Tom Clancy’s The Division was first announced in at E3 in 2013 and follows a typical sounding Clancyesque storyline. A smallpox pandemic sweeps through the US and the country collapses into chaos. You play a sleeper agent who is part of the “Strategic Homeland Division” which was setup to help in situations like this and are tasked to help rescue New York from the virus and itself.
The game is a openworld RPG third person shooter which is always online. Some of the marketing and press has called it an MMO and it’s certainly got elements of that involved. Ubisoft chose to split the PVE and PVP elements of the game and call the PVP the Dark Zone.
The main story-line is everything you’d expect – carry three weapons and complete missions and earn xp and money and use this to learn new abilities and talents. You move through the post apocalyptic New York and collect all manner of items either to sell, use or craft with. It’s possible to complete most of the earlier missions on your own but as you get further and further into the game you’ll need to group up either with friends or as a PUG.
The Dark Zone is much more chaotic and has separate progression. Unless you group up you’ll never see other players outside the social areas until you get there. Every player you meet is a potential enemy until you group up and they can exit groups whenever they like. The big lure of the zone is loot and there is a lot of in there and vendors which give good gear for exclusive Dark Zone credits.
If you’re expecting a game where you can just walk in and start shooting you’re going to be disappointed very quickly. The game stresses it’s RPG credentials and you need the right skills, weapons and above all tactics for a situation. This won’t appeal to everyone but it makes the game much more cerebral.
I’ve been playing for a week in as much free time as I an squeeze out and I feel like I’m still only starting to scratch the surface. This is a big game and there’s a lot of complexity and time needed to get deeply into it.
Included in the box:
Paid Extras: The standard game does not include a season pass which is available separably for £29.99
Ubisoft is a French Multinational video game publisher and developer. It’s one of the largest studios in the world with around 10,000 employees and an annual revenue over 1.4 billion Euros. They’re probably most famous for Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Just Dance, and Prince of Persia but they’ve lots of other projects that are slightly less known.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The Division gives you a fair amount of flexibility in play style. The in game quests can usually be done either by you by yourself if you’re properly geared and very careful or by a group if you want to go a little faster. The missions have manually adjustable difficulty which helps this – the harder the settings the more loot.
Play sessions and saving is a potential weakness of the game – start a mission and if you log out (or disconnect) before finishing then you’ll lose your progress. In addition as an online multiplayer game there is no pause so its best to clear some time to play.
The Dark Zone has it’s own set of rules, currency and techniques which make it almost a game in its own right. By the time you’re able to get into it you’ll be well grounded in the basics and able to figure out the changes.
There were a number of reports in the press immediately post The Division’s launch of problems with players either blocking doors or access to questgivers but this was addressed with a patch inside a few days. Ubisoft have already promised content patches, raids and more end game entertainment seeming to plan a long term future for the Division – it’s likely that to access it the season pass will be required.
The game is available on the PC, Xbox One and PS4 and we reviewed it on the PC. The minimum specs are not too high but should be regarded as an absolute minimum not a level which will be comfortable to be play at.
The Division presents you with an awful lot of information very quickly and asks you to interpret it in a split second. Most of this information is useful but luckily almost all of it is switchable on or off. The one consistent is a use of orange backgrounds and text.
Ubisoft have built in a color blindness mode with different settings for tritanopia, protanopia and deuteranopiaa. Subtitles are available for all dialogue in 13 languages and are switched off by default.
The weather is deliberately designed to be a factor in the wintry New York and its not unusual to be in a swirling blizzard with significantly reduced visibility. Graphics settings can be adjusted to somewhat reduce this but it remains a factor.
There is significance flash and strobe effects in the game caused by everything from flash bangs your enemies throw at you to screen white outs going from a dark environment to a highly lit one. There are some skills and abilities which can somewhat mitigate this but it is a deliberately designed game mechanic and unavoidable.
If you’re running an Nvidia graphics card you should be aware that the specific drivers that have been issued by Nvidia have been reported to cause problems for some systems, often where SLI is being used and so you should think carefully before updating to them.
Audio plays a large part in the Division. There is a constant level of background sound that adds to the immersion in New York and this noise does give a number of clues as to what it happening around you. Most of these cues are reproduced visually but not quite all.
When playing in a group audio is not quite essential but can be a very big help to coordination. Music, sound effects, dialogue, group and proximity volume are all on separate volume controls and can be adjusted individually. I tried playing on mute and was successful but it was significantly more difficult.
The Division can be controlled by controller or mouse and keyboard. The controller has four available layouts – default, southpaw, legacy and legacy southpaw but does not allow customization beyond that. Controller look and aim sensitivity are separately adjustable
The mouse and keyboard is full remappable and mouse sensitivity and acceleration is adjustable. Ubisoft has built in support for some Logitech LED keyboards so that appropriate keys light up at the right time.
Tobii EyeX support is built in and lets you focus on particular UI elements, track the map or use eye tracking for aiming and taking cover. Some tricks have emerged using Rainmeter to alter the UI beyond what Ubisoft intended for example to give better access to your consumables.
Environment & People
As a post apocalyptic game The Division naturally looks at a number of themes of how people react when placed in a survival situation. The particular cause for the apocalypse – an engineered terrorist virus has the potential to raise questions about genetic engineering and terrorism which Ubisoft never really answers.
An interesting side note – the New York in the game is mapped virtually identically to the real life New York which has made from some very interesting juxtaposition photos between reality and fiction.
Ubisoft is a multi-national company with 10,000 employees in multiple countries. It has not published information about it’s impact on the environment or corporate social responsibility.
The standard version of the Division comes in at around £40 which is standard for a AAA game and for that price you get an awful lot of play time. It’s difficult to quantify how much exactly but the game is easily over 100 hours if you go to all the areas.
The season pass is available for £30 and adds three expansion areas as well as numerous in game extras. It’s a little more difficult to justify for the average user but if you’re getting towards the ends of the main game it may be worth it.
The Division is a multiplayer game with no single player component (although many missions are possible to carry out on your own) and requires a reasonable and always available internet connection. It authenticates via Ubisoft’s Uplay store which is required to be installed and running on your PC.
When I started playing the Division I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’ve played MMOs, openworld games and shooters but somehow managed to avoid the Tom Clancy series. I thought I’d get a wider version of Call of Duty or something along those lines but what I got was a much nicer surprise.
Ubisoft have managed to take a constrained environment and make it feel realistic and open. I never expected to be praising the storyline but some of the snippets of the crash were immersive and pulled me in surprisingly well.
The gameplay is varied and interesting enough to keep you coming back again and again and by splitting PVP and PVE content the game becomes much more appealing to a wider audience. The Division has gotten a lot of hype and sold extremely well in its first week and with good reason. If you’re a gamer with the time and looking for an immersive, exciting experience Tom Clancy’s The Division is for you. Recommended.
The review is based on the Standard version of Tom Clancy’s The Division kindly provided by Nvidia.
This article was first published on 15 March 2016.