The first entry in Tom Clancy’s The Division Clancy Division Tom Tom Clancy Division (R) TM (C) never really clicked with me, so much so I thought I’d already written about it here but Alex and my adventures in the original title were actually before the website was launched! Way back in March 2016 we were already knee-deep in the launch of Street Fighter 5, enjoying the fantastically warped Pony Island and trying to understand if Far Cry Primal was still worth it. It’s now quite a leap from that time of mind so definitely time to see if the game has jumped to.
Visually The Division 2 is something else. You have an almost lifelike re-creation of Washington DC set after the events of first game. Gone is the grey apocalypse of Manhatten switched out for a more green and upbeat area and feeling. The environments and population all look impressive and the people look surprisingly clean and doing ok for the events that have occurred but for some reason it all feels quite farcical. There are amazing cutscenes of story full of cgi seriousness and then you find yourself back in the hub where a few special agents are falling on the spot or trying to get past you through a doorway to shoot numbers off mobs of punks. Its tone is a lot more focused than the first game with less “we couldn’t bury the dead…. OH SHINY LOOT” but there is still that strange juxtaposition of serious rebuilding of civilisation with crafting a nicer looking cap and shades, all wrapped in glitchy tech and cool orange lights.
The Division 2 does absolutely nail one aspect of its gameplay loop with the leveling up on skills and shooting from cover to cover being a ballistic fun loop. It is absolute nonsense that you can gain a skill that lets you gain more EXP for headshots but the gunplay is superb and it’s easy to forget that you’re trying to save a civilisation on the brink of implosion when you’re running to another chest-high wall while your super smart mine runs off into the distance to blow up a target. It’s so strangely fun and enjoyable and horribly bleak at the same time. I can see why people chose this over other shooters but surely they have to be self-aware of how ludicrous the style of it all is?
There are plenty of nice little features so far in The Division 2 as well. Pushing against car doors closes them, walking on glass makes noise enough to alert people if you’re stealthing, there’s a day/night cycle at play that shifts up the gameplay and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Division 2 is ludicrously deep with statistics, almost every gun has 14+ stats to get to grips with but a nice green damage number if you don’t want to worry too much and the same with armour and perks. You can scale up all the UI text and there’s some nice accessibility options but the item looting text and some of the stuff on the left which seems important stays small? It’s a little niggle but the strangest thing about The Division 2 is the more you play it, the more trivial they become.
The Division 2 is a coop shooter at heart and definitely geared that way from start to finish. It was quite easy to join a random someone who needed help and go off for a mission, even though the emote system was frustratingly clunky and I didn’t speak their language. The loading to get into the game, join another game and then load the instance was simply a chore but we’re not talking Anthem levels of loading yet. The best thing I took away from the experience was that after completing a few story missions with a random player when I went back to my own instance they still showed as completed with all the loot I’d obtained. I don’t know why but I had just expected there to only be an EXP benefit for helping out. When dying out on a curb I could put out a call for help from nearby agents and it’s encouraging to see this coop focus in practical uses, even if help never came.
The Division 2 beta was such a strange experience for me. I went in fully expecting nothing special and the first Division was only fun from playing with friends. This was going to be a solo experience so I was expecting to be bored by the end of the first mission. The next thing I know I’ve completed a few story missions and I’m out exploring the areas canvasing for loot and wanting to see how the story of plucky surviving people continues. It’s a real sleeper hit and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself going back to it in future and I hope you do to. If you do please heal me, I’m on a curb somewhere.
The Division 2 launches the 15th March 2019