Early Impressions: The Division

the division cityscape

After the beta earlier this year, I had a cautious outlook when it came to Tom Clancy’s The Division. I was underwhelmed, but also cognizant that I was seeing a severely pared down glimpse of the game. During the beta, the strongest thing going for the game was being able to team up with friends to accomplish various tasks.

After a solid five hours with The Division, teaming up with your friends is where the game really shines.

When you first start the game, after an introductory cutscene, you find yourself looking in the window of a car and that’s where the character customization begins. I was a bit surprised at the lack of options (for each “area” there were five or six options) for face, hair, etc., but I ended up with a character that looked reasonably good, albeit perpetually grumpy looking. I also chose to put on aviator sunglasses, which make me look hilariously unaffected in every cutscene.

The inventory system is both interesting and a bit muddled. I wouldn’t mind a more streamlined interface for inventory management, as, at times, I felt like it took an inordinate amount of time to find a particular piece of gear and to decide what to do with it.

You have a base of operations and, through various missions, you upgrade the three pavilions it contains: medical, tech, and security. As you upgrade each area, you unlock new skills and perks, which keeps the experience fulfilling and the progress rolling. The areas alter visually the more you upgrade them, which is a rewarding experience in and of itself. Through your efforts, you feel as though you are actually working towards something instead of just arbitrary stat boots.

The story hasn’t quite hooked me yet, but I’ve only just reached level 6, and I have an open mind for what lies ahead. The story missions are substantial enough to feel satisfying, and the few side missions I’ve participated in felt worth doing. I’ve also found emerging situations that required my attention as I’m in transit between missions to be an element similar to public events in Destiny. It’s nice to take part and feel like you are helping when and where you can to make the city even a tiny bit safer.

When you go into your map you can see your other friends who are online playing the game, and see their movements on the map. It’s a small thing, but it makes the world feel more alive and the situation more immersive.

While on the subject of the map, I was often confused if, and when, I could fast travel. The rare times I did fast travel, I wondered if it might have been quicker to simply walk to my destination.

The gunplay has been better than expected, though that may be because I found a stellar marksman rifle which suits my current playstyle far better than the consistently bouncy assault rifles I had been using in lieu of not having anything better. I hope it continues to improve as I find better and better weapons.

So far, the loot system has been a bit disappointing, and confusing, for that matter. Certain loot seems to be unique for everyone in the party, yet other drops seem to disappear once a particular person has picked it up. With the “bonk you over the head” tutorials of the game, you’d think the loot system might have been better explained. Also, the drops themselves have been lackluster at best. It reminds me of the early days with Destiny when you could play for hours and only find a few marginal pieces of gear. Hopefully this improves over time or is patched in to feel more rewarding.

My biggest issue with the game is the intensely overcrowded HUD/UI. It feels messy, chaotic, and, at times, unclear. You might see a chest appear on your mini map, but it won’t tell you if it is above you, below you, or on the other side of a wall. I can’t tell you how many times I searched in vain for something I saw on the mini map, only to never find it. A simple arrow pointing up or down next to the icon would be invaluable.

All this being said, I’ve yet to dive in to the Dark Zone, but I intend to today to get a feel for what changes (if any) were made since the beta. I had mixed experiences there, but I’m hoping for some solid loot runs with my team later today.

Overall, I feel optimistic and engaged with The Division. I’m looking forward to a deeper dive later today. And that always speaks well of a game when you find yourself drawn to play more of it.

What are your feelings on the game? What have you liked? Disliked?

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7 replies »

  1. After playing the first few missions, I think that the lines between game & beta have been blurred. The parts I have played through are decent. The gameplay needs some work. Especially when it comes to cover & NPCs. I have yet to touch the DZ, Dark Zone. The gunplay is smooth, the enemies are sponges, especially on hard mode, imho! The UI still needs some tweaking. I think as time progresses that will clear up with a minor patch. Lastly, The Division really lends itself to co-op play. The gameplay is most fun when playing with others. If you like co-op games, The Division, just maybe for you. Just my thoughts!

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      • I’m not sure the loot drops are worth it. I played again tonight; not on hard mode. I think the hard mode causes you to rethink your strategy & gear mods. No?! It seems like the loot drops are unbalanced. Hoping they rework the coding so that it’s balanced across the board. Have you ventured into the DZ yet?

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      • Me either! Degan and I tried a story mission on hard and our loot was basically the same as we had been seeing from playing other missions on normal.

        We did go in the Dark Zone! It was hectic and the AI is a lot more aggressive than it was before. Also, there are more hostile NPCs just out and about. When you start to extract, they pop out of nowhere and can be ruthless.

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