The Division Preview - Games Weekly

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Division Preview

Every time we see The Division, the more we realise that it’s an RPG disguised as a third-person shooter.  Thrown into a co-op assault mission.

A group of radicals that use flamethrowers to purge the city of its deadly virus by immolating everything and everyone in sight. Flanked by three allies, we set to work circumventing the enemies and clearing the area before we’re reduced to a flame-grilled puddle on a sidewalk.

The structure of the scenario might appear familiar to anyone who has previously roamed the Clancy verse: shoot the bad guys, clear the room and follow your objective marker. But what’s surprising is just how Ubisoft Massive's freshman release subverts expected action tropes in favour of RPG design principles. This is a game where balance and skill trees are just as fundamental to making it through a firefight as hip-fire accuracy. A game where a team of soldiers with clearly defined roles has each other to rely on, rather than their grenade stock. It’s a game about the players. It’s the concept that forms the formidable ambition at the core of The Division, elevating the action beyond its impressive bluster and into a game formed on deep and richer experience.

One of the most interesting features of the game we’ve come across is how it’s paced. At the end of our demo we were rewarded with an upgraded gas mask, which would then enable us to explore other areas of the map that have a higher contagion level. This appears to be how The Division is limiting players' activity in the world and scaling the difficulty accordingly. 

The demo we recently played featured fights against lots of enemies at once. There’s a emphasis on each player honing specific skills to prevent being swarmed or flanked in enemy skirmishes, not to mention how useful the companion app controlled ally drone is in a fight. Also, you’ll want to prevent enemies from retreating the scene, as they’ll hit back later with reinforcements. 

Every weapon in the game can be upgraded, including grenades and ammo types to better balance your team such as specialists in health provisions and brute force weaponry. However, these specialisations (such as the type of grenade you’re carrying) can be switched on the fly due to a point system, which can be reallocated to upgrade other weapons and technology.

Missions are initiated from the map screen, which creates a digital overlay over your current location. The map is split into districts, each with their own Security, Contagion and Morale stats. Security informs you of the likelihood of being attacked, Contagion the risk of being infected, and Morale offers an indicator of how likely you are to receive support from local civilians. Once the Morale and Security ratings are high enough, you can establish a ‘Base of Operations’ in the area.

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