The beta test for Tom Clancy’s The Division was a fun but flawed experiment. Associate creative director Julian Gerighty says there is plenty more to reveal
When the four-day public beta test for online game The Division closed down in late January, plenty of questions remained unanswered. Ubisoft first announced its latest Tom Clancy spin off at E3 in 2013, promising an ambitious combination of role-playing adventure and third-person shooter, set in a New York devastated by a manmade small pox epidemic. Players would get into groups of four and enter the city, clearing the streets of violence. It sounded like a gritty real-world take on Activision’s epic space opera, Destiny. And in many ways, that’s how it played.
But the beta experience drew a mixed reaction. Players enjoyed the near-seamless matchmaking, as well as the combination of a mission-based campaign mode, with a competitive multiplayer area – known as the Dark Zone – where co-op groups could fight each other for loot. But the non-player characters roaming the streets of Manhattan all looked very similar, the weapons felt underpowered and the loot seemed slightly mundane. Had Ubisoft stumbled on an unspoken fact of the role-playing genre – that the dynamics only work in a fantasy or science fiction environment where players can more easily suspend their disbelief and where the roster of enemies and weapons can be boosted by the inclusion of fantastical monsters, weird planets and improbable laser canons?