I know you’re expecting a review, but I don’t do that. What I will tell you is this is a hands-on from someone who can tell pretty much anyone if this game is worth a play. What game? Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment’s The Division 2. Oh, Tom Clancy was in there also. Let’s go!
These are three questions that have been posed to me by folks who were curious if they should snatch up the Division sequel, I kid you not. While I refused to really expand upon it then, I definitely think I know enough with nearly 20 levels under my belt, to be able to talk some business. Questions posed by fans of the first game, people who were shocked I was playing it at all and, well, friends of mine who rolled their eyes and awaited me to be over it. Spoiler Alert: I’m not.
“But Candice, did you like the FIRST Division game?”
Okay, but listen — I don’t know how MUCH of that is the game’s fault and just how much of that was a ‘me’ problem. Let me explain, if you’d be so kind, because there’s some nuance to this whole thing. The Division, when it first came out, was a new kind of game for me. In a world where I played mostly high-fantasy games in an online capacity or if I played shooters, even those were high fantasy or space situations — I was lost. I was playing games like Overwatch and Destiny a ton, so that was where I stood in an online co-op kind of scene. In single-player titles, I could run the gamut and play pretty much everything realism-wise. When I started into The Division, the first one, I was knee-deep in a lot of game write-ups and tons of work so I ran into the same situation I run into with a LOT of MMO type games. Not that I’m saying The Division series is an MMO, but it does have a lot of adjacent gameplay to one. You can bring all your friends in, co-op missions, loot, shoot, quest and PVP if you care to do that.
See, I play a lot of games and so if a game is something I play to hang with friends and simply that — I only play with friends. Funny thing about that? Well, everyone just kept doing their thing while I was off doing other games, working or just generally living my typical life. Games like that tend to be a problem for yours truly because I can’t party up with folks on way different stuff than I am without either making them leave their missions behind to play with me or I end up heading into some pretty raw messes just to hang out. Neither are fun, you know? So, The Division got a chance until I went to log on a day or two later and saw the usual suspects well ahead of me and I had NO idea where to even begin. I prefer to learn games with my friends and I feel I didn’t get a huge chance with Division before everyone else was already SUPER into it and I was the broken-legged Agent who had no idea what to do.
“Okay, so what changed with The Division 2?”
Okay, I’m getting there — let me continue, okay?
This is my boyfriend and I love him desperately, but he terrified me when I knew he’d be playing The Division 2. Why? Because he goes HARD. There’s a reason we consider him to be our Loremaster when it comes to every single game we play. He has been excited for this game to come out for months, pretty much since E3, if we’re being real. I groaned. I already knew I wouldn’t dare play this with him because he will no-life a game he loves to find every nook and possible crannie while I’m prancing around figuring out which gun ‘speaks to me’. He was level 30 within but two, maybe three days. I was out with a migraine and my beloved was crushing it.
Okay, well, I use Rem as an example because things have definitely changed and I can kinda only thank Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment for making me not flinch when Rem wanted to play The Division 2 with me. Perhaps they knew that it was such an abysmal experience for people like me (Hardcore gamer but ones that play a LOT of games weekly) who couldn’t sit down with a game for 70+ hours a day. Wait, that seems wrong. Well, that’s how hard Rem takes it to the paint. It’s like he comes up with MORE hours a day to play the games he loves and that’s WITH a life, responsibilities and work. He just accrues extra hours and crams those in and I can never catch up. Well, that’s until The Division 2 made it so much easier for me to play with higher level Agents without a cruel spike to situations.
Granted, I will say that you should at least get past level 5 before you can actually dare play with higher level characters. It almost feels like they don’t WANT you hanging out with those higher level Agents until you’re up to a certain point and I can get that. I utilized that slow-poke time to learn more about the game and get comfy with it and I had my daughter playing with me the whole time. You may remember her from all my Far Cry (Another Ubisoft title, I SWEAR they don’t employ me. I swear.) articles. She’s my rad-as-heck co-op cowgirl and if there’s co-op in a game and I feel like I don’t rock levels as fast as the sweaties, I just hang with her. We got up to level 7 before Rem finally joined in with the two of us and things went just fine.
Why? The Division 2 features scaling up when it comes to levels among clan members and friends, which is heavenly. Finally, I’m not blowing spitwads through a straw at enemies while Rem is mowing everything with a heartbeat down with little discrimination. I no longer felt like I was forced to watch this Rem, the Action Movie Man, blaze through everything and I could ACTUALLY do some damage here. Granted, my armor did not scale up and I don’t care what you or anyone over at Ubisoft tells me — it does not. It seemed like I could blast some fools, for sure, but if I dared to peek my head up longer than a millisecond to shoot, I was going to get one-shot by everyone who even whispered sideways at me. The scaling up did seem to work within the Dark Zone, The Division’s version of PVP, but once we were hanging out in the PVE area — my armor went right back to a measly couple Tic-Tacs as opposed to Rem’s fistful of tiny breath mints.
“And you still enjoyed it?”
Oh god, I sure did! That’s the difference between the first Division title and this one. Where the first one seemed like an underwhelming loot shooter with not a lot of love for the non-die-hards, this one did not do that to me whatsoever but without sacrificing for the casual play. They didn’t simplify anything, in fact, it almost seems far more complex than the first one but that simple managing of scaling up for friends made it so I actually enjoyed playing it. I didn’t feel like I was dragging higher levels down by simply existing and that mattered a lot. The survival aspects of setting up these settlements, of clearing out outposts — it was everything I had grown to love from other games but with a whole different style. Bopping around Northern Virginia i.e. Washington D.C. — was beautiful to me as someone who grew up there and that’s despite all of the post-apoc filth. D.C. is gorgeous in this game and that’s another huge positive from the first title. The darkness, moodiness and heft to the first Division made it almost too gloomy to want to spend a ton of time in for me. When so many other games were giving me heavy story and gunfire but with gorgeous and color rich visuals, Division 1 just felt rough. That’s just not how it is in this sequel though and sometimes I just find myself happily skipping into danger because those sun flares get right in my eyes and bring such a happy. I’m quickly reminded, thanks to the Hyena crews, to keep my head on a dang swivel though.
With a story that takes place 7 months after the events of Division 1, it almost feels like this one is more solidly written than its predecessor. I actually care to help these settlements and groups of people who have become disenfranchised by the chaos around them. That means something to me, you know? I want a solid full experience and writing is a part of that, so Division 2 hits every single mark for me what with gameplay, writing and value-per-hour in terms of missions, side-missions and a rich PVP mode that I’m excited to get into. I want that loot, guys. I just want it.
In fact, the second I wrap this up? This three-question bit of explanation to tell you that I love the game? I’m going to go play the game. If a person who, admittedly, is not this game’s typical audience can be that into it – I think that speaks for itself. Get it.