EDITORS NOTE FROM Will – We have a guest for this review, a friend of mine – @matisconfused, has sunk way more hours in to The Division 2 than I have, so it made more sense for him to write it rather than me!
Platforms: PS4, Switch, Xbox, PC and Apple Arcade
Publisher/Developer: E-Line Media
Price: £15.49 on Steam
First we took New York
I spent close to two hundred hours fighting to restore New York City to it’s former glory in the first Division game. In the beginning all of my friends had banded together for the good of the city. We had all followed the development from the E3 announcement and the collective excitement was palpable. But as launch bugs became prevalent, content dried up and other big titles released our numbers thinned until The Division became my lone pleasure, delving in to the snowy streets when everyone else was in bed for long sessions running missions, farming gear and taking regrettable trips in to the Dark Zone. I’m glad I stuck around. I saw the game slowly grow patch after patch in to what it always should have been at release, and I grew to love my lone evenings running around Manhattan looking for someone to help, someone to shoot or some gear to farm.
I’ve always enjoyed games that shower you in loot, experience and rewards for everything you can click on. I enjoy pouring through piles of gear, discarding poorly rolled rubbish, keeping some for later in case I change my mind and eventually finding that single piece that will finish off my build so I can go and farm more efficiently for more. This strange addiction has cost me thousands of hours between the likes of Diablo, Grim Dawn, Path of Exile, Destiny and most recently Anthem. The disappointment of the latter from Bioware and EA should have put me off The Division 2, but I had an itch to scratch and wanted to believe that The Division 2 would learn from the mistakes of it’s predecessor and the looter/shooter genre as a whole and bring a strong contender to the table.
Then We Took Washington DC
My agent freshly made and introductory cutscenes watched intently I’m making my way towards the White House, carefully surveying the ground I need to cover and the bad guys I need to overcome to reach it’s relative safety.
The world of The Division 2 is fantastically well realised. Taking place seven months after the events of the first game, you spend your time in a version of Washington D.C that has already begun to be reclaimed by nature and the attention to detail the developers have put in to this is staggering. Deer, foxes and raccoons casually wander through intersections piled with long abandoned cars looking for food, plants crawl up and over whole buildings with no one to stem their growth. This is what the world would look like after the fall of society. It breathes in a way that they didn’t quite capture in New York.
The main story is presented through awkwardly animated cut scenes that play out in between main missions and these feel jarring compared to the world the developers have built for you to play in. There’s a level of patriotic cheese in dialogue that goes against the bleak feel of the people struggling to survive on the streets you’re fighting in. I’ll happily admit that the story feels weak, but the game’s systems and missions compel you to carry on. You spend a lot of time completing missions and projects to upgrade settlements around the city, not just to unlock things for you, the player, but also to increase the amount of food that can be farmed on the rooftops, how much water there is to go around. You see the impact of your actions in the numbers of people that can be provided for and that made me want to carry on more than any cinematic I sat through.
Shoot Them, Then Loot Them!
The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who spent enough time with the original game, but it may also lull you in to a false sense of security. I quickly learnt that there were changes under the hood that would keep me on my toes for the entire duration of the campaign.
Enemy AI has had a revamp, groups you encounter work harder to flush you out of cover, flanking you if you stay in one place too long and working with each other to push you towards danger. The changes to armour and health mean that you can take shots and fix your armour if it’s depleted but once it’s gone bullets will damage you just as much as I imagine they would in reality. You aren’t a super hero who can soak up damage, you need to think through your encounters and make the best use of cover, movement and your skills as you can if you want to survive. This comes across most in the missions, particularly the first three strongholds towards the end of the campaign.
The breathless exhilaration of narrowly escaping death by quickly throwing out a turret and a grenade while running for cover and trying to fix your armour could almost be reward enough but the game knows better than not to throw loot at you after your victory. You’ll have plenty of items to sift through after each mission, world event or project you complete and you will find there is plenty to stumble across.
Content For Days!
I managed to reach level 30 in just over two days with a map still full of side activities I hadn’t even touched yet. There are enemy control points to clear out, territories to fight over, supply convoys to hijack as well as your own to protect, you can find NPCs to practice your firearms skills with in make shift shooting galleries. You might turn a corner and find two enemy factions battling it out over resources and decide to take advantage to your own ends. These are all just things that occur out in the city, it’s up to you if you want to get involved, but if you do you’re sure to be rolling in rewards and experience.
You might prefer to spend your time screwing over other players in one of the three Dark Zones Washington has cordoned off, or hop in to some 4v4 Conflict matches. Everything you do will reward you for doing it, with gear caches dropping in to your inventory with shocking regularity.
Once you reach 30 and complete the final Stronghold mission you are introduced to the endgame. I expected to start running through the same strongholds, mopping up missions I hadn’t completed and farming for gear anywhere I could but what happens following the final cinematic of the campaign is a dump of brand new end game content that would easily be considered enough for a paid DLC release by the likes of Activision or EA.
Ubisoft and Massive seem determined to launch The Division 2 with no grounds to criticise the amount of content. There is so much to do I can’t even begin to imagine what might be lurking down the road in further patches and the yearly pass they have already announced. But I am very excited to find out.
One more editors note, Mat will be doing some more thoughts on the End Game at a later date, so stick around for that!