Our first thoughts and what we’re looking for as the review process begins.

My review of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is underway, after this morning’s surprise launch of the PC version, and I’m currently working my way through the critical story path at a brisk pace to reach its endgame content. I’ll be looking for The Division 2 to introduce interesting new loot and enemy mechanics at a steady pace to keep the initial grind from feeling like a grind, and I’m hoping to see it give me ample reason to group up with other players. I’ll also be keeping a keen eye on whether or not the realistic setting leads to relatively limited mechanics; I’m expecting spectacular boss encounters and meaningful gear choices. Reality is no excuse to be boring.

So far, a few things stand out after just a few hours. The Division 2’s arsenal of real-world firearms feels punchy and effective when compared that of its predecessor. There is enough recoil on mouse and keyboard to warrant compensation, and enemies react to being shot much faster than in the original, which is a small but crucial detail when it comes to making gunplay feel satisfying. Another factor in that is the time-to-kill, which I’m reluctant to comment on just yet, as I imagine it will become longer as I progress. I need to be sold on the illusion that my guns are effective the whole way through the story and into the endgame, which is a tenuous balance to achieve when human enemies can absorb hundreds of rounds before keeling over. So far, The Division 2’s best idea in this respect is that it uses visual indicators like bulky-armor that can be chipped away to communicate enemy resilience, but this trick seems to be specific to the “heavy” enemy archetype and there were plenty of spongy bosses in the beta that were missing this destructible armor.

Loot is interesting so far, but that isn’t saying much. Finding my first AK-M was fun enough, but the true test of whether or not the Division 2 will succeed as an RPG will be determined by whether or not I’m excited to pick up my hundredth version of that same rifle. By endgame, I’ll be looking for my loot to inform and alter my playstyle rather than just increase my damage and toughness stats by another small increment.

I’m interested to see what the sequel fills this impressively filthy post-pandemic world with in terms of unique gameplay.

From what I’ve seen, The Division 2’s near one-to-one recreation of Washington DC is as intricately assembled as the original’s evocation of New York City, which was one of its strongest features. But I’m more interested to see what the sequel fills this impressively filthy post-pandemic world with in terms of unique gameplay opportunities. So far the activities that stick out are open-world events like control points that offer up a challenging onslaught of enemies, capped off by a fun boss fight and access to a generous loot-filled room upon completion.

The last thing I want to discuss at this very early juncture is the Dark Zone, a dynamic open-world space where difficult enemies abound and players can turn on one another at any time. It’s what I’ve been looking forward to most in The Division 2, but my experiences with it in the beta were not promising because of all the red tape around combat. In order to damage another player you need to first flag yourself as rogue, which can be done by performing a number of actions including holding down a button – an important detail that wasn’t explained in the beta’s introductory Dark Zone mission. PvP in a high-stakes environment should be intuitive and understandable. To its credit, two of the three Dark Zones in the sequel are normalized, meaning player level and gear shouldn’t matter in a fight, and that should lead to less confusing stat-driven fights with other players. But in the beta I still ran into plenty of “why aren’t you dead?” moments that I couldn’t help but feel would have ended differently if all things were actually equal. I’m hopeful that as I invest more time into the new Dark Zones that situation will be resolved and allow its merits will shine through.

This is just the absolute tip of the iceberg, of course – I’ll be bringing you frequent updates to this review in progress until the final scored review is posted. That’ll happen after I experience everything The Division 2 has to offer, so I don’t currently know exactly how long it’ll be, but we’ll find that out together. Hit me up with questions in the comments or on Twitter at ThuggnDuggn.

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