The Division: PvE Review
The Division is finally out. After years of waiting, the game was finally released today. Being one of the lucky few that got access earlier in the day (Monday at 3pm pst), I was able to put a good chunk of time into the game. I feel pretty confident that I can accurately assess the game for what it is. The Division really is two different entities, PvE and PvP, so I will be reviewing both separately. Find out what I think of The Division PvE below.
Players start the game in an area that is ‘pre-beta’. This was very jarring, especially as my inventory was made up of only grey loot(lowest level). The beginning tutorial area feels really weird and out of place. While I imagined something to what is done, it still came off as tacked on. What is nice is about the opening zone is that the player is quickly dumped into the world to fight, loot, and repeat(a common theme of the game). Once the tutorial area is finished, players move on to the beta area and begin to get at the meat of the game and the ‘story’.
Players are introduced to the history of the pandemic through live action footage at the beginning of the game. On Black Friday in New York City, some sinister person released a strain of smallpox, which quickly spread throughout NY and created a ‘leper island’ of sorts in the US. Quickly the city fell into chaos and ruin and The Division (sleeper agents) are sent in to restore governance. That’s about it really. While the storyline could be interesting, Ubisoft appears to have given little to no thought to actually telling it. For one, Ubisoft failed at addressing most peoples complaints about dialogue. Most of the writing comes off rather poorly and is not helped by lackluster voice acting. Often it seems characters will get stuck in audio loops, repeating one or two lines over and over again. If you think the pawns in Dragon’s Dogma are bad, do not play this game. I’ve basically lost count of how many times an enemy told me I was better off shooting myself in the head, or simply yelled out, “they are killing all of us”. Much of the communication is done over radio or PA system, which is very isolating as a player. The lack of good dialogue severely hinders the already lackluster story line and the strange way in which Ubisoft decides to tell it.
As an MMO looter shooter, I did not expect much in the way of cut scenes, but Ubisoft really failed to even live up to my meager expectations. The game is basically cut scene less aside from a few minor character ones and the opening cinematic. This is a fine approach if done well (Dark Souls for example), but Ubisoft does a terrible job. Audio logs and holographic projections largely tell the story of the inhabitants of the city, but both are boring methods. The approach is similar to that of Borderlands, however The Division fails to create characters that are interesting and can get by on audio alone. Unfortunately I found myself collecting the holo-messages and quickly moving on. Characters come off as largely one dimensional. All mobs look the same, including bosses. So when Ubisoft tries to moralize killing ‘people with families’ it is almost laughable. I would ask myself, was Dave the one I killed with the red hood or the blue one? In reality the enemies are simply fodder, nothing more. Storyline aside, the game runs almost flawlessly.
A Ubisoft game running flawlessly, now that’s a departure from my previous experiences with Ubisoft titles. Unfortunately, the game did show the serious drawback of being only online. When servers were opened to the plebs at 9 PM PST, basically everything crashed. This happened twice to me. The first for only a few minutes, while the second instance lasted about an hour. Both times I had finished a major story mission and both times had to repeat the same mission over because things didn’t sync up in time. This is not a knock on Ubisoft, in this day and age it is to be expected, however when servers aren’t live The Division basically becomes a 30+ GB digital paperweight. But, when things do run, the game performs well. Aside from these two moments I experienced no other major problems. Hats off to Ubisoft for this, it was nice to be able to just play without any tinkering. Performance wise, I hit a constant 60 fps with slight drops in a few of the games heavier areas. Graphically the game looks good, with certain elements like fire, lights, weather and reflections all making me pause to enjoy the digital goodness. The overall city looks good, but still suffers from feeling a bit mundane and not memorable. While the graphics are solid, easily the strongest area of The Divison is the gameplay.
I feel like Ubisoft attempted to create a very streamlined MMO for a wide audience, but the game still caters heavily to those players that like grinding. If the idea of replaying a mission, or mission style over and over again for a chance at better gear is appealing to you, then this game will deliver. If that sounds like torture, this game is definitely not for you. Similar in style to other outings like Farcry or Assasin’s Creed, the world is open to exploration. With this comes a plethora of collectibles to find, events to complete and missions to undertake. The world is fun to run around in and feels like there is a lot of things to do. Combat is very MMO based, with fights coming down to item stats more then anything else. There is also a very deep and robust skill system with the ability to play any role (healer, tank, hybrid, etc.) you want at your finger tips.
Progression is tied to base upgrades and is a good motivator to actually accomplish things in the story. Finishing certain missions allows for major boosts (10% more exp for example) and was really where I got the most enjoyment out of the game. Combat is fast and frenetic and the cover system works very well. There were a few instances where my character would stick to walls or move to positions I had no intention of going. However, overall the cover system is an admirable showing from Ubisoft. Playing the game solo was easily doable and it never felt like I needed friends to get through any areas. Zone levels are clearly marked and I never felt underleveled or outgunned. I am torn on the loot system. On the one hand there is so much loot to discover. On the other hand much of it is so grounded in reality that it is boring. This is especially worrisome for endgame content, as unique looking gear is a huge motivator for me to grind. This is one gameplay aspect I wish Ubisoft would have been way more creative on.
Overall I would say The Division is a solid outing from Ubisoft. While I wasn’t blown away by the game, I will definitely put some more hours into it.
What I Liked
- Graphics… The game looks good
- Few issues at launch
- Gameplay that feels fun and motivating
- Loot babay
- Deep upgrade mechanics allow for literally hours of gameplay
- A seemingly endless amount of things to discover
What I didn’t Like
- Voice Acting
- Always online aspect
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10
PvP reviewed here.