Skip to main content

Five reasons I'm loving Tom Clancy's The Division, so far!

I think The Division's recent beta tests were a pretty good indicator that the game was going to be something special, and millions of gamers seemed to agree — its smashing records for Ubisoft, becoming their fastest selling title to date.

The Division is insanely ambitious, being the product of not one, but several Ubisoft studios, and looks set to topple Destiny from its connected-shooter crown.

For those who don't know, Tom Clancy's The Division is a third-person tactical shooter with heavy RPG elements, set in a post-societal New York City. A smallpox virus on steroids has wiped out much of the populace, and various crazies and criminal elements have moved in to take over the city, looting and pillaging as they go. You play as an agent from the Strategic Homeland Division, or The Division for short, tasked to be the last line of defence against the total collapse of the US.

Throughout the game, you'll undertake missions either solo or in teams of up to four to wipe out fanatical faction leaders, rescue high-profile hostages, unravel the cause of the pandemic and work to restore order to a New York gone mad — all while picking up piles and piles of tasty loot.

I'm still working on a full review for The Division, but here're some of the things I love about The Division so far.

1. The game actually works

Ubisoft has a patchy track record when it comes to big game launches. Assassin's Creed Unity is notorious for denting the series' image with its menagerie of bugs, and Rainbow Six Siege — a game that is entirely multiplayer-based — was plagued with server issues extending from the game's launch.

The Division had a few early access tests on Xbox One, showing millions of players a small portion of the game's final content. All that testing appears to have paid off because I haven't yet encountered any dropped connections, latency issues or major bugs.

The Division takes place in a vast and meticulously detailed open world, which is always-online. While your progress in the story and side missions are unique to your version of the open world, you can jump in and out of your friend's worlds to share progression at will. The game's player vs. player DarkZone persistently connects you to other players and considering The Division's tactical squad-based gameplay, minimalizing latency and connection issues is paramount.

These days it seems to be a 50/50 chance whether an online game will actually work properly on launch day, I'm overjoyed to report that everything has been rock solid so far when it comes to The Division's servers. I won't lie, though; I have encountered some strange glitches with audio, where sound files get backed up into a buffer and then start playing all at once. I have fallen through the world on one occasion and discovered areas of the game that are missing textures — but, so far, there's been nothing one could consider game breaking.

If you're having trouble connecting to other players, you might need to consider reconfiguring your Xbox's NAT settings.

2. RPG systems that matter

Since the advent of World of Warcraft, I feel like multiplayer RPGs have struggled to walk the line between class uniqueness and homogenization. If classes are too unique, it can lead to imbalance and situations where you're neutering your group unless you have an expressly required class role (such as a healer). If classes are too similar, you'll never be in a situation where your group is underpowered for not having a particular class, but then why have classes at all? Homogenization is just plain dull.

In the similar RPG shooter Destiny, the three classes you could choose from in its base game were almost entirely inconsequential. Each performed very similar abilities on very similar cooldown timers, primary differences being aesthetic in nature. Even on higher level content, Destiny rarely presented reasons to work as a team to overcome its various sci-fi bullet sponges — somewhat missing the point RPG co-operative play. The Division is different.

The Division is a little more like Diablo III in the sense that all players have access to all abilities, but can tailor their class role and playstyle at will. Enjoy the healer role? Go down the Medic talent tree, and hunt gear that increases your healing abilities. Enjoy being a damage dealer? Find a sniper rifle, take all the damage modifying perks, firepower gear and aim for the head. Want to help with crowd control and defense? Go down the security tree, and avoid equipment that reduces your threat level with the enemy.

The Division

From the game's guns, mods, stats, perks, talents and skills, The Division allows you to tailor your combat role with more depth than other recent RPG shooters I've played, even exceeding the likes of Mass Effect — which is not only bold but just plain awesome. Ubisoft appears to have thoroughly nailed what an RPG shooter should be.

3. Loot addict's paradise

So far, The Division's open world feels like the culmination of everything the publisher has learned about world design over the last decade, cramming it to the brim with worthwhile activities and reasons to explore. For the most part, The Division ditches those notorious Assassin's Creed-style flag collect-a-thons.

As you wander the chaos of The Division's New York streets, frozen forever in the neon glow of an abandoned Christmas, it rains gameplay opportunities like gifts from a post-apocalyptic Santa sleigh. These can be anything from your basic go here, kill this, click on this side quests, all the way to story-driven dungeons complete with tactical boss fights.

"Just five more minutes... I'll do one more quest..."

Whether you're diving into an unexplored sewer or fighting your way through an abandoned apartment block, each area, each mission and each boss kill comes with guaranteed, sweet and succulent items that dig their little hooks into your skin and make you want more, MORE!

As mentioned, The Division's RPG mechanics allow you to tailor your playstyle in various ways, making the statistic hunt all the more satisfying. Whether you're chasing firepower, medical skill or technical prowess, The Division's spread of stats and modifiers makes loot incredibly rewarding when you know what to look for — particularly when you see the effect it can have on your damage and healing numbers.

When combined with a Diablo III-style crafting system, if you're prone to loot addiction (like me) you could be kissing goodbye to the sunlight as you game until dawn, forgoing sleep, food, and human contact. "Just five more minutes... I'll do one more quest..."

4. A world worth caring about

The Division takes place in a near-future New York City, complete with world-renowned landmarks and familiar modern day locations. Ubisoft is well known for their expertly crafted open worlds — which while detailed, can occasionally feel a little sterile. As mentioned, Ubisoft appears to have learned from criticisms about its previous games to produce something with a stronger pulse — a fact which should be at odds with its decayed setting.

The game is littered with tiny details, finer nuances and life-like NPC interactions that are a joy to discover. For example, check out the below sequence featuring a crow griefing a rat. After several hours of play, I've only seen this occur once.

Gorgeous graphics, day and night cycles and dramatic weather effects give new life to areas you may have previously traversed. The Division might not be able to call upon space-age sci-fi tropes when building its enemies and weapons, but the modern day setting twisted by a very realistic apocalypse is equal parts haunting and surprising in its own right.

(opens in new tab)

A photo posted by on

Beyond missions themselves, the game provides a wealth of flavor to give context to the game's infectious world — including recovered CCTV footage, smartphone voice messages and even augmented reality reconstructions of previous events. It allows you to experience what drove the city into total anarchy, setting the stage for a cohesive narrative that Ubisoft can build on for many months (maybe years) to come. My experience with the game's main plot is limited, but all signs, so far, are quite promising.

5. The unforgiving Dark Zone

The Dark Zone is probably my favorite aspect of The Division so far. It is brutal, exciting, innovative, and captures the exhilarating essence of classic MMO open world player vs. player almost perfectly. While roaming The Division's environment, you'll only encounter other players in the game's various social hubs or those who have joined your group. Outside of the Dark Zone, the only enemies you'll meet are CPU controlled. While they do have some pretty oppressive A.I. and often deadly abilities, computer-controlled enemies are usually predictable. Human players are far less so.

The Dark Zone is a strip of New York City that cuts straight through the middle of the game's map, painted red to reflect the danger therein. When you enter this zone, players who aren't in your group can attack and kill you.

The Dark Zone is not to be confused with team deathmatch or capture the flag — it is still very much a part of the core RPG experience complete with loot and computer-controlled enemies. Ubisoft's servers will dynamically connect you with other roaming players, creating a persistent threat to your personal well-being.

There's no guarantee that you'll be attacked, and there's no guarantee that you won't be — it's that uncertainty that can make the Dark Zone a unique and paranoid place to be inside. If you're brave enough to traverse the most infected areas, the rewards will be incredible. The Dark Zone has some of the most powerful loot in the game and even has a separate levelling system and currency to encourage participation.

Players who attack their fellow agents get flagged as rogues, and can be killed for Dark Zone EXP and currency without repercussion. It might seem like a better idea to just not become a rogue, but in the Dark Zone, you can steal Dark Zone loot directly from a downed player, which can be incredibly enticing if you happen upon a player with his back turned, distracted by the extraction chopper needed to recover Dark Zone loot.

That greed can be overwhelming, and sometimes that greed can pay off big time. Other times, that greed can get you killed.

The road to review

A game like The Division is quite difficult to review, if for no reason other than its massive scope. When you disregard its story, huge play area, and combat, a major question mark hangs over its end game. I'd argue that a game that introduces behavioral incentives to remain engaged has a responsibility to keep the content fresh with regular content drops and activities that break up the potential monotony of MMO-like loot grinding.

Reaching Level 30 introduces Phoenix Credits, farmed from the high-level areas and daily quests, which can be used to purchase powerful items. Level 30 also unlocks challenge modes for the game's missions — think hard mode, but even harder. The Division also has a season pass that promises three new expansions, in addition to exclusive extra content along the way. Additionally, Ubisoft will soon patch in Incursions, which will form the basis of The Division's end game "raid" content for squad-based play. You can check out a trailer for future content for The Division right here, and the mere fact the trailer is titled "Year One" shows that the studio has extensive plans for this game.

Tom Clancy's The Division is already a massive success story, becoming Ubisoft's fastest-selling game of all time. So far, it seems that Ubisoft has side-stepped some of the mistakes made by similarly connected games and delivered something truly special in the process. Frankly, so far, this is the game that I expected Destiny to be.

Stay tuned for our full review, but I think it'll be a little more of a reflective piece. From what I've seen so far, I'm prepared to recommend The Division right now to anyone who enjoys multiplayer shooters, loot-heavy RPGs like Diablo and Borderlands, and even single player cover-based shooter campaigns like Gears of War or Mass Effect.

It has been a while since I've had this much fun in an online game, I just hope the fun lasts as I march towards the level cap.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • Five? Try five hundred. This game is phenomenal.
  • Bit of a grind but it's really good fun.
  • Well, its an RPG of course its about grinding :-)
  • Some rpgs dont feel like a grind though
  • I know it is technically a grind in some areas. But... I have never had this much fun grinding. I love this game. GotY for me so far, no question.
  • Found this review to much more closely align with how i and about 20 other alliancce members found this game:
  • I'll check it out later. But... to each their own I guess. I am having a ton of fun in it. I have not been this hooked on a game in some time.
  • Damn Jez! You just made me love the game more. Got to get a copy. BioResearch & Games.
  • Def worthwhile, although like some others said, def one to play with friends! Can feel a little grindy without.
  • Wish i had a console Sent from Windows Central App for Hololens
  • It's on PC too
  • Sshhh
  • I played the 2 betas of the game, played alone and with other players. Really nice and fun game. Story seems ok, enough to keep you moving along from what I saw and multi player in story mode was pretty epic. Sad thing budget said, THis or Uncharted 4..... So Uncharted 4 won out...I'll get this one later..
  • I'll give you one reason I hate it... The idiots at Ubisoft placed Division on the same servers as Rainbow Six. Those same servers couldn't handle Rainbow Six alone... Whose bright idea was it that throwing an even bigger game on top of it would fix the issues? Ubisoft has become completely incompetent.
  • Where did you see that mentioned? I've not heard of this, and like was said, I've not had server issues in The Division.
  • Same here. I heard rumblings from my friends on day one, but when I jumped on Friday night and since I have had zero issues. (other than a short wait in line)
  • Its fantastic game ! In fact playing it right now ! Some of you guys can leave uplay names under my comment if you want to play sometime ! I would like to try with some buddies across the globe too !
  • Preordered it after playing the closed beta and could not be happier. Best 99 bucks I have spent in a long, long time.
  • I disagree with a couple of the points. I've had some rough bugs. The only major one was when I died in a mission during co-op and respawned in a building I wasn't supposed to get into. Basically, I was trapped and there were no textures. I had to fast travel away and run back while my teammate was left alone. There are also times the graphics don't load on signs. So, I'll approach a sign that is incredibly blurry, and then it sharpens the text after several seconds of staring. The other disagreement is interactions that matter. The main story is bland. The characters are terrible and annoying, if you're lucky. Most are insufferably dumb and useless, like how Faye Lau has an accent and generally disappoints as a character. All that said, this is one of the most fun games I've played. IDK if I would give it the same praise as Dying Light, but it's definitely great to have a reason to get away from Halo as much as possible. Lil Frier on XBL if anyone needs a playing partner. I'm 17 now and will probably play around 5 PM ET.
  • I haven't encountered any of those bugs personally, but I did note that it has a couple of glitches. Texture popping hasn't been so bad for me, maybe I've not been paying attention. I also noted that I need to check out the story more, but I've enjoyed what I've seen, especially when you include the story files you find around. We should party up :)
  • I'd totally be up for it. The only worry it's the time difference. Like I said, I'll be of in 15 minutes and in-game in an hour or less. If you're on/up, I'm down to play.
  • Still waiting to party up with you from the Twitch broadcast! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Might play some today, what time zone is good for you?
  • I'm in Central myself, off work at 3 PM, probably on around 4, though I think that's about 9-10 PM your time.
  • coupel of bugs i've had is the falling bug where you respawn and you are endlessly falling until it says you are out of the zone and taking you back.  Another is respawning and to a compeltely different location or fast traveling and taking me to a different location.  That is odd.  overall game is fun, but there is a lot of screen tearing and some low fps moments, it gets annoying sometimes.  Manageable though.    I didnt notice faye lau as having an accent at all.   
  • She had one in the first few cutscenes. It somehow vanished over time, haha. She's a bad character either way, but basically every NPC is in the game (the quest givers at the Situation Boards are the worst).
  • ya, im just crushing through the story mode to level up.  pretty much skipping the scenes. 
  • I got trapped amongst some bags of rubbish placed inbetween rooftop vents. No amount of rolling around, or attempts to climb, would get me out. I had to quit.
  • Did you try fast travel? That's how I got it out my predicament.
  • I absolutely love this game. I was in both the alpha and beta and just seeing how polished those unfinished builds of the game were, I knew it was gonna be outstanding. I wish I had even more time to play but when I play, it's phenomenal.
  • If I would only understand matchmaking and how to get 4 people actually joining a mission 
  • The ammount of casual couch gamers is growing and that DOESNT make the games good. Also the ammount of ass kissing to xbox products in general is over the tops.  The mechanic: cover-shoot-cover-shoot-cover---shoot AT THE SAME ******* BULLET SPONGE ENEMY !!!  Please tell me more how this is a good game comapred to something that actualy takes skill. Of course ppl that paid moey will defend their investment, especialy the garbage console gamers, those are the worst at realisng the **** they play.   They paid for the garbage Watch Dogs and praised it.....why not praise this ?   If on consoles a literaly **** would be sold and promoted to be bread with honey, WP central and console gamers would preorder the colector;s edition. 
  • Because we have fun? I thought that was the point.....
  • You have strong opinions and have shared them with us
  • You sound upset.
  • Woah, hold ur horses man! People have their opinions and their money and if they want to buy consoles or pcs, let them. Yesh, u need to go find ur happy place, take a chill pill and calm down.