Tom Clancy's The Division

In The Division, New York City is once again ravaged by a disease, this time spread via money. Unlike the virus from Prototype, this pandemic just seems like a really bad case of the flu. It puts a lot of people out of action, and puts massive strain on health services. When people don’t show up to work, nothing gets done. Essential services are devastated and civilisation begins to collapse. Intense.

But the United States Government was prepared. No, there aren’t failsafe mechanisms deploying food, water, or medicine to the stranded. There aren’t evacuations. Instead, society will be saved by agents from The Division, a secret self-sufficient organisation set up specifically for this situation.

It might seem like a flimsy premise, but it has a real world basis; in 2001, a simulation called Operation Dark Winter was run in the US, examining the possible effects of bioweapons. The Division takes the concept and makes it a reality. Regardless, it’s the context for what looks to be a really cool concept.

The Division is an “online multiplayer third-person tactical shooter action role-playing video game” which is proof that genre classifications are becoming pointless. It’s kind of accurate though. Players can work together or against each other in a persistent world. Even though it’s missing from the genre list, The Division includes some survival elements; after all, NYC has gone to hell. Players will start with food lasting three days and surviving past that will require looting and scavenging.

Even though it draws a lot of influence from MMOs, The Division has no rigid class system. Points are gained by levelling up and can be put into any of the perks, including group heal, automatic turrets, homing mines, distraction devices, temporary invincibility, and more. Choosing skills that complement your play style or balance well with your team is a good idea, but points can be reassigned. Combine this with a wide variety of weapons and The Division is almost like a realistic and tactical counterpart to Borderlands.

Also unlike traditional MMOs, there are no quest givers. Missions pop up on the player map and other unmarked situations can be stumbled upon, giving the player freedom to explore New York and tackle whatever problems suit them. Some regions—known as Dark Zones—are more dangerous than others, and this seems to be where PvP takes place.

There is a central narrative surrounding the origin of the disease and developing a cure to counteract it. How this is weaved into the game is unclear, but will probably involve “story missions” hidden among the others. Whatever the case, the narrative in The Division is nonlinear; what areas you explore and restore order in will affect how your character’s story unfolds.

The Division is, sadly, still a long way from release. And as stupid the phrase “online multiplayer third-person tactical shooter action role-playing video game” is, I cannot wait to put my apparently flu-contaminated hands all over it.

Originally published in HYPER Sci-Fi special.