The Division Beta Impressions

Feb 3, 2016

You are flying over the streets of New York. Orders are being barked at you by an angry Asian woman that has been shot in the face, her respirator mask sits behind you with a fresh bullet hole. You stare on in silence, from this moment on you decide you’ll let your Night-Rider  AI do the taking for you.  You’re a solider of The Division bought in to help restore peace in plague ridden street of New York.  This is the brief introduction the player receives from the first several minutes of last weekend’s beta of the Division.

Walking around in the Division it’s apparent something terrible has happened.  Trash fills the streets coupled with abandoned cars. Civils huddle together for warm or collapse in front of you, while wild animals such as rats and dogs pick at scraps they find.  It’s all pretty horrific stuff…for about five minutes and then you get used to seeing junk everywhere. Aside from being de-sensitized to the chaos around me, my other big take away from the Division is the sparseness of the city streets. When running to encounter locations, there is little to do from point A to B.  I spent most of my solo experience running to the next encounter. There is the occasional band of looters to encounter, but I quickly picked up that they spawn in certain locations. With fast travel only between bases, running through the streets of New York seemed a bit dull. There was no real sense of danger.

Combat when encountered was fun. Getting the drop on a group of looters never got old. However, the rumors of them being bullet spongy are true. My best explanation of enemy health is that of playing Borderlands. We all love Borderlands right? In a similar fashion enemies will take multiple bullets to go down. This feels particularly gamey when I was using a sniper rifle on lowly street thugs. It took about 3 body shots to down them. I chalk this up to the games RPG like elements and assume as I progress and get better stuff they would fall faster. Bosses are the worst offenders of bullet-spongetis and unlike Borderlands aren’t fun and wacky. You will also take a lot more damage when attacking them. Throughout my play I’d occasionally take a bullet or two, no big deal, I’m in the Division. I’m tough. When fighting a boss a few hits will rip you apart, this makes combat incongruent from the rest of your combat experiences and frankly feels cheap.

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It should be noted for the story elements I played them alone. Perhaps a buddy would make my walks through New York more entertaining as I’d have someone to talk to. This would  could probably correct enemies feeling like bullet sponges since two operatives were hitting them.  Does co-op feel necessary for the Division? Within the confines of the beta, it did not. I played all the story elements by himself, and despite my complaints enjoyed my time.

Division Rogue Agent

The red skull marks a Rogue Agent

After completing all I could within the story I set my sights on the Dark Zone. Within the Division, it’s the multiplayer PVP element of the game. The basic premises of the Dark Zone, is find loot, extract it, and survive. Once extracted, players will have to leave the dark zone and retrieve it from their base, which is kind of a pain if only for the fact you have to trek back and forth (see empty streets comments). Within the Dark Zone are AI enemies that are significantly beefed up. It’s best to take them on with a group as encountering them alone almost always ends in death. The other danger of the Dark Zone is of course other players.

In the event that a player kills another player, the murderer is then marked as Rogue. Rogue agents will have little indicators that mark them as such that other players can see when within proximity of a Rogue agent. If the Rogue can survive a certain time limit without killing other players their indicator will be removed and they are free to slip away into the night, or snuggle up close to a party to kill them and steal their stuff.  I personally thought this was a fun mechanic. Overall, people in the beta were pretty nice and cooperative and would informally band together to help defend against the “rogue menace”. Coming from PVP games like DayZ it was a nice change of pace to come across players and not get blasted in the face; which is exactly what I did the first time I encountered someone in the Dark Zone…old habits die hard.

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My one complaint about the Dark Zone is actually the mechanic to extract the loot.  Essentially, to extract loot a player must call in a helicopter to transport them out. This creates tense moments of guarding the drop zone as once a helicopter is summoned all players on the map are notified. This I do not mind. My problem is these events also seem to trigger AI raiders coming to kill you as well. Once they are killed they will drop loot. If players keep the loot dropped another helicopter can be summoned and essentially a cycle of gathering loot and extracting it can be generated. In the beta people caught on to this tactic pretty quick and it was easy to “game” the system. At the end of the day, creating a large open world area seemed like a waste when players can collect all they need at extraction locations.

Overall, I thought the Dark Zone was a fun and interesting way to do multiplayer, but only found myself doing it because I had exhausted all there was to do in the story portions of the game. If I found myself with a group of friends it would be a fun distraction, but I felt I personally had more fun within the story portions of the game.

We’ve waiting a long time to get our hands on the Division and it was great to finally get to a play a portion of it. Do I think this game lives up to the three years of hype it’s generated, no. Did I have fun playing it, yes, but I ultimately think it’s a title I’ll wait till it hits a good Steam sale. I hope developing the Internet code for the game isn’t the reason it’s been delayed several times, because I was perfectly content playing it solo.

Well that’s all folks, tell me what you thought below. If you think I’m totally off base take heart, there is a rumor that the game will be hitting open beta soon so you may get to try it yourself!

Also be sure to check out GWW Twitch Channel to watch streams of the beta. Be sure to follow us on Twitch as well!

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