Early Impressions: The Division Beta

The Division Logo
Written and Edited by: Casey Lightford

The Division beta came and went. I was fortunate to play it a day earlier on the Xbox One and used that time to form my list of impressions. With the second beta releasing on February 18, the new content for players to explore makes me optimistic. I know much of my list will not be in the final game (some of it is a non-factor, nearly miniscule), but I truly believe that this open beta will reveal a lot about The Division.

It is worth noting that I will be purchasing The Division no matter what happens in the open beta. The main reason for this is because my friends and I are looking for an alternative to Destiny and we believe The Division will suffice. Hopefully, this will be our next video game we sink hundreds and hundreds of hours into.

Dogs and Cats

Walking Down the Street with a Dog in The Division

Miniscule, nitpicky, call this whatever you want, but I have a few issues with the animals roaming around New York City. The dogs wandering the environment capture how desolate and empty the world may be. However, I wish that these dogs either had owners or were rabid, instead of peeing wherever they please. Give the dog a bone, better yet… a personality!

Also, let me interact with man’s best friend! I cannot pet any of the dogs and it is extremely disappointing. I am no programmer, but I believe this could be fixed before launch. And do not let one breed rule the world, how about introducing new breeds in the final product! I want to see a St. Bernard running around helping survivors or Gray Wolves attacking the helpless.

Map of New York City showing Pet estimates

Where there are dogs, there are cats. Not in The Division. During the beta, I did not see one cat meandering, killing mice, or torturing dogs. This disappointments me greatly. I am not saying that either animal is better than the other, but I like some regularity based on facts. For example, based on the numbers given by New York City EDC in 2012, there were roughly 1.1 million pets in New York City. This estimate was based on ownership for one pet for every three households which included 600,000 dogs and 500,000 cats; that is a ton of pets.

If the dog to cat ratio is nearly 1:1, where are all the darn cats? I would love to interact with a cat or see them eating one of the millions of rats that plague New York City. I want to see a dog chasing a cat, I want to hear a cat hiss, I want a cat to jump on my enemy, distracting them so I can get an easy kill. Alright, that last one is a dream scenario and not a complaint.

My Voice

I am learning that when a character has no voice, I lose interest in them; I want a voice in The Division. When I lightly customized my character in the bta, I thought I would be given a voice option. To my surprise, I never talked. All of the talking was done by a wounded ally, shopkeepers, and random non-player characters (NPC). Where are my voice options?

If you watched any of the YouTube user-created Agent Origins to help promote The Division, you will hear everyone’s distinct voice. Each video is well-crafted showing pieces of New York and the chaos that ensued. I want to be like the husband leaving his wife and kid to help mankind, or the runner who helps civilians who need supplies, or even the girlfriend taking charge. The possibilities are endless if only my character could speak.

Character Actions

Hologram outlaying story in The Division

“My actions speak louder than words…” this cliche is a huge premise for this game. My number one action involves putting my weapon away whenever I like. The only time I am able to put my gun away is when I am at my base of operations. If I am walking around New York and a bystander sees me, they usually whimper; they fear me. I am supposed to be one of the “good guys” (unless you find me in the Dark Zone). Let me put my firearm away, please.

Speaking of those bystanders, let me save all of them. Multiple times, I saw civilians drop on the ground and die; talk about a mood-killer. Why not let me try to give them some medicine or food before they collapse? That way, it makes me feel like an important figure instead of another helpless stranger.

Finally, I have two new actions that could really change The Division’s mechanics. Ice slippage and improved rolling mechanics. New York is under layers of snow. What if ice played a factor in movement and cover? If I slip on some ice, I fall to the ground, but still fight. Max Payne 3 had incredible mechanics that involved shooting on the ground. This feature would be a great addition to The Division. Sure, I may be more vulnerable, but I would feel immersed.

Taking cover behind a car in The Division

Let us be honest with ourselves, the best rolling mechanics need to be fixed. Double-tapping to roll is a pain. The best rolling mechanics was used in the Gears of War series. Can I at least customize the rolling procedure in The Division? Let me change it from double-tapping the A-button to a single-tap. That would make a huge difference and make cover more useful.

GUI and HUD Practices

I believe the graphical user interface (GUI) and head-up display (HUD) in The Division are some of the best I have seen in a long time. I love how smooth everything looks and operates. The map in the top left-hand corner is sleek and I enjoy seeing my ammo count, weapon, and skills next to my character. It made me focus on what was in front of me more often instead of in the corner like most games.

The holographic map that is brought up in The Division

When I brought up the map for the first time, the interface was nice and GUI was easy to operate. Drop a pin here and an easy-to-follow arrow popped up on my HUD. However, my only issue with the arrow was that it never took the shortest routes. This was the worst if a mission was across the entire map since it felt like an eternity reaching my destination based on my arrow. I wish I had the option to change the route to either be safe, shortest, normal, and dangerous. This could help mundane mission destinations feel refreshing.

One last thing I would love is a customizable HUD. Let me move the level indicator to the bottom left hand corner or the map in a different corner of the screen. I know some people may not care for any HUD being used at all, so an option to remove everything would be welcomed as well.

La Guitarra

An empty apartment in The Division

Why are there so many guitars in New York? Does everyone play a guitar? Nearly every apartment I visited, I saw a damn guitar. It is not a big deal, but can someone explain this reasoning? There was even a short side-mission that involved a girl playing a guitar. How about we get a little variety; throw in some cowbell, an oboe, or drum set scattered throughout New York.

A Future With The Division

I am really excited to get my hands on the beta again. The new things I am looking forward to with the open beta is a new mission, an additional wing to unlock in the base of operations, Dark Zone (PvP with light PvE zones that can a lot of fun with friends) updates, and in-game rewards. My character will not transfer over to the open beta, but I hope the customization options are open.

There are more positive thoughts with this game than negative. I did state many of the negative issues I had with the beta, yet they do not outway how much fun I will have. This game has a chance to be something great. I only hope that the final product brings us a story and new mechanics that have yet to be seen in video games.

Beautiful shot of the city of New York in The Division

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