Improving the Addicting Loop
The Division 2 keeps the traditional 3rd-person cover-based shooter gameplay, in a post-apocalyptic setting with thousands of different loot, that its predecessor had. The game looks amazing, plays better, has an increase in the gameplay loop and changes the location from New York to Washington, DC.
The player, once again, is a member of the Division, an agent, sent to do the hardest job available out there. You’ll be in a wasteland, that after the outbreak – the dollar flu from the first game – is contested by a variety of factions. You start by hearing about a group that is called the Hyenas, as others start to charm in as the game goes on. Making a surprisingly enough variety, for a genre that would tend to be very repetitive, The Division 2 does pretty well on that part (as well as it can, at least).
My favorite thing about this game is that it just goes. At any point, it tries to be anything other than a video game ass video game. You boot it up, and it gives you a ton of configurations to adjust, what I’m a fan of. You then create your character and at your first movement you’re already shooting, in a really short period, you’ll already have 50% of all the game’s systems on your plate to work with. It does as well as it can to explain everything to you, with some direct well-written text pop-ups.
And it basically goes as: Your character has a level, you have 6 slots for gear, 2 for skills and 3 for weapons. You earn experience by doing everything that the game offers you, you unlock skill points by completing main missions, and those skills vary from you having a shield, or deploying a drone to help you. The items have level as well, what would be (and later is) its power level, basically. You’ll have tons of loot drops from enemies as well as finding crates all over the place, just like in the previous game. The item rarity is back, with the traditional color-based rarity from games like Diablo and Borderlands. Going from gray to gold. The character will also have another skill system, that it’s for Perks, that are improvements you can make through the game like an increase in the inventory capacity or grenades you can carry, things like that. Those skill points come by any activity you can complete in the world map.
The game goes one step deeper into the loot even, with the cosmetic system. You’ll find some only cosmetic items, and you can find them in crates as well, that you can buy. Nothing that can tarnish the game, at least. Each gear and weapon will have customization as well, where you can put some Mods as well as change its skin. Your character has an arsenal of emotes, just like every modern multiplayer out there, for those who care.
Continuing what I’ve said about the game just going. From the very beginning, you already have fast travel, if you want to use it, which can be pretty helpful if walking everywhere and being interrupted by random events is not your style. It also makes everything you can interact with, very shiny. If it’s a drop from an enemy, it’ll have a big beam of light, if it’s a crate or backpack that you can search, it’ll have an orange light to make it clear when you see it. As well as having an orange pointer/circle to show you clearly where to go next, plus some red signals on the minimap to show where the enemies are coming from or when you’re getting close to them. What helps a lot since sometimes you’ll be fighting in a 1v10 and probably surviving. So, as I’ve said, it’s a video game and it goes for it, I love that.
Not just when it comes to direction and interaction, but the game has some amazing visual Qs everywhere, I like how they help you – to some degree – see the enemies, show the damage, have different signals for headshot, armor damage, kills, etc. The range of explosion for the grenade is showed, the skill uses as well. The way it presents the new loot you got to compare if it’s better than the one you already have. Everything about the game has some good quality of life in it.
What I’m not a fan of, in this kind of game, is the bullet sponge enemies. What made me mad about the first Division was that I got stuck on a mission because I didn’t have enough bullets to get through the final fight of the mission. In this game, they improve on that, you can really feel the damage you make. Of course, the big enemies with a different color of health bars are still there, but overall, you can do some serious damage to everybody, and if you’re good at shooting, you can annihilate through the waves by hitting headshots followed by headshots. It didn’t even come close to have the ammo problem from the first one, what is helped by them putting a Restock Crate in every mission checkpoint basically, where you can refill your ammo, what is pretty helpful. Another thing that they don’t try to take away from the gameplay with some idea that would make it more realistic. No, just put ammo crates everywhere, I like that.
The guns are really satisfying, it’s really good to shoot in this game when you keep getting headshots and seeing those life bars melt, as red numbers pop up, it’s one of the best things about this game. They surprised me on the variety of enemies and locations for missions, that’s always negative with this kind of game, but they manage to make it decent. The AI is some of the best I’ve seen, the enemy is always aware of the situation, sometimes trying to flank you, or making you leave your spot with a grenade. Always combining the actions with the other AI’s. All of that is put together by, not just the visual Qs that I mentioned, but amazing sound design, the shooting, and footsteps are as good as you can make them, the mid-fight conversations can be helpful as well.
Games like The Division, generally are seeing as a mindless shooter, something that you can just hop in with friends and have a fun time. Well, I won’t disagree with that, but I enjoyed the soundtrack for this one, it’s usually something that people don’t care much from this genre, but they pump the action moments really well. What it confirms the idea of a mindless shooter is how all over the place the story is. Every person I’ve seen talking about this game has no idea of what’s going on. You can understand some parts, but there’s no way to put it all together, but that’s not the main focus, it’s ok. You’ll hear the traditional corky dialogues here and there, while following the instructions of your watch, Isac, that every Division Agent has.
The game has the traditional Ubisoft world map, where it’s filled with icons, varying from missions and enemy camps to random events. You can find collectibles like cellphones or reconstruct an Echo replay, that’s a memory of something that happened in that place. The first game had all of that. From time to time, or between each big mission you complete, you’ll go back to one of your settlements, where the good guys will have a base, with things like a store, some mission givers, and the usual. Those places will be upgrades each time you complete a certain mission, and they’ll also have a project system, where you can help them with something by donating some extra items or doing some chores on the world map. The settlement is also where you can spend your skill points, you can’t do it by just pressing a button, you need to go to a specific guy to upgrade it. But it’s not a negative, you’ll be fine if you don’t spend your points for a while, and if you want to go back, it’s pretty quick with all the fast travels. One thing that you’ll feel the difference though, is by improving your gear. I love that feeling in video games, each time you get a new and more powerful weapon, you’ll quickly see the difference, probably by melting enemy health bars, it’s so satisfying.
One problem that I have with the settlements is that they can be a bit too much, visually. You sometimes don’t see where the game wants you to go while you’re in there, especially on the Theater, that is basically all vertical. And if you walk between two new things, you might end up on characters talking over each other. At one point I had two people talking in person and the radio also pop up, I couldn’t understand one damn thing of what I was hearing.
After all of that, and – I would say – around 20 hours of gameplay. You’ll hit the level cap, that it’s 30. And basically, another game will start. The map will change, your character and its items will move from having a level to having a gear score, basically, where your grind begins. I didn’t go into much detail on the different areas, the city has some underground parts, it’s all pretty fleshed out, I’ll let people see all of that and choose what they want to go for. But you’ll have PVP – The Dark Zone - unlocked from the beginning, which is not a great part of the game, in my opinion. This review is – as you saw - focused on the PVE/Campaign, and its progression.
When you hit that level 30, you’ll unlock a new skill point system, that has a specialization, that specialization comes with a fourth weapon, that is powerful and uses special ammo, that can drop from enemies. There are three options, a grenade launcher, a sniper and a crossbow with special effects. Each of the three options, besides just giving you that weapon, has a specific skill tree that you earn points to improve your character, with new options of skills and upgrades. Even a new faction comes to action, in the late game. It also solidifies the foundation for future updates that Ubisoft probably has planned for its players.
So, what I’m saying is, The Division 2 has kind of two games into it, it might be just a twist on more of the same, with some missions that will start being pretty long as the time goes, but it’s a worth the investment if it’s your gem. You can play dozens of hours of this game and still have things to uncover. I really think it’s slipping through peoples’ radar and not getting that much attention. If you like these games, the so-called “shlooters” (?), I think The Division 2 is the best one out there, as of June 2019. Give it a shot, maybe you’ll enjoy it.