The Division's beta test gave us a nice taste of what to expect from the final game, but many gamers felt like they've experienced it all before. In fact, The Division has been compared to a certain futuristic MMO-slash-RPG shooter mashup that's now crumbling under its own ambitious weight. According to Ubisoft, our fears are premature, as The Division is "very different" than Destiny.
While playing The Division, it was hard not to see how it parallels Destiny. Both have that same mix of shooter, RPG skillsets and progression, open-world MMO-style scope with drop-in drop-out co-op, PVP modes, and that distinctly grindy loot style. And both games have this sense of disconnect with NPC's, characters and environments. Apparently I'm not alone; most Destiny players feel the same way.
Julian Gerighty, The Division's associate creative director, says that the two games are quite different. "It's hard for me to talk about Destiny, obviously, but thinking about the qualities of The Division: contemporary; virus-ridden real-world city; open-world game. There are a lot of differences that make it stand out, so I think it's a modern game in the way that it's a very co-operative focussed experience. Progression is extremely important. So I would say that they are both very modern and different games."
Gerighty's words ring with truth, but the game still has an undeniable Destiny feel to it. Of course, there's also shades of Borderlands, Gears of War, Watch Dogs, and even Mass Effect in there, too.
Based on my time in the beta, I feel that The Division's core gameplay will mostly devolve into the kind of meticulous rinse and repeat grinding we see in games of this nature, with a kind of bland, tacked-on Hero's Journey type story arc.
Hopefully, I'm wrong about The Division. I do have to say that the gunplay is quite fluid and graceful, and playing co-op with teammates is very entertaining. Then again, so was Destiny, at the beginning. One of my main disappointments with Destiny is that you don't ever get to see what you're fighting for, or interact with the people you're trying to save. Sure you can give random New Yorkers med packs and aid in The Division, but I'd like to see the game foster a real connection.
And like Destiny, I think The Division has too much eye candy for its own good. The game's virtual New York is incredibly vibrant and beautiful, but it's a kind of surface beauty that wears thin after a while, the same way that the illusion of Los Santos breaks down when you realize you can't enter 90% of its buildings and environments. Even the dynamic encounters aren't enough to breathe life into the environments, and beauty isn't always enough.
What do you think? Is The Division too much like Destiny? We'll be able to get a fresh take during the upcoming open beta test starting on Feb. 16-21, but for now I can't help but see the parallels.