My wishlist for The Division

Now that I am a complete and total expert at the game (that’s sarcasm, just to be perfectly clear) I decided it was time to let Massive know what they need to make their game even better. I have only one real gameplay item on my wishlist; the rest is about new content:

1) Give us the option to play in a more open world in what is now the PvE areas. I know I can matchmake, but when I’m roaming around solo it’d be great to just stumble on another agent and be able to work together to take on a mini-boss or something. I know this isn’t an MMO, and it certainly isn’t anything like Destiny despite a weird compulsion in the press to compare the two (which I think is based primarily on the fact that both games start with the letter D), but I do wish they would borrow this one feature from MMOs and Destiny. Of course they’d have to add some random tough content in the PvE areas to give these ad-hoc groups of players content that would challenge them.

We know they have the tech to do this since it’s exactly how the Dark Zone works, and the Dark Zone can be fun but it can also be stressful and some days you just want to chill and shoot baddies without worrying about someone stabbing you in the back. So expand the Dark Zone PvE mechanics to the whole world but leave the PvP in the DZ and I think the game would be even more compelling than it is now.

2) I hope we see the map expand over time. I’d love them to extend it south into Soho. Get it far enough south to encompass NYU and Washington Square and all the narrow streets around there and I think that area would have a unique feel as compared to the rest of the game.

3) When The Underground DLC comes out, I hope it isn’t limited to known public subway tunnels but that it extends into the semi-mythical labyrinth of forgotten tunnels. We know some of these exist for sure, but there have always been rumors of huge secret areas down there (if you remember the old TV show Beauty & the Beast, it capitalized on these rumors). If you’ve ever taken the LIRR into Manhattan you know how vast the underground area is and you see all these mysterious openings leading to who knows what? That could be really cool to explore.

So that’s my short list. In the intro to the game they flash a map of the world showing dollar flu outbreaks scattered all over the place, so I doubt The Division II will remain in NY, but I’d be happy to spend a long time in this particular city…

Day 1 of The Division

At long last, Tom Clancy’s The Division has launched and in spite of what some of the gaming blogs are saying, it was a fairly smooth launch. Let’s talk about the bad stuff first.

At midnight the Ubi servers struggled a bit. Folks were getting random connection errors trying to get in, but a tad of persistence would see you through. At worst I had to try 3 times to log in. By Tuesday instead of getting an error I was being put into a short queue, so they either implemented that or fixed something to help with the initial rush of players.

A bigger problem was that they never beta-tested the intro and so didn’t notice an easy griefing technique. Early on you have to go into a small office and when you come out you’re in a social space. Grief issue #1 is that people would stand in front of the door out of that office, preventing you from getting out (avatars are solid in the social spaces). The solution to that problem was sprinting…eventually you’ll pass through another character if you’re in a sprint. The next step is to sign into a laptop on a desk. Again, it’s easy to disrupt everyone’s fun by standing right in front of that laptop. You need to be in front of it to use it so 1 or 2 people can cause this:

The solution here is to log out and log back in and hope you log back into an asshat-free instance. Hopefully this issue will be patched very soon. If the intro area had been in the beta I’m sure this would’ve been caught.

For me at least, those were the only two issues. I jumped back and forth between playing on the Xbox One and the PS4. I prefer the game on PS4; it just feels crisper somehow. I’m not sure if the framerate is a little higher or that the controller is tighter or what, but I feel like I play better on PS4 (another example of how The Division isn’t a shooter…I’m better at shooters on Xbox). I also like the gimmick of having radio chatter coming from the PS4’s controller (you can disable that if you don’t like it).

All that said, many more of my friends are playing on Xbox One and Microsoft has purchased a 30 day exclusivity window for the first two DLC packs, so for now I’ll probably focus on the Xbox One version.

Over the course of the day I played solo, which is pretty easy aside from a few bosses, and a lot of time as a team of two, which isn’t much harder. You can tweak the difficulty of “story missions” to make them harder but the various “encounters” are what they are and at least in the low-ish level stuff (I got to level 8 of 30 on day 1) it’s really easy unless you wander into higher level areas. The game is supposed to scale content in response to team size but that wasn’t really apparent to me in a team of two.

Then late last night we added a 3rd player to our team and that’s when things went crazy. We were doing a side mission (I think) and we were just swarmed with baddies. I was quickly over-whelmed and killed, but luckily my team-mates were much better players than I am and we carried the day. But that was a hell of a lot of fun. I can’t imagine what the game is like with a team of 4!

Overall it was a really good first day. No real surprises since much of what I was doing I’ve already done several times in the beta tests. The intro area, as expected, is Brooklyn and it was a tad disappointing just because there’s not much to do there. It’s a fairly large area but you do a few quests and move on. Maybe we’ll return at some point and have more of a reason to explore.

My biggest challenge now is deciding what to do with surplus loot. Do I sell it so I have $$ to buy better gear, or do I break it down into components for crafting? Decisions, decisions!

The Division: Something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.

I haven’t talked about Tom Clancy’s The Division here on the blog but I’m super stoked for it and have talked about it so much on some social media services that people have asked me to please shut the f- up about it (in a much nicer way).

I had the game pre-ordered on the PS4 mostly because I had $100 in PSN credit and because these days, I generally gravitate to the PS4. But a few of my friends had pre-ordered on the Xbox One. Well, I’m socially anxious enough that I don’t often have the gumption to join in on MP festivities (though the few times I have done so I’ve had a great time) so I was fine with being the odd man out over on PS4.

Then this morning CoutureGaming caught The Division bug and if you don’t know Aaron from CoutureGaming, let me tell you that guy’s enthusiasm is INFECTIOUS. So that got my Twitter feed rolling along about The Division. Blowing up, really.

And it turns out there’s maybe 10 people I know who seem really excited for co-op-ing their way through the streets of Manhattan together. I was starting to doubt my decision to go PS4 on this one. Then not one, but two people offered to buy me a copy of the game on Xbox One so I could join in with the gang.

Now let me tell you something about myself. I’m an old geek. In other words I was a geek when being a geek meant being picked on, shoved around, and generally shunned. I was also a fat kid. I was never wanted for any kind of team activity. I was the guy who was picked last. I also lived far from any other kids, so I spent most of my childhood doing solitary activities. Even though that was 45+ years ago, I think it really set a path for my life to follow. I tend towards doing everything alone. I can overcome this; I spent a few years tending bar back when bartending was 1 part drink mixing, 1 part therapist. And I was well-liked as a bartender too. But as I get older I return to my solitary ways.

So when a couple of people actually wanted my company to the point where they offered to buy me a copy of the game, I was sincerely moved. Of course I couldn’t take them up on their offer; I wouldn’t impose on such kindness unless I was in dire need. But it did convince me to order an Xbox One copy of the game.

We (and by we I’m referring to my social media circle of friends and acquaintances) talk about gaming a lot, but we don’t actually get around to playing together very often. There are a couple of duos that get together frequently (I admit I’m basing this all on outside observation) but getting 4 people together for a team event seems pretty rare.

But somehow I think The Division is going to be that special snowflake of a game where there are enough people interested and playing on the same platform that we might have full groups playing together rather frequently, at least during those heady early days of launch.

Now all I have to do is overcome my anxiety and take that first step to join them, and playing The Division could become a very special experience for me. I have to admit I’m even more excited about the game now.

Oh, and to any PS4 owning friends that might read this, I still have the game pre-ordered there too. I have Destiny on both platforms and have played it on both. I’m content to cross-own The Division as well.