What was once a game too far on the horizon to see when it was first announced at E3 2013 is now in a playable form and getting ready for its March release in 2016. The Division is a game promising much with the new in-house made game engine Snowdrop, combining a cover shooter with the MMO genre and telling a story in a non-linear way. With only a few months left until the game drops and life cease to exist for all how eagerly are waiting for this game, we had the opportunity to try a PvP build of the game at this year’s ComicCon Gamex in Stockholm Sweden. Stay and learn why The Division can become one of 2016s best MMOs, but also why it can miss that spot completely.
The build we got to play takes place in the Dark Zone, which is The Division’s PvP area. In here you are supposed to look for loot with a team of up to three people and either help or kill other players depending on how daring you want to be, before extracting out with all the goodies. The build we had the opportunity to play was set up with 9 players, pitting us against each other in three teams. While I do understand that this might be the easiest way to show off the game´s engine basics, it feels like they are making the demo into a more pure cover-shooter then the MMO experience they have been talking about. Each team in the demo had three different characters, all assigned a special role with locked skills. While I would have preferred for us to change and try out different builds, this was what was offered. I was assigned to play the medic which ended up not being that different from the other roles.
The game started with the teams outside of the Dark Zone moving towards different entering points, and after jumping over the fence and being warned that this was a PvP zone, the fight was on. As soon as I landed in the zone the shooting started and I instantly took cover behind the box closest too me. One of my teammates didn’t manage to find cover fast enough and was bleeding out next to me, which meant medic to the rescue. The rest of the game was a mix of me shooting at people and getting my team-mates back on their feet. While the objective was a little lacking and mostly about staying alive and not losing your loot, the game felt like a very well done cover-shooter. It felt very smooth going in and out of cover, always with full control of your character. The weapons felt like they are supposed to in these kind of games, nothing new there.
When I finally was killed, I was expecting to be out of the game for a long while, but instead ended up spawning only seconds later. Seeing how people at the show floor would be mad if they died seconds in the game and couldn’t play more after queuing for a long time, I am hoping this respawn timer will be different upon release. With the short amount of time to get back in the game it really felt like your ordinary cover-shooter, nothing new here.
Except for one thing, your hard earned loot will stay where you die, making it open for you to grab again or for the enemy. But it also adds a third scenario, being a trap, which happened to me. While I thought my loot was still easy to retrieve and ran there, another playing was holding his sight at it just waiting for me to run over there and killing me again. But even with this added twist, it doesn’t really matter since you don’t win the “game” by killing other players, you win by getting extracted with the loot. While our team ended up dying a lot and losing our loot over and over again, we managed to retrieve it plus more and get extracted in the last minute. Making the whole “round” seem like a constant shooting over nothing. Hopefully the full game will come with bigger areas and longer respawning, otherwise they may as well slap on team deathmatch and fall in with other cover-shooters.
When the game was first announced back in 2013 it relied heavily on its graphics and great visual effects. But like all games they have a tendency to decline in this area until they are finally released, which is also the case for The Division. While the game was tested on an Xbox One we can expect it to look even better on a high-end PC for those who have one, but it is still a far step back from the first gameplay footage we saw of the game. Most importantly is the visual effects which even had their own trailer. While we didn’t have the chance to see if frost comes and goes, there was some really nice snow falling and great use of how you can see the characters breathe in the cold and how it changes depending on what you are doing.
Combining a different genre with the MMO concept has proven complicated over the years. The latest example would be Destiny, which have taken a lot of ideas from the MMO genre as a whole. Despite Destiny still selling well there’s a huge split between MMO players and shooter players and unfortunately The Division may risk falling in the same trap. While we only got to play a small part of the game’s PvP, and on a build made for game shows, it does raise some big questions seeing how the release is not that far away. The build came with some great parts, like how loot stay in the open when toy die and can be used as a trap. Or how you have to play as a team to get to the extraction, with the opportunity of killing you friends in the last seconds. But it also feels and plays just like any other cover-shooter out there. While I am hoping this is just the case for this hopefully modified build we got to play, it is still a warning sign I do not take lightly. All we can do now is wait for the planned beta coming later this year and for the game’s release in March 2016.Related: Beta, Convention, Hands On, PvP, Shooter, The Division