When I bought the original Tom Clancy’s The Division at launch back in 2016, I thought I was going to get something to fill the Destiny-shaped hole in my gamer’s heart. I got that, but only for a couple of hours. It really didn’t take long to discover that The Division was a very hollow and somewhat unfinished disappointment of a game, and it only took about a month for me to move on to greener pastures.
It’s been about three years since then, and I’ve all but giving up on finding something that has the same magic Destiny did during 2014 and 2015, but that’s fine since I don’t want that anymore. Instead, I’d just like a game I can enjoy in small bites with my friends. Something worth keeping up with even if I’m only online to play once a week or so. It feels strange to say, but I think that game might just be Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.
I’ve had two separate opportunities to play The Division 2 so far, and in both cases I was looking for a reason to reject it. Having been burned once by the first game already, I wasn’t about to let myself get suckered-in by the sequel. To my surprise however, I didn’t find much to complain about. The gunplay was fun; the enemies were (mostly) not the annoying bullet sponges they were in the first game; powerful weapons actually felt powerful; the abilities were still fun to use, and there was the sense that what my agent was doing in the game mattered. I was not expecting any of this.
During the Private Beta last weekend, I made a point of replaying all the missions I’d gone through before to see if there was any replay value; there was. It wasn’t much mind you; I wouldn’t want to play them another 2-3 times by myself without something changing them up, but I was simply able to enjoy overcoming the encounters presented to me. This was not the case in the first Division.
In that game, I could park myself in 1-2 spots and just take out the enemies as they walked in. In this game, they can come from all directions and most have ways to force agents out of cover. This means having to prioritize threats, keep track of safe spots, and use abilities wisely. Good shooter games design their encounters to be like puzzles of a sort, and Division 2 does this. The encounters aren’t on the same level as the older Halo games, but they’re complex enough to keep on invested.
There’s also a sense of constant progression thanks to the loot and settlement systems. Loot is everywhere to be found in this game, and just about everything one can find can be used towards something. Weapons and gear offer immediate advances in power,, while other resources can be put towards crafting or settlement development. Developing settlements will result in them visibly improving and offering more gear for agents to use. Crafting puts all the smaller components found around Washington D.C. to use. Crafted gear is often better than found gear, so finally gathering enough to make something feels rather rewarding. In short, just about everything here is worth doing in some way.
Then there’s the end game. I haven’t gotten to see much of it yet, but I am hopeful it’ll do its job. Upon reaching the end of the main campaign, players unlock specializations that allow them to further develop into deadly agents. These (apparently) have their own skill trees that progress as players continue to level up. Further, a new faction, the “Black Tusk” shows up, adding new an remixed missions into mix. These guys have the best gear and all manner of numbers on their side, so fighting them is very different from the earlier factions (would hate to go up against them on hard mode). Additionally, the lawless Dark Zones have been changed to be more favorable to individual players and Ubisoft is promising 8-player raids shortly after launch. It looks like there will be quite a lot to do.
I’m probably not going to pick this game up at launch (still gotta finish Hollow Knight and Kingdom Hearts 3 after all), but I am looking forward to playing this game again someday. I dislike the idea that “live services” are the future of gaming; I think there will always be a huge demand for single-player experiences that publishers will have no choice but to meet. All that said, I wouldn’t mind playing one (and only one) if the ongoing game is done correctly. Is the Division 2 that game? I don’t know yet, but it’s looking great so far. If military shooters are your thing, go ahead and give it a try during the next beta at the end of the month.
What do you think of the Division series? What about “live-services” in general?
Lede image from Division 2 promotional website