After 55 hours of playing, I feel confident in saying that there really ought to be an Agents Anonymous to deal with the addictive nature of saving NPC citizens from the perils located within Washington D.C. This is Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, In My Opinion
So, let’s get this out of the way right from the start. This is an Ubisoft title, through and through. Massive Entertainment has outdone themselves in every way, and we’ll get to that, but I would be remiss in not stressing that this gameplay loop is incredibly familiar and addictive as ever. If you have enjoyed former Ubisoft experiences for the way they can eliminate all of your free time for weeks on end as you climb towers or conquer control points, this title absolutely fires on all cylinders.
For the 4 or so viewers/readers who didn’t play Division 1, a little backstory. The United States encountered a pandemic on a national scale, the Dollar Flu. This wiped out a majority of the population and decimated the government. You, a Division Agent (think super soldier), is tasked with bringing law and order back to the remaining citizens (at least the ones who aren’t actively trying to kill you). Did you get all that? Good! As with the previous title, the story is not going to win any awards here. Get the premise, then get out there and earn that loot.
One thing I was asking myself as I stepped out into the Summer sun of Washington D.C. is: Does The Division 2 do enough to merit a sequel? I personally am a veteran from the initial title. I was there as New York was still dealing with the effects of Black Friday. I was there when players in the Dark Zone had figured out a way to teleport around the map and unload entire clips of bullets at once, usually directly into my face. I was there as patch after patch made significant improvements to the game, even opening entirely new experiences to play through. In the age of the “Live Service”, what benefit is there to creating an entirely new title when a few patches can change the game drastically. In my opinion, Destiny 2 suffered at launch for these very same questions, so I am used to being let down.
I am beyond thrilled to say, that this sequel was absolutely necessary in achieving likely the greatest live service looter shooter title at its launch of all time. The bar has been set, and all other developers had better take note.
From a mechanics standpoint, day 1 (which was actually day 4 because of course there were bonuses to people willing to shell out for the Gold edition) went off without a hitch. This should not be given so much praise in 2019 however, it still seems as though companies attempt to save money on server capacity for launch day. Even when beta figures are pushed to the limits, there is always an attempt to shoot for the bare minimum at the expense of player experience. Not here! I got off work and wound up playing until 3 am without a single connection issue. Thank you, Ubisoft and Massive, for honoring the $60 I gave you for this title by actually allowing me to play it.
From an artistic perspective, I just want to gush for a moment. It is so simple to forget that games such as this have art departments that work tirelessly to build these worlds for you to explore, especially when compared to titles like God of War with its mythological world. Grounding art in reality can make the player lose sight of its detail. That being said, these war-torn streets lost to the elements, dilapidated museums in need of repair, and iconic monuments defaced and disrespected are completely immersive. Where the streets of Division 1 felt identical at times, every neighborhood, mission, and stronghold is a pleasure to explore.
Now, the main course: the loot table. The crux of any great looter shooter is its ability to entice players by offering both a massive quantity of loot drops while also providing a variety to suit every player’s style. The loot has to be plentiful, unique, varied, well earned. It is practically a science. So far, I have been thoroughly impressed with the offerings here. There are modifications, unique abilities, set piece bonuses, exotic weapons requiring extensive quest lines, and specializations that are all balanced to constantly reward the player and keep them engaged. With titles like Anthem completely missing the point, this game is very refreshing in this sense.
Clan activities have become a welcome addition as well. As the game has always revolved around squads of 4 barreling through the most challenging content, the Clan system gives me the chance to group up with friends every time I hop online. Clans come with more challenges, rewards, and even the ability to rank yourselves against the world. Every time I hop in there is someone to play with, a goal to achieve, and more levels to unlock. And, so long as we are on the topic, be sure to check the links below to join our Discord and squad up with us.
So, Massive creates this amazing game that keeps you playing for hours on end. But how do they intend to keep you there? For me, it is the extensive PvE end game content. My squad and I completed the primary campaign and I was honestly overwhelmed by the amount of content on display. Without heading into spoiler territory, the map is bustling with new challenges, an entirely new skill tree appears for each one of the new specialization classes that are now available, missions have totally new flair added to them along with new mechanics that change nearly every firefight, and the entire first year of added content is available to all players free of charge.
If PvE is not your thing, the Dark Zone returns in full force with all sorts of new features. Personally, I am not a PvP guy and have only spent about an hour or so in there. One word of advice, I included this under my end game coverage because heading in earlier than that seems pointless because of how quickly you will out level the loot you work so hard for. That being said, with normalized stat Dark Zones, Occupied Dark Zones without normalized stats, and a PvP centric Conflict mode, there has never been more to gain (or to lose) by going Rogue.
When compared against its peers, it is easy to see why The Division 2 is so highly praised. Honestly, I have had gripes with these live service games since the very beginning, and it never felt like any of the developers or publishers listened to these valid concerns. Massive listened. Ubisoft listened. I cannot wait to sink more time into this game, to experience the coming raid and even greater World Tier challenges, and to see what else Massive has in store for us over the coming year. Mission successful, Agent signing out.
Following in the same fashion as other sequels from Ubisoft franchises, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 delivers one of the best experiences so far for games within the “looter shooter” genre. Learning its’ missteps from the first entry, this game iterates in a big way, delivering more content, even through endgame, places to explore, activities to experience, and of course loot to collect, than even we could have expected, while fine-tuning the combat to make fights more exhilarating and teamwork more important than ever before.