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The Division: After Action Report
Well ladies and gentlemen, Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's The Division has officially been out for over two weeks.The reviews from the entirety of the internet and gaming magazines have come out, and they have decreed that it is just ok. Not the greatest game of all time, or setting a new standard that all games now must be measured against... just merely ok. Kind of a let down after those amazing game trailers and previews we all have been watching while we waited for the game. Reminds me of a game that came out over a year ago.

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Oh that's right... Now get back into your corner. You had your chance.

So anyway, about The Division... What is that? Why did we not have a review of the game published at the time right before its release or immediately after said release? Hmm I should check with the RCM Legal Department before answering, but what do they know [EDITOR'S NOTE: We drew straws over who had to be the legal department this quarter, and Killer lost this time. He has no one to blame but himself. -J.). Well, we all have been very busy providing all you viewers and fans quality content on our Twitch channel. Also that RCM "fanfic" that Baroness has been posting... yeah that is a sanitized version of things we had to deal or currently dealing with. When we are not dealing with spiders or other things (FYI, if you ever have spider ick on your clothes, just burn them, nothing will get the smell out), the staff does have their own lives and hobbies that are outside of RCM. And finally it is not like we had early access to the game which we could review before the game's release. But what I can do is maybe give some of my thoughts and opinions on what the The Division did right and what it did wrong.

Before I begin, I will note at the time of this AAR that I just recently hit the current level cap of the game. I have completed The Division's main story, but I have not experienced the end game of the daily missions or the high level Dark Zone areas.

Launch
OK, Ubisoft, good job on a relatively quick fix on your logon servers for the game. For me it was only maybe a 30 to 40 minute wait to actually play the after the official midnight release. But....
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Why in the hell did you even have server issues in the fucking first place? You knew that the game was going to have a huge turn out, but no, you had to drop the ball like so many other game companies whose games required server connections have fucked up before. Seriously, did nobody think to bring up that this might possibly be an issue and that it might be wise to have some contingency to prevent said issue before the game released? Now that I have that out of the way, I will admit that maybe Ubisoft did have something in place and hence the quick recovery on the issue. Also I know that the Internet only ever talks about the games that screw up and the online games that do get their launches to go perfectly (or close to it) never get the kudos or acknowledgement that they deserve for getting it right. So I expect better from you, Ubisoft, next time... but I am not holding my breath. Let us move on to the game proper.

Graphics and UI
First off, the game does amazing job of creating a post-biological outbreak Manhattan for players to play in. The developers actually leveraged the graphic engine to create a detailed and a good size environment for players to explore and play in. It seems like most of the time that you get either a super gorgeous game space that is the size of a postage stamp or a large environment that is not filled with any meaningful detail or things to see. The Division hits on a good balance on size and detail. My only critiques in this area would be some environmental details would do the "pop-in" as I would traverse Manhattan and the animations of the NPC could get a bit wacky at times.

I hope other game developers take some notes about how the UI is done when they make third person shooters. The UI presents the right amount info without cluttering the screen or being confusing while you are going about saving the city. The only major issue I have with the UI is the menu system: while I would be reading something in the intel section and need to scroll down to continue reading, moving the mouse to drag the scroll bar would cause the game to select another intel item. To combat this I had to make sure the mouse cursor was by the scroll bar first, then select said intel item using arrow keys. Kind of showing those compromises you have to make for consoles.

Gameplay
Now the core gameplay mechanics have some solid bases. To me, the cover was implemented very well for the most part. Once you get used to it, moving from cover to cover is smooth. This is helped out in part from the UI, and if you want to cancel out from your transition to another piece of cover it is as simple as just releasing the spacebar. Although rounding a corner can be a tad slow in the heat of battle, as well when you want to "unstick" yourself from cover. Overall, though, it is good.

The gunplay is for the most part solid as well, as we should expect from a Tom Clancy game. The only caveat to that though is that this game has "RPG elements" to it. These "RPG elements" I think might have been a bad call on the game developer's part, not in the sense that it makes the game terrible, but because Tom Clancy games tend to have shooting mechanics that are comparable to real life. It is kind of implausible to shoot an enemy four or five times in the head with a sniper rifle and not have them die. Otherwise, I do appreciate that weapons in the same category (SMG's, assault rifles, machine guns, marksman rifles, shotguns, pistols) behave differently enough to distinguish themselves among other weapons in the same category. Nothing sucks more in a shooter of any kind than to have two different weapons act exactly the same as each other.

Now, for the main missions and side missions of the game, there are some problems. Overall the main story missions are decent. There is some variety in them in terms of environment, though not so much in how you progress through them. It mostly comes down to clearing an area, then "press the button" to activate the mechanism to either to go to the next area or to cause an event where you have to guard the area you just cleared for several minutes from waves of enemies. The side missions are worse. You will be doing same side missions with very little to distinguish from each other but for their location in Manhattan. Ubisoft screwed the pooch on this. Seriously, I would not have minded having to do a dreaded escort mission or two just for the sake of variety.

Story
Without giving out any spoilers (surprise, you save the day) the story elements overall are decent. The highlights to me were the snippets of human drama you get to see collecting the intel scattered throughout Manhattan. You get a semi-realistic picture of how people would probably be before, during, and after a near collapse of civilization, making the main story missions' plots more impactful than being excuses to kill bad guys and blow stuff up. A problem though is that important information and context for the main story is scattered throughout the map, so it is easy to miss things and also leads to not a very smooth transition from story mission to story mission.

Additionally, the NPCs who give you the rundown on side missions are for most part completely out of sync with the tone of the game. The whole premise is a huge chunk of the population of New York and the rest of the country have died to either a bioengineered plague, a lack of food, shelter, or medicine, or to looters, and you are an agent who is part a secret government program to preserve civilization and save the city. Come on, Ubisoft, what were you thinking when you have NPCs who are over the top stereotypes?

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Also there is no real way for players to interact with civilian NPC's besides waiting for your fancy watch to scan someone to indicate that they need an item which will yield some kind of reward for you (or, if they are enemies, just fill their faces with bullets). Kind of lacking in the whole "RPG element" is making choices on how to handle things. To be fair though, the game was billed as mainly a third person shooter and not a RPG where your decisions would influence the events of the story or change elements in world. On that though, as you make upgrades to your base of operations (which unlocks skills and perks) you do see more and more civilians receive help the more you upgrade your base. That was a nice touch to show your progress besides just a progress bar.

Conclusion
Overall, I think the great parts of the game suffer from badly executed proportion in key areas. So in the end, the game is just decent. Nothing more, nothing less. I know that a group of us will probably continue playing it for a bit because it is very enjoyable online co-op game. But if the DLC does not add something substantial, we are going to move on to other games that are coming out this year.
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