Back when Ubisoft first unveiled The Division at E3 2013 – gamers got insanely excited at the prospect being offered. Here was an open world city that was begging to be explored, with friends. Upon it’s release earlier this year it enjoyed huge press coverage for breaking sales records and managing to establish itself quickly as one of gaming’s tent pole franchises. Yet as we march through August – the game has disappeared from the wider discussion. There doesn’t seem to be any excitement around the game and even though the quality of the package has improved – no one seems really interested in going back.
Personally I’ve never really been that excited by t The Division. My brief forays into the game led me to an experience that neither drew me in nor made me want to return beyond morbid curiosity. It seems to be a sentiment shared by a vast amount of the games player base; which dropped in the weeks after launch on Steam by anywhere upto 93%. Even since that low-point, the game has grappled with game-breaking glitches, boring updates and just a general lack of momentum. The introduction of several expansions managed to briefly inject momentum – but that was short-lived. What’s gone wrong for Ubisoft’s flagship multiplayer game?
Part of the blame can be laid at the feet of the developers Massive Entertainment. In the weeks following the games launch they were hugely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the game’s success. The player count swelled and focus shifted to maintaining the status quo – it was a decision that left the game lacking in polish. As players discovered larger and larger glitches; the developer seemed slow to respond. Their inability to grapple with the issues that confronted gamers meant that for many; the PVP experience turned into a hackers delight.
In particular the games Dark Zone’s become hunting grounds for new players – as those who cheated their way to the top revelled in ruining the experience for those below. The community begged for fixes but the developer waited and waited; seemingly overcome by the scale of the task ahead of them. As one fix was deployed, several new glitches arose in its shadow. The developer constantly chasing shadows. In the end Dark Zone’s are still arguably the games worst aspect – completely ruining any hope for solo players. Prior to launch these was hailed as the hub for gamers to engage with others; now they’re the aspect most avoid.
It also didn’t really help that the story itself was poorly paced. Online games have a problem when it comes to conveying narrative – a similar fate that befell the likes of Destiny. Yet in The Division the situation appears to be much worse. The story doesn’t carry proceedings nearly as effortlessly as required – instead staggering itself with the seemingly endless promise of more epic things to come. Gamers got bored long before they reached level cap; indicating that for some the journey wasn’t even worth it.
Those that did make it to the end-game were rewarded with a lacklustre experience; betraying all that was promised and underwhelming heavily. The games original ending was shallow; the final boss battle hugely failing to hit the mark while the loot system didn’t make repeat plays feel worth the slog – a fact that’s made awkward when loot is intended to extend a games lifespan.
This isn’t to say things haven’t improved. Expansion DLC like Falcon Lost and Clear Sky have tried to breath new life into proceedings – an attempt to course correct. But really it’s a drop in the ocean to the games bigger issue; it just didn’t feel like a complete experience. When gamers are paying full price for a game they expect to be satisfied by the experience. The Division just didn’t do that for enough gamers – it lacked the feeling of a quality AAA-title that was worthy of their time; ultimately this negativity has permeated through to the games reputation.
It’s a shame because Massive have been open in saying they still have huge plans for the game. DLC is planned for the end of summer as well as in the winter. On top of this; they are constantly working to tighten up the end-game content and bring it in line with expectations. It just all seems a little bit too late for a game that broke records but didn’t break out in terms of long-term prospect. Who knows, maybe a sequel could deliver the potential so many gamers saw in this franchise.
Did you play The Division? Why did you stop playing?