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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.

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.
  • Are you in a drunken fury or something? I think the typo rate in your post is around 30%, maybe higher. It's also adorable how you rail on this and say "compared to something that actually take skill," but you couldn't bother with an example because you are scared of looking like a bigger fool or having YOUR monetary investment belittled.
  • I respect your opinion - and I actually agree with your "bullet sponge bad guys" complaint. Here's my explanation as to why it doesn't matter (for me) and why Division is already more fun for me than anything I've played in a long time. The environment and accessible casual game play. The design of the gorgeous post apocalypse world mixed with the more casual (non-twitchy FPS) gameplay was enough to bring many of my friends back into gaming. My old 90's Counterstrike crew is back together playing cooperatively against players and NPCs alike and having a blast. That's why this game should be praised. It is immersive, accessible, and super fun when played with friends.
  • This phenomenon wasn't even on my game-dar one month ago, and like many the open beta came along. Thought I'll have a go, see what the hype was about.... After a five hour session of 'just one more...' The game was pre ordered and I haven't looked back! Absolutely love it!
  • I was disappointed to see a Season Pass being sold along with the main game. Instant no-buy from me. I'll buy a GOTY edition for $20 in a year or so. Hundreds of games to play in the meantime!
  • What's the issue with season passes? Devs gotta eat.
  • publishers got to milk
  • The car majority overcharge. Is Forza is 400 cars for $60, how is 60 cars $50? The pricing is totally out of whack.
  • It seems to be an ever increasing trend to push out a game, and sell the Season Pass on day 1... which seems to indicate to me that they just took out parts of the game and will sell it back to you later. I bought the Battlefield 3 & the Battlefield 4 Season Passes. I managed to play all of the BF3 maps, but I haven't even looked at ANY BF4 season pass maps. I was already bored with the game by the time the season pass content came out, so I basically threw away my money. Yes, I can still play it... but it would've been better to decide if I even like the game (or that my friends will continue to play) before commiting even more money. I'm also annoyed with the jacked up retail pricing of the games on release. These clowns want US$60-76 for the base game (similar cost on Steam) plus the SP is another US$46. So that's US$106-122 in total. I'm happy for other people to pay top dollar for it all in the meantime - I'll pick it up when the price drops to around US$40-50 for the GOTY edition. Note: I'm quoting prices from Australian retailers and Steam page, but converting to US$ for comparison.
  • Well they'll be spending time developing that content. Season pass just ensures it's funded early rather than an investment, reduces risk. I agree that it's presumptuous to expect people to pay up straight away but, if people will, they'd be stupid not to offer it. The market has spoken. You can always pick up the dlc later and decide whether it's worthwhile, we'll have reviews to try and help out.
  • That won't happen. In a year, the last of the DLC will just have been released, and you MIGHT see a GotY/Complete Edition at $60 then. It is an MMO, so the vast majority of the content will be dead by then as well. You might see it at $20 in 2018, but given that Destiny: TTK still won't get under $40, I highly doubt it. I had Season Pass as well. I've never night one, and I didn't get this one. However, there logic if waiting on the content or price doesn't work in this kind of game.
  • You could be right. I'm more than happy to wait though, as the last thing I need right now is another game. I have over 600 games on Steam (less than 30% completed) and a few dozen more on Xbox and PS3 (also not completed). I think I'll buy and play Fallout 4 before I buy The Division, but I doubt that'll happen until Xmas.
  • I actually sold Falloutto play The Division. Falloutis one where it's solo content only, the Season Pass is going to drag on FOREVER before it's all out, then you'll have a GotY release to see discounted. I opted to wait on playing it when the DLC is out, if ever. There are too many games that I'm much more excited about, like this game and DOOM.
  • Selling a game is a weird concept for me! I own every game I've ever bought... from C64 and Amiga days!
  • I'm having a lot of fun with the game, more so than the Alpha and Beta.  Good article.
  • I wasn't planning on getting this, but I won a license in one of the Mobile Nations giveaways! After reading Jez's take, I'm looking forward to playing it. Just skedaddle getting me that code Michelle ;-)
  • Sure it's a code? I won Battlefront in one of those, and they mailed a physical copy. It took a few weeks.
  • She asked if I wanted a digital or a physical copy. I replied asking for digital copy. I probably need a bit more patience.
  • There's a little backlog due to workload, will remind
  • Jez, I'm certain I saw you in a safe house over the weekend. I need help in the Dark Zone! So many more powerful people there.
  • Will party up sometime !
  • Excellent. Stay thirsty my friend!
  • Yea, a fun game.  I know it's a cover shooter, but sometimes the movement is just plain maddening.  I've moved out of cover on a number of occasions without moving to another cover point and been whipped around by the game in a ham handed fashion.  It's a bit too much for my taste.  Oh, I like the game, I simply think they went too far in forcing one into cover.
  • They could smoothen that out probs, I get what you're saying.
  • After the alphas and betas of this I had decided to wait it out for a bargain basement sale, then saw the Argentinian price and picked it up immediately. Very happy I did and in retrospect the game would have been worth the $99 price back in the US. It's soo much better than even the open beta. I do question the difficulty level at times but we're having so much fun throughout so... The attention to detail is mind-blowing in places also. Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • Aye, the details are awesome. Lots of little stories to uncover.
  • I wasn't interested in this one bit until my son told me to try it.
    I have never been so immersed in a game world before. There is one Echo I, and my gaming buds, cannot bring ourselves to watch in its entirety because its so visceral. We've never felt like this before and it damn well makes us want to take down those Cleaner bastards one by one.
  • It's awesome :)
  • So... What you are telling me is if you like Diablo and warframe this is a mist buy. Done! What you are also telling me is that Ubisoft needs to adapt this engine, update the landscape to Seattle 2025, add dwarves, Orcs and elves, toss in some summoning classes and make a Shadowrun game?
  • Yes on both counts! The Division borrows HEAVILY from Diablo.
  • I mostly agree with this article as I am enjoying the hell out of The Division and am working hard to get my second character to level 30, however, there are a few things that I disagree with. The first is the Destiny comments about team work and character diversity. I am not sure how the writer ran raids or Trials, however, it was highly important to have different types of characters in each of the three raids to be the most fluid and successful. Furthermore, in the PvP aspects both regular crucible and the competitive Trials of Osirus, most teams that I saw played with balance of characters because of each characters abilities. The second thing is the bugs and server issues have definitely been there as I have seen on a regular basis friends getting black screens or disconnected from Daily missions, story missions and even just randomly in the Dark zone but since the game is new I think we are more forgiving of issues. Other than that great points about The Division.
  • I noted that my experiences in Destiny pertain to its base game, never picked up TTK cus I was so disappointed in what they offered in the base game. Found the bosses to be bullet sponges 95% of the time, closest thing to class synergy I found was that some specs performed better in AoE situations over others, that's about it. The traditional RPG roles of healer/cc/support/tank/dps are a little more what I expect from a co-operative game like this, I felt like Destiny's (base) classes just swapped colours around rather than offered unique mechanics. I admit though, I've heard good things about TTK. I would've liked to have tried it but, didn't have spare cash at the time. Haven't experienced any issues with The Division on Xbox One personally, save for a couple of weird audio bugs. Thanks for your comments though, it can be a rare thing that someone explains why they disagree in a respectful way on the internet. WC commenters are generally awesome. :) Thank you for reading.
  • I've enjoyed the division immensely but it is not a RPG. It has elements of a role playing game (all video games do to some extent), a full open environment, the choice to roam within it, and very light inventory management. But it's missing the most important aspect of a full RPG. Character role play. There is no character development. No choice, no action consequence, no immersion into the personality of your gun wielding avatar. You complete an edventure and a cut scene plays out just like any other action/adventure game. It's fun and a good quality narrative, but it's not role play. I'm no industry expert, but I have been playing pencil+dice and computer RPGs for almost 30 years. There's a difference between a well crafted adventure that sucks you in and role play. Both are awesome when done right and the Division is (so far) an amazing multiplayer enabled action shooting adventure with a fun story and a stellar environment. There's not enough focus on character creation and development for this game to be considered role play. Think of it this way: when you meet someone new in game do you ask 1) Who are you, what's your background, etc? or 2) what level is your gear?  Minor pet peve that no one cares about but there it is anyways :)
  • Love this game, the best MMORPG I've played in years.
    My team and I have been maxed out for a long time now and can't wait for more end gsme content.
    I highly recommend picking up this gem! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Gameplay and mechanics were very bad. Graphics were buggy with some environmental issues. Got trapped in some areas (stuck in wall) and the game save process wasn't that good. I liked the concept and multigame play was fun, but I felt like I had purchased Assassins Creed Unity all over again. Uggghhh. I really like what Ubisoft did with Watch Dogs, Far Cry and Tomb Raider and hope they could have used some the same game mechanics and controls, but for fast game play this was utterly miserable. Destiny was an "OK" game as well, but seemed too short like 2.5 hrs of game play to finish and this game seemed to me to be much worse in controlling the character - very frustrating at times. This I got stuck multiple times, a few server crashes (less than the alpha and beta) and I haven't gone back since. Felt like I wasted my time and money on this game.