I am a firm believe that everyone needs at least one “looter-shooter” in their life. Whether that be in the form of the influential Destiny, the more-grounded Tom Clancy’s The Division, or even those misunderstood in the form of Anthem. Perhaps even the soon to be released Outriders? Options are growing year on year, and most receive plenty of good post-launch content.
There are those that play one religiously, and rarely deviate. There are those that find it easy to slip in and out of, pop a few hundred headshots and then not play again for a few months. And then there is me who, after two failed attempts with The Division, finally hit my stride during a real-life pandemic that the game had forewarned us all about.
The Division is another game from Ubisoft that falls under the Tom Clancy umbrella. It tells of a viral outbreak in New York City during Black Friday. The disease is transmitted by cash, and on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, referred to as ‘The Dollar Flu’. In a response to the social outbreak and disorder that has occurred from the crumbling of society, sleeper agents known as The Division receive a call to arms. As a member of The Division, it is down to you to restore order in this open-world version of New York City.
There was a full plot that involved raiding into some of New York’s biggest landmarks and taking back control in such iconic locations like the U.N. Building, Grand Central Station, the NYC Subway, and Times Square. New York has been represented many times in all forms of media, but the wintery streets of The Division felt familiar and alien at exactly the same time. Streets were deserted, cars were left in the road and plenty of dilapidation was showing.
As a third person shooter, members of The Division could have three weapons equipped to try and restore order; two main weapon slots and a side-arm slot. As you progressed, the amount of loot you found quickly filled your pockets, and with any game like this players would need to spend a certain amount of time in their inventory. On the plus side, Tom Clancy’s The Division always felt less stingy when it came to loot drops compared to others. And you held a much higher on-hand inventory meaning it was rare that you needed to choose between items when out in the field regarding which to keep and which to leave behind.
Different factions controlled different sections of New York, and each required a different approach to defeating them. The Rioters, for example, were chancers looking to profit from the carnage but lacked any real battle knowledge. They would tend to charge at you with melee weapons or use pistols from a distance. Then you had The Cleaners who preferred to wield flamethrowers; they believed everyone had the potential to be infected and decided the only way to defeat the virus was to burn everything to the ground. None of these compared to the Last Man Battalion though, who were led by a former Division agent gone rogue; these were the high-level enemies for a reason and provided a significant challenge.
There are some standout missions throughout The Division too. These factions coupled with exploring well-known locations made for an interesting dynamic: having to fight off wave after wave of enemies in Times Square during a blackout or destroying a napalm storage facility whilst Cleaners attack you from all sides were tense affairs.
One of your first tasks in New York is to establish a base of operations. The location chosen is the James A. Farley Building in Manhattan. It is split into three wings (Medical, Tech and Security) that can be upgraded through completing missions that basically offer resources to do so. Here, you could visit the vendors, unlock perks, store your surplus loot, craft items and, when it launched, access the DLC. It very much acted as The Division’s version of Destiny’s Tower hub area.
The Division required a constant connection to online servers, and being a looter-shooter meant it was instantly compared to Destiny. And with the greatest of respect to both franchises, there are several more comparisons to make between the two. Between the two of them, they really did help set the framework for the online ‘looter-shooter’ and the whole ‘games as a service’ that we are seeing emulated throughout gaming now.
Then of course, there was the Dark Zone. Whereas The Division was primarily a PvE setup, the Dark Zone was an area in the centre of the map that allowed for PvP. In here you could typically find the best loot, the catch being that it was ‘contaminated’ and required an extraction before being able to be used. However, anytime an extraction is called, anyone currently in the Dark Zone will be notified that an extraction was happening. Here is where it gets tense as other players can potentially steal your items and claim them for their own. Alliances could be broken in an instant as players could ‘go Rogue’ and shoot you in the back and claim your spoils. The only advice I could give for the Dark Zone: trust no-one.
It was this unique multiplayer environment and tense affair that convinced me The Division was worth a launch day purchase.
Unfortunately, games like these are best enjoyed in a group, so my first attempt at playing The Division was cut short on account of me playing it solo. And not being very good. My second attempt fell apart at the halfway point once again when my co-op partner stopped enjoying the shooting aspect of The Division.
It wasn’t until my third attempt during an actual real-life pandemic that everything clicked in place and I was able to experience the full Division. It had always been a game I enjoyed but this was the first time I put some serious hours into it every Friday evening and earned some serious loot. I hit level 30, finished all the missions on Hard, bossed World Tier 5, found most of the collectibles, explored The Dark Zone and even spent some time in The Underground DLC.
There were four of us that would log in at 8:30pm every Friday during the first several months of the pandemic, and it felt like some weird kind of escapism, despite being set in a pandemic itself. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it actually helped a lot having something to look forward to in an otherwise empty calendar. By the end of our time with it, we had exhausted most of the loot grind by having nearly all the Exotic weapons, Gear Scores approaching 290, and almost all the Classified Sets of armour. But it will remain one of the most fun co-operative experiences I have played; the challenge is still very much there when playing the story missions first time around despite having four players, but that meant the sense of accomplishment was all the greater when we did succeed.
Sadly though, we never got to try the Survival and Last Stand DLC, a by-product of playing an online-only game four years after launch. There simply weren’t many players left in these game modes.
We continued by playing a lot of The Underground DLC though, a procedurally generated dungeon that could be run as many times as you liked. It had its own levelling system separate from the main one – this time up to level 40 – along with plenty more collectibles to find. As many of the team are completionists and achievement hunters, we have not yet finished with the DLC just yet. If they’re reading this, that is.
The Division (grab it on Xbox from the Xbox Store) marked a milestone moment for Ubisoft as it became one of their biggest selling games of all time when it first released and went on to sell over 10,000,000 copies. A sequel inevitably came in 2019 (which was my personal GOTY that year) and was this time focused on Washington DC. Further to that and a film adaptation has been planned, although this has recently changed directors so will unlikely to be releasing any time soon.
The Division instantly became a major franchise for Ubisoft, but what did you think of it when it released? There were negatives such as not much endgame content which obviously wasn’t a problem for me playing four years later, but for those that played at launch, what are your memories? Let us know in the comments below!