The open beta for The Division went live on Xbox One yesterday, and I ran through up to the level 8 cap. It’s essentially the same as the closed beta from early February, just with one more story mission added in and updates to the Dark Zone to keep it fair and fun. With that said, there’s still enough there to talk about as we get closer to the game’s launch. So let’s look a little more in depth on this beta and the new content.
The open beta starts exactly like the closed beta did – you’re level 4, and I’m guessing, starting in media res. You set up the Base of Operations again, run through the Madison Field Hospital mission to unlock the Medical wing and Heal ability – just like in the closed beta. The side missions and encounters are also the same – enough to get you leveled up to the cap and unlock the second upgrade on the Medical wing. The new content is a second mission, set in the subway tunnels that have been overrun by the Cleaners – flamethrower wielding enemies set on burning away the infection in the city. Completing this mission will unlock the Tech wing of the Base, which unlocks a second ability in that tree – the mini-turret. There’s also enough Tech supplies to upgrade that wing one more time, unlocking the upgrades for the Sticky Bomb. Essentially what the open beta is adding is a full second ability to use, along with three ways to tweak the Sticky Bomb – adding variety to the combat. Sure, in a pure PvE setting there isn’t a lot of ways to really explore that combat, but that’s why you head into the Dark Zone.
Sure it’s still got a goofy name – Dark Zone still sounds like a bad show on late night cable to me – but the PvEvP zone is where the best gear in the game lives. We don’t get any new areas in the Dark Zone – the third area will have to wait until the full game launches – but Ubisoft did give the Dark Zone some attention between betas. I talked a little at the end of the last beta about a nasty exploit that let people run out their Rogue Status bounties by running into the boundary and being teleported back to the safe room. That exploit, along with a number of PC specific cheats, were fixed going in to this open beta. I spent a little bit of time in the Dark Zone – got a couple items, ran into a bunch of other players, and found the best weapon vendor in the beta – and I didn’t really encounter any huge issues. In truth, the Dark Zone felt a lot more populated than it did in the closed beta. I was at an Extraction Point with about 6 other players – who thankfully played nice and we all got our loot out. I saw AI enemies respawn at a rate that made it a lot easier to get loot to drop. I saw the chests in the Dark Zone actually have content in them more frequently. It’s a small sample size sure, but the Dark Zone feels a lot more fleshed out now, which really is a good sign moving closer to launch.
At the end of the day, this is still very much a beta. I had a couple weird lag issues that popped up that I didn’t notice in the closed beta – could be because the servers were dealing with more players. I actually got kicked from the game once last night too – but I chalk that up to the issues that Xbox Live was having last night. The loot is pretty limited, and it feels very much like Ubisoft tweaked the loot drops. In the closed beta, I was getting a much more even mix of weapons and gear – so far in this beta I’ve been getting a hell of a lot more weapons than gear; to the point where I was still wearing the default gloves even at level 8. I still think that the economy needs a little tweaking – credits are really hard to come by without selling loot. And my biggest question hasn’t changed at all – will this game have enough content to keep the playerbase engaged for longer than just March. Is the Dark Zone going to be deep enough to keep people playing? Is there going to be true end-game story content, or just capstone story missions? Is the full suite of abilities, traits and perks going to be deep enough over the course of the full game or are we going to be using Pulse and Heal the whole game? I don’t think any of those are invalid questions to ask, and I realize none of them could ever be answered by a beta realistically. But since The Division is the first real big launch of 2016 I think there’s a bit of extra pressure on Ubisoft to deliver here. Luckily we don’t have that long to wait to find out if they can – Tom Clancy’s The Division launches on March 8.