Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Division Beta - First Impressions

After spending about half a day with The Division Beta, I've come to the conclusion that it's a game I cannot wait for to fully be released. Back when I first saw it at E3, I really wasn't quite sure what to make of it. It seemed interesting enough, but I guess that other games such as Destiny were ones that caught my eye more. With the Division all I really saw was squad based multiplayer, and it wasn't really until later that Ubisoft started telling us more details about how the game will actually work. Well, now that I've played it I know for a fact I want it, and I'm sure many of you will as well. I know that not everyone was able to make it into the Beta, but hopefully this will help you make your own decision as well.

When I first started up the Beta I found myself at a character creation screen -- one that was locked. Sadly I wasn't able to see how much you could customize your character in the game, but there was a randomize option that mixed up different features. I didn't spend too much randomizing, as I found one I liked pretty quick, but it seemed to have all of the general features you'd expect it too -- different hair styles, facial hair, eyes, etc. The game also gives you the option to choose between male or female, so there's that too.

Once I had picked my character, I was dropped off in the streets of NY and quickly found my way to a small hub area. This hub was a camp set up where I could buy equipment, items, and restock my inventory from a box that was sitting on the ground. I noticed other players running around here as well, but the moment we stepped outside everyone in my party vanished. Basically the outside world is a single player experience unless you want others to come with you. It allows you to go through the game's story, and play how you want without worry. The gameplay itself is your typical cover based shooter, where you can use stealth to your advantage to take out your targets, but since it's an RPG it is also quite a bit different. Rather than sneaking up on enemies and instantly taking them down, or killing someone with a head shot instantly, enemies have different levels, and their levels will provide them with different stats. In other words, some enemies may be stronger and have armor you must chip away, while some may simply have more health. On the plus side, you have these same bonuses as your health and equipment's power depends on your gear, but on the down, some boss enemies can be seen as "bullet sponges" that have equipment that can rip through you instantly -- I encountered at least a handful of these myself.

Although some of the inventory was locked out in the Beta, what I did have access to offered a wide verity of customization. I had a primary, secondary, and sidearm weapon I could equip (with each weapon in each category having different stats and functions), I had two skill slots to equip skills such as a riot shield and a skill that let me see where enemies were, and there were different types of armor to equip to multiple parts of the body. Each piece of equipment not only effected how much damage I could withstand, but it also changed how much DPS (Damage Per Second) my weapons had as well. In other words, the game gave me the option to build my character to fit my play style. If I wanted to become a pure damage dealer and use walls as my defense, I could, but if I wanted to be a flat out tank who could run and gun with lower attack power, I could do that as well. Sadly the Beta's level cap is pretty low, but at least it gave you some idea of how later equipment will be.

The story itself wasn't too prevalent in the Beta, but that's okay. After being dropped off in the streets, you make your future base, take it back from some rebels, and then begin rebuilding. The game sends you on multiple main quests to either save or find someone who can help the base grow, and there is some character reactions between the cast after. It's enough to get you into the world, but of course they're going to save the full story for the actual release. There are also some side quests, and side events you can get wrapped into, and there's a pretty cool feature where you can bring up a hologram version of events that happened in specific areas (such as a food truck being raided), but after spending time with this I made my way to what some may consider the Beta's highlight -- The Dark Zone.

In the Dark Zone other players are everywhere, and no one is safe -- or are they? In this section of the city enemies are stronger, and they drop better items. By killing multiple enemies, you increase your level in the Dark Zone, and eventually you'll begin getting drops that are actually worth your time; however, anything you pick up isn't instantly yours, and you must make your way to an extraction point if you wish to take it back with you. This is where things can become dangerous. Since any player playing can attack and kill you to take your stuff, you need to be on guard. You have to decide for yourself if you're going to trust others, or if you're going to get ready to attack first. For the most part I was able to track down a group of nice people to run through the area clearing enemies with, but from time to time there were ones who tried taking us on -- which of course didn't turn out too well considering we had five to six in our group, while they were a single one. It's actually a really fun feature, but it does have a single flaw... It is a bit too easy to become a "rogue" and turn into everyone's enemy. Rather than having some sort of damage limit, if someone walks in front of your shots while you're attacking an enemy, they'll get hit and you will be marked. This happened to me at least once during my time in the Dark Zone, but the good news was that no one picked up my equipment, and I was able to run back to the spot where I died to retrieve it.

All in all, the Beta was a lot of fun, and I had a few moments that I'll never forget. Meeting a rogue agent in the subway, using a riot shield to protect myself as I pinned them down with gun fire, making my way to the stairs to escape, and meeting up with a group of nice people is easily one of my favorite moments from the Dark Zone, but exploring the recreation of NY in general is something I really enjoyed. In some places it did feel a bit small, but overall the section of the city I got to see was impressive. As for the gameplay, it too was a lot of fun in general. Sneaking around, taking on bosses, having shoot outs in unique locations, and finding new gear was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to do it some more when the game comes out. Of course this is still just the Beta, so it's really hard telling how the actual game will be. Even so, this left some pretty good impressions, so I'm sure it'll be worth it.

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