Last week, I had the good fortune to receive an invitation to the closed beta for “The Division 2” (not through Ubisoft by the way, I was randomly selected through other means). Having played around 5 hours with the beta, I decided to collect my thoughts and offer my opinion on the game; this is obviously a beta, so a lot of things could change!
I never played the first Division game, because it seemed to me like a game that “expected” players to group up and tackle the game together, which is not something I want to do (most of the time). As expected, The Division 2 doubles down on that mentality, which means that even after a pretty fun time with the game, I have no interest in purchasing it when it comes out; but, I could have told you that even before spending 5 hours with the game. So, my impressions won’t focus on whether the game is worth buying when it comes out; rather, I’m going to discuss a few aspects I liked and didn’t like about the game, from the perspective of someone who wanted a, mostly, single-player experience.
First up, the positives: I really liked the combat. The weapons feel weighty and have their own unique purposes in combat; fast weapons lack accuracy but provide a good way to get yourself out of a sticky situation by mowing down rushing enemies; medium range weapons offer versatility; long range weapons offer devastating damage, but are slow as a snail; shotguns can destroy enemies and allow for a more aggressive play-style. This isn’t something new or groundbreaking, but with the multitude of enemy types, the plethora of situations you will find yourself in, and the added variables of other players with different weapons, it makes the Division feel more dynamic and tactical than other similar games; that’s not even mentioning the different skills agents can have—like a drone the heals players, a turret that targets enemies, grenades that seek out the closest enemy. All in all, combat was very engaging and fun, but that can get repetitive if you don’t use the full breadth of options at your disposal (more on that later) and in different circumstances; the Division 2, thankfully, has a lot of circumstances! Each “area” (in the beta at least) has something visually unique to it, with more diverse environments that offer different tactical situations (like a vertical construction site, which you can attack from the ground or flank the sides which put you higher and closer to the overwhelming number of enemies); the missions also provide some fun encounters, whether they were main or side missions, while the random events that happen in the open world also provide a few interesting distractions along the way.
So, what didn’t I like about the Division 2? Well, let’s get the multiplayer aspect out of the way first; grouping up with 3 random players to take on a main mission sucked. While I wanted to take my time and soak up the interesting location of the mission, explore the space, and then move on, my fellow team-mates were rushing through the mission, or taking too long exploring the environment, which was like having poorly-designed AI companions that either rushed through enemies agroing them or were always stuck on doors and couldn’t advance; I realize that this won’t be a problem for most people, but that was my experience. With that out of the way, let’s get to the stuff that I think the Division 2 could have been better at, starting with the gun stats and encouraging experimentation. Gun stats are awful in this game, because they are literally just numbers that can be extreme way too early; for example, at level 4 I found a gun that had 11k fire rate, which was absurd because I had only seen 3-digit stats up to that point. The gun was balanced (it had a low clip and terrible stability), but I never felt compelled to try it because I never really understood why I should swap my pretty fast gun (with a higher clip, damage, accuracy, and stability stats) with this ludicrously fast gun. On the other hand, I also found it pretty compelling to simply look at the DPS number and just use the gun with the higher stat, which is a pretty simplistic and boring thing to do; I know this sounds like me complaining about two extreme opposites, but games like Borderlands 2 have balanced the thin line of giving players insanely high stats for guns and simplistic ways to compare them, without making the guns feel like a collection of confusing numbers or making choosing your gun like a basic math problem. Moreover, there was never any incentive for me to switch weapon types and experience their own unique tactical uses; you just do it because you got a better shotgun than your current AR, or you got bored. In games like Warframe, that incentive is built into the loop of the game, which makes the Division 2 feel dated and stale; again, I know these are issues that won’t apply to all, but from my experiences with loot shooters and what I want from games like these, these issues are pretty damning.
That pretty much sums up my main talking points about the Division 2; obviously there are more things I like about it (the graphics, a lot of gear slots that gives you more short-term goals and reasons to keep playing, base building mechanics that seem pretty interesting, etc.) and more things I don’t like (the story, technical issues that could be fixed, monetization concerns, etc.), but those are issues you are likely to see covered in greater depth (and with more competency) from other people; for me these are the things I took away from my time with the Division 2. I now know that the Division 2 is simply something that is not intended towards me, but from my time with the game, I also know that if a buddy of mine decides to take the plunge on it, I wouldn’t try to stop him; in fact, I would join him and spent a good couple of dozen hours with him in the post-apocalyptic Washington shooting dudes that take dozens of clips because they were a gold beanie!