The Division BETA:
Forced banter. ‘Teamwork’. High Fives. Awkward press conference demos have done little to tell hungry audiences what The Division, the latest Ubisoft game to bear the Tom Clancy name, actually is.
But with the private and now open betas, Ubisoft have opened the floodgates by allowing some 6 million people a slice of the action.
The first thing you’ll notice about The Division is that it looks good; really good. New York not only feels open and lifelike, but it has also been recreated in excellent detail considering that this is ostensibly an open world game. Thankfully though, this is not your standard Ubisoft template with radio towers and crappy escort missions (at least from what the Beta offers). The Division bears closer resemblance to Destiny than Assassin’s Creed or FarCry.
It’s a shooter, best played with friends, heavy on the online portion of the game, with RPG-style levelling, ability trees and unlocks, but in a real-world context. It’s an intriguing proposition, and it’s interesting in the direction in which it goes, and whether it will ultimately be a success or not.
And I don’t say that lightly because the development team appears to have been paying close attention to the last 18 months’ worth of feedback on Bungie and Activision’s own MMO shooter. Faced with accusations of a non-existent story, lack of content, especially at the end-game, and an obtuse levelling system, Ubisoft have clearly taken on the points about story and levelling (it’s too early to judge on content volume, of course).
The first couple of hours of the game are very story-focussed, and the levelling system is clear and easy to follow, even if the 3 currencies for base building seem like one mechanic too far. However, the one element where Bungie absolutely nailed it was the actual shooting part of the game; which probably saved the whole release for Activision, as enough people found the core mechanic engaging enough to play on for months afterwards, despite the paucity of content. I’m not 100% sure this is the case with The Division yet though. Enemy AI seems good enough, but the ‘realistic’ setting is almost immediately blown away when you realise that most enemies take several hits to take down, and ‘bosses’ will take clip after clip. And the fact that you’ll be limited to real-world weapons means that there will be inevitably less variety than Destiny.
The multiplayer portion of the game is already working well though. Apart from your home base, which is unique to you, the overworld is instanced, and you can matchmake easily and simply for the missions dotted around New York; performance seemed spot on throughout the beta, when the servers were up (like Destiny, you can’t play when they are not), which is promising.
I do have some concerns about “Tom Clancy’s The Division“, but that’s unsurprising given the betas were only up for short periods of time, but it does seem extremely promising from what we have seen, and I’m looking forwards to spending much, much more time with it upon release to see whether the full game lives up to the initial expectations that it set.