United We Stand, Divided We Fall
HIGH There’s something for everyone.
LOW There’s something for everyone to complain about.
WTF How have I spent five whole days playing this game?
The Division recently celebrated its one year anniversary, and it’s been a rocky road. The launch struggled due to connectivity issues and weird design choices, including making people queue just to get quests. As the game went on, the general feedback was that there was a good time to be had, but that it ran out too quickly.
To both Ubisoft’s and Massive Entertainment’s credit, many of the complaints since then have been addressed — it just took time. Now that the current version has had so many changes, the flow of progression through the content doesn’t resemble what it did initially – I’d say that there’s good reason for early adopters to return and check it out.
While Brad covered the original at release, the most readily-available and current version of The Division is the ‘Gold Edition’. This review will outline the contents and break down the pros and cons of the core campaign, the extras, and the three major DLCs, all of which are included in the package.
The Main Campaign
Since its release, the difficulty of the story mode has been significantly sanded down. It’s easy to breeze through any of the missions and the bump in XP received means that level progression is speedy. The developers clearly want players to get to the endgame. The stuff available after the story is broken up into a handful of side content that varies in quality.
First, there are strike missions — short operations used to accrue credits that can be spent on High Value Targets. HVTs are one-off missions with high powered ‘named’ enemies that provide better loot drops. Then there are the daily and weekly challenges that require players to kill X number of enemies or find X number of crafting materials in exchange for a loot box with random gear and customization options — I hope most players like brown. These activities are little more than padding, and much of the time, the HVTs don’t adequately reward the grinding that players will have to do.
There are also Incursions – larger, unique missions with much higher difficulty set in new areas of the city, and the Clear Sky incursion (introduced last April) is the pick of the lot. These missions offer substantial challenge and are deeply satisfying to complete. So far, I’ve only made it through one of them, and that was thanks to everyone in my group being max level, having a good set of gear, and a thorough understanding of the level layout and enemies that would be encountered.
World Tiers are also new. These tiers allow players to tinker with the game’s difficulty — once a player hits level 30, they can increase the challenge of the whole world by toughening AI, improving some of their routines (they flank more and retreat when under threat, etc.) as well as increase the quality of the gear. Of course, there’s also the option to drop the tier back down again, so that the OCD-afflicted (like me!) can easily go through and hoover up all of the pointless collectibles littering the world.
The Dark Zone
The Dark Zone was The Division’s spin on PVP. I enjoyed it due the tension of every encounter with another player — are they going to shoot me on sight, or will we both wave at each other and move on? The risk here is that players lose all their loot upon death, making the prospect of dealing with others a risky one. Those who choose to eliminate other players and snatch their haul become Rogues, and consequently, targets for all players in the area who have been peaceful.
At the moment, the penalties for becoming a Rogue are less harsh, which means there’s almost always a group of 3-4 running around and taking advantage of solo players who are easily overpowered. I visit this area less now, despite the greatly expanded zones and a new North East section. I might be alone in my dislike of the changes, though, as Ubisoft seems to have successfully revitalized the PVP – it’s busier than it was six months ago. Anyone looking for frantic gunfights will find them there.
The Underground – DLC
The Underground is a procedurally-generated set of dungeons ideal for MMO players that enjoy getting together with three like-minded friends to go on the hunt for some nice drops. It’s easy to solo on lower levels, but cranking up the World Tier rating allows for much brisker challenges. This is the most grind-focused of the three DLCs, and people seem to play this only for the rewards at the end of each area. There has been some dissent among players as to whether the loot here is even worth the effort, and the developers have been tweaking the values ever since. This is probably my least favorite of the collection simply due to this focus not being the reason I play The Division. Getting gear is great, but if I’m playing for gear with little in the way of narrative or experiential payoff, then I tend to veer away.
Survival – DLC
In contrast to Underground, Survival is not a friendly experience. In this mode, character gear and level is irrelevant. Every player is dumped into a fresh area with the task of finding a cure for their disease (oh by the way, you’re sick) while fighting against hunger, thirst and freezing to death. Players are armed only with a low-level pistol and, if they’re lucky, up to three other people in their party. The health bar does not recharge, so any shoot-out can result in death. Everything must be crafted while dodging through a swirling blizzard searching for warm, safe spaces, and keeping an eye on a timer that indicates when the player will die of infection. Each instance has approximately 20 players, either playing in groups or individually, and seeing the overall population count dwindle as I struggled to scrounge medicine or gear from dead bodies makes this the standout mode for me. It is unforgiving, totally different from the main game, and can be accessed by newcomers and old hands immediately since everyone starts on even footing at the beginning of a round.
The Last Stand – DLC
The final mode is a team-based control point game. Most players will find it necessary to change all their gear, as the tactics that work against the AI are not effective against a team of real people. This mode gives some validation to the grind I had previously done, but there can be a huge disparity between players — Although everyone is max level in this mode, there is no balancing in respect to gear. The result is that every now and then I would encounter an opponent who was seemingly indestructible thanks to equipment they’d earned in the main game.
The developers have made concessions to players who don’t have top-notch gear, and also to those who might not be twitch masters. For these people, this mode offers mobs that can be killed for points and standalone capture points that give team bonuses. However, it just doesn’t feel like enough, and this mode lacks the purity of Titanfall’s Attrition mode, which is what it appears to be emulating.
The Campaign, Dark Zone and Incursions are enjoyable while they last, but players looking for meaty, long lasting, end-game content would do well to make sure that at least one of the Gold Edition’s included DLCs seems like a good fit for the long haul – to reiterate, Underground is for those who like gear for the sake of gear in co-op, Survival doubles down on the main game’s oppressive, stark environment, and The Last Stand is for those that want to flaunt their set-ups and create gear envy in others.
For those who take the plunge, The Division’s updated and inclusive Gold Edition is better and more fully featured than the previous iteration, and it’s heartening to see Ubisoft sticking by this game and continuing to tweak it. Even better news? It’s already been announced that Season 2 will be free. What this entails we’ll have to see, but with this season ending so positively, I’m optimistic.
— AJ Small
Disclosures: This game is developed by Ubisoft Massive and published by Ubisoft. It is currently available on PC, XBO, PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the Xbox One. Approximately 50 hours of play were devoted to the campaign in both single and multi-player, and the game was completed. 70 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Mature and contains Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language. Taken directly from the ESRB site: Combat is highlighted by realistic gunfire, screams of pain, and large splashes of blood. Several sequences depict corpses, some tied up or hanging from railings, and players must rescue hostages in some levels of the game. Cutscenes occasionally depict bound hostages being stabbed or shot in the head. The words “f**k,” “sh*t,” and “a*shole” appear in the dialogue. The audio logs throughout the world have descriptions of abuse, drug use and other disturbing instances.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are subtitles for all dialogue in the game, however there aren’t enough visual indication for traps left around the game world (they beep) so some modes like Survival will be considerably harder.
Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable, but complete remapping is not possible. X/Y axes can be changed, stick sensitivity can be altered and so forth, but in general, there’s just one basic control scheme.
Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes available in the options.