Tom Clancy’s The Division is going to be a buggy game when it releases.
Now that we’ve got the formalities out of the way, it’s important to present the evidence supporting this claim. For those who don’t know, The Division is an upcoming massively multiplayer online shooter developed by Massive Entertainment and published by Ubisoft. After debuting at E3 2013, the game was pegged to release by autumn of this year. It was delayed, with the need for polish cited as a key reason but rumours had been running rampant at the time about how laughable it would be if the game actually came out this year.
Needless to say, these rumours were subsequently followed by the delay in question.
"On the whole, we're very upbeat about The Division. Ubisoft took a game that we couldn't have cared less about when it debuted, delayed it and then made us want it."
Fast-forward to E3 2014 where Ubisoft presented The Division to the whole world. We got a better look at the online aspect of the game as a team of three erstwhile players explored the city and took down a group of savages en route to returning to home base. We also witnessed the emotional aspect of the game, as Ubisoft invited us to “Take Back NY” and just outright soldier through our issues and put everything back together again. If you haven’t witnessed the trailer till now, it’s arguably one of the greatest videos Ubisoft has ever produced.
So on the whole, we’re very upbeat about The Division. Ubisoft took a game that we couldn’t have cared less about when it debuted, delayed it and then made us want it. However, all signs point to the game being a rather difficult nut to crack by the time it releases.
Exhibit A is Watch Dogs. Originally set to release in November 2013, it was delayed to May 2014. That didn’t stop Ubisoft from continuing the hype train, even as subsequent videos showed the game’s visuals degrading further and further. In case anyone wants to debate that fact, keep in mind that high resolution textures from the PS4 reveal event in February 2013 were discovered within the game and can be re-enabled with some trickery.
The point is that Watch Dogs, despite having a sizeable development budget and time period, contained heaps of bugs. That’s not taking the PC version into account which became a venerable carnival of horrors as boats became submarines, saves becoming corrupted and whatnot. Also, for all the hype that Ubisoft had piled on to the game – one that saw the developer try numerous new mechanics yet floundered when it came to putting them all together – it doesn’t even rank as a contender for Game of the Year, let alone Best visuals or Best new IP. Ponder that for a second. In case you don’t care about awards, we’re essentially saying the game was good…but not that good, like Ubisoft said it would be.
"The point is that The Division may look and play nicely in all the gameplay trailers we've seen but it's still going to be a much different beast when it eventually releases."
Exhibit B is a more straightforward example: WildStar. Developed by Carbine Studios, WildStar featured tons of content right out of the gate with enough Raids and end-game content to make Bungie’s Destiny seem like a walk in the park by comparison. Did we mention you unlock an entirely new single-player campaign when you finish the game? However, WildStar’s launch has been plagued by numerous bugs. PvP bugs, questing bugs, balancing bugs, Raid bugs, you name it. It’s not as if Carbine didn’t anticipate all this – hell, it had been working on WildStar for years and years – but this is to be expected with any online game.
Worst of all, many community members feel that Carbine was slow in addressing many of the concerns that plagued the game. Even as server populations have declined, Carbine hasn’t merged the servers. In fact, it will begin implementing mega servers for higher player capacities with more activities and more Raids. How that’s going to work remains to be seen.
The point is that The Division may look and play nicely in all the gameplay trailers we’ve seen but it’s still going to be a much different beast when it eventually releases. Even the almighty Bungie with the support of Activision has had issues and bugs with Destiny. Ubisoft’s post-sales support isn’t as infamous as EA, which denied that issues existed in Battlefield 4 up until recently, but it still takes time in ironing out issues.
"At this point, it's pertinent to just doubt anything Ubisoft puts out any more."
Don’t even get us started on the mandatory UPlay support that The Division will have. Just don’t.
Perhaps the one real bright spot is that The Division isn’t being handled by more than five studios, which has often plagued previous releases like Assassin’s Creed 3 due to the sheer miscommunication taking place. Ubisoft Red Storm, which is working on Far Cry 4 and did a stellar job on Far Cry 3 with Ubisoft Montreal, will be helping Massive Entertainment alongside Ubisoft Reflections. A more contained, focused team could help realize the full potential of The Division.
Regardless, don’t be surprised if there are issues when the game releases. The added wild card of a new engine for The Division presents that much more of a risk. At this point, it’s pertinent to just doubt anything Ubisoft puts out any more. Is it a great way to kill your enthusiasm in any new game that releases? Sure, but it’s far better to be sceptical than thoroughly disappointed when the game is finally in your hands. We’ll wait, watch and hopefully not have to grimace in the mean time.