Some Thoughts On The Division

The phrase “Ubisoft open-world shooter” would usually have sent me running for the hills, but I’ve actually found quite a few things to like about The Division.

Granted, it’s also got quite a few problems. These include minor annoyances like the lack of any coherent plot, to major issues like bullet lag that can last 10 SECONDS.

But first, the positives. The premise and setting is a huge win for The Division, namely because I can’t remember the last time a major post-apocalyptic game took place in a one-for-one model of New York.

And it’s a very, very pretty model at that, even as looters and dogs roam the streets and the end of the world seems around every corner, The Division wears its New York setting like a badge of honour.

Sadly, that’s kinda where the positives dissipate. Sure, the huge-scale and open-ended New York is technical astounding, but it’s almost as if Ubisoft forgot shortly after production began that The Division was taking place in New York.

There’s little to no actual involvement with the city’s many marvellous locations. Instead, The Division acts as though it’s taking place in “post apocalyptic city 101”, sacrificing any opportunities to integrate the city’s iconic locations into the plot of the game.

I’ve started to notice a trend from Ubisoft, and it’s prevalent more in The Division than any other game they’ve released over the past few years. Ubisoft will come up with a fantastic premise for a game, get scared, and then completely abandon all aspects of said premise when it comes to actually building the game.

A shooter set in post-apocalyptic New York would’ve had me drooling, but once you get into the actual game, you’ll quickly realise that it might as well be taking place in any old city in America. It’s almost as if Ubisoft came up for the setting purely for a marketing standpoint, instead of working to integrate it into the actual game.

Another good example of this would be Far Cry Primal. A prehistoric, brutal open-world game? Sounds Great. The map’s an exact replica of the Far Cry entry that released less than two years ago? Oh.

As I said, it’s like Ubisoft comes up with these spectacular settings with only the marketing standpoint for the game in mind, not actually bothering to think about how they can wrap some solid gameplay around these settings.

Speaking of actual gameplay, you might be wondering how The Division plays, given the fact that Ubisoft have a slight record of releasing some patchy games (hello, Assassin’s Creed Unity).

The shooting itself actually feels pretty decent… for about 5 minutes. The repetitive nature of the game slowly dawned on me, just as I was shooting the ten-thousandth hoodie-wearing looter, all for a measly few XP points.

I seriously can’t stress just how repetitive this game feels, and I haven’t even played five hours of The Division. Add in the fact that every enemy, no matter their rank or equipment, are such bad bullet sponges that they make the enemies from the original Uncharted look lightweight, and you’ve got a big problem.

I can’t honestly imagine what else there is to do in The Division, outside of shooting an entire clip into a baseball bat-wielding looter and still having them come charging at you. The entire thing feels even more repetitive than Destiny, and that’s saying something.

Also, as mentioned back at the beginning, this game suffers from some potentially game-breaking bugs. Just a few hours ago, I was taking on just two low-level enemies. Piece of cake, thought I.

Wrong. It turns out my bullets weren’t actually dealing damage to their targets until 10 seconds after they’d first made impact, meaning my opponents were effectively invincible for that amount of time. Add in the fact that enemies with automatic weapons like to charge at you, and I was dead in mere seconds.

10 seconds might not sounds all that bad upon first thought, but I’ve scoured that there Twitter and found a number of users to be having the exact same problem. In this day and age, with the budget games like The Division have (and I know they have a high budget), it’s downright appalling that they can be rendered effectively unplayable through glitches like this.

And I haven’t even mentioned the whole queueing fiasco that set the world alight. First, let’s establish a quick rule. You’ve got hundreds of players running around an open world, all trying to pass between a relatively small area. What’s the one thing you don’t want? Player collision. What did The Division have? Player collision.

Now, imagine around 20 players, all trying to get at one object, that just happens to be vital to them graduating the training zone of The Division. Now imagine that with player collision turned on, and you’ve got plenty of frustrated players all trying to get at a single object at once.

There were queues formed to get to said objects. Actual queues. In a modern, big budget online game. Queues.

It’s official: the 8th wonder of the world is how this ever got past QA testing within Ubisoft. The company is somewhat of a laughing stock within the majority of the gaming community, and as someone who previously sat on the fence about whether to mock them or not, I’m now thoroughly converted to the mocking army.

The Division truly had potential. A post apocalyptic shooter done right could’ve been outright amazing, but this is an Ubisoft game we’re talking about, where actual risks or innovation are nowhere to be found.

Instead, I’ve found myself having to settle for a slightly more grounded, albeit repetitive version of Destiny. I’ve also been told this game is set in New York, but honestly, it’s hard to tell from the grim outside of a million apartment buildings. I’ve been to New York, and I could’ve done a better job designing this game, for Christ’s sake.

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