On failing to get anyone to download the Division Beta with me, which is live this weekend on Xbox One, PS4 and PC, I delved into it on my own last night for a couple of hours. There isn’t a huge amount of content, so I got through the main mission section and some of the side missions relatively quickly. Here are just a few thoughts on my experience.
1. This game is very Ubisoft. Let me explain that weird comment. Ubisoft are the company which make games like Far Cry and Assassins Creed, and, while they are very good games, there are certain things you can spot. One thing is the daunting amount of notifications and map locations. You can set a very clear marker from the map which guides you around without you really needing to learn your way around; almost too much spoon feeding. At the same time, the amount of ‘things’ on the map is both distracting and a little demotivating. I prefer the RPG style where you can pick your quest from a list (like Skyrim) and have less markers. As well as this the HUD (heads up display) is jam packed. Although this is meant to be a cool futuristic thing which tells you all the information you need to know seemlessly without boxes, it can get a little confusing.
2. How do the RPG mechanics work with the 3rd person shooter mechanics? I think they work well! Some enemies are bullet sponges, much like in destiny, but if you play smart and aim for weak spots it becomes a little more realistic. The enemies are actually pretty brutal, which is good! There is some intelligent AI in this game which I haven’t seen the likes of since the gears of war franchise. The enemies take effective cover (depending on what enemy type we’re talking about) and try to flank your hiding spot relentlessly. Obviously like any RPG, going into high level locations means you’re going to get destroyed by much stronger enemies (they take a LOT of bullets), but that makes me want to progress further!
3. Loot is just as important as in destiny, but even less interesting so far. It reminds me of the Witcher, but without all the magical buffs and cool aesthetics. I may be being unfair here, the gear is bound to be more subtle in a more realistic post apocalyptic New York. Despite this, when entering the dark zone, I was obsessed with finding and extracting loot.
4. Gameplay. I’ve described the enemies, which I’m impressed with, but the gun play and cover system are what make the game interesting. There is realistic recoil which you are forced to control by shooting in bursts, and there are a fair few weapons which vary nicely. Taking cover and moving around cover is smooth and I rarely got caught because of the game, I got stuck because I forgot the buttons…
The dark zone is the PvP area where you are put into a restricted, highly dangerous part of New York which has better loot and more formidable enemies. I’d compare it to the wilderness in runescape, because you can choose whether to work together or to turn on each other. As soon as one person turns on an innocent player he becomes marked as rogue. I was often in situations where people we shooting at an enemy and a stray bullet would hit a friendly and cause someone to go rogue. This person was then instantly cut down by everyone, its a harsh world out there! I did find it annoying how many times I got killed by groups of 4 or 5 rogues while I was just finding my feet though. I got killed by a group of 3 people twice before I got fed up and decided to hunt them down. The clip below shows the last of the 3. Believe me though, I get killed a lot more than I kill in these situations!
5. The story and quests in general are also very Ubisoft. 3 quest branches make you choose between building up the medical, tech or security wings. Each give you perks as an incentive to help them and make the cause stronger. Your mate who gets horribly wounded in an explosion off camera is obviously the motivational speaker throughout the campaign, but your character is oddly mute (like in many RPGs), there aren’t many dialogue choices, which makes your character less of a character and more of a silent hitman who only comes back to the base for an ammo restock.
Overall, my impressions have been mixed. If I hadn’t pre-ordered Destiny in 2014 I would probably have jumped on this game. But I am a little guarded against this one, since the shooter, RPG mechanic wasn’t quite my thing last time. However it has promise! And I would definitely advise having a look at it. I suspect it is another one where you need a mate to share the dark zone experience.
Thanks for watching, heres a bonus clip for your time.