There are a lot of reasons why I shouldn't like The Division. Its relative popularity, contrary to the reputation I've so carefully cultivated, is the least of them. The big reason I shouldn't like The Division is summed up in two words: online multiplayer. I've gotten around that one by playing solo.
It’s nothing personal. It’s not even just games like The Division. Heck, it’s not even other people. I can’t even bring myself to group up with NPCs when I play Fantasy Life, and that makes some of the boss fights darn-near impossible. Think about that for a moment. I am so averse to grouping that I won’t even go find artificial-players to play with.
The lone exception is dogs. I'm all about NPC dogs. I'll bring D-dog on any mission in Metal Gear Solid 5, and I have yet to take a companion other than Dogmeat anywhere in Fallout 4. A dog partner, especially an invincible one, is the only kind of companion I can bring myself to want.
I've tried fairly hard to like online multiplayer. I just can't. It's too much like those group projects from school. You know the ones. The teacher groups four of you together in order to justify grading a quarter of the assignments, and it always seems like you get teamed up with one person who doesn't understand the assignment, one person who doesn't care about the grade, and one person who ate his notebook. The result is a great way to learn teamwork, if you understand “teamwork” to mean “the thing that one person does so the team can look good.”
Come to think of it, that's pretty good preparation for the real world.
My trouble is I never learned to eat notebooks. If there’s work to be done, and I don’t see anyone doing it, then it becomes my job. There are a couple of benefits that outweigh the deficits to that approach. The work gets done on my schedule, to my standards, and I know when it’s done. Most importantly, I don’t have to talk to or coordinate with anybody, which makes any job more enjoyable.
That might shed some light on my aversion to what the corporate buzzword-mongers currently call “teaming.” In online multiplayer, other players are bound to expect me to play a certain way. I can't go wander off in search of loot crates to open, I can't hang back and wait to heal. In short, I can't play the way I want to play. It's not my pace, or my tactics. Everything revolves around the needs and wants of other people.
That attitude, however, leads me to play some games the Hard Way. Take Tom Clancy’s The Division: Everywhere I look, whether it's in the various safe houses or at the entrances to the instanced missions, I see great big, glowing letters advertising the matchmaking. It's like product placement for extroversion. I realize the game would likely be easier if I took on teammates to pull aggro and provide cover fire, but I just don’t want to.
Fantasy Life has a similar friendly-AI mechanic. When you team up with NPCs, they have certain things they like doing, and their ranking goes up when you're doing it. If, however, I bring an adventurer along with me as I craft potions to level up my alchemy skill, his happiness rating will go down.
I'm not quite sure what the penalty for that is, but down is bad in video games. Who wants numbers to go down? Not this guy. I don't even like golf.
Incidentally, this may also be why I don't play Bioware RPGs. Good grief, managing the happiness of a dozen characters? What am I, a cruise director? I'm not running a bed and breakfast here, I'm trying to save the world, and I don't see why that hinges on how much an elf cleric likes my other friends.
Dogs, however, don't expect anything from me. A dog isn't going to swear at me because I didn't shoot that guy with the baseball bat fast enough. A dog isn't going to cluck disapprovingly at me because I did a quest for a faction of jacobin squirrels, thus locking me out of the Good Ending. A dog is just going to follow me around, happy to occasionally tear a chunk out of the hindquarters of some raider who got nervy.
Sadly, The Division has no dog companions. Though I do understand the game has an AI drone that can be deployed when my character gets to a high enough level. As an added bonus, it blows up after a specified time limit, so I don't have to think about it until the cool-down is over.
It's no Dog Meat, but at least it won't ask me to do a loyalty quest or call me an unprintable name if my aim is off.