So, I’m having a good deal of fun with The Division. I’ve been slowly working my way through the game, strengthening up my character and edging my way ever so nearer to that almighty level cap of level 30. But here’s the thing – I don’t really want to be almighty. Because then I’ll be in end game content. And, personally, that’s where the fun levels tend to start taking a nose dive. This is not a new phenomena; it’s something I’ve learnt from playing many an RPG and other genre-bending games like Destiny. You spend all that time struggling to the top of the mountain, and all of a sudden the cliffs you scaled seem like the much more appealing place to be. But why? Endgame content is meant to be the pinnacle of the game, one of the big highlights of your experience and something to really sink your teeth into – why do I have such negative reactions to it?
Well, I think there’s many a reason. Let’s start with one of the big ones – endgame content sees your sense of progression grind to an almost standstill. You see, up until this point, the game’s always been giving you something to aim for, a tangible goal for you to finally reach. Whether it’s the next level up, a new area, whatever – your progression is always steadily continuing. Yet then the endgame crashes into view, and such steady progress vanishes. Now, nine times out of ten, you’re merely faced with the grind; the endless repetition of the same tasks over and over to slowly build yourself into something stronger.
And the key word there is most certainly slowly. The time between your successes was fairly limited before, a couple of hours at most. Now, as you bend under the will of the game’s design and plead mercy to the random number generator gods, days can pass with little to no progress at all. It’s disheartening, because the joy of your achievements is stripped away so much – even finally obtaining a rare and super item is often nulled by the realisation it’s taken you so long to obtain it.
In reality, this simple fact that everything takes a significant time investment is another issue I have. This doesn’t just always come in the shape of having to grind out your gear, however, even though that does play a massive factor in everything. It also comes in the way that any new levels or challenges presented to you by endgame content can take a major amount of time to master. Not only do you have to learn what to do, but the sheer act of doing it can provide a massive time sink. Bosses take a herculean amount of time to topple, puzzles get bigger and more complex, and it’s all a bit much. The thing is, I’m a busy man. I’m in work for most of the day, and nowadays there are many other things that I want to be doing with my time that aren’t videogames (gasp!). It’s quite often the fact I simply don’t have the time to invest into endgame content – hours of grinding away at a new gun can more often than not be a big ask of my time nowadays.
To go in perfect partnership with the issue of time, the fact that endgame content is incredibly difficult can also prove to be a problem. “Duh”, you say, “It’s the endgame; it’s blatantly not meant to be easy!”. And that’s fair enough – I accept this stuff is meant to be a test of all the skills you’ve learnt so far, a true chance to test your might against the grandest of them all. I’m not going to sit here and suggest that the difficulty of such content should be lowered – to do so would completely bugger the point of it existing – but the reality remains that after a busy day, having to severely focus my efforts into something like this is a pretty big deal. More often than that I just want to chill out, casually shooting some guys, perhaps even just have a nice wander about. I don’t want to be draining all my energy and willpower into learning and mastering something, all in the hope (but not the certainty) of getting a cool new set of kneepads. Perhaps that’s just me being really lazy, looking for the easiest point from A to B which lets me put in as little an effort as possible. That’s probably partially true, but it’s also hard to deny that even the most determined of souls is going to have their time and patience tried at some points by such content.
There is, of course, a way much endgame content is designed to be played, and a way much of it is made far easier as a result – get your friends in to help. But as a primarily solo gamer, being forced to team up with others to play the endgame is neither easy nor appealing. I don’t have many gaming friends (Shed a tear for me), so having to try form a team with them and get the most out a game’s finale is a disheartening and near-impossible experience. Sure, there’s often the option to team up with a bunch of random folks online, but this naturally isn’t an entirely optimal solution. If you’re anything like me, the chances are you’ll get stuck with players who have no idea what they’re doing, or the ten year old screaming expletives down the microphone at you. Besides, the reality is I quite often just want to play a game by myself, and don’t want the company of others shoved into my face. For endgame content in many ways to be completely locked out from me because of this fact often feels like a really weird decision.
I concede that all these issues have often not stopped me from sinking many an hour into a game’s final hurrah – it’s happened before, and with The Division it’s probably going to happen again. It doesn’t change the fact, however, that the highlights of the game to me have long since passed as I begin to proceed down the endless path of the endgame. It’s a shame this is the case, and I don’t see my opinions being shifted any time soon – I just wish that the end of the line could one day be met with more excitement than trepidation.