IntroductionThis self-proclaimed "looter shooter" has been out for about three months now, and has undertaken two major updates since its release. Update 1.1 is now in the rear-view, as underwhelming as it was, and 1.2 is upon us. These were both free updates, with the first paid DLC expected in the coming months. The Division still has an active player base, and with these updates, they are trying to gather new players as well as placate their current hardcore and casual fan base. In this review, I'll take you through the changes made in 1.2, as well as discuss the implications of such changes in the evolving landscape of The Division.
Clear SkyOne of the most anticipated changes of the new update comes in the form of a new incursion. It has been sitting stagnant on the top left of the map for a few weeks, and 1.2 finally opened the portal to the new content. Many Division players were eagerly waiting for the new incursion, as Clear Sky represents Massive's intention of the incursions as they move forward. There was much speculation as to whether or not this would be another wave-based mission, set in a single room and reminiscent of the "Horde Mode" that we were told would not be in the game. On the 24th, we got our answer.
At first glance, the mission seems very different. There are a few enemies and objectives in the first phases of the mission, and you are outdoors instead of confined to a room. Once you get to the final stage, the similarities start to reveal themselves. There is one circular location in which your team runs around trying to avoid waves of enemies. Sound familiar? To be fair, it does differ in the sense that it's not a pure horde mode, complete with a waved counter like the first incursion has. The waves can theoretically last forever if the objective isn't met. But still, it seems as though the developers saw a backlash after Falcon Lost, and made an incursion just different enough to be considered new content.
The real question, however: is it fun? This depends and is extremely subjective, but after a few successful runs, I have to say no, it's not. I write this with a reluctant tone, and I'm trying my best not to bash this game as so many people do. In all honesty, though, it's really not that fun. Once you get the mechanics and strategy down, it's just a grind. It's not as difficult as Falcon Lost, which seems intentional (Challenging mode should be available this week). It does take less time, which is good, but lacks overall depth. Tense moments are rare, and I don't think I've had a funny, "Xbox, record that" moment while playing it. It's unfortunate but it boils down to this: the incursions are for grinding. They are good for getting gear and vanity items, but instead of something you look forward to, they remain just another rung on the ladder to min/max.
High-Value TargetsThis is the most positive change in patch 1.2, as it breathes life into an otherwise long deceased PvE arena. These daily and weekly high-value targets can be contracted from the Base of Operations. Once a player has finished all of the side missions and encounters in a particular zone, the safe house in that zone will issue bounties on certain targets. Once you complete these smaller targets, you are granted target intel. Gather enough intel and you are then able to purchase High Value Target missions from the Base of Operations. These targets rank from 30-32 and offer corresponding loot grades.
This is a fantastic addition for a few reasons. First, the beautiful and intricate world of The Division is completely neglected once you hit level 30. We all promise ourselves we're going to go around and find all of the echoes and cell phone recordings and what not, but that's so much tedious work for a cosmetic item. These missions now give players a reason to explore the world again. Instead of fast traveling to a mission and then back to the base, you will find yourself running around and discovering more of this beautiful world. The addition of these HVT missions also give players who are beginning the end-game grind a new way to gear up their character. Instead of grinding hard modes, getting killed in the Dark Zone and getting booted from challenging mission teams, a fresh 30 can get some easy gear this way. The PvE world got the jolt of vigor that it needed with this patch, and hopefully there is more like this to come.
Increased Loot QualityWith patch 1.1, the developers attempted to change the way in which players get their gear. They felt as though there was too much of an emphasis on crafting, and attempted to ramp-up the high-end gear drops to entice players to get gear through killing bosses rather than at the crafting bench. To put it bluntly, this plan failed horribly. Gold drops went through the roof, but more often than not your reward was a mod or a lousy 163 gear score item. In 1.2 it seems as though they are getting it right. They nerfed mod drops and increased weapon drops, as well as increasing the quality of the items in the dark zone and challenging missions. They even buffed performance mods, making them more valuable and less of the auto-deconstruct that they were before. This is a change for the better, but a bigger issue is still unaddressed. It's nearly impossible to get a "God roll" on any item. There is bound to be one or two aspects of each gun or gear item that you'd like to change, but the current system makes min/maxing a character next to impossible, even with this loot increase. This change is more likely to fill up your stash than giving you the perfect gear drops.
200+ Dark Zone BracketThis was absolutely necessary, as the previous 161+ bracket was far too broad. You would have 162 geared players getting endlessly trolled by 225 players, and the Dark Zone was becoming increasingly difficult for players with a lower gear score. At the same time as this is a positive change, if you're in the 200+ DZ life just got a whole lot harder. Let me paint a situational picture for you: I play this game solo a lot of the time. Before, I could grind my DZ levels in areas one and two with ease. I could get some PvP in if I wanted, and when I would get killed by a player with better gear or a bigger group, I just shrugged it off and got back at it. This is virtually impossible now. First of all, the levels of the NPCs are 32-34, making it much more difficult to solo. Furthermore, when you have a contaminated pack, everyone knows you have a 204+ gear score item, giving you a target on your back. I kid you not, since the update, I have yet to extract something from the Dark Zone while soloing. Unless your gear is off the charts, soloing the Dark Zone is a thing of the past.
New Gear SetsI'm not going to go in-depth with each gear set's talents and how useful they are. More generally, these four new gear sets are more of what I expected when the first batch was released. They are focused on particular character builds and play styles, as opposed to the 1.1 gear sets which were much more versatile. These new sets will center around specific weapons and ways of doing damage. They are the same gear score rating, so they don't require excessive grinding if you aren't interested, but can further progress a character that needs some extra shotgun, assault rifle or grenade damage. With the addition of these and (hopefully) more gear sets like them, character builds will begin to diversify and we won't see so many builds based on AUG/M1A critical-hit/headshot damage running around.
Sealed CachesSealed caches can be found in the dark zone, dropped by named enemies. They contain mystery items, including gear, weapons, Division Tech, and Dark Zone funds. Once extracted, they can be found in your stash. This is a great change, as it adds suspense and excitement to opening your stashes. The only problem with this is the problem with the loot system in general: it's just too hard to get the exact roll you're looking for. You're bound to find a gun or piece of gear you could use, but it's much more rare to find the exact piece the will perfectly fit your character build. Regardless, this addition is positive, with the only negative being the larger loot problem.
Hijacking ExtractionsI'm sure the developers would like for me to put this in the "major changes" category, but I don't see it as such. For those who don't know, you are now able to cut the extraction rope in the Dark Zone, dropping all items for you to take. You now need to guard your extractions, whereas before they were safe as soon as they were attached to the rope. The reason I believe this will only be a minor change is because you go rogue as soon as you start cutting. This gives the defending players ample time to see what is happening and kill you. Unless you see a completely unattended extraction, it would be much easier to kill the extracting players and to take their loot before it is on the extraction rope. You'll still go rogue, but you have a much higher chance of actually extracting the items you steal. This is a novelty addition in my opinion. It seems to be mainly used for trolling purposes, and just isn't practical if you really want to steal a player's loot in the Dark Zone.
Phoenix Credit Cap IncreaseThe cap on Phoenix Credits has now been raised from 1,000 to 2,000. In General, this was necessary, but mainly because of the High-Value Target implementation. There are now more ways to get Phoenix Credits, and it makes sense that the cap should be raised. This also limits the times a player has to buy an unwanted Item just to get rid of Phoenix Credits. It's a positive change overall and I expect the cap to continue to go up as the updates advance.
ISAC MissionsISAC missions are now separate from weekly missions and offer cosmetic items as rewards. It's a decent change and a good way to get unique apparel items.
ToughnessGone are the days of guessing whether you should add health or armor. These two traits have been combined into one: toughness. Your toughness rating will now show you which gear piece will benefit you most overall, taking the guess work out of character building. The armor cap was also raised, which gives more of an opportunity to see which combinations benefit your toughness the most.
Dark Zone StashThis is a change that seems like it should have been implemented earlier, as it makes a ton of sense. Instead of trekking to a safe house (I don't know about you, but I always went back to the BOO) every time you extract an interesting item, your stash will now be available in Dark Zone checkpoints. This is a small, positive change that doesn't require further analysis; it's just a good move.
VerdictPatch 1.2 is an important landmark for The Division. After an underwhelming 1.1 patch, players were eagerly awaiting the new update. I, for one, didn't play for over a week leading up to 1.2, mainly because of the loot upgrade, but I was also getting tired of the endless grind. And the real question is, did this patch fix this problem? Is it easier and more fun to continue gearing up my character? I have to say, with great reluctance, it did not. They added a few features, some new PvE content, but it feels like more of the same.
To be fair, this was a free update. But still, this patch was expected to reinvigorate and excite players just like me; those who put the game down for a week or two and were ready and willing to come back. After playing the new update, however, I feel just as discouraged when I log in. When the home screen pops up, my mind wanders to games like Overwatch and Ark, games I'd rather be playing. This is extremely disappointing for me, as I've already forked over the extra money for the season pass.
Still, I remain positive about this game. I would recommend it to someone who is looking for something new to play, thought I'd advise waiting for the first paid DLC to commit to it long-term. With the addition of high value targets and better loot, it's easier and faster for a new player to get geared up. I, like a lot of the community, am perpetually waiting for the next update, hoping that it will bring me back and make this my main game again. Maybe it's because I'm already financially invested in the content, but I am optimistic. Patch 1.2 had nothing but positive changes, and I remain hopeful that they'll do more in the future. I don't want this game to die, but if the first DLC is anything but excellent, it may be trending in that direction.
A full list of patch notes is available here.
| + Better Dark Zone balance|| - Still has a long way to go|
| + Better quality loot|| - Incursion is underwhelming|
| + More PvE end-game content|| - Dark Zone is now harder than ever|
| + Smaller positive changes|
| + Better catch-up mechanics|