Instanced, competitive multiplayer has been one of the most highly requested features for The Division since it launched last March. The Dark Zone’s player vs. player vs. environment structure was intriguing, but didn’t whet the appetite of much of the playerbase. As an answer to that, Massive has released the final currently confirmed expansion for the game, Last Stand.
Despite being exactly what players have been asking for months, the newest expansion brings persistent problems with the game, its technical infrastructure, and its player vs. player systems to the fore in a massive way. While it’s not all bad, it’s a disappointing end to the first year of one of my favourite games.
The Last Stand expansion has two main components: Last Stand, a confusingly-named dedicated multiplayer mode separate from the Dark Zone’s rogue agent bonanza, and Stolen Signal, the newest cooperative incursion (The Division’s answer to raids in other MMOs).
That, in and of itself, is one of the big improvements over the previous expansion, Survival, which featured just a gamemode and no new additions to the rest of the game. Last Stand feels like a much more comprehensive expansion compared to its predecessors, which is only helped by the simultaneous release of the major 1.6 patch, which independently adds a load of new content as well. While this review deals exclusively with things included with the paid expansion, you can read my impressions of the patch here.
A much more comprehensive expansion.
The new Last Stand gamemode borrows a lot from the likes of Battlefield and Ubisoft’s other recent multiplayer title For Honor. Two teams of eight are placed into instanced, enclosed areas of the Dark Zone and vie for control over three areas of the map. Each of those have three smaller points that must be captured and defended from the enemy team, and can be fortified with turrets and pulse detectors using credits earned by taking out AI-controlled enemies dotted around the area. Teams that control at least one of the three overall areas gradually gain points, and the first to 15,000 wins the match. Writing it down this all sounds overly complicated, but anybody familiar with Battlefield’s conquest mode should have no problem adjusting to this.
The AI enemies give otherwise PvE-focused players ways to help the team as well.
Structurally, it’s a great adaptation of The Division into a short-scale, instanced format. Your team has explicit goals to complete, the maps feel expansive without being too daunting, and they’re detailed enough to result in some fantastic firefights. The AI enemies give otherwise PvE-focused players ways to help the team as well, as by the mid-to-late stage of the game who wins or loses often comes down to who has the most credits to unlock team-wide boosts.
There’s a definite feel of camaraderie among the team. The squad system often falls apart pretty quickly, and instead those standing guard at different points become their own little teams supplying buffs and protection to each other. A particularly memorable moment I had was one player protecting my character from enemy fire with their ballistic shield while I revived another teammate who had been taken out in the gunfight. It’s a nice change of tone after the Dark Zone and Survival training me into treating everybody as a potential threat.
Where Last Stand falls apart is in long-standing issues that have been relatively minor in other modes, but are exacerbated by the speed and ferocity of matches here. The game’s servers are not up to scratch, and so the infamous healing delay and general lag happen in almost every match. Out of the dozen or so rounds I’ve played since the expansion’s launch, I’ve had maybe two or three not be plagued by “poor connection to host” messages.
Hackers are also a huge problem. They were a significant issue in the Dark Zone in the past, but the turnover of new players you encounter is much greater in an instanced mode like this, which means you’re more likely to encounter a hacker here than anywhere else. Players with perfect aim at any range being able to take you down in two hits makes sitting around for the rest of a 20-minute match an utter waste of time, and reporting these arseholes to Massive is a lengthy, cumbersome affair that often seems to amount to no action being taken.
Players with perfect aim at any range being able to take you down in two hits makes sitting around for the rest of a 20-minute match an utter waste of time.
It sounds like a nice problem to have, but there is the very real issue of being drowned in loot after a match. Depending on how you do, you can be rewarded with a number of caches, each containing weapons, cosmetics and equipment. At first this is awesome, it’s a gosh-darn loot party and you’re the only person invited, but it becomes apparent that a lot of what you get isn’t up to scratch, especially for characters at the 256 gear score.
My stash and inventory quickly became full of worthless tat I didn’t need, and out of 50-ish caches I only had one or two bits that were worth keeping. Sifting through everything, deconstructing or selling pile after pile of loot, after every single match is a huge pain in the arse.
The Last Stand game mode is exactly what players wanted, and it adapts The Division’s mechanics well. Unfortunately, it’s let down big time by long-standing issues with the game that seem to become ten times more annoying when you’re on the clock and staring down the barrel eight enemy players.
Stolen Signal is the other part of the expansion, and as the first new piece of cooperative content since the 1.3 update months ago it has quite a lot to live up to. While it borders on the impossibly difficult, it’s still one of the most interesting of the four incursions available.
The idea behind the mission is simple: JTF personnel are being held hostage by the Rikers gang in a commandeered TV station, and it’s your team’s job to rescue them. The twist to Stolen Signal is that it’s non-linear, with each wing of the station being taken on in whatever order the team wants. Each studio comes with its own challenges, be it waves of enemies, environmental hazards, explosives, or automated turrets, and each require plenty of strategising to get through.
It might well verge on frustrating rather than challenging.
The level of teamwork required is what makes Stolen Signal by far the most difficult incursion to date, and for most it might well verge on frustrating rather than challenging. Coordinating with your team to keep the various plates spinning in each encounter can be almost overwhelming if even one person isn’t pulling their weight.
For example, one rescue requires you to take out a boss while protecting the hostage from other enemies as they dangle from a lighting rig. This on its own is intense, but the floor is also electrified, and so one member of the team is often put on revival and healing duties as well. It’s a lot to take in, even if you’ve got a skilled, communicative team. God help you if you’re stuck with public matchmaking.
Despite that, Stolen Signal is a cool incursion. It doesn’t advance the story at all and it’s probably too difficult, but I don’t think that takes away too much from its appeal. With its inventive mission structure, intense encounters and visually impressive arenas, it sure does stand out from the rest.
The Division: Last Stand is an expansion creaking under the weight of its base game. The problem with the entire package is that it amplifies the problems veterans and newcomers alike have had with The Division over the course of the past year: server issues, hackers, a lack of content and loot storage problems plague what could’ve been an excellent closing point to the game’s first year.
What is there is good. The incursion is well-designed, and the Last Stand mode itself is a solid, quick blast of tactical PvP goodness that I’m already itching to get back to. It’s everything players have been asking for, but with not enough of the polish or tweaking needed to make it truly great.
I’m not angry, Division, I’m just disappointed.
A review copy of the game and the season pass was provided by the publisher at a previous outlet.
Platform: PC [Reviewed], Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer/Publisher: Ubisoft Massive/Ubisoft
Release date: February 28th 2017
- More stuff than the last expansion.
- Stolen Signal is a great incursion.
- Last Stand is a condensed, frantic PvP experience.
- Laggy servers.
- Frequent hackers.
- Stolen Signal might be too difficult.
Last Stand is an expansion that brings out the worst in its base game. Independently a solid PvP experience and a great incursion, it suffers because it exacerbates problems the game has had for months.