Playing The Division and The Division 2 during the pandemic

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by CT Phipps, Apr 7, 2020.

  1. CT Phipps

    CT Phipps Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Sep 17, 2016

    I'm preparing to do my second update of my corona virus self-quarantine journal but thought I'd take a time to talk about my experience playing through The Division games by Ubisoft. They are a very different game to play through than they were when they were first released. Both because both of them have been updated extensively and the whole viral apocalypse thing currently going on right now. This is not me attempting to undermine the real life tragedy going on but the fact the game really does have a lot more resonance than it did before. I'm not the only one to notice it either as Forbes did an article on it.

    Does this remind you of anything?

    The premise is that the United States and other nations have been brought low by a worldwide disease called the Dollar Flu. An act of biological terrorism, it spreads on Black Friday throughout the United States and kills huge amounts of the population. The state collapses and an emergency order called Directive 51 is enacted, activating sleeper called the Division to "take back their nation" and restore order. The game takes place in New York City that has fallen to warlordism and a group of gangs that have driven back emergency services as well as the police. It is your job to shoot your way back into a stable society.

    I was initially off-put by the game's seemingly authoritarian overtones. Executing fellow Americans without trial in the middle of the streets was a hard sell in 2016 and hasn't really gotten more palatable. However, the atmosphere of a breakdown in civility and order following a natural disaster has gotten more relatable with people fighting over toilet paper in the super-market. I've lived through a number of natural disasters here in Kentucky and summarize the experience as, "Most people are a few missed meals away from becoming Mad Max Raiders."

    Central Park is a field hospital. Oh dear.

    I turned out to be prematurely judging The Division's political content as well. Unlike Extra Credits, which reads a great deal into the Division being about preserving property over life, the game makes it abundantly clear the primary purpose of Division agents is to re-establish supply lines. The people you shoot in the game aren't being shot because they're looters, they're being shot because they're murdering people to hoard resources.

    While I would have appreciated fighting a bunch of Wallstreet bankers and their hired security, this is about setting up free hospitals and turning the lights on. The Division also has numerous characters question whether the Division is doing more harm than good with numerous members of the organization going rogue. You might be a decent Division agent but the power, violence, and training has turned a bunch of them into Bond villains. Indeed, for such a apolitical game of Good vs. Evil, it's become a scarily critical of the incompetence of the government that mirrored some of this version's actions.

    The Sanitation Union has taken up new hobbies.

    Honestly, I think the game's vision of New York is easily the best part of it. The visual storytelling is better than any previous game I've played and that includes Skyrim or Fallout 3. A thousand little stories are told with details like the garbage piling up, apartments that had been fortified into little shelters, and the mass graves created with trenches dug throughout Central Park. The game is absolutely gorgeous and one of the most evocative I've ever played.

    Unfortunately, the world-building is pretty much where the storytelling begins and ends. The NPCs are barely present and almost the entirety of the story can be skipped as it requires you to hunt down audiologs to listen to. They're not even strategically placed like the ones in Bioshock but actually scattered across the map in very different places to find. Much like every other open world Ubisoft game, there's hundreds of collectibles scattered across the map of dubious value.

    I wish I could have played this game.

    The game could have heavily expanded its cutscenes and NPCs in single-player with an option to skip but it seemed determined to get you to the shooting as possible, which is a shame. I also, annoyingly, object to the fact you can't listen to the radio with your Division headset. This seems like a game that needed that to be added to your Pip Boy 3000 equivalent. Maybe adding music would have been too expensive or detracted from the mood but I would have at least enjoyed listening to the narrator outside of safehouses.

    Which brings me to the gameplay, which is sadly something I choose to describe as aggressively mediocre. It's cover-based shooter with a strong focus on looting clothes as well as weapons from the dead in order to slightly increase your scores. I'm fond of this in Borderlands as well as Destiny but it's a bit annoying going from +1 extra points on your magic sword to +1 extra on your scarf. The fact that enemies are bullet sponges despite being normal people, not even armored ones, also undermines the realism of the setting.

    The weather effects deserve their own praise.

    In one of the easiest observations ever made, the game is a lot more fun if you're playing with friends or even acquaintances online. The games missions seem to be made with the idea you won't be soloing them. Indeed, the first mission where I fought a boss all by myself took about eighteen tries. There was no way to level grind before this happens and the game then dumps you into a wide-open world where it's sometime before you're equipped enough to handle encounters without frustration. The fact you can frequently re-spawn two or three minutes of walking/jogging away can also be a source of great frustration.

    I have no real interest in PVP so I can't comment on the Dark Zone arena that occupies a third of the map but the stories I've heard from my friend basically indicate it is unnaturally scaled to the hardcore players. They have the best gear and have grinded them to be almost invincible. Thankfully, I have always preferred PVE instead. As much as the game was a bit grindy and could have used more enemy variety, I came to like the Rioters and Cleaners a great deal as factions. I admit I would have joined the Cleaners if I could since a bunch of garbage men with flame throwers deserves points for originality.

    This isn't a cinematic. This is the actual graphics.

    I'll be honest, the game is a grind but it's the enjoyable busywork kind of grind that does take advantage of its unique arena. The AI in the game is good with the enemies using decent tactics as well as a mixture of shooting, grenades, and sometimes special abilities. The variety is nothing to write home about (as mentioned above) but I rarely disliked fighting the enemies. Upgrading the Home Office of the Division from disaster zone to fully functional hospital, tech lab, and police station was also something that I got a real thrill out of. It reminded me of Club Purgatory in Saints Row 2, which I always enjoyed turning from an underground rat hole into a sexy nightclub.

    Either way, I'm glad I stuck with The Division. I don't think I would have appreciated it as much without being quarantined but I'm glad I did pick it up as a discounted title. I've been informed many of the adventure varieties and relatively smooth gameplay is the result of many fixes over the past few years. I think this was well worth the thirty dollars I paid for it but I had a bunch of frustrations along the way. Still, if you want to game a scenario that addresses the seriousness of our times, this is an ironic and sadly prophetic story.

    Last edited: Apr 9, 2020
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 2
  2. Dragula

    Dragula Stormtrooper oTO Orderite

    Nov 6, 2008
    "Fascist overtones"

  3. CT Phipps

    CT Phipps Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Sep 17, 2016
    I'm actually confused by this response. Given I said the game DIDN'T have them, are you stating you believe it does? I would be interested in why you think that.

    No, seriously, I want to know.
  4. Dragula

    Dragula Stormtrooper oTO Orderite

    Nov 6, 2008
    "I was initially off-put by the game's seemingly fascist overtones."

    Fascist is first and foremost the wrong word to use here, dictatorial/totalitarian overtones, maybe? Because a lot of totalitarian governments have executed people without due process, communist regimes, monarchies, military juntas.
  5. CT Phipps

    CT Phipps Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Sep 17, 2016
    Changed to authoritarian.
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 2
  6. Dragula

    Dragula Stormtrooper oTO Orderite

    Nov 6, 2008
    Then it's correct. Much better.
  7. Eshanas

    Eshanas A Smooth-Skin

    Jul 6, 2016
    If you get the Warlords pack can you take a picture on/of Broadway by the end of city park? Boom you see where I work. The named boss potential spawn area by park row, heheh.

    That said I'm loving how more and more games are just throwing up near 1:1 replicas of cities. A good step in the right direction. While of course the shops, banks, and the interiors even are a little different, just walking down the same road I walk every day (as I courier through Fidi) is a helluva immersive.
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 1
  8. CT Phipps

    CT Phipps Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Sep 17, 2016
    You can visit Flatwoods in Fallout 76, which is about a mile from where I live.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2020
    • [Rad] [Rad] x 1
  9. CT Phipps

    CT Phipps Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Sep 17, 2016
    Some gameplay element observations:

    1. The looting is less fun: Compared to Borderlands 2 and Destiny, I think the loot is far less fun in Division since it's essentially all variants of the same. You have your hat, scarf, hockey pads (thank you, Batman), and very boring guns. It's just fundamentally different than a sci-fi or fantasy setting where you can look like a rainbow pimp or have a gun that shoots grenades.

    2. The gameplay is poorly balanced for solo: I feel like the game really punishes you if you try to do it solo and it's clear that the missions are designed for multiplayer. I feel like they should have divided the missions up for handling solo and then have separate missions for multiplayer ala AC: Unity. As such, I can't imagine trying to take on a lot of these solo.

    3. Bullet Sponges are too much: I think they should have added more weaknesses for the Heavies and Elite Heavies in this game because even if you accept that the game should have guys you can empty clips into, they could easily have made the Boss enemies have about half the health they have and they'd be more enjoyable.

    4. Lack of Rocket Launchers: A grenade launcher or rocket launcher weapon would have been a pretty interesting thing to include in the game. The lack of them involved in this is something that I think is a failure of design. Certainly, I think it's part of the fake longevity that comes with trying to make the bosses near impossible to kill.

    5. Lack of Vehicles: I'm surprised there's only one helicopter and APC in the entirety of the Division as they've been used numerous times before in previous games. I think you would have possibly seen things like cars with mounted machine guns too. I realize part of that is due to trying to make the most use of the map but it's a weird aspect.

    6. Lack of attack dogs: I think both you and the bad guys should have the option of dogs that attack you or attack your enemies.
  10. CT Phipps

    CT Phipps Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Sep 17, 2016
    Well, I've quit at Level 27.

    I can't get anyone to do any of the remaining missions for me and I've become stuck at Kip's Bay. The Rikers are just too hard for me to solo in their trash mobs with the remaining Encounters and while I may just need to level up my gear a bit, I don't think I have the strength for it.

    I think I'll just do the Division 2 instead and hope the story is a bit better. Either that or take a break and play Resident Evil 3 or Yakuza: Zero.
  11. maximaz

    maximaz Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Apr 2, 2006
    Fuck man. I really wanted to play these but there is no way in hell I could find time. Always thought they looked great (not just graphically).