The Division Review
Imagine if you will that a deadly virus has been deliberately released out into the world and it ravages the world killing millions. The governments of the world are incapable of stopping it and soon the many cities of the world fall prey to rioting and looting as the surviving citizens begin to panic. This is how the stage gets set for The Division, the latest addition to Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy franchise. Having finished the games main storyline and most of it’s side content I thought that I would look back and review what I liked and didn’t like about this game. Light spoilers lie ahead so beware.
As mentioned above the story of the Division is that a weaponized strain of the Smallpox virus was released into the public via dollar bills during Black Friday in New York City. After the US government fails to contain the situation they initiate Directive 51 aka The Division. The Division is a group of high trained sleeper agents who basically live out normal lives until they’re activated for a mission. The mission in this case is retaking New York City from the chaos it fallen into as well as investigating the origins of the virus.
This is where you the player comes in, your character is part of the second wave of Division agents sent to New York City after the first wave goes missing. After making a character with a fairly limited character creation system (Though you do get a massive number of clothing options throughout the game) you start off in Brooklyn which functions as the tutorial area before moving permanently to Manhattan for the rest of the game. From there your character sets up shop in a post office converted into a military outpost by the Joint Task Force (An organization composed of a number of different soldiers, cops, and volunteers that assists you throughout the game) before moving out to reclaim the city neighborhood by neighborhood.
And what a city it is, Ubisoft did a magnificent job building up New York City and injecting it with life. The city is very detailed, with many snowy winding streets filled with people going about their business and generally ignoring you as you go about your own business. This does a terrific job of making the city feel alive and vibrant as you explore this beautifully ruined city, because graphically this game is gorgeous. Particularly at night when all the lights come on.
Aside from this the game has a very detailed background lore to it as well. In what functions as the games collectables, you can find a number of phone recordings, videos, and digitally reconstructed scenes. These all add to the games atmosphere as they give background to outbreak, the enemy factions, or even just random citizens going about their lives.
This certainly helps add depth to the games story as otherwise the story is kind of bland. The main story basically comes down to, as previously mentioned, finding the origins of the virus and stopping it as well as dealing with the hostile factions roaming about the city. The former revolves around tracking down Dr. Amherst, the man believed to be behind the virus while the later revolves around besieging the main strongholds or disrupting the activities of the hostile forces. These hostile forces do manage to be somewhat detailed thanks to the background lore as well as increasing level of threat they pose as you move throughout the game. Aside from the generic rioters you encounter there are the Rikers, escaped Rikers inmates who are just trashing the city for shits and giggles. The Cleaners, who are sanitation workers who are attempting (both poorly and horribly) to destroy the virus by burning out anything they think came in contact with it with homemade flamethrowers. And finally The Last Man Battalion, a PMC that had been brought in to guard some high profile locations but decided to go rogue. The climax of the games story sees all factions dealt with and Manhattan largely under your control though the virus story has some nice sequel hooks for later.
Moving on to gameplay we have a decent yet sometimes kind of wonky third person shooter. Overall the gameplay is great it’s generally just a regular third person shooter with some RPG and MMO trappings like buff items (In the form of food and drink) and replenishing health as well as a leveling system. The wonkyness largely revolves around how cover works in this game with the game sometimes making it hard to move around or navigate in cover or what can be used as cover in this game but these issues don’t come up that often. Something else notable too is the level of realism in the game. Tom Clancy games usually try to make gameplay as realistic as possible with players and enemies getting taken out in a couple of hits and certainly one head shot. Not so here in the Division:
The leveling system, which caps at thirty, actually has little to do with character progression itself. Instead, your abilities and perks are instead acquired from building up your Base of Operations. The Base has three wings, Security, Tech, and Medical which are each built up with their own individual resources with each upgrade giving you a certain set of benefits for each upgrade you purchase. There isn’t a class system in this game but the game does break it’s perks and abilities into the aforementioned categories, with medical giving you healing skills, tech giving you auto turrets and seeker mines, and security giving you ballistic shields and portable covers. These can all be interchanged out whenever you want so you're not locked into you choices and can become whatever you need to be for a given situation.
Which brings me to the MMO portion of the game. The Division was built in mind with other players exploring New York City together but it’s completely possible to play by yourself as I did in which case you’ll only ever see other players in a safe house or in the Dark Zone. That being said like most MMO’s there are times that you do need other players help. While side quests can be dealt with on your own main story missions (which basically function like dungeons in The Division) are another story, they can be done solo as well but it’s easier to bring along help as they tend to get fairly intensive as the action picks up.
Another major MMO aspect is the Dark Zone, which is a very large PVP zone in the middle of the map. Exploring this zone allows you to find high level gear that must be extracted before another player comes along to steal that gear for themselves. I haven’t delved into to much myself but what I saw intrigued me and I will definitely be exploring more of it later on.
All in all this is a very good game, kind of rough around the edges and boring at times but it has fun enough gameplay to keep players coming back for a while. Whether or not they expand on this game or make a sequel later on I will definitely be keeping my eye out for future developments.