Five days have gone by since update 1.1 for The Division rolled out, featuring the game’s first Incursion, Falcon Lost. In that time, players have discovered ways to exploit the mission into the ground, bypassing weeks of gear progression.
Falcon Lost, The Division’s first incursion, was supposed to be the game’s primary means of end-game progression for the next month. You can do the Incursion as much as you want, but once a week, you can earn much better rewards. What Ubisoft most likely didn’t count on was that players would find a way to circumvent the weekly restrictions and gear up in hours instead of weeks. To compound the issue, players have also found a way to exploit Falcon Lost itself in order to complete it with minimal effort, but luckily that exploit’s already been hotfixed. Ubisoft says they’re working on a fix for players being able to gain more rewards from the Incursion than intended, and are looking into ways to punish exploiters, but the damage might already be done. The weekly rewards have been temporarily disabled, but there are already countless players running around in gear weeks ahead of where they should be, and I’m not sure punishments are really the solution here. A lot of players felt forced into exploiting just to keep up with the exploiters, creating a domino effect of exploitation. The best solution is probably just removing best Incursion gear from players without banning or suspending anyone.
Compounding the issue further, the patch just wasn’t very good. Both from a polish standpoint and a content standpoint. Falcon Lost itself is nothing more than a disappointing, a single room, with wave-based gameplay, and a vehicle that constantly bombards you the entire time. When Massive said that the Incursion would be showing off fancy new mechanics, I doubt anyone thought they meant grenades with a wider radius. Or turrets that must be deactivated from two points instead of just one. And while they definitely made high-end gear a lot easier to obtain, set items are the new high-end, and those are rarer than high-end pieces ever were. Chances are you’ll want to complete one set first before you complete them all, but aside from a few crafted pieces, what you receive from the Falcon Lost rewards are a total toss up, and they have random stats. In the event you get a piece you actually need, good luck getting a decent roll of stats on it. So in a way, we’re back to square one. It’s no wonder players wasted no time in searching out exploits.
This whole debacle illustrates some of the issues in The Division itself. Since launch, Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment have had to play whack-a-mole with exploits, mostly because the gear grind was already laborious and obnoxiously slow. You can’t really blame players for trying to find ways around the game’s shortcoming, even if exploiting isn’t the most noble of avenues. It seems only obvious that for a game like this, that gets played as extensively as this, problems in the game’s design will come to a forefront. It seems like every other week abilities and talents are discovered to have interactions that most definitely aren’t intended, and cause them to become ridiculously powerful. At first it was Smart Cover stacking, greatly increasing both damage and defense and making challenging missions a cakewalk. Now it seems like Triage stacking will refresh the cooldowns of abilities in an instant. Then there’s the fact that Mobile Cover can be tossed through walls in order to access areas otherwise unintended.
For as nice and polished as The Division looks, what hides beneath are systems and mechanics that weren’t thoroughly tested. Balance issues will always be prevalent in new games, especially ones with as many moving parts as this one, but at some point you have to wonder when too much is to much. The game could’ve easily used, and probably should’ve had, an extensive beta test that lasted months, and not a flimsy open beta over a weekend. The Division has been a massive success, but for it to be a continued success more care needs to be taken to find the holes in the game before they can be given the chance to destabilize it any more than it already is.