If the philosophy of The Divsion is to be believed, humans are one major disaster away from chaos, anarchy, and mob rule. It's a premise tailor-made for a shooter, as you're called upon to dispense bullet-ridden justice on those taking advantage of the breakdown of society. But it's also one that resonated with me on a personal level. While The Division is a great shooter with enjoyable RPG loot mechanics, what kept drawing me back was the well-realized world.
By the time game begins, New York City is already in a state of utter disarray, wracked by a deadly virus that left many dead and the survivors desperate. As a member of an elite secret organization, you're called into the city to disrupt the factional gangs taking advantage of the situation, restore infrastructure, and investigate the source of the virus. The seemingly absurdist premise is granted weight by an opening movie that's suitably tense, and an eerie sense of quiet and death that permeates the once-bustling metropolis. Set pieces that tell their own little stories are densely packed on every street and in every apartment building.
The Division at its core is a cover-based shooter, complete with heavily RPG-inspired elements like level-ups, skills and perks, and loot. Think Gears of War meets Destiny, which is quite a potent mix. The Division combines the best of both of these iconic series and improves on them in a number of ways, like delivering an easy-to-follow story and keeping character progression simple to understand. I really enjoyed the cover-based mechanics as I was able to take cover easily and can maneuver my Agent if I find myself in a bind.
We (Re)Built This City
Early on, I was tasked with helping to rebuild the city’s Base of Operations by completing missions in three categories: Medical, Security, and Tech. The open-world nature of The Division allowed me to do anything I wanted, which involved completing missions that fall into these three categories, complete quick encounters and side missions, and pick up random collectibles that slowly unravel the game’s gut-wrenching story.
The amount of content The Division offers while you’re attempting to salvage what’s left of New York City is as expansive as the city itself. Each time I log in, I’m met with a bevy of activities. As I write this review, I’m over 30 hours into The Division with still more collectibles to find, side missions to complete, and the Dark Zone to survive. Gripping as the story was, I wish there was more closure to its main storyline as Massive obviously left it open-ended for future DLC or a sequel to complete.
The Dark Zone is the game’s wild west as authorities rounded up all of the sick in this region as a way to attempt to stop the contagion. Unfortunately, said authorities also lost control of the region, making it completely lawless. Massive cleverly hid some of the game’s most powerful weapons can be found in the Dark Zone, but it's especially dangerous as well. Rather than face off against enemies directly, this PvP area lets players turn on each other to steal loot. If they capitalize on that opportunity they're marked as Rogue, putting a bounty on their head.
My experience in the Dark Zone has mostly involved Agents who are there to gain better loot instead of cause any trouble, but there were a handful of times a group of Rogue Agents would come out of nowhere and loot my treasures. As of now, there isn’t much incentive to going Rogue aside from the thrill of possibly killing other agents and taking whatever loot they have. But it’s still interesting to know any time I enter the Dark Zone, I never know what to expect and I don’t know what another Agent’s motives are. It creates a sense of tense paranoia that reminds me of similar experiences I have in survival games like DayZ and H1Z1. In other words, I always go into the Dark Zone trusting no one and suspecting everyone, especially when I’m in the process of extracting loot from the region.
Men At Work
Though the The Division can be played through as a single-player experience, it's still an online-only game, which means players are at the mercy of its servers. While Massive Entertainment has been able to keep them up for the majority of time with I spent reviewing The Division, there were still a handful of frustrating times when I had set time aside to attempt to make progress, which instead, was spent searching for solutions online as to what the problem with the servers could be this time.
What makes server issues even more frustrating is the fact The Division uses a weird code system instead of outright saying what the problem is. One code I experienced simply required me to restart my PC to fix, while another meant the servers were probably on fire at the time. It's an arcane way of communicating what should be simple information to the user.
The Division’s Destiny
Frustrations with its servers aside, The Division is what I wished Bungie’s Destiny would have been. It has an engrossing and fascinating story, a wide variety of loot to collect, and collectibles and side missions that help give a much clearer picture of the terrifying reality of what would happen if New York City was hit with a deadly, flu-like virus. And while my Agent is recovering from a fever, I feel the only prescription that could possibly cure her is more Division.