Watching Massive’s Endgame info dump livestream yesterday, I found myself nodding so often I could have probably hurt my neck. I’ve been frustrated with the state of ARPGs and looter shooters for a number of years now. Everything from vanilla Diablo III, to Marvel Heroes, to games like Destiny 2 and even the original Division, or even more recently, Anthem, have let me down by making the same baffling mistakes: neglecting endgame. I can’t possibly speak to how good of a game The Division 2 will end up being at this point, but one thing’s for sure, it won’t be lacking in endgame content.
Massive clearly learned a bunch over the course of the original Division’s live service and arguably its most important takeaway was the need for a solid endgame right out of the gate with the sequel. This has led to the team taking an “endgame first” approach with The Division 2 and it shows. What was discussed on yesterday’s stream made the game sound like two games in one. Players will play through the main story and get to level cap as they would in any one of these games, but what’s different this time around is that what awaits players once the credits roll honestly sounds even larger in scope than the main game before it.
Over the course of the main story you’ll slowly wrest control over the DC area away from the violent factions that have taken over. You’ll capture control points and take these factions head on in their Strongholds, but once you beat the campaign a new faction called the Black Tusk invades the city and these guys are serious business. They’re so successful in their invasion that they’ve kicked the factions you previously fought out of their Strongholds and back out onto the streets and this throws everything into chaos. All the control points you’ve captured and fast travel points unlocked over the course of the campaign reset. You’re basically pushed all the way back to your home base of the White House. It’s a sort of New Game+, in a sense.
Before you can start taking on the Black Tusk, you’ll need to choose from one of three Specializations. These include the Grenade Launcher, the Sniper Rifle, and the Crossbow. Each brings a different approach to combat and you’ll be able to switch between them.
The Division 2’s endgame experience takes place across five different World Tiers (four available at launch). Players of the original game will recognize the World Tier system, but there are some key differences in the way this system works. No longer can you just rapidly gear up and speed through to the highest tier. The progression is a bit more directed this time around.
Tiers 1-3 are unlocked by beating invaded versions of the game’s original three Strongholds, now taken over by the Black Tusk. Each Stronghold will be gated by a pair of missions and a Gear Score requirement. You can pick whichever of the three you want to go for first and once you beat the Stronghold you choose, you’ll be promoted to the next World Tier, and so on. As one can imagine, each tier is harder than the last and the Gear Score requirements for the next Stronghold go up until you’ve beaten all three of the game’s original Strongholds and unlock World Tier 4.
World Tier 4 introduces the Priority Target Network, which is a tiered set of Bounties. The regular game will feature Bounties you can spend Target Intel to unlock, but those found in the Priority Target Network will need to be tackled in sequential order and they get harder as you go along. The harder the target, the better the rewards. These bounties are built using a logic-based system that gives the targets a certain budget of points to spend on different gear and abilities based on their difficulty levels. It’s not purely random, but it should keep things fresh with differing targets.
You’ll also unlock the Challenging difficulty in WT4 and once WT5 launches, players will need to fight the Black Tusk at their Stronghold, Tidal Basin, in order to unlock that. More features will be coming in WT5, but no details are available just yet.
In between all the World Tiers are myriad new features and changes to the way existing features worked in the main game. One of the more interesting changes is the way the Living World system evolves once the Black Tusk come in. In the campaign, taking over control points is a permanent thing, but once the Black Tusk arrive and boot all the factions out of their Strongholds, the world map becomes a chaotic back and forth with factions vying for control over these points. It’s not just you as a player going after and taking control of these points, but the AI will fight each other and will also act according to a programmed system of motivations.
Each faction (and even the allied Settlements) is governed by needs for things like food, water, and components and they all also each have a unique base motivation . If a faction is lacking in one area, they will take actions to shore that up, but if they’re fully satisfied in terms of their basic needs, then they’ll take actions based on whatever their unique faction motivations are. So one faction might think it’s a good idea to go out and execute some hostages, while another may put out some new propaganda. Settlements will take the fight to these guys as well, so you may find yourself with some help. Factions that are pushed back enough will lash out and take even more aggressive action than usual. Of course, the Black Tusk themselves will be making moves across the map and that’s a whole other thing to worry about.
This system gets another wrinkle added on top of it once you get to World Tier 4. Control points will now have levels of difficulty, starting with Normal. If you do events surrounding the control point, you’ll effectively rank up its difficulty, making it harder to complete, but also increasing its rewards.
Another interesting change with The Division 2 is what's being done to spice up repeatedly playing through content. I’ve personally talked about the need for a level of randomness to keep things fresh in the past, but the devs are doing something even smarter. Like the Priority Target Network, they’re using a logic system for missions to achieve the desired variety of something like a randomized system, but without the frustrations of a system that’s truly random. When replaying content, you may find different enemies, or enemies will spawn from different locations, but Massive has tested the individual parts of this system so you’re not running into the sorts of frustrating configurations you might encounter in a truly randomized system.
A couple of other features discussed during the stream were the Snitch & Gun Runner characters and something called the Deck of 52. The Snitch is a character you’ll meet through the main campaign, but once you get to the endgame, he’ll clue you in on the location of a character named Cassie Mendoza. She’ll spawn in a different location of the map individual to each player and will only be revealed once you find The Snitch. Cassie is basically The Division 2’s Xur in that she’ll have a special stock of powerful gear that rotates out each week. Cassie will only appear in a specific location for 1.5 days at a time, but she’ll have the same stock available for the week, so players will have plenty of opportunities to track her down.
The Deck of 52 sounds like a cool throwback to a similar system from Mercenaries. Basically, there are 52 named bosses, with each of the four factions representing a suit. Taking out these targets will earn you loot and commendations and you won’t encounter the same target twice until you complete the entire set.
In addition to all this content, you’ll also find your expected slate of dailies and weeklies to complete for a variety of different activities, including Projects. One notable thing that Massive is doing here with Projects is that they’re allowing you to keep or discard a task similar to the way these assignments work in Hearthstone. If you didn’t finish a daily Project today, you can tackle it tomorrow, or decide to discard it for something new. The choice is yours.
As you can see, there’s quite a bit on offer with The Division 2’s endgame, and that’s not even counting the Dark Zone (and other PvP) activities and the raid coming shortly after launch. The quality of all of this content along with the rest of the game isn’t something I can speak to just yet, but I know I’m definitely feeling more reassured about the game going into its launch next week.
What’s your take on The Division 2’s plans for endgame at launch? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!