I am a bit late to the game with this review of Tom Clancy’s The Division, but better late than never. Check out my thoughts on the game, how it is played, and how it stacks up to more traditional MMOs.
The Division as a Hybrid FPS and MMORPG
I never thought I would be looking at a Tom Clancy game and call it an RPG. That is exactly what The Division is though, and it can be a jarring experience when playing the game. Of course, it has shooter influences in the game, but at its core it is an RPG.
So What is the Story?
The Division is a game set in the not-so-distant future, where a terrorist has managed to lace dollar bills with a deadly virus, and get them in circulation on the biggest shopping day of the year—Black Friday. From this day moving forward, society eventually crumbles into chaos, and there is one secret government group meant to restore order—The Division. Men and women who have secretly trained for this type of cataclysmic scenario are called up to restore order to the world.
It is a very interesting premise—apocalyptic stories always get me excited. But a great story in a video game is nothing without good content for the game. Does The Division follow through in that regard? What the real question is, can a military-like shooter combine elements of MMORPGs with it and be a compelling game?
Starting out, there are some amazing cut scenes showing various events that lead to where your character enters the story. They are certainly able to show off the visual capabilities of the “next-gen” systems.
Loading Out as a Newbie Division Agent
At first, the game feels pretty bland. Your character is wandering a barren, rundown New York, and there is really no interaction with NPCs (non-player characters) or players. This seems by design though, to get you used to the game and its controls. Once you complete your first mission, the game improves significantly.
Since this is an MMORPG, player interaction is an important aspect of the game. One of the drawbacks to The Division is that when you are out in the city, and you are not already part of a group, you are alone, with no interaction with people. This is a little disappointing as a traditional MMO fan. I want to see other people as I make my way through the city. On the other hand, I understand some of the reasons why this is. It would be pretty odd to see hundreds of Division agents running around the world, and the world still be in shambles. It would sort of ruin the feel of the world.
Player Interaction and Teaming Up
In the various “safe houses” (think towns in an MMO), you run into various players, who generally are looking for additional missions to do, restocking their supplies, or crafting. For a group, you can find groups to wander New York with you, whether it is to do various encounters or side missions, but I have yet to group up in this way, as it seems a bit chaotic. Since there is no specific task at hand for these groups, I prefer to not spend time discussing what missions to do. Where I do group up though, are the main story missions. This is probably the most fun aspect of the game, having players enter a mission and successfully complete it. I have been doing the missions on “hard” difficulty, and have had a blast—in most situations. For the most part, the teams have gone very well. But as with any video game where you group up with random players, there are bad apples. Occasionally you will get a player who is just AFK the entire time. Other times, you might get a player who is trying to ruin everyone’s fun by getting the team killed. This is fine, as you can easily leave a group and find another, which does not take terribly long.
There is one issue with the matchmaking process though, which involves the level spread for a mission. When playing missions on “hard” difficulty, the enemies in the mission are scaled up to the highest-level player. This is very difficult when there is a big level spread, which has happened a couple times. I have been in groups where a level 25 is paired with a level 18, and that level 18 cannot pump out much damage or take any hits before going down. This is not a problem for most missions, as long as 3 of the members are a high enough level, but when you have a timed mission, it’s almost impossible to complete, as the team just doesn’t have enough DPS to complete the mission.
How Stats and Skills Work, Or How They Are Terribly Confusing
One confusing aspect of the game is deciding on weapons. There is a “DPS” stat on most weapons. This seems like the obvious stat to look at, but after playing the game for some time, and reading online, it is not necessarily the only stat to consider. This makes it confusing as to how to choose weapons, as you have to consider all the other stats—rate of fire, damage, stability, etc. I still haven’t figured out a concrete way to determine the best weapon other than eyeballing the stats and trying the weapon out for a while.
The same confusion can be said for gear as well. The game doesn’t provide detailed information on how to “spec” your character with gear. Players may be confused as to how to focus on stats, and that is something I need to delve deeper into myself once I decide on a concrete way to take my character.
The way skills are handled in the game are interesting. You essentially have two skills you can activate, using the bumpers on the controller. These can be anything from a heal, to various bombs, to more “survival” type skills like a shield or “mobile cover.” These skills can then be enhanced. All of these can be unlocked by upgrading your base of operations’ three wings. These three wings spec your character towards the three “typical” roles in an MMO. The medical wing is obviously for the healer archetype, while security focuses on the “tank” archetype, and the tech wing is the “DPS” archetype. Skills can be swapped out on the fly at any time, but of course you would probably want multiple sets of gear to complement whatever set up you have your skills set to.
It Sure is Pretty
Aesthetically, the game is visually beautiful. Of course, it is a dreary environment with the post-apocalyptic storyline and all, but it looks like a real city that has been ravaged by a plague. It might not be quite on par with other games (so far Tomb Raider holds the best graphics crown for me on XBox One or PS4), but it is certainly no slouch. One thing I can see people being upset with, especially if they are from an MMO background, is that character creation doesn’t give a lot of options. You get a few faces, hairstyles, skin tones, scars and tattoos to choose from. For me this is not a big deal—I stare at the back of my characters head 99% of the time, so it doesn’t really matter what he looks like. On that same note though, clothing is a little one-dimensional. Clothing items are something you can buy, or find on enemies or in various apartments in a dresser. But clothing doesn’t seem to have much variation from one item to another. You can wear a “trendy parka” and switch to a “puffer jacket” and the difference is not huge. It seems like the best way to differentiate your character from others is with a hat.
The Division Verdict – Fun Game, But Might Lack Longetivity
I would highly recommend this game for those who are burnt out on traditional MMOs. I have played many different MMOs, from Everquest, to World of Warcraft, to various smaller ones such as Dark Age of Camelot, Warhammer Online, and Planetside, to name just a couple. I had really lost interest in the traditional MMO set up though, and this shooter-based RPG revitalized the genre for me. People coming from a more FPS background might find the game a bit jarring given how a “boss” might take up to 10 clips to take down, but since games like Mass Effect and other shooters have situations like this, it was not too much of stretch for me.
So far, I am having blast playing the game though. Many people attribute the fun of this game to the “loot-drip” it has, meaning, consistently having minor equipment upgrades drop, to keep people wanting to find more. For me, while this is entertaining, I would rather have a game with good substance, story, and gameplay, and I think The Division is doing well in all those categories so far.
The game does seem to get a little stale in end game though, which hopefully will be spiced up with additional content. Having maxed out at thirty, the only real options for end-game play is to journey into the Dark Zone, or grind out missions to gain special credits for better gear. While I anticipate a bit of a grind when reaching the level cap, it does sort of put me back in those days of World of Warcraft where you have to grind out dungeons daily in order to advance your character.
I think the game is certainly a fun run through, all the way up to level 30. That on its own is probably worth a play for myself. I just am not sure I really want to grind out gear, as the game slowly drips better and better upgrades to me, one expansion at a time.
For a final score, I would give the game a 7 out of 10, primarily deducting because of the confusing stats system and the potential lack of longevity for the game. Gameplay really kicks in around level 10, and the graphics are beautiful. Player interaction is great for the casual gamer as well as the hardcore.
Check out the official The Division TV Spot here:
The Division is playable on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.