Our The Division 2 review-in-progress is coming at you following 20 hours of gameplay spent within the campaign, following both main and side missions, and also the Dark Zone PvPvE mode. You’d think, after that big of a time investment, I’d be close to endgame, but no, as Ubisoft has previously stated that the path to endgame will take around 40 hours. Once endgame has been reached, the devs then recommend that 15 hours is spent completing that post-story content.
Needless to say, this is an absolute mission, and in terms of quantity, Massive Entertainment has certainly got it down. But what about quality?
The Division 2 Review-in-Progress | Looks to thrill
I’m playing on PC, a platform which allows The Division 2 to truly shine. There are no 30 FPS caps here, nor are there any noticeable stuttering issues. Performance is better than what I would expect, considering the visuals on show.
The post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. looks incredible, with an impressive level of detail that often causes me to stop and snap pics using the Photo Mode. Massive has truly delivered a believable D.C. which features prominent landmarks brought to ruin. Couple this with fantastic sound and you have a very solid presentation.
Only a few animation hiccups, like the clumsy falling, prevent me from feeling fully immersed. There are also a few bugged missions which have halted my progress, wasting about an hour in total. The initial Dark Zone tutorial didn’t load correctly, instead sending me straight into a PvP environment, and the Dark Zone South gate refused to open until I had first completed some unrelated side missions. Needless to say, I’ll be monitoring the day one patch for any fixes.
The Division 2 Review-in-Progress | Make friends… or die trying
When I’m not staring up at the Washington Monument, trying to get the perfect selfie with the sun’s god rays perfectly rendered, I’m committing myself to the loot shooter grind. Make no mistake: The Division 2 is as loot shooter as it gets, with players being encouraged to keep on increasing their damage levels with the usual random rolls of loot drops, steadily earning enough XP to gain access to the next mission. And missions scale based on your level, too, which is good in that they are always a challenge, but bad in that the difficulty can be a tad frustrating at times.
The game is at its best when you’re playing with friends, or have utilized matchmaking to find three helpful teammates. However, when a player doesn’t pull their weight, or if you are trying to solo your way to victory, the grind can feel very slow.
Calling for backup invites other players to join your game to assist, but my requests often went ignored, which is a bit of a pain when trying to tackle one of the many matchmaking-less side missions. I know there will be more players in-game during the full launch, but it would still have been nice to see an AI backup system, with agent bots dropping in if no one else was coming. Solo play makes this game’s weaknesses much more noticeable, and I highly recommend playing with friends, or with clanmates using the Clan system.
The Division 2 Review-in-Progress | Why. Won’t. You. Die?!
Like in The Division, enemies can still absorb a good few magazines with bullets slowly chunking them down, but the different status effects and armor mechanics help to alleviate the monotony. With that said, I’d have much preferred Massive to have doubled the enemy body count, rather than the enemy health. Waves often seem to be made up of single-digit numbers, which are then replaced by more enemies when killed. There is an awful lot of wave-based combat in The Division 2, but the different enemy factions at least allow for some variety in tactics.
The satisfying combat also makes wading through the enemies much more bearable. While you aren’t in an exo-suit, capable of flight and firing rockets out of your bum flap, you are able to dish out damage using a few special gadgets, while also making use of more conventional weapons. I’m especially fond of the Covert SRS sniper rifle, as well as the Classic M60.
The Division 2 Review-in-Progress | Enter the Dark Zones
To get some of the best loot in the game, you’ll need to head into the game’s Dark Zone. I’ve only spent a couple of hours in these areas, but that was enough to feel the tension and electricity in the air during a drop. It has a very battle royale-esque vibe, though there is the safety net of being able to respawn. Those playing “properly” will focus on clearing out landmarks in PvE scenarios, making friends with fellow agents along the way. Those who are “Rogue,” however, will instead be on the hunt to recover high-end loot, no matter the cost. That can involve taking down a fellow player, which is where everything tends to descend into chaotic firefights, with friends rapidly becoming foes.
I need a lot more time with this mode to decide whether or not it works well. The Dark Zone in the original game became too intimidating for all but the most hardcore players, I feel, so here’s hoping the sequel is able to make them a bit more accessible.
The Division 2 Review-in-Progress | Loot is all you need
Perhaps the biggest problem with The Division 2 — and I feel that this is an issue that most Ubisoft games have — is that I really don’t care about the story and the characters within it. This game covers some horrific acts of terrorism, with your character tasked with protecting the innocent against the worst kind of people, but I feel cold to it all. I have a mission checklist, the XP reward, and other RPG staples, and those control my focus. I feel like there aren’t enough meaningful interactions with characters to grow attached, and it doesn’t help that the protagonist is silent and soulless.
Of course, most people will be playing as a group and ignoring the in-game chatter. If that’s the case, then the dialog is sufficient, and it won’t matter when you can’t remember a single character’s name by the end of it.
The Division 2 Review-in-Progress | Awaiting endgame
With 20 hours already under my belt, I’ve been grinding pretty hard, but I’m still having a good time. My motivations to keep playing — outside of it being my job — are to see Massive’s take on more D.C. landmarks, to get more loot to be effective in the PvPvE Dark Zones, and to quickly reach the endgame and start perfecting my builds with well-rolled gear. Loot is what ultimately drives me to keep grinding in these games, and it seems like the developers are ready to satisfy with a deep collection of loot, customizable with mods, Weapon Talents, and more.
As a final point about loot, I need to mention the in-game store. Yes, there are microtransactions and loot boxes in this game. They don’t impact gameplay, from what I can tell, but they do mean that awesome-looking gear is held behind random chance and/or real-world payments. All of the player characters that I see in the game look pretty much identical to one another, so it’s a shame to see the more exciting outfits being hidden away like this. Do also remember that The Division 2 has a Season Pass for the first year (and presumably more passes to come), which makes the presence of loot boxes a little tough to forgive.
In loot shooters like The Division 2, it’s after the credits roll where the game truly begins. This means that I have another 30-35 hours of gameplay to get through before I’m able to give an accurate, final verdict. Until then, know that The Division 2 is a solid shooter with lots of loot to chase. It’s got a solid progression system and gameplay loop that takes you through the campaign, but it suffers in the story department with unrealized potential. However, the sheer number of missions, PvP, and Dark Zone content make up for the lackluster plot.
Rest assured that this is a significant step forward from The Division, with the developers clearly learning a lot from that first attempt and its many great post-launch content updates and patches. Here’s hoping it continues to shine up until endgame and beyond.
The Division 2 review code provided by the publisher and played on a PC (Ryzen 7 1700, GTX 1070).