If you for some reason have not read about The Division, it is an online multiplayer RPG set in a near future where society have fallen into a collapsed state. You play as a sleeper agent that has been preparing for this kind of an event, and gets sent out to save the city of New York where the game takes place. This is done via a third-person view, in an open world for up to five players including one player on a tablet device. If you like more detailed information on The Division check out our interview with Ubisofts Massive’s Martin Hultberg right here. During Comic Con Gamex in Stockholm, Sweden we got the opportunity to watch an all new live demo of The Division.
Before the demo started, we were shown the famous gameplay video from E3 earlier this year, where we can follow a squad into the streets of New York killing some bad guys and freeing a large building that will act as an base of operations. The reason for showing this before is that the demo itself will be played in the same area but during a different and earlier time in the day, than where the E3 demo took place. One thing I noticed right away was that the area is populated differently and therefore played differently depending on the time of the day. If this is something Ubisoft Massive can manage with all areas in the game, and not the only one we have seen we may be looking at one of the best examples of a true living world in a game.
The first thing that strikes me when the demo began was how beautiful the game looks, both in terms of graphics but also in terms of the art behind it. While the graphics had been toned down quite a bit from the E3 demo and the screens circling the internet, it is still by far the best looking “next gen” game out there. While I do miss how the smoke, frost, snow, fire effects look in the initial video, they still looked absolutely great in the demo. But given that the demo was played on Xbox One, one can easily imagine this looking even better on PC. It might even look better on the PS4 given the small but noticeable hardware differences.
The game plays like a classic third person cover shooter with a heavy emphasis on tactics. As with the E3 demo, talking to your team and planning ahead instead of running in shooting really matters for the survival of the team.We saw a very easy to use ability wheel where we are free to choose between all the abilities you have unlocked. This of course can only be done out of combat though.The wheel then works with a hierarchy, where you chose a base ability/skill and then pick others which can work with it, or even change how it works. The ability wheel looks more like a smaller but faster to use version of the ability wheel found in The Secret World, than one more commonly found in third person shooters. But, while I draw some mechanic parallels between The Division and some MMO games out there, The Division is in Massive’s own words an online multiplayer RPG, and after this short session I agree with them. This is only a small taste of the RPG mechanics of the game, since we still don’t know anything about how the leveling system looks.
Like many games announced at E3 in 2013, playing via tablet plays a part in The Division, which is also something we always get to hear in connection to The Division. We got to see the tablet in action during the demo, and while it adds a little something in form of support to the other players, I have a really hard time seeing this being anything else than a pure gimmick you might play on the way home from work. It looks very similar to the commander mode in Battlefield 4 and plays about the same way. You can follow your friends from a top view and with four skills to give them some support in firefights, and playing on it will help progress your charcter. But watching the guy controlling the tablet not being able to act as much as the other players, I think this is something everyone with a tablet will try once and then never start again.
This short demo of The Divison did make it clear that Ubisoft Massive is working on something which has the potential to be really great. It looks absolutely beautiful running on the Xbox One which means it will probably look even better on PC, and I find it promising that we finally have someone going for a clear “next gen” look and feel with their own Snowdrop engine. While we have only seen a very small fraction of the game, it is hard to say if the living world idea will hold up in a bigger scale, or how varied the missions and environment will feel, but something tells me this could be one of 2015’s best online games.Related: Event (Real Life), Sweden, The Division, Ubisoft