- Related Games:
- Tom Clancy's The Division
The Division’s closed beta has now been rolled out by Ubisoft, allowing the general public to finally get their hands on what is arguably the publisher’s biggest game of the year. However, despite it having been on our radar since before the launch of the PS4 and Xbox One, there’s still an air of mystery surrounding the upcoming game, in particular its blurring of the lines between the MMORPG and third-person shooter genres.
So after having spent multiple hours exploring its desolate New York setting alongside a squad of friends, I now have a greater understanding of what The Division has to offer and I’m here to impart my wisdom unto you.
Here’s what you need to know about The Division’s multiplayer experience!
The Dark Zone
From the opening of The Division’s closed beta, the game urges you to go and explore the contaminated Dark Zone, but with me being an insolent child, I decided to initially abstain in favor of wandering through its PvE environment instead. You can’t tell me what to do, video game.
However, after eventually giving up and deciding to head on into it, I was pleasantly surprised by what Ubisoft has done with it. The Dark Zone is The Division’s PvP area, sectioned off from the rest of the map and abiding by its own set of rules. You can either head into the Dark Zone alone or as part of a team, with friendly fire deactivated in case you were planning on shooting a squad member in his or her head. According to Ubisoft, most of the game’s best equipment will be tucked away in the Dark Zone, giving players an incentive to traverse its hostile surroundings.
The Dark Zone has both its own ranking and currency system, with there being a vendor that sells gear only purchasable using DZ coins. These are obtained through a number of methods, from killing the enemy AI that patrols the area, to successfully taking down Rogue Agents (I’ll get to them later) and more. Though there’s not a massive selection available in the beta, it seems that this vendor will have a more impressive selection of equipment than what is offered by the PvE vendors.
It also has its own ranking system, with players able to gain XP in the Dark Zone in order to increase their level, which then allows them to purchase better gear. However, unlike The Division’s PvE component, players can also lose XP when they die, ensuring that players think twice before deciding to embark upon a killing spree.
Upon entering The Dark Zone all players are marked as neutral, with the name bars above their heads highlighted in white. This indicates that they haven’t attacked a fellow player (yet), and other players will likely be less hostile to them as a result. If a player attacks another player, they become marked as a “Rogue Agent.” Rogue Agents’ names are highlighted red, and a little skull will be pinged on the map for other players in the Dark Zone to see. Rogue Agents have a bounty placed on their head, and they also drop more gear than neutral agents, giving other players a reason to hunt them down.
When a Rogue Agent shoots another player, a timer is placed next to their name that indicates how long they have left until their Rogue Agent status is cleared. This number is increased whenever they attack more players, but after the timer reaches zero, other players will no longer receive rewards for killing them. If a player becomes a Rogue Agent whilst playing as part of a squad, their fellow squad members will be marked as Rogue Agents, too. This system ensures that there is an appropriate risk/reward system for causing chaos in the Dark Zone, and also encourages players to squad up in order to maximize the threat they pose in the PvP arena, and to also ensure that other players will be less likely to mess with them.
Even if you’ve obtained some excellent loot in the Dark Zone, there still isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to keep it. After getting your hands on the gear, you’ll then have to perform a successful extraction in order to add it to your inventory. The Division’s in-game reasoning for this is that the loot you obtain in the Dark Zone is contaminated, and must therefore be decontaminated before you can carry it over into the PvP arena.
You store the items you acquire in the Dark Zone in a separate container to your backpack, with this container being visible for other players to see. This means that wandering around the Dark Zone with this container strapped to your back essentially makes you a walking target, with it inevitable that some particularly curious/bloodthirsty players are going to want to see what gear you managed to get your hands on. You’re therefore going to want to perform frequent extractions in order to ensure that you don’t come away from your time in the Dark Zone empty-handed.
Extractions can be performed at a handful of extraction points across the Dark Zone, with players able to summon a helicopter to these locations that will fly their obtained gear to safety. However, this helicopter takes over a minute to reach your location, and every other player in the Dark Zone will be alerted to it as a result.
I encountered a variety of different scenarios as a result of these extractions, some notably more hostile than others. When I was playing as part of a four-man squad, setting up extractions was mostly hassle-free given that other players were understandably wary of engaging us in a firefight. We had a few players cautiously approach us in order to attach their obtained gear to the helicopter, while one chancer decided he’d try to throw a grenade at the drop zone in order to take us all out simultaneously. While we survived, this was a glaring mistake on our behalf, as it takes a few seconds to attach your loot to the rope the helicopter throws down, thus meaning that you’re completely vulnerable during this time period. But despite this momentary lapse in judgment, all of my extractions whilst playing as part of a four-man squad were successful.
On the other hand, trying to carry out extractions on my own proved to be a much more difficult experience, given that I had no one to watch my back as I anxiously attached my obtained gear to the chopper. I died multiple times during this process, finding myself frequently flanked by other players looking to get their hands on my loot. Teamwork is definitely encouraged in the Dark Zone, and while it may be rewarding to perform a successful solo extraction, obtaining gear in this manner is not ideal.
Moving on to The Division’s PvE component, and the beta only offers a small insight into what we should expect to see from the main game. But while there are only handful of PvE missions available in the beta, it does provide a limited indication of what we should expect when the full game is eventually released.
With The Division primarily focusing upon squad-based combat, unlockable skills play a huge role in its gameplay. These skills, which are unlocked as you make improvements to the game’s central hub, known as the “Base of Operations,” prove to be incredibly useful to aiding you and your team in battle. Though there are only a few made available in the beta they’re already proving to be vital, providing players with the ability to heal themselves and their fellow squad members, send out a pulse radar that can detect both enemy NPCs and other players, and arm themselves with a riot shield that protects them from enemy fire. These abilities are divided into three separate skill trees—titled medical, security, and technological—and each is able to be modified in order to improve its effectiveness.
Open-World New York
The Division has been referred to as Ubisoft’s answer to Destiny—and with good reason. While there are multiple differences between the two games, they have a shared ambition to fuse the MMORPG and shooter genres, though The Division only delves into the former genre when it comes to its Dark Zone. If you want to experience its PvE component in multiplayer, then you’re going to have join up with friends, because only a maximum squad of four can enter open world New York at any one time.
While this was previously known about the game, it’s still a little disappointing that its New York is essentially treated as one big instance, with you unable to cross paths with player-controlled strangers during your playtime unless you enter the Dark Zone. Despite The Division being pitched as a wholly unique experience, the beta doesn’t really provide an example of this outside of its PvP component, and the limited selection of missions you can play through do not feature a great deal of variety. I still had fun, but it doesn’t provide a well-rounded look into what the full game will entail, though this is entirely understandable considering this is a beta. Hopefully The Division’s PvE world will be more entertaining than this snippet of the game suggests.
Weapons and Customization
With The Division emphasizing its RPG leanings, it inevitably features a wealth of customization options. While the beta doesn’t allow you to change the appearance of your player-character in intricate detail, with it instead giving you a selection of male and female presets to choose from, it does allow you to alter you modify your gun and upgrade your equipment and clothing.
While changing around your wearable gear is standard fare, with certain items of clothing granting you different abilities and perks, gun modification is a far more robust feature, allowing you to change around your scope, muzzle, grip, camo, and other such facets of your firearm. Each gun also handles uniquely too, and though I had problems with the considerable amount of recoil most of them suffered from (a problem which I imagine will be alleviated once players get their hands on high-level weaponry), it still felt good to make a few alterations to a weapon and then transform it into an entirely new beast. This should open the way for plenty of variety in terms of what loadout players are running when the final game launches.
I’m enjoying my time with The Division’s closed beta, though I also remain skeptical in regards to how much content the full game will wind up providing. However, it’s far too early to pass judgement on it yet considering how small a slice of the finished product the beta represents, even if the limited sampling of its PvE component does set a few alarm bells ringing. Hopefully the full game will offer a robust experience in both its PvE and PvP modes, and The Division can live up to your lofty expectations. Fingers crossed.