The Division – Review
I’ve spent the last week digging into The Division, and have logged almost another 40 hours into the game on top of the time I spent in the Betas I was able to get into. While I haven’t seen everything the game has to offer yet, I have managed to hit the maximum level, and have spent some time in the Dark Zone, extracting that precious, precious loot. And having spent a total of almost 50-60 hours into the game, all in all, I gotta say I’m impressed.
To begin, I’m assuming you’ve already read my beta impressions article. I cover a lot of the interface and basics of the game, and it’s a lot of content that hasn’t really changed much in the full release. In this review, I wanted to focus more on how the game feels, and how fun it may be, this time around.
I managed to hit the max level for the game, level 30, in under 30 hours, that doesn’t even include my Dark Zone rank (which is currently around 25). You gain levels by killing enemies and completing missions outside of the Dark Zone, you increase your Dark Zone rank by killing enemies and rogue agents within the designated area. The large portion of New York City that you spend your time in is divided up into zones that have assigned level ranges. Each zone will have it’s own share of story missions and side missions to complete, as well as collectibles to hunt down. All in all, there are 16 districts to run around and level in, and 6 Dark Zone districts, the Dark Zone representing a large chunk of the middle of the map.
As you level, you’ll find new loot, discover new safehouses, and uncover the story of what happened on the fateful Black Friday to trigger the events of The Division. Each Safehouse acts as a hub for the area, where you can resupply, purchase from a vendor, find a group via matchmaking, and be notified of the available missions in that district. Each district has it’s own unique characteristics to it, and each safehouse has a very unique feel.
Your main “Base of Operations” has 3 wings to it. Each wing is upgradable and correlates to your skills and abilities you’ll unlock as you progress. Medical, Tech and Security wings, each representing a resource that you need to develop to better be able to re-take the city and regain control. As you progress the story, you’ll complete missions that reward you with resource credits that you can use to upgrade specific wings of your base. Complete a mission to take an enemy stronghold, and you’ll receive currency you can use to upgrade your Security wing. Each wing comes with around 10 different sections that you can unlock, each one providing you with new bonuses in the form of Skills, Talents or Perks, and can even unlock vendors or other benefits for your base.
Skills are the abilities that you use during battle. You can have two normal skills equipped at a time, and one “uber” skill. Each Medical, Tech and Security tree gets a total of four skills that you’ll unlock as you upgrade the respective wing. Each has three normal skills, and one “uber” skill that you unlock once you’ve completed all upgrades to that wing. However, each skill also has it’s own modifiers that you can unlock and equip that can subtly change the effect of the skill. Finally, your “uber” skills, these unlock only after you’ve fully upgraded a wing, and can turn the tide of a battle at the cost of a long cooldown. For example, the security wing ultimate skill gives you a major boost to your defense, as well as a move speed boost for a short period.
Alongside skills are your talents, which are unlocked in the same manner. Each wing gets it’s own group of talents that you’ll unlock as you play, and talents can be assigned to one of four available “active” talent fields that you’ll unlock as you level up yourself, and your base. Talents are smaller character traits that you can pick and choose based on your play style. They can alter things that you do naturally. For example, using a medkit will heal a portion of your allies health as well, or you may gain a defense boost by going from cover to cover. None feel mandatory, so it allows more customization based on your play style, or what your group may need.
Last, are your perks. These are simply bonuses that you’ve unlocked as you improve your base. Whether it be additional vendors in your base, or increased carrying capacity for your medkits/grenades, these ALL apply as you unlock them. One thing of note, because it’s not readily apparent, this is where you upgrade your biohazard mask’s filters. There are marked areas on the map (some as part of missions) that are biohazard areas. If your mask’s filter isn’t high enough, you’ll die of contamination if you try to venture into the area.
Like safehouses, your base will give you access to a resupply point, vendors, including special vendors that you can unlock, caches that you can unlock that will give you crafting materials periodically throughout the day, as well as the crafting table. You’ll unlock schematics as you progress that allow you to craft the gear you’ll need, instead of buying it or waiting for a drop. I mentioned in the beta article how you could equip your weapons with different scopes, grips, and other mods, but you can also equip mods to your armor. Some pieces of armor will come with a mod slot that lets you equip a component that can increase one of your primary skills, or modify one of your other secondary stats (crit chance%, +% damage to elites/armor, %resist to status effects, etc.) One of the tech wing’s perks is the ability to re roll a bonus stat on your gear, similar to Diablo 3. It will cost you some credits, and once you re roll a stat, that’s the only one you’ll be able to re roll on that item…but for the min/maxing crowd, it’ll be important to optimize every piece of gear.
Once you reach level 30, you’ll find some new things are available to you. You’ll always have the Dark Zone to venture into to try and increase your rank and improve your gear, but you’ll also find daily missions. Dailies are unlocked at level 30, and give you a reason to go back and return to the lower level missions. After completing a story mission, you can rerun it at anytime, using matchmaking. It also lets you choose the difficulty, Normal, Hard, or Challenging. Each level of difficulty of course increases the rewards you get for the missions. And the Hard and Challenging modes are meant to be played only after you reach level 30. Hard Modes are slightly uptuned missions that are intended to just give you an increased challenge if you decide to rerun the missions. Challenge modes are meant to be cleared by a group of agents, and provide even better rewards. Each day, you’ll get a few of these hard/challenging missions get marked as dailies. Completing a daily gets you an added reward for the mission, but also, another type of currency.
You have your two types of currency, normal credits and your dark zone credits. They’ve also added Phoenix credits. You’ll get a small amount of these for doing things like killing a named enemy, or completing the hard/challenge mode missions. Dailies will also give you an extra Phoenix credit reward. Phoenix credits are used at a special vendor in your base to purchase some of the best gear. So you’ll definitely want to run the dailies every chance you get, so you can accrue tons of the rewards! One thing I want to add is that Ubisoft claims that these will never be sold for real money. They’ve claimed several times that there will be no “pay to win” options for this game.
The last thing I want to cover is the game’s longevity. Seeing as how it’s 2016, and we can’t seem to escape the idea of prepurchasing content the developer hasn’t even made yet, of course the game has a season pass. Ubisoft has already promised two free pieces of DLC shortly after release, that add in The Division’s version of raids, called Incursions. In fact, yesterday I noticed a new mission on my map showing the upcoming incursion location. Along with the free content, they’ve planned 3 pieces of paid DLC for the first year that promises to expand the story and content of the game. The first will take players into the underground of NYC (it’s unclear if they’re referring to the subway, sewers or both), the second claims to take players to an environment that will test their survival, and the last is just called “Last Stand”. It sounds promising for year one, but we’ll have to see where they go from there.
All that being said, here’s the downsides I’ve noticed so far. First, the Dark Zone is definitely a work in progress concept. There’s very little reward for going rogue, and quite a bit of penalty, which has most players trying to avoid getting flagged as a rogue agent. So as of now, the Dark Zone is just a large zone for collecting loot where friendly fire is turned on, and if you go overboard, other people will punish you. Ubisoft is definitely aware of that, and are trying to figure out how to tune it properly for the right risk/reward. And seeing as how this last week was launch week for the game, there have been quite a few connectivity based issues. Login queues, occasional server lag that manifests as controls either not responding or your character just deciding to keep running in a certain direction, and not responding to anything else for several seconds. But I definitely get the feel that these are all just launch hiccups that will be solved by beefing up their server farm. This is by far not the worst online shooter launch I’ve been a part of (I’m looking at you, Battlefield games.) At this point, a week in, I see the occasional but rare issue with connectivity, and I’ve run across a couple of bugs in the environment that prevent your player from moving across an elevation change.
All in all, I love the game, personally. A lot of writers will try to come up with a score for a game. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I just know whether or not a game is worth the $60 that most publishers want, and in this case, I don’t regret buying it. I recommend this game to my friends in real life, and I’d certainly recommend it to any of you. I just know that at the end of each work day, I’m itching to get home so I can log back into The Division.