The Division beta impressions: It’s like Destiny, but with matchmaking!
When most people see a game title with the Tom Clancy name attached to it, they usually equate it to a fairly realistic, modern combat shooter with some gadgets thrown in to give it that extra “near future” feeling. The Division on the other hand, carries the Tom Clancy brand, but deviates from most of the other Tom Clancy games in that it is more of a RPG than a realistic shooter. For example, even though you still use modern guns and cover is the only thing that stands between you and death, you can loot weapons, equipment, and attachments that all have varying stats.
This makes comparisons between The Division and Destiny almost unavoidable, but it is disingenuous to compare the two directly. Sure, they’re both loot based shooter with leveling systems and a focus on multiplayer play, but that’s where the direct comparisons end. That being said, The Division has integrated matchmaking for everything (in fact, it is an option that you can select no matter where you are) that we’ve seen so far, plus The Division has an (arguably) better loot system.
An end to shooting something for hours on end to no effect?
Being that The Division is intended to be a pseudo-realistic third person shooter where you fight human NPCs, it really makes no sense for someone to get shot in the head and take no damage. That is a major concern that many had regarding how the game will feel, and for the most part, it seems like Ubisoft had those concerns in mind when determining how much health enemies have.
In the normal PvE areas, assuming that you, your weapon, and the enemy that you are shooting at are within a couple of levels of each other, it shouldn’t take more than 10 bullets (including the bullets that miss) to kill someone with an assault rifle. Similarly, semi-auto marksman rifles deal enough damage to kill someone in one headshot, and so on and so forth. Even named enemies, who serve as bosses in The Division, can go down in roughly two headshots from an appropriately leveled marksman rifle.
Of course, that is the general rule of thumb, and some enemies can take more damage in exchange for being much slower, but it is rare to ever find an enemy that requires half a magazine of bullets to kill.
An RPG with shooter elements, or a shooter with RPG elements?
Similarly, it makes very little sense for two of the exact same weapon to have wildly varying stats from each other, or for someone to have to sit in one spot and kill the same guy over and over again in the hopes that he drops something good, so The Division has certain workarounds for these typical RPG mechanics.
For one, you can purchase (or craft, presumably) weapons, attachments, and equipment with currency that you pick up or obtain from selling loot. That means that even if you’re extraordinarily unlucky, chances are that you can still obtain enough credits to buy something that is of relatively high quality just from playing the game.
Furthermore, the level of your weapon does matter, but not to the degree that you will be ineffective just because you forgot to upgrade for the past two levels. The quality of your weapon does have some effect on the overall damage, but the differences are fairly minute (i.e. a superior/purple quality Police M4 only has a roughly 100 point damage per shot advantage over a blue quality M416).
This is true even in the Dark Zone, The Division’s attempt to mix PvE and PvP environments. Other players can shoot you and loot your corpse, but you can still put up a relatively lengthy fight as long as you don’t stand out in the open while shooting wildly.
On the other hand, its not all sunshine and rainbows…
All that being said, The Division does have some annoyances, to say the least. To its credit, it is only a beta, and the civilian and camp NPCs actually talk to you, but that doesn’t make up for how frustrating it is to have to walk around all of midtown Manhattan on foot. It is slow, just like in real life, and there aren’t that many ways that you can make a city environment aesthetically pleasing and diverse.
There is also a danger that The Division simply won’t have much variety in its missions due to its realistic nature. You can’t really sneak around, so chances are that there’s no stealth missions, the radiant quests seem limited to basically going to some place and shooting a guy and occasionally pressing a button, or maybe even a couple of buttons, and there’s only so much that you can do in regards to immersive quest design if your enemies are all glorified looters (so far anyways).
And of course, there’s the very real concern of The Division being unplayable for solo players. While the missions in the beta are all easy enough that having squadmates isn’t a necessity, there is a fine line between squadmates being a necessity and content being difficult.
But on the upside…
The Division certainly has promise though. Even if the final product falls apart, The Division’s Dark Zone is a genuinely tense place and an interesting test of trust, and the overall gameplay feels smooth. Only time will tell how the final product feels, but so far, The Division seems like a game that could redeem the “MMO-lite” category of games.