Tom Clancy’s: The Division has finally arrived. We got our hands on the game and so far, it is every bit as good as the beta. Well, it was until about midnight EST, when the servers went down. We received some very odd server error messages, each with names like Mike and Delta, followed by a series of numbers. Perhaps it’s a secret message for a real crisis going down right now.
The Division starts off in Brooklyn, NY – right after a hellish germ outbreak that began on Black Friday. Yes, this game will have you thinking twice about all of the cash you exchange on America’s famed shopping day. Once NYC has been closed off from the world, your unit, The Division, is activated to ensure the safety of those citizens who have not turned to villainy.
What makes a person a villain, you ask? On our first two side missions, it was hard to say. Basically, we received reports that a group of bandits had commandeered our food supply. Then, we had to kill them. These bandits aren’t your ordinary street bandits.
Gamers have some basic character customization controls at their grasp when making their character. Players have 4-10 options for basic facial features, such as your face, skin tone, hair, scars and face paint. One note is that if you choose one of the two black character faces, the skin tone modifier doesn’t adjust the complexion at all. The skin tone modifier does work better for other races.
On your first side mission, you’ll need to use at least three or four headshots with your automatic weapon or sidearm in order to take them down. Their masks don’t seem to be military grade armor, but it adds to the difficulty and fun – so we sidestepped asking to many questions about the reality of these masks.
Another side mission involved a similar setup. We had to recover morphine from a group of bandits and then signal to our team to retrieve it. Usually, you’re asked to take out 2-3 enemies. Then, once you signal your team that the package is secure, four or five more bandits will come charging in. You’ll get to play along Adams Street, Water Street and Main Street in downtown, Brooklyn. And if you’re from the area, you may recognize parts of DUMBO that the area was designed from. If you get lost, you can quickly bring up your tactical map to set a waypoint.
The game really begins once you hit level three. At this point, you start getting more abilities and the opportunity to choose different weapons and modifications for your guns.
Borderlands fans will like the abundance of loot and modifications available in this game. Earlier this year, we had hands-on with the game, using level 20 troops. At this level, we got to really go in deep with our character customization. You’ll also get to customize your abilities, through three layers of customization that involve medical, tactical or defensive proficiency. You can switch out your specializations on the fly, which is really nice.
Once you hit level three, you will head back to the safe house for your debrief. Then you will go on your first big mission. The game will prompt you to partner up with online players so that you can secure a bank. Thankfully, Tom Clancy has a loyal fanbase so you should be fine securing a party relatively quickly.
You can also choose which difficulty you want to use. We ran with the highest difficulty since it gives you more experience points. Teamwork really came in handy on this mission because there were always bandits located in sniper positions as well as bandits that ran at you with baseball bats.
It was on this mission that I realized no one had chosen a medical role. Thankfully, it was only the first big mission. Because we found ourselves frequently bleeding out on several occasions, while crawling to safety – hoping a comrade would save us. Those guys with the baseball bats are brutal.
Once you secure Brooklyn (sadly for native Brooklynites, securing BK isn’t that involved so you don’t really get to explore the borough), you’re off to Manhattan with your team – Chelsea Piers to be exact. You should be about Level 4 at this point. This is where the game really begins.
Players will have to rebuild the base of operations in the city. So you’ll run over to 31st and 8th Avenue. After taking out a few baddies, you can start setting up the main branch of the Post Office as your new base. If you’re an XCOM player, it’s hard to not think of the base in terms of the XCOM base. It’s got different levels, each of which you’ll have to build out by finding doctors, tech gurus and security experts to help secure your team and humanity’s future. However, this base is much more minimal than XCOM.
Your first major mission in Manhattan is right across the street from the Post Office. You’ve got to rescue the Dr. Jessica Kandel and other members of the medical staff from the Madison Square Garden field hospital. That’s right, Knicks fans, you’re beloved stadium has been turned into a hospital due to the outbreak.
The Madison Square Garden gives you a chance to really explore the cover system in The Division. The level designers did a great job in remaking MSG into a ransacked mobile hospital. Players will have to constantly move around the makeshift world, diving for cover as enemies swarm around you. Going at it alone on the hardest difficulty is especially rough, but not impossible. So you’ll definitely want to partner up with at least one other player in the event that you run out of health packs.
Once you’ve rescued the good doctor, it’s time to start upgrading your base. Each area of the base has various upgrades that tie directly into your soldier’s talents. So by upgrading the Medical wing, you’ll also help unlock medical skills for your soldier and increase the number of med packs your soldier can carry. Similarly, by upgrading the Tech and Security wings, you will unlock related abilities and mods for those abilities.
Unfortunately, the problem with games like this is that when the server goes down, there’s no way to play the game. Thankfully, the server was only down for a few hours and is now back. So game on.
Stay tuned as we continue to document our journeys in The Division.