For some odd reason, I find myself updating Tom Clancy’s The Division on my PS4. The Division initially disappointed a variety of people excited for its blend of gameplay styles, but now has a dedicated community playing it daily. I played through it from level 1 to max, and powered through the end-game content available at the time. It didn’t hook me as hard as I was expecting. The mission structure was bland at best, and the story, once completed, didn’t make much sense, nor did it offer much in the way of accomplishment or closure. Let’s not to forget the characters – or, rather, let's try not to forget them – since to this day, I cannot remember their names. After 4 months of not playing The Division, I returned to it only to find myself enjoying its current state with patch 1.4.
Why the sudden return? It was to see if my Internet could sustain an online-only game. Even after I got my answer (good, I can play online), I found myself still indulging in this loot-fest. I didn’t replay the game from the beginning, which would have been mental suicide – instead, I continued with my previously maxed-out character.
The current end-game content in The Division is scratching a certain itch, and I’m loving it. I’ve spent hours doing daily missions, completing Search and Destroy targets for intel, and theorizing builds that could work with gear I’ve picked up during my session. It was repetitive; I was doing the same thing over and over, and yet, I was okay with it.
I started to wonder if it was just me killing time for the sake of it, but then I realized this is something I enjoy in general – this repetitive activity is quite soothing, especially during a rough week. Generally, games tend to feature endgame content to prolong the time players spend with them, and they are not all created equally. In some games, the end-game content calls negative attention to itself, since the repetitive activities might be more obvious or less refined than others, or created as an afterthought.
Franchises like Overwatch, Call of Duty, The Division, Diablo, any MMORPG, and even many open-world games are also repetitive, but in a different sense. In competitive multiplayer games, such as team shooters, you'll typically be playing the same series of maps with the same weapons/classes over and over, but you get pulled in because of the competitive drive, and how every match can reveal something worth telling your friends over a round of beers. RPGs with end-game activities, like, for example, the Diablo series, are all about the loot – killing demons left and right in hopes of getting the best kind of weapon to complement the build you wish to run with. What's the pull for such an activity? It's the thrill of experimenting. This is what makes The Division so addictive – I’ve found joy again in experimenting with the variety of gear available in patch 1.4. The idea is, I collect what I want, and then see if I can conquer the hardest content the game has to offer.
It may sound silly, but there’s that sense of excitement once you find the item you’ve been looking for, the missing piece to what could be your masterpiece. You feel this sense of relief. You feel relaxed. It’s as if I'd been digging in the mines for hours and finally found that nugget of gold that I’ve been told still exists. This probably stems with me enjoying games such as Diablo III, or playing MMORPGs years ago, and it seems I’ll never get away from such enjoyment. It’s a niche market and some people need that repetitive gameplay for a variety of reasons. For me, it has become a way to relax. No story to follow, no difficulty spike to keep me on my toes. Just a constant familiarity as I go through the many hours, with a few moments of genuine surprise thrown in there.
Being repetitive can be a driving force now to achieve success. Ubisoft has multiple series of open-world games that share the same type of structure with regards to filling up their maps with things to do. If you're paying attention, it's plain the majority of these “points of Interest” are truly the same thing you've done dozens of times, but the formula seems to work wonders for their fanbase.
Bungie’s Destiny was a surprise success in that it's yet another repetitive title that does the job right - people flock to it to get the best gear and loot despite its requiring you to do the same missions more than 50 times. On paper, everything about Destiny appears to be against the player, but the solid gameplay, plus the addictive nature of finding the best gear or always doing something familiar are keeping it afloat. The Division is in the same boat, and I thought this game would be dead because of its repetitive nature, but it’s quite the opposite – old content missions that came with the game when it was released still have matchmaking wait times of only around 30 seconds to a minute, and every safe house or hub is still filled with players roaming around despite the vast majority's gear score of 229, proof that these players are packing the strongest gear in the game. Well, as of patch 1.4 at least.
I have this sort of appeal to such titles and companies are tackling the trend head-on, because there are a lot of us that need that itch scratched – that is, the need to hunt. Games like Diablo, Destiny, The Division, Path of Exile, and many more in the same vein have thousands of players doing the same content over and over with no real drop in player activity.
End-game content is no longer about the variety of things you can do every day; it’s more a question of how effective your gameplay routine is. Once the routine is in place and people catch on, a community is born and both the players and developers have succeeded. Community is the hardest piece of the puzzle to nail nowadays and despite The Division’s shortcomings in different aspects of the game, it will continue to strive because of those that still push on, eager to get the gear they’ve always wanted.
Xbox One and PC versions of The Division received the 1.5 patch that comes with the latest expansion called “Survival”. The PS4 just recently received the 1.5 patch but players will have to wait for the Survival expansion to hit thanks to the exclusivity with Xbox. As expected with the new patch, it’s a whole new ball game, since new equipment and a higher gear score will be introduced. The hunt continues and from what I’ve played after coming back, I’ll be sticking around. If you love the thrill of the repetitive hunt, check it out. You might find the same addictive rush in doing something insane.