The Division 2 dropped over five months ago now, and what a ride it has been. With the release of the new Year One DLC, it’s time to look back at the game and reflect on what has changed since the first Division, what has changed since launch, and what can be improved.
MACRO – THE BIG PICTURE
Changes from The Division:
Since the game’s developmental stages, focusing on “endgame content” has been Massive’s pitch to their fans, which is something The Division lacked across the board. In The Division 2, they made good on that promise with the number of things for players to pursue, including the franchise’s first ever raid, Dark Hours.
While the normal raid might be too difficult for some players to tackle, especially those that prefer solo-ops, the checkpoint alert level activity can provide a solid alternative challenge. There are bounties of various difficulties, ranking from normal all the way to heroic. There’s three different Dark Zones to explore. There’s the Conflict game mode. The weekly rotating Invasion event provides new challenges and twists to previously cleared missions, which unlock the Tidal Basin stronghold once cleared. With the release of the latest DLC, Episode 1 – D.C. Outskirts, they provided two new missions and an entirely new activity called Expeditions. While it may not have been a complete smash in terms of excitement and replay value, it did add to an already stacked catalogue of game activities.
All in all, there isn’t a shadow of a doubt as to whether or not The Division 2 outclassed its predecessor in terms of sheer content. The game presents a smorgasbord of activities for the players to experience, no matter whether you’re a casual gamer or a hardcore player looking for the next challenge. However, that wasn’t without a cost.
Changes since the launch of The Division 2:
The addition of new areas to explore and things to do has been a welcome addition to the game. While not at all short in terms of game length, the base Division 2 missions played out in around 25-30 hours. This meant that players who wanted to stick it out had to play the same missions over and over in order to grind for loot that they wanted. This made for boring runs, as players would know where enemies would spawn from and just camp those spawn points.
The DLC tried to mitigate the monotony a little by adding areas to explore and missions to finish, like the gorgeously designed Manning National Zoo and Kenly College. However, as far as mission types go, they are still pretty much standard for The Division 2–getting from point A to point B and killing everything in your path. This quickly brought back the monotony, as it was no different from the other ten-odd missions you had to go through in the main game.
THE MICRO – THE FINER DETAILS
It’s unfortunate to say, but it seems like, by focusing so much of their attention on the “big picture,” or “end game content,” Massive allowed a lot of the smaller things managed to slip through the cracks. Smaller things that were addressed much better in The Division, mind you.
The loot system in The Division 2 is absolutely atrocious. Even at the highest difficulty of World Tier 5, doing the hardest activities—Level 4 control points, the raid, and heroic difficulty missions—the chances of you getting a decent piece of gear are slim to none.
It’s the Diablo-inspired game approach of grinding mindlessly for the smallest chance of profiting, and it’s generally hated across the board. And there’s such a limited amount of variety in the stats and abilities, it makes the grind that much more brutal. In fact, coupling the poor loot system with an even less rewarding vendor system—namely, the fact that higher level clans do not have access to all the gear being sold by the vendors in clans of lower levels—has led to the “clan hopping” trend, in which players will join a clan specifically to purchase a good piece of gear from the vendor (usually a level 16 or 20 clan) and then leave immediately after.
That’s what it’s come to in order to get gear with decent rolls/attributes. Notice I said decent; they aren’t even great.
Upgrading that gear once you’ve done anything to get it is also another issue. The recalibration feature in The Division wasn’t perfect, but it was much better than what they’ve given us in The Division 2. Not only does it cost an arm and a leg to transfer perks/stats, but they’ve curtailed what you can transfer and where it can be transferred to even more so than in The Division.
I’m also not sure what they did to the money system in the game? After over a hundred hours of gameplay, I didn’t expect to be as broke as the first moment my agent was dropped into D.C. Strange.
Changes since the launch of The Division 2:
The Division 2 has tried to be incredibly inclusive to every player in the game, with Year One pass holders getting no more than cosmetic changes to their weapons or outfits to distinguish themselves from players who did not buy a season pass. Oh wait, I missed out on the need for base-game players to unlock the newest specialization the game had to offer: the Mini-gunner. While that provided a waste of time, the number of tasks that had to be fulfilled were too many–five stages of five varying tasks that forced players to use what the game had to offer. While this was probably a push to prevent the game from becoming too one-weapon centric (assault rifles have been dominating the current meta), the fact that they have not done anything to change the way the other weapons work, be it in damage numbers or builds, has caused the whole concept to fall right on its ass. The idea had the potential to make players decide on which weapons would be suitable for them and change up the game. However, when nothing changed to either nerf assault rifles or buff the other weapons, it just went back to the status quo.
I do love the emphasis on builds though. While the calibration system may be a pain to go through, the ability to build your character to exploit a particular system has been enjoyable. Creating builds that can land you one-shot kills with a sniper rifle? Gotcha. A build for a rapid-fire assault rifle that can burst the enemy down so quick DPS numbers look out of this world? You do you. Finding the right build has been thoroughly explored in this game, and the introduction of new exotic grade items and weapons have boosted this to a certain extent. Farming now has more of a purpose, instead of the beginning where it was all down to the stat numbers game. That still exists, don’t get me wrong, but at least exotics provide a welcome distraction. While there are a lot of differences between The Division and The Division 2, and the game has made some serious strides in bettering itself since its launch, it still isn’t without its flaws. They say the devil is in the details, and hopefully, that is something Ubisoft takes to heart moving forward. Fortunately for the players, they appear to be focusing on player feedback for future updates, with a keen interest in various aspects of the game such as material gathering, loot acquiring, and character progression, among others. Here’s to hoping our concerns get answered.