The recent tech demo of the Snowdrop engine featured environments from Tom Clancy’s The Division and was frankly gorgeous; it’s easy to get lost in the simple sight of frost forming and then melting on the bonnet of an abandoned car. But Massive Entertainment’s upcoming multiplayer shooter RPG seems to have a lot more going for it than just looking pretty, and getting too hypnotized by the detailed surroundings could be enough to get you and your entire team killed.
The world of The Division is a broken-down and chaotic future version of New York City in which there are no longer enough resources to support everyone. Times are desperate and potential threats are everywhere, so the player takes on the role of a shadow agency member who comes from a skilled background, struggling to survive as society falls apart.
When you think of the most fundamental things needed to survive, food and water come at the very top of the list (followed shortly thereafter by a nice warm blanket and a good book). An interview with lead game designer Mathias Karlson and design director Axel Rydby, published on the French YouTube channel for The Division, outlines exactly how these survival elements will fit into the game’s harsh landscape. Interestingly, while they will be central to the gameplay, they will not be directly necessary for survival. Rydby explains:
“Consider that our game is a lot about the fall of society, and things that we take for granted in our everyday life such as clean water and food, they suddenly become scarce resources in the game. Not only do you actually have to go out and look for food and water, but [they] become very valuable and rare resources that can be used to trade and stuff like that.
“But when it comes to having to drink water and eat food to be able to survive, that’s not really what we want from it. Food and water will be a very important part of the game, but players will not need to eat and drink to stay alive.”
Karlson and Rydby also emphasized that resource management skills will be essential to success in The Division, with players being forced to carefully choose where and when they want to use rapidly vanishing resources like fuel. It certainly sounds like wastefulness can be a killer in this game.
Since the player is something of a covert agent in The Division, the interviewer also asked Karlson and Rydby whether or not other law enforcement agencies, like the police, will react to the player and whether they will be hostile or friendly. The designers were particularly coy in their answer, which suggests that this might be something of a complex issue:
“We don’t really want to spoil the intricacies between the shadow agency and other government agencies in New York, but I can say this: The Division is a top-secret agency, and when the agent becomes activated he is activated with an absolute mandate, so he can take control of every situation and deal with it accordingly. So, will he be able to work with other elements of law enforcement? I think it’s safe to say that if a situation like that were to arise then of course they would work together to try and solve the situation, but exactly how that’s going to work we don’t really want to spoil yet.”
It would be interesting, given the player’s supreme hierarchical power, to offer them a chance to abuse it and take a renegade path, either killing cops for their guns and ammunition or simply using them as pawns and distractions in a firefight. Hopefully The Division will delve into some of the politics of a world that is slipping out of order and perhaps even require the player to manage favor and negotiations with the same skill as they source and distribute food and water.
As the new generation of gaming gets underway with The Division as one of its most highly-anticipated titles, keep an eye out for more updates on this intriguing game.
Tom Clancy’s The Division is targeting a 2014 release date on the Xbox One, PC and PS4.