The Division *not so early* impressions

Hello boys and girls, I am back with more The Division experience under my arms. Wanna know what I think of the game now that I am out of Brooklyn and out into the wonderfully dark and dangerous New York? In game, I mean.

Once out of Brooklyn (after the game was finished downloading) I was ready to start the game proper, heading towards what would be the Base of Operations (which we affectionately call “The Tower“) where you open the game’s three skill trees: Medical, Security and Tech. Each of these is upgraded by winning “resources” – rewards from doing their respective “quests” – which in turn opens their skills, talents and perks. If this sounds like an RPG is because it is – The Division even borders a bit into the MMO arena, but never quite makes it there.

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You go around the map fighting “encounters”, exploring contaminated areas and discovering stuff like abandoned phones or Echoes (virtual representations of events that happened in a place), all of which grant you experience to level up so you can go deeper into the city where stronger enemies roam. You can also attempt Missions where you go with other agents into enemy strongholds to stop powerful adversaries who happen to drop useful weapons and gear on death. Very MMOish, yes? But don’t be fooled. You are alone. Unless you form a party you will never see another player in the city – only random civilians, rioters/looters/cleaners (read: enemies), and the occasional dog scavenging for food. I saw a Dalmatian once!

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It’s all good fun. The city feels alive, despite being so dead. Frequent encounters with rioters give you a chance to try out new weapons that you get all the time, from assault rifles to shotguns and sniper rifles. It feels good to snipe an enemy for massive damage to the head, and then switch to a SMG to clear those who dare get too close. Every weapon can be modified for better accuracy, view, handling and more. It also helps that it all looks very good. Clear days followed by dark snowy nights make the grim situation look beautiful. While indoor scenarios are littered with debris and signs that this was, a while ago, a living and breathing city.

If there’s one aspect of the Division that I can’t really weigh on is the music. I know it’s there but for the most part it’s drowned by the constant gunfire. Sound effects, on the other hand, are pretty neat. Weapons sound like they should, radios in safe zones painting bleak pictures of the situation, the sounds of distant gunfire in an empty street – this is a game that must be great to be able to listen to using a home theater system or similar 5.1/7.1 capable headset.

Difficulty is quite interesting. On “normal” mode all missions are a fun trip that a coordinated group can handle without much problems. Turn it up to hard and seasoned players can get overwhelmed by enemies that don’t just stay away but rush you and have fearsome accuracy (Stormtroopers these are not). I did a hard dungeon the other day with 3 other players and by the end two just gave up. Which reminds me: this game’s missions scale enemies to the level of the highest member in the party, so if the difference is of a couple of levels or more be prepared for a challenge. There’s another difficulty that opens when you reach the level cap, but that’s too early for me.

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All these though encounters can make a man wonder if he’s ready enough to survive, and thus you end up going to the Dark Zone, a quarantined area where the army left their strongest weapons and gear before being forced to abandon the city. And this is where the game can show its best… and also its darkest. In the DZ the game’s strongest opponents roam. High ranking gangs, rioters and looters have taken control of the zone, and carry with them gear that can benefit you greatly. However in order to use it, it must first be decontaminated – you extract it via a helicopter before you can get it back at your base. This is the tensest moment in there… well, almost.

Once you call a helicopter it’ll take it a few minutes to get to your spot, but the signaling flare also attracts enemies who will try to stop you from getting their stuff. Alas, the mobs are the least of your worries: what will really get your blood pumping is when you see another Agent player. The DZ is an open zone, you can see other players in there. They may also want the helicopter to get their own loot outside and go their merry way, but others want YOUR loot, and won’t hesitate to kill you to get it. These are called Rogues and are The Division’s way to remind you the DZ isn’t a playground – it’s a survival zone. Kill a Rogue and you can take their loot and are rewarded. Last night I went in with a group of friends to get some nice gear: found a nice spot, killed some enemies and extracted gear for a while. Sadly (sadly?) one of my teammates is not one to “ask first, shoot later” so started killing whoever came close to us. If one of you goes rogue, you all go rogue. It was time to survive. It was exciting! Dangerous! Unfair, a bit, yes, but exciting!

Right now I am level 19 (max is 30) and still have a third of the leveling process to go. Endgame currency farm is still a ways off, and I still have to get a single purple (second to best) quality item. It’s been a lot of fun so far, though. I still can’t imagine what the hardest difficulty will be like, but I wanna be ready. The game will have Incursions (aka “raids”) in the near future so I gotta be ready.

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Jeez, someone was desperate.
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