The Division (Beta) or A Better Destiny?

The comparison with Destiny makes sense in many ways: Just like the (in)famous Bungie shooter, Tom Clancy’s The Division is an co-op online (and in both it’s questionable why it’s gotta be always online) shooter with light RPG elements, it takes place in a kinda post-apocalyptic world, and in both betas, the story remains abstruse – at best.

But there are differences – while Destiny feels like an arcade story in a sci-fi world far, far away, The Division’s catastrophe-ravaged version of New York feel darker, grittier and more realistic. You can almost feel the despair and the drama, the deaths and the pain in the mostly empty snow-covered streets of Manhattan.

In terms of gunplay, Destiny feels more like the winner – The Division’s guns don’t have the intuitive feel to them. You get used to them, and sure, one-hit kills with snipers rifles are always fun, and the mix of handguns with infinite ammo (that’s where realism says farewell) and two slots for either sniper rifles, shotguns, assault rifles or SMGs is still okay. Modding weapons makes them more unique, and in the full game, crafting promises some more width. Same goes for the rest of the equipment – The Division has plenty of slots to customise your avatar – plus some for appearance such as jackets, hats or shoes.

When it comes to gameplay, there’s a bit of running and exploration (you can enter some buildings and subway stations), and of course, lots of shooting. Some side missions involve you listening to “echoes” (conversations from the past somehow restored) and then following clues – nothing deep or immersive, but a welcome diversion in for sure. There’s also lots of intel and other collectibles hidden across Manhattan, providing us with some back story. Additionally, the old trick “hearing emotional stories from people you’ve never met before still gets you invested” works once more, giving this game already more emotional depth than Destiny has ever had.

In The Division, you also need to gather 3 different resources to expand your base, which in turn grants you new skills and perks for either medical, tech or security wings (security not accssible in the beta), and each section has 10 upgrades. There are tons of upgrades locked in the beta, but judging from the various screens, fingers crossed for some interesting ideas. There are also quite a few vendors in your base, and crafting is done here as well.

Then, there are the dark zones – it’s basically PvP, everyone is pitted against everyone. Yes, you need to play as a team to get to some good gear, but everyone can betray the team in The Division’s rather weird take on PvP. Unfortunately, it is possible you survive the betrayal of your team and some random guy kills you from afar. Well, the beta might be the right point to realise this … There needs to be more balance otherwise it pays off to be doing nothing and gaining the spoils – yes, Wall Street is close but games should be escapism, right?

Now, is The Division any good? Well, there is some potential, and if expanding the base and exploring Manhattan can entertain for more than 10 hours, it might well be worth it. But after Destiny’s hollow shell there is room for doubt, it is fair enough to doubt not to buy The Division blindly if you have zero interest in the dark zones or PvP in general, plus there’s doubt there actually is enough story and content to play the game on your own.

Rabidgames hesitates: After Destiny empty promises, the saying “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” comes to mind. The reviews and word of mouth will show if The Division can become what Destiny utterly failed to be at launch – an online game where you choose how social you want to be, with plenty of content for old-fashioned gamers who want to play on their own. And once more, it makes you wonder how fleshed out the game could have been without the online gimmick …

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