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Launch Day Thoughts

William Murphy Posted:
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Later this week, Rob Lashley will begin his review in progress for The Division, Ubisoft’s brand new quasi-MMO shooter set in a near future dystopian New York City. We’ve covered the game a lot during previous betas, and today marks the official launch of Ubi’s first real attempt at a massive online offering. We’ve got a few thoughts on our first few hours, so read on.

After some brief server woes around midnight EST, I managed to get about 4 hours of The Division in before I had to, you know, actually work. What’s shocking and probably sad to more than a few of you is that in those four hours I completed about 25% of the main story. Granted, that’s my focus right now, as the story is the one thing I want to see through. And while there are oodles of encounters and side missions, plus the Dark Zone to toy with, it sure seems like Ubisoft spent precious little resources crafting a lengthy story.

If I were to guess, I’d be willing to bet there’s less than 20 hours of main story content here, which is probably what I expected given how little we saw in beta, but far less than I’d hoped.  Minus all the side diversions, I’d say it’s safe to say that The Division may be content light.  We’ll have to wait for Rob’s playthrough to find out if that’s truly the case. It seems Division follows Ubi’s design for open world games of “pack lots of little things into the map” though, which means there will be lots of stuff out there for completionists, and the encounters and side missions reward some good items and crafting equipment too, so they’re worth doing.

After four hours in the ruins of NYC, if there’s one thing I’d wish the Ubisoft team would have done, it’s gone the extra mile to make Division a true MMO experience. Right now, you can play the entirety of the non-Dark Zone game solo. You never have to see another person, and can do all of the game’s PVE content alone. That’s great for those who prefer to run solo, but for an MMO gamer, having to find a group or use match-making to find strangers takes away from the feeling that this NYC is a world. It’s a lovingly crafted world, but it feels empty when there’s no real person around to share it with.

Given that the tech is there to make Division feel more MMO-ish (the Dark Zone randomly groups you up with several other players), one would think it would be easy enough to use this tech on the PVE side of the world.  You could still let players opt for a “private” or public shared game, but I’d wager loads of people wouldn’t mind finding other people running around to do content with outside of safe houses.  It’s as though halfway through development, Ubi decided they couldn’t or didn’t want to make a persistently shared online world. So they made it basically like Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, or so on and tacked on multiplayer grouping which is phased to each player’s progress, for those who wanted it.  It’s not bad, it’s not good… it is what it is.  Like Destiny before it, The Division is somewhere between MMO and co-op shooter.  We need a new term for games like this, but for now I’ll just call them “Pseudo MMOs”.

Now, all that said, I’m actually digging the Division. There’s a wealth more content on the map now that we’re out of beta, and while I’m finding some waypoints and mission objectives get easily bugged, I’m not so miffed to be turned off from the game. I do wish mobs were less bullet-spongy, but it seems that like Destiny before it, it’s just how the dev team decided to create longer fights. There’s one hulking cleaner boss on an early mission that takes about an entire Rambo movie’s worth of bullets to bring down, and if it weren’t for the realism Division presents itself with, I probably wouldn’t mind. I’m not bothered, for example, when Borderlands has the same design, because it’s colorful and over the top fantasy. But The Division is supposed to be closer to reality, and ergo the way enemies soak up bullets just feels silly.

I’ll keep playing the game though, and look forward to seeing where the story goes. But whether or not it lasts longer than its narrative between DLCs remains to be seen. Have you been playing The Division today? How do you feel about it so far?


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.