Yesterday marked the launch of the beta for The Division, and I dove in headfirst. It’s a game that I’ve been pretty excited about for a while now and as Ubisoft starts to share some of the nitty gritty details of the game, I do find myself getting more interested in it. So I was pretty excited to see just how the game is shaping up.
Let’s get the elephant out of the way first – the big comparison that has been thrown around all over the place is with Destiny. Both are co-op, shared world games, with RPG mechanics and a strong loot emphasis. Here’s the thing though, the games really couldn’t be more different. Destiny is first and foremost a shooter – the FPS mechanics are arguably the best out there now. The Division is first and foremost an RPG – everything is determined by the stats and numbers under the hood. In that way it’s a lot more like Borderlands than Destiny. Add in that it’s a third person cover based shooter and that’s really where I think the best comparison shows up. While it is easy to point at Destiny and Borderlands from the loot side of things, I really think the best game to compare with is Mass Effect. In particular the first game in the series, which I think had the strongest RPG elements.
And in that capacity, everything that The Division does works really well. Much like Mass Effect, combat from cover works perfectly fine. Blind-firing is a possibility, just a poor one. Moving from cover to cover is the best way to go about engagements, which is pretty easy with the constant tooltip for the controls (which I know can be turned off, but I think actually adds a little character to the game). The weapons all function much better when you’re in cover. The third person camera gives you a great overview of the entire action, and using the pulse ability to highlight enemies pairs really well with the third person action. In general the action actually feels really solid – once you get your head around that it’s an RPG and not a shooter, the combat makes a lot more sense. The movement and everything like that all feels really solid too. In truth, the biggest issues I have with the beta aren’t actually about gameplay. I’ve found a couple little graphical bugs that popped up, but really nothing terrible. My biggest complaint is that the player character isn’t voiced. In 2016, one of the biggest early releases of the year, will feature a silent protagonist. That boggles my mind. Since The Division clearly takes a lot of inspiration from Mass Effect, why not follow suit with the protagonist – give him/her a name, voice that name and let the player give him/her a first name. That way the story, which doesn’t seem too bad, has a little more immersion and impact.
All things considered, I think that the biggest problem I have with the beta is just that it’s really short. There are two actual missions, both of which are really short. The side missions and side encounters are also pretty short, which means hitting the level cap of 8 can be a bit grindy, honestly not that huge a deal. I think it’s designed to be a beta that people play for just a couple hours, get a good idea of how the full game will behave, and move on. Since the beta is only live until Sunday I think that’s probably a smart move. Sure you can go venture into the Dark Zone and get the best loot in the beta, and find out just how primal other people get when loot is on the line. But I do think that maybe a few other PvE activities would have been warranted. That said, it’s a fun beta – if you’re in it, load it up and play it for a bit. We do have to wait until March for the full game, which I hope means that they’ll fix a couple of the little things I’ve noticed pop up.