I have to say I was pretty sad when I found out that The Division beta would be going on the same weekend I would be in San Antonio at Pax South. So when I heard that they planned on extending the deadlines, I have to say I was pretty pumped. The Division is one of those games that has looked good on paper up, but I have been really questioning as to whether or not I will like it. Call of Duty for example, is one of those series that I enjoyed when it first came out, but as it has evolved I have become less and less interested in the continued military operator fantasy. I think a lot of it has come from the fact that every game seems to use exactly the same guns. I mean I get why this is the case, since these guns are real world guns… that they are just trying to replicate in a game. So when I started thinking about The Division versus Destiny…. I have to say I lean heavily towards crazy space guns over things that can actually exist in the world I happen to live in. However I am also a huge fan of post apocalyptic settings…. and The Division seems like it might deliver on a near future version of that. So to say I was fraught is an understatement, then over the weekend I ended up talking with a couple that told me who much they liked it, coming from a heavy Destiny background. So when I got home Sunday night, I went upstairs started the hefty download.
So when I got up yesterday morning I finally got the chance to play the game. I really was not sure what to expect, and I guess in all of the screenshots and video I had not really gotten it through my head that it was a third person shooter. This has honestly been the biggest challenge for me when playing Warframe recently, because I am generally bad at playing a shooter from a third person perspective. Third person definitely makes things easier to move around, but when it comes to aiming a gun…. I just find it awkward. The fact that this is a game that relies heavily on ducking behind the next patch of cover, it almost HAS to be third person to make that work. In many ways it reminds me of Gears of War, in that you are constantly rolling forward trying to move up on mobs while at the same time staying in safety. The problem with that is… I am just not that kind of a player. I tend to be very run and gun… and sure I use the hell out of cover but I am constantly zipping in and out of it. This game feels more like a tactical RPG at times than it does a pure shooter, and I am not quite sure how I feel about that. You have to understand… that I have never played any of the other Tom Clancy branded games, because that player fantasy never really appealed to me. The fact that this game is an MMO Shooter of sorts… is really the part that places it in my wheelhouse rather than the content matter.
The thing that I really want to talk about is just how damned good this games mapping system is. When you pull it up it brings up a holographic representation of the area you are in, and it has various objectives marked. You can go talk to an NPC inside each of the bases that gives you a situation report on the area, and as a result creates these little highlighted markers. As you are running through the world, you can see every single blip on the map… but you get special visualization for whichever objective you happen to have highlighted. In the various screenshots I am posting today, there will be these orange lines running down the street, and these serve to show you the best route to the location you are trying to reach. This makes movement through the very dense sections of New York city pretty manageable. What it does not take into account is that in many cases you can actually cut through buildings to get to your destiny and in doing so find all sorts of hidden resources. As you are roaming around there are lots of caches that you can find, and these have everything from resources to weapons, and it feels like looting structures in a zombie survival game. I am still not 100% certain what some of the resources are used for, but the obsessive side of me cannot leave a single bag sitting un-looted.
The gameplay for the most part resolves around expanding your reach and setting up these bases of operation in new areas. At first you start out on the banks of the Hudson River, and you push into the city with the first mission based around driving away the hostiles and reclaiming a base. From there you start retrieving people from the impromptu medical center set up in Madison Square garden. So you rescue a virologist to take back to your base, and then that launches a sequence of quests that involve collecting additional resources to help set up your medical facilities. The problem is for me at least that I cannot seem to stay on track, and that even though I have a giant orange line leading me to the objective…. I keep ending up going off the rails and looting every building that I happen to come across. The other issue that I am having is that I struggle how to identify who is just a harmless bum roaming down the street…. and who is someone that will actually kill me. I ended up wandering down this alleyway, without much options for cover… and next thing I know a patch of what I think are harmless survivors… ended up opening fire on me. In the middle of the batch was apparently a major boss that straight up killed me. So while the mapping system is amazing, the threat assessment portion seems to be kinda confusing at least for me… since everyone including me… dresses like they just came from a shelter.
Still on the Fence
Right now I am not sure if I am on board or not. I played enough to decide that I mostly liked it… but I still struggle with whole third person thing. The big boss fights are pretty hectic, but I have learned that for the most part… I simply need to find a hidey hole and kill mobs until the boss finally comes to me. It isn’t nearly as heroic as rushing in and dodging bullets…. but it seems to be more consistent than trying to run around and stay alive at the same time. The other big take away…. is that gear is really damned expensive. I am used to being able to buy upgrades pretty quickly in games… but I have sold a lot of random crap that I have found out in the world, but have been able to afford absolutely nothing. One of the things that I love about Destiny is that I am constantly getting new weapons to play with… and if this game ends up keeping the same set of weapons around too long I am going to get bored. What makes MMOs interesting for me… is the whole aspect of constantly upgrading gear. I have learned over the years that characters get stale for me, when I stop getting upgrades. So while I am getting drops that are upgrades are mostly armor, but I have yet to get a single interesting weapon drop. So I think in the long run that might be an issue if the beta test is relevant to how the rest of the game is going to feel. The other big problem for me is that I have a feeling that if folks get this…. we are going to be spread out between PC, PS4 and Xbox One… and I am certain that there will not be cross platform play. Right now I am leaning towards the PS4 version… but I have a feeling that most of the AggroChat folks if they got this… would be playing it on the PC. So now I just have to decide…. do I pick this up or do I wait, and while making this decision I should probably see how nice the pre-order bonuses are.