Take Back The Capital: Tom Clancy's The Division 2 Review
Massive Entertainment’s The Division stuck with me long after I put the controller down in 2016. When Ubisoft announced the inevitable sequel, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, my initial thoughts revolved around what the late-game offerings entailed.
It’s all too common to see GaaS or on-going games release and the initial launched product leaves players wanting more. That is not the case with The Division 2. Massive Entertainment, in my opinion, seems to have listened to the constructive feedback from the original. There is an emphasis on endgame content and incentives to keep players tuned in.
Washington, A Desolate Playground
Picking up seven months after The Division, things are looking very different. Set in the opposite side of the country, Washington D.C is in the midst of rebuilding after The Dollar Flu epidemic that plagued the country. Civilians have started to rebuild settlements and retain control, but it has not been easy. Your avatar is sent to Washington after receiving a distress call from one of the active leaders.
Upon arriving, you are dropped in the middle of a chaotic scene. Three factions, True Sons, Hyenas, and Outcasts all run the street. Each of them has different specialties and only seek control of Washington’s finite resources. As an active Division agent, you’re tasked with taking out high-level members of each faction. Freeing up Control Points, Propaganda Broadcast signals, and rescuing civilians all go a long way to resorting what was once lost.
The campaign story itself is fairly hit or miss. A major focus is re-establishing the Division network, linking comms to agents across the country and putting an end to the three main factions. You’ll occasionally come across an interesting character, but very rarely will their inclusion have a lasting impact. One that stuck out to me is President Ellis. His quick wit and determination to bringing back order are welcoming, but his presence is minimal.
The Division 2’s characters certainly don’t take centre stage. Instead, Washington, D.C. is the most captivating character. Massive Entertainment designed the city of Washington to be packed with so many small details and charm.
The most noticeable difference between The Division and its sequel is how much the change of seasons factor in to the city’s personality. The Division was set in the winter, with blue hues and snow covering the street. Washington on the other hand is bright and sunny. Foliage and wildlife have surfaced, the streets feel more alive. Taking the time to explore, you’ll find graffiti, disheveled personal items, and loot galore. Time and weather conditions change fluidly.
Massive Entertainment showed a lot of respect and honoured Washington and its landmarks. Scavenging the streets, it feels more open and each alleyway leads to hidden loot and resources. But the real kicker is when you’re able to venture into one of Washington’s many museums or landmarks. Walking through the real-life inspired American History Museum or the Space Administration HQ is a real treat. The level of authenticity and detail is astounding. Members of Massive Entertainment took the time to render and recreate tentpole exhibits and full plaques that players can read. While the interiors are in disrepair, the chance to walk (and shoot) your way through each of these is a memorable experience.
Unfortunately, this experience is hindered from time to time. The biggest complaint I have with The Division 2 is how spotty the lighting effects are. Playing on Xbox One X, underground tunnels, and dimly-lit rooms can be tough to navigate. In some cases, ambient lighting is not there whatsoever. I experienced this a few time when ransacking a smaller room only to be left in complete darkness unable to see my way around. I was able to boost the lightings in the settings, but it meant a trade off in saturation during the open-world portions.
The World Is A Scary Place
Hats off to the development team that worked on the enemy’s AI. I’d be hard pressed to think of another game that has the enemies run and shoot at you with such bloodlust. It is oftentimes horrifying to be minding your own business, when suddenly a group of faction members swoop in. They come in fast and hit you hard!
Faction members are intelligent and strategic. Unless you are facing an Elite enemy, most will seek shelter behind walls and vehicles. Some have health packs and will revive fallen members of their team. Others will throw grenades with perfect accuracy. To survive, my team and I would always have to survey the group, take out the real troublemakers and then move on to the grunts in order to live.
Much like the original Division, cover is your only salvation. Mercenaries will run up and shoot you point blank with no hesitation if you are out in the open. Suicide bombers can flank you and take you out very easily. Not to mention the sheer terror of seeing an Elite enemy run up and swing a sledgehammer down on your squadmate.
AI enemies are not the only things to worry about. Heading into the infamous Dark Zone or initiating the new Conflict mode places you in the PVP mode.
Major changes in the Dark Zone are seen as the DZ is split into three separate smaller areas around the map. Unlike the original, not every loot item found is contaminated and requires extraction. Instead, some loot can be used then and there, while rarer items require a helicopter to be flown in to extract the item.
Players are now able to go Rogue with a simple press of a button. Unless you have actively gone Rogue, you cannot kill another player which takes off some of the pressure and dilutes the chaos seen in the original. Going Rogue does have its benefits though. After activation, markers appear on your HUB leading you to Dark Zone loot chests. Picking the lock, you are rewarded with gear. Do that enough and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a hidden sub-quest. The downside, after completing a fair number of Rogue actions, you become Disavowed. Agents that are Disavowed have a target on their head, making it easier for white-hat agents to track down and kill.
Conflict mode, the new “multiplayer” mode features team deathmatch and domination games to play. You can walk away with some great gear for winning and completing matches. What makes Conflict so great is that it does encourage players to organize and create balanced builds. Having a medic, a tank, and long-range support on your team goes a long way to victory in Conflict.
We’re In The Endgame Now
One of the main draws of The Division is the loot grind. Building your character to level 30 in The Division 2 is just the first step. Finding enough crafting material, blueprints, etc all play a part of the endgame. Unlike its predecessor, The Division 2 came out of the gate with a robust lineup of activities and incentives to continue playing after the campaign’s conclusion.
The Division 2 at release is what The Division was a year or two past it’s launch. The largest draw to the endgame content is the introduction of Specializations and Gear Score. After hitting level 30 and progressing to World Tier 1, you are given the ability to choose three Specializations—Demolitionist, Sharpshooter, and Survivalist. Choosing a Specialization grants you a powerful weapon along with an accompanied skill tree. The Specializations are a great treat as having access to either a grenade launcher, sniper rifle, or explosive crossbow does change the PVE meta slightly.
The endgame introduces a fourth faction, Black Tusk. Participating in world events and invasions will pit you against this merciless faction. Completion of each event rewards the with what every Agent seeks—high end loot. Once you reach the endgame, your level is indicated by your Gear Score. Obtaining and crafting better weapons and armour will raise your Gear Score, making your fight against Black Tusk easier.
While the first-run through the campaign can be completed solo or in a squad, the endgame content emphasizes the need to play with additional players. Not only will the Black Tusk enemies cause more damage, but there numbers are overwhelming. During the initial hours after the Black Tusk invasion, my Gear Score was quite low. Navigating the streets became a challenge. It is not until completion of a couple Black Tusk Invasion missions that the difficulty became more manageable.
The Division 2 is a worthy successor to the original. With an ample amount of content for players (and a full road map for Year One), there is quite a bit to sink your teeth into. Despite some technical issues, The Division 2 should stand as a benchmark for the GaaS model. A hardy offering like this is a worthy investment, though having a squad to embark on this journey makes it all the more sweet.
Available: March 15th
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
A Xbox One code for The Division 2 was provided for review purposes.