Darkness vs Dark Zones: The Division and Destiny

In just a few weeks time, a massive-multiplayer shooter with role-playing elements will be released.

Had this article been written two years ago, I would be talking about Bungie’s Destiny. But today, we’re here to discuss Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s: The Division. Well, not really. We’re here to talk about both of these games, seeing as they have a lot of similar aspects. But while they do share some characteristics, The Division and Destiny have some major differences that affect one’s experience with the games. Because The Division is being released a year and a half after Destiny, Ubisoft has seen what has been successful in Bungie’s game, along with the missteps made by Destiny. Understanding the similarities and differences between these two games will allow gamers to make an informed decision about which title (if not both) they should play, as well as evaluating what one game does right versus what another game might do wrong.

Let’s start off with what these two have in common.


Both The Division and Destiny take place after a post-apocalyptic event shatters the equilibrium of their respective settings. In the case of The Division, a virus is unleashed upon Manhattan, whereas Destiny occurs after the invasion of an alien entity known as The Darkness.

The two games can be played either completely alone or cooperatively with friends. There is some content, only accessible once players reach the game’s level cap, that can only be completed with a fully-equipped and focused team. Players are, however, incentivized to work together and grow alongside one another throughout the entirety of the game.

The Division and Destiny are action role-playing games. The foundation of the gameplay for both is centered on gun-based combat, but elements of RPGs are inherent in the various systems of both games. Certain enemies are more difficult and can only be defeated if the player has reached a specific level. Enemies, when killed, will sometimes drop weapons or armor, which the player can equip to improve his or her capabilities. Defeating enemies will also award players with experience points, which grants access to new gear and skills. Speaking of which…

In both games, players are free to determine which skills they would like to utilize at any time once they are unlocked, and these skills can be changed on the fly. Abilities are never set in stone, allowing for freeform, hybrid methods of building characters. How these games approach the specific abilities one can access, though, will be discussed later.

Certain areas within The Division and Destiny act as hubs, which house players, merchants, and class trainers in a non-combat zone. However, both games have zones which are separate from these public domains. Unless you’re in a group with other players, these zones, or instances, are devoid of player-life. This allows for everyone to access the same content, without having to wait to complete a certain task because someone did it before you.

While at their core these two games appear very similar, there are some key differences which make both experiences distinct and valid for their own reasons.


The Division is played from a third-person perspective, with the in-game camera following behind the player-character. This allows for players to duck behind cover and evaluate their situation. On the other hand, Destiny is a first-person game, with the camera simulating the player-character’s point of view. This creates a sense of fast-paced action, akin to something squarely between Halo and Call of Duty.

The settings of the games are also starkly different. The Division takes place in modern-day Manhattan after a virus wreaks unchecked havoc on the metropolis. Because of this, the game takes a very dark tone, with hopes of containing this pathogen being exceedingly bleak. Destiny is set in an indeterminate year far in the future, after technological gains have allowed humanity, aliens, and artificial intelligences to extend their homes across the solar system. The game presents this setting, and its story, like a space epic, with the player becoming the last hope in saving the universe.

The Division allows players to drop directly into the player-versus-player combat zone for all-out warfare. Once a player or party enters this area, known as the Dark Zone, they instantly become targets to other players, who can assault one another for a chance at new gear and experience. In Destiny, players must queue up for player-versus-player matches, set outside of the game’s setting. These matches, spanning from deathmatches to capture the flag, can only be entered through the game’s menus.

If a player wishes to move from a public zone to an instanced gameplay zone in The Division, all he or she must do is walk through quarantine areas and enter the desolate ruins of New York. There are very few loading screens, making the entire setting cohesive and allowing for one to traverse the areas quickly and easily. If one wishes to do the same in Destiny, one is first taken to a menu where one can select where to go. And then one must wait through long, uneventful loading screens. This makes the setting of Destiny feel very unconnected, forcing players to wait to access the game’s content.

Abilities accessed in The Division, as said earlier, can be changed at any time. But all players have access to all skills. In The Division, there are no set character classes, meaning players can create any combination of healing, damage-dealing, or protection skills, in order to create one’s own optimal build. Destiny, however, has three set classes: the Titan, the Hunter, and the Warlock. Each class has specific abilities and gear unique to the class, and once a player picks which class their character will be, they cannot change it.

After sitting down with The Division’s beta a few weeks ago, it’s quite apparent to see that Ubisoft has learned a lesson or two from watching Destiny. The Division has improved on many of Destiny’s core systems, like eliminating in-game loading screens and making the class system fluid and dynamic, while at the same time keeping in line with the best aspects of Bungie’s shooter: cooperative gameplay, role-playing elements, and a science-fiction story. I cannot say which is, or will be, the better game. Destiny is more conducive to fast-paced, action gameplay, forcing players to think quickly on their feet and tackle enormous challenges. The Division has a more tactical feel to it, not slow-paced but more calculated; players will have more time to consider how best to approach a looming threat. But if the beta is any indication of what we’ll experience once The Division is released, I know I’ll be sinking a lot of time into it.

The Division releases March 8, 2016 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Destiny was released on September 9, 2014, for Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

Written by Lee Feldman

Lee is a writer, game designer, and graduate student from Los Angeles, California. As a gamer, he is primarily inspired by fascinating worlds with deep stories, rich characters, and sharp gameplay, with a love of games both old and new. When he isn't collecting rare NES cartridges, he can be found obsessing over mixed martial arts.

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