With more ways than ever for players to document and share their experiences, ridiculous bugs and absurd mistakes are no longer the subject of playground rumours. You have one chance to make a good impression, otherwise faceless assassins and loot caves could become the defining features of your game in the public consciousness long before early issues can be fixed.
In case of The division, we’ll always remember the queues: a dozen or so players, stacked in ordered horizontal stacks, separated only by their own collision detection as they reach for the single laptop that will unlock the rest of the game. It’s one of the first of the few times The division naturally populates its world with large groups of other players, and it’s comic gold. From then on, however The division turns out to be curiously abandoned for a game that requires a constant (and so far rather shaky) server connection.
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That desolation has meaning. Someone somewhere in New York City has dosed money (or at least the director’s cut version of Manhattan we’re getting) with a cocktail of smallpox, avian flu, and every other Fox News disease of the year. This ‘dollar flu’ or ‘green poison’ has caused the streets of the district to be evacuated or seem to be full. Those left behind were too slow or unwilling to escape quarantine.
This is where your protagonist comes into play. As part of a secret and heavily armed police force known as The Division, you’ve been left behind to, ostensibly, collect data on the virus and keep the peace (which you do through countless people, of course).
But really, as in any loot game, you’re there for the numbers. And The division is doing not skimp on the numbers. This cover-based shooter is rotten with currencies, skill trees, and plenty of buffable stats for your character, guns, and armor. And don’t get me started on all the collectibles and consumables to earn, lose, or otherwise customize. It’s all in a typical Ubisoft design style, right now, now with a touch of the past five years of MMO design thrown in to become even more Ubisoft quintessential than ever before.
although The division populating the world with other players only in special cases, the game still feels very much like a modern MMO. There’s the obvious loot angle: guns, gear, and attachments that drop from enemies or are crafted with semi-random stats. There are also crafting material nodes, story missions that play out like MMO dungeons, and a home base with all the expected MMO amenities: vendors, stations for upgrades, and more conveniently placed nodes with a 12-hour refresh.
Structurally, it all feels like it could have been ripped out Guild Wars 2 or a last day World of Warcraft. At least in the first few days after launch, the game also captured that old MMO staple of being stuck in a server queue before diving into a game.