Impressions from Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division recent closed beta

If you’re like me, you’re likely partaking in this weekend’s beta for Ubisoft’s open-world, MMO meets Third Person Shooter title, Tom Clancy’s The Division. Definitely some exciting stuff going on with this recently released beta and I’m happy to see that stuff that was complained about or simply was broken in the previous alpha has been addressed.

If you haven’t checked out the beta yet, either you have no interest or haven’t had time yet, let me break it down for you. Basically you have limited access to the single portion of the game with several side missions and one story driven mission that takes place in a hospital. Here division-beta-01you’re tasked with saving a doctor who will be instrumental in helping wiping out the contamination that has decimated the city. This task takes place in a hospital that would be considered a dungeon for those who come from games such as World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy or other similar game types. So cool, our first real instance, let’s get to it, right?

You’ll encounter several enemy types and this is your first real taste on getting from point A-B, engaging some heavy fire and multiple NPC’s that are hell bent on stopping you. Sadly, while I enjoyed this mission, it was the only one available in the beta, though you are able to ramp up the difficulty by changing it to hard after you complete it the first time. You’re also able to bring friends with you or other gamers via the match-making more, though I didn’t have much success with that. And playing on hard, by yourself is very satisfying, so I definitely recommend giving that a chance. 

However since the single player portion only contained a small portion of the game, you’re left running around the streets, looking for any sort of action to amuse you. And while you’ll find some, it’s few and far in between as you’re competing with everyone who is also playing the beta aside you. Meaning the majority of the time will be you exploring the limited city, saving hostages that are looked in rooms and finding gear that will help you as you along your way. And while the Hospital mission can be a group task, the match-making wasn’t either working correctly or no one seemed to care about it as I sat around for 10 minutes on several occasions, trying to get a group to go all gansta on their asses and taking the doctor back. Perhaps there was an issue with the match-making, I don’t know. However to enter into a group for a mission, all you need to do is head on over, select the mission, select the difficulty and off you go. Well, that’s the general idea at least.

So I went solo, many, many, many times.

And then on the other end of the spectrum, you were given access to the PVP zone in the game, the Dark Zone. This area is where the contamination is the worst and this section was blocked off to stop people from getting in or out to the other sections of the city. And seeing how the single player portion of the game is pretty short, this is where you’ll spend the majority of your game time with the beta as you fight not just NPC’s for loot, but also other players. Now, this is where it gets interesting and frustrating at the game time. During your journey in the Dark Zone, you can choice to just shoot it out with NPC’s and loot them, or you can choice to go rogue and kill other players in attempt to take then items earned, such as gear, currency and Dark Zone keys. Something to pay attention to is that any gear collected must be extracted  as it is contaminated, before you leave the Dark Zone or you lose it. And well, that’s another issue which I’ll mention later on.  This however is a double edged sword, as you can do this, to some varying success, however they can easily spawn and try and take you out by themselves or with other gamers. See, when you go rouge, a bounty is placed on your head and you’re flagged as such. which means that everyone else can see you and try to take you out as well.

And while it goes make for some interesting encounters, it does also pose issues. PVP is fun, there’s no denying it, however when there’s a group of 5 or more people who decide to go get their fun by kill everyone else in sight, that tends to make things go sideways. During my time in the beta, I tried to take the straight and narrow by not killing other gamers, but once I started becoming a target, I took those gloves off and started extracting my own justice to creeps who thought it was fun to chase me down. However after a while I started noticing other gamers partying up and setting up traps, to lure unsuspecting gamers into an ambush. Eventually I was hunted down myself by a part of 12 people, who mercilessly taunted me after stealing my loot. Of course that was the turning point and I decided to head out of the PVP area. And keep a firm heard people, if you head into a PVP zone, expect this type of thing to happen to you, it’s the PVP zone for a reason. 

Though that said, you have to keep in mind that dying in the Dark Zone has its negatives. Mainly if you are able to pick up any useful gear and aren’t able to get it extracted out of the area before dying, someone can kill you and take your gear. In addition to that, every time you die in the Dark Zone, you lose DZ currency, DZ keys and rank points. Lose enough points and you drop a level, keep dying and you continue to drop levels. See where I’m getting at. It seems like Ubisoft is trying to enforce a pack-like mentality for anyone going into the Dark Zone, which I strongly disagree with. Let me play how I want, don’t force players, as it ruins the flow. Have enough players getting pissed off and complaining will force Ubisoft to change it up, which could lead to them upsetting the players who like it the way it is and thus a vicious cycle begins.

I also had an issue with people exploiting the game. Yes, you know that someone was bound to figure it out and this time around it’s bad. See, if you go rogue, you an essentially escape being hunted down, especially if you’re in a group with someone and are doing this to level up and max out your gear. All you have to do is shoot someone and then hightail it to the betas out of boundary areas. If you manage to live for the 10 seconds vs the actual 1+ minute that it takes for your rogue status to drop, you’re award Dark Zone points that will help rank you up and let you buy gear. Repeat until maxed out, which is what I suspect a lot of players were doing, which in turns makes then turn into Player Killers and ruining the fun for everyone.

However what I don’t like is that Ubisoft as stated before that to get better gear, one would have to venture into the Dark Zone and I don’t think that’s a smart idea. Games that force PVP onto people never last long or are forced to change how that area works. And sure this is the beta, so we’ll have to wait to see how Ubisoft handles this, after listening to the feedback of other players.

That said, I was definitely impressed with the beta. And while there are still some technical issues, such as the bugs and glitches that affect game-play the graphical issues that I encountered on the PC version, the game is shaping up to be something special. The gun-play is fun, the mechanics, while are a bit to clumsy for me, such as the cover system, flesh out the game-play and help to turn this into something more than a bullet sponge fest. Though I hope that Ubisoft does correct certain things such as having to use the interact function to climb ladders, or for just walking off higher than normal platforms. That right there got me killed several times as I attempted to run for my life or what little was left, only to be taken out by an NPC because I wasn’t able to scale down a ledge. And more importantly, please please please put a crouch function in the game. I get it, the cover system is for crouching behind objects and that’s fine and well. However when I’m trying to sneak up on something and there’s nothing to cover behind, well it becomes useless. And a crouch could lead into several game changing mechanics, such as sneaking up on enemies and doing an instant kill or at least a more damaging attack. 

Even still, at least the PC version is very detailed and beautiful with settings maxed or just about, assuming your PC can handle it. While the beta does still seem to need optimizations (duh!) it ran pretty decently on my PC. And between the sun rising and setting, the snow filled areas with the wind blowing it around, the city devoid of life yet still very much in motion and varies out locations, I was really impressed with how it looked and how immersed I felt as I wandered around the city.. the very much empty and lifeless city.

Lastly, I was bummed out that the ability to craft your own gear wasn’t present into the game, however we were still able to find parts to do so. I get it that the beta is merely a very restricted version of the game, but give us at least a taste of that, especially if this is going to be a major part of the game. Though I’m not sure I’d call this beta a true beta and something more along the lines of a demo. Give us a test of what’s to come, a kin to dangling a carrot in front of our noses. I would have liked to have access to more content, i’m sure many of you would have liked that as well.

Overall I’m pleased in the direction of The Division, which is something I could say before. However there things that need addressing and hopefully Ubisoft can knock those issues out before launch or if they have to, then delay the game again, especially if it’s for the better. if anything, this beta has convinced me that the 5 dollars I put on the game was worth it.

Now my only issue is what system I should play it on. PC, and enjoy the graphical prowess, or PS4 and play with my friends and perhaps go find those guys who jumped me in the Dark Zone and give them some payback.

Decision, Decisions……

Tom Clancy’s The Division launches on March 8 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Keith Mitchell is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grid. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. Available for podcasts upon request.