Given the sheer volume of content to cover in Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, I have broken this article into two parts. This is Part 1, check out Part 2 tomorrow!
For the record, putting 72 hours into a game over a month is the most intensive gaming I’ve done since Oblivion. And this game doesn’t even feature Patrick Stewart! I previously spoke on my experience with the single-player campaign. Now, however, with a full 3 days of game time under my belt, it’s time for a comprehensive look at everything else in Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Sure, the launch was smooth, and the campaign played nicely, but has the multiplayer held up to scrutiny? What of post-release support? And how about that much-vaunted end-game? Saddle up Sheriff, and cock that rifle, we’re moving to contact.
For clarity, I have separated the online play into 3 sub-categories: PvE Co-op, Dark Zone, and Conflict. Further to that, we will go in depth with the end-game Invasion. This is a new addition for the franchise, and, superlatives aside, is a genuine game-changer. Carrying on from my review of the main campaign, we shall begin with that Invasion.
Cock the hammer, it’s time for action!
So you’ve cleaned up the streets of Washington DC. You’ve hit max level (30) with your agent. The bodies of fallen foes form a pile high enough to block out the sun. All those NPC moochers who had you running around, risking your life, while they chilled the beans, are mildly grateful for your efforts. Features on the campaign map are now all friendly green, with nary a red spot to be seen. But then…
Overnight, The Black Tusk, a previously unencountered faction, take over the city. They had been hinted at in Echoes, dotted around the map, but a short cut-scene briefs us on their modus operandi. The Black Tusk invade Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 as a highly advanced military faction. They operate several steps up from any of the 3 other factions, bringing an expanded high tech arsenal to the party. Their reasons remain a mystery, but their methods are clear. In one fell swoop, they drive out friendly forces and Division agents from key locations across DC. That map you painted friendly green is now lit up red across the board.
With the instability caused by the Invasion, the other 3 factions seize their opportunity. Now, all four factions vie for control, and us, the good guys, are stuck in the middle. This is truly the type of game-play we needed from The Division 2. The difficulty is ramped up, simple missions now turn into complex multi-layered engagements. You will die a LOT more often. Seeking to destroy a single enemy group now draws several others into the fray. Withdrawal is very often necessary. The effect this has on your play of the game, in all game modes, is profound. It genuinely doubles or triples the play-ability of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.
A note on World Tiers
Upon reaching the eponymous end-game, the game world will transition to a tier system. Think of this as a new difficulty scaling level. Instead of leveling up your character, and the enemies scaling with that, you advance in World Tier. This will advance each time you clear out the appropriate enemy strongholds. There are 5 World tiers in all. Once you World Tier 5, you are, officially, at Max level. Along with World Tiers, the Gear Score mechanic comes into play. Each item of your equipped gear will have an assigned score. The combined total of this score will allow you to access certain strongholds. Starting out at 250, the maximum attainable is 500. This exists purely as a mechanic to lock out missions otherwise too difficult for tour current level. It works pretty well and is easily understood.
Here is something you can’t understand…
PvE Co-op is seamless in Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Players can match-make quite easily via the in-game menu or at any friendly settlement. Matchmaking during the campaign is very fluid. Finding a particular mission too difficult? Simply request help via a single button press. You’ll be joined in no time by some helpful individual, or squad. While it is entirely possible to solo the entire campaign, and I encourage you to do so, playing with human compatriots is just too much fun. Comparative to single player, Co-op enemies will scale up in quality and quantity. Tackling missions or objectives will significantly increase up enemy numbers, damage output, and hit-points. Player scaling meanwhile, has been a point of contention. Lower level players found themselves dying much too quickly when jumping into a high-level players game.
Since addressed in one of many post-release patches, Massive are continuously balancing the game on a weekly basis. They’ve been tight rope walking between weapon balances and online scaling. It’s a difficult act; they must ensure that all weapons and play-styles are viable, without leading into any particular build being Godly. There have been lessons learned from Tom Clancy’s The Division, where SMG Crit builds dominated.
Continuing with PvE Co-op, the Black Tusk Invasion has the most significant impact here. This is simply by virtue of the severe increase in difficulty for playing solo. Enemy strongholds and the occupied Dark Zone can both be arenas of doom for single players. I like this change though. While it is possible to grind your way through the Invasion solo, the difficulty shifts us towards co-operative play. Forces us to make friends, if you will.
TO BE CONCLUDED
Join me tomorrow, when we look at Conflict and the ever foreboding Dark Zone!