No online-only game has captured the attention of console gamers in recent memory like Destiny did in the fall of 2014. The game offered an enormous world to explore with friends that kept many players grinding their characters to max level for months on end.
Tom Clancy’s The Division, which is developed by Ubisoft’s Massive studio, makers of successful PC games Ground Control and World in Conflict, now aims to be the next great success in the world of online-only games on consoles. In preparation for the release of the game on March 8, 2016, the team held a closed beta over the past weekend which I was able to take part in.
Obviously it’s hard to completely judge an online-only game, especially one that will depend on end game content similar to that found in MMO games, based on a couple of days of gameplay and one main story mission. That said, The Division shows a lot of promise. I experienced no issues with servers or lag in gameplay. The cover based combat controls, while not as tight as Mass Effect 3 or Gears of War 3, are solid and are easy to grasp after a couple of missions. The setting feels right. There is a chill walking down the snow laden streets at night in a very empty Manhattan. Each new street shows signs of an attempted containment of a disease that obviously failed. Any NPC you encounter on the street could be a simple scavenger or a potential enemy, and I often found myself raising my gun at the ready as I approached NPC’s crossing my path.
The greatest compliment I can give to The Division so far though is that it may finally solve the major problem I, and some of my friends, had with Destiny. This appears to be a game where the main campaign can be played by yourself. I progressed through the main story mission and side mission area of the beta completely alone. Outside of a boss encounter for the main story mission, I never felt any desire for help in accomplishing my objectives. The boss encounter its self was a cakewalk compared to the bullet laden sponges from Destiny’s main campaign. If this holds up for the rest of the game, I could see countless gamers enjoying the main campaign, whether or not they want to party up with friends.
On the other hand, The Division’s much discussed end game PvP area known as the Dark Zone, will likely require you to find a reliable group of friends if you wish to have long term success. There were no particular missions in the Dark Zone, instead you randomly encounter enemies and objectives that can be completed for high level loot. The catch is that in order to use the loot you must first extract it by calling in a helicopter. When a helicopter is called in, all players on your map are alerted to its presence. They too can also extract loot at the same time. However, they may also kill you and steal your loot for themselves. Needless to say, depending on the room you are cast into when playing in the Dark Zone, you may find instances where it is nearly impossible to get a piece of loot out of the Dark Zone, unless you partied up with a group of friends.
How Ubisoft balances the Dark Zone will likely be the first major step in determining the life span of The Division. If isolated players feel they have no shot at truly epic loot because it will likely be stolen when they extract it, they will flee the game fast. Likewise, if the amount of loot available is not constantly updated and expanded upon, high level players will eventually get bored and move on to other games. I would like to see some option for buying loot from vendors by completing actions in the Dark Zone, similar to how World of Warcraft offers vendors to purchase loot on top of what you get from raid encounters. This would allow solo players to have a reason to continually explore the end game area and endure the random encounters with other players, who simply want to steal loot, or watch the world burn.
One thing is for sure though, Ubisoft has grabbed my attention with this beta and I most definitely cannot wait for March 8 to get here so I can return to the cold unforgiving world of The Division.
Will you be purchasing The Division as soon as it releases? What are your thoughts on the beta? Let us know in the comments below.