This has been a very busy week. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada entered the multiplayer Beta on Thursday and Friday the first episode of Hitman was released (hopefully more about these two in the future). But still, the highlight of this week was my trip to Ubisoft’s studio in Manhattan. Don’t be alarmed I haven’t got over my fear of heights and implicitly of flight, my trip was of a virtual nature in the release of the week: Tom Clancy’s The Division.
There is no hiding that The Division was one of my most anticipated games since its announcement back in 2013. Over the past two and a half years my level of excitement for the game has had a lot of ups and downs but here it is released. Was the game worth all the frustration over postpones?
At its core The Division wants to be an MMO but there are so many restrictions in place that for most of its length it feels more like a co-op 3rd person shooter. The leveling part can easily take 20 hours unraveling a post pandemic story which brings to light the volatility of human's nature. The plot takes the recently activated Division agents from Brooklyn to Manhattan in a mission to find those responsible for the terrorist attack over New York City and bring order to the chaos. The campaign is surprisingly good with a storytelling divided through a series of main missions and a ton of collectible items which are part of a bigger puzzle. Putting this puzzle together adds a lot of nuance to the plot by providing details and various perspectives of the disturbing events that followed after the outbreak.
Aside of the main missions and the collectibles Manhattan is filled with a ton of secondary content that follows the repetitive pattern of most of Ubisoft’s games. These missions are varied enough to make the first few districts bearable but the more time spent with them the more annoying they become. The only thing that tunes down the frustration of repetition is the absolutely amazing level design empowered by some of the most gorgeous graphics to date which even after an obvious visual downgrade still look amazing. The Division’s Manhattan is the best city I’ve seen in a video game and I’ve played a few of the GTAs, I’ve been to Novigrad and to the Victorian London of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
During and after the Beta tests one of the biggest complaints about the game was its combat system which uses typical MMO mechanics including bullet spongy enemies and floating damage numbers. This type of combat was never really a problem for me but I’ve learned to appreciate even more when playing this game as the 3rd person shooter style is a welcomed change to this genre. The multitude of mechanics that go into the combat make it more tactical than it looks at the first glimpse. The cover system and the shooting revolving around it coupled with a bunch of cool abilities and the possibility of group play add an unexpected layer of depth providing both the entertainment and the tactical value I look for in video games.
There is a lot to enjoy during the leveling phase of the game from the captivating story to the fun gunplay which showcases a wide variety of weapons and a decent amount of fun skills. But in the end an MMO is not so much about the journey as it is about the ending and by that I mean the end game and this is where Ubisoft Massive jumped the gun.
The current end game consists of repeating the story missions on higher difficulties for better rewards, grinding materials to craft gear or going into the Dark Zone to fight powerful enemies and the players who decide to go rogue. It doesn’t sound so bad in theory but in practice things are quite different. Repeating the main missions gets tiring after a while, the crafting is an RNG fest and the Dark Zone remains the last option for some actual fun. But the Dark Zone is nothing like advertised as the penalties for dying (from mobs or players) are so high that almost nobody dares to go rogue anymore. Instead of fighting each other most of the players choose to group up to fight the powerful mobs in the Dark Zone transforming what should have been a heavy PvP battlefield in a PvE grind zone. Grinding for gear the way you find the most fun or effective is the only real thing to do in the game after hitting level 30 and that’s a shame because all the effort that went into building this great world goes to waste.
In April a free content patch should bring the first Incursion which is a high level 4 player dungeon that should add more challenge to the PvE and should also include gear sets. The free update in May will come with another Incursion but it will also change how the Dark Zone plays. This is a start in setting this game in the right direction, but that’s two months from now and until then there isn’t much to do. Some of the players who’ve beat the story and got the better gear will probably quit by then and this will hurt the game’s population before even it got a chance to show what else has to offer. I wish that Massive would have taken a page from the books of experienced developers in creating MMOs to avoid making such a mistake, especially after more than two years of postpones.
Despite these issues I can’t say I haven’t had fun with The Division and I’m clearly not done with the game, but there is so much potential and I’d hate to see it go to waste. I really want to play more of this game so I hope Massive takes notice of community’s complaints and address the current issues as fast as possible, if this happens The Division could have a bright future.
|I should check the progress of Wildlands and For Honor.|