After years of spiralling hype, Tom Clancy’s The Division is nearly upon us and I got to check out the beta version with a full release about a month away.
The Division is looking to divide itself from a crowded market of multiplayer shooters by combining its cover based shooter roots with elements of an RPG. Such a division that I was concerned may shut out gamers more accustomed to runner and gunner shooters like myself. Thankfully from what I got to play, my fears have been subsided somewhat by the fact The Division seems to be nailing what does distinguish itself from the rest.
As a gamer that lacks the patience for stealth and strategy a lot of the time, I was worried when I saw The Division was a cover shooter. I hate the weird angles it can create and often clunky mechanic of changing or getting out of cover spots. That said, from my time with The Division I can say that they seem to have gotten it right. Entering cover works well, while moving to another cover position is achieved by holding A which just felt right. Shooting in cover was the right measure of spraying and praying but with results and emerging from cover to shoot was swift and responsive. Cover is a necessity in The Division and for once I felt comfortable taking it.
RPG’s were once sacred to fantasy games but Destiny and a few other shooters are attempting to say otherwise. The Division joins this list with upgradeable player customisation a core and unavoidable element of this gaming experience. Like with my cover concerns i was again somewhat skeptical about a Tom Clancy shooter blended with an RPG, but similarly my time in The Division beta has eased those fears by simply combining them right. As with any RPG, skills are a big part of this game with each player able to equip two abilities that range across three core categories. In my play through i unlocked and equipped a skill that allowed me to scan for enemies within a certain radius and another that allowed me to equip a ballistic shield for protection when cover wasn’t an option. The few skills i got to see in action left me wanting more and eager to see what skill combinations were possible.
Upgradeable equipment is another RPG staple and The Division isn’t short on these with guns and armour all upgradeable and crucial to making your character capable of taking on increasingly difficult missions. Vendors with better equipment were everywhere in my beta play-through offering greater gear for credits earned through missions. The upgrade and level based system on show in The Division reminded me a lot of what Destiny did, for better or worse.
Remembering that this is a shooter and not just an RPG, i was pretty happy with the gunplay on offer. Guns pack a hefty punch and aiming offers appropriate reward for skill and speed. The AI enemies i encountered also had what so many lack with a decent degree of intelligence to them with some charging and others taking cover in various encounters to really make me prioritise my targets and pick my moments to reload carefully.
Story didn’t really get going in the beta as you’d expect but there was a sufficient drip feed of information that did keep me interested enough to pay attention in dialogue exchanges. While the characters didn’t quite grab me, i was tasked with establishing a centre of operations with relevant personnel needed to make it whole. Although only given the ability to rescue one such person, i like the idea of having to create your team rather than just having one custom ready.
Despite just scraping the surface with The Division’s beta, my hour in a contaminated New York left me anything but divided and very much excited to check out the full game when it releases in March. Give your undivided attention to Novastream for a review in the coming weeks!
Review by Joshua Thomas