I have seen a lot of Destiny comparison to The Division, but I haven’t seen a discussion anywhere that compares it to Borderlands, so I am going to make one. Keep in mind that this is still a very Apples to Orange discussion, however I am making these comparisons for an audience who understands Borderlands really well and I like to present some of the features and gameplay in The Division as an alternative rather than “do this game have X like borderlands do?” In the end I don’t think they really matter because I believe both games are shooting for the same experience with different recipes.
[color=grey]My steam account tells me I have over 1558 hours into Borderlands 2. I have spent very little time farming gear. A chuck of that time was leveling a character and finishing the story, but most of it was mobbing and a few raids, but really…. mobbing. It has gotten to the point where I have readonly save files for all the arenas so I never have to bother will manually resetting them. I love OP8 and wouldn’t have it any other way.
All things considered, if you account for my readonly arena, the complete lack of farming, OP8 and all….I am in a very niche category of Borderlands players who plays Borderlands this way. [/color]
So why I am mentioning all of this? so I want you to know where I am coming from, what gets me going…. because if it’s anything the same for you…you might want to add The Divsion to your bucket list before you die.
Now I have no major complaints about the game (yes Ubisoft did a good PC port port), but I also noticed (as did others) things that may be an issue for you which I will address below.
So the closed beta for The Division started last weekend. I have spent most of my weekend in the game playing Solo PVE, Solo PVP, Squad PVE & Squad PVP. I have been a Rogue Agent Solo and in a Squad, I have also part took in hunting down other Rogue Agents (PVP). I have shot weapons quality ranging from white, green, blue and purple and gold. I have been running up and down midtown, exploring every corners of the map, shooting NPCs, and other players along the way. I have done everything you can possibly do in the Beta…and here are my thoughts from a long time Borderlands player.
Here it is in a Nutshell:
The Division is a RPG game for people who don’t like farming, for people who likes to do coop, for people who likes to go mobbing, for people who are looking for tactics and synergies with their squad in a video game.
If I have managed to peak you interest by now, then I think you will find the information below useful to you.
It is a RPG
This is the first time I have played a RPG shooter (a niche category of its own) in a setting grounded in reality. So it is going to feel weird if you shoot someone’s face with a few bullets and it doesn’t drop them immediately. When I mean someone’s face, I mean directly at their face without very little “visual armor” (no face mask, SWAT helmet, nothing). In almost every other game grounded in reality a headshot is a one shot kill if the target does not have any “visible” armor to protect their face. But also almost every other game grounded in reality wasn’t a RPG, Okay. This is a completely new thing you need to adjust to before you step into this game. Because people are already making a mountain out of this mole hill, including big youtubers the likes of John Brain (TotalBiscuit, The Cynical Brit) who is off the mark on this.
I will take a moment to address this now. This is a straight up RPG with things like DPS and builds and loadout should be considered. You are not going to do jack with a level 5 green sniper shooting a level 10 enemy on his body. You will need quite a few consecutive headshots to make that ammo consumption worth it, even then it might not be practical to people who don’t have a lot of experience playing a shooter. This game encourages crit like any other shooter and a lot of your gear will buff that crit bonus even more, do not bother with body shots. If ammo capacity is any indicator you are not going far with raids if you pay and spray into an enemy.
Is it bullet sponge? No. if I have to make a Borderlands comparison it’s no different than shooting body shot on UVHM with a green expecting amazing results…without slag. Not gonna happen.
Speaking of “Slag”, the game does have a one, it is a pulse you can activate that will create this ripple centered around you, highlighting enemies, but also giving damage and crit buff to your team for some time. This can be so powerful you can one shot guys with a sniper. Also your character has “perks” and “talents” which further increases weapon damage, critical, stability, accurately and more…and those were disabled for the Beta….so we could be doing even more damage than we currently are. The Beta players are sort of nerfed actually because we don’t have access to these features yet….and we can still one shot guys with the right build at level 8….
The irony in all this is for the people who wants this game to “feel” more realistic in terms of damaging enemy and killing them fast as with any other “non RPG realistic shooters”….you can do this with a good build and playing smart. It can indeed be that game for people who know what they are going. I am afraid this point will get lost in the sea of “bullet sponge” comment you will see across the internet and youtube “reviews” come March 10th, 2016. Mark my words, I bet on it.
There are numbers, and there are no numbers
Also for all the math nerds here, yes there are damage numbers and you can min max. You can also turn that damage number display off if you want a cleaner UI. In fact, this game has one of the most customization heads up display I have ever seen in a shooter style RPG. You can go completely hud less if you like to, you can place that hud on a second monitor if you want to.
Skills, Talents and Perks
First, there is no such things as a respec. You can change you build at any time on the fly by simply opening the skills menu and picking another ability. You can even do this during combat.
There is no “class” in the game as we are used to, you play roles. You are either the DPS of the team, or the medic, or the support. You can also be a Grey Agent with a good balance of all three. For people playing solo…you are likely going to be a Grey Agent unless you know what you are doing. Glass cannon build is possible on solo but it’s hard just like any glass cannon build.
I think you guys can already imagine what Medic and DPS roles does. The Support is really a tank with the ability to hold a riot shield and soak up agro. His role is to force the AI to reposition to a different cover among other things.
You can choose up to two abilities and one master ability (3 abilities total) from a grouping of 3 categories, they will define the role you play. You can pick them however you please, if you pick two medic abilities, you master ability do not need to be a medic one, it can be from Tech or Support. You are not locked down to anything. You can also add mods to each ability, think of them as a game-changer for your ability.
Mission, Mobbing, & Rewards
I am happy to say that missions are replay-able, we only get one mission to replay in the Beta but I expect to be able to re play a lot of story instances and side missions. So why would you replay a mission? Well each mission has a difficulty scale from Normal, Hard and Challenging. Normal and Hard being available on the beta, you get green loot on Normal, blues on Hard, yeah you can see where this is going for Challenging. This is really awesome for people who are not interested in any PVP and they want to try out some challenging mission (Solo or Coop) for better loot. This and the PVE raid will be your endgame if you have no interest in the Dark Zone or PVP. Also you don’t have to touch the Dark Zone stuff at all to get the best gear in the game, you can get to level 30 (level cap) with all Golds just by doing PVE SOLO. This is confirmed by the Developer. From the one mission I played it’s the same formal as Digipeak in a way. You move from section to section clearing out spawns and enemies with ammo chest in between, in the end you fight a boss. Completing the mission itself gives you a reward on top of the boss dropping loot.
PVP – The Dark Zone
Outside the Dark Zone you can play the game with a party of 4 (No FF), and it’s all PVE.
The Dark Zone is really a walled of PVE section with tougher mobs and boss. The wild card is you have other players there as well. It is recommended you do this with a Squad not because you need your squad to kill any NPC or Bosses there (I soloed them, its fine), but because it serves as a deterrent from other players to shoot you down and take your loot after you grabbed it of a boss. It doesn’t matter how good your build is, you cannot solo a group of 4. The only way if there is a big difference in player skills to overcome that. Glass cannon builds are very risky there.
It’s a wild west out there with a lot of tension and it feels great, you are on edge. The Dark Zone can be enjoyed solo because the max player count is only 24, and given the size of the map, it is possible to avoid other players completely. You also do not show up on the map if you don’t go Rogue. You can hide from other players and duck behind cars as another squad is passing by. It is a game of Cat and Mouse.
Here is the pros and cons for people who already decided not to get involved on the PVP in The Division.
Pro: You are guaranteed to get what you worked for, fair amount of gameplays translated into a steady stream of ever upgrading loot in PVE. Also you never have to deal with a hacker, (people are already hacking on PVP).
Cons: You miss out on the high Risk/Reward moment of the game, you and your squad can pick of players one by one and take their loot putting minimum afford and time and get rewarded for it. Also a decent section of the map is dedicated to PVP, you will never be able to explore the full map if you don’t go PVP. Places like Central Midtown, Time Square, Grand Central and Bryan Park you will never get to see. Which is a shame because of how beautiful this game is.
Loots (Equipment and Loadout)
So the loot range from White < Green < Blue < Purple < Gold/Yellow
Then you have Cyan (Pearl) which is just the color for cosmetic items. (Jackets, Pants, Shirts, etc).
The middle and the right column has things like backpack, mask, pads, weapon holster, gloves and armor. They all give stats boost. Gold version can give you something really cool but we will see, I can say it is more than just some number changes.
Some loot will have bonus features like health return on crit (not kill), faster cooldown timer on kill, the gun having a chance to refill the mag on kill. So I am happy to say that “redtext” like feature do exist on loot and they are not limited to Gold loot either. Also some higher quality gear with have “perk” tied to them and if your character has those perks you can improve the performance even more. You can do gun specific builds like SMG, Shotguns, Snipers, AR…etc. There are gear and armor that specifically buff a weapon class…imagine a cat com for every weapon class.
So the loot system doesn’t have anything crazy like a gun that can fire electricity or something (although you have a gadget that can do this). The guns are more based on real weapons like the AK, M4 A4, M15, AUG, Famas, P90, UMP, P55, Deagle…etc you get the idea. And each of them comes range white to gold. The gold version will be a little more specialized. As far as gun parts goes, you can modify the weapon damage/accuracy/stability and whatnot via Crysis like attachments. The attachments also come in rarity ranging from white to gold. You can for example have gold attachment to a green gun and make it work great. They can make a huge difference. This is the Division equivalent to the “parts” system on Borderlands, but the beauty here is you can change your parts. Which brings me to crafting, yes you can craft good weapons, I am not sure if you can craft gold items though. I can’t give too much detail on this as crafting was disabled in the beta.
[color=orange]Also ammo is free from ammo chest, you don’t buy them from vendors. The closest thing to an element is the Fire and Explosive ammo. They work like a buff you trigger and for a period of time all your weapons will fire explosive/fire bullets.
Remember when I said I don’t like farming? This game gives me crafting, loot chest, vendors, boss drops, and replayable missions to get what I want. I don’t know if there are name drops or some item only access via X…but the game looks pretty flexible so far. [/color]
Map – How Open is it
Its big enough to satisfy my thirst for now, but I would like to be bigger. The reason I am happy with the current size is because how detail each block is. This game is not a 1-to-1 copy of Manhattan but it comes pretty damn close as a videogame can 2016. If they added Downtown and Brooklyn the game would be over 100 GB.
You can go inside certain buildings, there are subway stations you go underground into but it would be cool if I can use the subway tunnel to run up and down the whole map. We will find out when the game comes out because the Beta (as big as it is) is also pretty limited.
People will make GTAV or whatever other comparison, remember that in GTAV you can drive a 200 mph car around the map, it’s a big map but there are a lot of just empty land and desert and mountains, which is fine. However, in the Division you are walking everywhere and this game has detail in every corner of the map, so it is a smaller open world packed full of details and that’s what will make you forget about the map size and simply enjoy the game.
The Visual “Downgrade”
Judge for yourself. These are mere 1080 shots, The game looks pretty close to the E3 2013 Demo if you run it on 4K and downsample to 1080. Having a 1440p Ultawide Monitor with a high pixel density would make this look even better. In short the game is pretty so don’t worry about downgrade talk.
The game has Day/Night cycle.
But its Ubisoft and Uplay?
Get over it.
There are times I am glad its Uplay or Social Club or Origin, do you know why? So I can play them during Steam maintenance Tuesdays.