The world has been devastated by a deadly pathogen. The streets are mostly empty as looters and warring factions clash throughout the city. Only the brave dare wonder outside and face these dangers. As part of The Division, players are tasked with finding out more about the pathogen in order to save society.
I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time playing The Division Beta and was pleasantly surprised at what I experienced. Here are 10 things I learned while spending my first few hours playing the Beta.
1. It’s an RPG at heart.
When I first started playing the beta I quickly realized that The Division wasn’t just another run of the mill 3rd person tactical shooter, but that it actually had a lot of RPG elements and mechanics (more than I expected). Enemies have health bars, which means that one-hit-kill headshots are no longer a viable tactic. Instead, players have to add mods to their weapons in order to upgrade their DPS making enemies easier to kill. Everything also revolves around stats, from the different gear you can equip to the weapons you use; each has their own unique stats to take into account when equipping your agent. Players also gain XP by completing the mission, finding loot and killing enemies, this helps your agent level up, which in turn enables them to equip better gear and weapons. Agents also have access to abilities, talents and perks, but unlike normal RPG’s in which player gain these by leveling up, The Division has players upgrading and expanding their base which in turn unlocks these abilities.
2. Hunting for loot is addictive.
As with any good RPG tracking down loot in the form of gear, new weapons and mods are very addictive. I found myself running around searching for the next piece of gear that would make my agent just that little bit better at absorbing or dealing out damage. Equipment comes in 5 different flavours, white, green, blue, purple and orange, white being the most common and Orange the rarest. The higher the rarity of the item the better its stats are. This obsession to get better loot quickly consumed me, which in turn made me venture into the Dark Zone (the PVP and PVE part of the game). It is in the Dark Zone is where players will find some of the best loot in the game.
3. Going solo is a viable option.
I actually spend most of my time playing the game solo. Sure there were moments when I died a lot, but I never felt like I wasn’t able to complete the task at hand. Sometimes it just took some tactical thinking and better use of cover in order to complete my goal, luckily the checkpoints are also quite generously spaced, and the game scales the difficulty depending on whether you go it alone or with a team. Finally completing your task after struggling, sweating and cursing is actually really rewarding. I even dared to venture into the Dark Zone on my own; these excursions weren’t always as successful as I would have liked them to be. Overall I was really happy to see that the game allowed players the choice of going it alone in the main campaign or teaming up with buddies.
4. The environments tell a story.
The Division is one gorgeous looking game, especially as snow lightly falls and the sun starts setting over the city as fires burn in the distance. I not only found myself appreciating the game’s beauty, but also the way in which the environments silently tell us more about the events of the game. Rooms are filled with bags and suitcases hastily packed, people walk around coughing, fires burn in the distance and abandoned cars line the streets. Each of these objects and environments gives players some insight into what happened and just how quickly the pathogen devastated the city.
5. Mods are really handy.
Equipping mods to your weapons can make all the difference in battle, especially in the early game as players begin their campaign with the standard run of the mill weapons. Using mods to increase the damage, fire rate and accuracy of your weapons can mean the difference between life and death. I actually found myself investing in new mods for my standard weapons rather than buying new ones, which I found helped me out a lot when facing higher level enemies. Some of these attachments can even be crafted by using parts and materials scavenged across the city.
6. The Dark Zone is really scary and fun.
If you are up for a challenge and want to gain some epic gear, players can venture into the Dark Zone. These are zones that were hit the hardest by the pathogen. This is where the player gets to take part in PVP and PVE. All over the Dark Zone players can find abandoned military gear, the catch? Players need to extract the gear by helicopter before they can equip it back at the home base, and of course, the person who extracts the gear gets to keep it. This means that not only do you have to face off with rival factions but other players as well. Should a fellow player kill you they get to take any gear that you might have picked up in the Dark Zone. The downside is that that player now has a bounty on their head (as they have gone rogue), so all hell tends to break loose as they try to escape and extract the valuable gear while the other agents hunt them. These moments tend to be a combination of exhilaration, fear and just plain fun. In the Dark Zone players should trust no one.
7. Don’t just sit there.
One of the most important lessons I learned regarding the combat in The Division is that cover is your friend, the second most important is that the A.I can be brutal. Using cover correctly and intelligently to ambush and flank your enemies is critical, if you sit still for to long you will be flanked by the A.I and eventually be overwhelmed. Luckily running from cover to cover couldn’t be easier as the cover mechanics in The Division works perfectly and only failed me on rare occasions.
8. Your base is your best asset.
As I have already mentioned upgrading and expanding your base gives you access to more of your agent’s abilities. Your base consists of three areas, the medical wing, technical wing and security wing. Each of these wings has their own specific abilities associated with them (similar to skill trees). Currently only the medical wing is available in the beta. Not only does expanding your base affect your abilities it also visually affects the way your base looks, which is a great quick indication of what the player has already upgraded. Upgrading your base will also allow the vendors in your base to sell higher level equipment. In order to upgrade your base and each of its wings players need to find supplies as well as rescue the relevant technical personnel.
9. You can change skills at anytime.
Seeing as The Division doesn’t focus on specific classes players are able to switch the skills that they have unlocked on the go. This does however mean that deciding which skills to equip becomes really important, as players only have a limited number of skill slots available. What also makes this system great is its flexibility, as players can also assign their skills based on whether they are playing solo or in a team, complementing whichever situation they find themselves in.
10. I really enjoyed it.
I was initially very worried about how The Division would turn out and how all its different mechanics would fit together. From what I have experienced so far in the beta it seems that Ubisoft has been able to make each different mechanic work and meld together into one fun and cohesive package. I am quite surprised at how well everything works and how fun it actually is, whether you play it solo or in a team. Between the hunt for better weapons and gear, and the thrill of entering the Dark Zone I found The Division growing more on me each time I played it. Sure I have my reservations as there are still some bugs and problems to fix (this is a beta after all), but I have hope that The Division might turn out to be a great game. Only time will tell as we wait for the full release in the next few months.