Last time I really liked the original Division because of the ability to play as a single-player in an expansive multiplayer game. The Division 2 has now released and I am pleased to confirm that this aspect is as strong as ever. In fact, the game is an absolute joy to play as it makes you sink hours and hours into it without ever feeling frustrated.
Set along the same lines as the first game, everything is much bigger, grander and tighter. You start by securing the outside of the Whitehouse then straight away you are into the grind of the game. Walking from mission to mission there are many emergent opportunities outside the standard mission structure. People, patrolling or gathering supplies need escorting and usually, they lead you to more loot or collectables. Enemies are plentiful but not spawn happy outside of missions and the world itself is more detailed and varied than the original setting of New York. We now have more open expanses and some countryside in different areas.
The Division 2 continues the addictive looter shooter mechanic seen first in Destiny and more recently in the flawed Anthem. You walk around and continually pick up the loot, whether guns or various items of clothing, each giving you an armour boost and if you are lucky and complete a set more tangible bonuses. Despite this most of the apparel is grounded in reality with your character looking like they are every inch the off-duty soldier. More outlandish cosmetic wear can be found in the store but if you are like me you will probably just play it realistically in the beginning. In fact, the beauty of the division is the same as the other Ubisoft shooter, Ghost Recon Wildlands. It feels like a virtual paintballing session or even a get together with friends for sport. You get this feeling whether in single player or when you join with others.
You will honestly be more interested in the damage numbers coming off the enemies than their motives for attacking you.
The story like most Ubisoft shooters is inconsequential and just continues to heavy-handedly say that when the world goes to pot there are bad people who will try to take advantage and good people who will stand up for the oppressed. Pretty standard fare but it does the job. You will honestly be more interested in the damage numbers coming off the enemies than their motives for attacking you.
The main differences from the original are skills, enemy armour and the endgame as in there is one. I haven’t got to the endgame yet but the sample from the beta suggests it is going to be persistent and tough as the new faction Black Tusk takeover the map and allow you to replay missions against elite opponents. Luckily the new skills are here. When you first get to your base of operations, you will get to pick a couple of skills out of the 8 available. These range from the auto turrets from the first game to drones, seeker mines and the one I picked that seems to send attacking nanomachines at enemies. These all have a nice visual flourish but it will take some time to unlock them all and find what you are best at. For me, the auto turret is a must in single player as you can use it to keep enemies busy while you flank them. Others may prefer shield or drone variants and MMO specialists will look to be a healer if playing with others. There’s enough scope for people to pick a class they are familiar with, and even from the second main mission, you will be waiting for those skills to cooldown as the enemy AI can shred your armour if you get too gung-ho.
The real joy in The Division 2, however, is the ease of everything. You can pull up your map and set detailed waypoints, you can loot as junk to save the later organisation, you can equip on the fly and mix and match armour instantly all without a loading screen.
The main criticism of the first game was that enemies took far too many hits to kill. This hasn’t so much been addressed as justified with the inclusion of armour on even some of the more common enemies. Boss characters have a ton of armour you need to pick off before depleting their energy bar while more common ones can now be seen wearing a helmet or makeshift padding. It still shouldn’t allow them to take multiple headshots but at least it makes it a bit more palatable. It has to be like this in the genre and while the enemies in Destiny and Anthem are alien and can get away with this seeing your sniper rifle bullet being absorbed by an enemies beanie hat is both a cause of surprise and minor gripe.
The real joy in The Division 2, however, is the ease of everything. You can pull up your map and set detailed waypoints, you can loot as junk to save the later organisation, you can equip on the fly and mix and match armour instantly all without a loading screen. Compare this to the much-maligned Anthem and you really can see why fans of the genre hate that game. The Division 2 does everything it can to keep you playing and grinding forward. I played yesterday and suddenly realised a good 4 hours had passed without me really making a dent in the game. I was just following my nose and exploring wherever something looked interesting. It is a real advert for continual improvement as compared to the original Division it feels like there is always something to be doing and working towards. This is before you even get to the new dark zones.
The Division 2 is making a play for your time for most of the year. If the first weekend is anything to go by it may well succeed.
In the original, the dark zones were a bit of a revelation. Lawless places where griefing and risk/reward were at their finest. Over time these were neutered slightly but now with different kinds of dark zones, you can play like the original or the more balanced versions. Players can still take the law into their own hands and go rogue, but it is now much tougher as you start killing fellow agents. With 3 dark zones to pick from and the expanded map, The Division 2 is making a play for your time for most of the year. If the first weekend is anything to go by it may well succeed.