With Ubisoft’s newest game being out for a few weeks now, players have been working hard to level their characters and get prepared for the newest update coming out on April 12. After playing through the game myself and spending plenty of time in downtown New York I found out that The Division’s post-apocalyptic story was a little lackluster on the surface.

Now, that’s not to say the game doesn’t have a cohesive narrative if you lool. because it’s actually quite the opposite. Unlike other titles focused around massive multiplayer experiences, The Division does a great job of getting the main story behind the game across. From the very beginning you know that a virus has destabilized New York causing chaos among the citizens and that you’ve been activated to help clean up the mess. More unfolds over time of course, but one of the key points to a post-apocalyptic story is missing: as a player, you don’t see the chaos unfold throughout the main story. Essentially, you’re just there to clean up the aftermath – and that doesn’t make it as compelling. You aren’t seeing the chaos you are there to prevent or hearing the stories of the people you’re there to protect.

What’s frustrating is that those stories are located in the game, but they’re hidden behind the collectibles scattered about New York. It wasn’t until my second character that I started to explore and pick these up myself, which is where I found the post-apocalyptic story I’d been looking for from The Division in the first place.

Anyone up for a little Black Friday shopping? 

The most significant chunks of story are found in the ECHOs scattered about the city. Using data collected from various surveillance cameras, discarded smartphones and webcams the ECHO system is able to reconstruct 3D holographic images from the outbreak that you can experience as a player. These images will spring up around you and allow you to examine the individuals present in the ECHO, living out the situation yourself for a brief period of time.

These ECHOs showcase the widespread impact of the modified virus central to the main story of The Division through short encounters revolving around the citizens of New York. An ECHO may be a simple discussion between a brother and sister about whether or not they should bring a family heirloom or it may be a brutal attack on the relief workers trying to hand food out to civilians. Regardless of the direction they take though, each ECHO serves the important purpose of telling the story before the player character was activated in New York – making them a key part to understanding the world of The Division.

The ECHO system is something that feels more developed than say, Destiny’s grimoire cards, but the fact that these scenes aren’t really pushed upon the player is a little frustrating because of the context that they provide about elements within the game.

The Cleaners aren't a very nice group of people. 

Take the Cleaners for example, who are a group of former New You City sanitation workers present during the outbreak of the virus. Once the virus started to spread, the group united and started to burn everything in the city down because they felt it was the only option. You’ll encounter them while progressing through the main story, but you won’t know anything about them besides the fact that they’re generic bad guys.

It wasn’t until I spend a few hours hunting for ECHOs that I found out how truly horrible the Cleaners methods were – like blocking civilians trying to escape with garbage trucks before burning them all alive just in case they were infected with the virus. Granted they had seen some bad stuff themselves (like hidden graveyards of dead bodies containing the virus in the sewers), but that doesn’t give them the right to burn down New York

There's quite a lot of collectibles hidden through New York for players to discover. 

It’s also important to note that ECHOs aren’t the only collectibles available in The Division, although they do seem to have the most substance when it comes to providing information to the player. Most of the other collectibles present themselves as smaller pieces to the puzzle such as captioned photos, audio logs and text files – but they all give valuable information that helps flesh out the world around you.

So if you’re currently looking for something to keep you occupied until the April update drops or wanting to uncover some more of the story behind The Division, it may be worth your while to go digging for some collectibles over the next few weeks.

Photos via Nicholas Bashore