I bought into the DayZ hype pretty early on. The concept of a “survival game” was relatively new and I was excited to hop on board. The options for spontaneous collaboration or confrontation with random players in an open world sounded like a blast. Then I got killed by the first player I’d see: over, and over, and over again.
Eventually I too became someone who killed other players on sight. I was sick of getting put down instantly by some guy with a pistol while I had nothing but my bare fists to contend with. I decided to become part of the problem rather than a victim. I’ve heard grand stories of cooperation between total strangers in DayZ, but those tales were few and far between. My desire for that experience went unfulfilled — until I entered The Division’s “Dark Zone.”
For those who don’t know, The Division’s multiplayer component, dubbed the Dark Zone, puts players into a large open environment where they can kill each other or team up to take on tougher AI baddies. Like DayZ, voice chat is proximity-based, meaning that players can communicate openly with other players as long as they’re close by.
The Division’s key differentiating factor is that when you kill another player, you’re marked as “rogue” and a bounty is put on your head. This is a big enough deterrent to keep player-killing at a minimum and promote collaboration between random players. Even though this leads to a naturally less-tense game, the Dark Zone can still produce its fair share of memorable moments.
For example: I’m walking down a street in the Dark Zone and find a player’s corpse with a bunch of loot on it. When you die in the Dark Zone, you drop all of the valuable items you’ve collected, and you must respawn a distance away and return to retrieve them. Sure enough, as soon as I picked up the loot, the person who dropped it returned and saw the whole thing. Even worse, he had two friends.
The three players started shouting at me, saying that it was originally their loot, and that the only way they could get it back is by killing me. I backed away slowly, then ducked into a building as they fired at me, turning rogue. They chased me three blocks down as I ducked and weaved away from their shots. Still, they were bound to catch up at some point. I needed a miracle.
My miracle came in the form of four other, non-hostile players. I ran across them and started shouting “HELP, HELP! THREE GUYS ARE COMING TO GET ME!” Without saying anything, the four players took defensive positions. As soon as the rogue players came around the corner, all five of us opened fire and collected the bounty on their heads.
That’s an easy contender for one of my top gaming moments, and it could only be achieved in an environment where players are incentivized to help each other rather than kill each other. This spontaneous collaboration is what always makes MMOs great, but in games like DayZ and The Division, the stakes are higher than farming easy NPCs.
The Division is a great entry point for those who want to get into the online survival genre. It’s also a great answer to a fundamental issue of survival games: getting killed on sight. If you’re burnt out on DayZ and the like, then The Division might just be enough to pull you back into the genre.