Tom Clancy’s The Division is a game that I have been looking forward to for quite a while. When it was unveiled a few years back it immediately piqued by interest with the setting, the story and the almost “MMO-esque” nature of it. It has drawn many parallels to Destiny in that regard. My time with The Division throughout the review process was, for the most part, a positive one. The game plays really well, looks spectacular and the team over at Massive Entertainment did a great job with their version of New York City. The Division is very much an RPG with the level cap in the single player campaign being set at 30 and you also being able to either upgrade your equipment or buy/find better equipment that you can use as you get into the more challenging areas.
There are fifteen main story missions to go through with a plethora of side missions and other encounters to deal with. Generally speaking you can do these story missions in any way you choose although you obviously wouldn’t want to take on a mission that recommends you be at level 29 if you are only at level 10, for example. These story missions help you take back New York City from the gang of criminals that are roaming the streets and help to try and allow the city (along with its citizens) to recover from the epidemic that has wiped out a large portion of the population. These missions take you to a variety of different locales such as hospitals, an apartment building, fighting on rooftops, the subway and even the Russian consulate. While going through them I thought the missions were well made and they all made sense within the context of the story. I didn’t feel like there was too much filler within the main story missions as everything seemed to have a purpose. The filler content comes with all of the side missions and various other encounters. There are also a bunch of collectibles for you to find that will give you some backstory if that is your thing.
Once you get past the opening portion of the game you find yourself in Manhattan at an abandoned post office. This becomes your base of operations although as you can imagine it doesn’t look good. As you progress through the game you will earn medical, tech and security supplies. You use these supplies to upgrade your base to get it up and fully operational. One of the first things I did was go into the medical wing and get the clinic up and running. Once that was done I concentrated on getting the virus lab up and running and so on and so forth. In the Tech Wing I got the control room back up and running and then focused on communication as well as the central heating and generators. Getting these upgrades in place serves many purposes. Other than upgrading the base itself you can use it to upgrade your character. Getting the control room up and running, for example, unlocked a skill where I could carry a mobile turret around with me so when I was in the heat of battle I could throw it out into the middle of the skirmish and it would help me eliminate the enemy. You can potentially also get different perks as well such as your inventory being increased by ten slots. That is one thing you will want to keep an eye on as you are playing. If your inventory is starting to get full you will get to make some decisions about what you can do without and then either stash them away, sell them or break them down into parts you can use to craft something else. As you get further into the game it was pretty cool to seeing my base getting back up to speed and every time I went in there after doing some missions it seemed like more and more people were there.
I mentioned the side quests and various encounters up above and boy are there are a lot of them. There are side missions such as rescuing civilians that have been captured, securing a supply drop before your enemy can destroy it, finding out what happened to a person that went missing and more. The side missions at times can be a bit repetitive as each zone pretty much has the same things to do. If you are in Murray Hill then you will need to save some Murray Hill Citizens. If you are in Chelsea then you will have to save some Chelse citizens and, well, I’m sure you get the point. There are other optional encounters for you to go through as well but if you are someone who wants to try and fully upgrade the base then these are going to be essential. These offer some different jobs such as being able to do some virus research and uploading it to the cloud so the base can get the information and by doing so you will earn some medical supplies that you can use to upgrade the base. There are Tech encounters where you need to secure a supply drop and if you do that successfully then you earn tech supplies and then, of course, there are some Security encounters such as assaulting an enemy stronghold and securing that area. These side quests and different encounters are generally fun to play and can get really challenging in the later stages of the game. While fun to play though they can get really repetitive, especially if you are playing this game during long stretches of time. If you only play in short bursts then you might not notice this that much.
As I was making progress in the game I did notice that it had a few technical problems every so often. There were times when the frame rate would completely drop for a couple of seconds before picking right back up and acting like it never happened. This didn’t happen all that often but it did happen a few times which warranted a mention in this review. There was one instance where the audio in the radio transmissions seemed to cut out on me but I simply restarted the game and it was fixed and I never had that issue again. There seemed to be a couple instances as well of not going into cover when I told my character to do so, which in turn usually ended up with me getting taken out and having to restart from the checkpoint or from the nearest safe house. These things were simply minor annoyances to me and didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the game but it did seem weird when they would pop up now and again.
Another big aspect of The Division is its multiplayer component. For starters you can team up with three of your friends (or three random people if you so choose) to go through all of the missions through online co-op. You will want to pay attention to the different levels each player is at though. If you are only a level five character and one of your teammate is a level ten character then the difficulty ramps up closer to his level ten character which means you might be in for a world of hurt. It would have been nice if the leveling could have been balanced a bit better, perhaps take into account what level everyone is and proceed accordingly. Other titles have been able to distinguish between those two characters in my example and allow the level five character to only deal with enemies that were at or near his level while allowing the level ten character to do the same. Doing it that way balances the playing field and allows everyone to have a good time. I’m sure that is probably pretty hard to do from a development standpoint but it is something I hope to see either in a future update or at the very least in the sequel.
Aside from the campaign and running around New York City with a group of friends is the Dark Zone. This is the PVP section of the game and is placed pretty much right in the center of New York. You don’t have to worry about wandering into it accidentally though as you have to pass through a couple of gates to get into it. The Dark Zone is the place that was contaminated the worst from the virus that wiped out New York. One of your jobs there is to try and extract items and you can do that by teaming up with other people or turning against them at the most opportune time. Much like in the single player portion of the game, the Dark Zone has different areas that are level based and your Dark Zone ranking is different than your normal ranking. You could be a level 30 character in the single player portion but only be a level five character in the Dark Zone. The Dark Zone offers some of the best loot and rewards in the game so you will definitely want to play there if you want to create the strongest character you can. During my time in the Dark Zone I was able to both successfully extract what I needed to in one of the locations as well as just come up short when another team got the better of us at the last possible second. Never really knowing what is going to happen adds to the excitement and you have to keep your eye on everyone, even your allies, in case one of them decides to go rogue.
Overall The Division is a really fun game. I had a great time both going through some of it solo as well as teaming up with others. I teamed up with both friends as well as random people and had a great experience with both. There were some technical hiccups that I mentioned above and some of the side content got a bit too repetitive but at looking at the 40+ hours that I have put into the game I have really enjoyed the experience and I plan to keep playing it for quite a while. I’m really curious to see what Massive does with the season pass content and where they decide to take everything. If you enjoy third person, cover based open world shooters with RPG elements than be sure to give this one a try. It is another great entry under the Tom Clancy name and another big franchise for Ubisoft.