As a vanilla Destiny player, I did not jump on The Division train in 2016. The game was meant to be the “next Destiny” and the hype was real, but both products seemed to have similar issues. The constant need to grind and lack of any substantial endgame content did not captivate me enough to put down my favorite Scout Rifle in Destiny and pick up a Marksman Rifle in The Division. The latter may have changed with the release of patch 1.4, but I had already moved on to other games and never gave the game a second look. Fast forward and Ubisoft is ready to give us a sequel with new endgame content in the form of 8-man raids among other improvements. I was excited to try it since I had grown tired of Destiny, so I preloaded the beta and jumped in.I am dealing with the result of bioterrorism, but what happens if we continue abusing the world that we call home? The Division 2 gives us an eerie picture of what happens when chaos reigns in our own world.
After a quick character select screen, I was placed into action and was ready to go. But where? As a new player, I felt like I was dropped into the middle of a situation I should already be familiar with. Maybe betas aren’t meant for hand-holding, but I felt like this one was expecting a lot for new players. Once the disorientation passed, I found the objective was easy to see—if not easy to navigate to—and headed off to the White House. I was reminded that Ubisoft knows how to make a beautiful game. The disaster scene that is Washington D.C. is effective (albeit inconsistent) in how it shows disease throughout the city. Sometimes I felt like the city was alive as deer walked near me and raccoons invaded nearby trash cans.
Other times, I felt like the beautiful cars and vine-infested walls of D.C. were lifeless barriers set in place to block my path. Combined with the silence of a desolate cityscape, I was left with a window into what things could look like in a society that takes more than it can give. I am dealing with the result of bioterrorism, but what happens if we continue abusing the world that we call home? The Division 2 gives us an eerie picture of what happens when chaos reigns in our own world. There are no starships or flying warsuits like in Destiny and Anthem. This wasteland closely resembles home in a way that’s uncomfortable yet important to think about.
Betas shouldn’t particularly be held to a perfect standard, but I did notice some facial textures not loading properly, long load times, and an incoherent storyline. I credit these things to the game’s unfinished status and still enjoyed my time in D.C.
One thing that I do not credit to the beta is the curse of the silent protagonist. After a woman’s long exposition thanking me for returning her child, my character simply nodded and walked off. While I understand the difficulties of creating an online game that everyone can enjoy, I do value opportunities to hear characters speak. My character’s personality was about as lifeless as the city, and while it makes sense that the city should feel empty, I could not reconcile how my character has so little to say in the midst of so much struggle and pain.My character’s personality was about as lifeless as the city, and while it makes sense that the city should feel empty, I could not reconcile how my character has so little to say in the midst of so much struggle and pain.
That being said, whether it was my lack of experience or the poor design, I couldn’t figure out the menus in this game. It took a while to understand how to equip items and even longer to choose and use skills. The same confusion goes for calling other players for help. Numerous times, I’d find myself standing in the street fervently clicking past menus while another player was desperately calling for assistance. Much like the scenery and my character’s personality, I was left feeling empty again. I was in situations where I needed to call for help and experienced times where I was assisted. I wanted to return the favor to fellow players, but my only option was to watch their notifications disappear from my screen, leaving me hoping someone else was able to help. In a game devoid of hope, I felt like I was part of the problem: a bystander to others’ struggles. Granted, I was likely overthinking the process and joining a game is quick and simple, but as a new player, it was disheartening that I could not figure out how to join in what is one of the main parts of the game.
Not all interactions were negative. There were moments when The Division 2 clicked and I was able to ignore the objectives and give my right index finger the gun shooting exercise it enjoys. There was a sense of accomplishment when out-thinking the enemy’s positioning and getting a jump on unsuspecting AI. The cover mechanic is the best out of any other I’ve experienced with action games, too.
I will say that the experience is far greater when playing with others. I was fortunate enough to team up with a few friends to explore the city. Walking was our only option, and just like we would do in real life, we talked as we walked. There is beauty in the quiet, and there is plenty of it to be found throughout the empty streets of Washington D.C. I believe exploration will be what separates The Division 2 from its alternatives. When everything happens in one location, the player is able to explore freely without fear of leaving something behind. Instead of jumping between and across environments with great speed and power, everything happens on a grounded, slow-paced level in Washington D.C.
With Anthem releasing February 22nd, and the Destiny franchise now held in the hands of Bungie, the momentum for online action role-playing games will continue to rise. I think The Division carved out its place by addressing mistakes that Ubisoft is carrying forward with the sequel. We won’t know if the endgame content will deliver, but if you’re itching to explore a dreary, diseased world, The Division 2 looks like an enjoyable ride.