I remember watching E3 in 2014 and enjoying most of what I had seen presented. It was a fun year. It was very Destiny focused because the game would be releasing in a couple months. We saw Rise of the Tomb Raider, Uncharted 4, Halo 5, Star Wars: Battlefront, The Witcher, and Scalebound. All of these games got the video game world excited, but I don’t think any game excited me more than The Division. Being someone who prefers 3rd person shooters to FPS, I loved seeing the gameplay take that approach. The narrative seemed very intriguing, and the world had a desolation to it that made me excited to explore. Oh, and the visuals were absolutely stunning. I was ready for this game. Unfortunately, the game has been dealt a couple delays, and there was worry coming into Robby’s heart that this game was going to let me down. That was until we played the beta this weekend.
I’m going to try and break down as much of the game as I can while not giving you every little detail, but I do have a ton to say about this game. I won’t be diving into the narrative because I think that is kind of moot at this point, but I will focus the game’s structure for this discussion. So, let’s start off with the visuals. Does it look like the visual spectacle that it did in 2014? No, it doesn’t. But, I don’t think it was ever going to on a present day console. With that said, it still looks bloody great. The weather system is gorgeous, and the day and night cycle is incredibly well done. The environment is still destructible, and it’s impressive to see. There is a brief lag from bullet to the animation, but that is all based on server issues, which is correlated to it being a beta. The game is very pretty we’ll just leave it at that, for now.
Let’s talk about what you can do in the game. It’s a third person shooter that I actually really enjoyed the mechanics of. The running and climbing seemed smooth, and I think the shooting is tight. It is a cover-shooter, and the game makes sure you don’t forget that. Not only because you will get your butt handed to you, but because they offer you an auto cover mechanic. The X button finds cover, but you can look around your surroundings and quick cover to another location. I found it convenient and not too glitchy.
It’s a loot-based game that has RPG components added to it. The gear you collect has stats that make your character strengthen in health, attack, and skill power. Yes, you have skills, which were healing, a sticky grenade launcher, and a shield that can be used for duration of time. Now, you could only use two skills at a time. Each one seems to have an upgrade that can be obtained, but it also feels that you won’t always want to use the upgraded version. I believe that there will be a strategy to each. The page of your UI that you chose these skills from was the “Abilities” page, and on it you can see “Talents” and “Perks.” Here, we weren’t allowed to investigate really anything on those pages, but I was incredibly intrigued by what they were.
There is also base building involved in this game. They only have one wing of it open, which is Medical, but there seems to be multiple wings that can benefit you from leveling up or getting resources throughout your adventures. There seems to be crafting and other things that the player can do for themselves, but it, like several other things, were not available to us. Honestly, the best part of the single player experience of the beta was the intrigue they gave me of what I couldn’t do. They didn’t want to show their entire hand on their first go around, and I think that was the best thing for it because there are many things that I have to shrug my shoulders and say, “I have no idea what that is.” It was a good thing to me, but I know many of you may have wanted all of it. Well, in the famous words of River Song, “No. No. Spoilers.” (Yes, I just made a Doctor Who reference. You’re welcome, world.)
The mission structure is kind of an unknown at this point too. You can run the story mode by yourself or with your friends. I assume the main story missions are given from your base, but the “encounters” and “side missions” seem to be just something you interact with on the map. So, it’s the typical open world game mission set up. That’s fine for me. I don’t need something redone that works well, but I swear the moment they tell me to climb a tower to open up my map, I may have an opening rant for a podcast episode that I’m sure no one wants to hear.
Now, let’s discuss why this game could be something special this year: The Dark Zone. Some may have looked at this as just another PvP area that they have no interest in, and that was definitely me going into this. I cared about the world and loot; I’m not big on competitive shooters. I’m not good at it, and I don’t play stuff that I suck at. Anyway, this game seems to offer a plethora of options for any type of fan of PvP type games. The general premise is that you collect loot by killing other players, NPC’s, or finding loot crates. After collecting a certain amount of pieces, you must have a helicopter come in and take your loot back to your base because it needs to be uncontaminated. The way you do that is you head to a helicopter pad and wait for the extraction. That’s when the game became the tensest experience since Bloodborne last year.
Before I go into my battle story, let me hit the “Rogue” situation in the game. In the Dark Zone, if you attack another person first, you and/or your team become a “Rogue.” This means that you have a timer over your head, the map indicates where you are, and there’s a bounty on your head until the timer runs out. Now, if you’re killed, you have a thirty second wait until you can respawn, you lose quite a bit of your loot, and your killer gets money and XP. Now, you can survive, and you receive additional XP for doing so. Or, you can go on a killing spree and take additional loot, money, and XP for killing people while under the “Rogue” label. Its very much high-risk/high-reward, and it’s actually really awesome to play with at times. I’m sure Scott and the guys will talk about the dark side that was shown, by me, when we played. Look, the game is you kill them or they kill you. Survival is the key.
Now, it’s time for my story. So, I was playing with three of my friends, and we were frolicking through the Dark Zone, just having a great time, but then some jerks ambushed us and took our loot. We didn’t take that too well. We spent twenty minutes hunting them down and returned the favor. So began, a rivalry that lasted most of the night. Then we had that moment. That moment where I realized that this game could be something special. My team and I spent quite some time filling up our loot space to set up an extraction. Once we had what we wanted, we headed to the nearest helicopter pad. We shot up our flare and waited for the helicopter to arrive. With forty seconds left on the clock, guess who shows up? That’s right. Our nemeses, and we assumed that they were ready for another shot at the title. However, something was different this time. They all did the hands up signal to indicate that they were just trying to extract too.
Now, were obviously at a crossroads. We can allow them to do this and risk betrayal, or we can risk fighting them and dying by their hands or the next team that comes up. We decided to go with the former. Both teams circled around the circle of the pad and waited for the extraction, but the entire time, we had our guns all pointed at each other. My friends and I were yelling, “Be cool, dude,” “Guys, if they do this, we’ve gotta get behind here,” and “Let them even try. I’ll send them back to the digital hell they came from.” It was intense. We had no idea what was going to happen, but we knew that we weren’t going down without a fight. Wanna know the result? Not a single bullet was shot, and there was peace for the moment in the Dark Zone.
The Dark Zone is all about risk and reward. You can try to be a jerk, but you will more than likely pay a huge price. You can be the nice guy, and you will probably get exactly what every nice character in Game of Thrones gets. It’s up to you though.
This game may follow some tropes already done by other games, and it may not be the real life visuals that were shown two years ago. However, this game seems to do enough things really well, and add some incredible tension from the Dark Zone area to give us a new fun iteration to the genre. Only time will tell, but The Division could be that game that many felt Destiny would be. Now I don’t mean that to set up a comparison with Destiny because outside of shooting and multiplayer, the two games are nothing alike. With that said, many felt that Destiny was that game changer, but it’s lack of content and horrible loot drops early on kept it from being that type of game. If Division can give us content, an interesting world, and more moments like I spoke of, then this will be that type of game. I guess we’ll see in less than six weeks. Please don’t let us down, Ubisoft.