Tom Clancy’s The Division launched in 2016 with a whole host of issues. The third person looter shooter saw players stuck in literal virtual lines in order to activate a laptop without instigating a crash, ungodly long queues and load times, and a fractured progression system that made it frustratingly difficult to gauge your character’s real ability. Ubisoft and the developers from Massive were determined to go all in on this new IP, however, and so they set out to right The Division’s wrongs. They put out a casting call for an Elite Task Force, gathering together a diverse team of fans from youtube personalities and hardcore players to even the most mundane PvE casuals. The Elite Task Force came together at development studio Red Storm’s offices in North Carolina and set out to make The Division better for everybody. By the time The Division hit update 1.4 it was an almost entirely different game than what we saw at launch with improved time to kill mechanics, better servers, and a wealth of new content that sought to shake up the original release’s monotony.
Despite all of it’s troubles, however, I still managed to log a respectable 2700 hours in The Division. To say I was excited for The Division 2 was nothing short of an understatement. Three years and one week after the release of Tom Clancy’s The Division, The Division 2 finally fell into players laps. Ubisoft had put all their marbles into the IP, with a whopping six different international studios playing a role in the development of the game. Set seven months after the events of it’s predecessor, The Division 2 gives players a glimpse at what has happened in Washington D.C. following the outbreak of The Dollar Flu and the subsequent release of the chemical agent DC-62 in an effort to combat it. While the new setting allows for much greener scenery, there’s still evidence of the timing of the Dollar Flu’s arrival as the occasional dried up remains of a Christmas Tree with disheveled decorations can be found around the map.
Much like in New York, Washington D.C.’s collapse has resulted in the rise of three rival factions. The Hyenas, the True Sons, and the Outcasts now run the streets, terrorizing innocent civilians who are just trying to survive any way they can. Unlike in New York, however, the civilians are now more resilient as they have congregated into settlements. Each action you take as an agent helps to improve these settlements, giving players the sense that their presence genuinely improves the lives of the NPCs they interact with. From roof top gardens and barbecues, to karaoke stages and water filtration, your involvement doesn’t just reduce the threat of the dangerous powers that be, but actually brings back a bit of normalcy.
One of The Division’s initial struggles was the repetitive nature of the world’s activities. The first game saw most missions having a predictable flow of events. It’s evident in The Division 2 that the developers heard players’ criticisms, and thus Washington D.C. is overflowing with things to do. From the moment you step foot on the White House lawn, until your agent crosses the level 30 threshold and waltzes into end game, D.C. feels alive with hope and purpose. The enormous map is littered with control points, where players can take on the opposing factions in an effort to make more resources available for the settlements of civilians. Unknown events pop up randomly at all times, ranging from simple ‘save the hostage’ type events to escorting civilians with resources to tracking down and coming to the aid of other agents. The main story missions are always available to be played and replayed at the player’s leisure in any order they see fit, but it is also entirely possible to cross that level 30 player threshold before you complete the main story.
Much like with The Division 1, the first 30 levels of Division 2 are essentially an epic tutorial, teaching you how to piece together builds and get the most out of your loot. After your character hits level 30, the real challenges begin as you progress through the world tiers. World tiers were originally added in The Division 1 with the 1.4 update that the Elite Task Force helped to flesh out, but with The Division 2 they are a core part of the endgame experience right out of the gate. We don’t just see the inclusion of harder difficulties for story missions, though, we see a whole new story. One where your hard work up to this point is now on the line, and you must fight not to develop your settlements and communities but to defend them. Story missions become invaded by a fourth faction, and replaying them actually provides players an entirely new story to experience.
Not content to just lay out an expensive shared world and call it a day, The Division 2 launched with a fully functional clan set up, allowing players to group up with their friends and work cooperatively (even when not playing together) to earn experience and unlock additional rewards. Likewise, players can group up with their clan or with randoms to tackle Conflict, the newest iteration of PvP that’s modeled after The Division 1’s Last Stand DLC. Don’t worry, Conflict does not take the place of The Division’s coveted Dark Zone. The Division 2 doesn’t offer just one DZ, either, but three new expansive areas of DC to explore that are overrun by the most dangerous enemies imaginable – other players. Its even easier than ever to go rogue in the DZ, but only if you want to. Find a supply drop and don’t want to claim it the old fashioned way? Go rogue and steal it instead. Accidentally crack open a supply stash without using a key? You’ve gone rogue. How do you return back to the good side of the SHD agency if you’ve done so? You can run the timer out, like in the game’s predecessor, or you can carry out several new rogue actions like hacking the SHD network. These tasks crank your timer up, but if you complete enough of them you eventually unlock access to Thieves Dens, essentially rogue safe houses. In these dens you rid yourself of that pesky rogue status, and resupply on top of it so you can head back into the DZ and do it all over again.
In Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 rooftop gardens dot the landscape, and the greenery of nature has taken over the city. Deer, fox, and even raccoons run the streets. It’s a stark contrast from The Division 1’s snowy New York, and it lends itself well to The Division 2’s new photo mode. At the press of a button players take over the camera drone, and can zoom around to set up the perfect shot (with or without a filter), even setting their characters to perform an emote before pressing the capture button. Though, to be fair, the most frequent use of photo mode will probably be taking screenshots of all the weird places the deer manage to get themselves stuck. Bambi on a rooftop? Xbox, screenshot that. Bambi’s mom got her head stuck in a shipping container? Xbox, screenshot that, too.
It’s funny, when it happens to the wildlife. But it’s decidedly less enjoyable when it happens to your character. For all of The Division’s dystopian beauty and attention to detail, it is still plagued with the clipping and invisible wall glitches we saw in The Division 1. Most of the game breaking glitches were cleared up in the first couple of days, thankfully, but there are still weird moments where players get hung up on ladders, or fast traveling doesn’t work quite as intended. Despite that, though, The Division 2 is a stunning addition to the franchise with just enough changes to keep it feeling fresh while keeping enough core gameplay mechanics in place that hardcore fans of the first game still feel at home when they hear an ISAC alert.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher