Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Division Beta Impressions with Chris and Frankie

Hello all, I recently made a post on our Facebook page about how I tried to get into The Division beta and failed.  Luckily, I have many amazing friends and two of them who did get in responded.  Both Chris and Frankie were kind enough to share their thoughts about the beta test for Ubisoft's newest addition to the Tom Clancy brand.  They offer pretty differing opinions on their experiences, so read both if you want the full picture of what to expect.

-Big O  

Chris (Xbox One)

"Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. Why can't I run any faster?!?!?" My thoughts as I hear the gunfire behind me and the bullets flying by me. I begin to start weaving in and out between the cars, crates and other objects in the street trying to elude the squad of three chasing me in the dark zone. "When are these guys going to run out of ammo?!?!" I finally get to the end of the street and take the right hand corner to continue to get away. I continue to run.  I run another tenth of a kilometer according to my GPS on the screen and find an alley to duck into for a minute. This all started simply with me finding some loot in the ground in the Darkzone, picking it up, and turning the wrong corner.

For those who may be new The Division is a third person over the shoulder shooter that has a lot of potential. The basic story behind The Division is that a virus has spread throughout New York City. The government is no longer able to provide military support and the NYPD is almost nonexistent now. A sleeper militia cell has been activated in an attempt to keep a level of control with the city itself. There are other agents that were also activated. Crime continues to build within the city even after The Division is activated. As the radiation grows in the city, so does the instability of New York. This single player to MMO title can change just as quickly as you read this sentence. Ubisoft did a great job with how quickly it would change from the single player free roam, to the duke-it-out or team-up MMO side of the Darkzone where you take on both players and A.I. 

I have to say, considering that this was a beta, I thought that The Division was solid. Now that does not mean that the was free of bugs and issues. Let's start with the good first and what could arguably be the most important, the cover system. It has a classic feel with a new twist. For those who are fans of the Gears of War franchise you will feel right at home with this mechanic. Sprint up to almost anything that looks large enough to provide you cover, press the corresponding button (which for me was the A button), and congratulations, you are now behind cover. The other great thing that was added to the cover system was the ability to move from one to the next fairly seamlessly. By simply looking at the next object you would like to hide behind you are able to look at that object and you will see the A button pop up, along with a line on the ground which is the direction that your agent will follow. You can use almost anything for cover: cars, boxes, crates, walls, etc. The cover system continues to be a Tom Clancy staple and once again did not disappoint.

The weapons and armor you start with in the beta were solid enough to get you up and running quickly. Now I doubt that you will be given the same items to start the game when it officially comes out, but you never know. A number of people have been comparing The Division to Bungie's MMO of Destiny. The only comparison that you can use on the two is the amount of grinding that you may have to do in order to get the weapons and the armor that you want. However, that is just about where that comparison ends. You can upgrade your weapon or armor in a variety of ways. You can receive it by purchasing it off of the vendors with the money you have gotten through out the game, by opening up loot crates that you can find in back alleys or even on the side of the streets, by getting the loot from enemies that have dropped them, or by going into the Darkzone and picking up the loot that other players have dropped after you have killed them. The drop system seemed fairly balanced and nothing seemed to show up more than something else. Everything from shotguns to pistols, LMG's to submachine guns, the variety in the beta was solid also. I was able to go from a M4 assault rife and a MP5 submachine gun, to a L86LSW and a M1014 Shotgun (I think) in a matter of hours. Ammo, like weapon pick ups, were never in short supply with this beta. It seems that no matter where you end up going there is a crate that you can use to restock your ammo. Plus, the pistol also has unlimited ammo, so that helps. Each weapon handles in its own way. It felt like no two weapons were the same. When you begin to add attachments to your weapons, they begin to change the stats to your weapons, along with the handling abilities. Everything from damage, accuracy, and range can change with each weapon depending on what attachment that is added to the weapon. You can pick up plenty of attachments also from grips, to sights, to magazine changes and quite a few other options for any player to be able to choose from. These attachments are found the same way as weapons and armor with the random drops.

The map of New York seems to be exactly that. It feels like a one to one scale of New York City. Based on the map and how long it would take to run a block, or even a kilometer, it is definitely close to a one to one scale if it isn't. During the beta, you seem to spend quite a bit of time running, its like living in a Doctor Who episode. But, for those that tend to prefer something quicker, then good news! After about fourteen hours of playing the beta, running, and some one telling me that it existed, I discovered that there is indeed a fast travel system in the game! Who knew?!?! It was a nice feature to use once it was discovered. Not having to run for 15 minutes was a nice feature. It was tricky since nothing on the menu's said anything about it, but I am certain that this is an issue that will be fixed going into the full game. It seems that you are able to fast travel to different missions (or at least the one that was in the beta) and apparently to The Division home bases. There are apparently other options also, but I was only able to get to the missions via fast travel. Even so, running from place to place was not bad. Coming across the different look crates, enemies, and civilians are all great ways to get upgraded loot, which will be hard to find if you are using the fast travel system everywhere.    

Now on to one of the few issues that I came across. The first two days of the beta had server issues. It was bad enough that staying in a game for longer than 15 minutes was an accomplishment.  However, whatever magic Ubisoft did on day two to the servers worked out extremely well. I could play for a few hours I would randomly get kicked, but that is nothing more than usual. And on day 3, it seemed that Ubisoft hit it. I was able to play with absolutely no issues of lag of getting kicked from the game. It seems that Ubisoft seems to have learned from the atrocious start of Assassins Creed Unity. So far it does not appear that they are making this mistake again. Every issue that has arisen has seemed to be fixed as it has shown up. And I must applaud Ubisoft here for what they have done so far with this beta. Everything on the last day of the beta was extremely smooth and the servers almost could not have been better.

The different modes that were offered ranged from the basic missions to the normal side quests. The side quests range from hostage situations, to "escort" missions, to taking out bosses. The side quests were almost as enjoyable as the one mission that was allowed to be played in the beta. With the mission being a fairly basic one where you enter into a basketball arena and start fighting it out with the rioters. With the ability to play as a solo agent or having the ability to team up with other agents to clear the area and save a doctor along with her staff. After completing this, defeating a boss on the roof of the arena will allow you to complete mission. The side quests of the hostage situations are simple: defeat the rioters; unlock a door, release hostage. Pretty simple right? The escort missions are, at least the one in the beta, a little misleading. After expecting to escort the person you just found you hold a brief conversation with them, then some random CPU shows up to "escort" them back to home base. Finding them is a different story. You have to track down the links to figure out how to find this person based on the information at each link. 

The home base for The Division starts about as well as you can expect for the start of the apocalypse. The home base is split into three areas that you are able to upgrade over time. The areas include: the medical wing, the tech wing, and the security wing. They are pretty self explanatory as to which does what, but with each upgrade to the wing, it will unlock a skill of some sort. So that offers even more incentive to actually upgrade all of the wings. Here you will also find vendors who will sell weapons, armor, and modifications.  Right across the hall from the vendors is the player stash where the weapons, armor, and modifications you choose, can be stored for later use. Just to the left of player stash was a crafting table. Outside of seeing it, it served no purpose in the beta outside of a cosmetic appearance.  You will also have the ability to replenish your ammo and medikits before you decide to go out on you next outing.

Were there other minor glitches and bugs, of course. Just like any new title that comes out something will pop up. I personally only ran into one incident which occurred while I was in the Darkzone. As I tried to step up onto a ledge in the middle of combat, my agent stepped up and then froze entirely. I was able to move the camera, but that was about the extent of it. I could not change weapons, reload, move, jump or fire. I was able to back out and restart the game without any issues after that. But outside of that sole incident, I had no other major issues. 

As a beta, The Division was great. I am extremely excited to see what the final product will end up being, as well as you should also. I believe that this game has potential and can do very well. However, I am slightly concerned for lack of content and hoping the servers will hold up. These are arguably the two biggest questions. The game play was great and the story seems to have potential. I can’t wait to see what this game can do with all the potential. Hopefully it lives up to it all.

 Frankie (PS4)

Going into the Division I was extremely excited. The first E3 trailer I saw made it look absolutely breath taking, with a mix of third person/cover fire shooting mechanics, some RPG elements, and bits of what you would find in a standard MMO, I felt like there was no way I couldn't fall in love with this game. Even though I did enjoy what I played, it definitely did not meet the expectations that I had envisioned it would reach.

Before I get to ahead of myself allow me to break down the different aspects of what I delved into starting with the premise of the game. You are a sleeper agent from a secret government faction called The Division (obviously), and after a terrorist attack releases a deadly virus in New York City on Black Friday, the city is quarantined off and it's your job to figure out what happened and how to stop it. Early on you meet another agent that helps you get into the thick of the fray, but honestly I didn't really care who she was, just as much as she didn't seem to care about my character as well. The story is not the main pull with The Division, even though it does seem that they are trying to make it a focal point. After you hop off a quick helicopter ride with her and do a quick mini mission you are introduced to one of the big attractions of the beta, your base of operations. This is where you not only restock and rest up, but as you progress through the story and unlock different wings, you also unlock new talents and perks. This is something I really like even though they only gave a small taste of it. You have a Medical Wing, that focuses on team support and healing, a Tech Wing that focuses on gadgets and disrupting enemies, and a Security Wing, that focuses more on tank and damage abilities. This is a pretty unique way to tackle character progression and creates a but more incentive to complete those story missions and build your base, rather then the typical grinding you see in most MMOs and RPGs.

The Division also has a leveling system for your character as well, but all this does is enable you to use the new and better gear you acquire throughout the game. The loot drops very similar to most MMOs and has a rarity system designated by a color and name. White being common, Green uncommon, Blue rare, Purple legendary, and Yellow high-end. Each type of gear has different stats and effects, and weapons have different parameters and mod capabilities depending on how high level/rare the piece is. Now as a standard RPG goes, all this does affect your damage per second or DPS if you are familiar with the genre. This is something that bothered me about the gameplay a lot. One thing they said is the time to kill would not feel natural because of it being more of an RPG then a shooter, which is fine, until it becomes a bit unreasonable. I would find myself putting several sniper shots into a NPCs head, or emptying an entire magazine of an assault rifle before the enemy finally decided to die. Not to mention that grenades and pretty much any explosive was rendered useless because of the pitiful damage output. I get that bosses are supposed to be a bit of a health sponge because they are essentially the finale to your mission or encounter, but this is still a shooter at it's core, and I feel like even though everything is based on DPS, it needs to reevaluate the time to kill. The shooting mechanics were overall tight and relatively consistent, but it was just a run of the mill cover fire shooter. There was no new ideas, no new mechanics, nothing to set itself apart from games like The Last of Us, Gears of War, or even The Order 1886. I was hoping for some more really cool gadgets, or even different ways to interact with the environment, but The Division doesn't seem concerned with setting itself apart from the pack here.

Now we come to the main attraction, the Dark Zone. This is the most promising part of this title, and the one thing that still gives me hope for it. This is not only the PVP area, it is also where all the strongest enemies, and best loot is. I'll start off by saying even though it has its faults; this is by far the most enjoyable part of the beta I experienced. The Division's takes on PVP is quite different then you see in most games, there is no Team Deathmatch, no point capture, no attack and defend, nothing. You can squad up in teams of four, speak to other nearby players to work together to take down larger territories, or eliminate opposing agents. Now killing other players has it's advantages and disadvantages. The downside is when you attack another player you go rogue, showing up on every nearby agents radar and placing a bounty on your head. If another agent manages to take you out, they collect your bounty. However if you manage to survive through your rogue timer, you get to collect your own bounty. Everything you kill in the Dark Zone rewards you with DZ EXP, currency, gear, and etc. And the bigger the target, the bigger the reward. This is where the risk comes in as well, when you collect loot in the Dark Zone, it isn't yours until you extract it, which is only permissible at designated points. If you manage to hold out and get your loot extracted (which takes roughly 4-6 minutes) you have some sweet new items waiting for you at your base. The loot you have obtained is also visible via a small yellow canister attached to your backpack until it is extracted, and if a enemy player decided he wants to kill you for it, he can, and is rewarded your loot for doing so. It's not over there though, because not only will they go rogue for doing so, but they have to extract what they just stole from you, giving you a shot at tracking them down and reclaiming your prize. While squaded up with a friend and a couple of his gaming buddies, I found myself constantly in tense situations, surrounded by other agents with or without loot wondering if they were going to attack to steal what we had acquired, or simply remain neutral. Chances are if you showed up next to us at an extraction point without a spiffy looking canister, you were planning on killing us for it, and I had my cross-hairs on your head waiting for the signal to shoot you in the face. This was such a clever and unique way to approach PVP that I really appreciated, even if at the end most people just went around trolling other players by killing them for giggles, it still was a joy to be in the carnage of 10+ people in a fire fight.

The Division has some promising aspects to it, specifically the Dark Zone and PVP, but it's going to take a lot more to sell me on this game at launch for sixty big ones. Once again I feel Ubisoft have shown us one thing, and delivered something completely different. Even though this is nowhere the extreme shift that they did with Watch Dogs, I fear it's a trend Ubisoft is starting to show with their triple A games. The best parts of the game have been saved for the retail copy, and I'm sure they will address some of the issues presented in the beta. But with that they have shown us they definitely have not won me over, and is not a game I am willing to invest my time and money in at launch.

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