• Maina Chen

Tom Clancy’s the Division: Worth the Hype?

This article was written about The Division two weeks after its release for a journalism class. Tailored for players who didn't know about the game and were contemplating the purchase.

Tom Clancy’s the Division is a third-person shooter video game developed by Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment, with elements of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) embed in its design. Players have the opportunity to gear up with friends and strangers or play against them in player versus player (PvP) content.

On Black Friday of all days, a smallpox pandemic called, “Green Poison,” or “The Dollar Flu,” has been planted onto banknotes. Following the rising criminal activity from the outbreak, the player is sent into a disease ridden, dystopic version of New York City, as a tactical agent of the Strategic Homeland Division. You essentially become an awakened sleeper agent that the government has sent to quell the situation in Manhattan and investigate the cause of it all.

There are no zombies or flesh eating mutants running amok—it’s purely human. Humans themselves are the ones who destroyed the world and the outbreak of the virus is only speeding up the rate that the fall of mankind is inflicting on itself. It’s a sobering concept to say, with player, IgneousRapt0r, pointing out that it’s not unrealistic for these events to happen: “Think of it as a mini World War: people trying to kill each other because they think the world has ended.”

The backdrop of the game revolves around how desolate the metropolis has become with scenes peppered throughout, of civilians begging on the streets for food or medical supplies; while others have grown deranged and embrace this new change.

Nate Church, in his review of the game sings praises on how the grittiness and morbid piles of mass graves adds to the realism and atmospheric aspects of the game. The screenshots he includes really do show how the art is stunning. The environment is riddled with crisp details and design that it draws the player into their world.

Over the past few months before its release on March 8, 2016, advertisements on the game were pushed through Steam, an internet-based digital distribution platform where people from anywhere can buy the games online and have it stored in their PC or console systems. On Steam, The Division had beta-keys that allowed players to experience the game even before its release. Suffice to say during these moments from the start of the game, the reviews were mixed. A good portion of the players were annoyed about the bugs in the system and the lackluster server from the launch.

The game is the first of its kind in the Ubisoft franchise and players already have themselves questioning it in comparison to the ever popular post-apocalyptic, viral wasteland category.

Storm, with a record of 26.9 hours logged on this game, calls the storyline “pathetic” and delves into his issue with the PvP content, called the “Dark Zone.” He states, “The best gear in the game, ostensibly the goal for most people playing an RPG, is gated behind an experience that relishes having other players steal your hard-earned loot…Why they would put this DayZ/Rust-style anarchy as the center of endgame is beyond me.” DayZ and Rust, are also survival based games, focused on the idea that if you aren’t able to defend yourself, you may lose everything.

Storm is right in this sense, because The Division is grounded with RPG concepts where the strength of your equipped items and gear, will make or break your experience. Better weapons and armor allow your character to have more of the advantage going into battle, with rawer power to your weapon damage and higher durability to take on more damage. To have the fruits of your efforts, the countless hours of scrounging, and careful decisions, stolen is devastating.

In this same strain, Mistah Cookie, with a 62-hour record responds to negative reviews saying, “[Reviewers are] bashing the game for its repetitiveness and grind without even keeping in the mind the genre. Such games are meant to be like this.” He compares this experience to the games, Diablo, Destiny, Torchlight, Van Helsing, and Path of Exile that follow similar formulas in how they become “grinding” or “farming” games, because of the amount of time it takes to repeat the same missions or quests. It turns into the type of game where players who aren’t used to “grinding” for items are subjected to mind-numbing boredom, as their take on the questline now becomes obligatory rather than fun.

Scott Butterworth vouches for the game’s playability when it had just come out and he explains that it does a good job of easing the player into the situation. They aren’t thrown into the chaos of riots and looters in Manhattan, but start off at a calmer situation in Brooklyn. There’s enough narrative to carry you through without completely displacing the motive and gameplay.

Most of the mixed reviews about The Division occurred around the first few days of its release. Given more than a week, the reviews on Steam have changed to mostly positive. It makes sense because of the way that the game is made to be an online, open world experience, where the gamers flooded the servers from the sheer amount of people trying to get into it. There’s bound to be issues in the beginning as opposed to a single-player, physical copy with limited space.

If players are still unsatisfied with their experience, there is something else to note: Ubisoft is planning on expanding and developing the game over the course of the year with five free incoming updates: April titled, “Incursions” is directed towards co-op with other players in a four-man squad; May, update 1.2 is targeted at PvP in the Dark Zone; June, is the first Expansion with players being able to go underground the city; summer, is the second Expansion of survival, where players are given limited supplies to see how long they’ll last before they turn rogue; and finally winter is the third Expansion titled, Last Stand, where players and their squad have to gear up and recruit other agents to fight a deadly new foe.

It comes down to whether the game is likely to end up in your list. So far, the reviews are coming up positive and players are having a blast exploring what remains. This could be one that’s worth the $60 if you enjoy survival-based, shooters and multiplayer action.

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