The Division Beta Impressions

The Division is less than a week away from launch.  It had a successful Alpha and Beta test, and has become one of the most played betas in history.  With the current cost of games and the lack of free time that we are all dealing with, do we have room in our gaming rotation for The Division?  Is this worth the 70+ dollars that we’d have to shell out for it and a season pass?  Let’s look at what we learned from the Alpha and the Beta tests.

I was fortunate to have played in the Alpha, the closed Beta and the open Beta.  There are some things that stood out, and some things that stood out because of their absence.

Game Play

Enhanced ACR customization

Gun customization in The Division.

At it’s base, The Division is a 3rd person loot based cover shooter.  It’s as if Gears of War and Destiny had a Diablo 3 baby.  If you have played any FPS in the past five years, you will feel at home in The Division.  It is fluid and fun gun play.  The cover based system is similar to GoW.  If you don’t like that style of shooting, this may not be the game for you.  However, if you love that Mass Effect/Gears style, this will be right up your alley.  It’s not hard to pick up, and if you know anything about tactics and flanking, you will do great.  This feels as smooth as Ubisoft’s other shooter, Rainbow 6 Siege, and the UI is easy to understand.

It plays like Destiny.  There is no other comparison to make to it.  It’s Destiny in mid-town Manhattan.  If you’re okay with the fact that this is an RPG first and realistic FPS/3rd person shooter second, you should have no problems.  You will run into bullet sponge NPC’s.  The boss fights are interesting, and have some mechanics you will need to work around.  Head shots are not an instant kill like in R6S.

The one down side is, there wasn’t much time to play with the talents or perks.  We didn’t have access to any talent or perk beyond level 1.  We never got to see or taste the crafting part of the game.  It was dangled in front of us, but we got little to no information about what it was or how it worked.  There was so much for this game to show, and it just showed the same missions over and over again.

The Visuals

There have been a lot of complaints about how the graphics have been down graded from the trailer last summer.  granted, this game is beautiful on a PC, but don’t let that deter you from the consoles.  On the Xbox One and PS4, the game is still beautiful.  The lighting and snow effects will mesmerize you.  You will find yourself caught watching the scenery, taking in the atmosphere that is New York City.  The visuals helps make Manhattan a character in the game.  You feel the city is suffering, you see the people suffering, and it fills you with a sense to get the Big Apple back on its feet again.  There is something stunning about jumping behind cover as someone unleashes a flame thrower on you and the visuals of fire, smoke, and gas hitting your screen is awesome.

The PvP

The Division’s Dark Zone has the chance for some real intense moments.The Division Gameplay  Like bringing back the old school xp loss game play of EverQuest, The Dark Zone makes everything count within in its walls.  This area creates tension just by walking into it.  It becomes the wild west with fewer rules.  You will always be asking yourself “Are you cool?” when you meet new people.  There will be strife, and lots of it.  There will be excitement, and there will be player versus player action.  There are a few things that need to be worked on.  The going rogue mechanic needs to be balanced a fair bit.  You can become highlighted for a bounty simply by defending yourself.  If Ubisoft can fix or modify this mechanic, I think they’ve tapped into something special here.  Of course, it will be the wild west, which means there will be assholes trying to troll you, and troll you they will.  You can choose to leave it alone, or you can walk in of your own accord, just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in for.  The griefing and xp loss in this area will inspire the greatest of reaction and trolling videos.

The Good

The game at its core is fun.  It’s beautiful and it helps you get immersed in the setting they have created.  The two story missions you get to play are compelling.  They are a lot of fun, and require some thinking to get around.  You feel like you want to see how the rest of the story unfolds.  You want to explore the whole of Manhattan, you even want to dip your feet into the Dark Zone.

Stack this on top of the visuals and the game play, the fact that we get to see little of the game, yet we still have fun, means that the stuff we have access to is great.  However, there’s still a lot of big question marks floating over this game.

Division Gif

The Bad

There is a lot the game doesn’t show us.  Most of Manhattan is blocked off, the missions from the Alpha were the same through both Betas.  With the exception of the unlocking the extra wing at the stronghold, we played the same version of the game.  We don’t know what the story is going to become, and we aren’t given many hints of what it will turn into.

The talents and perks were limited.  In Battlefront we got a good selection of skills and items we could play around with.  We could see the potential for combos that would be killer on the battlefield.  In The Division, we get just a a glimpse of what’s offered.  We get a fraction of the map to play in, and we only get our toes wet with the story.  The only part of the crafting system we get to see is that there will be a crafting system.  That’s it.  That’s all we get.  This felt more like a demo than a beta test.

The big question still remains, is it worth the money to buy?  The answer is: I don’t know.  Maybe it’s still feeling the burn from Assassin’s Creed Unity, something that looks pretty but falls on its face.  Maybe it’s the economy of video games, and dropping 70 dollars to play a game is asking a lot.  Without being able to see more of the game, there is no good answer for that.  I’d say wait for the game to come out and see what the reviews are.  If it’s worth it for you after the reviews, then by all means, pick that sucker up.  It was a mixed batch of feelings playing The Division.  The things were able to do were fun, a lot of fun.  However, the player base was left with more questions than answers.

The parts that we could play were well done, but you can’t buy a house based on the colour it’s painted,   you have to see what’s actually inside.  It was a weird mix of amazing game play with wondering what the rest of the game could be.  Right now, it is Schrodinger’s video game; it is both an awesome game and a terrible game.  We won’t know which game we’ll get until we open the box.

The Division is set to launch March 8th, 2016.

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