Ubisoft released Tom Clancy’s The Division in early 2016, but the developers have since been updating the game with modes, performance tweaks, and enhancement to the Dark Zone – an unpredictable area where anyone could be friend or foe. Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 looks to continue where the previous game left off with more Dark Zones and a more accessible online structure. I had the opportunity to try out the PvP and PvEvP (Player vs. Environment vs. Player) of the game at a Ubisoft preview event.
The Division 2 takes place seven months after the first game when Green Poison devoured the nation. The setting changes from winter in Manhattan to summer in Washington D.C. However, the once thriving district is now on the brink of collapse and needs the Division agents’ help. Ubisoft states that the game will sport a robust 40-hour campaign through an open-world take on D.C.
The demo focused on two gameplay features: the Dark Zone and Conflict. The Dark Zone is an area where the game transitions from a co-op PvE experience into an online world where a squad of players faces both in-game hostiles and unpredictable random online players. Whereas the original game had a singular Dark Zone, The Division 2 introduces three new zones, each based on a different location with its own biome and gameplay emphasis. Dark Zone East is the Capitol Train Station, which has a lot of space for open combat. The Waterfront represents Dark Zone South, a flooded area overgrown with vegetation, necessitating close-quarters combat. And Dark Zone West is Georgetown, a more residential area that favors medium-range combat. The summertime D.C. setting is fresh, showcasing iconic buildings torn apart. Each zone also contains its own narrative and history. The compound DC62, which was supposed to contain the poison, plays a part throughout them all. There is also a private intro mission for each zone to help accustom players to the landscape without the possible threat of other players.
My squad engaged in Dark Zone East and Dark Zone South, playing the intro mission before opening ourselves up to other teams online. Veterans will be familiar with the cover-based third-person shooter gameplay. Working with a team to find contaminated loot and send them off via helicopter, all the while fending off hostile NPCs with various weapons, was tight with a good group. Although we didn’t run into others often, the Dark Zones felt alive every time we saw an alert that another team was nearby trying to decontaminate their loot. I enjoyed rushing over to their location and engaging in intense shootouts. Nothing beats the pleasure of earning and equipping new treasure.
The key to the Dark Zone’s unique social experience is the rogue factor – that you can find others in the game and not know whether they’ll be allies or aggressors. New PvE interactions add to the rogue loop in the sequel. In addition to attacking other players, you can now perform amoral actions against the environment, such as stealing to turn into a rogue, vulnerable to other Division agents. During my playtime, my teammates and I constantly (and accidentally) kept becoming rogue due to pressing random switches and hacking devices.
Of course, this PvEvP structure can lead to issues of handling player skill and toxicity. The developers have taken that feedback to heart and have implemented some tweaks to improve online play. For instance, once you either begin to shoot a player or are shot yourself, you no longer voice chat with that opponent. Improved anti-cheat systems and server count also help to prevent unsavory player actions and bugs. Additionally, The Division 2 is now more normalized for an even playing field with gear stats that are appropriate based on the player’s skill level. On the opposite end, players who want a less normalized structure can enter an occupied Dark Zone at endgame. In this special zone, there is no normalization, no status icons like “rogue,” and friendly fire is on at all times. This no-holds barred experience promises a fun endgame for the pros.
I also got to experience two PvP Conflict modes: Skirmish and Domination, both of which will be playable at launch. Although I preferred the campaign, there’s already a good sense of a replayability with these multiplayer conflicts. On the residential Georgetown map, I played through Skirmish, a deathmatch between two groups of four. Georgetown is one of three custom launch maps built specifically for PvP. It’s a long street with cars, trucks, and trees as cover, as well as opportunities to hide in alleyways and climb buildings. There was a lot of strategy and teamwork required as each team tried to rack up 16 kills, and it culminated in a last man standing contest by the end. Domination, the location-based capture mode, was a bit more interesting. Seizing and protecting specific zones in the Capitol Ruins map fit the cerebral teamwork battles well. The custom map was not only well-built for the mode, but the ruinous aesthetic also had an impressive mystical aura around it. Again, both modes in Conflict will be normalized, and there will be skill-based matchmaking.
Finally, there will be a clan system, though I didn’t get the chance to try it out. Clans will have their own unique progression track, and there will be special perks and exclusives for members. There will also be ways for clans to chat, including direct messaging and bulletin boards. There will also be a separate set of leaderboards within each clan.
Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is shaping up to be a sequel that builds off all of the feedback and updates of its predecessor. I’ve barely scratched the surface of Washington D.C. and its promised extensive campaign. The introduction of three new Dark Zones shows the developers honing in on what helped the original blossom into success. Both PvP and PvEvP were intense, and I hope that the online infrastructure and enhanced rogue loop are as robust and fun in the full multiplayer experience. The Division 2 is slated for release on March 15, 2019 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!