21st Mar2016

‘The Division’ Review (PS4)

by Paul Metcalf

the-division-ps4

The Division is turning into an interesting beast, especially for solo players like me. There are so many articles that say it is not designed for single-players alone and that at level 30 it will hit you hard, but at level 26 I’m holding up hope that I can survive it. Why am I sticking with The Division solo play? Probably because the game itself is so good.

When I hit level 30, I may change my mind and give into the fact that the game has become impossible for me. Maybe I’ll have to find some people who want to play with me in the game and finally give in to having to be part of an actual group. Until then though I walk the street alone, and even have some fun in the Dark Zone sometimes too.

One of the reasons I probably like The Division solo play is the fact that I can explore the world in my own time, I can take random pictures of the street art I find and Easter eggs that turn in my travels. This is one reason this review took so long to write, because I’ve been taking my time and enjoying the experience. Call me a masochist, but I also enjoy the fact that the enemies are getting harder and are starting to kick my ass. It makes sense to the story of the game for the challenge to be upped the closer you get to the end game.

You can tell the difference is coming when you are in the middle of a battle and then suddenly you are being shot at from all sides. This is normally the result of bad planning when it comes to taking on an enemy, or the fact that you’ve just run straight into a large group of people intent on killing you. If you walk into a group of the Rioters you’ll stand more of a chance of taking them down quickly, as is the case with the Cleaners once you are at a high enough level. Take on the Rikers or Last Man Battalion (LMB) though and you are in for a battle that is often stacked against you.

When it comes to the Rikers and LMB this is where strategy is key. The Last Man Battalion as an example as tough to take on. From the very first time you meet them you can tell the difference in their style and the challenge is ramped up to a new level. If anything though this does feel like normal gameplay progression, and all you need is a little strategy to pull your way through it. If anything, by understanding how The Division works and how it throws enemies at you, you soon pick up the best way to work the game to your own advantage.

The best way to play The Division is to accept that you need to grind. The weapons and armour you pick up are essential to survival so be ready to swap out your arsenal quickly. I noticed that this is one element of the game that is unforgiving in its approach. If you’ve become attached to a certain gun, it can be hard to give it up. If you want to do some big number damage to those yellow health bars though, you need to give in to the change.

To get the best weapons you need to head into the Dark Zone, and this is the place where The Division solo play really becomes a group experience. This (in my experience at least) is a good thing, as normally it means that people are giving you a hand. It may be that people are joining the fight so that they can get a share in the loot of a big battle, or it may be that people are actually giving you a helping hand. The fact is though that you’ll often find other groups willing to help you out, as well as shoot at you if they decide to “go rogue.”

Another fun aspect of building up your armour and weapons though is the crafting. This isn’t too complicated a system, as it mainly means hunting down the components to build up your arsenal. As you build up your base of operations you tend to head back there to not only upgrade it, but also check what components you need to build the latest new gun on offer at the crafting station.

This is the fun of The Division, even as a solo player. You are giving a sizable map full of collectables that all have a meaning. When you first start to play, you may not realise what “Fabric” or “Tools” do, but by the time you are levelled up and looking for better armour, suddenly that one piece of fabric you left behind is the difference between life and death.

Is hitting level 30 a worry? I think with all the words written about how the game changes at this level, all The Division solo play people may become concerned. I tend to think of it as a challenge though, and from the hours of gameplay I’ve already put into the game? I don’t think I’ll be too disappointed if I start to struggle just a little too much. What we also have to remember though is that the game will be balanced out more in time. If Ubisoft notice a need for a more balanced solo player experience, then they may change things up a little.

So is the dream of The Division solo play still alive? For me it is, but I guess I’m a bit stubborn and have masochistic tendencies when it comes to playing a game like this. I remember when people said Borderlands and its sequels HAD to be played as a co-op, but loved them as a solo experience, I’ve played Destiny in pretty much the same way. With The Division I’m hoping that I’m not going to be disappointed, but even if it suddenly becomes even harder, I’ll be that crazy idiot still playing the game in my own way. Is it better as a group experience? Of course it is, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have just as much fun as a solo player wandering the streets alone.

**** 4/5

The Division is out now on Xbox One and PS4 from Ubisoft.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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