Not So Massively: The Division 2 has more stuff than personality

The first video game was released in 1957 and consisted of throwing video screens at wild dogs in the outskirts of Cleveland.

    
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The Division was a game with a number of flaws, but one thing it did very well was present an incredibly detailed, realistic, and immersive game world. That endeared me to the franchise enough to want to check out the sequel.

But what I’ve found is that while The Division 2 fixes some of the flaws of the original, it’s also lost some of what made its predecessor special.

I’ll say this upfront: The Division 2 is very, very similar to the first game, to the point that at times it feels more like a large DLC than a true sequel. The core gameplay is almost entirely unchanged.

The most obvious change is the difference in setting. Instead of New York in the winter, you’re now fighting in Washington, D.C., in the spring. I’m probably the only person in the world who feels this way, but as a lover of the winter months, I actually find this change makes the setting feel much more bleak and oppressive. It’s not endearing.

There are a couple of improvements I appreciate. For me, the best new addition is a true character creator. The original game’s character creation options were so limited I wondered why Ubisoft bothered including them at all.

The Division 2‘s character creation is certainly not approaching Black Desert Online levels of depth, but it does have a pretty robust selection of options, including facial sliders and some pretty cool tattoo options. I’m far too pleased with the rat tattoo on my agent’s neck.

Another positive change is a greater variety of active skill options. Skills are now arranged into “platforms” that serve as delivery systems for the effects — such as a flying drone or a stationary hive of nano bots — but each has a wide selection of different effects to choose from. Your drone can fire at enemies, bomb them, deflect bullets, or repair your allies’ body armor.

One of the major flaws of the original game was a severe lack of character customization, both visually and mechanically, but The Division 2 has gone a long way toward fixing that.

Another interesting new addition is the ability to call for back-up. As before, the open world is a solo instance unless you choose to invite other players, but now you can at any time issue a call for back-up, which will trigger a notification for any nearby players. They can then choose to respond to your call, immediately grouping up with you and joining your instance. It’s a really clever way to make the game more social without forcing it on people.

On the other hand, though, The Division 2 has also lost some of what made the original special.

Playing through it, I realized that a main development goal for The Division 2 seems to have been to create a bigger, bolder game with more to do and more rewards. Under most circumstances, that would be a good thing, but in this case is kind of clashes with the identity of the IP.

Two things struck me out of the gate when I started playing the original game. One was how empty the game world felt, and the other was how OK with that I was.

Both games take place in the aftermath of a devastating viral outbreak. The first game captured that fantasy beautifully. The detail of the game world made it feel real. The relative lack of loot captured the feeling of scarcity and salvaging for survival (and made it really exciting when you did find something good). The empty spaces felt haunting and lonely.

That ambiance is what made the first game feel special to me. That’s what made me want to keep playing despite its being a fairly generic title otherwise.

In The Division 2, you can’t go 10 feet without finding a lootable container. There are side missions, control points, and other activities on almost every street corner. Washington feels less like a dead city and more like an active warzone. Loot is some common it no longer feels special. In contrast to the realism of the original, it’s a much more gamified experience.

In contrast to the realism of the original, it’s a much more gamified experience.
Some of the smaller details that added character to the original are also missing or diminished. Lore collectibles like cell phone recordings are still there, but there’s less of them, and so far they don’t seem to have the same emotion or realism as those of the original. The focus is more on major figures like politicians or Division agents than ordinary people.

I’m also very disappointed I can no longer gift food and supplies to wandering civilians. That added such flavor to the original. We can donate bulk supplies to civilian encampments, but it doesn’t have the same emotional kick.

These may seem like minor complaints, and they are, but the immersive ambiance is the only thing that made The Division special, made it more than just another generic shooter. Anything that jeopardizes that, even slightly, is cause for concern.

Some of the flaws of the original are still present, too. There remain issues with the difficulty tuning. Main story missions don’t seem quite so intense this time, but some open world content remains very painful when you’re trying to solo.

Speaking of the main story, it’s… it’s not good, guys. Now, I am still fairly early in the game, so it might get better (the original’s did become far more interesting by the end), but so far the plot is so thin I’m not even sure why it’s there. I barely know who the characters I’m interacting with are, and I have no idea what our mission is supposed to be beyond “shoot bad guys.” I’m not invested on any level.

At least there’s less blatant racism this time.

At the end of the day, though, this is a very familiar experience. The Division 2 is slightly better than the first in some areas, and slightly worse in others. If you enjoyed the original, you’ll probably enjoy its sequel. If you didn’t enjoy the original, the sequel isn’t going to change your mind.

The world of online gaming is changing. As the gray area between single-player and MMO becomes ever wider, Massively OP’s Tyler Edwards delves into this new and expanding frontier biweekly in Not So Massively, our column on battle royales, OARPGs, looter-shooters, and other multiplayer online titles that aren’t quite MMORPGs.
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Mewmew
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Mewmew

The world is very detailed. There are lots of animals this time around, not just dogs. There are cats too but they are super rare to see, I only saw a single cat so far my entire time up to level 30. There are raccoons, foxes, rats, crows, bees! Little real looking bees, not some 2d sprites floating. Deer, etc. You shoot a deer in the water and it bleeds out into the water, details are just everywhere. It’s crazy.

The game is also very fun, yet despite that I’d have to agree with you. It doesn’t have the same personality of the first game.

The echos in the first game were important to figuring out the story and what happened to missing division agents. The echos in this game are far and in between and have very little to do with the ongoing story. They feel very random.

The infected contaminated zones of the first game were a big part of the experience, going in there and having to do stuff in the areas under a time limit unless you had the right type of upgraded mask (which was part of your leveling and upgrading experience). In this game there are only a few infected areas, they are fun and all, total puzzle areas with a lack of enemies, but they don’t feel like something you want or need to do. There are only a few of them and there is no story reason to go through them. You’d have missions to do in them in the first game, in this game they are optional with no story to them, no special mask levels, etc.

I could keep going on, this version just lacks the personality of the first game. Absolutely that is true. Yet it is still really polished and fun. It is a sequel with a great many upgrades, but definitely the story part of the experienced suffered a bit along the way.

It is really fun and without many issues, The Division 1 was full of glitches and issues at first, but once they were fixed it had way more of a story to experience than this one does. This one has great details beyond what the first had and is incredibly fun, but at the same time is lacking that personality you mention.

I definitely agree with that.

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

Speaking of animals…

After checking in a the hotel and learning of the barbeque there, I found a nice buck and thought “well, that’ll make for a nice dinner.” I was working with a SIG 716, so a single 7.62 through the chest later and I was staring at a dead deer that I couldn’t do anything with. I couldn’t even drag it back to the hotel. So yeah, I felt really bad about that. Taking a life for no reason, even in a game, is sort of anathema to me. Even if I could have just sent a flare up, or radio it in, or something. Or at least, maybe my watch could have mentioned “Hey, asshat, before you take that shot, there’s actually nothing you can DO with that.”

It’s enough to make someone go vegetarian.

The world mission repetitiveness, the rather crazy-town of trying to take the checkpoints, and the predictability of the missions are all making me rather glad I picked this up for free when I upgraded my GPU earlier last month.

Beyond that, I’m having a hard time figuring out how to skill through some of my fancy-tech. I love my auto-turret. I don’t want a flame-thrower, or a sniper. But I also can’t figure out how to dump my points into the turret. I’d love to just make that thing a beast. It’s already saved my butt more than once when I got flanked.

But there’s something there. Can’t quite put my finger on it. But it’s why I keep coming back.

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squid

But I also can’t figure out how to dump my points into the turret. I’d love to just make that thing a beast.

Invest in gear with skill power modifiers.

oruh
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oruh

Sometimes I feel like writers try hard to manufacture a grievance for the sake of word count.

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Cypher

On the other hand, many of these grievances resonate with me to the point I’m going to skip this entry entirely…
particularly the emotional attachment to the characters and npc’s… that’s what made me want to complete many of the side missions and the “vr re-creation” events that you find dotted around the original.

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NeoWolf

My only frustration with Division 2 is that for all thier tech not one of these division agents has a frakking flashlight! when it gets to nighttime you are wandering largely aimlessly for the most part. I hope with EVERY fiber of my being one of the season 1 updates includes giving us a ruddy light!!!

On the frequency of loot it is true it is fairly common but that was true of the first one containers were everywhere.. BUT just because there is a lot of loot doesn’t mean its all useable. Sure early game just upping the armor and dps is enough but later what modifiers and abilities it has are SUPER important. As are balancing the amount of specific bonuses you have so as not to break ability requirements which will then turn off an ability etc.. Builds have a huge amount of effect on this game, just equipping random whatever is not going to help you outside of story mode (pre world tier 1).

Also on the matter of not being able to give random civilians food and water etc..anymore, that is PARTIALLY true. In so much as there are not really citizens wandering around anymore outside of the occasional recuse event. What citizxens you see are affiliated with settlements and control points and they go out repairing, scouting, patroling and gathering supplies and the latter you CAN give supplies to of the type they are looking for. It is not as common but like you say this setting this time round is not a virus ridden husk of a city with people still scattered etc.. its a warzone with a few pockets of civilians in defneded settlements amidst a city divided up by the gangs who at the start of the game hold control of almost everything. As you take control of the districts however you will see more and more people from the settlements and control points out doing the things i mentioned previously making the district much safe and look more occupied.

Your spot on with the difficulty though it can be brutal even before you turn the difficulties up down the line. And world events can be a real sh** show as the enemies you see at the start are just a tiny amount of the enemies that will start spawning once the event is triggered and often they spawn right behind or next to you or even on three sides of you, which in a cover shooter can mean near instant death. Plus the a.i is better this time round too so enemies don’t just sit opposite from you, some will come straight at you, others will flank, they use cover and abilities too..they have drones and remotes and grenades and fire and poisons that can confuse and blind, and disorient and knock you out of cover and there are some brutal fire DOTs… but it also for all its brutal nature teach you to play tactically.

Position is everything, ensuring you don’t get flanked is everything… and so on. The one aspect of difficulty i don’t like this time round for solo play is that it pretty much forces you to pick set skills in order to survive. Solo play without a heal skill relying on armor kits alone would be near impossible solo, and of the heal skills Chem Launcher is the most effective because it has multiple uses.

Also some events and bounties especially if you die during them don’t reset but are gone when you die, you can overcome this by using the Reviver Hive skill which automatically rez’s you if you die allowing you to continue without the usual respawn reset.

You make a good point about the story, which is funny as technically there are substantially more story missions this time around too, but your right in that its very light on the explanations and weak on the sotry and there are only a few cut scenes and they don’t really tell a story as so much as just touch on it. Most of the “story” comes from the echoes and data recording etc..you find that contain all the real information about the players and factions and what is happening but unlike the 1st game there is no easy means to find those anymore you literally have to search high and low for them.

There are a lot of hidden things in the game too, like dyes (gear and weapon, which are separate) and where and how you get them, exotic weapons, schematics, masks, hidden side quests and all manner of things that are in the game that it makes no mention of, or explanation of how to get or find them if it were not for youtubers I would have missed SO much with this game.

One thing I will say though is the environmental artists have well and truly knocked it out of the park again with this game it is beautiful.

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

All this wonder-tech, and not a single flashlight or nightvision kit to be found.

There’s irony in that, methinks.

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Sorenthaz

Washington feels less like a dead city and more like an active warzone.

Maybe I’m wrong since I haven’t gone that far into the game yet, but I thought that was kind of the point? Washington is supposed to be a war zone and it’s up to the Division Agents to take back territory and kick the bad group(s) out.

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traja

My main problem with the game is the simplistic game play. Cover shooting is only entertaining for so long. Definitely not a bad game to go through once but I am struggling to care about end game gearing just to keep doing the same simple thing over and over.

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BDJoshGaming

I echo the empty feeling. There is no life at all in the game. The occasional dog / deer and the enemy mobs. Thats it.

I know zombies are played out, but I would love to see some in the Division 2. Not lame ass Walking Dead zombies, but the kind that are in 28 days/weeks later and the ones I am Legend / World War Z.

That would be fun.

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Peregrine Falcon

The Division was blatantly racist? I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing The Division and I haven’t seen that.

Dantos
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Dantos

This is probably where the author is coming from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jKsj345Jjw

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Peregrine Falcon

Ok, I just watched that video. Thanks for the link Dantos. The video made some excellent points about tyranny, but the accusations of racism are completely off base. First, not all of the rioters are wearing hoodies and some of them are clearly white. Second, if my Division agent is African-American and the ‘rioter’ that he shoots is also African-American then how is that racist?

((Edited by mod. Please review the commenting code.))

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Alex B

Registered an account just to comment on this. I completely agree. I’ve played through the Division but never once have I noticed anything remotely racist. wtf.

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Sargonnax

I was wondering if i was the only one who cared that random civilians wandering the landscape no longer exist in Division 2. I also enjoyed seeing people that i could donate stuff to and sometimes get interesting loot. The new game eliminated all of that so when you see other people they are always on patrol or scavenging. I like seeing more life in the world, but i think they also should have kept some random people around.

For the most part i agree with the article about the game. I also agree with one of the other comments that mentioned getting to world tier one and not being motivated to continue. I had the exact same feeling. It was fun watching everything progress in the world and hitting world tier one really felt like more of a regression than anything.

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3dom

> a true character creator
I hope the next iteration of the game will allow to create elves, lizardmen, maybe even humans – not only the swamp apes currently presented in TD2.

CapnLan
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CapnLan

I just wrapped up the story and it stays bad from beginning to end. It’s easily the weakest part of the game. I feel like they didn’t even try with it. Just a super light excuse to go shoot bad guys. It’s not even a good excuse either. I never felt invested at any point.

As for the setting, it’s supposed to feel like a warzone. You have to remember that the first game was set weeks after the outbreak. It felt bleak and empty because it’s the immediate aftermath of an apocalyptic event. Division 2 is set 7 months later. People have started to form into factions, made settlements, and now war over the remains of the city.

As for the loot, I rather like getting showered in it. It’s not so much about getting loot in general, but getting the right loot. Later on you can unlock Recalibration which lets you take talents from one piece of gear and stick it on another. So if you find a gun you don’t like but it has a talent on it that you do like, you can save that gun for later and use it to Recalibrate another gun you do like. The fact that getting loot doesn’t feel special is a big selling point to me. I’m not scraping the bottom of the loot barrel like poor Anthem players.

All that being said, I just made it to World Tier 1 and find that I don’t have much motivation to keep going. I open the map, look at all the reverted control points and invaded missions and just get the “Do I really want to do this again?” feeling. And when I get to the next World Tier…do I do it again? I just clocked in at 38 hours total and already feel like I need a break.

Though I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s the genre that I’m not liking lately. My Warframe play time has dropped to 0. Fortuna and Nightwave didn’t do it for me. Uninstalled Destiny 2 as I had no motivation to get to the Light cap. Now I’m getting somewhat bored with Division 2 after only just making it to end game. Maybe looter shooters ain’t this Captain’s gig. I dunno.

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tiltowait

My experience as well, just made world tier 1 and my interest died back. For me, it was because I soloed 99% of the content, and now all missions require grouping. Managed to solo one stronghold, but it sets you SOOOO far back if you make one minor mistake that it becomes a chore.

Really great game though, well worth the price.