The Division’s first end-game update is plagued with issues, both technical and design-based.
When Tom Clancy’s The Division first released, I took it as the game Destiny should have been. A wide-open world to explore, full of secrets and stories, and some relatively solid cover-based gunplay to get behind. There wasn’t a ton of customization and nothing but shooting to focus on, rendering other builds relatively less useful in the process. But it was a blast. The problem occurred, as it always does in a loot shooter, with the end-game. You can only traipse around the Dark Zone so much before you realize your grinding isn’t making you much stronger. You can only run Challenging missions, the same four again and again, before you realize it isn’t worth the headache (looking at you, Russian Consulate). And don’t get me started on The Division Tech grind.
With update 1.1 aka the Falcon Lost Incursion, one thought a true end-game had finally arrived. Gear Sets! Loot trading! Supply drops in the Dark Zone serving as mini-events! There was a lot to unpack and seemingly a lot to enjoy.
And then I played it all. And then the urge to murder wouldn’t leave.
So let’s look at the good, the bad, the really bad and the “goddamn this was a stupid decision” below. Spoiler: There’s more bad than good.
Good: Daily and Weekly Assignments
Running the same Daily and Challenging missions can get monotonous and while the Daily and Weekly Assignments are naught more than bounties, they’re still rewarding. It feels good to accomplish some manner of task and receiving rewards playing the game as opposed to foraging in some designer’s trash for fabric. In a way, it makes the crafting nerf somewhat bearable and provides an excellent motivator to do different things like exploring the world.
Bad: Crafting Nerf
That being said, the nerf to crafting is still unbearably stupid. Granted, Massive now provides a new avenue to earn materials. But the requirements are much higher this time, especially with the still-hard-to-come-by Division Tech. It may have been removed from some items but the best stuff to get still required Division Tech, and more than pre-patch. You’re probably thinking that with better ways to earn materials and so many High-End drops that the nerf isn’t so bad, right? We’ll get to the issue with High-End drops but otherwise…
Bad: Crafting Still Offers Best Gear
Head on over to the Dark Zone and visit that nice weapon vendor. What does he have? Why, blueprints for a 204 Gear Score AUG and First Wave M1A. They both cost an insane amount of Dark Zone funds (well over 400,000) and they’re the best weapons the game has to offer. Even when you walk into your base for the new Gear Sets, they cost hundreds of Phoenix Credits and must be crafted. So if you don’t do the Incursion or do it and get something you hate, then you have to fall back on crafting. The problem is, crafting is gated to such an insane degree that you’re better off playing something else. And even if crafting does give the best Gear Score weapons and items, it’s still up to RNG to bless you with the right perks. It’s just an endless cycle of grinding with too far too much effort and not enough reward.
Good: High-End Drop Rate
If you’re entering The Division for the first time, then patch 1.1 will be a dream come true for you. Named enemies now drop guaranteed High-End items, allowing you to up your Gear Score significantly. It’s a great incentive for not only playing Challenging missions but to hit up the Dark Zone or even re-run the Daily missions.
Bad: Terrible High-End Drops
If you’ve been playing The Division since its release, then it’ll slowly dawn on you that most of the rapid High-End drops are pretty useless. Performance Mods aside, they exist solely to be deconstructed and we’re right back to where we were pre-patch with Superior Gear and crafting. Again, it wouldn’t be so terrible if there were some guaranteed good rewards to be had. Even Destiny had the sense to start guaranteeing good items because no RNG can give you everything.
Bad: Lackluster Gear Score Rewards
With the random perk allotment on crafting, the high resource requirement and no assurance that you’ll get anything good, why bother falling into the game’s trap? Especially when hours and hours of your time can get you nothing good? There have been reports of higher Gear Score items (like Gear Set items) dropping from Named enemies, especially in Challenging missions, but I’ve played my fair share and not received one. Most of the Named enemies only drop 163 Gear Score items which are bottom of the barrel. And even if a 182 Gear Score item does drop, it’s oftentimes worse than what I’ve crafted weeks ago.
Good: Supply Drops
Again a boon for new players, hitting up the Supply Drops in the Dark Zone are a good way to pick up Superior items, the odd chance at Division Tech and a Named enemy that can drop a High-End. That’s good and more than anything else, it breaks the monotony of the Dark Zone, especially since other players will compete for the drops. More activities like this are sorely needed.
Bad: Supply Drops
I like the concept of Supply Drops. Really, I do. But think about this: When you’ve been playing for any reasonable amount of time and have good gear, why would you risk your life and any Dark Zone items for a few Superiors? You’re better off putting a bullet in the Named enemy’s head for High-End drop and letting other players clean up for you rather than putting in any effort. And honestly, with this level of risk, farming Division Tech from boxes seems much more appealing (especially since the drop rate of High-End Division Tech from Supply Drops isn’t spectacular).
Good: Loot Trading
It seems so simple and you have to wonder why Destiny doesn’t do it but loot trading in The Division is a welcome plus. You can share items with players in the same session with a limited time window, thus opening up the possibility of drops when playing with friends. It can be a bit cumbersome in the Dark Zone, especially if you have to head to a Checkpoint to drop items, but it’s still better than nothing.
Good: Gear Score
Problems with High-End drops aside, the Gear Score system is good enough to have in The Division. It provides a much clearer indicator as to what gear and weapons would be more beneficial, which is always helpful. Sure, Massive doesn’t really explain what makes for a high Gear Score item but the visual indicator and some playtime to see how good the item really is are enough.
Bad: Incursion Mechanics
Where does one even begin?
Firstly, I understand this isn’t a raid. But when the damn Prison of Elders has more variety and fun than your end-game activity, there is a problem. Falcon Lost is so bland and uninventive that it hurts. There is nothing but shooting wave after wave of enemies. After a point you just grow numb to the composition of the waves, the new drone units and having to carry a bomb over to the APC while shutting off its accompanying turrets (which is the only “mechanic” in this fight).
Bad: Incursion Difficulty
Then after a point, you simply curse this Incursion that throws way too much bullshit at you with its grenadiers, soldiers, snipers and drones. That’s not including the actual APC that can one-shot you. Your best bet is to either hang out on the right side of the room or simply in the pit and shoot the enemies as they walk towards you. Such fun, much innovation.
Bad: Incursion Glitches
And then there are the glitches. Did you get stuck on something in the Incursion and somehow go outside the playable area? You’ll be teleported to the nearest safe house. Trying to matchmake with anyone to enter the Incursion or, you know, return after you’d been wrongly teleported? You’ll get stuck in an infinite loop of loading, walking up to the sewer entrance, loading and so on. An entire hour passed like this when trying to matchmake. Did we mention the numerous exploits?
Bad: Lack of Compelling Story
Why am I trying to rescue Falcon Lost, especially when the JTF is pretty much useless and incompetent anyway? Why should I care about this new Last Man Battalion leader who is heard only in voiceover? There’s no weight to how this event will affect the rest of the game. I know, I shouldn’t be expecting a story in a free update but let’s look at the fight itself. Why does that APC just sit there? Why don’t the LMB just high-tail it when the situation turns rough? Why is there a random demolition man just walking around with the tools to blow up that APC? Why, why, why? If you’re not going to give me a good story, then at least put some decent direction into the Incursion. It’s not hyperbole to say that the General Assembly would have made for a better paced and well written Incursion than Falcon Lost.
Bad: Massive Management
If you’ve been seeing the results of the exploits plaguing Falcon Lost, then you’ll see that Massive has had an odd way of responding. Instead of simply closing the Incursion’s exploit and being done with it, the developer disabled Incursion weekly rewards for everyone. Just…why? Also, even if you got everything you wanted, does Massive really expect its players to have the Gear Score required for its next Incursion? Why does this crafting nerf still hurt? Why did it nerf the four High-End drops from a Challenging Mode boss? So many whys and they do not paint a good future for The Division.