The journey through The Division 2’s 1:1 scale of Washington DC surprised me - from the moment I established my base of operations in the White House until the moment I caught my (now level 28) agent helping nearby settlements to fend off hostile factions, I wasn’t expecting the progress to level 30 to be a positive experience.
That was my chief worry before I played The Division 2. You see, I revisited The Division and endured the painful grind to max level on the PC (my initial playthrough was on the PS4 during its first year). That experience alone wasn’t worth a second go, but I was keen to study the current state of the game’s endgame with all of its paid DLCs and compare it to The Division 2’s endgame, which Massive Entertainment stated as their priority when developing the sequel.
Content past the campaign and max level cap is when “the game truly begins”, or at least that’s what fans of this type of subgenre say. And it’s true. The gameplay loop that occurs after players have finished the main content fuels their drive to login everyday, which is a large reason why these types of games are appealing to publishers like Ubisoft.
The toughest pieces of content for The Division 2 will be Raids - they’re a first for the franchise and will be treated as free post-launch content. This encounter will test an 8-man group for unique gear and rewards. We don’t know what to expect, but I’m eager to prepare my agent for the challenge.
The road to level 30 is not a hard slog
That said, I’m nowhere there - yet, I find myself 20 hours in and having a blast at exploring an empty but lively Washington DC.
Every corner, I’m welcomed with gunfire, be it by settlements looking for food or water, picking a fight with a group of enemy factions patrolling the area, or an execution that’s about to take place. I’ve captured control points, completed side-quests, fulfilled bounty requests, and answered calls for help from a fellow agent in need. The journey to level 30 this time around was nothing like the first game, as I remember being bored by mundane quests and uninspiring encounters come level 15.
This alone is a big win for the looter shooter: Massive Entertainment was able to establish a rich progression towards the endgame, a feat that has recently been difficult for games in the same vein as The Division 2. The ruined streets of Washington DC encourage exploration, and the changes to gameplay make me want to engage every enemy group populating the streets. I can happily say that The Division 2 was not the sequel I was expecting.
Exploration rewards not only loot in The Division 2
I’ve been feeling rewarded at every corner I explore - every encounter leads to new equipment and guns, which not only provide a different feel, but in turn get me brainstorming fun combinations with my skills and equipment, even though they will be pointless in the next 3-4 hours as they will be replaced anyways.
The gameplay can hold its own, as the story exists more to establish the setting and the conflict in the area. I have yet to experience an interesting character within which I can feel invested in the proceedings, and with your character being the silent protagonist, cutscenes are always cringe-y at best.
Storytelling-wise, the game does have its moments. The attention to detail and the level design sparked within me that urge to know just what happened. I recently entered an abandoned museum, wherein contamination levels were through the roof. I saw my character equip his gas mask and quickly reloaded all of my weapons, expecting a fight.
What I found instead were piles of bodies at the entrance... and nothing else. I checked every room, which filled me with an eerie feeling, but once I opened every loot box in the vicinity, I was told that that I’d completed discovering the Contaminated Area. What happened? There must be more to this. I’ve yet to figure it out, but I do appreciate these types of mysteries that I can simply stumble upon while exploring.
These are my thoughts about The Division 2 after 20 hours of play. I’ve had so much fun with what the game has to offer at this point, and i’m just a mission or two away from completion. There will be many more to take in, as I’ve only done one PVP match and have yet to set foot in the game’s Dark Zones, which are where PVE and PVP meet. Also, there’s the endgame content, which I’m told changes the game completely once you’re finished with the campaign, with the addition of another opposing faction.
Expect a full review once I’ve delved into the endgame content and everything PVP.
The Division 2 is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.