Moonlight breaks through the clouds reflecting from freshly formed ice encrusting derelict cars. Snow clumps against curbs and litters sewer drains. Earlier a storm blustering through reduced visibility to inches and left behind this snow scarred wasteland. Barren, and grey, fluttering newspapers add a haunted feeling to an already desolate street. A blast rips through the night to your right. An explosive device affixed to a jersey barrier detonated. You find yourself quickly surrounded by psychos in masks wearing backpacks that spew liquid death at everything they can reach, incinerating the diseased root of this disaster and everything it has touched. This is the new reality of Manhattan. In Tom Clancy’s the Division you are an elite member of a special forces unit that serves as humanities last line of defense against lawlessness and civil unrest and it’s your job to stop this.
A plague has been released upon the streets of New York City and Manhattan looks like it was remade for a George Miller movie. As a member of the Division you take up arms with the goal of finding out who unleashed this biological warfare upon the world and if there is any way you can put a stop to it.
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At its core the Division is an action RPG with shooter mechanics. All the RPG tropes are accounted for. Kill bad guys, earn experience, gain levels, get more skills, shoot bad guys harder, earn more experience, and so it goes on until you hit the mythical “level cap.” What makes the Division unique compared to most ARPGs isn’t just the fact it is a shooter but that it focuses heavily on cover and concealment. You’ll also want to work to get elevation on your opponent because he who holds the hill is king. Nowhere is that more apparent than when you get on a well-placed scaffold and rain hell on your enemies.
While the character creation tools are woefully underdeveloped, it’s pretty much neck tats or bust, character development is adequate. With six separate classes of weapons and three different skill trees, each with multiple skills to choose from, you can build a character to suit your individual play style. Normally in RPGs I build defense heavy characters. In the Division I shifted gears and went high DPS with a number of self, and group, healing skills. This works great in a group environment for support and still left me viable as a solo player. However, if you find a skill combination doesn’t work for you it’s easy to reset your build and swap out weapons, and skills to try something new. It’s getting the appropriate gear that will take up the bulk of your efforts. And like any good ARPG gear is something that the Division throws at you in spades. You’ll get plenty of it from randomly killing enemy NPCs as well as rewards for completing missions, purchased from merchants, and through crafting.
A major highlight of the game is the user interface and the use of augmented reality throughout the game. The UI presents itself as a virtual heads up display, with the use of your watch and a backpack sensor/display you can find out information about your build and items. Also certain storytelling devices, known as an ECHO, make use of augmented reality. These ECHOes allow you to interact with actions that took place in the past and unfurl the story. ECHOes supplement other collectible items that are found across the world progressing the story. Files on missing agents, surveillance video clips, and after action reports all weave together to effectively build the vision that is Tom Clancy’s the Division.
In addition the main story component of the game there is an optional PvP event. This is known as the Dark Zone. In the DZ you will take on enemy AI controlled units as well as rogue player controlled agents. This player vs player vs environment potion of the game offers a different path of progression besides the standard player’s levels of 1-30 and continuously tackling pure PvE challenges. Currently the DZ falls short of offering a truly engaging experience though. Much like games such as Evolve have fallen short in it is difficult to find the right balance to incentivize players to go rogue and not just team up with other players to tackle the AI controlled enemies for the rewards they drop.