The Division : The cover shooter that’s also an MMORPG Preview

THE MORE WE learn about The Division , the more intrigued we become. At a cursory glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the game is another identikit third-person cover shooter, but, look a bit closer and you’ll find some interesting threads to pull at, threads that we think could lead to interesting places.

Of course, the first thing that makes the game stand out from others of its ilk is its online element the fact that you’ll be playing as part of a team made up of real players, battling a combination of AI enemies and rival teams. If all the fuss surrounding Destiny doesn’t prove that there’s mileage in that idea, then we don’t know what will. However, while The Division’s online element certainly interests us, it’s not what’s drawn our attention back to Ubisoft’s highly anticipated shooter. Rather, it’s the fact that The Division is looking more and more like an RPG.

The first hints of the game’s RPG like nature lie in how you build your character and team. Ubisoft has been clear that it’s possible, even necessary, for you to construct your character’s abilities and loadout with a specific role in mind to focus on healing, or pure damage dealing, for example and, as such, to construct awell balanced team where each member complements and supports their - comrades. Obviously, that means that there will be an upgrade system through which you’ll unlock abilities and weapons. The only concern there is that, after pursuing a certain set of skills, what do you do if you end up playing online with other players whose characters have a similar build to you? Fear not. While it hasn't provided a great deal of detail on how skill upgrades will work, Ubisoft has said that it won’t be locking people into particular skill trees.

Rather, it sounds as if you will have points that can be reallocated between weapons and abilities as you please. That makes sense; having the flexibility to adjust your character won’t just aid experimentation, but should ensure that you don’t have your online experience ruined by, for example, being chucked into a team solely constructed of medics.

Essence of RPG can also be detected in the way that you will have to manage the various districts that make up the fictional New York in which you’ll be playing. Every district will have three ratings: security, contagion and morale. The security rating tells you how likely it is you will be attacked while travelling though that particular district, contagion denotes the likelihood of being infected with the virus plaguing New York and morale relates to how likely it is you will receive assistance from citizens inhabiting that area. As to that last stat, we’re not sure whether that means that you could be supported by AI characters during combat, if citizens will give you items, or if there will be a combination of those kinds of things, but it sounds interesting nonetheless. As for the other two statistics, we can be a bit more definitive. Lower the security rating enough and it’ll be possible to establish a base of operations in that district (given that we're asserting that The Division’s got a lot of RPG elements, you’ll not be surprised to here that the base is upgradeable). As far as we can discern, contagion doesn't seem like a stat that you can affect, but a way of pacing the game you’ll need a better gas mask to get into areas with a higher contagion rating.  

Hearing about the way in which The Division is blending RPG elements with cover shooting, we’ve a renewed curiosity about the game. After being delayed, there was a sense that it had slipped into the periphery somewhat, its attention grabbing reveal  slowly fading into the memory. Now that we’ve started to get some details on what to expect from its gameplay mechanics, though, The Division has grabbed our attention once again.

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