Today it was announced that Brooklyn, one of New York City’s five boroughs, would not appear in Ubisoft’s upcoming shooter The Division. To some this may not sound like a big deal, while to others it was a surprise after seeing previous in-game footage of the Brooklyn area.
The developers have stated that the game’s story and action will be centered around Midtown Manhattan, and none of the other boroughs would be included either. Though they assure there will be plenty to do and discover in their newly focused map, players can’t help but mourn the experience that could have been, be it due to lost opportunities, misleading previews, or otherwise.
Loss of Diversity
If you’ve never been to NYC, you may not know that it consists of five separate boroughs. Each of the boroughs brings a unique flair with Manhattan being the more iconic, metropolis-like area. Brooklyn is the more industrial region of the city, although it’s also home to some affluent neighborhoods and sections with towers that rival those found elsewhere in the city.
In video games set in New York, players rarely get the opportunity to leave the center of the city. The Division offered not only a chance to leave the confines of an area that’s been used to death in gaming, but it offered a painstakingly detailed creation of the new area – different structures, a departure from Manhattan’s crowded streets, large parks, beautiful areas located under around the bridges keeping the city connected, and more. There’s also the opportunity for The Division to showcase more landmarks other than just the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower.
Fighting your way into the city from a borough other than Queens (which has had its fair share of game representation) would have made the first in-game view of the now-barren skyscrapers of NYC all the more special.
One of the downsides of Brooklyn no longer being a part of The Division’s offerings is the sudden partial deflation of the hype bubble the game had been pumping since 2013. For three years Brooklyn was used to show off just how incredibly immersive this game would be. A month ago, just a week before Christmas, Ubisoft released a live action trailer set in the very same area of Brooklyn as the first gameplay reveal.
The hype train was rolling, and everyone was getting ready to hop on as it took us into the farthest reaches of The Division’s New York. But now, shortly before the game’s highly anticipated release, that area is no more. According to the devs, it’s because they took a look at the world and realized that it must all be traversed on foot. With them looking for a direct re-creation, it would seem odd to force players to walk across the large grid as they made their way towards quest waypoints.
It’s unfortunate that this was realized now of all times, when the game’s hype is possibly at its highest as the looming Beta moved closer. Now, expectations will be shifted. The Division has always been more than its gameplay, Ubisoft made sure of that from the start when they showed off several maps, but the world has shrunk quite a bit between its initial showing to now.
What Happened to the Brooklyn We Saw Before?
The confinement to Midtown Manhattan was in the interest of The Division’s mechanics and narrative, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Developers certainly have creative freedom to do what they feel is right, and Ubisoft undoubtedly thought long and hard about this. But the question remains: what happened to the content no longer being released in the base game?
The Division had a few gameplay trailers and Brooklyn played a prominent role in just about all of them. The areas used in the demos look pretty much complete, and the view across the East River is stunning. From the outside looking in, it seems as if everything was set. Now that it’s gone, one can’t help wonder what happened to all of the beautiful areas we were shown, especially the Dumbo neighborhood near the Manhattan Bridge.
It’s already known that there will definitely be DLC for the Division, and it’s hard to believe that Ubisoft would just scrap all of the hard work done by Massive in recreating such a large section of Brooklyn. There is a chance the area may appear later down the line as DLC. With the studio going for an MMO feel, such an expansion could be how they plan to keep players engaged and invested in the experience.
New areas are one way to grab attention for a long period of time, whether it’s for strictly endgame content (such as Destiny’s raids), or for full on exploration and a new story, like The Witcher 3’s upcoming Blood and Wine expansion.
Midtown Manhattan Has A Heavy Load to Carry
All the weight of The Division’s massive amounts of content has been placed upon one remaining area, Midtown Manhattan. It is a location that has seen the video game spotlight before, so it is more than prepared. There are plenty of streets, alleys, and buildings to explore as players work to take back control of the city and reestablish society.
But as the other boroughs have lit the way in teasers and trailers, and just under two months until launch and a Beta on the horizon, it’s time to the only area left standing to make a case for itself. The Division has suddenly become a much more compact game than it was just a month ago, but it will be interesting to see what that means for players when they finally get their hands on it.
How successfully can Midtown Manhattan pick up speed before release? Will it hold up to what we’ve seen and heard so far? We’ll have to wait and see.
The Division is set to release Mar. 8 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.