Escape to New York

Let me start by saying that in my 30+ hour experience with The Division I have largely enjoyed my time in the game.  Getting into a squad with friends, exploring the dystopian Manhattan streets and slogging through firefights with its riff-raff has been more fun than I had originally anticipated.  The combat is challenging, rewarding players who have a keen sense of combat tactics.  The loot system and weapon customization will keep you chasing the proverbial dragon throughout your time with the game and the dark zone area, a mix of real players and enemies, is packed with to the brim with tension, threatening to rupture or strengthen friendships as you fight to extract your valuable loot.  The Division is best experienced with friends but it also offers rewards for players choosing to go solo. If your friends don’t have the game, the convenient and consistent matchmaking system will hook you up with players of the same level to romp through Manhattan and complete missions.

However, for every feature of The Division that I love, there is a glaring issue right alongside it that mars the overall experience.

The Division suffers from repetition, repetition, and more repetition.  While the quests, side missions, and encounters (your primary options for acquiring experience) are appropriately spaced throughout the map, you will feel like you are playing the same formulaic conflicts over and over again.  Defend the supplies, secure the area, and kill the boss- this is your calling and the missions will rarely deviate from this format.

The story is tucked in there somewhere beneath a blanket of snow and trash, but it struggles to make you feel any sense of progress when your actions have no physical impact on your environment.  It would be nice to see areas that you have secured have life returned to them, but when you backtrack through these areas you will find them exactly the same as when you originally entered. The consequences of this become more apparent as you continue to level and invest time in the game.

At first I was plowing through the missions wholeheartedly, but as I started to close in on the current level cap of 30, encounters began to feel more like a chore that I had to force myself to complete.

Unfortunately, the endgame doesn’t do much to alleviate this sense of repetition.  Once you hit level 30 you will spend more time grinding through the dark zone to acquire superior and high-end gear. That’s about it.  While the pvpve aspect of the dark zone is undeniably fun- and probably the best feature in the game, it gets tedious, and frankly boring, killing the same bosses over and over again trying to find a particular piece of gear that you want.

The grind even translates into the crafting system! Because you cannot choose the stats that you want on your crafted weapons, players are forced to craft items repeatedly until they receive the roll that they want.  Ugh.

Despite these issues, I feel that The Division has potential for redemption when Incursions are released in April as the first piece of downloadable content. These seem to be manicured encounters offering an increasing challenge that calls for expanded team roles.  Creating a squad that ideally employs the different stats and abilities during combat might provide the endgame depth that the game is currently lacking.  But this feature is still weeks away from being released and I have concerns that the player base will fizzle out and lose interest before the incursions even drop.

The questionable decisions don’t end there either.  Ubisoft announced that the summer dlc for Xbox One would be released a month before the PS4 and PC versions.  A whole month.  For an MMO, a month is an eternity and I can’t help but feel that PS4 and PC players will feel alienated by that decision and ultimately decide it isn’t worth the wait.

In conclusion, The Division feels akin to a disappointing relationship.  While you may have enjoyed parts of it, the end result will leave you unsatisfied and craving something different.  I hope Ubisoft can find ways to spice things up in the proverbial bedroom if they want to hold on to their faltering relationship with their player base.