It’s easy to lose yourself in The Division 2, with such sprawling environments that encourage exploration, to the amount of world events that it holds, including mini-bosses, bounties and civilians to save. This amounts to a massively enjoyable session of gaming, one that rewards your time and effort with plenty, and I do mean PLENTY, of loot. You will eventually feel like you are playing a modern version of Diablo 3, where gear sets and exotic weapons become your life; either get them for your build, or suffer in mediocrity. The Dark Zone (the PvP/PvE arenas in The Division and The Division 2) offers more of the same; clearing landmarks, looting chests, and trying to extract everything without getting killed by either onrushing mobs of spawning enemies, or the occasional agent going rogue. All in all, this is one of the most rewarding and exhilarating looter shooters out there, and definitely the best of the recently released titles.
Single player is… interesting.
This single player experience for the most part is quite, to put it nicely, unmemorable. The Division did suffer from a rather lackluster story, and this is no different in The Division 2. Those looking for a strong story with cool characters and interesting dialogue should not expect that here. However, if you are a Tom Clancy fan, the story, style and characters should not surprise you. Lots of swearing will be heard here; swearing to get things done, swearing to avenge or take back the city, swearing in general. This leads to plenty of bland dialogue, as well as characters that do not feel like you need to remember who they are since they are all talking about the same thing. The story is complimented with phone recordings as well as ECHO reconstructions (think of them as recreated events through CCTV footage); fleshing out more of what happened in Washington D.C , as well as telling backstories of the various characters found in the game. If it came down to anything, the most memorable character would be a toss up between the drone operator, as she gave the most useful pieces of information during missions, or ISAC, the A.I. bot that would constantly talk in your ear, telling you where mission points would be.
As far as the content goes, the entire game can be played as a solo experience, while not diminishing the game in the slightest. The missions are made so that solo players can have a wonderful time roaming around Washington D.C. The gameplay itself is good, reminiscent of the first Division, where players are given an array of skills to choose from. Flamethrowing Gun turrets, combat shields, to drones that heal, there is something for every play style. Gone from the beta was the need to target everything manually, which made for hectic fights where players had to take note of everything moving. Enemy A.I. move to flank you at every opportunity, which makes moving around the battlefield even more essential; a major change from the days of The Division, where foes tend to stay at the same spot and wait for a bullet in the head. Grenadiers tend to stay on the back line and lob explosives at your last known position, which makes staying in one place detrimental to the player’s health. Even if enemies try to flank you, shooting at them would cause them to stumble, fall or flinch in some form or other, making shooting vital areas feel more useful.
Gone too, is the system where shooting armored foes in vulnerable areas just did more damage. Replacing that is a breakable armor system, where shooting enough bullets at particular armor parts will cause that piece of armor to break, making it vulnerable to normal damage. Although it is still bullet spongy, it feels less so as you can visually see and hear the armor break, which makes for good feedback that the player is actually doing something to the enemy, rather than just spraying paintballs until the enemy dies of bruises. The number of enemy types are quite varied as well, and learning where all their weak points are, from bags of drugs that would disorient everyone (including the player) close enough for a short amount of time to combustible bags that would set nearby enemies caught in the blast zone on fire, would serve well in fights, making them that much easier.
Graphics wise, this is one of the better looking games I’ve seen this year. Day and night cycles make dynamic lighting incredibly beautiful, where players can either admire a beautiful sunrise, sunset, or just look up into the night sky and enjoy the stars in the deep deep night. Washington D.C suffers from different weather patterns as well, ranging from happy, hope-filled sunny days to foggy afternoons and thunderstorms that would ravage the land. All these environments contribute to battles as well, as they cause visibility to lower or improve significantly For example, fighting against the sunlight will make for horrible fighting conditions as the sun shines into your eyes, causing enemies to be much harder to spot. Washington D.C replaces a rather lifeless, snow-covered city of New York with vegetation overgrowth, creating a more vibrant and colorful place to explore. The game also tries to show a city on the mend, where communities are gathering together to try to recreate a society, and evidence can be found of that with areas on the map that shows farms being built, as well as water gathering points being set up.. All this contribute to a sense where the city does not feel empty, and life is starting to return to a time before the outbreak of the Dollar Flu.
Soundscapes are well done, where they tried to follow up from the last game. There is not much ambient music while exploring the large open map, and music only turns on when missions are being attempted or control points are being approached or fought over. The sounds of the guns feel good; punchy and authentic, and each gun model sounds unique. Guns make a special clicking noise as well as their magazines start to run dry, acting as an audio cue to start the reload process. Some bits of sound do not occur at some areas though, like clipping onto a rope line in some settlements, which in other areas of the game had a distinct click of confirmation. This can take a player out of the experience for a short bit, but overall it is really minor.
Give me the bug spray
There are still some bugs left in the game though. Floating cans that sound like a bongo being played by a metal drummer as it clips into a cupboard, invisible walls that prevent players from crossing and sometimes boxing them in like a trash compactor from Star Wars, they make for some hilarious clips that are definitely meme worthy. However, these are all minor bugs that can be solved given a bit of time, and do not really pull players out of the experience. There have been, I am glad to say, no game breaking bugs like the first Division, where players could possibly fall through the floor indefinitely or phase through walls. Most bugs that were caught in the beta were fixed before launch, although some later patches did break a few things. This however, cannot be helped, especially with the scale of the work put into the game. It often is a matter of ‘fix something, break something’ that goes with programming, and the developers of the game try as much as possible to fix them as quickly as possible as well.
You’ve got a friend in me
Multiplayer has definitely been improved this time around in The Division 2. Shipping with the release are game modes called Conflicts, which are split into two different modes: Domination and Skirmish. Domination is a point capture mode, while Skirmish is more like a team deathmatch. Players are split into two different teams, those who are fighting to restore order, or those who have turned their backs and have gone rogue. The advantages that are earned in Conflict modes are transferred over to the main game as well, which means that the more time you spend in these multiplayer modes, the more powerful you get in the main world as well. Players can also team up inside or outside of the Dark Zone, where they can choose to go as a group to complete main missions in the world, roam the Dark Zone for caches to loot or hunt other Agents for their loot. Multiplayer does make the game more interesting, and being able to communicate with another through microphone makes for much easier preparation for attack. It does help that the game keeps microphone sounds crystal clear, making it easier for communications to get through to other players, even when playing in an entirely different region. I’ve played on Asian servers from North America with hardly any noticeable lag, which means that information handshakes between servers is optimized, making this an enjoyable experience for both parties.
I feel like Smaug on a Mountain of Gold
Loot in this game is, for lack of a better word, overwhelming. Every turn in this game is trying to give the player some loot. Explore this alleyway, find some loot. Explore this roof top, find some loot. Kill this enemy, get some loot. Complete this objective, here’s some loot. Almost every action in this game nets you some loot, and soon enough players will find their inventories filled to the brim with loot. That is a good thing though, as calibrations (this game’s version of altering armor traits) are now done by sacrificing gear to transfer a particular trait to another piece of loot. This can, however, test your inventory management skills. While there are methods of doing this, like making use of the game’s impressive sorting system, there are a few more categories this game could add into the sorting mechanics; like sorting by trait or by items already calibrated. The amount of loot also means players are required to make more frequent trips back to the base of operations in order to get rid of excess and unnecessary loot, either by selling them, or by using a new mechanic in the series, donating them to complete projects for experience. This can disrupt gameplay a little, but it is a small price to pay to feel like you are doing something useful with your time in this delicate marginal rewards system.
Things to Come
Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment have a massive roadmap for future content as well, which bodes exceptionally well for the game. Things that have been requested from the start, like Raids, are coming to the game in the coming months, which means more things to do. New specializations, which are the game’s version of jobs, are also lined up for release this year. With new game modes, new maps and new jobs, there are plenty of cool new shiny things to look forward to, which makes replayability high and definitely more bang for your buck.