I really enjoyed the initial launch of The Division. It was far from perfect, but I had a great time running around with friends in co-op and exploring the Dark Zone for better loot. Once I hit the endgame though, I found myself incredibly bored and eventually put it down for the last time. I never played any of the DLC, I wasn’t interested in coming back to it. This may sound like heresy, because I’ve heard the expansions and updates were great, but now that The Division 2 is here, I have no need to ever go back.
My experience with the campaign of The Division 2 was about the same as I had with the first title. I had a blast roaming around D.C. with a buddy, collecting as much loot as I could while obliterating members of faction gangs. The Division 2 really shines when playing with friends. The story missions can be undertaken with matchmaking and pick up random players, but it is far better when you have others to communicate and synergize with. I’m getting ahead of myself though.
Since I didn’t play any of the original game’s DLC, I’m not entirely sure, but The Division 2 appears to take place shortly after the events of the first game. Players take control of a Division agent after the SHD network becomes shut down, and agents receive a distress call from D.C. Washington D.C. is incredibly recreated here too, and the first main hub in The Division 2 is set up by the Joint Task Force (I’ll be calling them JTF from here on out) in the White House. This is where players learn that the capital is under enemy faction control, and it’s up to agents to liberate districts from faction control and rescue the president. There’s a bit more to it than that, but I’d rather keep it vague to prevent spoilers.
I liked exploring D.C. far more than I enjoyed exploring New York. A lot of this has to do with the content and caliber of interesting activities and things to do in the city. However, I thought the actual Green Poison outbreak was far less interesting than the flu epidemic in New York. The world of D.C. is incredibly detailed and thought out, and there are boxes to loot and weapons to find around literally every corner. After players take over enemy control points they have the option to donate resources to the people manning that point. Donating resources unlocks bounties, but also the ability to see lootable boxes from farther away. After doing this for a couple of different control points, it was eye opening to see how many boxes are actually in The Division 2 that contain gear and loot. The friend I was playing with loves exploring in games, and it got to the point where I had to tell him to stop looting every box he could find because it was taking up so much time.
A lot of D.C. looks the same, but the major locations provide some great level variation. The settlements, the important D.C. locations, and the story missions uniquely add some variety to gameplay. The story missions in particular allow for some great gameplay moments in a game where the basic gameplay loop remains the same. Despite killing lots of similar enemies throughout my time with The Division 2, variations on enemy types help balance the repetitive gameplay loop. While most of the enemies aren’t too much of a threat on their own, the AI is actually pretty smart. Enemies move and dodge player’s attacks smartly, moving into cover and not peaking often when under suppressive fire. It’s easy to get distracted by an enemy that could be hit and lose track of one, only to find they’ve flanked behind you to get a better shot. Maybe I was just too aggressive with my playstyle, but I don’t remember enemy intelligence being this high in The Division.
Combat in The Division 2 moves at a quick pace. Cover is a must, but players will get rushed by hordes of enemies. High powered elite enemies also become a high threat, especially later in the game when one hit from a sledgehammer can down you in the heat of battle. While there is a decent amount of weapons for players to find, a lot of them seem like ones I’ve already found, just with upgraded stats. Once players find the weapons that work for them, it’s a beautiful thing. Mods can be crafted from blueprints that affect anything from stability and recoil, to headshot damage and magazine size. Once you dig in, there’s quite a bit of depth to the weapons and attachments.
A lot of the skills available in The Division 2 didn’t feel very useful in the heat of battle. Some synergize a little better than others, like my friend’s skill that placed a gas cloud around enemies when my seeker mines were making their way to targets. The explosions and fire that erupted when those two skills worked together was incredibly satisfying, and worked really well together. The others are serviceable, depending on player skill score, but when being used independently, they felt subpar.
With The Division 2’s focus on endgame content, it’s no surprise that there is plenty to do after finishing the story missions. Once players complete the last stronghold, enemy faction The Black Tusk move in and take the entire map back over. It’s a little intimidating and demoralizing at first, though. I had just spent a ton of time taking over the entire map of D.C., only to lose the progress I’ve made by the endgame content. It’s a bit unclear of where to go at first, but it almost feels like that’s what makes it so great. Specializations open up at the end of the game, where players can pick a powerful weapon to take into battle. These specializations open up an all new skill tree as well. What makes The Division 2 so great is how well it respects player’s time. If I was having an exceptionally busy day, I could pop on for a couple hours and actually feel like I’ve made significant progress in the world. Not having much time a day didn’t mean I fell behind. After the Black Tusk moves in though, it’s a different story. The main path was set for me my first run, missions had level ratios where I should be before I attempted it. Once in the endgame The Division 2 almost says “hey, do what you want, just have fun.”
It took me a while to understand the endgame, but it made sense once I just started going. The World Tier ranks up as the strongholds are defeated, and gear score is an essential gameplay piece moving into the endgame. Once World Tier 4 hits, score becomes less important compared to the perks on each item, and players can start focusing on gear sets instead of the number attached to each item. In addition to ranking up World Tiers, players can enter the Dark Zone to find new gear and take down rogue agents. I didn’t spend too much time in the Dark Zone, because the rest of the endgame was so meaty, but I expect to go back in once the first major update arrives in early April.
With the endgame mess that The Division was when it launched a few years ago, it was nice to see Ubisoft’s focus on their core players right at the outset for The Division 2. Building with an “endgame first” philosophy was a smart move, because that’s where people are going to spend most of their time here. The meaty campaign is a great beginning, but the world and gear building really gets good after taking back Capital Hill and liberating D.C. from enemy factions. The Division 2 is a really strong foundation for the updates and future content to come, and takes everything that made The Division really great and makes it even better.
The Division 2 is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on an Xbox One copy of the game purchased by the writer.
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