The Division Open Beta Impressions
The Open Beta has come and gone, but so did your excitement for it?
This last weekend I spent my time with The Division’s open beta, where I managed to log around six hours and experience a majority of the content in the beta-let’s be honest, the term “open beta” basically just means demo nowadays. How exactly does this game hold up to the hype?
Tom Clancy’s newest game, The Division, is a cover based shooter in quarantined New York after a virus outbreak during Black Friday chaos. The beta started with creating a character and then being woken up on a helicopter, wrapped in bandages, by a woman telling me that I’ve got a lot of work to do to save the city. Now beta is beta, but the whole thing lacked a sort of context that I could’ve gotten from the woman if she didn’t speak in pronouns.
Ubisoft claims this to be an RPG, but, in truth, it is more like Borderlands or perhaps Destiny, with RPG elements in a action game and like Destiny with its MMO elements, helping change what we define as an MMO. This is a cover based shooter, meaning you press one button to magnetically attach yourself to whatever wall you’re standing next and engage the enemy, which varies from rioters, flamethrower-wielding cleaners, and other players. The mechanics are simple yet competent, and I was pleasantly surprised that there was some good recoil on my guns, making precision and burst firing a must. The atmosphere is good at drawing you into the dire situation New York is in with abandoned cars and people scavenging throughout the streets, and impressive weather effects like blizzards and fog make conflicts even more hazardous.
In the solo campaign you are tasked to retake and restore your base of operations which serves to as a hub for maintaining your equipment and skills. You can equip up to two skills from three talent trees focused on support, offense, and control. The other part of the RPG aspect are your character’s stats; when you open up your menu you are immediately shown three scores affected by your equipment. Your overall level is determined by experience points you earn from mission and killing enemies, which will increase your level giving you more access to skills and better equipment.
Playing through the solo missions were alright, although I never really felt attached to anything since I didn’t really figure out what was happening until later finding out from the various collectibles in the city. The most exciting thing to happen was a sort of boss fight with this burly cleaner with a flamethrower that could span half a football field, though the AI sometimes forget to take cover making things rather easy. The singleplayer portion has luckily not been ignored, though the real meat of the game lies in its multiplayer called The Dark Zone.
The Dark Zone is an area that was hit hardest by the virus: now deemed a no man’s land. Despite the danger associated with the zone, venturing into it is key to earning some of the best equipment in the game. Any equipment collected here is contaminated and must be taken to an extraction zone to be collected, which involves activating an event which everyone on the server can see. Players then have the option to go rogue and kill other players to steal their loot and claim it as their own, though doing this will notify other players and put a bounty on the rogue’s head. Extraction events seemed to happen every other second as the game rewards you more for working together and punishes you for going rogue. All one needs to do is shoot another player to have the infamous red mark spawn above their head, which will lead to a swift end brought about by the other players. I rarely saw anyone actually trying to go rogue since it was pretty much a death sentence, rather it was some poor sod running down the street shouting, “I’m sorry!” chased by players hoping for a bounty. I did honestly have more fun here as I began to joke around with players and shoot messages into the sides of buildings. However, when I was alone in the Dark Zone I felt lost and was just scrambling to find direction where to go and what to do. Needless to say it’s more enjoyable with friends.
The game is competent, and if you like teaming up with friends to run missions collecting loot then you’re probably going to have a good time. If you’re like me, however, and prefer your games singleplayer, this won’t be the revolutionary game to draw you into multiplayer. The beta also showed a nice big pre-order button in all the menus but please, don’t pre-order as this is a very bad business practice, just wait one day to see if the game is at least working. In all likelihood this game will be good, probably not quite live up to the hype around it but it won’t vanish like Watch_Dogs did. It’s safe to assume that on release day the servers will be having trouble so just wait a day and see what people say. If this was at all on your radar, just keep a look out for some reviews when it hits and make sure you have a good bunch of people to play online with.