For the record, I just want to state that I was one of the people hyped for The Division 1. I bought into the game after all the pretty trailers at E3 and the promise of new and interesting gameplay. What happened after is what I recall as a bit of mess. A New York city blanketed in snow, lifeless streets that serve as connectors to the next fight, and of course the bullet sponges that are the enemies. If it were not for the Dark Zones, The Division as a whole wouldn’t be anything other than a mindless looter shooter. Thankfully, a steady stream of updates and new content ensured that the game would stay relevant enough to find its audience.
Fast-forward a few years later, we find ourselves near the launch of its sequel, The Division 2. For Ubisoft’s part, they did make a strong push in terms of advertising The Division 2 in the months leading up to the beta. Many trailers were released showing everyone of the changes they were making to the formula as well as new features in both singleplayer and multiplayer experiences. I, for one, was not completely sold. It was going to take more than fancy trailers to win me over this time around.
The open beta starts off at the streets leading up to the White House. The Hyaenas are making a push to take down the White House and it’s up to me to repel the attack. The whole ordeal accomplishes a lot – from giving newer players a chance to figure the controls, to the introduction of the command center. Later on, we get a mission that introduces settlements and other various activities not present in the first entry. Most notably: saving civilians and fighting alongside patrols to fend off ambushing enemies.
At this point, things are looking too good. Enemies are a lot more responsive. Though being the beta, it’s very easy to trick the melee enemies into swinging at thin air just by going underneath them. More enemy types keep the engagements all the more fun (more on that later). But I think it’s the new armor system that really speeds up the pace of each fight. Having armor before health encourages a more active play style. What’s more, health regenerates outside of combat. So as long as there is armor, I have all the reason to end a fight quickly. It’s only when all my armor kits are gone did I ever consider playing passively.
Most of my time during the beta was spent collecting better gear with higher armor ratings. Brands and sets did not apply much. However, by the end of beta I was rocking a set that works well with automatic rifles. I stopped caring for armor values after equipping that particular set. Afterwards, I shifted my focus on doing the side missions and gathering resources for settlement requests. It didn’t get as monotonous as I imagined it to be. From time to time, I would find audio recordings and holograms leading up to the eventual state of the Capital. It’s a nice diversion, all things considered.
The Endgame gets unlocked after completing the third and final mission of the Open Beta. Upon completion, I had the option to return to the main menu and try out the endgame classes that will be available at launch: The Sharpshooter, the Survivalist, and the Demolitionist. Trying out the new classes also gives a sneak peek at the strongest enemy faction, the Black Tusk. They do not mess around. Even a fully maxed out character like the specialists have a hard time dealing with multiple Black Tusk operatives and their army of unmanned drones. And though we seem to be back to dealing with bullet sponge enemies, the active skills make up for it. But the biggest drawback near the end of the beta has to be the Dark Zone.
Dark Zones function the same way as they did in The Division 1. Though in the beta, only the East Dark Zone is available. The West and South will follow after launch. And like the first game, the intense PvPvE combat is at its best here. Making for daring escapes and even more intense helicopter extraction stand offs. I didn’t get to fully appreciate the experience as time was short. I did manage to make a few plays before going down to rogue agents.
The biggest take away I had from the Open Beta is that there is a lack of noticeable bugs this time around. Of course, there are the occasional weird A.I. behaviours and disappearing textures. But apart from maintenance on the second day and a bug that got my player model stuck in some weird pose, everything worked out fine.
All in all, I am genuinely excited for launch. Because of the preview of the endgame classes, I have been thinking of ways of optimizing gear. I also can’t wait to mix and match skills when the whole table is available. I’m glad that The Division 2 took the best parts of the first game and improved upon many aspects of the game. All that’s left now is to wait for launch.