We’re in the endgame now.
I’m now at the precipice of The Division 2’s endgame – and my progression to max level was enjoyable, if not a little ordinary. There is a clearly similar mission structure present in each of the 11 PvE zones, but new activities are introduced as you progress, and the freedom to tackle these tasks in any order you wish keeps it from feeling like a grind. The post-collapse backdrop of Washington, D.C. is astonishingly well-realized, with each nook and cranny generously littered with chests and collectibles.
When you roam into a new area you’ll be greeted by a safe house, capture points, story missions, and a host of other activities. There are elite patrols to annihilate, friendly resource convoys to protect, supply drops to be captured, and some other odds and ends. These activities are enjoyable in their own right, but they usually result in loot and show up on your map to entice you when available. I was, however, pleased to find that not everything that’s worth doing could be found on a map. You’ll usually find a chest at the end of an otherwise pointless expedition which meant I never felt bad about indulging my curiosity when it came to exploration. An adventurous spirit is wonderful feeling to have in a world as vast and beautiful as The Division 2’s depiction of Washington, D.C.
The villains that populate D.C. aren’t quite as interesting as the setting itself. I’m now level 30, and I haven’t been introduced to any new enemy archetypes since about level 15. Bosses, disappointingly, are still just normal baddies with more hit points. The closest thing I’ve seen to a well-crafted boss encounter came in the form of Diesel, from the District Union Arena stronghold, who briefly took control of a turret on a stationary armored car, but then just turned out to be another kevlar-clad Hyena machine gunner.
Even the predictable fights are still fun thanks to The Division 2’s well-refined combat.
There are glimpses of creative encounter design, like the onslaught of numerous suicide bombers in the Federal Bunker, but most of the time you’re faced with a predictable assortment of rushers, snipers, engineers, and gunners. Thankfully, even the predictable fights are still fun thanks to The Division 2’s well-refined combat. Gunplay is impactful with the sponginess of the original still nowhere to be found. Enemies are lethal, and the AI does a wonderful job of trying to get behind you. I’m hopeful that the endgame activities (which I’m about to dive into) will use this formula as a sturdy foundation to build upon, rather than simply repeat.
At this point I’m up to my elbows in high-end items, and as a result my honeymoon phase with The Division 2’s loot is over (at least until gear score, unique set bonuses, and exotics come into play). Rather than what’s new and exciting, I’m now strictly interested in what’s actually effective. And LMGs, assault rifles, and sniper rifles seem to have a monopoly here. I’m still hopeful that shotguns, SMGs, and DMRs will have their time to shine with the right build, but for now, choosing one of these weapons results in a significant loss in DPS.
When it’s something I can use, loot is remarkably interesting thanks to deep, well-communicated systems like talents and attributes. “To Order,” a talent that allows you to cook grenades, is extremely useful; “Frenzy,” which increases weapon damage and fire rate by 35% after reloading from an empty magazine is monstrously powerful and fun as hell to use.
Attributes are a bit less flashy but no less important: they’re randomly rolled stats that fall into one of three categories: offense, defense, and skill. And having enough offensive attributes, for example, is important as it will allow you to benefit from certain talents on your gear.
I’m eager to see how it all shakes out once powerful variables like gear score and exotics come into play.
These intricate systems exist on top of the randomly rolled base stats and set bonuses of other ARPGs. While I haven’t begun fine-tuning a build just yet, I could see all these elements keeping me invested in The Division 2’s loot for a very long time. I’m eager to see how it all shakes out once powerful variables like gear score and exotics come into play.
I didn’t really intend to, but as is often the case with day-one video game grinds during a work week I ended up playing the majority of levels 1 through 30 solo. For those who prefer this solitary style, I’m happy to report that everything worked very well on my own. No content felt off-limits. That said, I play shared-world shooters to share the world, so it’s promising then that my limited experiences with teamplay thus far have been pleasant. Skills like the “Reviver Hive,” which resurrects dead or downed allies, or the “Firestarter Chem Launcher,” which coats an area in gas that explodes when shot, feel tailor-made for multiplayer.
It’s a welcome inclusion that matchmaking is always an option, no matter what you’re doing. You can matchmake via a terminal in safe areas, a menu in the open world, or by simply walking up to someone and hitting a few buttons. Matchmaking times were long in my experience, but time will tell whether or not this was a result of simply being ahead of the curve in terms of hours invested. Also, it’s remarkable that I have to rave about chat functionality coming out of the box in a shared-world shooter, but here we are. The Division 2’s chat is a wonderful feature.
Overall, The Division 2’s initial leveling progression has been a relatively joyful undertaking. It clears the low bar set for the genre with ease, but it’s still not an experience I’d subject myself to in a vacuum, without the promise of a deep and interesting endgame. In order to really succeed from here on out The Division 2 needs to show me that my time was well spent by providing me with the kind of unique, progression-based multiplayer PvE and PvP gameplay that I can only get in a shared-world shooter.
If I had to score it now, after 30 hours, I’d give it 8.0, which is great on our scale. To find out if the endgame justifies that score, improves upon it, or disappoints me, stay tuned to IGN – the final review is only a few days away.