Making my way through the hauntingly deserted streets of midtown Manhattan, The Division instills a sense of loneliness that feels uncommon for a videogame. Here I am – a sole agent running through the streets of a city that once never slept, now silent to the point where a single shot from my assault rifle rings out through the empty alleyways and barren buildings. The Division’s world is one on the brink of death, and it’s in it that you’ll find a wealth of opportunity and relentless action waiting.
Ubisoft have been working on their latest new IP for a long time. Back in 2013, The Division was one of a kind. A shared world shooter that was daring, bold and full of ideas that were once thought only feasible on the PC. MMOs of any kind hadn’t really been a great success on console then, but the additional computing power of new consoles had opened up the flood gate. Destiny proved there was a hunger for it too in 2014, but The Division suspiciously remained concealed in the shadows.
It took a long time to reach shelves, but The Division has proven to be worth the wait on many different fronts. On the surface, the game shares a lot with games of this ilk. It’s a shooter, third-person this time, with roots deeply entrenched in Action RPG elements. You shoot bad guys, they drop loot, and you slowly watch numbers rise as you grow in strength – a numerical game that has time and time again proven itself as an incredible engrossing mechanic.
That’s boiling down The Division to its absolute core, which is an unfair way to look at any game. Because plainly it’s everything around it that not only makes it stand out, but also rather memorable. Playing as a nameless agent of The Division’s second wave of deployment, you’re tasked with clawing back control of New York from three opportunistic factions that have seized power in the face of a deadly virus terrorist attack.
You achieve this, of course, through various story missions which fall under one of three categories – Medical, Security and Tech. These three branches make up the bulk of your role-playing in the Division, which is surprisingly on the lighter side. Raking up points for each allows you to upgrade its specific wing at your Base of Operations, unlocking skills for you to equip, talents for you to experiment with and passive perks to enhance your chosen abilities.
The differences between these trees is rather drastic too. Specialising in the Medical tree makes you an invaluable assets to your team when other players go down, while Security is great for deploying counter-measures against brutish enemy types. Tech is the sort of magic in the realistically grounded Division, offering up some truly next-generation hardware for you to damage, distract and otherwise incapacitate your enemies. Such as enemy hunting Seeker Mines or deployable turrets.
Usually decisions on what to focus on have to be made early on in a game of this kind, but The Division subverts this in a clever way. Your Agent is whatever class you want him or her to be in any given situation, with the ability to chop and change your skill loadouts on the fly. It’s completely feasible too, with the game slowly rewarding you with points to burn on each tree as you unlock new and more powerful perks as you progress. By the time you ding the level cap of 30 it’s fairly easy to slip into whatever role you’re required to for endgame content, making the process of getting there a lot less stressful.