Getting back to grips with The Division

The Division is an open-world, online-only, third-person cover shooter, set in Manhattan.  Released in March 2016 to a lukewarm reception, it has seen some massive changes and updates, and some real commitment from the developers, people are still talking about it and playing it.

 

Starting out

So, about a year ago the VasDown boys were a little bored of Destiny, and fancied tackling something else, enter a bargain on CDKeys, and suddenly all of us starting to play The Division.

As I recall, we had a great time getting our characters set up and starting to learn the ropes, and the little that we did play was great.

Destiny released their Christmas update and we were back at it shortly afterwards, leaving The Division barely touched, but fondly remembered.

We’re back!

Destiny 2 has proven to be a little weak, in terms of managing to keep us all playing online together.  Loads of reasons why, and I’ll get to that another time.  So I started to consider other titles we could co-op through and work on as a clan, and around the same time I started to see all the latest news about update 1.8 for The Division.

Call it serendipity, call it good marketing, call it what you like.  I was getting myself ready to go back to Manhattan and see where I left things.  Unsure how far I’d gotten, how easy it would be to pick back up, I went in with an open mind and an eagerness to have some more 3rd person fun!

What’s changed in a year?

Honestly, I don’t really know…..

Beyond what all the articles and press releases say, I’m in no position to say what’s improved or changed since last year.  I didn’t play it enough, or recently enough to notice what’s different and it would be completely redundant to comment.

I have noticed that there’s a new hoard mode, which I’m looking forward to, and I did see that there have been loot boxes implemented.

I was ready to groan at the cost of loot boxes, only to find that I had 2 tokens for them anyway….so I got them for free.  Then when I returned last night, I found I had more, and when I opened a crate, I got another token……Out of 2 tokens I opened 4 boxes, so that doesn’t seem too unreasonable.

The biggest, most important change to me is that I finally got myself a scarf!! Level 12 and I’d only just got my first scarf! Worth the wait? Hardly, but it’s not the point, I’m finally complete.

What’s good?

The crux of this game, and any game really, is whether or not it’s worth the time investment.

I never had a bad experience with it, even when it was struggling in it’s year 1 state, but with a game like this, you get out what you put in, in terms of time, and sometimes that means not seeing the flaws.

Straight off the bat, this game looks great.  The realism of the city and the characters in the world are great.

The cover functions and the gunplay is great, with a decent controller scheme that takes a little bit of getting used to before you get the best out of it.

Matchmaking seems pretty fluid, and working with your friends is easy enough.  It’s a breeze.

One thing that I really like in The Division is the difficulty.  I’ve never approached an enemy or mission and thought I could just steamroll through.  The AI is clever enough to take cover, push to flank and keep pressuring you, and it’s always a challenge, without being ridiculously unfair.

The plethora of options for cosmetic items means you can looks as unique as you’d like, and the weapon options with modifications are excellent.  You always feel like everything you’re using is custom-built.

 

The not-so-good

This is a tough one for me at this stage.  I’ve not gotten to the end-game, which is where the real issues would be exposed.  I’m just chugging through the main story missions, however, there are a couple of things that I’m struggling with.

Enemy health is odd…..for a game that looks and feels so realistic, it’s a tough sell that these humans have such massive health pools, and the numbers flying off them when they get hit, tear you away from the realism.

The other thing that bothers me is that I never really know what I’m doing.  Granted, I’m partly to blame for this, but I don’t think it does the best job of keeping you in the loop.  A year away from playing it is a long time, and picking it back up has been pretty tough.

Finally, I’m not really sure what’s going on.  I realise I’m an agent of “The Division” and I’ve been activated, after some kind of huge pandemic, but other than that, it’s not blatantly communicated.  Having said that, the echoes, the mobile phones and the camera footage you pick up, do a wonderful job of filling out this back-story.

Overall

So, over the space of a year, I’ve played about 15.5 hours, which for a game of this size, is nothing.

Until I finish the main story and see what’s to be had after that, it’s really hard to say how good the whole package is.

As it stands, I’ve never not had a good time, and taking a squad of mates into a mission is always good fun.  It plays well, it looks great, and by all accounts it’s been polished and improved a lot since day one.

It’s going really cheap now, and if, like me you’re sick of the dull grind of Destiny 2, maybe this will scratch that particular itch?

All being well, I’m working towards finishing the main story missions and getting ready for what’s left at the end.  That’s where it should start to shine, or perhaps show it’s weaknesses.

Until then, I’m streaming it as often as possible on Mixer and I’m hoping to write a bit more about it over the next few weeks.

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