Tom Clancy’s The Division
Massively Multiplayer Online Third Person Shooter
PC (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
March 8, 2016
₹1799(PC), ₹3499(PS4, Xbox One)
When Ubisoft revealed Tom Clancy’s The Division it looked like a showcase game for next gen and boasted a fully integrated second screen experience. When Ubisoft released Tom Clancy’s The Division, it was a game that had built up massive hype, but had changed significantly from that first look. The visuals had been downgraded, the second screen experience had been dropped and the game world was revealed to be a much smaller area of Manhattan. But, thanks to the hype it had built up, Tom Clancy’s The Division was Ubisoft’s best-ever game launch. To judge the game more fairly given it’s MMO nature, I decided to play it for a month for the review.
The question that now remains is whether the game lives up to the hype. Tom Clancy’s The Division is built around some very basic game mechanics. It’s a cover based third person shooter that has MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) and RPG (Role Playing Game) elements. There is no real Stealth option in the game since you can’t takedown enemies silently, not even with a suppressor attached to your gun. Melee is rather weak and the player’s character just can’t equip any melee weapons. Enemies seem to have just two hitzones, Headshots and body shots. Headshots do about thrice the damage of body shots, but aren’t necessarily instant kills. This ends up making the combat feel very shallow since all you have to do is take cover and land Headshots. I barely used any grenades or any other items besides health packs, not because I couldn’t, but rather because I never felt the need to.
There is no destructible cover in Tom Clancy’s The Division and the cover system can prove more of a hindrance at times such as when your character snaps to the wrong side, and then takes ages to shift position, taking enemy fire all this time. Even leaving cover might prove tricky at times. You can’t hope to stay behind cover forever, though. After a while the AI will move around and engage you from a different angle. They can also be hit occasionally when a bit of your Agent’s body sticks out from behind the cover. Due to its focus on cover, the game seems to lack a freerunning system requiring you to slowly navigate the environment, having to stop to vault over cover or move around it. This seems a drawback when it comes to traversing the city as you have no vehicles at your disposal and the distances to cover aren’t small by any means.
In Tom Clancy’s The Division, your character is an Agent of the Strategic Homeland Defense Agency, basically a sleeper operative with special training who is activated in times of national emergencies. New York (and apparently a lot more locations around the world) have been hit by a pandemic of a genetically engineered virus that has caused imposition of curfew and quarantine and the total breakdown of government machinery. Your task is to help restore order in the wake of this chaos as this is specifically the type of scenario you have been recruited for. After the opening tutorial sequence in Brooklyn, you are flown in to Manhattan where you must establish a Base of Operations and follow three main questlines to complete the campaign.
The three questlines of Medical, Defence and Technology are similar to the three core attributes of your Agent in Tom Clancy’s The Division, namely Health, Firepower and Electronics, respectively. While Health and Firepower should be self-explanatory, Electronics influences the effectiveness of your available skills. You can equip two skills at a time and one Signature Skill after you unlock it. There are also passive bonuses called Perks, of which you can equip a maximum of four as you unlock the slots. Skills can vary from healing to placing turrets or mines to scanning the area for hostiles, and they can be modded to have slightly different effects such as scans that also reveal loot in the game world. Skills and Perks are both unlocked by upgrading your Base of Operations. And to upgrade your base, you must gather credits in each questline either by dealing with their encounters or by tackling the main missions. This aspect of the gameplay will feel quite familiar to those who have played recent Ubisoft titles.
In Tom Clancy’s The Division, the map is perhaps the coolest looking UI element of the game, manifesting in a sort of augmented reality projection around your player. While the core layout is revealed from the outset, it still uses Ubisoft’s tower system in a way to reveal the points of interest. The Tower system is implemented in the form of safehouses. You can receive sidequests in a district from a Joint Task Force (JTF) handler in the district’s safehouse and reveal encounters for the various questlines by browsing the notice board inside. Completing all sidequests in a district reveals the location of all collectibles in it if you have the necessary upgrade unlocked in your Base of Operations. The safehouse will also let you refill ammo and trade items with a vendor, as well as recruit other players for some co-op.
The story doesn’t quite egg you on to speed through its three questlines, leaving you to discover the missions and proceed on your own time. Your mission progress can get reset if you exit the game or it crashes, but not if you face a server disconnection. Curiously, the timeline of the missions ignores the actual time you have spent in the game world of Tom Clancy’s The Division. The crux of the story is finding the origins of the virus that has plagued the city and searching for a possible cure so things can return to normal. The game has some known bugs and over the month I played, most of them were fixed, so props to Ubisoft for that. I did face a few game crashes but the most annoying part was the server disconnects, since it takes ages to log back in again and load up the game world, even from my SSD.
The RPG elements of Tom Clancy’s The Division are based around various pieces of equipment and weapons, as well as different attachments for the weapons. Items are colour coded based on rarity ranging from White to Green to Blue to Purple to Yellow. Items also have different levels and individual stats and it is possible to recalibrate these, albeit randomly. Some pieces of equipment also have slots for mods just like the weapons. Your average gear and weapons will change in rarity as you level up your character. You can also craft weapons and equipment from the recipes you receive as rewards for completing sidequests. Crafting materials can be gathered from the game world or by deconstructing items.
The Weapon mod system is quite well done with different mods changing the behaviour and tats of the weapon. For example, adding a scope to an assault rifle can increase its accuracy and allow you to zoom in to distant enemies. In contrast, equipment mods have must simpler effects such as changing stats or giving some bonuses to your agent. The cool thing about Character presentation in Tom Clancy’s The Division is that you can see the change visually when you equip a new piece of gear or mod a weapon. There are also separate cosmetic outfit options for dressing up your Agent in a unique manner, and these have no impact on your Agents stats, so you are free to choose the latest in post-collapse fashion.
The character creator in Tom Clancy’s The Division is very simplistic with your Agent’s face being randomly generated. You only really have the choice of Male or Female. This just exemplifies the shallowness of the entire game. With such a casual approach, it’s hard to feel invested in your character and by extension, the entire role-play experience.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is divided into PvE and PvP zones, with the latter named as the Dark Zone. Both zones have their own separate credits system, with the Dark Zone having tougher enemies and somewhat better loot. Both Zones also have their own levels. The campaign areas are capped at 30 with progress beyond achieved by purchasing or acquiring specialist equipment (Yellow) through a new currency called Phoenix Credits. The Dark Zone goes to level 66, but also comes with the possibility of losing levels. After a month of play, one might think the Dark Zone has become a warzone unwelcoming of newcomers, but in reality, players tend to co-operate rather than go rogue. Also, there are separate Dark Zones for players of different levels so you needn’t worry about being squashed by higher level players.
The game’s progression is tied to the difficulty of a district in both the campaign area and the Dark Zone. Entering a district with higher difficulty level than your current one will see your Agent get slaughtered by even the lowliest of enemies. Thus, Tom Clancy’s The Division follows a difficulty based exploration system which masks the shallowness of the gunplay a bit. Given that this is built as a MMO with long term plans, we might see the game change with time. However, the weaknesses with the core gameplay are unlikely to be fixed any time soon. Strictly speaking, given how easy it is to finish most of the game as a lone wolf, the always online requirement doesn’t quite make sense.
Tom Clancy’s The Division tends to get highly repetitive. Even though it spawns random enemies and friendly encounters, you will soon get bored of killing the same thugs over and over again. Even encounters have little variety to them. Sidequests are also highly repetitive and you might end up just going to the final area of the time based ones to clear it of enemies first before triggering the time based events. The Main missions also follow a set pattern of combat zones connected by loot filled passages culminating in a final bossfight. The difficulty of killing the enemies you face can be gauged by the colour of their health bars. The Normal enemies have red bars followed by the Veterans with Purple Bars and finally the Elites or bosses with Yellow bars. The same headshot will do different amounts of damage to each enemy type, so the bosses will seem to be bullet sponges while the normal ones pose no challenge. You can replay the Main missions at a higher difficulty for better loot and extra challenge, but all this does is upgrade the level of the enemies you face, so that you will be up against more veterans and elites. This can be really challenging if you are playing as a lone wolf, but a team of friends should be easily able to emerge victorious.
Due to the repetitive mission structure and the shallow nature of gameplay, Tom Clancy’s The Division can seem fun in the beginning, but begins to drag at the midgame point. The endgame of upgrading through Phoenix Credits, which are received by killing named enemies, can feel like a chore to all but the most dedicated players. The PvP of the game is also hobbled by the harsher penalty for dying as a Rogue and the lucrative rewards for killing one. What this means is that players who go Rogue tend to do it accidentally and then proceed to hide and wait out the Rogue timer rather than going on a murdering spree. Of course, going Rogue can be viable if you have a willing team and find a good spot to set up a killing zone for all the other players who are likely to descend on your position once you pull the trigger.
One of the things Tom Clancy’s The Division does brilliantly is the way it builds up the backstory through the collectibles. These stories have a very human element to them and breathe life into the game world. The use of Augmented Reality to build up snippets of the past is well executed. This is also cleverly used in some missions for detective gameplay purposes. The voice recordings do well to portray how the city descended from holiday celebrations to total anarchy. Voice acting is well done in this game.
Tom Clancy’s The Division was revealed with much prettier visuals than what it shipped with, but the game does manage to look quite gorgeous nonetheless. There is a built in benchmark tool to help find optimum settings for your system. The game world reacts well to our presence, showing footprints in the snow where your Agent has trod, shutting car doors when your Agent bumps against them or takes cover and also making the world appear changed depending on the time of day or the weather. Snow effects are especially worth a mention. The UI feels like a part of the world as has been the trend with recent Ubisoft titles. However, the map is uncluttered and clean. The Background score and sound effects are quite immersive and add to the gameplay experience.
In conclusion, Tom Clancy’s The Division is a fun world to play around in with some really attractive gameplay elements. However, it can soon feel repetitive and fails to mask its shallow gameplay. Some of these flaws were apparent to me in the Beta, but I decided to give the game some time, given how it was designed to be a long running platform. After a month of playing, and having seen its first update in action, I believe Tom Clancy’s The Division sold more on the hype it had built up than being a stellar game. However, it can only sustain this momentum by keeping players interested with timely content updates, since it doesn’t have much else going for it.
+Brilliant Map UI
+Small Learning Curve and Easy Accessibility
+Clever use of Collectibles to build backstory
-Glitchy Cover System
-Slow Traversal through Game World