Impressions after 20 Hours with Tom Clancy's The Division Beta
If you were one of the lucky few who were chosen, then you were given a chance to try out Tom Clancy’s The Division this weekend. Ubisoft hosted a closed beta this past weekend, allowing players their first opportunity to test out the new game and see where it stacks with its; competition so far. Luckily, I was able to get access to the beta as well, and after about 20 hours of canvasing the post apocalyptic New Your City landscape, here are some of my takeaways from this experience. This is a list of the eight things that I believe the beta did well, and also 4 things that could get some fine tuning before release. Remember, this was a beta of the game, so as they tell us when we booted it up, this shouldn't be taken as a final representation of the finished product (ie. some technical glitches will be present, content missing, etc), but this should give everyone an idea of what to expect. With that in mind let's jump in with the list!
Eight Great Things about The Division beta:
1. Weapon Design & Sounds
The sounds recorded for the firearms. (cycling the weapon and firing the weapon) are very satisfying when experienced in quick or slow bursts. Especially the changes with the muzzle breaks or suppressors. The developers had to take some time to record all of these weapons firing at both an indoor and outdoor firearms range to make the sound right, and it definitely shows when playing.
2. Seamless Mission Structure
I was surprised how seamless it was to jump into a mission in game. In running the only mission available, the Madison Field Hospital, when you approach the mission from the beta, an icon appears to join a fireteam, or select the mission difficulty. Then you simply move towards the main door, the NPCs breach it with explosives and you run right into the mission. A lot of games could take tips from this on how to do instancing right.
3. Realistic Environmental Interactions
It showed how well the developers payed close attention, even to the tiniest details, when interacting with the environnment. Making it so firearms will shoot through glass, chain link fence, weaker walls, and even shooting out tires of bigger vehicles, was an unexpected surprise and really immersed the player within the game.
4. Weapon Modifications
Another lovely surprise was the amount of customization you can apply to your weapons. The ability to modify firearms in an impactful way (i.e. Muzzle breaks or suppressors) added a level of customization necessary for a role playing shooter, and something I never expected, even while playing through the beta.
5. Simple Leveling System
Leveling is straightforward, you complete objectives and get experience points. Missions will grant a greater amount than the side quests. Typical RPG mechanics apply to this side of the game, and it is nice to see, with all of the perks and abilities that you look to obtain during your play through of the game, that some systems are simple, yet effective in their duties.
6. Separation Between PvP and PvE
PVP currency (Dark Zone) is separate from the normal currency. The benefit to separating the two currencies is when you die in the dark zone you lose some dark zone experience points and currency. If you have gone rogue then this is multiplied exponentially. This will not affect your regular currency outside of the Dark Zone, which should be helpful to solo players who don't venture out into this area often.
7. Party Size
Four person party groupings have a nice feel here, making it feel more balanced when playing, and every member is needed when venturing through the Dark Zone. In the Dark Zone, this is definitely the preferred group size, as having more hands allows for maximum survivability, and the ability to tactically approach a building from more than one entrance, which can come in handy during critical extractions.
8. Cosmetic Items
Making cosmetic items not affect stats (i.e. scarfs, hats, boots, and pants) is nice and doesn't make the game anymore cumbersome. While things like your knee pads and backpack do matter, your scarf won't make you more accurate. This also adds a nice layer of customization to your character, allowing you to make yourself stand out amongst the crowd.
Four Things to Improve:
1. Snapping to Cover
Occasionally sticking to a wall for cover when trying to run for cover, I would occasionally get hung up on a wall when attempting to go around corners quickly. With a slight refinement to the system, and the player getting used to it, this will become less of an issue over time.
2. Proximity Voice Chat while in a Party
Proximity voice chat would not work if you are in a console chat party. This is an issue in the Dark Zone more than anywhere else, and I’m not sure if it is resolvable with the way the current consoles are setup to handle party chat. This could also just be a bug within the beta that will get resolved later.
3. In-Game Notifications
Party management when switching between groups can be confusing, and when getting an invite from another player the alerts can be easily missed if you are in a firefight. We just need a brighter color than light gray for the icons in a world of concrete and snow this can blend in a bit too well.
4. Logging out/Changing characters
Logging out of the game in the user interface is hidden away in the menus and not intuitively located. When you hit start it will be under the settings at the lower right of the menus and then under player.
I can’t state enough this is a beta and things may change, but if they stay the same it will at least be a fun third person shooter. I enjoyed my time in the beta and hope they patch things up and really make this game come into it’s own.
Using this as a open letter to Ubisoft Massive, I would just tell them to learn from what Destiny worked through in its' first year on the market and be proactive and communicate frequently with your player base. It will earn you more than you know, and I believe that if you can stick to working on what you got right and fixing what could be tweaked, The Division could potentially be one of the biggest games in 2016, and one I may not stop playing.