RPS 2016 Advent Calendar, Dec 14th: Tom Clancy’s The Division

The next door on the calendar is ominous. The rewards inside are worth the risk but the whole area might well be contaminated. Day thirteen of The RPS Advent Calendar, which highlights our favourite games of the year, brings…

It’s the year’s best cooperative game, The Division [official site]!

John: The more I read about The Division after playing it, the more I realise people had a bunch of expectations from the game that hadn’t been met. I’m not sure how I’d missed it, but I barely knew a thing about the game before I sat down to it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll be honest though – I do struggle to remember much detail. In fact, I think I’ve confused quite a lot of it with the similar-but-not-as-good Homefront: The Revolution.

I’ll be even more honest. I thought I reviewed it. I didn’t – Brendan did. So I’m clearly losing my mind on some level. Fortunately, I did play it – I haven’t gone entirely crazy. I played it to level 30 and completed the single-player stuff. I wrote about that in a post confusingly entitled, “Everything Wrong With The Division: A Helpful Guide. Because it was one of those games that was so gosh-darned fun to play, despite itself.

For me it was a game about the shootybangs. I really enjoyed the combat, the use of cover, the sleekness of it all. And boy did I play it, in every spare second I had for ages. It’s so odd that it has almost entirely disappeared from my mind now, something that had so completely occupied me, a vague whiff of a memory.

But that’s one of the joys of gaming – not everything has to make an impact, has to stay with you and change your ways. Sometimes it’s about shooting enemies in their evil baddy faces, and then going to bed. The Division delivered that for me this year better than any other game.

Brendan: The Division is junk food. It feels good, numbers go up, you get better stuff, you shoot the mens. Dust your hands off whenever you want, you’ve had a grand time throwing grenades and setting people on fire. But it also had a great setting, a completely bollocksed New York dying of pneumonia in the snow.

I once shot a dog in the middle of the street because it was growling at a couple and I thought it might attack (they don’t, sorry dog). Afterwards, a man started shouting at me from a window, calling me a monster: “Who the hell kills a dog!” For a second I felt shame. Then I pointed my gun at the side of his window and fired a single burst of bullets. He screamed and ducked inside. I trudged on down the street, smiling. I was born for the Dark Zone.

Adam: Brendan is right – The Division is junk food. Specifically, for me, it’s the kind of junk food I want to order from a takeaway when I’m hanging out with a few friends on a Sunday night and we’re at a loose end. I’ve used it as a chatroom and hangout, and that feels a little bit disrespectful considering how much work went into actually building the place. I’ve also played a fair bit of solo, when nobody is around to share the family bucket with me, and even when I can see how the loot and shoot loop is working, it still manages to fasten around my limbs and trap me in its web.

Cooperative kitchen ’em up Overcooked might not do junk food very well (it’s far too intense for that), but a recent fling with it has made it a strong contender for my personal cooperative game of the year.


  1. Nauallis says:

    Junk food? Hmmm. I’d say The Division is more like great sex when you know there’s no future together. It feels grand throughout and hitting that plot climax is a real blast, but then you wander around afterwards feeling a little bit hollow and somewhat lost, and maybe you go into the Dark Zone looking to make a connection, only it’s not quite what you expected, and you don’t get the feedback and answers you really were hoping to find. And then you walk away from it without any regrets. After awhile, you think back on the whole experience fondly, but with little nostalgia.

  2. DrollRemark says:

    The Division is junk food. It feels good, numbers go up, you get better stuff, you shoot the mens.

    What kind of junk food are you eating, Brendan?

  3. tslog says:

    The support for this game makes me worry for the future of games.

    The Division was such a generic, soulless, empty grind of boring pointlessness that I’m staggered to see that people like it.
    The ‘ division’ between the bland gameplay offered and the OCD elements that was the real driving force – if your into OCD addiction of stats, levelling, similar gear and weapons…more then gameplay – made me scared a bit.

    I’ve never heard a game talked about more about loot then gameplay. It’s why u guys can hardly remember anything about it. And it had worse loot then Destiny it seemed, so loot wasn’t the driving force either ? I don’t get it.

    I remember Jeff Gerstman from giant bomb talking about this game for two weeks and barely mentioning gameplay.

    Everything is played on flat levels behind a bad cover system with barely nothing more than bog standard weapons competently aimed against bullet spongey terrible AI done ad nausea. But wait tslog, didn’t you see all those on screen numbers increasing ?

    hell, I’d even accept decent gameplay with some grind, but this game was grind for loot and nothing more.

    • RuySan says:

      When I see people with around 300 hours played giving bad reviews on steam because this has “boring endgame”, that’s when I get worried.

    • wackazoa says:

      Pet peeve of mine, youre using OCD incorrectly.

      “OCD is a mental disorder where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines repeatedly (called “rituals”), or have certain thoughts repeatedly. People are unable to control either the thoughts or the activities for more than a short period of time. Common activities include hand washing, counting of things, and checking to see if a door is locked. Some may have difficulty throwing things out. These activities occur to such a degree that the person’s daily life is negatively affected.[1] Often they take up more than an hour a day.[2] Most adults realize that the behaviors do not make sense.[1] The condition is associated with tics, anxiety disorder, and an increased risk of suicide”

      OCD is not a preference for proper grammar, a fondness for collecting stats/loot, a desire to wear matching colors (unless of course it is accompanied by a feeling of something really bad happening if you dont). These are what is called personal preferences.

      • MiniMatt says:

        +1 on this. Like wackazoa I appreciate that almost-mainstream use has been twisted toward “likes to keep the house tidy” rather than “has to lock the front door exactly 74 times OR AN ASTEROID WILL LAND ON AND KILL HIS CHILDREN, whilst simultaneously knowing this is completely preposterous and oh god why do I have to be so STUPID” etc etc.

        So like wackazoa, not jumping down anyone’s throat for using an almost-mainstream definition, but feel a compulsion to gently re-direct toward the correct definition when I see it misused. You might say it’s an obsession of mine. A compulsive one. But I don’t have OCD. Which is great, because OCD sucks and the people who suffer from it really do suffer.

        edit: oh, and the Division’s great too – for precisely the reasons laid out in the article. It’s not a great game as measured by its stated intent and goals, but somehow ended up being 30 odd hours of really solid solo or coop fun, with some mediocre stuff tacked on the end.

    • King_Mandu says:

      It’s an rpg. What? You want one shot one kill enemies in the game? That sounds even more boring. If this game has you worried about the future of gaming, I’d suggest just go ahead and quit gaming all together with the myriad of other much worse problems that plague the industry besides a game I’m guessing you didn’t play or played very little of. Opinions and all that but try to be informed about something you’re so negative about. The devs have actually done a pretty spectacular job of supporting the game along with their stumbles. I can think of far, far worse games creatively and from a consumer friendly/unfriendly perspective.

  4. colw00t says:

    I bounced off The Division fairly quickly, just too much grind for my taste, but I have to say that that AAA money did make for a truly stunning environment to be repetitive in.

  5. mechavolt says:

    I bounced hard off of The Division after I hit 30. But I came back after the latest update, and I gotta say it’s been holding my attention to play for at least a few weeks so far.

  6. FecesOfDeath says:

    1.4: One patch to rule them all.

  7. LordMidas says:

    I really really liked this game. The setting, the cover mechanics, the shooting. All great. Story could’ve been more engrossing though.
    I did fade away from it after the first DLC came out. I’ve never completed an Incursion, and hit around lvl 30 in the Dark Zone. The problem is I’m not very good. Not good enough to aim properly and not good enough to get better gear and weapons.
    That being said I love the game. And as for Survival. Holy shite. It’s so goddamn hard! But I so want to beat it!
    Glad this is in the Advent Calendar.

  8. geldonyetich says:

    I picked up The Divison well after this really nifty patch apparently fixed the game. It’s good fun. I feel a bit like it’s Mass Effect (the combat model) mixed with Guild Wars (the online multiplayer model) mixed with City of Heroes (the open world infested with packs of gangs and never-ending people in distress, although none of the power flexibility and the character customization is but a pale shadow). It’s not a bad mix.