The Division: Between Choice and Reality

 

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If only we could look like her in game.

Before we start, let me clarify that this is not a review of The Division.

I did sincerely enjoy the game and would recommend it to anyone that leans towards that genre. I played through the entire original storyline, and ample side missions. I’ve even braved the Dark Zone, completed challenges with friends and I will do it all over when the mood to pick up a gun and be a badass strikes me again.

Sure, it isn’t the game reach for every day when I sit at my computer, but I feel that I got my money’s worth out of it and it’s something I could log into anytime and play without feeling as if I’ve forgotten my place (I’m looking at you Skyrim!). So, I’m fine with that.

I really appreciated all of the little tidbits there are for you to find throughout the game to further immerse you in the story; such as the various voicemails you stumble upon here and there that bring the world to life. It really helps you gain a better understanding of what’s going on around you and the impact it’s having on other people’s (the NPCs) lives.

Now, what this article is about is the good and the not so great aspects of character customizability within the game. Try to keep in mind that this is heavily laced with my opinions and personal observations, by no means am I expecting you to agree with me, nor do I expect you to have raised a brow at the same things that I did.

Let’s start, shall we? 

dttxtafIn regards to hairstyles, this game really cut it short, both literally and figuratively speaking. In general, I can understand this decision because keeping hair above the shoulder avoids certain graphical challenges. Since 90% of your clothing options in the game include a hoodie or scarf, short hairstyles are pretty much the only way you can go to avoid clipping.

Yet it still left me feeling as if the person in charge of the hairstyle designs could have found some that were just a bit more appealing and didn’t give the impression that they were all taken from a “What not to do” hairdo article. Finding better styles would have been as simple as googling “cute short hairstyles” for women or “stylish masculine cuts” for men and they would have been able to find so many that were more appealing, practical and easy for them to implement in the game. As it stands, it looks like everyone went in for a $5 dollar cut and said “Surprise me,” right after they pointed to a picture of the hairdressers mother and exclaimed, “Wow, that one belongs in a museum!”

Both Females and Males have 8 Head Options. There are 9 Iris colours which are shared, though a few of these don’t show well in the least and look like someone grabbed some cheap coloured contacts and plopped them onto their dark coloured eyes instead of actually having that colour naturally. Which seems a bit odd when you’re looking right at them.

Depending on the head you chose, you get to select one of 5 hairstyles. Each head option has 8 skin tones to choose from. ex: You can’t pick a light skinned head and pick a dark skin tone.

I’ll create some tables just to make this easy to visualize:
*Take the terms I use for things with a grain of salt, I’m not hairstyle savvy and the game makes it evident in some cases which race it’s trying to represent.

Female Head Hairstyle 1 Hairstyle 2 Hairstyle 3 Hairstyle 4 Hairstyle 5
1 (Dark Skin) Shaved Grown Shave Army Cut Cute Pixie Bun
2 (Med Skin) Shaved Bad Pixie Faux Hawk Scraggly Pixie Slicked back
3 (Asian) Shaved Bad Pixie Floppy Pixie Short with side swept bangs Chin Length off center part.
4 (Light Skin) Shaved Bad Pixie Floppy Pixie Short Asymmetrical Ponytail
5 (Dark Skin) Shaved Grown Shave Army Cut Cute Pixie Bun
6 (Med Skin) Shaved Bad Pixie Faux Hawk Scraggly Pixie Slicked back
7 (Light Skin) Shaved Bad Pixie Floppy Pixie Short Asymmetrical Ponytail
8 (Asian) Shaved Bad Pixie Floppy Pixie Short with side swept bangs Chin Length off center part.

Now from my table, I noticed someone loves to design some bad pixie/short cuts. I also noticed a pattern when it comes to race locked hairstyles.  Let’s see if it’s the same for males.

Male Head Hairstyle 1 Hairstyle 2 Hairstyle 3 Hairstyle 4 Hairstyle 5
1 (Light Skin) Shaved Brushed to the side Brushed back Med Length mid part. Brushed back, shaved sides
2 (Asian) Shaved Brushed to the side Brushed Forward Med Length brushed forward Med length, side part.
3 (Dark Skin) Shaved Almost Shaved, curly. Mini Dreads Longer Mini Dreads Cornrows
4 (Med Skin) Shaved Brushed to the side, widows peak. Brushed to the side. Caesar Med Length. Brushed to the other side.
5 (Asian) Shaved Brushed to the side Brushed Forward Med Length brushed forward Med length, side part.
6 (Dark Skin) Shaved Almost Shaved, curly. Mini Dreads Longer Mini Dreads Cornrows
7 (Light Skin) Shaved Brushed to the side Brushed back Med Length mid part. Brushed back, shaved sides
8 (Med Skin) Shaved Brushed to the side, widows peak. Brushed to the side. Caesar Med Length. Brushed to the other side.

 

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My BDO Character.

 

I know that Tom Clancy games aren’t known for having amazing character creation and not all games need to be. I am not a person that believes that every game is required to give you full control over your character appearance. Heck, I’m among those who have no problem with the fact that Rust randomly generates your permanent character. I’m perfectly fine with not being able to customize my character at all, or staying within realistic parameters.

I was never expecting Black Desert level character creation when I loaded up The Division.

I was quite content with my choices, even if I’d have liked a few other faces to choose from. It just felt strange that the hair options were restricted in an oddly obvious manner such as corn rows only being permitted to dark skin and ponytails to light.

di0l2zaOne other thing I noticed is that after you spent all of that time designing your character, you load in to see that someone had taken a frying pan to their face while you weren’t looking. It’s like someone bait and switched your date on you while you were in the bathroom.

I would have suspected it was a graphic problem, but I am pretty fortunate to have a beast of a gaming computer (all the better for me to review games for you, my pretties). So I sat there staring at my screen and wondering if I did something wrong before loading in, before just shrugging and making a different character altogether.

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As much as I liked the last option which is an older caucasian woman (head 7), she looked completely broken once I got into the game. She went from being an older woman that seemed like she was fetching at one point in time, to someone that had hanging jowls, box face, and neanderthal brow.

 

I tried to ignore it for a few levels, after all, she’d be mostly covered up for most of the games and I assumed that during any important cinematics that she’d look as she does in the character creation screen (PS: You don’t ever really see your character in them) and it’s not like looks really matter here. But after I heard  “Was that really the best you could do?” from behind me while I was playing her, I’d had enough. Suffice to say I remade my character after that.

I know, it comes off as a bit vain for recreating a character for these types of reasons. Particularly a character I’d be primarily seeing the back end of and that would be dressed in winter attire that partially covers her face. But it’s just one of those things that I fixate on when I get to customize a character in a game where I’ll be playing with friends. I’m the one that spends forever in character creation until things look just right and make sure I pick a name I find fitting before I go in. After all, you’re stuck with that character for quite some time, so you better like how they look. Right? Right.

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My character watching a movie at the base.

There’s one neat option within the game that allows you to paint your weapons if you’ve attained/purchased a paint. This is great, but for those that like to collect such things, you might want to reconsider because these paints take up inventory space. I find this a bit confusing since this is just a weapon skin, just like your clothing. So I can have 50 different winter jackets that don’t take up inventory, but a can of paint…yep, that’s going to take up space. It just doesn’t make sense.

 

 

Later on, you get fancy gear that already comes with a custom paint job, so that tiger print you’ve been sporting up to that point would just be sitting in your pocket or in your storage bin. Personally, I like having different skins to my weapons since it gives me a better visual queue of what I already have drawn out and I love my sniper guns, they are my precious, so they’ve always got to look slick.

Now that we’ve got the dirty stuff out of the way, let’s get to the good.

As I mentioned before, there is clothing in this game other than what you start with. Your gear only influences your attire slightly.  For example; different holsters, bulletproof vest or backpacks don’t just change your stats or inventory capacity, they’ll actually change their look on your character just slightly, which I find amazing. I absolutely loved this the first time I noticed it. Some backpacks even have metal canteens dangling from them and you can hear them as you run around. I love it!

There’s also clothing you can collect from quests, general drops or from being a good eykuvvhSamaritan and giving some of your supplies to NPCs in need. Which I’ve got to admit shows some pretty piss poor logic on the NPC’s part. Handing me a winter jacket because I gave you a can of pop when we’re in the middle of winter seems like a terrible survival choice, but who am I to judge? They might just really like their fizzy drinks. Because of all these candy and coke obsessed people, you can end up with a pretty full closet. It’s very fortunate that these items do not take up inventory space, or you’d end up with a pretty big problem on your hands.

I like this feature because it does give you a lot of control over your character’s fashion sense. You can colour coordinate and make yourself a Pink Panther, Purple People Eater, Camo Chameleon or just an average Joe, and if your friends have some of the same outfits, you can wear the same thing to mark yourself as a team in the Dark Zone or wear dark colours so you aren’t as easily noticed, it’s up to you. It’s so quick and easy to change outfits that there really isn’t any reason not to use the feature, even if it’s just to change what you’re looking at every once in awhile.

Another thing I like is that they did retain a feature that you do see in other games, which is that the loot highlight colour (the beam that comes from dead mobs that have goodies for you) is colour coordinated to the quality of loot that drops, it also  has a turquoise colour indicator for when it’s just a clothing vanity item. This way in intense fight situations where you may have to bail early, you can book it for that epic item that dropped before hightailing it out of there. It’s a tactical retreat, folks! Where you get to come back stronger and wreck every enemy you left behind once you’re suited up a bit better. It’s not cowardice, it’s being smart! At least that’s what I tell myself…ahem.

I am really pleased that the female attire is realistic in this game, as most other things are. It’s freezing cold and they dress for it. They wear sneakers like the men instead of high heel shoes while running and they aren’t wearing a bucket of makeup. I appreciate the attention to detail where you find some items. Closets and dressers often have clothes, refrigerators and cupboards have food and drinks, tool boxes for metal and tools. It’s those little things that make me appreciate a game all the more.

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So even though I’ve rambled about the character creation aspects of the game, I really do appreciate the realism. These are well-trained professionals. They’re “real” people, not supermodels with super-powers. They look worn because they are tired and have been through hell and back. They’ve got blemishes, wrinkles, and scars because that’s just a part of life and life is rough.

wkc3n9sOverall, I think it’s a great game, particularly when you have friends to play it with and it’s definitely worth a buy if  you like this style of game. I’m not even a big shooter fan and I was having a blast while feeling like a badass shooting the Cleaner’s tanks andBomber’s packs just to watch them panic before they  ultimately exploded. (I cackle evilly almost every time and I do it every chance I get, as should you.)

There’s an interesting story-line to follow and plenty of things for you to do when you are on your own or waiting for your friends to be done sorting through their loot so you can be off to the next daily quest. I love the way they essentially did “Codex Entries” (I’m sorry, Bioware has conditioned me to refer to them that way) where they are a mix of sound, text and video clips which you can go back to see or hear again if you ever feel the need to, which I did often and honestly wish more games would start implementing this style.

I just would have preferred that they didn’t have some strange face restrictions when it came to hairstyles, that’s all. In the meantime, I’ll just keep wearing the awesome tuques and hats I get to cover up my characters not so great haircut. 

Now go save a city, and have fun gaming!

 

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