic “Is it sunny or rainy?” mechanic.
Like every other MMO style game, The Division uses a grey, green, blue, purple, gold color scale for rarity of their weapons, armor, and mods. Based on your level (30 being the max), you will swap out your guns and armor a lot. Each piece of armor has stats to increase health, damage output, or effectiveness of your abilities. Each gun has stats like stability, accuracy, reload speed, etc. As you get higher up in levels, your armor and guns add perks unlocked certain ability scores. You can also modify your guns and armor to raise their stats or add attributes like faster recovery, more turret damage, larger blast radius…the list goes on forever. Guns can also be modded by adding scopes, muzzles, clips, and even fancy paint jobs. There are endless options for customization and gear layouts. Want to be a sniper? There are gear and mods for you. Want to be a healer? You can up your healing game with fancy perks and talents. After you have the perfect character (for now) it is time to do some missions!
Your Mission, If You Choose To Accept It
Missions in The Division relate closest to Dungeons in an MMO. Team up with up to 4 other players and take on hordes of enemies, rescue hostages, and take down gang leaders. These parts of the game will reveal the bulk of the story and will drop the most beneficial gear for you to advance and give you skill points for your base of operation, which we will cover later. Missions take some work, as the bulk of the game is a cover based shooter. If you stay open for too long, you will die 100% of the time, guaranteed. Hide behind cars, mailboxes, barricades, and other obstacles and wait for the perfect time to strike, making your way from building to building on route to your goal. Down the boss, collect your loot, and unlock the story. Rinse and repeat. When not doing main missions, you can visit safe houses for little side quests.
Safe houses are scattered all over the city and provide you with extra opportunities to gain experience, items, and skill points. Get the situation report and check the map in each safe house to unlock points of interest on your main map where help is needed. I have done about 50 defend our supply missions, or 50 “don’t let our people who stand in the open get killed” missions. I have also activated about a million virus research terminals to get more and more experience or skill points for upgrades. Is it repetitive? Yes. Am I going to stop doing it? No. I had the same experience with Destiny and with over 1100 hours played, but complain as much as I did, I kept going back. There is a word for this kind of gameplay: addictive. Now, the point of all this is to upgrade both yourself and your base of operations.
All Your Base Are Belong To Us
The base of operations is like your main hub. It has a Tech Wing, a Medical Wing, and a Security Wing, all of which require points to upgrade. Upgrading these wings using skill points (it’s all coming full circle!) unlocks new abilities that you can equip your character with. It also gives you some free crafting material every few hours and even fancy new clothes to make your agent look super fly. Upgrade each wing to 100% to unlock master mods for your abilities.
For example one of the abilities is a Seeker Mine, which I affectionately call BB-8. He follows me around and when he detects an enemy he runs up to them, bounces into the air, and explodes into fiery clouds of napalm, burning my foes to cinders. He also makes super adorable noises. After upgrading the Security Wing to 100%, I unlocked the master mod to give BB-8 extended range and a larger blast radius. I have found, however, that some of the standard mods you unlock are at times better than the master mods. Along with the upgrades, there are gear vendors, weapons vendors, and a crafting station to make weapons and armor using parts you find during your travels and blueprints you pick up during missions.
Hello Darkness My Old Friend
The other big part of The Division is the Dark Zone. This is a player versus player versus environment area. You treat it much like the main game, roaming the streets and killing enemies to collect loot, except for a couple of caveats. First being that all loot collected in the Dark Zone is infected. The only way to get access to your loot is to have it extracted out by helicopter at one of the several extraction zones inside the Dark Zone. The second catch is that other players in the zone with you can backstab you and take all the gear you’ve picked up. When an extraction is called by any player, you will be alerted and can choose to also extract your gear or try to take out the other players and steal and extract theirs. Be warned. If you do kill another player in the Dark Zone, you will be marked as a rogue agent and marked on the map as well. While Rogue, you can not leave the Dark Zone and players who kill you receive no penalty.
You also earn Dark Zone points to spend on gear and guns and level separately inside the zone (DZ level cap is 99), as opposed to the outside PvE environment. I really enjoy how the player versus player combat was handled in this game; it doesn’t force you to be “bad”, and when you are bad, it forces you to see how bad (or evasive) you really are. It’s fresh, new, and exhilarating. Oh, and near player communication is also used so you can hear people who are talking on their mics when they approach, which was one of my favorite parts of the Halo series. I don’t want to invite strangers to my party–I prefer brief points of contact when close and when needed.
The Long Road Ahead
Tom Clancy’s: The Division is a sprawling, lawless, challenging game that can absorb you for hours on end without you even noticing. It was delayed a few times, but was well worth the wait. Ubisoft has a ton planned and a really good roadmap laid out for what they plan to do in the coming months, like adding large scale missions called Incursions (which for you MMO people are raids), more weapons and armor, and more side missions. This is a great start to a new franchise and is loved by everyone I have talked to who has played it. With what has been laid out for me, I can look past the sometimes long load times and into the bright snowy future of New York City. Now if you don’t mind, I hear there are some Cleaner thugs stealing my supplies in Hell’s Kitchen and they must be stopped!
- Impressive Combat
- Endless Customization
- Challenging Group Play
- Fresh Take on PvP
- Some Long Loading
- Side Missions are Cut and Paste