The Division 2 is out today and I have been playing it since Monday. Ubisoft’s ambitious open-world shooter is meant to improve on everything we hated from the original game while delivering a fresh new location to explore, diverse missions to take on, new Dark Zone mechanics and of course, character progression that will carry you well into the end-game grind.
I have reached level 25 and completed the main game at the time of writing this which gives me enough time with it to share some early criticisms and praises I have for the game. I will venture into my level 30 soon and then tackle what Ubisoft worked so hard on – the end-game content. We will deliver a full review of the Division 2 as soon as we can but if you are on the fence about it, then this may help make your decision.
The Division 2 is set in Washington D.C, seven months after the events of the first game. Gone are the skyscraper buildings, the snow-covered ground and the desolate streets of New York City. Washington D.C is a more vibrant location with wider streets, a lot more park-like locations to visit and of course, now that winter is gone, everything is damp, lush and green.
While New York City was great, it kind of started to feel very much the same after a while. This is where The Division 2 delivers its first praise. The game is gorgeous and every area of the map is detailed to the utmost precision both in the streets, underground and in buildings. You take on the role of a Division agent that sets out to help rebuild the various settlements across the city.
Instead of everything revolving around one Base of Operations, Division 2 sees you tackle upgrading multiple Settlements at the same time by completing missions, daily and weekly projects all while recruiting new people to head specific departments in each of them. To see these locations grow as you play is really great as they start as dead and sad areas and the more you complete things they throw at you, the more people arrive, the more features they offer, and the overall visual aesthetic changes too.
These are not to be confused with Safe Houses which have been stripped of many of their features from the past game. Safe Houses simply act as safe havens for you to fast travel to, salvage gear and pick up locations for SHD Caches which are scattered around the area.
The Division 2 has a lot of confusion going on when it comes to its locations, however. They feel fragmented with features and you can only go here if you want this done and have to travel back if you want to do something else. For example, you can only spend skill points and Perk Points at the Quartermaster at the White House. Meaning you have to travel back there every time you want to upgrade something.
You can also only craft at the White House too. It’s great and all that Ubisoft was trying to make it the hub for everything, but allowing us to work at upgrading and crafting at another Settlement would have been a lot more fun and easier when it comes to the need to use the features.
You Spend a lot of time in The Division 2 running around the city and it never gets boring. There is a lot to see and do and every turn resulted in a gunfight or two as you stumble across enemies patrolling, a control point to take over or one of the many public events that see you try and save a public execution from taking place or intercepting a propaganda broadcast.
Even the friendly civilians who are out and about collecting resources for the nearest Control Point or Settlement can be followed back to their destination and protected in case things go south. It is not fun, but still a great side activity.
The public events are where the “busyness” of the game comes to life. These always pop up giving you this feeling of urgency as you just need to stop the helpless people from getting killed. They reward you with some decent items and XP as you fight waves of enemies that get stronger as you progress.
Of course, the side missions and main missions see you enter a specific location with a goal to get to the end, mow through enemies, fight a boss and leave. If The Division 2 is doing anything wrong in my book, it is these missions. They felt boring and dull. The original game had you visit amazing locations to participate in real, world-changing objectives. Division 2, however, kind washes them all together and after a while, I could not care less about why I was doing what.
Sure, stealing the Declaration of Independence was fun but the missions offer nothing but “run to cover, kill some guys and run to the next cover”. It also does not help that compared to the first game, enemies are just pretty boring. They offer nothing in the way to make you fear them at all. The sheer lack of variety and a real challenge to each enemy type failed to keep me engrossed in combat.
The brutes walk around with giant LMGs shooting at you and you need to shoot their armour off, and everyone else either has a shotgun, melee weapon or SMG. The same can be said for bosses and they are just standard enemies with fancy names. We then have your player. At the start of the game, you create a custom build agent. Choose if you want it male or female and equip some clothes. As you progress the game, you will find rarer cosmetic items or spend some real money on crates that contain different rarities.
Throughout the game, you will build your character up the way you want to. Choose guns that suit your fancy, buy skills that can be used in combat, unlock perks that buff specific in-game abilities and equip gear that compliments the build you are going for.
You don’t really get in-depth in the system until you are in your late 20s mainly because the first couple of hours of the game is all about equipping what is the highest damage and defence. But when you get going, it works pretty well. Finding the gear that increased headshot damage helped me boost my sniper rifle to a one-shot kill gun. I then found a bag that I could equip a mod into that increased my skill damage by 25% to further boost my Seeker Mine explosion damage.
It is not all sunshine and rainbows though as I do feel that the skills in The Division 2 are very squishy. Other than healing with a Hive of Chem Launcher, I struggled to see the real importance of the game’s skill system. Gone is the first aid box that you could drop on the floor and heal people around you an even resurrect them when downed. Gone is the Sticky Bomb that caused some great explosion damage and gone is the Recovery Link system.
Instead, the game has a load of over-complicated skills that feel more like a chore to use than anything else. I unlocked a Sniper Turret that fired at enemies from a distance, but the catch was; I had to target and fire the darn thing myself. The Burster Firefly was also the biggest waste of time as it takes forever to target an enemy with an explosive and only detonates that explosive if that enemy walks nearby another one. In all my time playing the game, that never happened once. Everyone shot and killed him before he got close.
The only real MVP for me had to be the Seeker Mine which is a little ball that you toss and it chases enemies down and explodes. Oh, and there are no more Signature Skills either. In short, the entire skills system feels like a huge step backwards for the game compared to the original and I am still walking around the game with Skill Points and no rush to use them at all.
The stat system has also been reworked. Now you need to try and figure out what is giving you extra skills damage, health or critical hit points by sorting through your gear’s menu. It takes a while to get used to the change but it works. I recommend using normalized stats to see what each of them looks like and get a better understanding of your gear.
The last thing to note is that The Division 2 is not a solo experience. If you think you can play this alone then you have another thing coming. It is hard and while you could matchmake for missions, the average exploration public events offer some tough challenges that are almost impossible alone. Best bet is to get friends to join you or matchmake using the many terminals in the Safe Houses.
So what next? Well, The Division 2 has a huge emphasis on its end-game grind. Taking on these tougher missions called Strongholds will reward you with the best gear. You also have the ability to replay the main and side missions again on hard for a tougher challenge and greater gear drops too. It’s like you can play the game all over again and that is what I am going to tackle next. Jumping into the Strongholds and doing a bit of the Dark Zone could prove rewarding but stay tuned for the additions to this review next week after this has been done.
If we had to score it now – 8/10