Wasteland of The Division
Note: This article pertains only to the PC version
It was only four months ago in March when Tom Clancy's The Division broke welcome ground in the third person shooter genre. With a fresh 1:1 scale of New York to and a combination of RPG elements The Division presented a beautiful and original setting where you could get into gunfights with rioters and criminals in a post-apocalyptic world. Gamers were kind of fatigued on zombies at this point and the semi-realistic theme showed great potential.
Despite some hiccups at launch the game started with positive reactions. Its controls were a little wonky but tight, the graphics were gorgeous, and the soundscape was well crafted. However, it didn't take long for the major flaws to begin to show. Hitting max level took a very short amount of time and this is where the hype falls apart.
No where to go, nothing to do
On the single player side the challenge of the missions was nothing more than stacking numbers - more hit points and more enemies (as everyone feared). Once faithful fans of the game received their first post-release piece of content it became abundantly clear that the developers had no intention of expanding with more interesting mechanics and just sticking with everything the players had seen before.
The added missions only compounded the fact that hunting for loot was frustrating and unrewarding. Frustrating in the sense that enemies could kill you in seconds even with defenses stacked and unrewarding in how exceedingly rare any meaningful loot was found from boss drops. This lead to an interesting reaction from the players - exploiting.
Getting ahead and staying ahead
Exploiting was rampant in so many parts of The Division. This ranged from force-spawning bosses over and over to glitching out of the map to complete a mission with immunity. One particularly entertaining exploit was the ability to gather more than 4 players into an instance for a large cluster of agents steamrolling missions. All of these issues exposed two problems: The first is players learning just how abysmal the loot system functioned. Players who farmed bosses for hours had a chance of never even finding any gear worth using.
The second is a nail in the coffin - instead of fixing the exploit the developers promptly stopped the problem bosses from dropping any appropriate loot at all. This leaves the exploiters to stay ahead while the legitimate players get punished severely for just playing the game normally. The resulting backlash started the steady decline in users.
Abandoning the Dark Zone
Since the beginning of the game the PvP Dark Zone had enough issues to fill out a small novel. Problems ranged from even more exploiters to a mess of loot progression depending purely on the mercy of random number generation. The balance of rewards versus death penalties caused players to have an unspoken truce for the purpose of farming loot in peace. Since the Dark Zone is supposed to have the best gear drops nobody wanted to risk their findings as there was no good incentive for fighting other players.
Later on the developers decided to reduce the penalty for starting a PvP fight. Unfortunately third party hacks started to take hold. In this time frame hackers were seen running across the Dark Zone killing everyone in their path. One developer who was streaming the game even ran across and died to hackers several times during his session. On the player side this was unacceptable - there was no way to report cheaters in game and seeing any recourse for their actions was taking far too long. Again, the result is a further decline in users.
Today, there's more procedural missions, weekly and daily missions and the first Underground DLC is out. So far the reception has not been positive. The fight for higher end gear involves more grinding and more long standing frustrations.
Members in both the official forums and subreddit had outlined the many long term problems within The Division. They had provided examples of what does and doesn't work in other games and gave suggestions in how to approach these solutions. Feedback had shown that if they continued on their current path it would not end well. Unfortunately none of the major warnings were heeded and the state of the game speaks for itself.
At launch The Division had an average player base of 65k daily. Now it is a mere 5.6k which is a 92% loss in just 4 months. This shows that even the users who purchased the season pass at the beginning are not returning to play the new content. Ultimately it is a shame. Ubisoft had an interesting new intellectual property but squandered it with slow updates, poor item progression and no reaction to community feedback.