Tom Clancy's The Division
Everyone loves a good apocalypse. Whether it’s by pathogens, parasites, or paramilitary, some of the most compelling stories can come after everything has fallen apart. It’s in this spirit that we enter the newest chapter in the Tom Clancy conglomerate, The Division, bringing the series into the massively multiplayer fold.
The hook this time is the fragility of society. An extremely stylish trailer released for this game paints a bleak picture of the world as it is today: a bloated, out of control nightmare of complex systems ready to collapse – and collapse it does. As part of the eponymous Division, you are tasked with keeping order in a New York City crushed under the weight of its own infrastructure. With civilians fighting to survive, all power knocked out, and no authority to speak of, the entire city leans on you as its very last chance at survival. You are not safe – not even from fellow agents. What you do next is how the story unfolds.
Gameplay thus far looks to hold true to the tight cover-based shooting we have come to expect from this series merged smoothly into a larger format. Despite the chaotic nature of a major city fallen to pieces, the tone seems to be a much quieter one than the standard MMO fare, far removed from the elbow-jostling bustle of any World of Warcraft-style hub. Expect a lot more running than gunning and a strong focus on working together as a team to keep yourself and others alive. RPG elements mesh into this with a strong focus on scavenging, trading, and customization: upgrading, crafting, and customizing an array of thousands of different weapons and tools will allow you to make your agent truly yours, all layered in via your smart-watch and go-bag without breaking the all-important immersion into this new world.
Forging into new territory again, The Division will integrate with your smartphone or tablet as well. A friend can pilot a flying drone into battle alongside you, marking enemies, providing fire or buffing you up before soaring away. Where these cross-platform integrations often fall down is in benefit versus bother: simply put, if you have to stop playing, it had better be for something worthwhile. Ubisoft seem to have understood this, adding a fun and useful (but not vital) perk for the tablet crowd.
What it comes down to in the end is choice. The Division has no rules of engagement and no-one to answer to, so it’s down to the player to decide how they will interact with this new, stunningly bleak view of social ruin. This is not a world focused on you: when you see a building explode five blocks away and rain rubble onto the car-choked street, that’s someone else going about their own business, and it may not spell good news for you. Brimming with potential and tense atmosphere, the game looks to be asking one question: how do you save what remains?
Written by Aaron Milligan