The Division is a third-person shooter with role playing elements that takes place in a dystopian version of New York City. After a severe biological terrorist attack which created a smallpox pandemic, a specialized group of agents known as “The Division” is sent in to combat criminal activity, rebuild the Division’s base of operations and investigate the outbreak in Manhattan. The game is constantly connected to the internet, making it a requirement to have an internet connection, and features player versus player combat as well as general online solo or team play.
The game was originally announced in 2013 by Ubisoft at E3 and immediately caught my attention. However I, like most people, started feeling a little weary about the game given that it took 3 years to release after the announcement which is kind of a long time. To Ubisoft’s credit, they continued to keep my hopes up through consistently showing off new content throughout the years. While I was beginning to worry and had lowered my expectations as the release date approached due to fear of massive in-game bugs, connection issues and the possibility of it being a generally bad game – I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been playing The Division for a few weeks now and have really been enjoying myself.
The gameplay is a lot of fun and it is very well done. With a variety of upgradable weapon types and armor, it’s the type of third-person shooter that gives a choice in how you play. There are also skills which can be unlocked an upgraded such as a deployable turret or “smart cover” barrier which are very helpful in tough situations. When playing in cooperative groups with friends, many of these skills have greater meaning as they can provide benefits to all companions – not just the player who uses the skill. There are also unlockable talents and perks which benefit the player and those around them, making each character’s abilities vastly customizable and allowing teams to have a combination of types of play-styles. There is simply a lot of ways to deck out your character and play how you want whether it it a more supportive character, a more assault-based character or anything in between.
One of my favorite things about The Division is the missions. I tend to be a little weird when it comes to RPG or RPG-like games in that I prefer my games to have a lot of side missions that allow me to sort of space out while playing. Basically I don’t care if a game features hundreds of simple, pointless missions; in fact I prefer it that way. This game has a lot of simple (and not-so-simple) missions that may seem pointless but there are benefits to completing them aside from money and XP. Many of the missions/encounters also give you specialty points which allow you to upgrade the base of operations which in turn earns you perks and abilities. Also, if you play with friends, you can change the difficulty of most side missions which makes the game more challenging and gives you bigger rewards. All in all, it is both fun for folks like me who are cool with lots of similar missions and like to play alone as well as folks who want to play with friends and prefer a challenge.
When it comes to games like this I go all in and push myself to be a completionist, attempting to complete every objective and find every optional collectible. This game allows me to do just that and I love it. I also find the story and prominent characters to be interesting. In The Division, the smallpox pandemic is spread through cash being distributed in bulk on Black Friday. It’s not only unique (I don’t know of another fictional pandemic that has this exact origin) but creepily believable which adds a level of depth to the overall narrative. I haven’t gotten too far into the story due to focusing on the side missions and finding collectibles, but what I have seen has been really intriguing.
The “always online” aspect of the game is something I’m mildly irked about. I don’t mind it most of the time since it has no real affect, but my internet can be wishy-washy from time to time and that makes the game lag for me even when I am playing alone. It’s irritating because it typically causes NPC enemies to kill me while taking no damage or doesn’t allow me to see an enemy until I’m already dead. I’ve also been randomly disconnected and have had some minor general connectivity issues. It’s not something I am actively angry about as I know I am probably in the minority in playing this game solo, but the point still stands that it can be an annoyance to be playing alone and still be inconvenienced this much. Annoyance aside, it’s honestly not that big of a deal and truly is an exception rather than a standard. Regardless of the fact that I play alone 100% of the time I do enjoy the PvP section, the Dark Zone, which obviously needs an online connection so there is that.
Another really cool aspect of the game is the simplistic customization of your character. At the beginning of The Division you can choose a male or female agent and have a choice between a decent amount of premade faces as well as different hairstyles, piercings, glasses, tattoos, etc. which are interchangeable, making your character unique. Throughout the game you can outfit your character in a variety of differently colored and styled clothing. It’s winter in New York so you can only choose types of jackets and pants (no tank tops, skirts, shorts, flip flops, etc.) but the styles and colors can be mixed and varied which is really neat. On top of that you acquire armored gear (gloves, holsters, knee pads, etc.) which range in color and style and can be paired with non-armored clothing to personalize your character further.
All of the faces/agent types are really diverse in race and appearance, so everyone can play as a character they either think looks cool and/or identify with. Throughout the game you run across all kinds of diverse people in various positions. The main doctor whom you work with to find the cause of the pandemic is a female and a lesbian. Your CO is an Asian woman. Other prominent characters and NPC’s alike range in gender, race, body type and other diverse characteristics which is a really cool yet really simple way for a game to be inclusive.
Overall, The Division has been a real joy to play. Not only is it a game I find fun due to its mechanics and mission structure, but it’s also a game I can appreciate for its intriguing narrative and inclusivity. On top of being generally fun to play, The Division offers a lot in the way of content. It’s not something you can simply blast through in a few hours and be done with, it gives players a whole lot to do. Even if you were to complete the main storyline quickly there are still tons of side quests and collectibles as well as replayable missions, PvP and team co-op play. Of course it has its faults due to being always online and just generally being a video game in this day and age, but in the end it’s definitely worth playing if you are into RPG-like shooters.