If you have been following The Division closely, then you know a few weeks ago was the closed beta and this past week was the open beta. What you may not know is that I wrote a very detailed critique of the closed beta on PS4 that addressed basically every issue I noticed while playing. If you didn’t read it, you should for two reasons. The first being that it gives a ton of information about what to expect from the game. Second, this review of the open beta is meant to be a comparison to the closed beta and will directly reference/address points made in my first review. My closed beta review can be found here.
Because this is meant to be a direct comparison to my closed beta review, I decided the best way to write it was in list form, addressing each issue mentioned in the preceding article.
*Any pros or cons that stayed consistent between both betas and warranted no further explanation are listed without additional comments.
1. Solid Graphics
I was very happy with the general visual quality of the closed beta and didn’t expect them to have changed much at all going into the open beta, but I have to say that they seem to have gotten even better. As soon as the opening cinematic started, I felt like the graphics had improved noticeably. At first I thought I may have been imagining it, but then a friend of mine who I also played the closed beta with confirmed that he felt the same way. Kudos to Ubisoft for raising an already high visual bar before the actual game has even hit the shelves.
2. Great Sound
3. Acceptable Writing
Because the closed beta was very short, containing only one story mission, it was very difficult to try to judge the quality and depth of writing the game will have. The open beta added one extra story mission. While that still doesn’t provide a ton of content to judge the entire game, I have to say that I really liked the second story mission, from a writing standpoint. I very much liked the character that was introduced and I genuinely felt that the mission was written better from start to finish. We’re still not at Mass Effect status but I’m taking this at face value to mean that the game won’t be as badly written as the post-Ezio Assassin’s Creed titles.
4. Good Core Mechanics
5. Highly Functional Cover-to-Cover System
6. Anytime Customization
More games should have this.
7. Phenomenal Map System
The use of an augmented reality map is extremely useful for the realistic New York setting because it takes into account buildings and turns. It’s a map system I love and would love to see used in more games, but only in games where it would make sense. I don’t think I’d want to see it in something like Far Cry Primal for example.
Along with the map system, the way-point guide system has improved a lot since the closed beta. It works really well and is extremely necessary in a landscape such as the one in The Division. In the closed beta it only worked for specific types of way-points but in the open beta any way-point was given an onscreen path to follow that floated above the street when not viewing the map. This was a vast improvement to an already decent system.
8. Good Solo-Player Experience
It was good in the closed beta and has remained as such in the open beta. One thing I will say though is that armored enemies are much too strong (as in the amount of damage required to bring them down) for the size of groups they often travel in. By the time you hit level 8 you are seeing groups of five or more enemies all with full armor, sometimes as high as level nine. When you’re playing solo, this is extremely difficult if not impossible just because of the amount of bullets one can actually carry versus the amount of damage needed to bring down just one of the group. This was especially true in the Dark Zone. And before you jump down my throat about how the Dark Zone isn’t meant to be played solo, consider the fact that many people, including myself, thrive in the DZ without the burden of teammates. One of the things I really liked about the closed beta was the fact that I could go into the Dark Zone by myself and not feel like I had absolutely no chance of surviving. Yes, teammates make it easier and for some players more enjoyable, but to say that PVP must be team based ignores the many generations of free-for-all PVP shooter modes that are the foundation of games like this one.
9. Dark Zone Core Concept is Great
ADDITIONAL PROS NOT MENTIONED IN CLOSED BETA REVIEW
*Some of these additions were not present in the closed beta and some of them were but went unnoticed.
10. Weather Changes
The open beta introduced weather. Time of day, snow, fog, and other such natural conditions add a layer to the gameplay that always changes the experience and possibly the gear you will choose to equip. During my first hard snow storm, I thought the beta was crashing because the whole screen turned blue and I couldn’t see anything clearly unless I used my gun sight. Weather was a good addition.
11. Emotes are Amazing!
The emotes system in the game works well and the emotes chosen are both relevant and hilarious at the same time. Whoever decided to include jumping jacks is a brilliant man that should be given the highest honor a comedian can earn.
1. 3 Paid DLC Expansions
There’s always debate over whether or not paid DLC is a good thing or a bad thing and I’m not here to argue about that today. For me it’s a bad thing and that’s the end of it. After examining the story missions available in the beta, the personal and base of operations upgrades, and a few other available details, I have extrapolated a soft estimate of about 30 – 40 story based missions pre-DLC expansion. Now, I’m of course assuming that you can fully upgrade everything shown in the beta with just the base game, so my estimate may actually be too high, but for now let’s work under the assumption that it’s 30 – 40 main story missions. Each mission available in the beta takes a high average of 30 minutes to complete, meaning the main story, not including side missions, farming, and PVP will take about 15 – 20 hours give or take. I’m not going to tell you whether or not that’s an acceptable number for a $60 game because everyone has their own legitimate opinion on that topic. I can say without question though that I will be buying the game, but will also be waiting for the GOTY edition that includes all expansion packs, time sensitive PVP activity be damned.
2. Grenade Mechanics Aren’t Great
I don’t believe the system has changed from the closed beta, but I will say that I felt that the tutorial video, which I doubt will be included in the actual game, seemed a lot more informative in how to use grenades my second time around. I won’t say that it’s my favorite grenade system, but I didn’t have the distaste for it I had during the closed beta. I’m still not sure why you can’t put grenades away without opening your options menu though.
3. Low Carrying Capacity
The carrying capacity system is still too low and not item specific, but it has been improved or at the very least made more apparent in the open beta. In the closed beta I couldn’t figure out how to upgrade my carrying capacity and I was stuck at a low of 33. In the open beta I was able to figure out exactly which stats to look at and where to find them to understand how to increase carrying capacity. It’s in the backpacks inventory stats. Who would have thunk it? I was still only able to hit a max of 45 using tier three backpacks but it does give me hope that once you hit max level gear you could be carrying upwards of 70 plus items. I still think 100 is the necessary padded minimum though.
4. Unbalanced Economy
This is still true. I played through the entire beta, doing all story missions, side missions, helping other players, and tons of encounters without purchasing anything before hand. But by the end, buying one gun, one piece of gear and two or three mods cleaned me out. All my time in the DZ got me enough credits to buy a single mid-priced ( about 700 credits) item in the DZ store and that wasn’t until my very last beta session. I hit DZ level 7 by the time I wrote this for context.
5. DZ EXP Doesn’t Equal Normal EXP
In the open beta it seemed that a few very specific actions did net some normal experience points while in the DZ, but it was few and far between. I believe I received a few points for reviving a teammate during a fire fight. I can’t say for sure if that’s what gave me the normal experience and I can’t say if it was a glitch or not because I didn’t notice getting regular experience any at other times while in the DZ. As of right now, some improvement on this issue appears to have been made, even if it’s just the slightest bit.
6. Development is Troublesome & Illogical
This is still true. I understand the system a lot better now, but it’s still very much a hassle and illogical in many ways. Ubisoft seems to have taken the RPG aspect a little too seriously and believes they were trying to make Skyrim when the bulk of their player base for this game is going to be more at the level of Destiny, at least in mindset if not experience.
7. Item Ranks/Classes are Irrelevant
This issue still has not been remedied. I got tons of blue gear that I just sold off because it was completely useless compared to my supposedly lower class green gear. Although I have yet to get any purple gear to see if the issue stretches all the way across three levels or just two.
8. Repetitive Side Missions
9. No Auto-Travel to Team’s Location in Matchmaking
This is still true and you still can’t always travel to a teammate’s location in certain situations. Also never in the Dark Zone.
10. Not Enough Fast Travel Spots
This is still true as well but it appears that every main story mission acts as a fast travel spot, so if you assume there are going to be story missions everywhere in the city, then maybe this will be more manageable. It’s still a huge problem that you can’t fast travel to the Dark Zone entrance or when you’re trying to exit. It would make sense if you couldn’t fast travel out of the DZ while holding un-extracted gear, but to have to run all the way to the front entrance when you are at the complete opposite side of the map, just to go team up with a friend for a single story mission is such a waste of time.
11. Can’t Disavow Rogue Teammates
This is still the case and it still makes little since because you can supposedly betray teammates. I say “supposedly” only because I wasn’t douchey enough to try it myself and it never happened to me. But in a scenario where you can kill teammates, I don’t see why you can’t disavow them by say trying to kill them once they’ve gone rogue.
12. Extraction Load Limit too Low. No Guarantees for Main Extractor.
This is still the case. Also, there was a glitch during an extraction where I had started the place loot command, but then it pushed me out and I lost my spot to another player.
13. Voice Chat Doesn’t Work
I’m going to retract this complaint from the closed beta in exchange for the empirical conclusion that 99% of players in the beta were narcissistic assholes. I say that because I was giving all players the benefit of the doubt for not being able to talk to them by believing that there was something wrong with the game. But in literally my very last open beta session, I joined a group of randoms, two of which had working mics. We actually talked to each other and I realized that not only does the mic system in the game work, but it’s actually pretty good. I especially like the graphic used next to each player’s name when talking in the team HUD. The only other time I heard any player based noise in the whole beta, both closed and open, was when I was in the DZ and I heard a loud beeping sound from what I assume was a player’s proximity mic. I heard no talking, but it sounded like external audio and I never heard it any other time.
The problem with this is that it means the game works but just about everybody is playing it wrong. This isn’t COD or Halo where you can just run around doing whatever you want and talking to team members is optional. Maybe in the plot based portion of the game, but the DZ gameplay requires communication at higher levels of play. Especially if you’re planning on going rogue. The difference in the quality of my gameplay experience when I was in the DZ with people who were actually talking to me and people who weren’t, is night and day. It is a completely different and much better game when people are communicating and working together to achieve actual predetermined goals and watching each other’s backs. In that one 30 minute session where I actually could talk to my team, I got so much more high level gear, didn’t die a single time, and completed multiple extractions even while under fire.
The odd thing is that there is really no excuse for this type of behavior on PS4. The console comes with a headset. Sure, it’s not a great one and anyone who takes online multiplayer even halfway seriously went out and bought a proper headset, but at least it’s something. And most PS3 and PC compatible headsets work on the PS4, so the general population of loyal SONY players don’t even need to spend any extra money. People just blatantly chose to not talk to/work with their teammates in the beta. I hope it’s a much different story when the real game comes out, or clan building will be a must even though the game currently has no clan support system.
14. Extractions Should be Anonymous
I still stand by this point. Anonymity is such a huge part of the Dark Zone. Very rarely do advanced players even stand by the extraction point while actually waiting for the helicopter to show up. Placing a giant target on someone’s back for calling in an extraction is not only unrealistic, but it’s extremely troublesome, especially for solo players.
15. Contaminated Items System is Annoying/Pointless
This time around I just ignored the whole system. I sold anything that wasn’t worth keeping and never broke down a single piece of equipment, so I’ll assume it’s still the same issues. But I will say that you can easily play the game while ignoring contamination problems altogether.
16. DZ Player Status is Unclear
This is still true, and while I have heard a few players disagree with my opinion, I stand by it because not everyone actually wants to unwittingly kill non-hostile agents.
ADDITIONAL CONS NOT MENTIONED IN CLOSED BETA REVIEW
17. Situation Board Doesn’t Update
The board is a great idea or at least it would be if it would let you update your map often enough. When you start the beta you can look at either of the two currently available, but only once. After that, neither board ever worked for me a second time. This was true in both the closed and open betas. I would like to be able to get updates on encounters and such at least once every hour. If not you end up with encounters sprouting up all the time, even if the map won’t update properly.
18. Rogue Status Timer
In the closed beta, the Dark Zone Rogue status timer was a simple but clear white clock that ran in seconds above your head. I think it went for about 90 seconds, but don’t quote me on that. In the open beta this changed to an odd system that I can only kind of explain. You still get a white number about your head, but I have no idea what it’s supposed to be expressing. It’s not counting time in seconds and it’s too high to be counting time in minutes unless the Rogue state has been lengthened considerably since the closed beta. But 10 minutes is preposterous. That’s near impossible on an active server. It may not even be counting time, but indicating something else altogether. Whatever the case, the old Rogue timer was perfect and shouldn’t have been changed. Less is more.
19. DZ Bracket Mismatch
I personally hate when games tell me I can’t play with my friends for some arbitrary surface reason that people clearly don’t care about. If I want to play a ranked match in the gold category, and my friend is a silver ranked player, but we have both agreed to play in that category, then that’s our choice. We pay to use the multiplayer service (PS4 & XB1) and we should be able to play the game we want to play with the people we want to play with. That’s not up for debate. Even if our chances of winning are considerably lower on paper, we still should have the right to play with who we want, where we want, and when we want to. This issue first came up for me in Demon’s Souls, but now it’s becoming much more apparent in many games.
In the beta your max regular level was eight. For whatever reason, the game was separated out so that players of levels 1 – 7 could play in the same DZ bracket, but all level eight players had to play in their own private bracket. This created huge problems for the friends I was playing with because when we first started playing together I was a seven, one of them was a five, and the other a six. The five dropped out for a while and by the time he came back, me and the six were both level eights. When the five came back, we decided we wanted to go into the DZ as a team. The game separated us into individual brackets upon entering the DZ without notifying us. We could even see our lower level friend’s location on the map but couldn’t actually play with him in our bracket. The game acts as if you can change brackets to play with your friends but it would not allow us to do so. That’s not ok. My friends are my friends and if I want to play with them then it shouldn’t matter. And it also creates an odd inconsistency with the original selling point of the game showed in the 2015 E3 footage.
The whole idea behind the DZ was supposed to be that it’s a Wild West style wasteland where anything goes, sometimes leaving you the victim and other times the king. If you bracket all the players out by level then what’s the point of being a higher level player? All of the work you put in to gain an advantage is lost when that occurs. Also, all the enemies in the level eight bracket were eight and nine in the beta causing basically the same issue. You’re never actually the strongest man once you hit the max level because the game arbitrarily creates a scenario where you’re at level with everyone and everything else thus taking away the entire point of the Dark Zone and turning it into yet another COD with more space and the inclusion of NPCs.
20. Dark Zone Hacks/Etiquette Problems
This may sound ridiculous to the sea of PC gamers and exploit users, but I think games work best when people play them the way you would handle the same situation in real life. One of the things I really liked about the DZ in the closed beta was the lack of assholes and cheats. The open beta did not have the same level of discipline, seriousness and fear that the closed beta seemed to have for me, leading to a lot of poor form.
For example: You can’t be declared rogue for shooting near a non-hostile agent. You can only be declared rogue for actually shooting one. What this means is that tons of players started intentionally shooting near/towards good standing agents in order to draw them into firing back at them and unintentionally going rogue. This is a problem because in the real life scenario you don’t shoot near someone unless you missed or mean to warn them. And when you shoot towards someone carrying a gun, they will shoot back to defend themselves. That’s not going rogue. That’s not doing anything wrong. It’s self-defense and it’s a completely legitimate thing to do that the game punishes players for. That’s not really fair. Because essentially players are exploiting the game by going rogue without the repercussions of going rogue and then causing players who have no interest in going rogue to get a bounty put on them for self-defense. That completely goes against the point of the Dark Zone based on the E3 footage that first showed the DZ gameplay.
Even worse than the drawing fire trick is the fact that certain guns such as lower caliber pistols, will allow you to fire a shot into other players without being declared rogue. That literally means that certain players can and were shooting other players, damaging them (admittedly a negligible amount), and then waiting for them to fire back. Granted, this is a completely legitimate response, but then those players who were shot initially were being declared rogue. That’s not acceptable at all. You can make a case for why shooting near someone to draw them into rogue is ok. Mainly because it forces a new element of gameplay that makes the experience more exciting, although I’ll disagree that it’s acceptable, but I can respect your point of view. However, the fact that you can be shot, defend yourself by firing back, and then be declared rogue as a result is just bullshit. It’s not only unfair, but it allows these people to murder you and steal your gear.
Ultimately there have been improvements, both subtle and vast, which were made between the open and closed beta forms of The Division. I don’t believe that all of the issues I addressed will be fixed in the final form of the game, but I do believe that the game will/is worth buying and if not for the expansions, I would most likely have bought it very close to release. It will definitely be a true Game of the Year contender for 2016.