The Division – Making our way downtown …

With the open Beta for Ubisoft’s AAA-Shooter “The Division” everyone can test the game mechanics and the fun factor of the game. We could as well and we did. As a group of course, this game is meant to be played together.
We start right away by sitting in a helicopter, bad stuff already happened, a woman in front of us lost an eye and her leg hurts, apparently our character is injured too but not so bad, so when we land we can jump out of the helicopter and go for the action. Yes, it’s the Beta so probably a lot of intro sequences are missing and if you have followed the news you know what happened. But I hope the actual game starts slower and explains more. Here it’s more like “Here’s your weapon, go kill stuff!”.
When we have landed though, we see the beauty of the Snowdrop-Engine. What makes the game so pretty is the amount of detail put into every little thing in the streets. Little scratches, small cans of food, the abandoned apartments or just the snow in the streets. Even though it doesn’t look as amazing as in the very first trailer it’s still a gorgeous game. Very atmospheric.

Back to the action. (Due to the fact that this is the Beta …) You are thrown into the world and the real game starts right away. After a short time of running around, shooting crows and rats, we ran into a fight, AI vs AI. It was a rather short fight but for the first time we could test the Cover-system ourselves. It is not new, if you played “Watch Dogs” or “Splinter Cell: Blacklist” you are very familiar with the mechanics, nevertheless it works pretty well. You take cover behind almost everything and run to another spot by holding the “Cover”-Button. Sound effects are atmospheric, the AI could do a bit better. But very fun to play and after a while quite challenging.
We shot down a few more enemies until we found a real mission. It seems like you can play the first two missions and a short intro, where you “free” your base from a couple of bad guys. The two missions were about bringing bad some intelligent people to our base to do intelligent stuff for us. A medic and an engineer/hacker. Both were trapped in bigger buildings with a lot of hostiles. As I said, the shooting gameplay is fun, but I hope the missions become a bit more creative. I played the second mission twice and it already felt more like grinding than playing an intense story mission. I have to say, that these looked like intro or tutorial missions, so I am expecting more and better story missions in the full game.
Back in the base you have different areas that are down or broken and you have to rebuild everything by gathering ressources outside (hello every other Ubisoft game).
The side activities are fun, but repetitive. We saved about a dozen hostages and shot pretty much everthing in our path. That was actually very repetitive. Exploring abandoned apartments is really cool though. Again, you really see the gorgeous details everywhere, which makes the interiors so “alive” and fun to explore.
So much for the Coop-Mode in the “SafeZone”.

Then we found the “DarkZone”. The bad area. Where you meet people who eat rusty nails for breakfast. Where everyone can kill you. Where everyone wants to kill you. Where people don’t say “Please” and “Thank you”.
This place will probably be the main area of the game. The open PvP should provide the long time motivation. The reason to go there is because the DarkZone has the better items. Rare weapons and fancy clothes. But you can’t just take them and leave. Everything in the DarkZone is contaminated and to get it out of the DarkZone you’ll have to go to certain extraction points. If you send the signal a helicopter will arrive and take your stuff to evacuate and decontaminate it. These extraction points are rare, so everyone will be there. So these are the places where the most bullets will fly. The reason is simple. Why just bringing your stuff outside when you can kill that guy and take his stuff too? That is the basic philosophy for PvP in “The Division”. And it could work and be a lot of fun.
But I thought there could be more. Maybe it was because of the Beta, but I thought the area was too small. Everyone was running around, a dozen people at the extraction points, the raid areas where full of people. After a while you start ignoring other players. That should be different. There have to be moments where it’s just you and your squad, where you see nobody else. You loot a building and when you get out you see another group in the distance. Just one. But that would create tension. Thrill. That would easily be possible by just making the are bigger. Which is probably in the actual game, I can only tell about the Beta.

My last point could probably my summary for the whole Beta. The core mechanics are fun, the game is beautiful. But hopefully the full game comes with larger areas, more exploration possiblities and a bigger variety of missions. We will know for sure on March 8th 2016.

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