Unlike many of its online, action role-playing game contemporaries, Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment’s Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is a juggernaut of content and fun. It is polished to a fault, with excellent progression, and a robust endgame that will keep you enthralled for hours on end.
If you were a fan of the first
For over 70 hours, the game took us on an exploration of a broken Washington, D.C., as we waged war against the different factions trying to take over, and discovered secrets, stories, and a world brimming with life. Add to that wonderful gunplay and even better loot, and you have yourself a recipe for awesomeness.
Picking up from the first game, the battlefield has shifted to the capital of the United States, but the main tenets still ring true. A pandemic has swept over the city, leaving many dead and the survivors broken, all ready for opportunistic factions to take over. As a Division agent arriving on the scene, it is up to you to pick up the pieces and bring a semblance of order back to the world.
It is almost a carbon copy of its predecessor, but what The Division 2 does is improve substantially upon the original in every way. Firefights are now deadlier for both you and your foes, the impact of the bullets feel great, enemies are now way smarter, and the world is rife with insightful story bits to find and collectables to collect.
Washington D.C. is recreated faithfully and chocked full of detail, and is a breath of fresh air compared to New York City. There is plenty of elevation, varying environments, and plenty of sights to take in, it all culminates in a space that begets exploration and discovery, all while shooting bad guys in the face.
While you are free to roam the city, it is clear that progression is still structured in a way that eases you into The Division 2’s experience. The 11 different zones recommend a level requirement, and the formula does not deviate much from finding a safe house, searching for Strategic Homeland Defense (S.H.D.) caches, completing missions and activities, and taking on a bounty.
Activities can range from taking back propaganda posts, territory, enemy patrols, and more. All revolve around the excellent combat, and bounties are some of the more harrowing firefights as they increase in difficulty.
Control points need to be retaken and defended, and are vital to the experience, providing plenty of loot and functioning as your home away from home. Fast travel in The Division 2 is greatly optimised, and nothing is more than a short walk away.
All your progress is also reflected in the new Settlements in The Division 2, helping other survivors get back on their feet by completing Projects grant more than just visual upgrades, but also vendors, mods, rewards and more that can set you up nicely.
The freedom to choose what you want to do, with everything being optional, lets you have the experience you want to have. It is less of a grind, in a sense, and more of finding out what you enjoy the most out of a great list of activities.
The Division 2’s missions are also well-designed and great plot devices. Be it saving a fellow agent, rescuing important personnel, or even retrieving the Declaration of Independence, there are plenty of amazing moments and storytelling you would not expect from a cover shooter.
It would be all for nought, however, if the gunplay did not feel up to snuff. Thankfully, every weapon in The Division 2 has been a joy to play with, all with their own quirks, but nevertheless gratifying. You can pick off enemies with a powerful marksman rifle, or go up close with the submachine gun or a shotgun, the variety caters to every situation and every fancy.
The guns all feel unique, whether it is the recoil, the spread, rate of fire, and more. With mods to add on and various talents, it is a minmaxer’s heaven when it comes to finding the right loadout of weapons and gear. A well-detailed stat summary of the various weapons made creating builds a breeze, and you will spend plenty of time trying to get as many benefits as possible from the game’s frequent loot drops.
It extends to the different armour you will be equipping as well, with more benefits than just plain old defence. Although, that still remains vital as The Division 2 has replaced medpacks with armour packs this time round, and it felt like a perfect addition that adds tension to the gameplay.
Of course, a Division agent would have some toys to play with, and the eight different abilities all have their time to shine. The deployable turret makes a welcome return, while new additions like the Hive and Drone give players more freedom to tweak their build.
While certain abilities, like the Chem Launcher Heal and Reviver Hive, are definitely more useful, you can easily choose your favourites and still enjoy your time.
The lethality of your foes makes combat even more enjoyable, forcing you to strategise and utilise tactics when coming up against different sets of enemies. The Hyenas, True Sons, and Outcasts all bring something different to the table.
You have snipers, rushers, heavies, and more all in their own unique style. It can be a suicide bomber, or a hammer-wielding heavy, or drugged rushers that ignore your bullets, the improved variety helps make combat remain a challenging and fun time, no matter where you are in the game.
Unfortunately, that is also an issue when it comes to the named bosses that you will take on in The Division 2. They are usually an amped up version of an existing archetype, and takes away what could have been more creative and strategic encounters which would have made for more memorable encounters. Right now, they just take more bullets.
That is not to say that enemies are bullet sponges, in fact, with the right level gear/gear score, it is quite the opposite. Aside from the more armoured foes, most encounters are quick to resolve with time-to-kill not an issue at all. Massive Entertainment has to be commended on that, considering how bad it felt sometimes for the first game.
While you can play the entirety of the game alone, you can easily join up with friends and strangers online to tackle the harder missions. The new Clan feature greatly incentivise being in a group, with group rewards a tantalising carrot.
Even if a lower levelled player joins a higher levelled group, they would be scaled up offensively, although they do have to play more conservatively as they will still be squishy targets. It is nice to see such inclusivity that makes the game less daunting for newcomers.
Finishing the main story takes about 15-18 hours, dependent on your speed, and that opens up a whole new world of content, five new world tiers to be exact. A new faction joins the fray, and Division agents get to unlock the three new Specializations and powerful signature weapons, and even more activities to partake in.
Item levels now change to gear score, and you will see more goals to chase and progression becomes an enjoyable journey once more. The Black Tusk presents a whole new different challenge to players, with their advanced gear and robotic pals, it is simply astonishing that an endgame brings such a gamechanger to the table, even after hours of content.
As you mop up Invaded Missions and Strongholds, a Black Tusk reskin of previous missions, and fight back once more, you will gain plenty of new gear and advance to each new World Tier.
Get to the current max of World Tier 4 (World Tier 5 arrives on April 5), and you will unlock the Challenging difficulty for all your previous missions. Control points become a new beast, allowing you to complete activities to increase their alert levels, adding more difficult enemy types and giving you more rewards.
On one hand, it gives you more replayability with added challenges, but on the other, they remain broadly the same. The race to gear score 450 propels players to advance as quickly as possible, but the end point feels less satisfying considering how easy it can feel to get there.
You can even get better gear from doing less strenuous tasks compared to Projects or tough missions, it can be a bummer considering how awesome the ride has been up until this point. Hopefully, the arrival of World Tier 5 and increased gear score will remedy the progression bumper and ups the enjoyment once more.
If you are into PvE with a dash of PvP, The Division 2’s three different Dark Zones offer varying sets of challenges to overcome. There are Landmarks chocked full of dangerous foes, while you are constantly on the lookout for aspiring rogue agents that can turn on you and steal your contaminated loot.
The new rogue system allows players to go bad, but not necessarily the mass-killing kind of bad. Stealing chests and hacking terminals can be rewarding without risking the wrath of the entire Dark Zone, but some might prefer the excitement of going full-on Disavowed rogue and being on the receiving end of a manhunt.
While the Dark Zones offer a different kind of tension and fun, the rewards are infinitely more rewarding if you are just starting out rather than for the endgame grind. Nevertheless, it remains The Division 2’s calling card and is still fun every once in a while, although one would expect better rewards for the increased risks.
At least the three different experiences all have their own progression, offering rewards no matter how you choose to play The Division 2. Now, the hope is that the developers will be looking at how to optimise the experience for those at the endgame.
The Division 2 has simply blown expectations out of the water, with a refined and polished base of content, story, and gameplay that is simply unparalleled at the moment. It gives you a gorgeous world to explore and play with, packed with great cover mechanics and incredible gunplay, and a robust endgame that will only get better.
This is how a shared world game should be launched, and there is no reason you should not join the many Division agents that are already having a ball of a time right now.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Division 2 could have been a mess, but wonderful combat, loot, and missions will ensure you have a great time no matter how far you are into the game.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 8/10
Presentation - 10/10
Value - 10/10