The Division 2 was a really big maybe for me. Even when I don’t like a game, I can usually find aspects that I think were well done and that I can appreciate, but The Division asked a bit much from me. That’s not really Ubisoft’s fault, though. Nor was it a problem with the developers. There can’t be just a whole lot of people in their target demographic that know (or care) much about constitutional limits on authority.
Without getting super into the details, my job in the Army required that I know, understand, and make decisions based on the constitutional authorities and the protections granted to U.S. persons. It was something that was really beat into us through our training and I think most of us really embraced it because the principle was something that matters to us and that we care about deeply. So, when members of the mysterious “Division,” were activated under executive authority to engage in activity against U.S. persons in a manner that directly violated their rights to due process, it was a big deal for me.
As a fan of Tom Clancy books and having read a bit about him personally, I know he was a conservative and a constitutionalist, and that means he would have never approved of such a blatant violation of constitutional protections in anything with his name on it. It seems like a small thing, but when a period of your life revolved around a dedication to those values, it’s really hard to suspend belief and just enjoy the game.
That constitutional challenge was not all that disappointed me about The Division, but it was definitely the one thing I couldn’t really get past. The big question I had going into The Division 2 was whether it would still exist and how much it would bother me. In fact, I almost skipped the beta entirely because I was so disenfranchised over the first game.
It turns out that it was far less overt in The Division 2. You know from the last one that the members of the organization were supposedly created by and reported directly to the President, but I don’t remember that ever coming up even once while I was running through the beta. It also helps that your base of operations is in the White House and there’s no President to be seen or spoken of, and the dilapidated condition of the landmark building is such that you can be sure he’s long gone, if he’s still live at all or even if rule of law matters in the new state of existence.
The condition of the building and the rest of D.C. also helped to create that separation from the last game and this one for me. The Division 2 feels much more post-apocalyptic, which gives you the sense that the rule of law has broken down, in which case there is no federal government and thus no constitutional protections. For me, that makes it a lot easier to suspend belief and, enjoy the game as a work of fiction. It’s no longer so close to something that I know a lot about, have experience with, and care about.
Even if you’re not the stickler for constitutionally-granted authorities that I am, you’ll be interested in the new environment of the game, which is very well done. The developers may have been a little aggressive with how quickly flora and fauna reclaimed the city per their own timeline, because we know from Fukushima and Chernobyl that reclamation takes a little time even in the total absence of humans.
Still, the devs did a great job with subtle details that I think are very spot on. Buildings have been connected via rooftops and residents crow crops in the castle-like security. That seems completely realistic to me. Assuming the grooves would support the thin layer of top soil required, and there’s no doubt that parking garages would have little trouble with it. Even if many other rooves couldn’t support that much weight, it would be a very feasible method of protecting food supplies in that situation. D.C. gets a lot of rain and the water table is high in the city, so irrigation isn’t likely to be an issue. Security would be the major concern and securing the first few floors of buildings would be an ideal solution.
Small squads of NPCs roaming the city to scavenge additional supplies and secure the immediate area was a great touch. For one, it shows that time has passed and the people have adapted to a more security-focused norm. It also tells us that the prior-service survivors have used their military experience to train other civilians in good counter-insurgency tactics.
In all, the atmosphere has changed enough in The Division 2 that I didn’t constantly feel like I was being bombarded with implausible situations. If I ignore to some degree the background presented in the first game, the second one plays as a pretty good game set just months after a catastrophic biological event.
There were some game design changes that elevate The Division 2 past its predecessor for me, like control points for example. I felt like the content in general for the first game was very light. The PvP felt a little contrived and without purpose and the PvE, which I thought was the best part of the game, was equally underwhelming.
Control points are a hint that The Division 2 may have a bit more depth. By clearing out these nests of enemy activity and calling in NPC reinforcements to secure the area, you can improve the condition of civilian settlements and curb hostile activity in the area to a certain degree. I’d read in a couple places that these may eventually also be used in a form of dynamic multi-faction control system for the city.
That excites me a lot because not only did I find the control points fun to play and the concept interesting as is, anything that can be added to make the game more dynamic through player activity and competition is awesome. Again, that last part is purely RUMINT and may not be true, but here’s to hope. At the very least, the control points will be semi-dynamic events created in the game that players have the option to respond to and they’ll have decent loot associated with them.
I didn’t spend much time playing around with it, but Ubi has announced that once you’ve completed the main story missions, the open world will be invaded by a separate faction called the Black Tusk. This faction behaves differently and uses different weapon systems from the gangs you’ll fight up to the end game. That change will create a sense of progression in the environment that I expect will provide for some longevity to the game. Extending the life of the PvE content is important, even in a multiplayer game. Flipping the PvE map by invading it with a new faction is a pretty crazy smart way to do that, and my hat is off to the Massive Entertainment developers.
I didn’t expect much from The Division 2. The first game was basically okay, but nothing particularly special even after you take away my minor hang-ups. The story never really felt complex or sophisticated in any way. It was a Tom Clancy narrative in that something catastrophic had disrupted government and that an elite organization was being activated in response.
Unfortunately, the gross infeasibility of the unit in question was very much outside the standard plausibility of work written by Tom Clancy himself. While the new game seems to stay clear of those specifically non-Clancy-like particulars, I don’t really get anything from what’s left that does feel like it could have come from one of his books. The Tom Clancy name is basically an advertising gimmick, and frankly is kind of false advertising. Though I guess it’s a step up in that the second game doesn’t outright use concepts that the author probably never would have used in one of his books, unlike its predecessor.
In a way, the improvement from false to not exactly true is sort of a compliment to Massive Entertainment. I think I’m going to find more to like in the second game. Ubisoft and the developers seem to have learned a lot from the previous game and have applied those lessons to The Division 2. The content seems better, the UI is better, and I’ve heard (but not yet experienced for myself) that the PvP is a lot better, as well.
Effectively, the team has kicked to the curb the parts that would have detracted from the game and double-down on improvements. At the very least, that was enough for me to pre-order the game. I feel like it was a development direction I wanted to support, so I showed my approval with my wallet. I expect I’ll enjoy the game for at least a week or two, so it’s a good buy from that sense, as well.
The real question will come after a couple weeks of playing the game when I have to decide if I like it enough to keep playing to the end game or not. I’m so tight on time these days, it won’t really be a strike against the game if I don’t. On the other hand, if I’m writing about The Division 2 three weeks from now, you’ll know the team accomplished something pretty spectacular.
The beta was only a portion of the game and had a few bugs still, so don’t take this article as a buy/no-buy. I’d still suggest watching a few streams if you’re not sure yet. I did pre-order and plan on playing a bit this week, so my next article will likely come from that. If you find yourself liking the same games I do, I’m sure you’ll get a sense of how much I like the game from that.
I’m interested to see what you readers are most interested in or what you all have found lacking in The Division 2. If you played the beta or have pre-ordered and have thoughts about what I should be looking to experience in the game, let me know down below. I’m always curious to hear what you all think about these games.