In 2016, my friends convinced me to pre-order Tom Clancy’s The Division and while some people love it and still play it to this day, I found it a bit repetitive and bland. It didn’t do anything inherently “wrong,” but the game also failed to keep me interested for long periods of time. After two or three months I fell off of the title, much to my disappointment, as I really wanted to like the game. Fast forward to a couple months ago, and Ubisoft had announced The Division 2.
Honestly this surprised me, as I thought many other players had also stopped playing the action RPG. To put it bluntly, I thought that the game was a bad move for Ubisoft. Yesterday, however, I was able to sit down with an early build of The Division 2 at E3 2018, and it’s safe to say that my experience was better than anything I experienced in the first game.
The first thing I noticed when I got into the game were its bright colors, and to call that a stark contrast to the previous game would be an understatement. While the rendition of New York City that Ubisoft made in the original game includes accurate representations of its landmarks, each city block felt like a carbon copy of each other. The Division 2‘s setting of Washington D.C., on the other hand, feels alive while at the same time abandoned. The green of the grass, weeds, and vines all stood out to me in the outside sections of the game, while the insides of buildings were covered with dust and decay.
One key way to making a world that’s been abandoned by humanity feel alive is that you let nature reclaim everything, and that’s exactly what Ubisoft seems to have done here: wildlife still continues to flourish in this world. During my demo, I saw deer run through the middle of the street, and I thought I heard birds chirping in the distance. Sure, all of this was more than likely scripted (in fact, I know the deer is since I got to play the demo twice). However, I have to give credit where credit is due: this made me feel more immersed in the world. Players, like myself, who are going into this title with the expectation of a dark and dreary environment like the one found in the first game are going to be happily surprised (unless you like that, in which case, I don’t know what to tell you).
While one thing does have to do with the other, I can’t move onto the next section without mentioning how good the game looked. I was playing on a PC and it was simply breathtaking. The shadows, the lighting, and subtle ripples in water all meshed together to make an impressive visual spectacle. I’d be interested in seeing how the game looks on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 (which is where I primarily play): however, I would assume that it doesn’t look too drastically different. While I can’t say for certain as I don’t have a final version of the game in my hands — nor will I for several more months — but if you still own a standard console, I think you’ll still be impressed.
The other part of the demo that I was impressed with was how much teamwork was needed. While you can still of course play through the game solo, each class provides another way to approach each level. For example, in the demo I played, I had an assault rifle, a shotgun, a pistol, and a grenade launcher as my special weapon. Our team had to go through an abandoned store before making it to a large, open area. Personally, I like to rush enemies and get rid of them as quickly as possible, and because of my class, I was able to. My other teammates were also able to play how they wanted to, and that makes me very excited for the full version of the game, as I always felt like I was restricted in the original title, having to hang back and approach each level as slowly as possible.
Of course, not all of my qualms about the game have been squashed. While it certainly seems like the developers are giving more focus to the story this time around, as evidenced by the initial trailer shown at the Ubisoft press conference, I didn’t run into any story content during my demo. This obviously may have been intentional for the purposes of the demo, but as storyteling was another major complaint I had about the first title, I was hoping to see something from the narrative. Despite this, I’m excited to see more from the game.
While I’m even shocking myself, I can’t wait for The Division 2‘s release on March 15, 2019, which seems to be the end of a long string of major releases leading up to it. Let’s hope it ends on a high note.