Tom Clancys: The Division - Review

Entering the world of The Division means that you must drop everything immediately and answer the call of a life time. You're a sleeper agent who has been activated to join the last hope that humanity has of surviving a deadly viral outbreak. There have been teams before you, and there will be teams after you but that doesn't matter right now. What really matters is what you do with your time being part of the The Division.

Lenny Kravits enters The Division
Tom Clancy's: The Division places you into a dark, desperate and partially destroyed Manhattan in an open world with an impressive amount of destructible environments for all players to destroy and or explore. Simply described, The Division is an open world, online role playing game (RPG). Your mission, as a nameless and speechless character is to investigate the outbreak of a deadly virus and uncover its source. The game play isn't too dissimilar to other third person shooters on the market whereas you can carry a primary and secondary weapon as well as a sidearm (sound familiar). You also have access to a wide selection of explosives such as frag, gas, electric and sticky grenades. To further compliment your gear you can also equip special gear that can be used after a cool down time. Included in these are talents such as the ability to throw healing grenades, deploy an automated gun turret or use radar pulse, which can tag enemies and boost the damage you deal out.

There's a trophy/achievement for closing a car door - just for your obsessive types
The Division is heavily based on a cover based mechanic which is once again very familiar territory when referring to similar games in similar genres, especially when referring to Ubisoft's own titles such as Watchdogs and Splinter Cell.

When playing The Division for the first ten hours or so you are going to experience a lot of familiar video game design. So this might beg the question of "So what does The Division do that's worth my time, money and attention". The answer is quite a lot really. All of these familiar similarities that I have mentioned above are only so in their DNA. All of these features, benefits and advantages are very unique and feel like they've been given a thick coat of a new generation of online RPG gaming. For starters, The Division takes advantage of every ounce of power that its respective platform has to provide. Although I have only played on the Playstation 4 and the PC, I think that the Xbox One version even tries to use more than its platform has to provide. The characters models won't blow your face away with super photo-realistic looking characters, but the real 'WOW' facts comes in the form of the environment. The world is large and full of life and ambiance. Even though the game is set in a city that has been ravaged by a deadly virus and the streets are somewhat baron, there is still a sense of an eerie life to it. There are still a few citizens still roaming the streets just trying to find their way. There are also quite a lot of fauna trouncing around the place. Just in case you're wondering, the answer is "yes", you can shoot the rats, birds and dogs that are around in the world, however if you do shoot the dogs, you sir/madam are the animal.

To compliment the alive but still dead city is the realistic weather effects and day/night cycle. The weather can change from fine and clear to foggy, rainy or snowing at random intervals. On top of that vision can also be hindered at night time when it obviously gets a lot darker. No matter what form of weather you get stuck in there is one thing for certain and that is that it will always look damn amazing. The lighting mixed with the particle effects and no doubt a whole palette worth of special effects, make the game really stand out when looking at it on the whole on the visual level.

Possibly the biggest and most addictive part of a game like this is the levelling and XP system. Once again this part of The Division will be very familiar to players coming from other games in a similar genre. As you progress you will level up your character which in turn unlocks stronger abilities and opens up the ability to use stronger weapons and perks. The character levelling tops out at 30 at present time and may or may not see an increase with the pending DLC drops. Levelling runs at a steady to fast pace early on in the game and gradually slows down as you reach the level 15 mark. You can run around the open world picking up collectibles or helping out people in need, which will usually grant you around 300XP but after a while that doesn't really move your XP bar that much. The biggest XP earner in the whole game will be the main missions. Naturally these main missions when completed will often send your character up around 1.5 levels or even more. The levelling in The Division is a delicate balancing act. Depending on how much time you devote to side missions and collecting bits and pieces, you may find yourself being over powered for the next mission, or severely under powered. If you can pace yourself just right you should sail through the whole game in around 25-30 hours.

Died taking a shit with his pants still on
This brings me to a point where I must explain a problem that I found in the makeup of the game. I'm not worried about the occasional "Critical Error" which results in the game crashing back to the dashboard (mainly because the game puts you back in where you left off when you load back in) and I am most certainly not bothered by the many little bugs that litter the game. For example, sometimes the mods on my guns unequipped themselves. None of those little nuisances bother me quite as much as the segregation that the game makes between you and your best friends who are also playing the game. The Division was a game that like myself; a lot of people were excited for after seeing how well the game looked as a co-operative shooter RPG MMO. This is where the game falls over mostly for me and I am pretty sure I am not alone here. If you play at a different pace to your friends within the first 30 levels and 30 hours of the game then you're going to have a hard time enjoying your game. Here's an example to try and explain. If you are tip toeing around at a mere level 10 and your friends are stomping around at level 25 and you decide to join up for a couple of early on missions, two things are going to happen. You are going to get destroyed by level 22 enemies that are usually level 9, which have been beefed up to accommodate your levelled up boss of a mate, and your level 22 mate is going to get next to no XP for his trouble. So while you're in the foetal position behind a concrete block reciting comfort songs from your childhood, your level 22 partner is picking off enemy after enemy and getting next to no reward for it. At the end though, you will score massive XP but you will have done nothing for it and your friend gets nothing special. Now I am no expert on game design, I am more an expert on getting killed in video games. Due to my expertise in this area, I would have to say a nice "apprentice mode" akin to something that Diablo 3 had for when you teamed up with varying levelled players, would have been a more inviting way to spend your time in The Division with your friends.

Hard hitting themes aren't scarce
Well I do like to offer up a positive for each negative so here's the light at the end of that XP tunnel. It's not a train coming directly for you this time around, but it's the Matchmaking system. It works really well. If you're having trouble playing with your under or overpowered friends then the alternative is to use the match making which is built into quite a few of the in game interfaces. You can initiate Matchmaking while you're in a Safe Zone, out in the map of before you start off a new mission. Initiating the Matchmaking is easy and very accessible. The best part is that it usually only takes a couple of seconds before you're offered a spot in a sever that is running the mission you want with players of the same level and experience.

A representation of my time in the Dark Zone
I don't like to refer too much about story lines when reviewing games, but in this case I will make an exception but I won't spoil anything that we all probably don't already know. There's a virus outbreak and you're an Agent of The Division which has been formed as a kind of lawless vigilante team to fight back the enemies which are essentially just looters that have been waiting their whole lives for this opportunity. It's the personification of the saying "The meek shall inherit the earth". So there's a virus which is causing a lot of people to fall ill and die. There are looters with guns, more guns and big fire breathing guns and there's Agents of the Division who are shooting and killing everything that moves with a red health bar above their heads. As simple as I have just made the story sound, it's not as shallow as that. There are a lot of voice recordings, CCTV video's and phone calls that you will find while roaming around and taking part in side missions that will add depth to the situation that the world (or just Manhattan) is in. You will find random conversation recordings that will have nothing to do with a story line, but will give you an idea about what was going through people's minds during the initial stages of the outbreak. Some of these recordings a hilarious and yet some of them are downright hard hitting and borderline upsetting. If you let The Division take you into a world where there may not be a tomorrow, it will do a good job. If you're sceptical and think all there is to do is shoot or be shot, then your experience will very likely be no better than your own destiny.

Creativity hits an all time low - this sign was a Friday arvo job
Although there aren't many cut scenes in the game, you learn most about your progression through discussions over radio while you play. As you progress through the game and build up your base of operations, you will learn of new missions and your own progress through the mission as you play. The rich, clear and concise voice acting in The Division delivers this in perfect proportion to the action that is taking place as you play. A neat feature that not all games get right is where you can receive a simple and easy to understand overarching story line, which is also dynamic enough to also give the player the choice and ability to unlock and discover the underlying motives and stories that carry the game along. It's all in the game for you to find if you so wish. If you don't find enjoyment in chasing these underpinned motives to the game then you just don't have to go looking for them.

The Dark Zone (DZ) is where you will find the PVP or player vs. player multiplayer section of the game. In the DZ you will be able to loot the rarest and most sought after weapons and gear in the whole game. These amazing bits of weaponry and gear will come at a cost and depending on your gaming habits, that cost might just be your sanity. The DZ is separated away from the main game and marked in obvious red in the middle of the main games map. XP that you earn whilst within the DZ will accumulate towards a completely different character level, leaving your non-DZ progression alone. As you move through the DZ you will accumulate weapons and gear however due to their location within the DZ, they are "contaminated" and need to be extracted and decontaminated before you are able to make any use of them. You will need to have them whisked out of the DZ by chopper which can be a scary thing to try and do. The hard part about getting your gear out of the DZ is that if you happen to be killed, your DZ loot can be stolen by any player in the DZ, including your so called "friends".

I can see exactly why I died
The DZ is home to AI enemies as well as friendly human controlled players. Essentially all human controlled players are "Non-Hostile" until someone decides to go rogue and shoot up the place. A player can go "Rogue" if they start attacking another Non-Hostile player. There is a little forgiveness here because if you accidentally shoot a friendly, you won't immediately go rogue. If you continue to shoot another friendly, then you're sure to hit that rogue status very soon. Going rogue will essentially paint a target on your head for anyone in the vicinity to see. You have now become an enemy of the state and everyone will try and kill you. Working together as a team is your best bet here, but this also poses another challenge. Do you trust your squad mates enough to have your back and not stab it? In the DZ you never really know who you can trust because members of your own team are also able to take you down and steal your DZ loot. Be warned though, if you are in a squad and a member decides to go rogue, you go rogue too. On top of losing your loot, your level and ranking can start to drop should you be like me and die too often.

End game content is essentially unlocked when you reach level 30 which as previously stated is the level cap. End game content opens up a few extra options that will help to increase mainly your quality of gear and enhancing your build. This is delivered to you in the way of being able to take on story missions in an all new “Challenge” difficulty and this difficulty it is strongly recommended you take four level 30 agents to ensure victory. Also two other random story missions can be done on the hard difficulty for daily loot drops. The loot drops consist of a currency known as Phoenix coins and these can be spent either in the DZ or at the tech wing in your base of operations. This is one of the only real ways of obtaining high end gear via purchase. Not only are the daily missions introduced but now the DZ is at its most venomous but also most lucrative with every mob at the very least being level 30 and armoured, so embarking on your own is also not recommended. There is a metric tonne of content to conquer in the DZ and with three rotating daily missions at this point in time there is still plenty of content on offer post story campaign. 

Although this is pretty much the largest review piece I have ever put together, I haven't covered off on everything that the game has. There are other parts to the game such as vendors, modding, crafting, easy breakdowns of old gear, fast loading, minimal loading, fast travel, needy NPC's and a whole lot more. To cover off on everything would turn this into a mammoth guide. However if you have taken the time to read my review then I thank you sincerely for your support and I hope it was helpful in some way.

This is my message to all of you in the Dark Zone
If you want to see some tips on how to get started in The Division, the click on the link below to check out the piece that Snoogans put together. They might save your life...and your loot.

Tom Clancy's: The Division Tips by Snoogans

Lucas Aurelius

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