The Division Is Not Destiny, And That's OK
The much-anticipated and several times delayed The Division BETA has come and gone, and I finally have a better understanding of the game after numerous hours of gameplay. If you are looking for a deep breakdown of what The Division is and what my impressions on the game based on my time with the BETA are, please watch the video on our channel. While I will be talking about the BETA some here, I will primarily be talking about everyone's favorite comparison to make about The Division.
In the grand scheme of things, Destiny and The Division are similar games. They are both loot shooters with open world elements and feature RPG elements. Despite many people’s insistence, that is where the comparisons ends. Destiny is a frantic first person shooter where you play explore the solar system while playing essentially demi god complete with superpowers, space magic, and a bit of a death wish. The Division on the other hand is a tactical third person cover shooter set in a post-disaster New York City that puts you into the role of a very well-equipped and trained soldier who needs to slink from cover to cover to remain alive in a firefight. In many ways, it is insane to attempt to compare these games since really all they have in common is guns and the loot cycle that makes loot-driven games so addictive. For a little bit of perspective, both games have just as much potentially more in common with Diablo III than they do with each other.
Regardless of what people might like to say about the amount of in-game content Destiny provides, no one will argue against how fantastically the game plays. The mechanics and second-to-second gameplay in Destiny is top tier and while the loot treadmill is a powerful addiction, it is the actual gameplay and how it feels to play Destiny that keeps people like me coming back week after week to grind through what content is available. There is a certain frantic zen that exists in every combat scenario Destiny presents the player with, and while everyone has their favorite in-game firearm type, each one has a distinct feel and rhythm to it that just makes shooting in Destiny some of the best around. As mentioned previously, The Division is very much a cover based shooter, which right off the back may be somewhat polarizing for some.
When compared to Destiny, The Division is a slow game. By being a cover based shooter the game introduces a maze-like quality to every in-game enemy encounter since you will probably die if you engage more than one or two enemies without proper positioning and you become much more concerned with exactly how and why you are positioned compared to what you are shooting at. Slower in the case of The Division is not necessarily a bad thing since it feels appropriate for the very grounded in reality second to second gameplay and really drives home the idea that while you may be a special agent tasked with returning order to New York City, you are merely human. Being merely human is not a bad thing since the solid cover mechanics, surprisingly deep combat system, ease of movement, and rush you get from a well-executed sweep of an enemy infestation come together to create a feeling of badassery that is unlike anything Destiny offers.
Beyond the feel and flow of the second to second gameplay and overall combat differences between The Division and Destiny, the two games also heavily differ when it comes to the RPG elements each game brings to the table. Both games feature an extensive loot-driven gear system that in many ways matter more than your actual in-game level, but differ greatly by their very nature. The first difference I noticed while exploring the BETA was how different the drop rates are. While I am sure it is not quite true, I felt like I got three to four times as many drops in The Division than I ever got at any point while playing Destiny. That being said, the majority of gear I was getting was completely useless junk since, unlike Destiny, your gear has set levels and stats and once you find something better, you will just use that. Where Destiny’s gear has built-in upgrades that are determined by luck and weapon roll, The Division features gear that you collect upgrades for and then augment to match your preferred play style. While The Division’s BETA in no way explained it, there also appears to be three characteristics on all armor in addition to bonuses to things like power cool down or xp gain that play into perks on firearms. Lastly on loot, it is worth mentioning how gear affects your in game-appearance. In Destiny, you are what you have equipped. Your armor might as well be your skin, and you can augment your color scheme with shaders. In The Division, your appearance is made up of the gear you equip and then a collection of cosmetic stuff that in the BETA you picked up at random. Generally this system was fine, but I did find it somewhat frustrating to make my character look the way I wanted it to since I was frequently swapping out gear based on stats or being unable to change the color of a jacket or hat I found despite liking how it looked.
Based on what was presented in the BETA, The Division seems to actually contain more RPG depth than Destiny which some may actually find somewhat off-putting since even the very limited amount presented in the BETA was somewhat overwhelming. Where Destiny has very defined character classes, The Division is very much a build-your-own-character kind of game. Everyone unlocks the same powers, has access to the same perks and upgrades, and can change up their builds on the fly with no penalty aside from having to go into a menu. Where this universal build idea might seem like a good thing, I prefer how Destiny has three distinct classes that then have three distinct variations on said classes that while playing somewhat similar do offer distinct variations on role and the nuances of gameplay. In fairness to The Division, so few abilities were available during the BETA that it is unfair to comment or speculate further on just how gameplay may or may not feel depending on build.
Finally, we have the topic of open worldness and socialization within the game. Despite insisting that it is not an MMO, Destiny seems to embrace the MMO practice of having what little open world it has being a social one. So long as you are not in an instanced area, it is possible if not probable to encounter other players. The Division on the other hand is a somewhat more solitary experience. While I encounter other players in the very first area the BETA dropped me into, it was not until I entered The Dark Zone that I started to run into other random players. Jumping into a friends game is almost effortless and they do appear on your map even if they are not in your game, but unlike Destiny where you feel like just one players within a world, I often felt like I was the only agent active in NYC while I explored it by myself. The difference in social feel spills over into the overall worlds in weird ways. Destiny very much feels like a persistent online world while The Division has a feeling of a more traditional single player game. This is actually a point where the open connected world of The Division suffers since at least during my time with the BETA I had periods of considerable down time as I traversed from location to location where I had nothing to do. To summarize, Destiny offers a smaller but more lively feeling world while The Division offers a large connected one that occasionally feels empty.
While Destiny is the obvious comparison, I feel that something like Grand Theft Auto 5 or the Ghost Recon franchise might be a better comparison to make. The Division brings a lot to the table, and in many ways offers a much deeper game than Destiny does, but at the same time Destiny is unbelievably accessible for almost anyone, Are the two games similar? Yes. Will there be some overlap between the two fanbases? Absolutely. Am I really looking forward to The Division because I want a new loot shooter? Yep. Is The Division going to kill Destiny? Only time will tell, but I think the games are different enough that I will be splitting my time between the two for quite some time instead of replacing one with the other.