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Scratching That Itch with Tom Clancy’s The Division

By Michael Bitton on March 16, 2016 | Columns | Comments

Scratching That Itch with Tom Clancy’s The Division

I like shooters, I like MMOs, and I like co-op RPGs, so Tom Clancy’s The Division checks all the right boxes for me right out of the gate. I’m also a New Yorker, so bonus points to Massive and Ubisoft for an incredible job recreating the Big Apple. That said, I’ve been a bit apprehensive of The Division given all the delays, rumors, and Ubisoft’s not so hot track record. However, after having put some time into the open beta, I decided to roll the dice and take a chance.

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I don’t know if I would come away feeling as positive about The Division were I not playing with friends, but playing with friends is a great deal of fun so far. As I play, it’s easy to pick up on the very obvious flaws with the game, such as issues with co-op play and the repetitive side missions, but I still can’t put it down. The overall experience is so well done, and the game’s world so convincingly presented, that it all just sucks you in.

The game’s main narrative isn’t incredibly strong, but The Division makes up for this with the myriad ways the game world conveys the smaller stories of the people affected by the virus and the motivations behind the game’s various factions. You’ll come across collectibles called ECHOs that give you a look into something that took place in the immediate area. Some ECHOs are funny, some are incredibly sad, and others are simply mortifying. The Cleaners, in particular, really creep me out, because I can totally see how society could collapse enough for a group like this to spring up. For those who aren’t familiar, the Cleaners are a faction in The Division who are looking to basically burn the virus out – even if that means stopping a family in traffic and torching them with flamethrowers right in their car.

I really dig the third person shooter gameplay in The Division, too. Realistic game setting aside, the moment to moment action is very reminiscent of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, which my friends and I spend dozens upon dozens of hours playing around in. That combined with the ARPG style loot and open world co-op gameplay has made for a pretty compelling experience overall. It’s easy to get caught up in the enemies being bullet spongy because it’s harder to suspend ones disbelief when you’re dealing with a bunch of humans like yourself, but it hasn’t been a huge deal for me, personally.

There are still some standout issues for me that we touched on briefly earlier and both lie with the game’s strengths. One of The Division’s greatest strengths is the seamless co-op gameplay. It’s so easy to jump in and out of a friends group; you can even see when a friend not in your group is also adventuring in the same area and what they’re doing, as they will appear on the map even if they aren’t in your instanced version of the game world. Unfortunately, there is a pretty significant flaw in the co-op setup in that it’s incredibly difficult to play with friends who are of different levels. There’s no scaling up or down. Main missions (dungeons) will scale to the highest level member of the group, which means a difference of only a few levels can make things nigh unplayable. It’s not an insurmountable issue, but hopefully Massive has some plans to smooth out the co-op experience along those lines.

The other issue I have is with the game’s repetitive side missions. Most side missions boil down to a couple of different archetypes, though this isn’t a whole lot different than the way many RPGs and MMOs work, Massive could have probably done a better job to dress things up a bit. The missions actually labeled “side mission” have some OK variances, but the others are mostly the same thing in different locations. I’m still caught up in the whole experience of the main campaign, so for now, it’s somewhat easy for me to gloss over, but I can see this becoming a larger issue if content at level cap is similarly repetitive.

Have you been playing The Division? What’s your take so far? Share your pros and cons with us in the comments below!

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager.
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