I'm preparing to do my second update of my corona virus self-quarantine journal but thought I'd take a time to talk about my experience playing through The Division games by Ubisoft. They are a very different game to play through than they were when they were first released. Both because both of them have been updated extensively and the whole viral apocalypse thing currently going on right now. This is not me attempting to undermine the real life tragedy going on but the fact the game really does have a lot more resonance than it did before. I'm not the only one to notice it either as Forbes did an article on it.
|Does this remind you of anything?|
I was initially off-put by the game's seemingly fascist overtones. Executing fellow Americans without trial in the middle of the streets was a hard sell in 2016 and hasn't really gotten more palatable. However, the atmosphere of a breakdown in civility and order following a natural disaster has gotten more relatable with people fighting over toilet paper in the super-market. I've lived through a number of natural disasters here in Kentucky and summarize the experience as, "Most people are a few missed meals away from becoming Mad Max Raiders."
|Central Park is a field hospital. Oh dear.|
While I would have appreciated fighting a bunch of Wallstreet bankers and their hired security, this is about setting up free hospitals and turning the lights on. The Division also has numerous characters question whether the Division is doing more harm than good with numerous members of the organization going rogue. You might be a decent Division agent but the power, violence, and training has turned a bunch of them into Bond villains. Indeed, for such a apolitical game of Good vs. Evil, it's become a scarily critical of the incompetence of the government that mirrored some of this version's actions.
|The Sanitation Union has taken up new hobbies.|
Honestly, I think the game's vision of New York is easily the best part of it. The visual storytelling is better than any previous game I've played and that includes Skyrim or Fallout 3. A thousand little stories are told with details like the garbage piling up, apartments that had been fortified into little shelters, and the mass graves created with trenches dug throughout Central Park. The game is absolutely gorgeous and one of the most evocative I've ever played.
Unfortunately, the world-building is pretty much where the storytelling begins and ends. The NPCs are barely present and almost the entirety of the story can be skipped as it requires you to hunt down audiologs to listen to. They're not even strategically placed like the ones in Bioshock but actually scattered across the map in very different places to find. Much like every other open world Ubisoft game, there's hundreds of collectibles scattered across the map of dubious value.
|I wish I could have played this game.|
Which brings me to the gameplay, which is sadly something I choose to describe as aggressively mediocre. It's cover-based shooter with a strong focus on looting clothes as well as weapons from the dead in order to slightly increase your scores. I'm fond of this in Borderlands as well as Destiny but it's a bit annoying going from +1 extra points on your magic sword to +1 extra on your scarf. The fact that enemies are bullet sponges despite being normal people, not even armored ones, also undermines the realism of the setting.
|The weather effects deserve their own praise.|
I have no real interest in PVP so I can't comment on the Dark Zone arena that occupies a third of the map but the stories I've heard from my friend basically indicate it is unnaturally scaled to the hardcore players. They have the best gear and have grinded them to be almost invincible. Thankfully, I have always preferred PVE instead. As much as the game was a bit grindy and could have used more enemy variety, I came to like the Rioters and Cleaners a great deal as factions. I admit I would have joined the Cleaners if I could since a bunch of garbage men with flame throwers deserves points for originality.
|This isn't a cinematic. This is the actual graphics.|
Either way, I'm glad I stuck with The Division. I don't think I would have appreciated it as much without being quarantined but I'm glad I did pick it up as a discounted title. I've been informed many of the adventure varieties and relatively smooth gameplay is the result of many fixes over the past few years. I think this was well worth the thirty dollars I paid for it but I had a bunch of frustrations along the way. Still, if you want to game a scenario that addresses the seriousness of our times, this is an ironic and sadly prophetic story.