The Division was announced during E3 2013, as one of the games that would revolutionise and fully realise the potential of next-gen consoles. The concept of a four player, squad based RPG based in a post apocalyptic New York City blew people away and almost instantly became one of the most anticipated games of 2014.

The storm of hype created by the Ubisoft conference quickly subdued with the announcement that the game would be delayed from late 2014 to 2015, and then again from May 2015 to “early 2016.” This triggered a number of gamers to put The Division on the back-burner, and for some to begin questioning if it would even materialise, or if the project was simply too ambitious.

However, the release of the title that seemed so exciting – yet elusive – is just around the corner and the storm is raging once again. A full hour of non-scripted gameplay has emerged online and we can finally dissect this bad boy. This is how you’ll divide (pun intended) your time in The Division:

The first thing to understand, is that the game has two distinct levelling systems. These consist of the overall level and the PVP (player verses player) level and EXP achieved will contribute to one or the other. The first rank will consist of EXP gathered through missions against AI enemies. The amount of EXP and in-game credits gained will depend on the mission level, as well as the pre-selected mission difficulty.

The main arc of missions look as though they will comprise of linear, cover based ‘clear the area – proceed’ type missions, fleshed out with a variety of cool weapons, grenades and gadgets to add variety. The gameplay at this point seems to suggest that stealth isn’t The Division’s strong-point, as enemies mostly attack upon approach, or are already aware of your squad’s presence.

Certain areas of the map are displayed as being red. These areas are known as ‘Dark Zones’ and inside players will face off against each other, contributing to their Dark Zone (PVP) rank. All the while being faced with powerful AI enemies.
Each of these Dark Zones has a ‘required filter’ level to enter without the squad being instantly killed by the virus. Matchmaking is seamless and pits players of similar skill level and similar level of infantry against each other (e.g. 20-24). Good news for the casuals.

I for one am incredibly glad to see that Ubisoft stuck to using the 3D, hologram map that was displayed in the original unveiling at E3 2013. It just looks and feels organic in this setting. And through this map we have decent look at what’s available to do in post-apocalyptic Manhattan. Surprisingly there’s quite a lot:

– New Encounters – Slightly vague, but hey-ho.
– Safe houses – Players can store weapons and here and all that good stuff and there are a lot of them.
– Mission – Presumably the bankers in terms of new gear and fast levelling.
– Group Leader – Will always be displayed on the map, in case the group splits. Choose wisely.
– Division Tech – A chance to upgrade equipment. This equipment can be extracted via chopper, where it’s presumably delivered to one of the many safe houses.

It’s also cool to note that your map can be updated through physically scanning maps on walls found in buildings and in the streets.

It seems as though there’s no particular story arc present throughout the game and that survival and prosperity is crucial. This means that you wont be forced to report to characters to receive instructions and/or rewards, as they’re entirely absent from the game. New York City is literally at your disposal and is teaming with stuff to do. Go find it.

This gameplay gave us more of an idea of the fundamentals of the game, rather than tonnes of specific features. Rest assured there’s a mass of stuff on the game. That’s apparent by how often events pop on the map. Being spontaneous has always been part of RPGs, but never on this level. Whether this approach to an open world game will work entirely is questionable. If done correctly however, this could revolutionise the way developers approach the genre in the future. We can only hope.

Get your squad together and go explore!

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