Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Division

Rating: 8.0
Happy Price: 59.99


The Division is a third person MMO that deals with "Division" Agents restoring order to a near apocalyptic Manhattan. The player is guided by main missions that drive the storyline, and many side missions to level up and get better gear for the main missions. Different sections of the city have a recommended level, and the player has the option to enter matchmaking and pair up with other "Division" agents. Four people can be in a lobby. 


Like with any Tom Clancy game, there is a nice sense of realism and grittiness when engaged in a firefight. Many different enemy types will be thrown at the player consisting of snipers, rushers, and general support. Strategy is required to be successful, however rarely is it ever used. Doing things solo is extremely difficult and will would require heavy grinding. When matched up with other players the game difficulty increases. However when paired with random players, it can be difficult to be on the same page when it comes to loadouts, classes, and strategy. 

When things get intense, naturally players will aim for headshots to get out of trouble. However enemies usually require 5-7 shots to the head before they go down on a standard assault rifle that holds 30 bullets. To kill an enemy without headshots can take 45 bullets, requiring a full clip of ammo to be used and a reload, for just one enemy. It's a bit contrasting in a bad way. One one hand there is this super realistic environment and battles require all this strategy, but then headshots aren't really headshots. However, if headshots killed enemies in 2-3 shots, the game would be too easy. I don't agree with the logic though, that making the game too easy for skilled players would mess up the balance or the experience they are going for. It usually just keeps players frustrated.


When talking about progression in a RPG, there are two things to consider, the narrative and the player. The game starts out with a great cinematic that clearly states what is going on and what your role is in the universe is. The first couple of missions do this as well, and there is a steady progression with the story and things start to develop in a way that is endearing and captures your attention. However at about the 10 hour mark, things start to get a bit strange. You start to go on missions and saving random people with important names, but then there isn't any follow up with these characters. This happens over and over again and you begin to wonder, why am I doing this? Who are these people? Why do I care about them, and how are they going to help my cause? Missions in general are difficult and frustrating, so caring about these things matters. Especially when missions can last 20-30 minutes. 

Character progression does some things well and some not so much. Leveling up weapons starts to get pretty boring after a while, due to the fact that really only the damage on them increases with a few alternating bonus effects like increased headshot damage or 18% increase in magazine size. When comparing to a game like Destiny where there can be massive upgrades to a weapon as you level up, it feels like you just keep getting the same weapon over and over again that is leveling up with you, but you still have to pay for it without your life getting much better. Upgrading skills is fun though, since these get you out of tough situations and you can target missions that will improve your skills. The upgrade system for skills is deep and if paired will with other players, can make huge differences in firefights. However matchmaking doesn't allow you to focus on playing with other class types. You have to rely on friends or people you've played with in the past that are building out a different class.

One issue with character progression is that it's very broken when you play with someone that is many levels above you. You can pair up with that person, and you can play a mission that is recommended for level 30 but your are an 18. The amount of XP awarded will level players up at a quicker rate as they just hide in a corner and let their partner do all the work. Doing this once can alter the entire landscape of someone's experience. I tried this one time, jumped up two levels, and then completed everything I had to do in a breeze. So if the game gets too difficult, just do that and now the game becomes extremely easy.

The Dark Zone

I'm not quite sure what the point of the dark zone is. It's like the only online game mode this game has is Iron Banner. In The Division, levels matter a lot. A level 14 will not compete against a level 16. Yet, the dark zone will have a range of "levels 10-15". If you run into a player at level 15 but you're at a 10, you don't stand a chance. Then, once at level 30 which is the max for the campaign, you enter the dark zone and can be paired with players at level 35 as well but with much better  weapons, so the same problem continues to persist. It would be more proper to flatten everyone out and allow for weapon buffs to allow for minute differences in battle the way Destiny does to allow everyone to play in an online mode. I love PvP but I always felt under powered and like I was missing out on this huge part of the game. It got to the point where I was frustrated with it, grinded to compete, then realized that's just dumb, and there are better games to play.


I can't say enough on how good the artwork is in this game. The art style is very gritty and realistic which matches the mood of what is going on with the narrative. Manhattan is filled with texture and it's all done very well. It looks like people had just abandoned the place and there was chaos everywhere. This ties well with gameplay because there are always garbage trucks to climb on, cars to hide behind, places to explore, signs to read, and just things to keep you occupied. It's very gratifying to shoot an enemy full sprint in the head and watch the animations take over as they properly fall in a way that looks natural. Weather plays a factor as well, during a snow storm that particles will render your range of vision to be limited and it's very difficult to see enemies or navigate the terrain. From what I can tell, the A.I also can't tell where you are as well which results in cool close range battles. One of my favorite parts was opening up the map, which opens via a gadget on your wrist into a 3d hologram showing where you are and other key parts of the world. Panning to a key area will start an audio dialogue over a radio signal, which is something I've never seen before and creates an immersive experience as this super "Division" agent.


The beginning of the Division is great, but then it tends to wear off after about 10-15 hours. It's a great concept, but it just doesn't live up to the hype I saw in the animatic two years ago. The art and environment really carry the game. This game is a grindfest, and I simply don't have time to do things that are meaningless (side missions) to do things that are somewhat meaningful (main missions). There is tons of content in the game, and some people can get captured in the world. I think if I was unemployed I would like it more, but there are more fun games to play.

No comments:

Post a Comment