“I’m afraid if I dig any deeper, no one’s going to like what I find.” –Jack Ryan Sr., Clear and Present Danger
Over the past month and some, I’ve pushed further into The Division‘s narrative: with the Base of Operations minimally functional, I’ve retrieved samples of the virus from the contaminated greenbacks in a large shopping mall and returned them to Dr. Kandell, who works out that the virus is a manufactured and genetically-modified form of smallpox originating from one Gordon Amherst. In addition, with the flamethrower-wielding cleaners threatening Division operations, players are sent to deal with their napalm supply hidden in a construction site. Along the way, players slowly recover infrastructure necessary for Manhattan to function again, and make a chilling discovery; the first wave of Division agents became rogue after they were overwhelmed with the breakdown of order. These agents began working with the “Last Man Battalion” (LMB), a private military organisation that swore revenge against the government for leaving them behind with no support after the initial responders were ordered to withdraw. Completing missions have led to much more being revealed about what’s happened in this frightening vision of just how fragile society is, and in the twenty-four hours I’ve spent in The Division, I’ve also developed a bit of a better understanding of the game’s mechanics far more than was possible in the beta, allowing me to better survive firefights and continue with my solo experience of the journey to level thirty.
I’ve found that the levelling system in The Division is quite reasonable: while it will take some time to play through, at no point in the game did I find things too unimaginative, jejune or repetitive. Playing through the different main missions and side missions, each with their settings and premise, and listening to the dialogue meant learning more about what’s led to the events in-game to occur. While there are only three kinds of enemies, the different locales make the firefights interesting. This is the way to move through the ranks at a smart pace: encounters offer limited experience points compared to playing through main and side missions. During my time in The Division, I’ve also worked out my own strategy for dealing with items; I tend to sell all items that are of the standard quality or below for credits, while breaking down specialised items for crafting parts. In becoming more familiar with the game, talents, skills and items, I’ve become a bit more durable over the course of my solo run. Surviving firefights become a matter of making use of cover and equipment to turn the tides against overwhelming odds, and I’m feeling as though this is what it means to be a Division agent: resourcefulness and determination against adversity. After twenty levels, The Division‘s main campaign remains highly enjoyable as a solo player, and I’m curious to see what is in store for me to as I push towards the full level thirty.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I stand in front of the Broadway Emporium here prior to starting the next of the main missions, which involves entering the Broadway Emporium mall and hunting down infected greenbacks for traces of the virus. The wide open spaces of this building make a long-range bolt-action or designated marksman rifle a highly useful tool. At this point in The Division, my primary weapon was an assault rifle of some sort, with a long-range weapon as a secondary weapon.
- In The Division, assault rifles are the middle-of-the-road weapon choice that is ideal for the campaign: they offer a good balance between fast firing rate and accuracy at range. Not quite as damaging as submachine guns at close quarters and not quite as precise as a marksman weapon, they are quite versatile and can be paired with almost any other weapon type in the game. I’ve stuck with a good rifle, usually the SCAR-L or G-36, as I’ve progressed through the missions.
- While New York itself looks amazing, the buildings that players can enter are depicted in equally impressive detail: barring the flames licking the mall’s structure on the right of this image, there’s evidently a Christmas vibe in the building. Things such as abandoned merchandise and general mall clutter add to the sense that New York was evacuated in haste prior to the events of The Division, giving a superior sense of immersion.
- For main missions, going in at the recommended level or a level above will usually yield the best experience for solo players: in The Division, the player’s level corresponds with the sort of equipment they can utilise, and having good gear is necessary to survive encounters with enemies. In cases where I encounter enemies at my level, sufficiently good gear has allowed me to absorb multiple round without losing a bar of health, and similarly, encountering elite enemies with weak gear means I can lose my entire health bar in the blink of an eye to one or two rounds.
- With this being said, it is possible to survive and emerge triumphant in firefights against enemies of a higher level: good use of cover and abilities go a long way in improving survivability even when one’s weapons and gear are not quite up to snuff against tough opponents. Early on in The Division, players don’t need to worry too much about specifics in gear, such as talents or other attributes. My first goal was to gradually begin replacing all of my worn gear with standard gear, and by level ten, I had all green items.
- The construction site details in the napalm production site mission are nothing short of impressive, and making my way through the area, my first goal was to destroy the napalm tanks. They can be set off using a pistol, even at range, and this conserves on primary ammunition: the pistols in The Division have unlimited ammunition. While this is unrealistic, it was a deliberate design choice to prevent players from running out of options when their primary ammunition was entirely spent.
- I’ve never actually run into a situation where I’d run out of ammunition before: supply boxes are sufficiently frequent during the campaign missions such that I can always remain well-equipped before stepping into a major firefight. Resupply boxes out in the field will only restore one’s stockpile of ammunition; special boxes at safehouses will fully replenish grenades and med kits along with ammunition.
- During this mission, I found myself pinned down by a sniper as the sun began setting, but as I had a LMG handy, I was able to suppress the sniper, switching over to my G36 rifle to finish him off. The suppression mechanic in The Division works against non-boss enemies: when they are affected, they will stay in cover and not return fire until the suppression has worn off, giving players a chance to close the distance between themselves and their enemies or gain a moment’s respite to heal up or reload.
- I’m averaging a consistent 60 FPS in The Division: my GPU is no longer the bottleneck and I can play the game on higher settings than I did during the beta. The fresh snowfall here, coupled with the orange light pipes on the ground, gave this scene a highly unique composition. The locations where campaign missions are set are designed similarly to dungeons in other MMORPGs, being quite linear as to direct players down a certain path, but the levels artwork is of a superb quality.
- The Napalm Production Site mission ends with a faceoff against the Cleaners’ leader, Joe Ferro. An ordinary sanitation worker with a fondness for radio, Ferro turned into a psychopath in the aftermath of the virus and believes that the world must burn in order to be cleaned of the virus. As a boss, Ferro is equipped with an uncommonly powerful flamethrower and has heavy armour, although being a Cleaner, he also carries with him fuel tanks that can be shot to deal massive damage. In my fight against him, I lured him into the top floor and took advantage of his low mobility to defeat him: ducking away and circling him to evade his weapons meant I could empty magazine after magazine into him without fear of reprisal.
- The most impressive feature in The Division is probably the weather and lighting effects, which can completely change the way the game feels. While I’m running out in open daylight here under beautiful skies, there are plenty of opportunities to gaze up at the moon by night, or else find oneself caught in white-out conditions. The New York area has historically seen major blizzards and extreme weather, and on average, the city averages around 66 cm of snow per year.
- There are numerous encounters scattered around the streets of mid-town Manhattan, but because they offer relatively small amounts of experience compared to side missions and main missions, I only participate in them if they’re between me and another objective. Missions are common fare: recovering supplies and fending off enemies, defending supplies from enemies, helping JTF forces defend against enemies or disrupting arms deals that invariably lead to firefights with enemies. I don’t go out of my way to complete them, but they can be fun for testing out new weapons that players have acquired.
- I’ve never been too fond of the missing person side missions, since they involve a great deal of running around and occasional bit of getting lost, but in general, side missions are quite enjoyable. They’re particularly useful if one is trying to reach the level requirements for a main mission, as they offer good experience and gear pieces.
- The Times Square Power Relay mission is unique in that most of it takes place on the streets of New York rather than inside a building or subterranean location. After a brief fight through the subway system, players return to the surface to continue with their mission. Like the building interiors, subways and other underground installations are incredibly detailed. The Division is probably what Enter The Matrix would have looked like had the latter been developed in 2013 rather than 2003.
- Amidst the deserted roads of Manhattan near Times Square, I take cover behind a vehicle as enemy forces begin arriving. A fog covers the area, giving it a bit of a chilling quality, and my loadout meant I would engage my opponents from a distance. The long-range weapons in The Division take the form of either bolt-action rifles or the semi-automatic DMRs. The latter can kill an at-level enemy with one headshot, while DMRs cannot do the same but compensate with their superior rate of fire, and because rate of fire is valuable in a game where opponents occasionally swarm players, I value DMRs as my long-range solution.
- For the longest time, I continued to run with variations of the SVD Dragunov: I’ve got a classic style one here with the wooden stock, but I prefer the more modern-looking versions with the synthetic polymer stock. The original Dragunov was conceived with the aim of being a squad-support weapon rather than a dedicated long-range weapon. With a high rate of fire, light weight and even attachments for a bayonet, the weapon is widely recognised and appears in a diverse array of films and games.
- I run into the infamous bullet king for the first time here, and as I was sporting weak weapons well below my level, I couldn’t deal much damage to him, forcing me to make a tactical retreat. I would later return at level fifteen, armed with a level-appropriate weapon and promptly wasted him. Best known for a glitch that allowed players to farm drops from him because he continued to respawn so as long as his minions were still alive, this issue has long been fixed, but the roaming bosses are a great way to collect some level-appropriate specialised weapons.
- Investigation of Amherst’s apartment also provides an opportunity to explore the inside of Manhattan apartments, which, while a bit on the smaller side, are nonetheless well-furnished and offer their occupants with a good amount of living space. I most vividly recall Lord of War‘s Yuri Orlov, who lived in The Prasada, which is located at 50 Central Park West and West 65th Street. Originally built in 1907, the building was renovated in 1919 and offers a beautiful view of Central Park, as well as the surrounding cityscape. Amherst’s apartment is obviously not as ritzy.
- We’re around halfway into the first month of 2018, and by now, most of the Christmas decorations have been taken down. January is long considered to be one of the more depressing months of the year primarily because of the fact that the festivities of Christmas are over, and the cold weather in conjunction with reduced daylight hours leads to a reduced production of serotonin, in turn resulting in reduced happiness. Eating a good diet, with more fish, and frequent, regular exercise seems to be effective at warding off the blues.
- Of course, players are treated to what could be counted as a year-round Christmas in The Division on account of the fact that it’s always winter and the Christmas lights are always up. Now that I’ve got The Division, I wonder what it’s going to feel like when I return to the game in the middle of summer; where I am, July and August daily highs average around 23°C, a far cry from the frigid start we’ve had to the start of 2018.
- A few days ago, I caught wind from Girls und Panzer‘s official Twitter channel that Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s first episode will be released on BD and DVD on March 23. Using this as a precedent, there will be three-month gaps between the theatrical screenings and home release for each of the six parts in Das Finale. Of course, there’s been no news of when episode two will be screened, but I imagine that Das Finale will follow a similar pattern as that of Gundam Unicorn or Gundam Origin, releasing episodes every half-year.
- Some die-hard fans of Girls und Panzer have taken the pain of travelling to Japan for the singular purpose of watching Das Finale and reported their impressions of it to online forums, where fortunately, the discussion has largely been suppressed by folks who wish to stay away from spoilers. Even if they are only flying in from the Philippines, where a plane ticket from Manila to Tokyo is roughly the half the price as flying from Vancouver to Tokyo, such an endeavour is ultimately a hugely wasteful application of funds.
- Earlier today, I sat down for dim sum in Chinatown. One of my longtime indicators of how good a place is for dim sum is the quality of their har gao or dai zi gao: the best ones are prepared with a thin wrapping that is sturdy, and there should also be plentiful shrimp on the inside. It’s been around nine or ten years since I last went to the restaurant that I visited today, but their har gao and sui mai are as good as I remember.
- Besides har gao and sui mai, we also ordered a fried shrimp dim sum, feng zhao, sticky rice, seafood yi mein and a variety of other things. The restaurant in question is located right at the heart of Chinatown, and while it’s a smaller restaurant, their food is fantastic. As we wrapped up our lunch, a snowfall rolled into the area, and the city center began feeling like the streets of Manhattan during a snowfall. The snow continued to fall on and off, and it’s expected to slow down later tonight. Back in The Division, I walk through one of the side pathways through a park area, and I’ve got a suppressed pistol equipped. Suppressors in The Division are supposed to extend the range that enemies can be shot at before they actively engage the player, but in practise, beyond making one’s weapon look cool and sound slightly different, they’re not too effective at the ranges I typically engage enemies at.
- When Faye Lau discovers an Agent transponder signal emitting from the Police Academy, the player is sent to investigate. Fighting through the building, players soon learn that a Division Agent has gone rogue, and is forced to engage him in order to complete the mission. These rogue agents are much tougher than standard enemies and even bosses, as they have access to abilities and talents of their own. Furthermore, they can hack players’ turrets and drones.
- It was during the fight against Scarecrow, one such rogue Agent, that I began making more extensive use of the LMGs in The Division: they can either be magazine-fed or belt-fed. Magazine-fed LMGs have a higher rate of fire and shorter reload time, while belt-fed LMGs can deal more damage per round and have a much greater ammunition capacity. Their accuracy improve as they are fired, making them highly effective against bosses, and I quickly found that a properly-outfitted M249 was my ticket to victory over Scarecrow.
- I’ve heard that The Division is perhaps one of the best video game depictions of Manhattan around, with Crysis 2 not too far behind. I’ve only ever visited Manhattan during a vacation back during 2011, and Manhattan is a fast-paced, hectic place to be, more so than even Hong Kong. The unique premise of The Division offers a chance to explore a virtual version of Manhattan without all of the hustle and bustle, showing that for all of the incredible buildings and activity in Manhattan, it’s really the people that make this place special.
- I eventually acquired a specialised M60: while slower-firing than the M249, it is able to consistently output damage, and so, it was with this weapon that I took to my fight against the named boss Corporal Wright. Sustained fire tore through his armour and made quick work of him and his minions. Named bosses roam the streets of Manhattan, and in the regular parts of Manhattan outside of the Dark Zone, respawn every four hours. At my level, they drop specialised items, but I’ve heard that they can also give high-ends and phoenix credits once players reach level thirty.
- My opinion of free-roaming in the grid roads of Manhattan hasn’t changed since I played the beta, but the ability to fast travel between locations significantly cuts down on time spent running through the city streets when one is on a mission to finish a story-related level. However, there are times where exploring slowly can be fun, and the presence of crafting parts, special cases and bonus areas incentivise players to take the time and smell the roses, as it were, in-between missions.
- By level twenty, I’ve achieved something I’d been looking to do since I finished The Division‘s open beta: all of my gear and weapons are specialised. My next goal will be to gradually convert my entire loadout into superior items as I draw closer and closer to level thirty, and as time allows, begin replacing those items with high-end items. My journey in The Division will continue as I push towards the northeastern corner of Manhattan, where I’m expecting a showdown against the LMB, but for now, I’m going to turn my attention towards a reflection on Kotomi’s arc in CLANNAD: I can’t believe it’s mid-January already. Upcoming anime posts will include the after-three talks for Violet Evergarden and Yuru Camp△; there are a large number of interesting shows this season, and of these shows, I might also write about A Place Further Than The Universe if time permits.
Despite my time spent in The Division, I’ve not ventured into the Dark Zone as of yet: my interest in The Division is first and foremost, fully experiencing the campaign in all of its glory. However, the atmospherics in the standard areas of New York remain superb, and even after twenty-four hours of The Division, stepping out into a snowstorm or watching as a sunrise bathes the Manhattan skyline in a morning light never seems to get old. The Christmas atmosphere furthers the charm of The Division, and it is superbly enjoyable to wandering around the parts of Manhattan that were inaccessible during the beta. While I’m entering a game nearing the end of its life-cycle, I’m making steady progress towards my first milestone. The endgame is entirely focused on improving my gear, and while this could be a bit of a chore, I’ve heard that the better items have a good drop rate since the game’s patches. It will be interesting to see if I can improve my gear score once I do hit that first milestone, but for now, my sights remain resolutely set on making it to level thirty so that I can fully experience the events following Division agents after the second wave’s activation.