Tom Clancy's the Division by Ubisoft

With a little over a solid day to play, my experience with The Division has opened up significantly. All three wings of my base are open for business, I’m closing in on my first signature skill, and I’ve had a bit of fun blasting flamethrower-slinging baddies with a variety of solid-feeling firearms. While I'm enjoying myself overall, in today’s update I want to drill down into what I see as The Division’s biggest issue: how heavily instanced it is.

On the prowl for medical supply points, I sweep through the lonely streets of Chelsea. The same two thugs are looting the same dead body, having the same conversation they were having the last time I killed them. I haven’t seen another Division agent all day, so these two are the only thing breaking up the monotony of my long walks to and fro through a world that doesn’t feel as “shared” as I’d like.

The scale and detail of The Division is something to be truly admired.

Gamesradar

While The Division isn’t supposed to be an MMO in the traditional sense, it’s certainly positioned as a social experience, and right now that experience feels insubstantial. I’ve never stopped to help a fellow agent in trouble because I’ve never seen one, nor have I passed one on the way out of the big base of operations from which the Division supposedly stages ops. This appears to be by design: the entirety of Manhattan, save a few tiny safe houses that dot it, is instanced just for me and my squad. The implications of this design choice are pretty serious, and they have ripple effects in many other areas.

The first is that the world feels like a barren wasteland. In one sense, it’s supposed to, being set in a post-apocalyptic city and all – and at first, seeing Manhattan so empty and lifeless had a novel eeriness to it. But by online multiplayer game standards, it feels lacking. While there’s lots of beautiful sights to passively look at and take in, there isn’t much of anything happening because there’s no one in the world but me or my small group.

The first is that the world feels like a barren wasteland. In one sense, it’s supposed to, being set in a post-apocalyptic city and all – and at first, seeing Manhattan so empty and lifeless had a novel eeriness to it. But by online multiplayer game standards, it feels lacking. While there’s lots of beautiful sights to passively look at and take in, there isn’t much of anything happening because there’s no one in the world but me or my small group.

This might’ve been okay if there were tons of dynamic AI events randomly playing out or a healthy number of imposing threats roaming around to give the illusion of a city that’s in deep trouble but still worth fighting to save, but here, there are neither - only stationary groups of loitering enemies waiting to be activated and fought, as we’ve done in virtually every online game to date.

Tom Clancy the Division
Tom Clancy the Division

Being largely cut off from other players also hinders the sense of relative progression that usually marks games like this. In other online games, I always look forward to those moments where I’ll turn a corner and see someone 15 levels ahead of me, laying waste to enemies I couldn’t possibly fight with weapons and abilities I wouldn’t unlock for dozens of hours. It’s an enticing glimpse of the powerful warrior I’ll become if I just plow forward. In The Division, those moments can’t actually happen, since all my experience with others is confined to overcrowded one-room common areas and matchmade groups that I opt into. The result is that my progress feels less meaningful because it largely occurs in a vacuum.

The Division is an RPG. Pure and simple. It's a game where stat-tweaking, loot-bothering, and endless side-missions rule the roost.

And though I sense there’s much more of it to see, this sparsity of agents may have ramifications for the story as well. The opening hours talk about how agents are activated in waves, and I’m part of the second one. In light of that, the choice to make the main base of operations an instance for me alone is a puzzling one. At least in the early going, the plot is centered around getting the Division’s foothold in Manhattan properly established, so where are the rest of the agents? Am I somehow supposed to believe that I’m the one special snowflake who found HQ? This could have been the bustling analogue to Destiny’s Tower, but instead it’s a private treehouse - one I’m presumably going to save an entire city from, alone.

At least for now though, The Division is trying to tell a story, and it's throwing more scraps of RPG meat my way than I thought it would, and that's certainly a good sign.

 

Tom Clancy the Division News

March 9, 2016

The Division Is Ubisoft's Fastest-Selling Game

The Division has sold through more copies in its first 24 hours than any other game in Ubisoft's history. The company announced the news in a press release today, which said the multiplayer shooter also set Ubisoft digital sales records across its available platforms.

Source: Gamespot and IGN

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