I was a long-time Destiny player from the day it released up until about mid-January of this year. It finally hit that point for me where I wasn’t all that interested in it anymore and I was looking for a temporary replacement for it. And after playing the beta for The Division, I thought that it might be a suitable replacement for my MMO grind loving Destiny fix.
Turns out that fix has only lasted two weeks, at least for the time being. But let’s dissect this Ubisoft release, shall we?
The world is absolutely gorgeous, the developers have definitely put in a lot of detail into this post-choatic rioted New York City, to the point a ton of people are able to accurately point out their homes and significant places in this game. You really get the feeling that you’re in the middle of the city, albeit probably a little faster walk-through of it. Even more incredible are the weather effects that make the city even more full of life. When it starts snowing, it’s beautiful and terrifying at the same time. The world is clouded and foggy and the lighting shining makes it harder to see with again looks incredible, but at the same time makes you worry that you’ll walk right into a battle where you’re at an immediate disadvantage since the AI isn’t affected by the weather. The level of detail is upped even more with the little things, something Ubisoft games have tended to forget at time, especially with textures. Graffiti on the walls, the many fires, footsteps in the snow (even on vehicles!) and the many things you can knock over because you walk into it is insane, they’re all there and they look gorgeous. Generally speaking, a lot of these things are poorly rendered textures and invisible wall ridden, but in The Division, it’s as good as it gets, without compromise.
Gameplay-wise, the combat is pretty solid. The weapons feel good as they should, I didn’t find myself having any real trouble hitting the targets I wanted to. The real draw of The Division compared to Destiny for me is the idea that tactics were going to become an actual thing beyond “kill target” or whatever raid gimmick was applied to a boss battle. And especially towards the end game with the various daily challenge missions, tactics are especially needed. I found it absolutely thrilling to have to retreat from a battle and work our way back to pushing forward to where we were once more. The AI the majority of the time are very smart, not rushing too hard (unless they’re a melee/shotgun class) and actually landing their shots, not just firing a whole clip an inch around you. It forces you to actually think before you act, picking your first shot before starting an encounter, when to move between cover, all those things and that’s just talking about what you on your own are doing.
Along with how beautiful the world is, there is so much more depth to how horrifying this city has been over the time since the outbreak. The game achieves that through some of their collectibles such as phone recordings, incident reports and ECHOs, which are an incredibly simple way to add a little more into the world. Some of these are light-heartedly, but then you get some that are just dark and depressing, like watching a Cleaner burn his friend alive with a flamethrower even though his friend isn’t sick, mistaken for his asthma. It really adds to the drama of this viral destruction of New York.
Briefly on the Dark Zone, the PvP aspect of the game, I do think there’s a great foundation going on here. I like how you can achieve something in the DZ without even having to engage in PvP, as the majority of loot comes from defeat AI enemies and that’s great. You don’t have to get all your satisfaction from the DZ from killing other players. And (from the beta) any potential engagements with other players can be a very intense, standoffish situation. You don’t know what to do, what they’ll do and it can create some very intense situations. There’s a lot here that can be expanded upon for sure.
Finally, the loot at the very least is rewarding a lot quicker than Destiny’s is. When you see loot drop, it’s right there on the ground for you and you can use it right away (unless it’s Dark Zone loot). You also don’t have to level it up, so what you see that it has, you get immediately. And with so much loot going around and many different builds of it, you’re constantly finding yourself switching out loot for better stuff, or just testing out new weapons to see if you like them better.
The Dark Zone compared from the beta to now is absolutely pointless unless you count the loot specific to it. The entire point of the DZ was the ability to go rogue, kill other players, steal their loot, take the chance when the rest of the agents in the entire area could converge on you at any moment in response to the bounty on your head. But in the current release, there is literally no point to going rogue unless you have an alt solely for that purpose. As I watched on Angry Joe’s video review of the game, a test was made for dying while rogue and surviving. Not counting the DZ level drop, the different between dying a rogue and surviving the timer was a whopping 133,000 DZ credits. For the side of being killed as a rogue! It’s clear that until Ubisoft patches things, going rogue is not worth the risk at all and if there’s no reason to go rogue, the entire complexity of the Dark Zone diminishes. I feel no threat when calling for an extraction, I could watch 50 different players walk through and not be worried at all, no one’s going to shoot you as it’s not worth it one bit. The entire selling point of this game is not functional right now, plain and simple.
What is common place for MMO games when it comes to character creation. Uh, that it fucking has some creativity to it! I already knew it was going to be bad when I saw the “huge” list of options for my character. The fact that every face can’t even be applied with every possible skin colour alone told me how unique my character was not going to be. And now that I’m at the end game, it’s apparent that your character will be only slightly different than most. There’s really nothing in the game aside from the jacket rewards for completing the various collectibles that sets you apart from the majority of other players and even then, those jackets are really just two-colour jackets rather than one, amazing! We all wear similar pants, hats, jackets, there’s nothing to distinguish ourselves with. At least Destiny has shaders to make the same armor pieces we all have look a little different. Division has nothing for that.
While the mechanics are pretty solid, it’s an open world game so a lot of little hiccups do occur, especially in the combat. The AI can be dumb at times, standing still so you can headshot them easily, rushing right at you to take an entire clip of SMG ammo, all that jazz. But the worst was my own character not responding to commands. So many times I died because the first aid power would not activate. It’s also very easy to get corner or even stuck in the various debris on the ground and leave yourself wide open to enemy fire. I can’t walk over a small pile of garbage bags? Realism, eh?
The main story is very forgettable as there’s really no central plot beyond “there’s bad people out there, go get them!”. The infection which in the intro looks like the main plot point of the game is pushed to the side in favour of a rogue Division agent and military forces turning on the city, a dumbass cliche that’s become so overused in so many games nowadays. The majority of characters are also forgettable as well, Dr. Kandel the only one that stood out for me. Faye Lau is relegated to the bitter bitch who doesn’t get to fight, Paul Rhodes is the angry, cursing guy and Captain Benitez is pretty much the Commissioner Gordon of the game. I’m not even counting the villains, because they don’t matter. Most of all, the majority of the “story missions” have nothing to do with the plot, they’re solely there as missions you do to obtain wing points for your base of operations. What was the point of everything in this?!
THE ENTIRE GAME REVOLVES AROUND AN INFECTION! WHY DON’T WE EVER SEE SOMEONE INFECTED THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE GAME?!
What the bloody hell are we doing that doesn’t make us as bad as the people looting and killing in the city? Sure, we’re killing some really disgusting individuals like the Rikers and Cleaners, but the idiocy of us seeing a person looting a dead corpse and putting a bullet in his head before they know what hit them is absolutely ridiculous. We’re not executioners, I don’t care that by the game’s code if we get close enough to those looters, they’ll shoot at us. Cops, soldiers, they’re all trained to only fire on enemies when a threat is posed and the soldier’s intent is to kill that threat. So with that in mind, the omission of an arrest mechanic to the game or at the very least a disarming mechanic is baffling to me.
Why is there even a point to having alternate characters? You can use all the same guns, equipment, abilities, perks, talents, all that jazz. There’s legitimately no point to having an alt, unless you’re doing it to go rogue without caring about being killed. And once that DZ issue gets patched, I see absolutely no reason to ever have an alt.
There’s a great foundation with The Division, but the problem is that Ubisoft did not fill the world adequately with enough meaning beyond “go shoot stuff”. Destiny did the same thing, but gave us a bunch of things to do that would keep us busy. The Division gives you only enough to last you a week or so. And with the Dark Zone currently a near-pointless gimmick, there’s even less reason to play the game in its current state. I’m not saying the game’s bad, it’s potential was and still is very high. But given the game’s release state, it’s clear to me that even through patches and later expansions, this game will not reach the same quality that Destiny hit, at least for me.