The Division Review
Platform – PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer – Massive Entertainment, Red Storm Entertainment, Ubisoft Annecy, Ubisoft Reflections
Publisher – Ubisoft
MSRP: $59.99 USD
(Editor’s Note: This game was reviewed on the PS4 with the game copy being provided by Gaming Instincts.)
Welcome to the Division agent, it’s time to pack your guns, gather your friends and find a way to stop the smallpox virus epidemic in the mid-crisis and devastated New York city. The Division is a game of many genres such as cover-based shooters like Gears of War and loot/RPG systems from games like Destiny or Diablo III. Ubisoft has definitely entered into an unknown territory that they have never played with before and it is a big risk, especially in today’s day and age of video games. Trying to combine multiple genres into an Open World game is not an easy task to do, but Ubisoft is well-known for creating certain formulas that work for them across multiple franchises like Assassins Creed and the FarCry series. The Division borrows heavily from their previous experiences but the game also manages to create its own set of new mechanics, standards, the flow of the gameplay and of course, it provides its own fresh and unique experience. With that being said, let’s get into the nitty gritty details of what The Division is all about and how it plays and what our final verdict is for Ubisoft’s newest franchise.
Story, Visuals, and Immersion
The Division is set in a modern era of mid-crisis New York city or Manhattan to be exact. The small pandemic started to spread through the banknotes on Black Friday and the official name of the virus is called “Green Poison”. Green Poison caused chaos all over New York city and the entire manhattan became a quarantine zone. This is where The Division comes in. The Division is a group of government agents that are also in cooperation with the JTF (Joint Task Force) who are basically emergency responders. It is your job to find out what’s going on behind the virus, how it got there and who created it and why it was created. The story is decent and makes up for an interesting setting, it is also very realistic and believable which is a good thing.
Throughout the game, you will be playing through story missions that have their own unique set pieces that create interesting scenarios and tactical gameplay between you and your teammates. The story also progresses at a decent pace and there are over 250 collectibles to collect in the game that gives the players a ton of background lore. The collectibles range from cell-phones which act as audio logs, echoes (special collectibles that physically show you what happened in a particular spot in the past), incident reports and more. If you’re a lore nut and don’t mind collecting everything in the game, then you’re in for a treat.
Ubisoft has done a good job at replicating New York city and the reason why I can say is because I’ve lived in New York myself for many years. As you travel throughout different regions of Manhattan you will experience dread, misery, oppression, cold and, of course, the destruction that the Green Poison has caused. The game also features dynamic weather such as heavy fog and snow falling from the sky, day/night cycles and the game looks lovely during the night.
One of the most impressive things about this game is that there are no loading times whatsoever between missions or traversing the world. As far as the actual visuals go the game is not that much of a looker, but it still looks nice for an open-world considering the game has no loading times and most importantly it runs really well with very few framerate hitches. You can enter main story missions, subways, and sewers seamlessly without any loading screens whatsoever. However, the only time there is a loading screen is when you load up the into the game itself, fast traveling via map or going into your friend’s game which is completely understandable and doesn’t take a long time. Overall, whether you traversing through different regions of Manhattan or fighting a bunch of gang members across the street the game looks and feels quite immersive. Although there are some odd visual bugs once in a while, but those happen so rarely that you don’t even notice because you are so engrossed in the dark world of The Division.
The Core Gameplay
This is where the Division becomes an interesting game but also falls flat on its back. As mentioned previously, Division is a combination of different game genres that create one big RPG/Shooter experience. If you enjoy titles like Gears of War or Diablo III/Destiny then you’ll feel right at home. The game has a very heavy emphasis on items/loot collecting, cooperative/MMO play and min-maxing your characters with the best gear possible once you hit the max level in the game which is 30. You can also participate in the Dark Zone which is a separately designed zone for PvP and loot hunting.
As an agent, you also operate from the Base of Operations, which is your private hub where you can upgrade each three of your main wings that give you abilities, talents, and perks to use during combat and in the world. There is a medical wing, tech wing, and security wing. The medical wing focuses on different healing abilities and benefits, tech wing is more of a support role that buffs your character and your group and also lets you put up combat turrets and the security wing focuses mainly on defense. As you play the game and complete different missions you will be able to earn points for each wing (depending if the mission was associated with that particular wing) and spend them to upgrade the wings. By the time you hit level 30, you should have all the wings upgraded and everything is available to you. However, you have limited slots for talents and abilities that you want to use, but your perks are always passive and you benefit from all of them at the same time.
Right off the bat after you finish the tutorial and get to Manhattan the entire world is open to you and it is divided into different regions with their own mob levels, side missions, encounters and story missions. Each region also has its own safehouse that you can fast-travel to once unlocked. The safe-houses have gear vendors and NPCs that give you a list of side missions and encounters to do in that region. Players can also fast-travel to their friends when they start their missions or even manually if they just want to free-roam together.
The shooting mechanics in the Division feel quite good, the gunplay is responsive, smooth and addicting. The game has assault rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, marksman sniper rifles and light machine guns as your primary and secondary weapons. Your sidearms usually can range from pistols and sawed-off shotguns and they have infinite ammo in case you run out of your primary gun’s ammo until you find the next closest ammo restock box. As you play through the campaign missions you can choose and pick what difficulty you want to tackle them on. There is a total of 3 difficulties you can choose from starting with normal, hard and challenge. Normal mode is what you’ll be doing
As you play through the campaign missions you can choose and pick what difficulty you want to tackle them on. There is a total of 3 difficulties you can choose from starting with normal, hard and challenge. Normal mode is what you’ll be doing the majority of your time while trying to level up, if you’re interested in challenging yourself or your party you can try to go for the hard difficulty to obtain more credits, XP and better loot rewards at the end. Challenge mode can only be done at level 30 and it would be very wise to attempt challenge mode with a full party of 4 Division agents, otherwise, you will get gunned and shut down in no time. This mode also has no respawning, so if you die, you will restart at the last checkpoint in the mission and you must play extremely carefully, tactically, smart and be properly geared before you even attempt it. Challenge mode awards high-end gear blueprints which are recipes to crafting the best gear in the game and it also gives you Phoneix Credits that can be spent at special vendors for high-end gear.
While the gameplay might be good to a certain extent the issues start to arise at the end of the game at level 30. Just like most RPGs you grind named mobs, or participate in PvP (Dark Zone), do your dailies to get credits and loot and that is all fine. However, the gameplay gets very stale, mobs are nothing but extreme bullet-sponges on challenge difficulty that require high-end gear to farm in the first place. The Dark Zone is riddled with overpowered NPCs that will surround you and kill you while you’re on your way to get to your friends or find other agents to kill. Killing other agent’s may grant you some stuff, but farming the NPCs is the best way to farm for the best gear in the since they drop Phoenix credits that you can use to buy High-End gear as opposed to trying to tackle frustrating challenge modes. The game also doesn’t have a lot of end-game content either, so if you hit level 30, get some gear within a week and complete challenge modes there will be nothing else for you to do other than constant dailies. A lot of new content will be in free updates and obviously in the season pass that will cover up to 3 expansions that are all coming out this year. However, the way the game is released, there is not enough of things to do unless you don’t care for mindless loot grinding that you can only do so much of.
Overall, The Division is not a bad game and I commend Ubisoft for trying out something new with pre-existing formulas of other games and their own. It’s also obvious that Ubisoft is not really trying to reinvent the wheel here either but they are trying to innovate which is a good thing. However, by the time you hit level 30, you will already be drained out due to constantly repeating side missions/encounters and the Dark Zone. As a matter of fact, most players will be spending time in the Dark Zone at level 30 to farm phoenix credits from named mobs that are somewhat too much to handle unless you’re with a buddy or a group of friends. If you don’t mind a grinding experience in the early life of the game’s launch and willing to play until the next big free update or season pass expansions then The Division is a solid game to play. However, if you’re looking to be constantly entertained and expect new things to happen all the time then I am afraid to disappoint you that the game is not for you. If you’ve enjoyed Destiny and didn’t mind the lack of content until later, then get it. Otherwise, stay away from this game until it receives a substantial amount of content.
- Shooting mechanics feel good in the game
- Good blend of RPG elements that are being put in a third person shooter game
- Visuals are not as good as previously presented
- Missions get repetitive and boring as you progress through the game
- Dark Zone has overpowered NPCs and hard to survive solo