The first Division game had me in the palm of its hand. I had spent hours on end with a group of friends and we burned through the content in about a month, month and a half tops. Then, we simply stopped. Cold turkey. It wasn’t because the game was bad, but more of the fact that you had very little to do. Sure 8 months down the line, the game turned itself around after losing almost 80-90% of it’s player base in the first few months, but returning to the game after such a long time didn’t sound too appealing anymore.
It’s a challenge for these games that fall under that “games as a service” category, maintaining a healthy base while creating content for the next few months / years to come. If anything, Ubisoft had shown that they could turn a product around and listen to valuable feedback from the community and with spending the past week on The Division 2, I think it’s safe to say that the game ticks almost all of the boxes on the “how a sequel should be done” list. Check out our review below!
The Division is a third person looter shooter game that has been plagued with content issues when it first came out in 2016. Looter shooters have become quite the thing these days, with Borderlands from before, Destiny 1 and 2, and most recently the very controversial Anthem. The main thing that keeps these games from truly shining is the amount of content that their end game has in store for the users and as was the case with the titles mentioned above, the lack of a strong end game proved to be very costly. Destiny 1 had The Taken King patch that turned the game around, Destiny 2 had Forsaken, Anthem has… well, nothing yet, The Division 1 had patch 1.8. While these updates have quite literally saved the game, it seems to be such a costly investment for players who shell out 50 60$ at the beginning of the life cycle only to have around half a year of bad content until that 1 good patch.
Off the bat, I’ve been critical of D2 simply because I’ve been burned by the first game. Will D2 be any different this time around? After spending a week or so, I can definitely say that the game is teeming with content and activities, and best of all is that you don’t even need to jump into multiplayer to enjoy everything. For the most part of my journey to level 30, which is the max level before you transition into gear score, I’ve played as a solo player and not once did I feel the need to jump into a squad mission with a group of friends. The game is surprisingly well balanced and will rarely put you into unwinnable situations. While some missions along the way will be hard, exploiting your surroundings and your skills will prove to be beneficial and vital to your success. What makes Division 2 so good is that you’ll really need to be on your toes the whole time as even an encounter with basic red bar enemies can kill you if you’re not quite prepared enough. I love this aspect of the game and it’ll really force you to think over how you’ll be approaching a certain encounter because God knows how many times I’ve died just because of my negligence. The game makes you feel fragile, but at the same time it’s struck a balance with also making you feel like you can take every mission on even on solo mode.
Speaking of preparations, there’s a lot that you’ll have to do to bring Washington DC back to its former glory. The country has been devastated by a bio pandemic and months after, a coup threatens to sink the last remaining bastion in Washington DC. As you travel across the map, you’ll notice that at almost every crossroad and intersection, there is an activity to do, whether it be to liberate control points, recover SHD tech caches, stop a public execution, disrupt propaganda broadcasts, infiltrate strongholds… The list goes on. As long as you keep on moving, there’s hardly a span of time where you’re not doing anything in the game. These activities are not chores to do because they are very rewarding. Sure they may be the same 4 or 5 things over and over again across districts, but almost everything you do in the game rewards you with a piece of gear, crafting materials, experience points, and whatever else you can fit into your inventory space. If there’s anything the first game did wrong, it’s that you weren’t rewarded properly as you completed activities and D2 has certainly changed that for the better.
Rewarding is quite an understatement because as you progress with the missions, you’ll soon see the fruits of your labor manifest across the settlements you liberate. While they do not give any concrete value to you in terms of resources, it is notable to point out that seeing changes to these settlements that tie into the story are pretty cool. It’s not quite the base builder yet, but seeing everything come to life is very much welcome and is a constant reminder that what you are accomplishing throughout DC is felt by the people and by you.
To aid you in your missions, Skills, or better known as the gadgets that you’ll be using, can turn the tide of battle if used properly. At the start, you’ll be given 1 skill to use and you may unlock the others by finishing certain missions along the way. Skill have a number of variants under them, so let me explain briefly. Let’s say the first skill you unlock is the turret, which has then 3 variants – the auto rifle, flamethrower, and sniper rifle. Unlocking one variant uses 1 skill point, and to unlock the other variants will require you 5 SHD points each. Under each skill, there are 8 in total, you may choose to add modifications to them to make them more effective at their current role, most of the modifications you can just pick up as loot from chests or bosses. As a single player, you can only equip 2 skills so you’ll need to choose wisely. As a small tip, the skill loadout that got me through most of my journey is the chem launcher heal + seeker cluster mines.
While the game CAN be played alone, you’ll eventually run into some missions that will test your patience and this can be remedied by joining up with fellow agents. You can employ matchmaking for almost everything that the game has to offer, from free roaming to dark zone excursions, and it’s a welcome sight that matchmaking here is as easy as a few button presses. Playing as a group is where the game really shines and once you and your group figure out a good mix of skills and playstyles, then it becomes a sight to behold. One example of this is that of a stronghold mission that me and a couple of random people got stuck with due to our default skill loadouts not being able to handle rushing yellow bar tanks. After a couple of tries we decided to use some chem launchers riot foams and flame launcher turrets, well, we basically breezed through that section of the mission unscathed. Finding a group of people to play the game is NOT essential BUT will add an extra layer of excitement and satisfaction to the game.
Some say that life begins at the level cap because that’s where you start to grind for end game equipment. In the Division 2, it’s mostly starting over since the map will “open up” again and again, progressing into what you call World Tiers, with World Tier 4 being the highest at the moment. I will avoid spoiling it for you but just to give you a taste of what level 30 end game feels like, you’ll be doing mostly the same missions again but with a different threat / enemy this time around. You’ll also gain access to specializations (Survivalist, Sharpshooter, Demolitionist) for you to choose from and each specialization has their own signature weapon and skill tree that you can unlock for further modifications to your playstyle. Apart from this, your player level turns into what’s called “Gear Score”, which is how “good” your equipment is and reaching a certain gear score will allow you access to face some of the tougher strongholds in the game that will advance your world tier level. Repeating these missions is not as bad as it sounds because since you are facing a new threat, tactics and approach will vastly change as well. It’s quite an interesting approach to say the least, and one that I’m very much enjoying at this point.
From a technical standpoint, the game handled like a dream, especially through launch. There’s very little lag, there’s hardly any loading screen (except when you die / matchmake / fast travel / etc), and I’ve only been disconnected a total of 2 times across the past week. Comparing it to live games from before, I’d have to say that D2 launched almost perfectly and kudos to Ubisoft for handling that part of the game very well.
I wouldn’t call the game perfect, and while all I’ve said is purely praise for the game, I’d also have to say that The Division 2 feels more like The Division 1.5. This game improves greatly on what the first game was, and introducing very little to actually differentiate it from the previous title. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially for familiarity’s sake, I would have wanted a lot of more “new” stuff. Looking closely, weapon types and skills are mostly the same from the first save for chem launchers, hive, and firefly, so it’s disappointing in that sense. Sure the way to unlock and upgrade them has changed, but I wise they could have added more variety.
Also I understand that looter shooters really have an inherent problem and tendency to make enemies bullet sponges without mechanics but if anything, Destiny and a couple of its raids did well to provide a “raid” feel to it, employing mechanics that you’ll have to overcome to beat the boss. In the Division 2, most enemies are simply bullet sponges and while it’s no different from the first, I also would have hoped for something that would challenge players in a different way other than just pumping them with a thousand bullets. While the base content is a very good start, it’ll be good to see what changes the year one updates will bring but as it is, The Division 2 is a solid title that companies should look into on how to make a good sequel.
- Very minimal loading time
- TONS of activities to do across the world
- Game is not stingy with rewarding players with loot
- Specializations add a whole new layer of playstyle
- Graphical quality is very good
- It feels like an upgrade, a BIG patch, instead of a part 2
- Replaying old missions may feel like a chore to some
- Enemies are still bullet sponges with minimal mechanics to beat
Final Verdict: 8.5/10
Overall, I am thoroughly enjoying my playthrough of The Division 2, and I didn’t expect to because the first game was just a nightmare to remember. It’s a fun experience that can be enjoyed by doing a solo run but can be amplified when teaming up with a group of friends. Washington DC feels alive in terms of how much there is to do and almost every activity is rewarding, enticing you to accomplish more as you work your way throughout the capital. I can’t wait to see what the game has in store for its first year but as it stands now, The Division 2 is a solid purchase that will definitely give other looter shooters out there a run for their money.
*The Division 2 was reviewed on a PS4 Pro via a review copy provided by the publisher