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Pure Opinion: The Division Was Better Than Most People Give It Credit For

The recent Division 2 revelation got myself and a friend talking. We were debating whether to redownload The Division nearly two years later since there were three downloadable “expansions” and a lot of patches that fixed and improved the overall experience. The two of us had a pretty fun time in The Division whether it was completing the story together or screwing around in the Dark Zone for a few days. Heck, even my wife tagged along for our journeys through a virus stricken New York. Things eventually got stale after thirty hours where the enemy tank problems and lack of DZ longevity became more apparent. Still the adventure while playing Ubisoft’s 2016 title was enjoyable and would probably provide at least a few more hours of fun. Sadly, us compadres decided not to redownload the full game and its DLC solely on the fact that they were each still fifteen dollars. So yea, Ubisoft fix your years old content to a reasonable price and you’ll get more money from me. This almost stroll down memory lane then got me thinking. The Division was certainly falsely advertised at some key pre-release moments. It had legitimate problems. But past those issues was an enjoyable third-person shooter romp.

I remember taking two days off of work for The Division. I also remember making a quick livestream satirizing how the game would have launch issues for a few hours from midnight. So I explored the dilapidated New York by myself for a bit and was blown away by the designs and atmosphere. With slow falling snow and crumbled buildings just about to reach the limit of disrepair, around our small piece of New York, the world certainly captured my attention. However, this caused some initial disappointment in my innocent soul when I pulled up the map. The E3 2013 gameplay trailer, and all pre-launch info, suggested that the in-game world would be absolutely huge. Like to the point where you wouldn’t see anyone if you ventured out far enough. What we ended up getting was just an incredibly small piece of the pie and one Dark Zone. Yea, that same E3 2013 gameplay trailer also misled us into believing that not only would there be multiple DZs, but you would come across enemy players outside of it as well.

Ok, so the game won’t be as big as advertised. That wouldn’t stop me from playing though. Once my friends joined up I was already done all the missions that were in the beta and already got a feel for things. I loved the customization options up until that point and also the RPG-like progression tree. If memory serves correctly you could have up to three different playstyles that offer different, but similar ways to go about things. I personally stuck with the more medical focused class as I always have done in shooters. You need a dedicated medic with wicked gunplay ability? Hit me up. Anyway my lovable gang treads their own path through The Division’s New York as we explore the broken down streets, enter wonderfully designed building interiors, and fight our way through different gangs and villains in order to find out what started all this. I know it may have been generic, but my wife and I were alone for the final boss, in the form of a helicopter, and things turned into hectic chaos real quick.

Say what you will about the gameplay, but I really enjoyed it. The third person perspective worked smoothly as taking cover, blind firing, and rolling were nicely implemented, the moments where you and your four person squad were ambushed by enemies in the middle of Times Square while on a story mission still stand out in my mind, and working together to take down different enemies on harder difficulties for each mission was a blast to overcome. Yes, I did achieve the Platinum trophy for this title. That’s not to say people’s complaints about tougher enemies being “tanky” wasn’t warranted. How many times do I need to shoot this guy in the head, with one of the best assault rifles in the game, for him to die right? While this inevitably lead to bullet sponge encounters it would have been hard for Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment to work in something else that fit the game world. How satisfying or easy would it have been to simply pop off a few shots and kill a level’s boss or a higher level enemy? The one thing I can remember is that no one complained about an issue like this in Borderlands. Whether it was facing a tanky boss or fighting an enemy whose level was much higher than yours.

Now that the story ended – with a whimper – it was on to Dark Zone shenanigans with the squad for better loot or just being evil bastards. At first this PvP area was amazing and tense. Protecting your pickups was the name of the game because you’d most likely lose them for good if you died. I remember bum rushes to the nearest safe house to get more ammo/health that had my pulse increasing by the second and trying to fight our way to an extraction point on a parking garage through multiple groups of actual players. It was hectic, it was frustrating, but boy was it fun. I even remember enjoyable times in the early days when people discovered vantage points that were hard to get to unless you got there first. Then you could rain hot death on other gamers who dared approach your church building. My point is the OG Dark Zone was fun in the early days. Then people discovered everything the DZ offered, farming spots were commonplace, and going in there was irrelevant if you had the best gear already. Soon the fun was overtaken by frustration and made me wish there were multiple, large Dark Zones like we were led to believe. Once again I heard it was changed for the better with improvements and new areas and I look forward to them once Ubisoft knocks down their DLC prices.

While real criticisms exist, or used to exist, for The Division it offered a good four-man, RPG, third person shooter excursion. I remember actually caring about my in-game character in regards to what he looked like, what he could do with his abilities, and how he handled himself in this smaller than advertised New York. The setting and writing were believable enough where just exploring was fun and rewarding with friends. Hell, we’d go on comedic tangents while fighting strong enemies in the Dark Zone. You can view one of those below. While The Division wasn’t as great or worthy of hype as it could have been, it was still an enjoyable video game that I actually look forward to playing again and its new sequel. When the price is right though Ubisoft….hint hint hint….

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