When looking at Tom Clancy's The Division in the broader sense, the game has shown considerable growth since its 2016 launch. After several expansions adding in new events and areas to explore, along with many updates tweaking the level grind and endgame content, Ubisoft's shared world action-RPG title slowly evolved into the game that many fans wanted when it was first released. And with The Division 2, the same developers at Massive Entertainment and Red Storm are looking to maintain that momentum with the series' next outing.
Set seven months after the initial outbreak of the Black Friday virus, The Division 2 will bring the online action-RPG to Washington D.C, which has also been decimated by mass panic, and opportunistic new factions looking to take advantage of the power vacuum. Unlike Manhattan's snow-covered wasteland from the original game, D.C. is far more lawless, made worse by an an immense heatwave driving more people to desperation. With the Division agency having gone silent, the remaining agents in the field have to reclaim control of the city. Prior to the official announcement at the Microsoft Press Conference, we got the play a short section of the game, while speaking with creative director Terry Spier about their continued sights on trying to keep things interesting for the long term.
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When looking at the CG trailer, it's clear that the sense of scale, along with the stakes, have dialed up significantly. The Division 2, like its predecessor, will focus on building up your unique agent's resources as they acquire new weapons while taking on the multiple enemy factions that have taken hold of the city. Washington D.C., is about 20 percent bigger than Manhattan, which is almost a 1-to-1 recreation of the city. The developers wanted to offer a greater level of variety in the locations you'll explore, which includes more residential areas and the nearby forests outside the capital.
One of the bigger focuses on The Division 2 is the so-called "end-game first" philosophy. As the original Division gradually improved the end-game content--challenging missions that yield the game's best rewards--over the course of its two years, the developers wanted players to be aware of that part of the game right from the beginning, so they can stay invested in the game for the long term. According to the game's creative director, this philosophy--in giving players what they want--was one of the biggest lessons they took away from the original game.
"We approached everything with the end-game in mind, that way when players hit end game, there's plenty of stuff to do," said Spier. "Continuing to listen to the community, continuing to understand that we're making this game for the players is always important. Players will have an experience that could be befitting of what you would consider a shooter, but of course we're still an RPG. So in this case, we've worked hard to improve the visualization elements as well."
In our demo, we explored a district of Washington D.C. under siege by the True Sons, one of the new factions in The Division 2. After fighting off enemies in an abandoned mall, we headed over to the crash-site of Air Force One to respond to a signal, only to find True Sons soldiers taking up position. While using the familiar armaments and tactics, along with new skills like the flying gunner-drone that can hone-in on selected targets, we got to take advantage of some The Division 2's new innovations.
Using a squad of high-level characters, we had access to the Division 2's new end-game gameplay system known as Specializations. After completing the main campaign, you'll gain access to a set of elite weapons and skill-trees that alter the agent's abilities. These weapons include explosive-tipped crossbows, 50-caliber sniper rifles, and grenade launchers. What's interesting is that the developers want players to reach that end-game portion as fast as possible, as they'll be able to dive into the higher end content and get involved in the chase to get better gear.
As you're exploring the ruins of D.C, you'll help civilians and other key allies survive in the area. Returning players are all too familiar with this--with occasional NPC character asking for food and water in the previous game--but in the sequel, the civilians can offer the agents backup during fights. The civilians are also a part of a new system called Settlements, which the developers weren't able to share many details on. We do know that areas of Washington D.C. can be recaptured, allowing you to place civilians as they support them and keep watch for hostiles in the area.
While The Division 2 features an interesting new setting, which will likely hit even more close to home than before, and many of the gameplay systems and structural features looks far more refined--it all felt a bit too familiar in some regard. That's not totally a bad thing, as the original game offered a lot of fun and exciting moments with its tactical RPG shooter hybrid gameplay, but it does feel like they are playing it a bit safe for the most part. Still, it was exciting to see that they've kept that spring in their step they've had since The Division's life in post-launch.
The developers are still keeping a lot of details close to vest when it comes to the return of a revamped Dark Zone, and whether Battle Royale will have a place in the game's future. But they seem committed to supporting the game for the long-term, while also keeping players invested with free content updates for its first year. That's an exciting and positive outlook to have on an online game, and The Division 2 is looking like an exciting return to that familiar, but still fun and engaging grind.
You can read more about The Division and other news from Ubisoft's E3 press conference in our recap of all the announcements and most exciting games. For our full coverage of the big event, be sure to visit GameSpot's E3 2018 hub to follow along with all of the biggest news from the show.