The Division is back, and the sequel is taking the train down the coast to our nation’s capital. Turns out New York City isn’t the only devastated major metropolis; the virus spread throughout world, leaving countless dead, crippling economies, and leaving a serious power vacuum where rival factions vie for resources and isolated pockets of civilians try to eek out an existence. Full recovery is years (if not decades) away, but you have a more immediate concern. Seven months after the outbreak, agents suddenly lose contact with Division headquarters. You need to investigate what happened, push out the rival factions vying for control of the city, restore critical resources, and aid in the rebuilding efforts.
After watching a presentation and sitting down to an end-game play session, I have a much better idea of what to expect from The Division 2. Here are the big takeaways.
The New Setting Affords New Opportunities
Ubisoft says Washington D.C. is 20 percent bigger than midtown, and the developers at Massive are delivering an almost one-to-one recreation of the city using real data. That means locals should be able to easily find their way around, and by the end of spending hundreds of hours in the game, hardcore Division players should be able to offer guided tours of the city. The most exciting part of the new setting is it’s much more varied. Say goodbye to dark, snow-covered streets. D.C. has commercial areas that have been looted for several months, wooded areas where nature is reclaiming the land (seems a little early for that but we appreciate the sentiment), a flooded government center, Georgetown suburbs, and of course the historical sites that litter the mall. Ubi said each biome adds visual variety and play differently, requiring new approaches. We also noticed a towering wall covered in barbed wire – D.C. has a dark zone of its own – and you will have a base of operation that needs some work done.
Gunplay Is Less Spongy
Some shooter fans who prefer the glass cannon approach to weaponized combat never could warm up to how spongy the enemies were in The Division. Though I eventually got past this to see the greater equation of squad play, I admit it still felt weird needing to unload a full clip to down an unarmored sanitation worker. Though enemies still take more bullets to down than they would in a Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon game, Massive made unarmored enemies much less resistant to gunfire, speeding up the time to kill compared to the original game. Heavily armored baddies still take concentrated fire to take down, and their armor gradually gets destroyed as the skirmish unfolds. Speaking of armor, agents get the defensive benefit of a new armor system as well.
Massive Is Already Building Out The Endgame
Massive has seen the fallout of Destiny 2 and spent the last two years listening to its own community about how critical it is to have a robust endgame available for players once the campaign is wrapped and players hit the level cap. For The Division 2, the studio promises “accessible, deep, and varied” content once you hit that threshold. Solo play is still viable, but the concentration is clearly on cooperative play. For the first time, eight players can team up for larger raid missions, but the team also wants to provide endgame content for solo players and more casual agents. The Division 2 will feature World Tier from day one. During the presentation they also promised clear goals, continual rewards, and meaningful progression.
I asked if Ubi plans to offer a procedurally generated experience similar to the Underground, and Red Storm senior producer Tony Sturtzel said “we don’t have any news about that today, but we certainly understand that players enjoyed that experience, and we want to make sure that we give players content that they can attach to based on the way they like to play.” What about Survival? “The one thing that came along with that we can say we do NOT want to do is the community split aspect,” he said. This is why Ubisoft decided to offer all the first year content updates for free.
Specializations Extend Progression
Once you hit level cap, you gain access to a suite of specializations that give you access to new signature weaponry. The three options on display for the E3 demo were the Survivalist (crossbow), Demolitionist (grenade launcher), and Sharpshooter (.50 cal sniper rifle). These signature weapons all have special ammo you can pick-up during firefights for added punch, and each specialization has a unique progression path that allows you to create more variety with the build that you have via mod and talent unlocks. I played as the Survivalist, and the explosive bolts for the crossbow are powerful enough that I preferred saving them for when heavies arrived on the scene in our control point battle with the True Sons, a rogue paramilitary faction. You aren’t locked into an option once you choose it; you can hot swap these in and out and continue down their respective progression paths when they are equipped.
Customization Allows For More Personality
One of the things Ubisoft wants to push in The Division 2 is more player expression, which it is calling “peacocking.” Sturtzel said they have reserved vanity slots for things that you can only get by achieving certain accomplishments in the game. Think of them like trophies you can display on your character.
Ubisoft is also expanding the available wardrobe – sounds like we’ll have more options that expand beyond the Eddie Bauer catalog this time. “We know that people enjoyed the vanity, and we’ve been able to add some variety to that in the two years post-launch. We want to make sure we build from there in terms of the level of variety that we give players because we know that is a huge thing for them.”
The Division 2 is scheduled to release on March 15 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Ubisoft also plans to hold a beta, which you can sign up for here.