GAMING POINT OF LOU – THE DIVISION 2 CLOSED BETA
When Tom Clancy’s The Division launched back in 2016, suffice it to say I was hyped, I love RPG’s and “Looter Shooters” above all else, and The Division held the promise of both. Unfortunately what I installed on launch day was a shell of what I was led to believe the game would be. While the campaign (I felt) was awesome: telling the story of a smallpox pandemic that wiped out most of the population, and boasting a well designed tactical cover based shooting mechanic that prioritized strategy over running and gunning, what ended up missing was endgame, quite simply put: there was NOTHING to do, and many people, myself included, left the game for long stretches, only reappearing when new content would drop periodically. But in true Ubisoft fashion, and in no small part due to the input and passion of those Agents who stuck it out through thick and thin (my hat off to you all, you know who you are), they transformed a game that had been left for dead by many into one of the highlights of this console generation.
So it was with no shortage of excitement when Ubisoft and Swedish developer Massive Entertainment pulled the curtain back on their highly anticipated follow up, and I am pleased to say that from what I have experienced so far has left me feeling optimistic for the future of the franchise.
The first thing that struck me was how similar yet entirely different the actual world felt, gone is the oppressive almost depressed winter setting of Div1. This time around we are in the heart of the summer in Washington D.C. and the world is teeming with life, Deer and other fauna run rampant in the streets, and swaths of green vegetation and flowers have started to grow around the city, rooftop settlements are populated with societies that have not only survived the initial pandemic, buy have started to rebuild some semblance of communities. And whatever voodoo Massive has worked with their Snowdrop engine has paid dividends, as the world is simply gorgeous to look at, and believe me when I tell you that is no small compliment, as I always felt that Div1 looked amazing even two plus years on. I was also fortunate enough to spend some time in game with a friend of mine that actually lives in the D.C. area, he has spent a significant amount of time there, and can confirm that while the map isn’t a full 1:1 recreation of our nations Capitol, he was still easily able to guide me through the streets pointing out various landmarks. Much to his surprise there was even a D.C. themed gift shop in exactly the same spot as it is in real life, and while the names on the businesses are different, there were plenty of times where he pointed out restaraunts or bars that were in their true to life locations, proof positive that Massive went all out to make this virtual recreation of D.C. as true to the real thing as possible.
Stepping into the shoes of my Agent for the first time, the primary thing that struck me was how smoothly the game played. One of the biggest issues I had with Div1 was movement, my Agent always felt a bit too clunky for my taste, but not so here, the controls felt far more fluid and responsive, even the act of moving cover to cover while engaging multiple foes felt leagues better than anytime in Div1. Speaking of cover, Massive have made the judicious use of cover VITAL to your Agents survival. Regardless of whether I was a level 1 just roaming the world, or later on in the weekend when they let us get our hands on endgame spec characters, it appears that the days of being able to “Face Tank” almost any adversary in the game are long gone. Stay out of cover too long and you are dead, plain and simple, it took some getting readjusted to, but after a time it became natural. I also can’t confirm this with anything but my anecdotal evidence, but it also appears as if they tuned the blind fire mechanics (firing behind cover without aiming) to be more accurate, as this long unused skill will probably become an essential part of gameplay. The shooting mechanics were crisp, and I love the new sound the rounds make when striking an enemy, it’s less a dull thud, and more a crisp “smack” which pleased my ear holes. Massive has also included damage falloff as a stat in this game, if it did exist in Div1 I have to confess I never noticed it, but it is most certainly noticeable in Div2, which has the added benefit of making more gun types useful in more situations. For instance I rarely if ever used a Marksman’s Rifle in Div 1, but I actually found myself wanting one this time around. In that regard at least, it will open up different playstyles that were generally unnecessary in Div1.
Enemy types and roles were basically unchanged you still have your rushers, riflemen, grenadiers, and majors, what has changed is how they act. Because a simple “red bar” no longer takes an inordinate amount of ammo to dispatch, their A.I. Is far more aggressive in seeking and utilizing cover. They also move to flank you more than before, there were plenty of times where I had to “advance in a backwards direction” to keep from getting surrounded and utilize choke points to help control the flow of combat, it required a more strategic level of thinking without being too overbearing, I will say that the enemy models seem smaller than Div1, and at times this led to me not being able to see them all that well, especially at night, which I’m sure is an intentional feature, it made the use of my radar all the more important.
Objectives have been tweaked to offer a bit more variety, the map is still populated with story missions, side missions, and various collections projects to complete, and all of the above will allow you access to more NPC vendors which will in turn allow access to higher level skills and equipment, and I can already tell that crafting is going to have a much larger focus in this game. While crafting did exist in Div1, outside of doing it for Commendations or a daily reward, I rarely found myself needing to utilize the system as I never really had a problem getting a good weapon or armor piece to drop, and coupled with Div1’s ability to reroll perks on gear it made it so that there wasn’t much of a need for that particular system.
There are also a full suite of intel collectibles and echo’s to find, as well as Control Points pock marked around the map, these (as the name implies) require you to push back the enemy forces occupying the area, allowing your NPC allies to take control. All of that along with 3 dark zones, (hybrid PVPVE environments) and full on competitive PVP should leave players plenty to do on a daily basis and well into when players reach the endgame, Massive has also promised us a full year of free content updates, as well as 8 person raids, which would be an improvement over Div1’s “pseudo raids” called Incursions.
At the end of the weekend I have to say that I left the game fairly impressed. Massive did a solid job of looking at not only what worked, but what didn’t work in Div1 either tossing it aside, or expanding upon it. I have to say at this stage I am not a fan of weapon mods and certain armor perks being moved to static unlocks, and I’m not quite sure how a mod system will work yet as I haven’t really seen any. I also have not seen any gear sets, so I don’t know how they will function in the endgame, I for one will be mightily upset if they don’t have a dedicated healer / support role anymore. I’m also not too sure what to think about the new character “Specializations” (basically a second leveling tree, once you hit the standard level cap) having tried all three, I didn’t notice a discernible difference outside of the special weapon and grenade ability that you get for choosing which Specialization you want, but that might change once I get my hands on the full game. At the end of the day though I’m still fully onboard for what they have created, and with all the experience of the last three years fresh in their minds, hopefully they can come out of the gate strong, and keep the game thriving for the next three years.
Until Next Time Everyone
Be Good To Your Fellow Nerd,