The Division launched in 2016, not with a fanfare and fireworks, but with a more muted reception. The game was standard Ubisoft fare for the time; a decent enough campaign with tons of collectibles to be found. Its end game was lacking at launch, but two years of content updates helped the title find its legs in the long run. It was only a matter of time before Ubisoft announced a sequel, The Division 2, which was released in March this year.
The Division 2 takes place in Washington D.C. seven months after its predecessor. Gangs have taken over the streets and the President is dead or missing after Air Force One was shot down over the capital. After a brief tutorial, the player is sent to the White House to repel enemy forces and to help re-establish control over the area. The crew manning the facility are under-staffed and over-worked, but there are other settlements in the area that could assist in retaking D.C. from the gangs. As a Division agent, the player is tasked with meeting the needs of these groups whilst restoring order to ravaged city.
The Division 2 is a third-person action MMORPG. Death can come quickly to characters who stand out in the open, so the player must utilise cover effectively to close the distance between themselves and the enemy and ultimately eliminate them. Pretty much anything can be used as cover, and once in cover, the player need only point their crosshairs at the cover they wish to move to and hold the action button to move efficiently. The open world is filled with assorted cars, fences, buildings, and all manner of other objects that can be used to hide behind. Enemies too can use cover, though like the player, they will need to pop their heads out to fire their weapons. Depending on the personality of the enemy type, they may also try to shoot out in the open, though these are usually heavily armoured or very simple opponents.
Players are limited to three different weapons at any time; two main guns and one sidearm. There are a variety of different weapons types available, and variants within those types. For example, a belt-fed light machine gun (M60) will have a lower rate of fire than one with a magazine (RPK-74), though it will also hold more ammo. As The Division 2 is also an RPG, weapons and gear will roll different amounts of damage and armour even on equipment of the same type and level. Once the player has progressed though the story sufficiently, this can be overcome with somewhat with the recalibration station. This allows players to move a stat or talent from one piece of gear to another. Of course, this means players will still need to find pieces of gear with good rolls, but they can be used to create a piece of gear suited to the player.
Unlike the first game, missions in The Division 2 are not initially displayed on the map. Progressing the development of settlements and unlocking safe houses in the world will open new story missions. Some of these missions in turn lead to settlement upgrades, others advance the plot or give new crafting recipes. It is always obvious what a player stands to gain from completing these missions and can plan accordingly. Side missions are gone, though they have been replaced with more open world content. Various tasks will pop up on the map, preventing a public execution for example, and the player can chose to take part or ignore them. There are also control points on the map that players can take. This involves summoning NPC allies to help take and defend the point. Convoys can spawn and move between control points, both allied and enemy, and the player can choose to protect or attack these respectively.
Despite the fact that The Division 2 is an MMO, the only time players will encounter each other is inside a safe house. The open world is instanced to individual players, though players can invite other into their groups and thus into their world. Content in the game scales up with the player and is never greater than two levels below the players level. This also means that it will scale up with the highest level player in a group, so friends need to be at roughly the same progression to play together. Most content allows groups of up to four players, though raids are due to be introduced at a later date, a first for the series, allowing twice as many to participate at the same time in bespoke fights.
As with most full price MMOs on console, The Division 2 does not require a subscription, but is supported through micro transactions. These offer no gameplay benefits and are purely for cosmetic gear that can also be obtained through regular play. Events will add additional cosmetics at a later date, but these too will be obtainable without spending real money. A season pass is available for the game, allowing purchasers to access new content early, though as of right now it does not give access to any exclusive content.
The Division 2 is not a revolution in gameplay design, but merely an evolution of its predecessor. The scaling content means that missions never become obsolete and players of any level can find a match if they would like to do group content, though they will struggle if they do not keep their gear up to date. Graphics are pretty, but on par with what one would expect from a AAA game. Sound similarly is of a good quality, but lacks anything memorable. The core gameplay starts off exciting, but quickly becomes repetitive and frustrating when enemies hide and snipe from a distance, or send out radio controlled cars that explode. The game will appeal to fans of the original, but the cover mechanics may slow down the pace of combat enough to turn off people who play something with faster combat like Destiny 2. The Division 2, much like The Division, has started out feeling somewhat lacking, but one can only hope that it finds its legs faster than its predecessor.
Title: Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
Genre: Action Role-playing
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Release Date: 15 March 2019 (Worldwide)