written by Jay Hammon (@Gravity_Flux)
When I pre-ordered my copy of Tom Clancy’s The Division Gold Edition I had no clue about an upcoming closed beta but as soon as my pre-order was processed I received the code and meandered down the path of getting registered for the closed beta. Like any good gamer I sent wait list codes to 3 of my gaming family in the hopes that they’d be able to join me in the destroyed world of post catastrophe New York.
The initial customization for your character is pretty limited but this was something I was expecting in the beta. I picked the first pre-set face that looked like some grizzled post-apocalypse vet and leapt into the game world. When the helicopter carrying me to the start of the game landed the very first thought I had was how nice the game looks. I wasn’t expecting it to be very pretty. I don’t mean that I wasn’t expecting the beta to have good graphics I just mean in general… I wasn’t expecting much from the visuals of this game. But it’s shiny.
Once I figured out the controls and ran about a bit I was set on course for my beta preview of the general campaign which can be attacked solo or with a group of friendlies. I felt like Snake Plissken in Escape From New York; it’s just me against the world. You’ll see a few different kinds of NPCs about. There will be soldiers (who basically work with you), civilians and gang members. Some civilians will approach you and ask for supplies. If you give them an energy bar or whatever they asked for they’ll often drop a piece of gear for you. You can’t shoot civilians… by accident. I’m not saying you would try to shoot an innocent civilian on purpose but if it happened accidentally, well, you can’t hurt them. Gang members you can shoot though! These NPCs will typically be threatening a civilian or stealing something. Kill them, collect the drops and move along. There will also be wild dogs, rats and birds you can target practice with. In the main campaign section of the game you’ll be able to set-up your base of operations (BOO) where you’ll be able to unlock new skills and missions in the full game. You’ll also have various campaign missions and side missions pop up. I found myself playing this portion of the beta solo for the most part with an occasional foray into a party of up to 4 people and, at least at this stage of the game, it was fun and challenging enough without being frustrating. I’m looking forward to discovering more of the story and exploring more of the game world upon launch. It appears a lot of the RPG elements are in place via skill trees, customization of character and gear in addition to crafting and leveling up. Even in the small section players were allowed to explore in the beta it became quite apparent that the game would be expansive at launch.
The other component of The Division is the Dark Zone. This is an area of the game that is still infected and highly dangerous. You can explore this solo or with a small party but my experience was that anything less than a full party was just asking for grief. There’s a sort of forced neutrality that happens when two 4-person parties come across each other (or three 4-person parties). Neither group wants to lose their DZ gear and currency so often times you’ll pass each other by while keeping a wary eye on the other group to make sure they don’t double round and attack for your gear. If this situation happens and your party is 3-person or less then you should just say goodbye to your gear and DZ currency or hope you’re the fastest runner on your team. The phrase ‘I don’t have to be faster than the zombies I just need to be faster than you’ comes to mind. If another player attacks you in the DZ then they, and their entire party, become rogue agents and are marked on the map as trouble but also as open game. You can choose to hunt them down for huge gains or skirt around that area and play it safe. I found that often while trying to take out rogue agents a stray bullet would hit another player from a different group also trying to take down the rogues which would then turn my crew into rogues as well. Hopefully they adjust the sensitivity of that before launch otherwise things will get confusing and frustrating very quickly.
Between tougher NPCs and the PVP aspect the DZ is a dangerous but rewarding section of the game. Come in and raid NPC bases, attack weaker groups of players and get gear drops. Remember you can’t just walk out of the DZ with your new gear since the DZ is still contaminated. You’ll need to call in a helicopter for an extraction. During an extraction every player in the map is alerted to the fact that someone has loot they’re trying to ship out so while you and your team will be anxiously covering each other’s sixes these other players will be heading your way to either make use of your extraction to send their DZ loot to be decontaminated or they’ll be coming to kill you and take your gear. I really enjoyed the tension of never knowing if I could really trust a stranger or another group but in the extremely small section of DZ presented in the beta my friends and I often felt too closed in without enough breathing room to actually explore. This is an issue that should resolve itself once the game releases and people are able to explore further and further into the DZ. Go deeper, find tougher enemies and collect better gear.
There was a lot going on in the beta which teased and hinted at much greater things coming our way in the official release of The Division in March. I’m pretty excited for launch day and for the potential to explore the bleak game world that has been crafted for us. At this point I’d say my expectations are higher than they were before the beta so I’m hoping Ubisoft pulls through and delivers the goods. Keep your eyes open for my full review of Tom Clancy’s The Division after the official launch March 8th.