Ubisoft and Massive have detailed the next major update for The Division, coming on November 22 for PC and Xbox.
Following on from the major game-fixing sweep of 1.4, the 1.5 update aims to remedy some lingering balance problems while introducing a whole load of new stuff as well.
The two major features of the update are World Tier Five and named gear.
World tiers were introduced in 1.4 as a way of balancing the world for players in the end-game by allowing them to choose the difficulty of the world based on their gear score. However, players with the maximum gear score before the 1.4 update never really benefited much from it (and also benefited from overpowered legacy gear).
With that in mind, 1.5 is introducing a fifth world tier. Enemies will be set to level 34, and the maximum gear score is being increased from 229 to 256. This means loot dropped in world tier five will have a higher rating, and so putting newcomers to the end-game on a level playing field with those who took advantage of the broken balancing pre-1.3.
This feels like a good decision to me. I’m one of those players who only got to the end-game after 1.4 dropped, and so knowing there’s a whole new ceiling above those players who played when the game was notoriously unbalanced feels fairer than just taking away their equipment. Plus the gear score increase means there’s more stuff to do overall, which is always nice.
The second major thing is the introduction of named gear. These are individual pieces of equipment which each have their own special abilities and effects, much like the cumulative effects of gear sets that are already present. For example, one of the new items is Ferro’s oxygen mask, which will nerf burning effects and let you move and shoot during them. Another is Barrett’s chest piece, which will give as-of-yet unknown bonuses while skills are cooling down.
These can be found in the normal places where fancy gear can be got, like Field Proficiency caches earned by “levelling up” in the end-game, but the most common places will be in missions narratively associated with the gear. It’s implied these items will be in the high-end rank, and not its own separate type like the teal gear set items.
Named gear is an attempt to diversify player builds in a way gear sets aren’t able to. Having to devote multiple gear slots to a specific set to get its bonuses means a lot of players run with the same stuff. Named gear that takes only one slot while giving bonuses should, in theory, let players fine-tune and give their builds a bit of individuality alongside gear sets, which is neat.
On some more minor notes, the 1.5 update will be introducing 12 new weapon types and four new named weapons. The FrontLine gear set too, which helps buff the ballistic shield skill, is finally coming to the game after being originally shown off at E3 this year.
End-game economy stuff is being tweaked, making it so completing incursions (raids) in higher world tiers gives you more Pheonix Credits, in an attempt to cut down on players lowering their world tiers for an easier time.
Finally, there are some changes to the PvP in the Dark Zone. Stagger’s being introduced again, however Ubisoft has clarified that it will be a much weaker effect than in previous updates. As a console-specific change, aim assist for shotguns is being reduced to stop them being massively overpowered boomsticks of death. The stash is also getting doubled in size, leaping from 70 to 150 item slots for easy storage.
These are all the things Ubisoft has currently announced for the 1.5 update. It and Massive are still working out some elements of balance through the public test servers on PC, like how to make the armour stat less of a priority when it comes to character builds, but overall I’m pretty impressed by what we’ve seen so far.
It’s not going to be the game changer that 1.4 was by any means. What it is, though, is a good sign that the game is now able to move beyond needing to dedicate the entirety of Update 1.4 to fixing months of mounting balance problems and get back to adding new stuff for us to hunt for. I’m looking forward to seeing how named gear diversifies player builds when the update drops on November 22 for PC and Xbox One, and a bit after that for PlayStation 4.