The Beta Report: The Division 2

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Posted by TacticalGiraffe (11 posts) -

The Division 2: March 1st – March 4th

The Beta Report

With the release of The Division 2 just around the corner, the much anticipated second drop into the world of “The Dollar Flu” seems set to provide players with more to do than ever before. This weekend I spent a few days getting a small taste of the game through the Open Beta and had a blast. That’s not to say there aren’t some minor issues I had with the experience but overall, I think this run trough the world of D.C. envisioned by Massive Entertainment is worth the investment.

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First Impressions

If you spent any time with the closed beta dependent upon pre-orders, you’re essentially already aware of what this beta will entail. The same three main missions and five side missions exist, including the defense, clearing, and set-up of the White House as a Base of Operations to kick things off. Right off the bat the lack of snow is a little jarring after having spent so much time with The Division 1, but it’s easy to quickly settle into the lush green surroundings of D.C. in a different season. It's evident the environment is claiming its space in the area in D.C. as animals, plants, and more move in and take control again. It's actually quite refreshing to see some life around you as opposed to the concrete and steel that is New York in winter.

Right away It feels like “bullet sponginess” has been balanced in a far, far better way. This is especially true when considered against the backdrop of a statement made by Creative Director Julian Gerighty in a recent Games Radar article regarding fixes made in response to complaints. Some of these fixes include but are certainly not limited to; a lower time to down enemies, destructible armor pieces on enemies and team tactics related to that, the capability to shoot through enemies with strong enough weapons and strike enemies behind them, the weak points of dead enemies (i.e. grenade pouches) remaining persistent through the fight to draw in other enemies around them, thus using those as traps, and much more.

Slowly, but surely, armor plating falls off....
Slowly, but surely, armor plating falls off....

However the most memorable feeling I took from my time with the beta this weekend was the fact that all the mechanics mentioned above, tied together with the reduced time to defeat an enemy, really stresses an emphasis on cover based combat and team tactics far more than the Division 1. Specifically speaking, the destructible armor pieces on an enemy can be attacked creating extremely vulnerable points on said enemy that you or the whole team can focus on. That along with the increased emphasis on the cover based combat means that bullet sponginess feels like much less of an issue. That armor plating concept applies to every single enemy as well.

It truly didn’t feel like I was chipping away at an enemy until their wall of points was gone. Rather I was actively seeking to create those weak points in their armor, set up nice fields of fire, and then close in on windows of opportunity with my team based on the new mechanics implemented. It really felt like what I had been looking for in The Division 1, and I’m genuinely excited for that.

.....and leaves the enemy vulnerable to attack from certain angles opened up by the team
.....and leaves the enemy vulnerable to attack from certain angles opened up by the team

Once you clear the White House and set up your Base of Operations, you move on to the Theater Settlement. Once there you’re given a mission regarding the rescue of the daughter of the settlement leader. Once that’s completed a ton of other missions, goals, and tasks open across the map. This is where things become just a tiny bit overwhelming, so I’ll break it down into some manageable chunks.

Settlement Responsibilities

Once the main Settlement mission is complete a few things open for access to you. First is the crafting station, complete with an individual who you can recruit to assist in re-staffing an empty White House Base of Operations. Once you speak with this member they leave the settlement and are assigned to the Base of Operations for good. My guess is that everyone within a settlement that can be recruited for a specific task, be it crafting or anything else, will end up leaving that settlement and be assigned to your primary base at that White House. Unfortunately this means I couldn't access crafting at the settlement which was a little bit of a bummer, but by no means an issue. More on crafting below under the gear modifications header.

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Another staff member at the settlement will be a projects officer who asks for donated gear or raw materials as well as asks you to complete specific combat based tasks in the world to help better equip the patrols and support staff throughout the settlement. That gear can be gloves, packs, armor, and raw materials like steel or anything else generated from melting items or locating the raw materials in the game world. Fulfilling these tasks can lead to blueprints, credits, experience points, special bounties, and more which is kind of a nice way to modify your kit with those simple gear and materials donations. It never really felt like a large endeavor to gather those materials and supplies to unlock the associated benefits.

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Administration and “Settlement Progress” will allow you to see the overall list of tasks and goals that need to be fulfilled in order to improve the settlement. For the beta it is broken down into Resilience, Cooperation, Solidarity, and Aspiration. The only option available is the beta is Resilience and completion provides access to the crafting station as well as a few settlement upgrades that can be earned through side missions and project completion located through the projects officer. Two of the available projects in the beta right now are Hunting Party and Salvage Crew. The details of each will be provided in either your world map or at the projects officer.

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Finally, once the main settlement mission is completed you also gain access to a gear vendor and your stash within the settlement.

Enemy/Friendly Control Points

All throughout the world are hostile control points which can be secured and turned into friendly control points. Upon approach to the location you can engage the first few enemies and then send a flare into the sky. This signals the surrounding NPC patrols of your current activity and diverts them to assist you in taking over the control points. The process consists of a few waves of enemies, most with standard armor and gear, one more wave with an enemy within that group with advanced armor and weapons, and a final wave consisting of a heavily armored enemy that will take a little bit of work to bring down. Success is rewarded with access to the control point's “supply room”, which houses raw material, gear, and a unique item. Taking those control points, and being rewarded as such for doing so, felt pretty great. Even if the gear ended up being useless to me it could still be traded in to the projects officer or donated as needed supplies to the control point officer now that it was friendly. Both of those options eventually lead to blueprints and gear that can be extremely helpful.

Once the flair is up, battle over ownership of the control point begins as friendly NPCs jump in to aid you
Once the flair is up, battle over ownership of the control point begins as friendly NPCs jump in to aid you

That being said, it's fairly straight forward but is one hell of a fight
That being said, it's fairly straight forward but is one hell of a fight

Gear Modifications

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Something I found kind of cool were the gear modifications, most of which are similar to The Division based on weapon attachments, body worn gear, and basic modifications to skills and passive abilities. However something I really liked was the fact that specialized items, for instance my “Big Drum Body Armor”, have an mod slot, in this case an Offensive System Mod Slot, for additional enhancements. It also has a clearly defined and accessible “Brand Set” that shows what enhanced abilities come to life once all the pieces within the specific set of kit are equipped. And finally, not quite as exciting, a simple Dye Slot to change the look.

Once you’ve unlocked the crafting personnel, and they’ve been assigned to your Base of Operations, you unlock the ability to craft items after having obtained blueprints and/or materials for them. That crafting will naturally require raw materials acquired through D.C. or by melting gear. Finally, you can upgrade the crafting bench to craft higher quality items. However in order to do so, you will need to obtain the bench upgrade blueprint for the crafting station.

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Additionally, collection of SHD Tech affords you the opportunity to unlock your skills and passive perks.

Skills and Perks

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Skills and perks are broken down into the following:

- Turret

- Seeker mine

- Pulse

- Hive

- Chem launcher

- Firefly

- Drone

-Shield

Available in the beta are Turret, Seeker Mine, Chem Launcher, and Drone. Each has its own unique sub classification that can be unlocked according to the needs and style of the player. For the most part these are pretty self explanatory and if you spent any time with the first iteration of The Division, you know what to expect here. It seems though that each skill has three different variations that can be unlocked and changed as the situation requires. SHD Teach, located in the world and through missions, can be used to unlock both the skills, as well as the perks.

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Conflict

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Eventually you’ll open the “Conflict” tab via the main map after you’ve returned to the Base of Operations the second time. You’ll choose a playlist, begin match making, and then select a map once placed into a match. Each map has an associated game mode which can be chosen by players based on votes, and success in matches leads to rewards. However, with so many versus games out there right now, Conflict seems a bit lacking. I averaged about five minutes getting into matches and often felt bored and disinterested. Granted, it is a beta, so I’ll wait to render any true judgement down the road.

Open World

Something that grabbed my attention almost as soon as you walk out of the Base of Operations and on the way to the first settlement is the green, open, and very much alive world. Getting rid of the snow-covered streets of New York and moving further south during a much warmer season, allows for some interesting flora and fauna. That’s all well and good, but things are that much better when you realize NPCs out in the world do more than cough, ask for supplies, and shout either praise or disdain your way.

Help the patrol briefly, tag along for a while, or even just ignore them. No matter what their actions breathe a little more life into the world
Help the patrol briefly, tag along for a while, or even just ignore them. No matter what their actions breathe a little more life into the world

As you encounter NPC patrols, they acknowledge your existence, briefly explain what they’re doing, and invite you to tag along. Surprisingly, you can tag along and they react according. Praise, appreciation, and small quips here and there signal their awareness of the assistance you provide and add a little life and substance that was missing in The Division. I felt a little more connected to the world that is D.C. after the outbreak, even if my character never says a single word.

Something I thoroughly enjoyed was the genuine recreation of D.C. I’ve been to New York once in my life, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of the streets and buildings. However, having been to D.C. many times in my life, I absolutely loved walking the streets and seeing the FBI Building, Washington Monument, White House, and more while understanding the navigation and walking route in my head as it directly translates to the in game experience. That was a pretty cool fac that I’m sure people from New York enjoyed a few years ago, that I absolutely loved this time around.

End Game

Finally, once the main missions and side missions are complete, you'll be granted access to "End Game." This will give you a small taste of what to expect based on three end game specialties, as well as grant access to the Dark Zone east.

One of the options for End Game stages in the Beta. Shown is the .50 cal rifle capable of penetrating an enemy and striking others behind it.
One of the options for End Game stages in the Beta. Shown is the .50 cal rifle capable of penetrating an enemy and striking others behind it.

Final Words

To be honest, it is a beta, and there's is a lot of time left in the year for additional content, upgrades, and activities. I did have minor issues with audio cutting out when I would use a rope to scale buildings or elevator shafts. I also had one issue with friendly players "falling" through the air as they walked near me. However those moments happened only once each and hardly broke my immersion once I got beyond it.

Initially things did feel a little bit overwhelming when I began looking at how much there was to do. After about thirty minutes and some quick reading through the menus, things made sense and were much easier to digest than I initially thought they would be.

Overall I think this is shaping up to be an awesome release with plenty of content for the year ahead. I know people felt a little left out in the cold with the issues present in The Division, but I feel like Massive listened to the player base here and put some genuine effort into making this an awesome experience. There are still two full days left in the beta so if you're reading this before March 4th, run over and give it a try even if just for a few hours. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the changes made.

The open beta runs now through March 4th, with a full release set for March 15th.

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#1 Posted by adamxkuhn (39 posts) -

Great writeup, couldn't agree more. I bounced off The Division pretty hard and wasn't expecting to like this nearly as much as I do. After playing TD2 for maybe five hours yesterday and today, I booted up TD1 to see if my opinion of that game had changed in the intervening years and, in point of fact, it had -- playing TD2 throws into sharp relief the errors in judgement the earlier game made and was unable to patch away. It really does seem they've put some work into the NPC AI.

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#2 Posted by TacticalGiraffe (11 posts) -

@adamxkuhn: I'm honestly excited. I wasn't expecting this much of a change the second time around. I think it's pretty evident they listened to people and are putting some genuine passion and care into this. I think The Division 2 is really going to bring things full circle in terms of the right kind of game play we had been expecting originally.

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#3 Posted by Deathstriker (1177 posts) -

It felt like more of the same, which isn't a bad thing. Some changes were good like side missions felt a million times better and lighting was very good. The drops for cosmetics were horrible, but maybe that's a demo thing. My friend was stuck wearing jean shorts through the whole thing (gross). I don't like the new health system and aiming certain powers like the seeker mine and drone strike felt awkward. The story seems like it's going to be lame again, but I don't think people play this genre of game for the story.

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#4 Edited by SSully (5640 posts) -

Great write up. I enjoyed my time with the first Divison, but I probably got 75% of the way through the game and quit.

So far the beta feels similar, but much more refined. Your comments about the combat do a great job of explaining why I am having more fun with the enemy engagements.

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#5 Posted by Efesell (4637 posts) -

I love the new health system. I found the early hours of the first game super frustrating because the moment you stuck a limb an inch out of cover you'd get riddled for 3/4s of your health. You were never really so much in danger of dying from this but it didn't make for very many fun firefights.

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#6 Posted by TacticalGiraffe (11 posts) -

@deathstriker: I’ll be honest and say the aiming system for the seeker drone or turret was a little weird. But after I got used to it, it was really nice to be able to tell my turret to change targets on the fly. I could keep someone else engaged and worry about the bigger threat.

And as far as the story, I have to be open and say it isn’t the most emotionally driving thing ever. You’re likely right in that most people usually aren’t jumping into this game for the story so, in light of that, it’s alright and it gets the point across. But I don’t really care for any of the characters I encounter.

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#7 Posted by Efesell (4637 posts) -

Honestly the main story of the first game was not memorable but it was fine for that type of game. It was the god awful side quest characters that drug everything down. It's a pretty low bar to clear to improve on that too so here's hoping.

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#8 Posted by adamxkuhn (39 posts) -

"Cutscene" is what they call a bio break in a Tom Clancy game

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#9 Posted by sparky_buzzsaw (8958 posts) -

That is a hell of a write-up. The changes seem smart. I think I'll be picking this up sometime after launch once we see how stable it is.

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#10 Posted by pweidman (2870 posts) -

Playing the TD2 beta now on XB1X and I really like all the changes. Also, the world is super dense and interesting, far more so than the first game. I'll be all over this come the 15th.

However, the extremely obnoxious sound bugs in the xbox beta are baffling. And all I've found in response from Ubi is that a day one patch will address "the audio degradation". I know it's a beta, but it's also for a game that's less than 2 weeks away. How can they not go out of their way to address the sound issues immediately? How many customers are they turning off, or influencing to skip launch and wait. Lost sales for sure either way. I don't get it, but maybe it's harder to address the bugs in the beta than I know.

Very nice write-up btw tc. The game looks really good to me too.

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#11 Edited by chaser324 (8722 posts) -

@pweidman: There were some weird audio bugs in the first game too, so it's odd they've stuck around.

I definitely had some cases in the closed beta where it seemed like some audio channels would just drop out completely until I restarted the game. I can live with it, but it's weird.

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#12 Posted by TacticalGiraffe (11 posts) -

@adamxkuhn: @deathstriker: @ssully: @sparky_buzzsaw: @pweidman: Just a quick little note. Thank you for taking the time to read this and offer some input! This is the start of a long desire to genuinely get into some journalism regarding the industry in my spare time. I'm thrilled some people had the time to read this and offer some thoughts on the matter!

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#13 Posted by cloudymusic (2137 posts) -

Glad to hear it's shaping up well. I got to choose between a PC copy of either this or Anthem when I bought a new video card recently, so it sounds like I chose the right one. Looking forward to the release!

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#14 Posted by TacticalGiraffe (11 posts) -

@cloudymusic: Phew! I’m glad you made that call! I tried anthem for a bit, but I got burned out really fast. It just really misses the mark.

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#15 Posted by Efesell (4637 posts) -

@cloudymusic: Yeah.. even as someone who is not as down on Anthem as most people even from just the beta stuff here I'd say you made the right move there.

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#16 Posted by mems1224 (2514 posts) -

I wasn't really interested in the division 2 until the open beta. I liked the first game, it was fine but the end game was pretty disappointing. The division 2 seems to have learned from the first game's mistakes. The end game mission was pretty fun and intense and it seems like they really upgraded the AI. Enemies push when you're low on health or revive a teammate and fall back when they're low on health. I've also been super impressed with how they already have the endgame mapped out and it looks really interesting. I pre-ordered the game as soon as the beta ended and I'm super hyped for it now.