I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I always felt that The Division 2 was going to be good to go on launch day. Part of that is likely due to how I watched the first game stumble out of the gate, but continue to evolve over the course of two years. I was impressed by the dedication and passion that the studio put into it, eventually morphing it into what many people hoped it would be on day 1.
Those lessons, while hard at times, certainly helped focus the sequel. It absolutely shows in nearly every aspect. You won’t find the game retreading similar mistakes. I assumed The Division 2 would be strong, but how strong it actually kinda blew me away.
I’m still nowhere near the level cap, but I’ve sunk enough hours into it to form a general opinion. Here are some quick thoughts:
So naturally, things have progressed from the first game and seven months later, the green poison/dollar flu has finally wound down. Unfortunately, much of the country’s leadership at this point is either missing or dead, resulting in factions vying for power in the nation’s capital. Making matters worse, the Division’s SHD (“Shade”) Network has also gone offline. The game begins with a gorgeous cinematic showing this event, which results in the player heading down to Washington D.C. to lend a hand and help restore order.
While I loved the Black Friday/Winter/Holiday theme of New York City in the first game, Washington D.C. is just expertly made, so detailed, and a joy to explore. The city is more diverse looking featuring areas of greenery, smaller sized buildings, and that classic towering building feeling you got from the first game. The game is drop dead gorgeous as well, even on an Xbox One S. I can only imagine what it looks like on a high-end PC.
As I mentioned in my previous beta post, I really feel like I’m making a difference in this game world. Part of that is how you can directly impact locations like the Base of Operations and Settlements like The Theater. Each location is upgradable, though you really feel an impact in the smaller settlement locations. As you complete story missions, Settlements actually improve, grow larger, and expand. The Theater has recently gotten new solar panels, a new gather space for eating meals, and much more.
Projects are another way that players can have an effect on Washington D.C. In exchange for your help, players can get XP, credits, blueprints for crafting, and more. IN many aspects, completing projects also adds new elements to a settlement like a Gaming Center to give kids something to do and lets them escape the craziness of the world for a time. It’s fun seeing the location slowly improve and fill out as you play.
In my opinion, this system feels more meaningful than what we had in the previous game where doing side missions/activities expanded out one of three areas of the Base of Operations. I was hoping to have an expanded system and it’s exactly what I got. I’m happy.
Another change that quickly surprised me is that the game will challenge you. Enemies are not afraid to curb stomp you thanks in large part to the impressive behavior they work with. Enemies will move, take cover, and generally spend less time out in the open as an easy target. You’ll need to think more tactically than you may have in the first game as enemies will attempt to flank you if you decide to hunker down in the same location.
Enemies now have more variants as well, offering a greater challenge during combat. You have tanks, grenadiers, rushers who first take a hit of something that gives them a small shield, medics, and even a tech person who is able to send out remote bombs. When these roles are used in combination, you better keep your head on a swivel. In addition to tossing basic grenades, the grenadier type is able to use a grenade launcher to assault your position. Any encounter makes me stop to consider if it’s worth engaging or perhaps finding a way to sneak by. It’s a question I generally never had to ask myself in the first game.
With that said, combat, in general, is in a much better place than it was at the start of the past game. Enemies don’t feel like bullet sponges and I like the new additions of elite enemies wearing breakable armor. When enough damage has been done to an area, it’ll break off, giving you a place to deal actual damage. To me, this offers a fair and fun challenge.
I think the difficulty also increased due to the health/shield changes as well. Instead of a recharging shield, players have a shield meter which gets chipped away when getting shot. Once it depletes fully, your health takes damage and let me tell you, it drains fast. This time, your health regenerates and you have to use a shield restore to get that back. Players are no longer tanks, so you really need to stay in cover and be strategic about engaging.
The issues I have with the game are pretty minor. The text is still very small, especially when looting stuff. Text is relegated to the bottom left corner. The UI is, well, it’s messy and it can be difficult to find things at first. With a little repetition, it goes away, but it’s still a little clunky.
The team has constantly told us the phrase, “End Game First” and honestly, they mean it. While I’m not there yet, I’ve heard all kinds of things how the game changes once players reach this phase. It almost evolves into a new version of The Division 2. Plus, in one of the recent trailers, it was revealed that the end game actually has a completely original soundtrack from the base game. Once I reach this part, I’ll definitely provide some thoughts.
The Division 2 is what you get when a developer really pays attention and learns from their past experience. At launch, it’s already an impressive and complete experience and if you ask me, The Division 2 is already way stronger than other looter style games like Borderlands 2, Diablo 3, Destiny, Destiny 2, and Anthem when they first launched. Add in the fact that more free content is coming throughout the year alongside constant updates and fixes and you have, what I feel, will be a very strong contender for Game of the Year.