The Division: Saving the city with canned dog food

division

I wonder if I’m the only person who, when he picks up some “canned food” in The Division, automatically inserts the word “dog” in that description. Then I get mildly grossed out when civilians want to eat it. Sure, pal, it’s all yours.

So yeah, my legendary restraint led me to grabbing a copy of The Division the other night. Installation took the better part of Tuesday night, and Wednesday evening was spent trying to get the darn thing to work. I have to say, I haven’t met such a difficult online game to get into in a long, long time like this one. Let’s just say that we didn’t get off on the right foot, this game and I.

It started with that black screen problem, which for some people is solved by forcing windowed mode, but that didn’t work for me. I had to fiddle around with editing files to force a resolution, update my GPU drivers, and optimizing it through GeForce Experience. Then as the game loaded, I had to wait SO LONG for the intro movie to kick in, then about 7-8 minutes between the intro movie and a follow-up movie (in which I only got a black screen), then about the same amount of time for the game to start. Happily, once that happened I was able to get into the game consistently in about five minutes or so.

Then it was a little more disappointment with the character creation process. Sure, it was neat that it happens organically in the game as you look in a window reflection (although that’s pretty standard for CRPGs these days — see Fallout 4’s bathroom mirror). But I got a little miffed that (a) apparently my Uplay login name was going to be used as my character name, which means it’s a bunch of gibberish and it forced me to go back out to Uplay and change my name, and (b) the visual options are incredibly lacking. It’s like a half-dozen faces, half-dozen hairstyles, some scars, some tattoos, and oh hey, that’s it. So many of the faces and haircuts are quite ugly. I just went with a somewhat normal-looking female with a shaved head and called it a day.

Happily, things got better once The Division got rolling. The game actually performs very well for me, probably because for all of its visual details, it’s not handling lots of players running around in the city with me. From what I gather, the only time you see other players is in safehouses or when you team up with other agents. That’s kind of a shame; I would’ve liked more of an MMO feel, but I guess that might’ve scared off some folks.

The world is definitely the highlight of the game so far. A smallpox-like virus has been unleashed on NYC, which caused a collapse and triggered the activation of homeland sleeper agents to help restore order. The screenshot button wasn’t working for me, because I took a TON of pictures but none ended up getting saved. So much is the pity, because it’s hard not to gawk at everything you see and hear here. A post-apocalyptic NYC is a fascinating place, especially with civilians wandering around, bad groups roaming, and the government trying to do what it can.

The Division is a cover-based shooter, a genre that I haven’t played that much but I understand is kind of popular on consoles. It took me a little while to get used to; I couldn’t just run-and-gun, as much as I wanted to, because a few hits would lay me out flat. So you have to play more tactically, hiding behind things, using grenades, and keeping track of where all of the bad guys are. I’m trying to save up for a remote gun turret to help out in these situations. I probably got killed way more times than my ego will allow me to admit to you, but at least I’m learning a little. Trying to figure out the best approach for my style.

Brooklyn is kind of the tutorial zone, walking you through the basics while leading up to a big firefight through a police station. I am digging the HUD, which has the same sort of TSW overlay, although it does sport a much better GPS. Probably my favorite thing to do — apart from play tourist — is to select side missions and explore the region on the way.

While it is a little weird that I’m playing what amounts to a sleeper agent on friendly territory, so far I’m not in any deep ethical conundrums. I appreciate that there is at least an attempt to give your character something other to do than just shoot everything that moves. Many missions involve securing food and medicine for people, and you can always be on the lookout for civvies to give (dog) food and med kits to for bonus XP/good feelings/appearance loot.

I was definitely very tense playing The Division, which isn’t necessarily a mark in its favor. I don’t like sitting hunched over, fingers claw-like on the keyboard as I anticipate bad guys pinging out of nowhere. I don’t like how quickly I lose my reticle in fights, and it downright stinks when a bad guy runs up too quickly and smacks me to death with a baseball bat in two hits. However, there were also moments in the fighting that were pretty awesome too, so if I can achieve some familiarity and comfort with all of this, perhaps we’ll have a good thing going.

Probably the saddest moment of the night came when I was going through the Hudson camp and saw a tent filled with kids’ drawings and toys and pictures, with glum parents nearby. Looked like a portable kindergarten, but no kids whatsoever (could be one of those video game things, where you can’t have a kid in a game because ratings). This sort of environmental storytelling is something that I can see The Division doing quite well.

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4 thoughts on “The Division: Saving the city with canned dog food

  1. Tyler F.M. Edwards March 17, 2016 / 10:30 am

    I can understand missing the experience of encountering other players, but when I played the beta, I eventually found that the loneliness ended up enhancing the post-apocalyptic ambiance.

    Also, yes, the environmental story-telling is strong in The Division. What I saw of the main story failed to impress, but some of the little side-stories that play out through cell phone recordings and other little lore bits and vignettes can be quite impactful.

  2. bhagpuss March 17, 2016 / 3:42 pm

    If you were going to jump on board a passing hype train I’m kinda surprised you went with The Division rather than Black Desert. Not suggesting one is better than the other but BDO wouldn’t seem to be such a reach.

  3. Trippin Ninja March 18, 2016 / 9:00 am

    You are not seeing other players because the game defaults to friends only, dig around in the settings and you can change it to open.

    Once you get a shotgun those baseball bat guys are a joke. Let them get close and one shot them.

    I’m not very far into the game yet but I am enjoying it so far. Looking forward to sinking some hours into it this weekend.

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