5 things The Division does right
1. New York
For any video game the setting is one of the most important elements alongside mechanics of course but games like The Division live or die on how well the game world is fleshed out. This is one area The Division gets almost 100% right nailing both the visuals and the feeling of devastation and desperation.
Where ever you go within New York you’re sure to come across a city that is utterly devastated from the burning cars to the dead lying in the streets. Yes, it’s grim & nothing particularly new but Ubisoft have done a sterling job of giving us a believable consistent game world to explore and it’s not just limited to the streets but going into the Underground it’s eerily reminiscent of Metro. Here is New York one of my favourite places utterly devastated and crumbling with little police or military presence and it feels real & believable.
The sheer attention to detail is incredible from the litter strewn over the streets to the burning cars and the often unsettling Echo’s the New York city that Ubisoft have created is quite fantastic and a huge upgrade on those we played Last Generation. This level of detail would simply not have been possible on the PS3 or Xbox 360 compare The Division to Ubisoft’s own Ghost Recon series and you can see the differences. It’s remarkable that so much time and attention has been lovingly poured into making New York such a scary place to explore.
2. RPG Elements
Far from being another straight up shooter The Division is a deep RPG Shooter with more in common with dungeon crawling loot fests than the likes of Halo or Call of Duty. This never gets to the depth of say Diablo but there are far deeper RPG elements than purely cosmetic. The first Mass Effect is a better comparison than the likes of Destiny due to the heavy armour customisation options and configuration but the balance has been struck brilliantly.
Players that prefer a straighter up shooter style of game may find themselves Initially buried under the weight of options and stats but a few hours of gameplay and it all starts to make sense. The Damage of a weapon or the Armour of an item mixed with perks and skills all complement each other and most importantly the play style of the player. I like the Medic skills so my load out reflects that prioritising my ability to heal myself and team mates over Tech or Combat skills like turrets and grenades.
3. Tactical Freedom
Many games encourage teamwork but few in such an overt way as The Division. Skills compliment classes and having a balanced team is often the difference between crushing the opposition or taking a pasting. On harder difficulties the game can be brutal especially in Challenge mode making teamwork, communication and squad balance critical to success of failure.
Playing with friends is the way for with The Division, communicating, calling out positions and asking for support adds such a depth to the game that many titles even games like Destiny simply can’t replicate.
Solo play by contrast is a dramatic departure and feels shallow, unsatisfying and a vastly inferior experience. The grinding becomes a chore to the point where the loot just isn’t worth struggling through waves of enemies to collect. It’s a game best played with friends or random through the match making system
4. Sweet, sweet loot baby
The secret sauce to many RPG games is the promise of ever better loot in the form of Weapons, Armour or other customisations. Progressing your character via the XP system is great but nothing beats picking up a more powerful item to blast enemies with. The Division gets this spot on through careful balance and a risk\reward system perfectly weighted to keep you searching for that next upgrade.
It’s a very nuanced system with each item having multiple stats and balancing DPS with, Health and Tech is a delicate, time consuming task. Most items especially armour can buff one stat whilst nerfing another so you never get the perfect item, there is always better out there so you keep going just a bit longer.
It’s a cheap technique for sure but one that is widely used within RPG games and something that rewards player time and dedication. Seeing that high level item drop from an enemy is what keeps some players going back and for games like The Division the loot system can be make or break. For me it’s an added incentive to keep going when perhaps a narrative only reward may have seen me switch off altogether.
5. Combat Mechanics
Games like The Division have progressed the RPG genre a long way and no longer is it considered acceptable to have action RPG games hamstrung by poor Gunplay and combat mechanics. Older RPG’s often fell into that trap but The Division although not perfect is a solid shooter with decent mechanics merged to a deep RPG. Occasionally the movement especially in indoor locations is fiddly it never becomes frustrating or rage inducing.
Outside on the New York streets the Combat Mechanics really shine when moving between cover using the active cover system is especially polished. Moving into cover is more Ghost Recon than the heavy slamming of Gears of War but it’s quick enough to not leave you exposed to enemy fire for longer than necessary. Once in cover the nifty active cover system allows you to pick a route keeping you low and your exposure as low as possible. Using the system well is key in some of the more difficult encounters allowing you to flank enemies whilst keeping out of fire. Simply look at a valid piece of cover and hold the button and away you go. Simple but effective.
The Gunplay is also very good with each weapon feeling different and unique with strengths and weaknesses that dictate their best usage. The standard shooter classes are present and correct with Marksman, Assault Rifles, Submachine guns, Shotguns and Pistols all acting as you would expect in a Call of Duty game but the wide variety of each and their numerous attachments and perks add a distinctly individual style to each. There is a real depth to the weapons that was a surprise once I started to experiment with loadout and mods that helped me fine tune my weapons and kit.
So 5 things I think The Division gets right any I missed? Let me know bellow