- Game: The Division 2
- Consoles: Xbox One, PS4, PC (Reviewed)
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Developer: Massive Entertainment
- (A review copy of The Division 2 was supplied by the publisher)
When it comes to loot-based action/RPGs many have suffered from an unremarkable launch. Whether it’s because of a minimal endgame, lack of loot, or engaging progression system, most take nearly a year to fully shown their potential. Enter Massive Entertainment’s The Division 2, the follow up 2016’s The Division. Despite a few issues so far, The Division 2 stands above the original in every conceivable way.
Set in Washington D.C. months after a deadly virus wiped out most of the United States, players assume the role of a special soldier known as a Division Agent. Tasked with helping rebuild and reestablish order in the ruins of D.C., users will need to contend with three different enemy factions if they want to succeed. What follows is roughly a 20-25 hour long campaign spread across a 1:1 recreation of this iconic city.
Traversing through a ruined Washington D.C. may be one of the surrealist experiences I’ve had in a video game. The sheer level of detail and work put into bringing this world to life cannot be overlooked. Every alleyway, monument, and building is painstakingly detailed down to the wild animals running through the streets. It’s difficult not to become immediately immersed once The Division 2 lets you off its leash.
Some of this is thanks to the fantastic lighting and visual effects peppered throughout. From the warm rays of the sun to the deafening crash of rain, The Division 2’s world feels alive and reactive. Yet, this is sometimes more than just graphical flourishes, as thick fog can blind both and your enemies. There appears to be no set pattern to the weather, which helps craft some truly memorable and organic gameplay moments.
However, most of your missions will take place indoors and Massive Entertainment delivers a surprising amount of unique locations to battle in. From museums to monuments to secret, underground labs The Division 2 gives its players an all-access tour of D.C.’s most iconic locations. This relieves a sense of familiarity to the gameplay loop, allowing each mission to feel wholly unique. My personal favorite was the Air and Space Museum, which had my agent fighting soldiers inside a working planetarium.
This variety continues to the different enemy factions the players will encounter. During your time exploring Washington D.C. you’ll come across three enemy factions – four once you hit the endgame. Each of the different groups has their own support units and methodologies when attacking. The paramilitary group known as the True Sons will typically fight from a distance while the marauding Hyenas like to overwhelm players by rushing at them.
Even though most missions only sport one of the three factions, understanding how to exploit their weakness is critical to your success on harder difficulties. There are also three tiers for each unit, with each successive one gaining more armor and firepower. Most engagements will consist of juggling multiple enemy types, which forces players to think of their fights tactically instead of just blindly shooting.
Once the credits roll, a powerful fourth faction known as the Black Tusk steps up shop. Unlike the other three groups, the Black Tusks utilize a wide variety of gadgets such as EMP machines, walking sentries, and flying drones that explode when they get close to the player. There exceptionally challenging and produce some of The Division 2’s most memorable firefights.
One low point is the bosses, as they just don’t feel special or unique. Most are just beefed up versions of other enemies, which causes them to just get lost in all the chaos. There are no additional mechanics or specific methods for taking them down, just keep shooting until they fall over. With the amount of detail put into the ideologies behind each faction, I wish Massive Entertainment allowed these fearsome leaders to really step into the spotlight.
The Division 2’s story also feels like a complete afterthought when compared to the robust gameplay. Characters rarely get any type of development and simply serve as different vendors. You could replace all of them with cardboard cutouts and they’d have roughly the same impact on the player. It doesn’t help that The Division 2 doesn’t have much to say, which is surprising given the setting. Instead of crafting an engaging plot for players to lose themselves in, The Division 2 provides a barebones story that simply shepherds users from one set piece to another.
You’ll be blasting baddies with a variety of different civilian and military-style weaponry. The Division 2 boasts the usual pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, and sniper rifles we’ve come to expect. These come in different rarities and boast a plethora of possible, random stat bonuses. This can be anything from an increased reload speed to dealing additional damage to blinded enemies. It’s nice that there’s a lot of room for experimentation, which encourages crafting unique character builds.
Players can also utilize a plethora of different gadgets, each of which boasts different variations. For example, the Firefly drone can blind enemies making them easier to hit behind cover or trigger an explosion among a group. It’s these gadgets that really allow players to craft their agent specifically to their liking. There’s also a healthy amount of support and tank options for those wanting to do more than shoot bullets at enemies.
Loot is constantly thrown at the player in a steady and rewarding stream. No matter what activity I participated in The Division 2 showered me with new weapons, armor pieces, or modifications to try out. There’s always something new to chase, even if you are just starting out. For those wanting the best loot you’ll need to go to the Dark Zone or participate in Strongholds.
Once players reach level 30 The Division 2 unleashes a remarkably robust endgame. Taking a page out of Diablo’s book, users can raise the difficulty of the game via different World Tiers. The higher you go the more powerful your rewards will be. Since The Division 2’s endgame implements a power system like Destiny 2’s Light mechanic, there’s still a nice sense of progression. Missions and Strongholds are also altered thanks to the arrival of the Black Tusk, along with numerous world activities.
There are also three Specializations, each of which provides the player with an exceptionally powerful weapon. These guns are also tied to “Classes” that have unique skill trees with powerful passive perks such as increasing your damage with a certain weapon or buffing your entire team. Since you can respec the skill trees at any time and you’re not locked into a single Specialization, The Division 2 really allows users to flesh out their specific agent.
The PvPvE activity – Dark Zones -make a welcome return and feel far more balanced this time around. For the unfamiliar, this activity allows players to fight both gangs and player controlled agents for rare and powerful loot. While some of the items you find go directly into your inventory, rare contaminated loot has to be extracted via helicopter.
Any player can steal your infected goods, which creates tons of tense moments as you wait for that powerful piece of gear to be whisked away to freedom. It’s a wonderful mode and the addition of having some items go directly into your inventory bandages the frustrating feeling of having your stuff stolen.
PvP also returns, although the modes are rather unremarkable. Sure it’s fun in the moment, but you can tell The Division 2 is far more focused on its PvE endgame. It’s a nice addition, but this is not a competitive PvP game. If you’re purchasing The Division 2 for some player on player action I can assure you there are better options out there. Yet, this is an entertaining mode that you can kill a few minutes in if you’re waiting for friends or don’t have time to finish a specific mission.
The Division 2 Takeaways
I’m over 40 hours into The Division 2 and I still feel like I have so much left to do. There are still reimagined missions to finish, armor sets to complete, weapons to obtain, and activities left unattended. Yet, thanks to the wonderful progression system this feels like more than just busywork. Massive Entertainment has delivered a fantastic game that will certainly keep players entertained for hundreds of hours.
Even with its uninspired bosses, boring characters, and comically bland story, The Division 2 stays afloat thanks to its terrific gameplay. While we wish this title used its plot for more than a simple backdrop, it’s hard to deny how much fun battling through the streets of Washington D.C. was. The Division 2 is the new gold standard for online action/RPGs.