Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Thanks to some help from my buddy Fragems (okay, a LOT of help), I finished The Division's storyline tonight. I feel about The Division a lot the way I felt about Destiny because in a lot of ways, The Division is pretty much Destiny with a smaller budget and a modern setting as opposed to a future sci-fi setting. When I first got the game and started playing it, I thought "Golly gee, this game is swell!" Well, that's what 1950's middle class me would have thought, anyway, but you get the idea. It was super cool. Pseudo-MMO open world post-apocalyptic New York? Heck yes, sign me up.
Then I started playing it more (I sank around, I think 21 hours into the game), and my opinion of the game started to change. Individual missions are interesting, but the overarching plot line is paper thing and horribly disjointed. The larger narrative that these various story missions try to weave is uninspired and uninteresting, and that's really a shame as the game had a lot of potential for great storytelling. I mean, civilization is pushed to the brink of extinction because of a genetically enhanced strain of smallpox. That's some GREAT potential. Unfortunately, the story feels as poorly written and shoehorned in as most recent Call of Duty games (with the exception of Black Ops III).
Not only is the plot paper thin and mostly nonsense, but the game provides very little context in the way of backstory, and what context is given is done through intel reports scattered across the map that you have to find and read. To a certain extent, that's not a bad thing - Fallout and Elder Scrolls establish lore through random text scattered across the world. Fallout and Elder Scrolls do that to build upon the lore and narrative that the game's missions/quests tell, though; The Division does that to establish the background of the story that the missions attempt to tell, and I have a problem with that.
While I'm ripping the game's storytelling to shreds, let's talk about characterization. There isn't any. There are like four or five legitimate characters in the entire game, and by the end of the game, you feel zero attachment to or interest in any of them. They're completely static and flat. No character growth, no character interaction, just different voices telling you things that you probably don't care about when you start and finish a mission. Most of the NPCs in the game barely even count as characters in my book.
Stepping aside from the narrative (or lack thereof), there are some technical gripes I have. I understand that online open world games are a technical challenge, and Ubisoft in general has never had a knack for releasing functional games, but I shouldn't be walking down the street and have five enemies appear out of thin air around me and gang rape me with shotguns before I even realize that they've materialized out of the ether. If your game is touted as a fully online multiplayer experience that requires a constant internet connection, I shouldn't have to wait a full three to five minutes just to connect. It normally only takes 60 seconds or so, but I've waited five solid minutes before I managed to connect to the servers. I get kicked off randomly from time to time, the in-game party chat jumps back and forth between functional and randomly broken more than Hillary Clinton jumps between positions, and the level scaling is as broken as the entirety of Sonic Boom.
To give an example of how FUBAR the level scaling is, I'll tell you what happened when Fragems and I teamed up last week. I was level 13ish, and he was level 30 (the max level). We were in an area that's supposed to have enemies between levels three and five. A bit of level scaling makes sense, right? These ass holes were all level 25, and in this game, anything more than a one level difference means that you'll need a mop to clean up the lower-level person. So these guys are twice my level even though I'm the party leader and the mission is intended for level 12 players. I can't even tell what level they are; as far as I can tell, they're level skull-and-crossbones. I understand the desire to keep the game challenging for higher level players, but I shouldn't die from a single stray bullet from an assault rifle.
My biggest complaint with the game is one that I know is partially invalid since I knew about this before the game even came out, but I hate that the game requires an internet connection and online play. I know it's designed as an online game, and that's fine, but just like with Destiny, I think that there should be an option to play the game's badly written story missions solo offline. All of the enemies are AI anyway. I know that I bought the game knowing full well that it was online or bust, but it just seems needless.
Don't get me wrong - the game's not bad. It's a lot of fun if you're playing with a friend or a few. For someone who wants to get a good story out of a game (or even a decent one), however, it's a big let down, and it is very disappointing in a lot of ways. Ubisoft had some real potential here, and I can't help but feel like a lot of that potential was missed.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.