Update 1.2 aka Conflict for Tom Clancy’s The Division got me back into the game. And that’s no small feat.
To recap: I had been anxiously awaiting update 1.1 aka Falcon Lost. The first end-game activity for this tactical third person shooter that would introduce Gear Sets and a whole bunch of new features, all for free? Of course, when it came out, it was wrought with bugs. Falcon Lost was a disappointing Horde Mode rip-off with little by way of mechanics.
The Dark Zone had quickly devolved into an area where players with high Gear Score would prey on the weak. If that weren’t enough, the loot drops in this loot-based shooter was absolutely abysmal. Unless you grinded Falcon Lost repeatedly with your four alts or simply ran the same Challenging missions again and again, you would get pretty much nowhere. The worst part? You often got nowhere anyway regardless of how hard you tried.
"The newest end-game activity this time around is Clear Sky. It’s an Incursion, make no mistake but this one actually has discernible segments and mechanics."
Update 1.2 fixes that right off the bat. Firstly, the introduction of High Value Targets allows for more ways to explore the open world from a PvE perspective. You’ll run around various safe houses, collecting Intel and depositing them at your Base of Operations to earn either Daily or Weekly HVTs. The dailies bestow Phoenix Credits while the Weeklies can net you Gear Set pieces. The higher the Intel requirements, the higher the risk – if you fail a mission, you’ll need to grind out that Intel again. And while you still need friends to complete these HVT missions, they’re immediately rewarding. A 240 Gear Score set piece item with two additional set piece drops from the boss? Yes please. You can also expect 204 guns to drop as a result.
Honestly, while the missions themselves – both the Search & Destroy for the Intel and the HVTs for the Phoenix Credits and Gear Set pieces – are nothing new in terms of gameplay, they reward you for running around and battling waves of foes. Also, I’ll take these condensed wave-based weekly missions against difficult foes any day over Falcon Lost.
The newest end-game activity this time around is Clear Sky. It’s an Incursion, make no mistake but this one actually has discernible segments and mechanics. Whereas Falcon Lost felt like a DPS check (unless you were one of those ballsy enough to run a Tactician’s Authority tank build), Clear Sky actually requires coordination and teamwork. You’ll need to deactivate chopper defenses, escort players carrying fuse boxes to lure out the boss, eliminate the boss…and that’s not counting the beginning portion where you have to breach into the Incursion.
For a veteran team, Clear Sky won’t be all that difficult to finish – it took my squad 20 minutes at best – but I’d rather have actual mechanics that need to be executed as opposed to waves and waves of tanky enemies. That will likely change with Challenging mode (which has been delayed after an unsuccessful deployment on June 2nd) but for now, Clear Sky is easily the more fun of the two Incursions.
"The ability to hijack loot extractions also puts an interesting twist on the whole Rogue dynamic and it’s thankfully not as grief-inducing as it was first made out to be."
And of course, those who want to PvP will have enough incentive. The Dark Zone now has a Gear Score +201 bracket, pretty much throwing in everyone with high level Gear Sets and weapons to duke it out. The thing is that the enemies are no pushovers and the Dark Zone actually feels like a dangerous place again, especially DZ05 and DZ06 where the level 34 mobs reside. Of course, the Dark Zone also represents one of the best changes with The Division – loot.
You’ll net High End items on a regular basis, Gear Sets are more or less guaranteed from Supply Drops, Sealed Caches carry awesome items along with DZ funds and High End Division Tech and there’s just a wealth of new stuff to gain overall. This abundance of loot helps to actually focus on the game’s strength which is build experimentation, min-maxing and trying different play-styles. The sheer difficulty of the new Dark Zone also means you can’t just rush enemies with the highest DPS – you’ll need to actually make use of cover if you want to survive.
The higher difficulty makes it much more difficult to play on your own though. Players are pretty much restricted to teaming up for the higher tiers of rewards. The ability to hijack loot extractions also puts an interesting twist on the whole Rogue dynamic and it’s thankfully not as grief-inducing as it was first made out to be. Battling high Gear Score Rogues might be difficult, especially since most players are content with simply griefing but that’s the Dark Zone. Some players have nothing to lose and will annihilate anyone around them. Others will band together to mitigate some of the worst possible threats. Either way, there’s never a dull second even if the funds and rank requirements are still absurdly high.
"The Division has become a better game with update 1.2, make no mistake. It’s brought out the loot shooter aspects that were so clearly appealing at launch and which stumbled with update 1.1."
Also, though update 1.2 has delivered a great amount of things to do, it’s still plagued with bugs and uneven fixes. Some talents have been fixed and the Sentry’s Call set no longer gives you a permanent debuff until you log out when a player shoots you. One is None still sadly causes you gun to jam (just not on the last bullet of your magazine) if you reload when the talent is active; the double UI glitch – which causes one’s interface to overlay on top of itself in a headache-inducing fashion – was a serious pain (it’s since been fixed on PC and PS4); and the input lag is fairly atrocious at this point.
Key skills don’t trigger until two seconds or sometimes at all, which can be fatal in many instances. The frame rate for the map tends to stutter when one or more players are with you. And though High End Division Tech is raining from the sky, there’s a shortage of electronics and tools for crafting. This once again brings up back to the problem with crafting – the material requirements are still too high. Massive may want to emphasize drops but needing 22 High End fabric and 8 High End Electronics to craft one Gear Set piece to simply check how my build works out is beyond annoying. Also, for as good as the High Value Targets are to PvE, there are some bugs. Some HVTs will be completed without you having done them. You can join friends on their own HVT activities and get no rewards (even if you haven’t done it yourself yet) though Massive will be issuing a fix for the same soon.
The Division has become a better game with update 1.2, make no mistake. It’s brought out the loot shooter aspects that were so clearly appealing at launch and which stumbled with update 1.1. While it may not attract any new fans to its style of gameplay and the generally bullet-sponge heavy enemies (plus there’s no real story content to speak of), it now actually rewards you for your time spent. And that’s really all you could ask for in this day and age.