Wot I Think: Tom Clancy’s The Division

The Division came out last week, breaking Ubisoft sales records and causing all civilised behaviour between RPS staff members to break down. Sleeper agent Brendan was activated and ordered to clean up the mess. Let’s see wot he thinks.

I shot wildly and inaccurately at level 5 and was enjoying The Division. At level 19, I was grinding side missions and was not enjoying The Division. At level 23 I was sending little seeker drones full of explosives into rooms packed with angry men (I was enjoying The Division again). I could write the whole review like this but I think it would get a little repetitive.

The world as we know it has broken down, or rather, New York as we know it has broken down. As an agent of a super secret wing of the military you are tasked with cleaning up the streets, along with the thousands of other punters prancing about this open quasi-MMO world. Working alone or in a team you have to restore order to a city in the midst of collapse. Mostly, you achieve this by shooting at men from behind cover.

This cover system is fairly robust and mercifully glitch free. Aim at a piece of cover in range and hold ‘A’ (I’m using a game pad) and your character will leap out and follow a thin automated line until they reach it, weaving around obstacles and scuttling behind trash cans like a rat. To round a corner while in cover you simply hold the stick in its direction for a few moments. Given how important these controls are to the game it is a relief to see them function so well. Going into the streets of NYC I was not expecting to enjoy much of Clancy’s new shooty bang, but being able to dodge from car bonnet to car bonnet without it feeling “sticky” or “floaty” was the first of my pleasant surprises.

Retaking the streets is the main objective. There are three main groups of dopes out there trying to stop you. The Rikers are a group of escaped convicts, the Last Man Battalion is a group of private sector mercenaries, and the Cleaners are a group of city workers trying to torch all remnants of the virus. You’ll also have to deal with rioters and hoodlums, nothing but disorganised bands of YOUTHS. Each group has its own flavour and they all sport distinct classes of bad dude. There are snipers, elite soldiers with armour, grenadiers, heavy machine gunners, flame thrower creeps and men with baseball bats who like to bum rush you when you’re not looking. They all have helpful icons over their heads next to their health bar to let you know their type as you shoot them. And when you do this you will see that the enemies in The Division do not bleed blood like you and I. They bleed numbers.

That’s because Tom Clancy’s apocalypse-in-progress is Ubisoft’s answer to Destiny. What Bungie did to the first-person shooty-bang and traditional MMO, the Jolly French Giant is doing to the cover shooter. All the same principles are being applied here. Shoot at the bad guys to see the numbers spill out of them like guts. Then run over to their corpse and salvage whatever loot you can. Enemies drop new guns, armour, weapon mods as well as your bread and butter ammo and med kits. Getting yourself kitted out in the inventory is a busy mess of percentages, arithmetic and level requirements.

In fact “busy” is a word that can be applied to the entirety of the screen at any time, mission objectives and information is constantly plastering itself over the gorgeous ruins of Manhattan. It was a couple of hours until my eyes stopped instinctively wrestling with all the information. After that, I knew what I was doing and dropping into my Base of Operations to sell loot and recalibrate all my bits ‘n’ pieces became a welcome rest from all the panicked hipfiring.

This headquarters, incidentally, is the whole hook of the game. Walk in to the Base of Operations and this is the wall that greets you.

These three unfinished circles, each with a giant percentage in the centre, are either a masterstroke of MMO design philosophy or the result of some Faustian pact between Ubisoft and the devil. Every story mission you complete for the folks in your Base gets you resources to spend on one of three wings of the building – Medical, Tech or Security. For instance, you might get medical resources and spend them to build a pharmacy. Or you might construct a canine unit in the blue Security wing. As you upgrade the building you gain skills (things you can use or deploy in battle), abilities (stat boosts under certain conditions, like low health) and perks (passive and permanent effects).

The tech wing, for instance, grants you a mobile turret that you can throw and deploy anywhere with one of the bumper buttons. Subsequent upgrades allow this turret to belch flames, or grant it a better range. One medical upgrade grants you an aid station to throw down for area-of-effect healing. The biggest upgrade of every wing is an additional uber-skill, activated by pressing both bumpers, granting huge buffs to nearby squad mates. The building also houses vendors where you can buy and sell weapons, armour and mods. The mods slot into your guns – suppressors that reduce recoil, scopes that increase accuracy damage or increase XP gained from headshots, magazines that offer more bang for your buck. Some armour also comes with mod slots, granting bonuses or increases to one of your three main attributes: Firearms, Stamina or Electronics. Yes, the old triumvirate of MMOs is alive and well here. My brain could not help but translate these, when I first saw them, into Damage, Health and Magic.

As you upgrade your building and, by association, your character, you see the environment of the Base itself change. The clinics in the medical wing get staffed with doctors, people line up to receive aid packages, the computer rooms of the tech wing become buzzing with nerds. Adam and Graham have grumbled about having to run around inside your base, collecting the items that your new facilities collect for you (fabric to craft gear, salvaged loot, incendiary ammo). But for me this feels like the good kind of housekeeping. I would rather navigate a real world than a menu any day. And of course, as you upgrade each wing, those big round circles slowly fill up, their percentages goading you to go out there and complete more story missions.

But what happens when there are no more missions? Well, here it is buddy, you’re deep in grind country now. The side missions offer a paltry sum of supplies for each wing in comparison to the bigger, badder and far more interesting set pieces of the story missions. So if you find yourself too low a level for a main mission, you have to grind away at the lesser tasks. At the beginning it feels like there is a healthy smattering of side mission types – rescue the hostages, defend the supplies, collect the goodies, secure the area. But these soon begin to noticeably repeat themselves. There are seemingly endless collectibles to find. Phone call recordings, pages from a survival guide, watches from missing agents, and so on. But collecting even the most interesting of these – the “echoes”, short glimpses of storyline – is no substitute for the real thing. When these grindy plateaus come, they are painful. But when you get back to the story missions, everything becomes okay again.

You don’t have to do the side missions, of course. There is another option: the Dark Zone. This is a giant portion of the city marked in deep red on your map. It is where the other players live. Because, for all of The Division’s posturing as a lawless land of reprobates and murderers, it only lets you meet other random players in Safehouses (where guns are disabled) or in the Dark Zone. You can roam the rest of the “normal city” in a matchmade group, but your group will never meet another group there. You can wander it alone, but you will never see another human person. This is the game’s way of dividing PvP and PvE and it kind of works.

You enter the Dark Zone through one of many checkpoints, where you get a yellow bag that can hold only a small cache of loot, about six to eight items. Loot in the Dark Zone is generally higher level than outside the walls. However, these items can’t be taken back out of the Zone through the checkpoints (because they are contaminated, duh) and if you die, they will drop with your corpse. They have to be “extracted”. You go to an extraction point and fire a flare to call a chopper, which will arrive in two minutes and take all your loot away, clean it for you, and drop it in your stash at HQ. The gist here is that both NPC nasties AND other players are alerted when you fire the flare. They can all come and get you, and take your stuff for themselves.

Any player can also “go rogue” by killing another, earning them a bounty. If you kill a rogue player you get the bounty, paid in special Dark Zone funds. If the rogue player survives until the end of a timer above their heads, they get the bounty themselves. More kills increases both the amount of Dark Zone funds and the time the rogue must survive. These Dark Zone dollars can only be spent on items from vendors at the entry checkpoints (and later from a specialist at your HQ). Mobs roaming the Dark Zone will also sometimes drop keys letting you unlock chests secreted away in certain buildings.

Generally, this is all great fun. It was definitely the highlight of my last few days with the game, giving a sense of danger and urgency to the city. But there are some downers. I murdered my way through the Dark Zone one evening, befriending and betraying many people and earning a lot of DZ dosh. But when I emerged at a checkpoint, I discovered I couldn’t spend anything because I couldn’t afford even the cheapest weapons I wanted, nor was I the requisite “Dark Zone rank” – a leveling system totally separate from your rank on the “outside”. It was like going into one of those terrible arcades where the machines print little tickets, then getting to the exchange desk and discovering you only have enough tickets for a single, malty lollipop.

Despite this bit of grind, I did have a good time in the Zone. But, like I said, it only kind of works. I very rarely saw other rogue agents and often saw swarms of players working in tandem, or simply ignoring one another. The bounty system and promise of loot doesn’t seem like it’s enough to encourage people to turn into the necessary villains. When I was with a group who went rogue, they simply did it to find out what happened. Once it was over, it was clear that there was far more profit to be had in farming the NPCs. After all, there was no scarcity of them, and no scarcity of loot. And, unlike going rogue, killing the AI characters didn’t often end with the three of us hiding behind dumpsters waiting for the time to tick down.

In reality, the most villainous things players are doing in the Dark Zone is purposefully walking in front of you as you fire at an NPC so that the game marks you as “rogue”, allowing them to kill you without recourse, all because of a few stray bullets. This is what happens when blockbuster publishers try to harness the atmosphere of DayZ and its ilk without truly surrendering control to the players. I’m sad that Ubisoft felt the need to segregate the community into PvE and PvP at all, and to water down all motivation to turn into a bastard. I would rather the whole city be a “Dark Zone”. But I also think I’m an outlier in this regard. As the Assassin’s Creed series shows, Ubisoft’s multiplayer modes often strafe the unusual, as opposed to embracing it outright. And people seem to like it.

I should also add that I experienced just as much peril, if not more, running into PvE areas of the city where the enemies were FAR above my level, in an effort to locate and unlock each safehouse. This feeling of making your way from one part of an embattled city to another, a la Escape from New York, is a feeling I want to see replicated more often in games, and even if I just invented this little tour-of-the-map “game mode” myself, I’m glad it can be done.

Reading this, you might think I have mixed feelings. Really, I have mostly-good feelings. I have all the same problems with The Division as I had with its closest bedmate, Destiny. The transparency of its bit-by-bit progression system, the gating of areas by level, the sponginess of its enemies, its reliance on scrubbing the map clean of icons, all designed to make you grind first and think later. And yet I enjoy it a lot more than the latter.

I think this is all down to the setting and the fine detail of the streets. In Destiny, you get Peter Dinklage nattering on about “the light” and “the darkness” and any other fantasy sci-fi cliché you can pull out of your cryo tube. In The Division you get enemies with motives, a world with a reason for being the way it is, and bosses with some semblance of character. I’m not saying there are no clichés (a virus has run amok). It’s just that they are of a much higher quality.

There are also some surprisingly fun minor characters. The handlers at each safehouse have some of the best lines in the game. For example, one of them is morbidly philosophical, thanking you for keeping civilians safe, then postulating aloud over the radio the relativity of words like “safe”. Another speaks only in New Age self-improvement jargon, congratulating you for helping the district reach “self actualisation”. It is a relief that something so deadpan has included some lightness like this around the edges. There are lots of other neat details. Here is a health poster that made me smile. “Got a face?” it reads. “AVOID TOUCHING IT.”

Here is a dog pooping in the street.

I’m not being flippant when I draw attention to these. I genuinely appreciate tiny details like this. It reveals the underlying tone of the game, a smirking tone. It is something that Destiny could never muster for me, even if the flow and feel of its firefights are sometimes better.

There are other reasons I should dislike The Division. It’s repetitive, the XP plateaus suck, and the enemies soak up bullets like they’re eating them. There is an entire wing of skills offering riot shields and deployable cover that nobody – I mean NOBODY – ever uses because there is already cover absolutely everywhere. I do not know why these skills are in the game. There are also a lot of Ubisoft’s sneaky design elements, like the way some side missions will activate if you are even remotely nearby, without consulting you on whether or not you want to do them, assaulting you with objective markers and voiceover demands and HUD elements, leaving you with that begrudging sense of obligation to drop what you had planned, not out of curiousity or innocent distraction, but just to tidy away all the icons filling up your screen. Just because: “Well, I’m here now. I might as well.”

And yet, there is something about it all that I appreciate. Maybe because it looks stunning and I’m a sucker for the apocalypse. Maybe I am a simple human and the psychological tricks of the MMO-shooter hybrid have just done their job. If the DLC (when it finally arrives for us PC folk) gives the side missions more flavour and spices up the Dark Zone, I will very likely return and grind a little more. Until that time, I may step back from it sooner than the developers may have hoped. I feel like, as much as I’m enjoying it, the side missions and gun farming only has a limited appeal once the story missions are over. And my stomach churns to think of making my way to the level cap just for the sake of ultimate completion. At level 26, I’m enjoying The Division. At level 30, I’m worried it’ll get repetitive.

The Division is out now for Windows and available from Steam, Uplay and elsewhere.

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82 Comments

  1. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Level 30 is where the game opened up for me, running the dark zone hunting the phoenix credit to buy the lovely yellow blueprints. The game has a rhythm and flow to it that is quite comforting, even if running the darkzone solo can be brutal at times.

    • Kullendorff says:

      I agree – even if the road to 30 was funny it was when I hit 30 the game really opened up. Living in the DZ and grinding them blueprints. :)

  2. Thornback says:

    The best mission handler is the lady that talks to you like she’s your mum.

    “Thanks for taking care of that bad guy sweetie. Hope you didn’t get any blood on your equipment, it’s the worst stain to get out.”

  3. razgon says:

    I think one of the dangers of reviewing games, is how much time you spend in a relatively short amount of compressed time , on the game. While of course there are others who are level 27, or 30 by now, almost every single person I know who plays this game, is between level 10 and 20.

    That means, a lot of your criticism about how samey some of the games elements are, will be less valid, since spaced out over time, you wont remember them quite as well, as if you have just done them 30 minutes ago.

    Of course, your review applies to the faster levellers as well, and there its of course valid.

    I guess my point is, that time spent makes quite a difference, in how closely spaced that time is, in how the game appears.

    • nindustrial says:

      I think this is spot on. I’m level 11 after a weekend of play (DZ 14). Additionally, I find this game suits itself well to my typical take-your-time attitude; I often *walk* the streets on the way to side missions and encounters simply to soak in the atmosphere!

      Honestly, I was a little cautious for fear of grind/repetition, despite really liking the current iteration of Destiny (only picked it up just now with the Legendary Edition), but I am just in love with the Division. Taking time is a big key to that I think.

      • internisus says:

        A thousand times, this. I spend a lot of time just walking in the streets, listening to the sounds of the city and enjoying the thickly atmospheric weather and light effects. It’s a hell of a place to be.

        Plus, taking my time like this leads me to discover lots of well-hidden places, and the exploration feels novel at times due to the urban environment’s density. I’m perfectly content to just wander, confining the action to short bursts from encountering random groups of enemies. Also, within this context, I really enjoy the brief side missions, even with their repeated templates (some of which I find quite fun, like the supply drops that require you to quickly move to defend disparate positions), because of how neatly they slot into the greater environment.

        I’ve read a lot of impressions of the game where you can easily tell that the person constantly sprinted from one mission marker to the next, and it’s a real pity.

        • nindustrial says:

          Right on! It can lead to organically exploring and finding the Intel pickups as well. (Though, to be fair, one of my first Security Wing upgrades was the canine unit which reveals all Intel in a district it you finish all missions/encounters, but that’s more because I don’t want to overlook one and then be forced into a haystack search later on)

          • internisus says:

            Yep, same for me. I actually wish that they hadn’t included that perk because it disincentivizes me from making the effort to look around.

            Also, I’m worried that being in the DZ past 30 won’t be as much fun as this because there’s nothing to find when you wander besides enemies. With no side missions or intel or even NPCs to run into, it’ll just be constant action.

        • toxicfiend1957 says:

          Couldn’t say it any better this game really requires you to take your time and look around soak up the atmosphere.

      • toxicfiend1957 says:

        you are spot on i love this games look and feel just like the pic of the dog taking a crap just the little things like that make it feel right.I love like you just roaming and looking around and just seeing the sun reflect on the glass of buildings as it rises,for me things like that not just shooting and moving on are what i like.

    • anHorse says:

      I’d suggest the opposite, too many reviews suffer from the reviewer not having played enough at that time
      They often don’t point out just how repetitive games are or how they fall off the train entirely 2/3rds of the way through.

      The way games are reviewed has many problems but thinking stuff because you played it fast is not one of them

  4. ramirezfm says:

    Are the enemies bullet sponges forever? I played only a little in beta and it was very annoying. The baddies shrugging of headshots like I was using BB guns. Is it better when you get better guns or it’s more or less the same experience regardless of your progression.

    • razgon says:

      No – I often shoot enemies with just one, or two, bursts. The bullet sponge thing isnt as notieable as it was in the beta (Bear in mind I’m level 11, so who knows how it is in higher levels).

    • ninjapirate says:

      It really depends on the difference in levels. If the enemy is a higher level than you, you won’t be able to do much damage to it, they’ll be the “bullet sponges” that you mentioned. If the enemy is lower level, you can walk right through them.

    • Smidgey87 says:

      As long as your guns are appropriately levelled then no (outside of the elite armoured ones anyway). My marksman rifle kills regular enemies in one Headshot or 2 to 3 body shots, shotgun blasts take 1 to 2 shots and rifles/smgs take 2 or 3 bursts.

      • Premium User Badge

        Philopoemen says:

        Depends on your level, and gear level.

        You’ll one shot generic enemies, but purples and yellows (veteran and Elite for wont of another term) will eat up rounds. That said, you’ll eventually get weapons with bonus against armour and Elite enemies, so it balances out.

        • ramirezfm says:

          Cheers, might give it a try then. Wasting 0.5-1 magazine on one normal enemy was really off-putting and that’s the only thing I remember from beta.

          • Premium User Badge

            Qazinsky says:

            Depends on the weapons though. There is six types of weapons, but there is variations. Assault rifles for example can allow different mods, low fire rate but hit hard, fast fire rate, lower damage, bigger mag and bad max range to compensate, burst fire and so on.

            If you use a doublebarreled shotgun, you’re still gonna need to use half your mag to kill an enemy :P

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      When you walk around outside missions, you’ll be able to take down regular enemies of your own level with a single bullet to the head with a marksman rifle. I think the same applies if you choose to play mission on normal difficulty. If you start missions on hard, they will take a few bullets, the mission I played at lvl 18 today, the regular enemies (purple enemies at hard) died of two marksman rifle bullets to the head.

      Another interesting thing about enemies in the Division though, is that they very often have other weak spots than their head, like all those grenadiers with a backpack full of grenades, hit the backpack hard enough (one bullet on normal diff, regular enemies) and they will explode and hurt others nearby (potentially including you). If they carry any kind of container on their body that could possibly contain anything explosive, give it a shot!

  5. MiniMatt says:

    Curse you RPS. This game started firmly in my “meh, not interested” pile, and with every article you state that “meh, not interested” is a perfectly valid pile for it to reside in, whilst incrementally nudging me closer to purchase.

    It’s those percentages. Couldn’t you have ‘shopped the screenshots so they were at 100%? Because now I’m going to have to buy it just to fix it. You can’t leave a percentage at 20%, you just can’t. I have to do everything round here. I bet you even left some icons uncleared didn’t you?

    Fellow commentariat – how does it play with mouse/keyboard? Not averse to pads but for shooty games I always preferred mouse aim.

    • ninjapirate says:

      I had no issues with keyboard and mouse whatsoever. Never even considered using a controller instead!

    • Premium User Badge

      Philopoemen says:

      issues are item selection – hold “G” and then point the mouse at the right icon, but it’s a little finicky. The difference between “Press” and “Hold” can be tetchy too with keyboard.

      That said I played on laptop and mouse, so take from that what you will.

      • Tekrunner says:

        I also have trouble using those item wheels, but you can bind items to specific keys. I’ve set keybinds to the ones I use the most, and it works pretty well.

    • nindustrial says:

      M+KB work like a dream. Wouldn’t think of playing with a Gamepad. (And I enjoy the pad in Destiny)

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      The only problems I have with aiming is due to third person, not the mouse itself. In third person, you’ll get some bad angles sometimes that you should be able to shoot at, but things blocks the players view while while the character should still be able to see. The interesting thing with Division though is that if you aim down sight, you can hit shift to switch what shoulder you’re looking over you character.

    • quintesse says:

      For me the same, I wasn’t much interested especially because on Steam it’s rating is awful. So what’s up with that? Game mags like it but normal players don’t?

      • Premium User Badge

        Qazinsky says:

        I think it was based on some trouble people had at the start to make it run. It could also have been a campaign. Or the people that didn’t like it voted and left while most of the people liking it was playing it and hadn’t voted yet.

        Whatever the reason, it was at 49% close to release and now it is at 72%, give it some more time to stabilize as more people vote to see a more fair result.

      • Premium User Badge

        Philopoemen says:

        To be fair, the servers were not very stable for the first few days of release, which is frustrating when you just want to play solo. That said, they’ve been fairly reliable since launch. For me at least.

        • Viral Frog says:

          Frustrating, yes. But it’s also ignoring history. The launch of most online games typically starts out with the words, “it was a rough first few days due to server instability, but now that things have calmed down…”

          My guess is that the people ragequitting had never played an online only game before? If not, they sure were acting like it.

      • Minglefingler says:

        A lot of it was because the servers were playing up, there was also a fair amount of “fuck Ubisoft/ Uplay” stuff getting thrown around.

      • cloudstrife259 says:

        If you look at the steam reviews a lot of them are 1-2 hours of game time played saying things like “THIS GAME IS TOO GRINDY” “GAME SUCKS” “TOTAL GRINDFEST” “BULLET SPONGES” even though in the first hour you’ve maybe gotten through the tutorial if you rushed, and definitely haven’t done much in the game. I’ve recommended the game to several friends and will continue to do so because teamplay is quite fun.

  6. Sandepande says:

    If the whole city would be Dark Zone, I wouldn’t touch it. Why? I don’t like multiplayer games…

    • ramirezfm says:

      +1

    • Aerothorn says:

      This sounds like an excellent reason to not play multiplayer games?

      • Sandepande says:

        You’re right, and fortunately The Division is quite lovely as a single-player game, and I’m not terribly worried about DZ or the endgame – I suspect I’ve had my fill of the game when I hit level 30.

        Well. I do play multiplayer games, but those occur around a table and involve cards, boards or dice and pencils. In videogames, however, I like to go at my own pace and I’m not interested in debating tactics.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Philopoemen says:

    I had annual leave, so i hammered this last week. Level 30, and DZ level 35 or similar. I never went DZ until i hit level 30, and to be honest, I started in DZ6, and saw three other players my entire time I spent there. (Timezones wouldn’t help either.) There defnitely isn;t any sense of impending doom there – yet.

    It’s the same skinner-box mentality of Diablo once you hit Level 30 – do you want to grind for gear, so you can grind for better gear, so you can maybe shoot some poor schmuck, and steal his gear?

    The Hard-mode and Challenging Dailies are where you get the Phoenix credits since they nerfed the drops (went from getting 10-15 credits for a Hard mode speed run of the first mission to getting 1-3), but given the paucity of the missions, this might get old/

    The only thing I’d like them to add is some more mechanics to the named Elites – at the moment, every fight is largely the same – it’d be nice if those named bosses had their own individual mechanics.

    • Premium User Badge

      Philopoemen says:

      One thing they have done amazingly well given the number of weapons in the game is making each weapon retain it’s individuality. SCAR-H handles differently to a Covert SRS, to a M1A, etc etc, despite the fact they’re all Marksman Rifles. You can really choose your own play-style simply from the weapon you choose.

      • internisus says:

        I’m glad someone brought this up because it’s something I really like about how the guns work.

        Each weapon participates in an archetype whose handling properties are the same no matter its gear level (and therefore no matter its actual damage output), so there are a lot of distinct choices within each of the six weapon categories, each with its own identity and subtle differences in the role it can play. It creates a lot of options for the dynamic between your primary and secondary weapons when you’re considering what works for your play style.

        Getting to know these weapons is part of the pleasure of taking my time in the journey to level 30, and I’m already looking forward to collecting ideal versions of several specific guns.

        • Premium User Badge

          Philopoemen says:

          Indeed – I generally roll with a Assault rifle primary, and DMR as secondary, and whilst leveling, I changed my preference of both as I worked out what suited me best.

          Of course that all goes out the window when you find a really good gun!

  8. neofit says:

    I found this page some time ago, where the author explains that The Division could be a good single-player game as well (link to nowgamer.com). Is this still accurate after release?

    • Tekrunner says:

      Yes, what’s written in that article applies to the released game. I’m level 18 and I alternate between playing with friends and playing solo, and the latter doesn’t feel limited compared to the former. You do have to be more careful in the Dark Zone since there’s no enemy scaling there, but right now the threat of being targeted by rogues (= other players) is almost non-existant (as the article states the risk of going rogue is too high given the rewards).

      I believe there is one thing which is basically impossible to solo: daily challenge missions. They become available at level 30, and are balanced for a full group of well-geared players. As a solo player you may have to leave these aside, or at least hop into random groups to have a chance of completing them.

      • Premium User Badge

        Philopoemen says:

        You can solo them, but you need to have gear with the bonus against elites and armour-piercing talents (and protection from elites). Though if you’ve got the gear to do it solo, you probably don’t need to do it anyway.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        Is matchmaking available for the daily missions? For that matter, how extensive is the matchmaking – missions, sidequests, dark zone only, etc?

        • nearly says:

          The matchmaking is very extensive. The basic set-up is that the city is divided into different neighborhoods, and the enemies in those areas change/level as you progress. When you go to a Safe House, it’s basically the neighborhood’s hub and puts all of the side missions on your map: you can still find and do them (as you probably will often do on the way to a new Safe House, all of which are on your map to begin with) but Safe Houses have vendors with good level appropriate gear, and a terminal to open the Matchmaking panel and search for someone in that area to do side missions (because they’re brief enough that it’d be pointless to matchmake for specific side missions).

          You can also open your map, select a main story mission, and hit matchmake.

          Or, you can open your menu wherever you are and hit matchmake, selecting either free roam or Dark Zone (which will just try to put you in a group with people of the right level bracket).

          So, again, they’ve made it really easy to matchmake at any point, no matter what you’re doing, and pretty much any activity can be done with a group. You don’t necessarily need to play with others, but some things will be easier (especially if you’re not well-geared for whatever it is). The main story missions alternate every other level, which is where most of the grind people talk about comes from, but I somehow managed to get a couple levels ahead of the story and then soloed a couple missions without problems (if you’ve played Diablo, you probably realize pugs are going to blow through the story faster than you’ll appreciate if you’re the kind of person that wants to hear it all).

          Very smooth, very efficient. Groups can be hit or miss. I tried Challenge Mode yesterday for the first time and spent maybe an hour on the first part of a fight with one group before we disbanded. Next group had mics and we spent maybe 2-3 hours in a story mission because we were having fun (even though we were getting our asses handed to us still). It remains to be seen whether or not the high end content will be pug-able but it’s nice to not have to rely on external sources to find a group (as was the case in Destiny).

  9. rymm says:

    my little brother got it on the ps4, so i’ve put maybe 20 hours or so into it. i love the atmosphere of it all, and the guns feel nice, if under powered against a bloke in a hoody, but it comes with the rpg ness of it.
    i dont know though, i see people play it and think ‘ohh that looks good’ then when i play it, i’m just bored and going through the motions, thinking that maybe it will be better at lvl 30?
    what it comes down to for me, is that i dont come home from work all excited to play it.

  10. Connoisseur says:

    I use both ballistic shield AND mobile cover in my squad. We have a lot of use for it, cover doesn’t protect you much vs 4 elites rushing at you with shotguns and shock grenades in challenge mode.

    • internisus says:

      Yeah, that mention of ballistic shields being useless is just incorrect. Classic MMORPG roles apply here, and some players spec out for huge tanky health on their shields while their teammates use weapon mods like suppressors that reduce threat so that the tank player draws all the aggro.

    • darkChozo says:

      Regarding Mobile Cover, the real benefit is the buffs you can get from mods. Just deploying cover, even good cover, is pretty meh, but with the right setup, especially combined with Smart Cover, you get a piece of good cover that gives you a huge set of offensive and defensive buffs. That gets really important in harder missions where practically every enemy brings you to critical health in a split second.

      • Stevostin says:

        This kind of confirms my impression after not mentioning X-Com is a terribly dumbed down tactical game to the point there is practically no decision to be made unless you’re so bad you don’t instantly realize what’s the vastly better one. RPS people aren’t good at quickly grasping the flow and implications of a game’s rules, apparently.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Were there supposed to be title texts on these images? They all seem to have one, but just a single space ‘ ‘

  12. Zazzaro says:

    Really sucks my buddy and co-op partner dropped down $100 for the PC gold edition and never even got to play. Gets the Delta 0186 error every single time right past the seizure warning screen. We tried everything, even connected his PC to his phone and still same error. He ended up refunded before going past 2 hours just trying to login. I like the game but that really throws a red blanket on the experience.

  13. Neutrino says:

    Damage number spam, team mate buffs and area of effect healing! It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. A shame because it seems to have beautiful environment and graphics but sadly WOW-like mechanics. Not that surprised though, I always thought this looked very much like a console game.

    Do you actually get to aim at all, or is that also WOW-like in that players lock on each other and start shooting and the guy who’s highest level wins?

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      You get to aim yourself. It got regular hipfire that works well with the right weapons and some FPS run-and-gun experience, aim down sight for more accurate third person aiming over distance or (if attached) scope for those sweet long range headshots.

    • LNO says:

      Its not a WOW mmo game; think of it as an 3rd person arpg, where aiming is necessary as well as the correct use of your gadgets. Its perfectly viable solo as well.

    • darkChozo says:

      Okay, has “console game” officially become “game I don’t like” now? Because WoW mechanics are about PC-centric as you’re going to get.

      Anyway, the game definitely isn’t a pure shooter, so if you’re looking for that you’re going to be disappointed. In a way, it almost reminds me of a weird realtime shooter version of the new XCOMs, at least for the harder content. There’s a heavy focus on cover, focusing firing immediate threats, and actively using abilities and items to supplement your damage and avoid getting overrun. It’s still a shooter, and it’s actually got decent shooting mechanics (there’s recoil!), but the core gameplay is less run-and-gun, more enemy management.

      That’s not to say everyone’s going to like it — again, if you’re looking for a pure shooter, look elsewhere, and if you’re bothered by men whose magical armor can let them take 30 rounds to the face, there’s definitely plenty of that. But there’s a certain level of tactics in the gameplay that make it a lot more engaging than, say, Borderlands, at least for me.

    • Jinoru says:

      I turned off the number spam, as with a lot of the number elements. It definitely is an ARPG though. Tom Clancy’s Diablo is how I feel it is.

      Brilliant.

  14. The Algerian says:

    Ubisoft could sell even more of this game if they just added a “Deadly bullets” option that would allow you to play on servers in which the RPG bullet-sponge/lvl fluff is gone.

    I’m sure there are plenty of people like me who are just not interested because they can’t stand having to shoot the same guy for half an hour before he drops, nor being able to stand in the middle of a room, taking hundreds of bullets to the chest without even flinching while the enemies drop like flies.

  15. Rumpelstiltskin says:

    Brendan: may I ask why you opted to play a shooter game on a PC with a controller?

    • mechabuddha says:

      I’ve been switching between gamepad and keyboard/mouse, and there are advantages to both. Movement is more fluid with the gamepad, and I have an easier time activating my skills (gamepad is press/release while keyboard/mouse is active/aim/fire). Mouse is still king when it comes to aiming, though, so I generally stick with that.

    • Brendan Caldwell says:

      Because controllers are better.

    • internisus says:

      It’s better. I always play third-person games with a controller because moving feels better with a stick than with four different keys and different fingers. I like being able to control the speed of my movement through the analog nature of the stick as well as the direction. Buttons feel more natural for tasks like attaching to cover than keys do. Triggers feel nicely tactile for holding to aim and pulling to shoot.

      Aiming really isn’t difficult without a mouse; I adjusted the stick sensitivity a bit, and after that I got decent pretty quickly. There’s a slight auto-aim that helpfully pins your reticle to the enemy you’re obviously looking at when you pop out of cover, but it’s just to get you started and goes away after a second. It’s a smart system, if you ask me.

      Really, I think that a controller is better for most games that don’t obviously require a mouse to do complicated UI stuff (super PC-centric games). The only exception is first-person games; trying to look around with an analog stick from first-person makes me feel extremely claustrophobic, to the point of serious discomfort. I wish I could have the best of both worlds—mouse-look and stick movement—but at least in third-person games there’s no such problem.

      I also rather object to the implication that mouse and keyboard should be the default go-to for PC users, due to the open nature of the platform. Anyway, console-style multiplatform games like this are obviously designed foremost with a controller in mind, so that should be the starting point with them.

  16. manio22 says:

    I can’t help but draw lines between this and Trion’s Defiance. And trust me Defiance gets repetitive and boring real quickly, so is there any big “whoaa!” moments you gonna have with Division?

  17. fishlore says:

    Modern day, realtime, RPGs with real world weapons and real world enemies approaches an uncanny valley for me personally.

    If the game tells me a space mutant slug takes three magazines of damage to destroy, well… okay, works for me. If a dragon needs to be hit with a sword and magic for ten minutes, okay, who am I to argue. If a game tells me a hoodie wearing guy in blue jeans takes three magazines of damage from an AR15 it doesn’t work as well. I KNOW the game is an RPG, I can sort of explain it away in my mind, but it’s an ever present tug on suspension of disbelief.

    A further issue I have against the modern day stuff is the weaponry is old, stale and boring after a while. Special abilities are grounded in reality, when in reality they’re not very realistic at all. I don’t know, I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing anything and it’s hard to put in to words.

    Glad the game works for people. It just doesn’t work for me.

  18. Chorltonwheelie says:

    Sounds like Borderlands.

  19. Dyzect says:

    This cover system is fairly robust and mercifully glitch free. Aim at a piece of cover in range and hold ‘A’ (I’m using a game pad)

    Your opinion is invalid.

  20. MrBehemoth says:

    BURN THE HERETIC!

  21. yogibbear says:

    I’m 60 HRs in and just rolling Challenging missions grinding out Gear Level 31 gear. Game is absolutely fantastic and the challenging missions completely changed the game for me. I’d say Level 1-20 are like Borderlands – you can solo it, you can group, it’s all the same. Levels ~22-28 are a DPS race vs. the PVE content. Then you complete all the side missions, 100% your base, hit Level 30, and go “Haha game I have beaten you!”. Nope! You enter that challenging daily mission, and your team wipes 5 times in a row and everybody leaves… and you sit there and ponder… what did we do wrong? This never happened before! OMG It’s a tactical shooter again and crowd control and tactics and coordinated attacks matter again. I would say that the game is essentially Borderlands with to me a more impressive end game.

    • neofit says:

      Does it become more challenging because the enemies become smarter, like they start using team tactics, flanking, suppression, or do they just become bigger bullet sponges? (still on the fence about the game)

      • SyCo_Venom says:

        Ya they get pretty challenging and you have to be smart about cover. Some of the elites and “boss” type guys can take quite a few shots. But the npc guys will charge you and use cover and flank you and try to flush u out with gernades.

  22. SyCo_Venom says:

    I don’t understand how people think this game is a grind. You dont have to repeat any Missions if you don’t want to nor do you have to roam the city looking from bad guys to kill. I guess if you call lvling up grinding then sure its not like a shooter with no lvls.

    The dark zone areas are a little bare sometimes and ppl are not trying to kill you for the most part because people are trying to lvl up where the real fun is and that is when the dark zone becomes fun.

    I mean if you do not like the game and do not like doing missions and just playing the game then maybe it would be a grind if your only goal was 30 but then again why are u playing it? I guess if it is just for a review and you are trying to max out as quick as you can. In which case I would think any game with lvling in it would feel like a grind.

    • cloudstrife259 says:

      Playing rainbow six vegas 2 terrorist hunt over and over-fun
      Doing essentially the same stuff as a more casual rainbow six game but with LEVELS AND EXP? -grind…………apparently?

  23. SingularityParadigm says:

    “Another speaks only in New Age self-improvement jargon, congratulating you for helping the district reach “self actualisation””

    That is not New Age self-improvement jargon. Psychologist Abraham Maslow originated that term in his scientific paper A Theory of Human Motivation published in 1943, and the term was further expanded upon in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality.

    • Brendan Caldwell says:

      I think you are mistaken because Steve Jobs came up with that term in his autobiography.

      • pandiculator says:

        If your comment was facetious, it went over my head. If not, well…Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs contains the term, and is pretty much canon for educators, as SP points out.

        • Brendan Caldwell says:

          I really think you should do more research on this. Steve Jobs came up with the term. He self-actualised it in 2007.

  24. Collieuk says:

    All this talk about the DZ and players mostly ignoring one another. Give it a few more weeks when everyone is a stupid high level and bored and tactics will no doubt change. These kind of games where loot and stats are tracked always breeds bar stewards. I’m half sold on this but think I’ll hold out for now. Got enough to be getting on with without another grindy timesink to invest in.

  25. mfiorentino says:

    That is a great review. Thanks!

  26. Fripi says:

    In fact “busy” is a word that can be applied to the entirety of the screen at any time, mission objectives and information is constantly plastering itself over the gorgeous ruins of Manhattan.

    For this point you should try the eyetracker Tobii Eye X, also usable in simulators like Elite Dangeroes, American Truck… it cleans out the screen in a very nice way, you know where the minimap is, but it’s faded and pops out when you look at it. It’s very natural, I’m trying it since one week and my impression is that such a feeling would be very nice in many games with busy huds.

  27. VaporStrike says:

    It’s sad to see the Dark Zone right now, because it’s really a great idea and could be done so well, but the community doesn’t know what it wants. Look at the forums for the Division and you’ll see infinite threads about how bad the DZ is, how great the DZ is, how they should remove the DZ completely, how they should enlarge the DZ, what they should add to the DZ, and what they should remove from the DZ. There’s just no real consensus on what to do with the DZ, and Ubi is feeling the effects of that, sadly.