The Division Review
+Shooting is tight and guns with scopes are fun to shoot
+Cover system works well and doesn't bug out
+Story is told in interesting way even if it isn't always fantastic
+Story missions are fun and will keep you engaged to the end of the game
-Enemies are bullet sponges
-Loot system sucks
-End game is boring
The Division is the latest 3rd person shooter from Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment that takes place in a post virus outbreak New York city. You play the role of an agent in a department called The Division. The Division was setup if something like the events of this game were to happen…said events basically being New York reverting back to medieval times with guns. This group takes control of the city and tries to reign in the total chaos happening around it. There are still Dark Zones around the game where they have just completely lost all control and you have to try to reclaim it. There are also some areas that you run around in, mostly under control, with a few random stragglers trying to start some shit that you need to put down. The game is a loot based open world RPG shooter (that’s one hell of a mouthful) with a fairly simple cover mechanic. You can hide from these people and their many, many bullets while you shoot back your many, many bullets in return.
Now let’s get into how it actually plays, which is to say, it’s pretty fun. The cover and shoot mechanics work well and team work is a huge asset in the game. I’m always a fan of games that allow you to play cooperatively so it makes the game all that much more fun if you play with a friend. You get to carry two main weapons and a side arm. There are a plethora of weapons such as rifles, SMGs, shotguns, machine guns, etc. Your sidearm has unlimited ammo so it’s generally fairly weak (usually a pistol), but you do eventually start finding two-shot shotguns to use as sidearms. The latter is great for situations of, “oh shit I ran out of ammo and someone is right in front of me.” The game of course has a leveling system, so your guns start getting better as you level (stats increase, stats available increase, etc.). The main three stats you will deal with are Firearms, Stamina, and Electronics. Each of these has an effect on your gameplay. Firearms affects the amount of damage you do, Stamina generally affect the amount of health you have, and the Electronics score affects how much…let’s just call it the techie version of MP.
Alright, so the boring descriptive stuff is out of the way. How is the game? Well, the story is mediocre and barely exists. People were fairly refreshed playing this after having played Destiny and its turd of a story, and by comparison, this seems like a work of high art. In reality, it’s a fairly shallow and underdeveloped story though it at least gets the job done. You learn what is going on, how it happened, and they did use an innovative echo system to play out the events of how this thing started. It’s a fun way to tell the story, even if there ends up not being that much to actually tell. For the uninformed, the echos I am referring to are basically 3D holographic recordings of an event (with sound as well). These echos can, and likely will be, found randomly throughout the game. I never knew when I’d find them, sometimes as part of main missions, sometimes while you’re out finding collectibles. These echos are definitely interesting to watch and it’s at least something a little different. I enjoyed finding out just what the hell happened to New York that made it this way. The one thing that was odd to me though, was that by the time I was done I still had no idea if it was just New York or everywhere. Turns out, most of my friends couldn’t really tell either. I’m not sure if I just missed it or they simply never told me. Either way, it doesn’t matter since you don’t leave New York anyway.
The story missions were actually fairly fun most of the game. I basically did story and side missions all the way through trying to clear them all. Story missions on the whole mixed it up to keep things fresh, while the side missions were all fairly boring standard open world fair. I am pleased that the main story missions were at least not boring despite the insignificant side missions. That was a job well done. It’s not all fetch quests and “stand here during waves of shit” like a lot of other shooters fall into the trap of doing these days, but then the side missions are pretty run of the mill. It makes the game last longer, so yay, I guess…sadly it’s cheaply extending the game with pointless shit. That’s fairly common among games anymore (especially open world which apparently means “fetch quest world” now), but it’s still worth pointing out. They’re fun at first but then you’re just doing the same shit over and over again, it’s just like, “Alright, well, at least it’s fun to shoot people I guess?”
Now what are all these missions and side missions ultimately building toward? Well, there are a few things happening. At the beginning of the game, you open up a base in the middle of the city. They’re pretty broken down and none of their little areas are up and running so they want to go fetch some materials by doing different kinds of missions. There are three wings to this place and therefore three types of missions: Medical, Tech, and Security. Each of these wings, as you build them up, start to provide you with all the upgrades you will get for your character (let’s not forget, this does have RPG elements). So as you upgrade, say, the Tech wing, you start getting all kinds of gadgets like seeker mines or a turret and all the little mods that go with those devices. Once you get 100% on one of these wings, you unlock a special ability specific to that wing. The medical one, for instance, is an ability you can trigger that will heal your group and revive anyone that is down. That can definitely come in handy when you are in deep shit and your team mates both bit the dust. We definitely saved ourselves a few times with that particular skill (especially since I’m the idiot that charges in shotgun ablaze). By the end of the game you should basically have 100% in all these and a fairly impressive little array of skills and perks to go with that. In addition to the skills and your special ability, there are other random perks it will give you for doing these upgrades. A few of them will allow you to carry more med packs, open up an area in the base to give you certain types of supplies, and for the more advanced “Talents” that you unlock, you get little enhancements like your character healing himself if you run a certain distance or having an enemy pulse when you shoot him in the head (my favorite talent). It’s a pretty good setup and it gives you a nice set of options so I enjoyed that.
As far as the Dark Zone is concerned, as interesting an idea as it was, I never really got much into it. I don’t really blame the developers, because PvP is just not really my kind of thing anymore. I’ve played plenty of games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and the like and I’m just getting tired of it. It seems a bit broken at times according to the community, and there are assholes everywhere, so it’s kind of hit or miss. I did spend a few hours in the Dark Zone and I’m just not sure I like the concept of potentially spending many hours in there getting gear and then having some asshole kill me and take it away. It’s good that they’re trying something new, so I’ll give them kudos for that.
The loot system, despite a few patches, is pretty much garbage. It’s fine as you progress through the game, but once you hit end game, it’s just useless. Gear takes forever to get AND there are too many permutations to the point that you almost never get upgrades. You can play for hours and hours and basically get jack shit. At least in a game like Destiny, there were those unique really good weapons you could get (raid weapons and exotics) or in Diablo 3, you have a constant flow of gear. It’s all completely random, sure, but at least there’s a nice variety and a constant drop rate. Playing this game, by the end, felt like I was playing and getting nothing for my time and that’s just never a good thing when you’re playing a videogame. Most of the perks are fairly boring, there are a few too many that are broken or literally do the opposite of what they say, and you spend a LOT of time trying to find upgrades. It got to the point that I stopped caring and eventually just stopped playing the game because I didn’t care anymore.
Frankly, the story isn’t all that long and once you hit the end of the game, things get fairly boring. I played a challenge mission or two, and it’s like banging my head against a wall. It’s Destiny all over again. You need to grind incessantly for better gear to play because those challenge missions are kind of cheap (especially the shotgunners that completely destroy you with so much as a dirty look in your general direction). Enemies all over the place are giant bullet sponges and that’s not particularly fun to play against at the higher levels until you play 23 hours to get decent gear (or let’s be honest here, you exploit the ever loving hell out of the game to try and get good stuff). I think the fact that this is a fairly militaristic/realistic shooter makes the bullet sponge nature of the enemies stand out a lot more so I might be unnecessarily harsh, but I just found it annoying. In fairness, I found that annoying in the Borderlands series as well. As for the incursion, it is basically the same but more ridiculous enemies and honestly, it’s just an extremely boring design. At least the first raid in Destiny was built in an interesting way, something the incursion here is just not. This is not an equivalent to a raid…it’s just a big mission with better loot and harder enemies. Nothing unique there at all and I’m just not that into it. I’ve got better games to play at this point. Overall, I just feel meh about the game. I ended up doing something I rarely do and just sold it back so I could make back some of my money from buying it. I don’t need another endless grind game to play so I decided, hey fuck it, I’ll get out while the getting is good. If you can get the game on the cheap and play it with friends, I’d say go for it and enjoy yourself. After you get to the end, you’re going to get tired of it fairly quick which is why I just don’t think it’s worth the full 60 bucks. It’s an okay game but not a great game and my score ultimately reflects that. It’s fun but it’s short lived and fairly forgettable.
If you’re looking for more after reading this, watch my The Division Let’s Play. I had a lot of negatives to talk about in the review but I did still enjoy the game. If you are interested in it, it is probably worth a play through either way.