Looking back at Anthem after playing The Division 2 for over 30 hours I sincerely regret penning this piece defending the game.
The reason for that is because The Division 2 does so much right from the moment you load the game up that Anthem looked like the kid that didn’t hear break was over and kept playing in the sandpit while the others learned what a looter shooter should be.
In my impressions piece which I penned nearly half way through The Division 2, I was impressed with the game and over the last 15 hours my love for The Division 2 has reached a point where I need to fight myself away from it when I get home everyday.
So let’s dive into why The Division 2 is fast becoming a daily hobby of mine.
The Division 2 takes place six months after the dollar flu swept through Manhattan. You are once again in control of an agent that forms part of the Secure Homeland Division or SHD (sometimes referred to as Shade) and you need to reign things in within Washington DC.
Why? Well, because DC has been overrun by gangs, gangs that hold sweet sweet loot and aren’t afraid to fire shots directly at your face.
As an SHD agent you will run through missions in a bid to restore communications, power, food, water and other necessities as you grind to reach the max level of 30.
Is this the most exciting reason to run through DC? No not really but Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment have crafted the most incredible spaces for these missions.
These range from restoring water at a Native American heritage facility to mowing down enemies in a recreation of the Vietnam war. Want to have a shoot-out on the surface of the moon complete with the Luna rover? The Division 2 gives you the chance to do that.
The story itself is rather lacklustre though. So much so that when the final cutscene played out I didn’t even realise I had completed the game.
While that sounds like a bad thing it’s simply because there is so much to do. Side missions, enemy checkpoints, random world events, the PVP Dark Zone, and just exploring the world are so worthwhile I often found myself having played for four hour stretches without making a dent in the main campaign.
Quite honestly, the story doesn’t matter here because the goal is to reach max level and get your character to resemble a walking tank more than it is about securing DC and saving America.
While I usually love a good story to go with my looting and shooting, there are other aspects of The Division 2 that scratch that itch. Echoes and collectables in the form of call recordings and recorded messages are scattered throughout DC. These, like in The Division, serve as a great way to give the player more information about what happened to the city when the disease hit and the gangs took over.
The story is not good but also not all that important to your enjoyment of the game.
The gameplay loop
Looter shooters often have players repeating the same task over and over again. What makes these games fail or succeed is how much fun you make those tasks so that players don’t realise they’re just doing the same thing over and over again.
The Division 2’s gameplay loop sees you running to a mission, pumping bullets into enemies, rescuing somebody or retrieving something and then pumping even more bullets into enemies and a boss.
For nearly two days of total play time I have done this loop over and over again and it is yet to get old.
Enemies are smart and will flank you which means that you as the player can’t get comfortable behind cover for the duration of the fight.
Certain missions call for different loadouts. One mission might feature long open stretches of landscape making Marksman Rifles a necessity while missions in buildings with tight corridors might call for short range weapons such as SMGs and shotguns.
Beyond missions, there is a metric ton of content to dig into while exploring DC. There are checkpoints to claim from enemies, events to stop such as public executions and SHD Tech Caches to collect which allow you to upgrade your skills and unlock new passive perks for your agent.
But wait, there is more.
Settlements and Safe Houses have activities called Projects. These Projects call for donations of gear, materials and resources and unlock blueprints, weapons or mods upon completion.
What I love about these Projects is that they are completed while you’re exploring the city and completing other tasks.
Also, once you reach a certain point in the game you unlock bounties. These bounties are timed events where you will be tasked with tracking down a named enemy. These fights are great and if you happen to die during the fight the bounty moves on and you’ll have to hope that the bounty returns at a later time.
Simply put, getting bored in The Division 2 is nearly impossible and this is just while finishing the main story.
Loot is of course rather important and The Division 2 throws a lot of it at you. This is a good thing because we’re constantly on the hunt for good rolls of branded gear so we can pair them together for awesome perks such as increased damage to elite enemies or more HP.
The one thing we would like to see more drops for are cosmetic items though we also understand why Ubisoft and Massive are monetising cosmetic items.
Gripes and moans
While this review has been overwhelmingly positive The Division 2 is not without its gripes.
For one, on PC the game appears to be incredibly dark in some mission areas. While this darkness is short-lived for the most part it is annoying not being able to see where you are or indeed enemies. We have heard reports that this darkness issue is platform wide so hopefully it can be fixed with a patch.
Performance is fine, we have noted one or two hiccups during our play through but we put that down to our aging CPU.
Something that does concern us however is an issue on PC that ramps up usage of your CPU causing your PC to present the Blue Screen of Death.
Recent patches appear to have addressed the issue but we still feel it warrants mentioning.
We also don’t really enjoy having to travel back to the White House to unlock new skills and perks because it breaks that gameplay loop we were talking about.
We do also feel like certain elements of the game such as crafting, Projects and Check Point resupplying were explained just a bit more clearly as you could easily play through the entire game without touching these aspects of and they really do add that little bit extra that makes the grind easier.
Is it worth playing right now?
The Division 2 has launched in a state that its predecessor, Destiny 2, Anthem and even Diablo 3 should have launched in.
The gameplay loop is well thought out and the care taken with getting players to max level in a fun and engaging way is something that you might take for granted until you play something like Anthem.
While we haven’t mentioned it, the game is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. At sunset the rays of light flitting through the trees and the detail you can spot while just walking through the streets will have you staring down the scope of your gun in awe as enemies unload on you.
Honestly we could stop playing The Division 2 now and feel content, but the end-game awaits us and after over 30 hours getting to know this game we are in love. Beyond that, we’ve seen a slice of the end-game and it looks incredible. More on that at a later stage.
For anybody that loved looter shooters and was burned by the genre in recent years, The Division 2 nails every promise it makes. Perhaps more important than anything else we’ve said though, it’s so much fun.
The Division 2 will give players all post-launch content for free which is fantastic and that kicked off last week with the launch of the Tidal Basin Stronghold and World Tier 5. Simply put, there is more to come from The Division 2 and we highly recommend starting your defense of DC now.
Well done Massive and Ubisoft, you’ve created magic here and as a fan of the first game I’m impressed with the sequel.