Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (2019)

As I immediately went into Division 2 from the first game, I noticed things that had changed much more than probably would have if I had taken a break. At the outset, I noticed the game felt snappier, it felt like my character had more weight underneath him. He didn’t float around the ground like so many other games. I was also able to actually have a decent amount of character customization at the beginning. I didn’t spend too much time but I tried to continue with my modern day Geralt from The Witcher franchise. Long unkempt greyish white locks, scraggly looking grey beard, all behind the guise of a pair of Aviators, making it look like my Geralt has seen some horrific things he’d rather not remember.

I watch a quick cutscene and am sent to Washington D.C. to go help out the city as it has been ravaged for several months by the dreaded dollar flu. The game itself is very similar to the first game, but makes some very good changes for a much improved gameplay experience. The Quality of Life improvements allow lots of quick travel spots, better skills and a change to the loot system as well.

The guns no longer are just “how much damage does this do?” It incorporates a few other options to consider. Damage, Rate of Fire, magazine size and even bullet drop over distance are now things you have to consider in your choice of switching out guns. A super high powered gun might be what you want, but if the rate of fire is so low, it might not be a great option for the player who likes the “spray and pray” method. The mod system is also changed up from the first game. The first game made you choose between a scope or a magazine, allowing you to only use it on one gun at a time. Now you have the option to unlock the mod once, and use it on every single gun you want, with no limit. Like a certain scope? Throw that sucker on everything you want! It is a really nice change to the modding system which allows you to not have to spend more time in the menus than you have to.

The Skills system has also changed, mostly for the better. I only used two skills in the first game, Pulse and a Healing station that allowed you to revive yourself in you put it down in time. Pulse unfortunately has been really nerfred in this game to where it basically is worthless. It used to send out a pulse wave that would scan the environment and then add a damage bonus to anyone it picked up. The new version has such a short radius that it can’t even scan people in the same room. The cooldown timer is also so long that by the time you can use it again, most shootouts are over with. I quickly switched over to the drone and turret. Throwing down a turret gave me a chance to hide and use a armor pack when I was getting swarmed with enemies and on the verge of certain death. The turret acts as a constant rate of suppression fire and also can be a decoy as well. Then with the combination of a healing pod called a Hive, it can replenish your armor, allowing you to change your cover and flank the enemy who is being lured towards the turret. It’s a great combo for anyone who is going through the game on their own. Most of the rest of the skills, such as a shield, or flam turrets or explosive drones are mainly for squad use, but if you are feeling saucy, you can change to anyone of them at any time as long as you have them unlocked.

The Division games fall into the category of “Loot shooters” of the newly founded parody “shloooters” that have become extremely popular as of late. Loot in games is usually a good thing, the loop of killing an enemy and getting them to drop a new and different gun or gear with better stats really does have that rush that we as gamers love. What usually happens for most people is that they get too invested in the drops. This never was a big concern of mine. I know I’m going to be leveling up in a relatively quick succession and those guns are going to quickly become outdated and underpowered.  My way of playing these games isn’t to focus on the drops, but just quickly glance at the stats. Do they provide a much larger advantage? Then I will swap them out, if it might have more damage but a much smaller mag or rate of fire, if I want to, I’ll test it out real quick and if it doesn’t feel better than my previous gun, I’ll scrap the gun and revert to my old one. I can see why some love this, but I’d rather play the game instead of invest my time in a glorified spreadsheet.

The Division 2 is a great game, it has great gameplay, the shooting is a blast and I can’t imagine how fun it can be with a group of friends. The major bummer for me lies with the story though. Your character is a mute, a silent protagonist. You are heralded as a savior, praised by everyone you walk by. For you to not emote at all is not just unrealistic, taking you out of the game, even laugh out loud ridiculous at points. One cutscene in particular stuck out to me. You rescue a woman's child for her, tears welling up in her eyes and as she is trying to fight back the tears, her voice quivering as she tells you to go out and murder the inhuman monsters who tortured her. While she is saying this, your character sits there, silent, showing no emotion with your big goofy glasses and dumb hat, looking like a fake green screened TV show joke. It’s a disconnect that you see so often in these games and it really makes the story seem so much less important. That, coupled with the weird fact that all the strewn about cellphones you pick up and find don’t autoplay mostly and really don’t have much interesting conversations just make the whole thing feel a bit more boring than the first.

I loved the first game’s story, I was excited to see the sequel expand on the collapse of society as it takes place over a half a year from the events of the first game, but it feels like the story took a back seat this time around. The story is basically the retelling of how the dollar flu has started and infected the D.C. citizens, but doesn’t ramp anything up, it’s just another city that was thrown into disarray.The various “bad factions” such as the Hyenas or The True Sons could have been utilized better. If they used them as a more distinct style than the other factions, it would have made it easier to understand who you are fighting. As it stands right now, most enemies look very similar, having the same 4 archetypes just with maybe a different color jacket (which sometimes can be very hard to see in a rainstorm or haze of the early morning. Whenever there are various factions in games, they should have their own sense of style, attitude and general differentiation between them would really help. A lot of games could take a page out of The Warriors, everyone remembers the baseball furies, or the Lizzies… why? Because they were so distinct and different from each other. They stood out from the rest. If you only have 4 factions, it shouldn’t be very difficult to come up with characters that stand out from other factions.

I would have liked a good balance between game and story, but I can understand if the gameplay was the more focused on feature. With this game being mainly online and have a large emphasis on it’s “Endgame”, hopefully they will continue to add to the story of the game in the coming months. I did find the level layout not as good as the first game either. I frequently was stuck in an area after killing all the guys and having to try and find the door or ladder to progress to the next area. It did ruin my momentum quite a few times, and almost quit in the middle of the mission because I was running around for over 5 minutes trying to get it. The few main story missions in the game are quite good though. Every main mission has a unique location and really adds to the world. Taking a stroll through a couple museums, a war torn hotel, a theater and even several D.C. monuments like the Lincoln memorial are incredible way to experience what these locations have to offer. The Strongholds are the last few missions in the game and they are the “big” setpieces. These missions took a long time to complete, but they were so good. They really did add to the nuance of the cover shooting, as you really did have to plan out your moves as much as possible. My RIfle and Sniper combo was perfect, as I’d look through my sniper scope and plot out where all my enemies where and where the most powerful bad guy was and I’d headshot him first, then once they knew where I was, I’d start switching back and forth between my guns to keep the baddies at bay.

And I must say, Ubisoft is the king of open world detail at this point. The amount of high quality art assets that fill this world make it really feel lived in, more than any game previous I’ve ever played. Even bags of trash or torn up walls to hack in wires… it's crazy to understand how much time it took to place these in a game like this, where everything just looks… right.

The Division 2 is a extremely well made online game. I had a blast with it, and really enjoyed the game more than I did the last one. The environments themselves popped so much more due to the usage of more colors than the white and greys of the first game. Luscious green ivy and moss grown water cover the greater D.C. area, the Orange highlights of your waypoint sometime gets lost in the crazy amount of color displayed on the screen. Normally in a game like this, the story being so terrible compared to the first game, I’d rank it way below the first, but for some reason, even as abysmal as the story is and the way they tell it, The Division 2 really is a fantastic game. The levels just have that almost theme park quality, everything is so lovingly crafted and detailed that it jumps out off the screen. A hyper-realistic location that somehow beats the real thing.