Despite being one of the best-selling games of the year, shortly after the launch of its first paid DLC in Underground, the Division’s developer, Massive Entertainment, began to experience some backlash from dedicated fans regarding the end state of the game. With a substantial number of bugs, restricted loot paths, a near useless open world, and unbalanced PVP, fans were calling for the game to be overhauled before future new content was added. Giving full credit to Massive (as we have before on this topic), they made a bold decision to delay future DLC to instead focus on the overhaul the game sorely needed. With the release of update 1.4, fans were overwhelmingly pleased with Massive as they not only fixed many long-standing issues but added content that had been requested for months prior. Now with update 1.4 behind them, Massive re-focused on the second paid DLC for the game, Survival.
Survival represents an interesting departure from the core Division game. While other updates, Incursions, and Underground utilize your current character and gear, Survival is a stand-alone mode where all players start on equal ground. If you’re unfamiliar with the mechanics of the mode, 24 players are individually dropped into the city, in a random location, with nothing but a pistol and basic hazmat gear. You are alerted that you are infected and your goal is to survive the harsh conditions to recover the anti-virus and extract out of the city. The mode can be played in PVE or PVP and once you die or “complete” the mode by surviving and extracting, it assigns you a score based on what you accomplished. Your score then determines what loot you are rewarded which is scaled to your current gear score in the core game.
Upon first starting Survival, I was impressed with just how vulnerable you are at the outset. As someone who appreciates a challenge, I immediately buckled down as I realized this it would take my full attention. You are typically only given one piece of crafting material in the initial safe house which means you are immediately driven outside to scavenge. Your largest obstacle at the outset is the weather and you need to either craft better clothes or find some as soon as possible. Early on, you simply aren’t capable of withstanding the cold and you will need to quickly navigate between safe houses and fire cans to stay warm. As you are doing this, you have to remain fully cognizant of your surroundings, particularly in PVP as you can be killed in but a few shots. Turning a corner blindly into a few enemies or a player who has found a few pieces of gear before you will quickly end your game. As you are scavenging, you will come across medicine, painkillers, water, and other consumables that you will need to manage as warnings about the infection/hunger/thirst/etc…. will begin to pop up over time. If you don’t have the resources to manage them, you will become weaker and weaker over time eventually leading to debilitating effects within the game.
The first 45 seconds of Survival – random location, infected, and weak gear!
After scavenging for a period of time, you’ll be able to find or craft improved clothing and gear which will allow you to more often engage enemies (or players) which then further empowers you. This circle of scavenging, upgrading, strengthening, and scavenging further is the key to Survival and it recreates the most thrilling aspect of early play in loot games like The Division. Combined with the frequent tension of managing supplies and being cautious of what may lie around every corner, Survival truly earns its name.
Where Survival truly succeeds though, is in utilizing the foundation Massive had already built. The representation of a post apocalypse New York City was a fascinating setting and earned an ample amount of praise upon the game’s release. However, once you progressed in the story and earned better gear, the city never truly felt dangerous. At no time were you truly under pressure from the environment nor weather and you never felt truly vulnerable. Survival takes the setting we’ve already experienced ; a dark, blizzard covered, frozen, apocalypse stricken New York City, and places you in it without any of the comfort you’ve grown accustomed to. For the first time, it feels like you are actually experiencing the setting you’re playing in. In that vein, Survival is brilliant.
The harsh environment is the highlight in Survival
There are a couple of exceptions to point out however. While I grew up on games where you started fresh every time you played and tried to do better each time, this mechanic isn’t nearly as prevalent in 2016. Thus I could see some players getting tired of Survival rather quickly as every time you play it’s a singular experience. Also, as it stands today, it seems that loot boxes, medical bags, and the various consumables you will come across are placed in static locations. So while your initial spawning location is randomized, it stands to reason that eventually you will begin to learn the easiest and fastest way to gear up at specific locations. This seems like a strange oversight and I hope that Massive updates this to full randomized layouts in the future.
Despite the randomization complaint, I’ve enjoyed my time with Survival immensely. It has brought a completely new play style to a game I already have over 200 hours of play time in which is not something one can often say. As noted, playing Survival provides tension and forces me to focus in a way not many games do which I greatly welcome. And most importantly, you are still earning quality gear for your core Division character within the mode so it’s seamless to play a round or two of Survival, and then immediately jump back to the core game with the new loot you’ve earned.
Thank you to Massive Entertainment for not only overhauling the end-game for Division, but also providing a thrilling new Division experience in Survival.