Well, here we are. A little over four months after the release of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (which will be referred to as TD2 going forward) and…where to start? There’s so much ground to cover that I may need a GPS to navigate. But, “Once again into the breach, dear friends.”
The Division 2 released on March 20th of this year to a fair amount of hype (March 15th for those of us who ordered the Year One pass). I was lucky enough to play the alpha, along with the closed and open beta. I was hooked. Thrilled to be roaming the streets again like a low tech Judge Dredd, dispensing “justice” however I saw fit. The visuals were solid, gun play was good, not much on the story; but hey! It’s a Clancy game! What do we need a story for?
In the beginning, you really had to consider how your agent was geared. Modifications had up and downsides. Want better accuracy? Get ready to lose some stability. Or reload speed loss on ammunition quantity (this does still exist on the higher quality modifications). I loved this. You had to give some thought on how and what to gear up with.
Then…this was removed. Now all my mods only had positive traits. What gives? Answer: Evidently a very vocal group didn’t want to think about such things.
Well. All righty then. I guess doing a mental pro and con session is too difficult for some.
TD2 is a slog through Washington DC, with emphasis on “slog”. At least in the beginning. Once you opened up safehouses and the control points, you could fast travel to them at will (as long as the aforementioned control points were under friendly control anyway). Not that it’s an unpleasant slog; the visuals are exceptional. “Visually stunning” actually applies in this case.
I mean, come on. Save for the garish weapon skins, this is some quality graphics here.
Group that up with some (initially) nail biting encounters with hostiles, sequences trapped in time via a holographic system called ECHO and carelessly dropped cellphones with audio logs….Ooooohohoho yes. The recipe was perfect, the end product, delectable. All was well with the world until…
…the very vocal group struck again. “It’s too HARD! It takes too long to kill bad guys!”
Now. Let’s put this out on the table, just so I’m not coming across as an elitist gamer here: I’m pushing fifty years old, and have some fairly significant neurological issues. I was capable of clearing content solo. Sure, I died a lot. But I was capable of doing so. However I could see where the frustration was coming from. The Division was and still is a prime example of the “Bullet Sponge” when it comes to taking down the bad guys. I could land two magazines into a baddie’s face and he’d giggle and keep coming at me like Jason Voorhies and drop me with one shot.
All right, I get it. I can see dialing down the time to kill a bit. Cool. Let’s do it.
So on came the patch, and there was much rejoicing. It made things a bit easier, but you still had to keep a weather eye out for that one that always snuck around and blasted you in the tush with an exploding remote control car.
And then came the complaints from the more hardcore players. But only a small amount. And then the very vocal group spoke again; “NAY! Yea and verily, ’tis far too difficult still!”
Seriously? I’m a complete muppet with my aim, and I can do this. Well, all righty then.
And then came the patch. More hardcore complaints. More “STILL NOT EASY!”
Then another patch.
By now, I’d reached the top level of thirty and had moved into the end game (more on that later) and was noticing another thing entirely: The gear that was dropping was kinda…garbage. Little buffs here, some decent buffs there, one or two amazing stat drops. But for the most part? It was vendor trashed or broken down for components to craft with (which is another thing I’ll go into later). The hardcore set of players were seething, the more casual set were happy.
And then the more annoying things started crawling out of the bin. Graphics glitches, object clipping and collisions causing players to get stuck (but hey, at least we weren’t having to deal with the faceless NPC’s in Assassin’s Creed). I’ll give Ubisoft/Massive credit here – they responded to these in a timely fashion.
Those of us who’d ground our way through the first game stopped and asked, “Okay, we’re playing a sequel. What’s going on with all of these issues that were in the original but got ironed out? Why are they in this version? Where’s the gear? Why is there such a disparity between weapons in the same class? Why is the sky blue? Why is water wet?”
Okay, not the last two. But we had some valid questions.
Which still haven’t been answered.
Then Title Update Two was announced, bringing in World Tier 5, a higher difficulty level that required people who’d already reached top tier and gear score to go out and re-farm all of the gear that they’d had maxed out for quite some time. As you can imagine, there was not much rejoicing at all. Gear drops in TD2 are very common; but what’s more common is that the gear that drops tends to be worse than what you already have.
Then came the Raid in Title Update Three. Dark Hours. The much touted and ballyhoo’d first end game raid…that had no matchmaking. Even though at the very beginning we’d been told, “You get matchmaking! And YOU get matchmaking! Everyone gets matchmaking!”
And there was much anger. I’m of two minds about this, because in raids of this magnitude you need to have perfect communication and teamwork. I’d sooner go in with people I know and have played with for awhile than to drop into new content with a bunch of people that have never spoken before. Watching the streams of the people trying to get through Dark Hours was uncomfortable. And that’s putting it nicely. I can see why it wasn’t there. But it should have been.
Coasting in along with Title Update Four was the new Gunner specialization (kind of redundant, really), which meant you could gear up with a minigun and proceed to “wreck face” after you did five layers of “Field Research” grinding to unlock it if you hadn’t bought the Year One Pass. Since I had, I had access to the Gunner right out of the gate. But being the completionist that I am, I went ahead and decided to grind that “research” out.
Holy crap. “Grind” didn’t do enough to describe that little gem. I’ll admit; I cheesed the research a lot by doing some of the more onerous tasks in the firing range at the White House and grouped up with a friend for the rest. I’m all about the saying that “Nothing worth having is ever easy,” but sheesh!
But I finished! And grabbed my shiny new machine of Destruction, Terror and Mayhem expecting this:
Aaaaaaaand got this instead:
I actually think that Hyena IS laughing at me!
I can’t say I was angry at this – but I sure as heck wasn’t happy either. The other three specializations up to this point gave to a feeling of power. The minigun the Gunner spec brought to the game gave a feeling of “Butwhytho?” I was doing (and still am doing) more damage with my primary weapon that I am with the Specialist gun.
At some point during all this, another bug raised its ugly head again. Specialized weapons require their own ammunition; and dropped from MOBs on a fairly regular basis, keeping you reasonably well supplied. Up until this point. Granted, there had been points where it’d drop rarely, but that got taken care of reasonably quick. All of a sudden, nothing was dropping. To add fuel to the fire, a majority of people had reached endgame and were wondering what was going on with the loot tables. Exotic weapons were dropping once in a plaid moon, PvP was pretty much non-existent (still is) and collecting components for the first exotic gear piece was kind of hit or miss. Crafting was a joke for the most part, and as a result; I was running around maxed out on every material I could pick up.
All these frustrations aside; I’d been playing pretty religiously when I could. I love the gameplay, the potential for discovery and the adrenaline hit when I turn a corner and there’s a guy covered in chains, leather and a chainsaw coming the other way (yes, this is a thing).
Then, like a proverbial ray of hope, Title Update Five, Episode One. New missions, new content, Happy Days are Here Again…
…but also not.
Again, I have the Season One pass, so I got early access to the new content – which had also been on the Public Test server prior to release. Which made my fellow pass holders quite salty. Personally, I’m down for testing. The more people who play it, the more likely bugs will be found. And boy howdy, did we find bugs.
That made it into the production server. Collectibles that couldn’t be collected. Crashes to desktop on certain actions taken on other players instances. Little things that should have been taken care of.
This isn’t to say it was all bad, quite the contrary. We could now craft viable items (provided we had the blueprints for them), build better guns and not have to worry about RNG giving us the bird on a low damage roll. We could share blueprints on one toon to another on the same account (this did indeed cause much rejoicing) if we wanted. There were some good quality of life changes made!
But along with the good came the bad. Or not so good, depending on to whom you spoke to. First and foremost, Dark Hours: Discovery Mode was added (Or EZ Mode which actually isn’t that easy as I call it) was added to try and drown out the hue and cry over the lack of raid matchmaking.
Two main missions were added: Camp White Oak and Manning National Zoo. Both are amazing from an artistic standpoint, but bring nothing new to the table save for two rather unimpressive weapon rewards.
Camp White Oak brings you up against the Black Tusk, a private military company that is essentially TD2’s version of the Last Man Battalion from TD1. High tech, high speed and high annoyance factors are their game, and up to the difficulty nerf, they played it well. Now the Tuskies (as I call them) are more of a bother than anything else once you reach the point where you’ve a decent gearset. As I mentioned earlier; the visuals are amazing.
However, the mission itself is underwhelming. Go here, shoot them, go there, shoot them. Nothing to figure out, just run and gun your way to the end. The unexpected part of this was having a new exotic piece of equipment drop on my first run through.
The next stop on the tour was Manning National Zoo to hunt down the leader of the Outcast Faction; Emeline Shaw. Again, another gorgeous set piece:
The Zoo is massive. Maybe too massive. I found myself in gunfights at ranges that I had to use my sidearm for since light machine guns and AK’s aren’t really suited for precision shooting. Going Rambo wasn’t an option in some areas, so I had to sit back and plink away. This is not a complaint, it brought a welcome change to how I usually play the game as a whole. Add in an armored monorail towards the end and it made for an interesting time. Up until this point I’d viewed Emeline as somewhat of a mad dog – one that needed putting down. Badly. With extreme prejudice.
Oh, I was going to enjoy this…
…until I finished it. I won’t spoil it, but I actually felt a little guilty at the end. That was probably the idea behind it in my mind. If not for an amazingly annoying sound issue that made the NPC’s sound like they were on helium for the latter part of it, it might have had more impact.
And then we get to the Kenly College Expedition and another round with the Outcasts. Since I had the pass, I got it last week and ran it through, the second part opened on the 30th. This had a lot more to do; puzzles, hidden rooms, backpack trinkets; what’s not to like?
Well, the fact that each section is fragmented into three separate missions that are only accessible via ECHO. The hidden rooms can only be opened if you find a terminal to do so. Which when I see “terminal” I think computer, or kiosk. Not a fuse junction box.
The puzzles were fairly straight forward and fairly easy to do if you noticed the clues on how to do them. Which I didn’t the on the first section, but that’s on me.
The letdown here was once you found the terminal and got into the secret room (that was on the map for some reason) was that the loot was just as bad as it is out in the open world. Since I was out of room in my inventory, I just disassembled it.
The problem with these missions is that once you play them, there really isn’t any reason to go back and do them again. Sure, I got some neat backpack charms out of it, and the scenery is striking, but a gilded outhouse is still an outhouse. Add in the fact that the Diamondback exotic rifle is timegated behind the Kenly College missions over three weeks? All this for a weapon that looks like it fell out of a Power Rangers prop van?
Go go Power….Agent…? I’m not kidding.
I get why people are a mite annoyed. I know I’m definitely not amused. Add the reward weapons onto the already diluted loot pool dropping in the open world and you’re just adding to the frustrations on the player base. And boy are we getting frustrated.
There’s a fix in the works with Update 6 that should alleviate this somewhat, so I suppose I’ll wait and see what comes next.
Add to this another apparel event that seems to have been rejected from Fortnite…GAH. Least said, the better. As you can probably figure out, I’m not a fan.
Which finally brings me to the end of this little novelette:
Is The Division 2 a good game?
Well, yes. And no. Having played through TD1 from beta to the invitation to the technical alpha for the sequel and seeing the highs and lows, I expected there to be more of an idea on the developer’s part of how the game was going to play, be balanced and content changed.
At times, I really don’t think that they know. The roadmap looks solid, but then we get patches that fixes one problem and brings back another that was fixed two patches prior. Instead we seem to be on the same road as TD1; everything will come together in a couple of years.
I do love this game, it’s a good deal of fun even with the occasional pothole. It started out great, and then went into a rough patch that seems to be evening out. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
People are buying it from the sales figures, but I honestly don’t think people are going to wait the aforementioned couple of years for things to get ironed out. The gaming industry has changed too much to support that kind of mentality.
In the meantime, I’ll keep chasing down that elusive god roll chest piece, avoid Outcasts for awhile and keep taking pictures of that lovely scenery.
Thanks for stopping by!
Bored now! Time for ramen!
Ken (or "Börken" as his gaming friends refer to him) spends his time reading books at a speed several words over the posted speed limit, makes things explode virtually (and sometimes literally), and is always busy raising a 7 year old Princess who's quite capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much.