After only 15 hours played, I can already say that The Division is a better game than Destiny. The comparisons were inevitable from the get-go, each other these games pushing shared online worlds, shooters with RPG hooks. As a fan of Destiny, and someone who was pumped for the game before launch and not for The Division, that’s not something I expected to say when I picked up Ubisoft’s latest. In fact, I expected The Division to fail, and hard.
Plus, The Witcher becomes the most awarded game ever, new content on the way for Destiny, The Banner Saga 2 gets a release date, a lawsuit may halt development on ARK: Survival Evolved, and early reviews for Dark Souls 3!
Thankfully, it seems like they pulled it off. It is a refinement of what Bungie set out to do with Destiny: combining a shooter with the loot hunt of a good RPG. I’ve been having a blast running around Manhattan, shooting sticky bombs, and popping off my enemies solo or with groups of randoms (I’m too erratic to have a static group and I’m still having a great experience). Compared to my first playthrough of Destiny, Unisoft is handing Bungie their lunch.
Let’s start with the most obvious: The Division is actually telling a story. The super-spy sleeper cell setup may not be the most original, but it’s a pretty reasonable way to implant you into the battle for New York. The idea of a militarized virus also seems eerily possible, instantly forging a connection to the source material. The main narrative won’t be winning any awards but at least it’s coherent. Destiny’s story is an absolute mess. Unless you read a lore vault on an external website, it makes almost no sense and you shoot because, hey, it’s a Bungie game.
Then there’s the loot. The Taken King did a great job of increasing the drop rates for uncommon and rare gear, but The Division gets this right out of the gate. Every main mission, even played solo gives multiple pieces of green loot and even more trash that can be broken down for crafting materials. There’s no visiting some stupid engram decoder or other NPC to slow down your progress. You pick up the gear and go. If you play with friends, the loot seems to kick up a notch too. The stream of rewards is just better in The Division, even after The Taken King expansion.
And if no upgrade drops, you can just break everything down and make one yourself with a crafting system that is actually worth investing the time into and doesn’t take you ungodly amounts of grinding to make use of. Destiny may allow you to break down guns to build up others, but that’s all at the end game. The Division lets you collect blueprints through side missions and make your implements of death from the start. Gun leveling should would be nice, though -- hint, hint.
Which brings me to another point: There is just more to do before the endgame in The Division: missions, side missions, encounters, resource collecting, and all of it with more variety than anything Destiny has to offer. Now, we have to be forgiving of setting here, because The Division doesn’t have neat places like Venus to work with, but there’s something to be said for storming the rafters of Madison Square Garden one minute and avoiding napalm balms in subway tunnels the next. Then you so few side missions and upgrade your base to unlock a slew of new perks and abilities. And again, all of this is coherant in the story; you’re not just doing it because Tyrion Lannister says you have to.
The multiplayer matchmaking is game making because missions are so much better when played with other people. It is incredibly easy to team up with other players and the voice chat works wonders. Destiny stubbornly locks out its best content to players “hardcore” enough to use outside tools to make groups. It was, is, and will always be catastrophically lame.