Last Updated on February 14, 2024
The Division 2 has been out since 2019, so this review is a bit late but it’s an interesting time to take stock of a game at the end of its game life rather than the beginning. Ubisoft have been keeping The Division 2 steadily updated after a meager opening and the final results are very different from the beginning ones. With the announced multiplayer free-to-play sequel, The Division: Heartland, in the works, it also feels like a good time to go back and review what worked as well as didn’t for this installment of the franchise.
The premise for The Division universe is that a genetically engineered smallpox variant called the Dollar Flu was released in New York before spreading across the globe. It has killed most of humanity off and left the survivors forced to fight over resources as well as territory. One government agency, the Strategic Homeland Division, is still a active and was given authority to do whatever it took to rebuild society.
The Division 2 picks up several months after the events of the first game. You may or may not be playing the original Division agent but it’s not a character driven game so there’s not really a problem with this. Basically, after an attack on New York City facilities by mysterious forces from Washington DC, your character heads down to the former nation’s capital to contact the former federal government’s remnants in the Joint Task Force (or JTF). They are a pathetic shell of their former self with most of the city controlled by three gangs: the Outcasts, Hyenas, and True Sons. Go kill them, retake city. You know the drill. There’s also the occasional hints toward a larger more advanced force that has been feeding the chaos post-Dollar Flu.
At the risk of spoiling a five-year-old game, The Division 2 retcons away the premise of the original The Division. One of the cheekier twists of the lore was that it turns out there was no major scary conspiracy behind it all. No, the Dollar Flu was created in a personal lab by a crazy Malthusian scientist who wanted to save the environment by killing off 98% of humanity. He did it with some basic university equipment and stuff you’d buy online. This goes out the window in The Division 2 and now there’s a massive Russian-owned PMC, treacherous Vice Presidents, and dark money trying to rule the ashes.
Honestly, this was probably a smart play on the part of Ubisoft because the original twist works fine in the works of Tom Clancy (that is this ostensibly based on) but he wrote novels rather than ongoing video game franchises. Indeed, in Rainbow Six, the novel by Tom Clancy that the Division universe actually takes a lot of its premise from (with the villain succeeding), there was a corporate conspiracy that had much of the same motive. Indeed, I dare say that Tom Clancy would appreciate once more making the Russians the bad guys of a techno-thriller involving taking over the world with bioweapons.
But enough of the plot and lore business. How does the game play? It’s a lot better than the first The Division. I am extremely biased in this because The Division was perfectly designed as the team-based game that it was originally designed as. However, if you are like me and are an antisocial nerd who prefers to solo his multiplayer experiences then The Division 2 is far better balanced. It also has endgame content with plenty of missions after the original and an eternal “gang war” going on where areas you’d previously liberated fall back into enemy hands.
As a cover-based looter-shooter, there’s not much attempt to reinvent the wheel. You shoot a bunch of bad guys, level up your loot, and attempt to get enough collectibles to craft what you don’t have. Some of the systems are better than others with mods being something I flat out didn’t bother with and feel like the game didn’t care if I did or not. There’s taking outposts, bounties, liberating prisoners, destroying propaganda, and other side activities that are fun. You can get killed but that just knocks you out temporarily. Your goal is to finish the story missions and upgrade the various survivor settlements, so they go from being tent cities to thriving post-apocalypse communities full of children.
Washington DC is an excellent setting for doing post-apocalypse adventuring and has the same general appeal as Fallout 3, except instead of the place being a radioactive desert, it’s overgrown and graffiti covered. Having shoot outs in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Congress will never not be fun. The nature of the highly visible landmarks and recognizable architecture gives it a lot more entertainment value as a setting versus NYC. Can you believe there was no Statue of Liberty mission in The Division? I can’t. There’s one in The Division 2‘s WARLORDS OF NEW YORK, though.
Ubisoft was criticized for denying the game had a political message and, honestly, I’m kind of with the developer on this. As difficult as it is to parse, “Government flubbed a pandemic response and as a result bad Russian-aligned people are trying to take over in order to end democracy” not being political, I’m pretty sure that was an accident rather than intentional. One of the groups is even a bunch of conspiracy theorist cultists but they have about as much personality as orcs.
In conclusion, The Division 2 is a solid game that gives you a definite “meat and potatoes” shooter experience. It’s an improvement on The Division in terms of solo play as well as having a lot more to do perpetually. You can go on missions post the “final” one like attacking Camp David, going to a zoo, and other enjoyable experiences. If you also manage to beat the game (technically before but I wouldn’t recommend it), there’s Warlords of New York. The game includes several seasonal events, but these are one that you’ve probably missed the majority of.