I have a soft spot for independent games that attempt to tackle bigger ideas. Divide wants to be an isometric adventure game with some puzzle and shooting elements. While I can appreciate this, what’s really going to matter is how well Divide unites its elements. Does Divide come together after all, or will its parts remain divided?
You play as David, a journalist who loses his wife in a mysterious accident involving the “so blatantly evil it’s not even funny” mega corporation Vestige. One day he’s contacted by his wife’s co-worker and given a case with two items inside: a pair of contact lenses called Solus that allow him to see and interact with computers in futuristic ways, and a strange black orb that accidentally causes him to warp into the distant future. Now, he needs to team up with a woman named Eris and find his way back home in a totally unremarkable plot that does basically everything you’d expect and not an ounce more. It’s difficult to really care about the characters as they’re all one-note and boring, the setting is “generic futuristic dystopia 101”, the voice acting is so bad that I was giggling more than feeling for characters, and there’s nothing to really grip you and pull you in. It all ends on a cliffhanger that will probably never be resolved because it’s impossible to see anyone caring about it.
Divide‘s gameplay segments all follow the same general loop. Each time you enter a new area, you first have to find its Control Lotus. There’s no direction or anything: you basically just wander around the area until you find it. Once you do you then have to hack it and find the servers for each individual section in each area. Those are usually at least somewhere near the Control Lotus. Once you find those, then you simply need to hack them to open up all the computers in each area so you can begin collecting things until you figure out whatever it is needed to advance the game. Usually, this is a security pass to open more doors, but that’s not always the case.
I really can’t stress how badly the whole “wander around until you happen to hack the right computer” thing is either. There’s no way of knowing if you’re doing the right or wrong thing, besides being a mind reader and knowing the answer ahead of time. There’s a map you can find in each area, but it’s almost impressive how useless the map is. The thing is little more than some brightly colored squares haphazardly laid on top of each other. There was a pair of zoom buttons, but they didn’t work at all. If you were hoping to get any information from the maps then you’re out of luck.
It also means you get plenty of time to get used to Divide‘s clunky controls. Everything in the game is handled with either the left and right stick or the shoulder buttons and triggers. The face buttons are entirely not used at all, a baffling decision since those are some perfectly comfortable face buttons that could be used just fine. Worse, the game keeps trying to switch to “dramatic” camera angles that just don’t work at all, causing me to get stuck on the environment rather than get where I need to be. The entire game I was battling these controls, offering me little more than a constant feeling of annoyance.
Naturally, if the controls barely work for basic walking around and selecting things then they also translated to clunky combat. You have what is basically a giant stun gun and can aim it with the left trigger. You always have to be holding down the left trigger to shoot, which is kind of clunky but ultimately not a huge deal, but what is a huge deal is actually hitting anything while you’re shooting. No matter how hard I tried, I could never seem to get my character to aim in any generally reliable manner, often overshooting targets. There’s also no way to aim up or down, so enemies all need to be on exactly the same level as you or you’ll just never hit them. Thankfully, the enemy AI is dumb as bricks and you opposition often spends their time either getting stuck on each other as they clump up on stairwells or facing walls and refusing to move.Combat is made worse by how bad the stun gun is. At the start of the game most enemies take between two and four shots to drop, but you can only take a single shot before having to wait for the gun to recharge, a process that takes a solid five seconds. This turns most fights into an awkward pattern of “shoot once, hope you hit, then run around until you can shoot again”. You can earn upgrades for your gun as you progress, like being able to shoot more before waiting for the recharge or faster recharges. Those are the only two that I noticed any actual change in my weapon from, and other upgrades like damage or longer lasting ammo never really seemed to change how the gun acted in any noticeable way.
You also eventually get the ability to hack the enemy robots, allowing me to either remote control them to use how I want, turn them into bombs, or just shut them down. Shutting them down never really had a point once I got the bomb skill, as both just instantly killed the robot anyway but one at least hurt nearby enemies as well. That said, none of the skills are really worth using considering they basically required me to be next to an enemy and absorb several shots to execute. In a game where two or three shots is enough to bring you down, this was a waste of time and lives. There also was a power I found to “hack” bribes to human enemies so they’d leave you alone, but I could never figure out how to get it to work for the life of me.
All of this also meant battling the absurd amount of glitches that was present in Divide. At one point, I had to completely reset my game a few hours in after a computer I was supposed to be able to access was inaccessible. More than once I had to reset my PS4 as the game would crash, refuse to open doors, fail to load objectives, and other fun errors. I could easily reproduce glitches that allowed me to walk out of the map, get unlimited hashes (the “currency” you use for hacking) from computers, or fall from the top floor of an area to the bottom floor without taking the camera with me. There were even little things, like character models’ legs spazzing out and doing strange dances when they were standing still.
All of this is tied together by the only good thing in the game: the soundtrack. A lot of love clearly went into this, as the music was always one thing that could keep me diving through the game. It’s far better than any other part of the game, and it’s a wonder that the soundtrack turned out so well when nothing else did. No other part of the presentation really wows that much, graphically the game is just forgettable and when it’s using concept art for its backgrounds it’s hilariously obvious and doesn’t blend with the rest of the game well. The voice acting is all equally terrible, with some special props going towards the little girl character who has this awful grating voice.
Newton’s third law states that for ever action there is an equal and opposite reaction. January was home to some amazing releases, including games like Gravity Rush 2, Resident Evil 7, and Yakuza 0. So Divide seeks to be the equal and opposite reaction by being a terrible release. I guess we had to have one.
Divide was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the developer.
Divide is an early contender for the worst releases of 2017, thanks to its largely boring story conveyed through awful voice acting, gameplay that can't handle most basics in an effective way, goals that boil down to "wander around until you figure out how to advance", and a ton of glitches. At least the soundtrack is really good.
- Soundtrack is Amazing
- Forgettable Story
- Clunky Gameplay
- Terrible Voice Acting
- Lack of Gameplay Direction
- Extremely Glitchy