This game has a lot of content, you just can’t play it all in one day or it won’t be fun.
When The Division was first announced, I knew basically nothing about it, nor did I care much about it. But after two years of hype as well as playing the beta and logging in over 24 hours in the first week, I think I am qualified to write a comprehensive and fair review. The game has many elements that I will break down and discuss individually. So sit back and grab a snack because this is gonna be a long one.
The Division is an MMO RPG with combat elements similar to a third-person shooter. It is a console-based MMO, however, which means there are only social events in areas where players can congregate, such as Safe Houses, Hub, and Dark Zone. You can also team up with up to four of your friends, or matchmake with up to four people, to do missions, explore the open world, or traverse the Dark Zone together. The game revolves around finding loot that is better than your currently equipped loot, and like most RPGs, there are several attributes that dictate whether the game, or the player for that matter, considered the loot to be better. I won’t get into all of it, but just because a gun has a higher DPS, you may choose to keep your current one because it is more accurate. The same goes for gear. Even though the vest gives you more armor, your current one may buff your health so you choose to keep it. The ability to change gun attributes with attachments or the ability to re-roll gear stats using the Recalibration Station adds a bit more strategy to how you collect loot toward the endgame and make it more interesting. Loot is not solely based on Random Number Generators. As you progress through the game, you start finding higher level and higher rarity loot. What you get is more random, but enemies will always drop loot based on their level so just because you found an Uncommon drop, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is better than your Common item. The rarer the item, the more stats and attributes it has, but a Superior gun that is Level 15 is probably worse than a Common gun that is level 25. There are also a handful of perks and talents you can unlock. Perks are passive elements that will do things such as increase consumable duration. Talents are passive as well, but they have to be equipped. Up to four can can be equipped at a time and they include features such as taking 30% less damage when moving cover-to-cover. One talent slot is unlocked at the start of the game and subsequent spots can be unlocked as you progress. There are also a variety of gadgets that can be equipped. I won’t go into specific details about each one, but they allow for each agent to create his own play style as well as collaborate with other agents. Each gadget can be upgraded with different abilities so two agents can run the same gadget without running the same ability, further diversifying the choices and strategies employed by players.
The combat system was clunky to me in the beta, but felt pretty smooth in the full game. I don’t know if anything was changed or if I just got used to it, but either way you’ll adapt pretty quickly. The game is a cover-to-cover based shooter. When you take cover behind an object, you have the opportunity to blind-fire, or pop up and aim at the enemies. The game has a neat little feature when firing from behind cover as well. If your crosshair is aimed around the cover, but the gun is still pointed into the cover (this happens sometimes when peeking near the edge of a wall) a small reticle will appear where your gun is actually pointed, allowing you to accurately move enough to move your gun out of cover without exposing yourself. The addition of sights make guns able to zoom, the majority of which just zoom in on the crosshair while a select few actually pull you into an ACOG style scope. There is also a cover based movement system. When behind cover, if you aim at another barrier and hold the Cover Button, you will automatically move to that barrier and take cover behind it. The one thing I wish this game had, which most games don’t, is lateral and reverse cover movement. It is possible to move around a corner while staying in cover, but it is not possible to move, say, from one railing cover to another without breaking cover. The same can be said for reverse cover. In order to move backwards, you have to break cover and jump over a barrier, then take cover behind it. It sounds complex and usually isn’t an issue, but in the heat of battle it can be a little tedious and dangerous.
The Dark Zone is definitely where The Division shines the most. The Dark Zone is the free-for-all PVP area. In the Dark Zone, agents have a special leveling system and earn special credits. These can be used to open special loot chests and buy special weapons from vendors around the edges of the Dark Zone. The Dark Zone is crawling with high level enemies, most of which drop loot after being killed. This loot can then be extracted from any extraction point located around the Dark Zone, then later accessed at your Base of Operations. Sounds simple enough however, there is one major variable in the Dark Zone, other players. In addition to your group, the Dark Zone is teeming with random players, all of whom are looking for loot themselves. Most players are docile and will let you go about your business so long as you let them go about theirs. They will help you kill NPCs and just tend to themselves. However, some agents choose to go Rogue. By choosing to damage or kill another player, they have chosen to go Rogue. These players are marked on the mini-map and there is no penalty for killing them, only rewards. This element makes for an interesting decision, fend for yourself, or risk going Rogue and get some other player’s loot. While the Dark Zone is an interesting and fun idea, it doesn’t play out as intended. It is supposed to be high-risk, high-reward for going Rogue, however it is currently high-risk, lo-reward. By surviving the Rogue timer, which can be as high as five minutes and increases every time you kill a player, you get no xp and very little money. As a result, there aren’t very many Rogues on a server, so you are mostly tasked with killing NPCs. I honestly think this is just an overreaction to the beta where everyone would go Rogue and I expect Ubisoft will makes changes to rebalance it.
I have gone on record hundreds of times saying that I dislike Destiny and since the launch of The Division, it has been compared to Destiny. So I thought I would take the time to discuss this comparison. On the surface, yes, the two games are similar. They both revolve around doing missions to get loot, then using that loot to do more missions. But that’s really where the similarities end, aside from similarities that all MMO RPG shooters share. For starters, The Division has a true open world to explore. Even in “Campaign” you can explore the city, find secrets, story elements, and even loot houses for cosmetics, consumables, and even sometimes loot. The Division also has a huge cast of Side Missions to do that all delve deeper into the story. Also, the missions in The Division are much more fun to do. Each time I play one, I discover a new story element I didn’t notice the first time. Which brings me to the big item, the story. The Division has a pretty in-depth story. This is obviously based off the book and I’m not sure if it goes beyond or not. By just completing the main missions, you can get a pretty good idea of what is happening in the world of the game. However, by doing side missions and finding intel, you get even more information to go even deeper into the story. Unlike Destiny where you had to decipher the story based on Grimore cards, which were awarded at random, you can seek out intel to learn more about the story and all intel pieces are either videos to watch or audio clips that can play while you are still playing the game. No reading necessary. The only place where the games cross in similarity is the end-game, which I will get more into in a minute. In Destiny, you could play the same raids or strikes or story missions over and over, or go into the Crucible, arguably the worst competitive experience ever. But in The Division you can play the Daily Missions or go to the Dark Zone, which I have spent hours upon hours in just due to it’s sheer danger and unpredictability. But both games boil down to this: the game was made with the intention of playing like a normal person would. Playing a few hours after work and taking the game at a casual pace. However, most gamers put games first. I reached level 30 within 3 days of the game’s launch and I had also logged in close to 18 hours at that point as well as speeding through levels to match my friends. This game has a lot of content, you just can’t play it all in one day or it won’t be fun. The game has been out for just over a week and one of my friends is already bored of it, but within the first five days, he had logged in over 60 hours.
As stated before, The Division currently has little-to-no end-game. You can play the Daily Missions, which are replays of the story missions on a higher difficulty. This is interesting and can prove to be real fun for those who crave a challenge, but they do get tedious and boring after a while. Completing the Dailies will award you with Phoenix Credits which can be used to buy High End gear at a special vendor. You can also go to the Dark Zone, but after finding the best loot you can, the enemies become easy and the current lack of PvP makes it boring. I do worry that this game will become the next Destiny in the sense that there will be nothing to do once you become all-powerful. However, there is hope. There will be three expansions to The Division for a cost of $30 for the Season Pass (much lower than Destiny’s totaled $80) as well as monthly content updates. It is clear that there will be something added to the end-game of The Division because it is currently possible to level up through Level 30, the current Max Rank, but never actually finish. It costs 415,000 xp to get to what would be level 31, but when you reach 414,800 xp, the xp keeps cycling back to 414,800 instead of leveling you up. All in all The Division is a fun game. It is even more fun with your friends and provides a more tactical approach to the MMO RPG shooter genre. I would recommend this game, however, if you are on the fence, wait a few months until more updates are out until getting it. That way there will be more content to enjoy. And finally, the score. Due to the fun of the game with friends, the replayability of the missions and the fun of the Dark Zone, coupled with the knowledge of multiple content updates, expansions and support (they released a patch to balance guns within the first 72 hours of launch) I give the game, in its current state: