Divided by Divison
Updated: Feb 17, 2019
Based in Lower Manhattan after the outbreak of a biological attack on New York, ‘The Division’ was widely regarded as a flawed, yet masterful game.
Initially stagnating due to a lack of end game content, the game blossomed after several key updates in later life including the excellent ‘Survival’ expansion and huge quality of life changes.
So it's not surprising that the news of ‘The Division 2’ injected a large dose of excitement through the greater gaming community for those enamoured by the first game.
Expectations for The Division 2 are high, and on Friday the 8th February PointsOfData, Seditious01, Izekiel Fel and Khal Ynnoth from the MGN crew set their sights on the private beta.
After an evening of streaming, food, and frivolity the team appeared to enjoy the overall experience but seemed somewhat divided on their impressions of The Division 2.
Here’s what they thought...
Seditious01 - Overall, playing the beta on Xbox One revealed little to zero issues in regards to lag, unintentional ejection from the server or other standard issues. We only had some minor and entertaining bugs as we occasionally became lodged in unlikely places...
Conversely, Points_Of_Data additionally played the private beta on PC where he was plagued by game play freezes. These lasted a few seconds, followed by game catch up, which reportedly made the game almost unplayable in parts.
From a complete newbie perspective, I honestly thought gameplay was fairly boring as we made our way through DC mindlessly eradicating groups of arseholes of slightly differing variety.
The game was challenging but not in a particularly innovative way. I can appreciate a good old gear driven tactical grind as much as the next person but the whole experience felt a bit lost without an obvious and captivating larger scale objective.
Granted, maybe it’s not my kind of game! I won’t be buying the game on release but did enjoy messing around with the guys and accidentally fucking-up their partially laid plans.
"DC is not as compelling as New York"
Izekiel Fel - On the whole, the story so far feels far less compelling to play, and in some ways more like an attempt to replicate the latest Far Cry games. For me, this has limited appeal, as rebuilding the USA feels far less enticing than preventing a terrorist attack and a biological weapon.
I can't help but feel that if The Division 2 was set at the same time as the original but in a different city, the story arc could be far more interesting. Players could explore how the effects of the first game perpetuate across the globe. However, we have yet to see how the story will develop and evolve from the limited beta.
The controls are fundamentally unchanged from the original game. The only issue I experienced was when using the ‘move to cover’ system. The system did not feel as sharp as the original and I found I would become stuck over several bits of scenery in an awkward manner. Not particularly flattering or useful when under heavy fire!
Visually, little seems to have changed between the original game and the gameplay revealed in the beta. However, it must be said that a summertime Washington DC did not quite capture the same feeling as a snow covered and desolated New York.
I also found the HDR settings fairly invasive, especially at night, which led to issues of being unable to see anything on screen.
Currently, my main concern is that DC is not as compelling as New York, and the initial interaction feels quite bland by comparison.
I am also concerned about gear progression. Mods and collectible items appear to have changed to unlocks, and this alteration to the gear chase may lead to less variety in builds. However, we won’t really know until the end-game in the final release arrives.
I do like that the AI has clearly undergone some improvement and will now actively try to outmaneuver you. It is difficult to confirm, having not yet played the ‘Dark Zone,’ but the normalisation changes sound like they are on the right track for making the PVP elements more balanced than in the original.
All said and done, I recognise that the scope of the beta is limited and we have yet to see some of the larger set pieces and the full extent of the new content. I will be purchasing and playing the game, mostly on the merit of the original. I hope that the end-game, specialist roles and the live service will help to keep the game going.
"like slipping on a comfy pair of trainers"
PointsOfDatam - Like most of the crew here, I found the gameplay to be very much the same as The Division.
Gunplay was as solid as ever. The AI was a lot more challenging in general as it attempted to constantly flank and move into your position. You’ll need to pay a lot more attention while running through streets of Washington D.C. than you did in NYC!
The graphics looked great on both basic Xbox One and PC, appearing optimised and smooth. Control felt very familiar, like slipping on a comfy pair of trainers.
It’s a shame that weapon modding is now an unlock system instead of an item that is looted and attached. Part of the fun of the original game was finding mods and then deciding which mod you wanted on which weapon. The original game mechanic seems to have been simplified for the Division 2 and I’ll really miss the old system.
My greatest concern is that they have oversimplified the game systems to the point that they are dull. Time will tell if I get on with the new game mechanic as it’s hard to reach a fair assessment from only the beta.
"gameplay itself was engaging"
Khal Ynnoth - I managed to play a total of 4 hours on The Division 2 beta and reached level 5 before I had to resentfully stop. For the most part I played in the dead of night GMT but, for all that, the beta still seemed very busy.
How do I know? Well, The Division 2 has this rather neat in-game ad hoc matchmaking system. It allows you to either call for help or answer a request from another player.
This went off with regularity throughout my experience. When I dipped into assisting with a call-for-help the experience was cool, but jarring. I had no idea what the mission brief was, other than 'kill the baddies', or even where I was.
Washington DC in the summer seems well represented. I thought it had less character than NYC in the winter and I don't find the premise as engaging as the first game. I have no inherent "Let's take our country back! Huuu-Raaaagh!" patriotism to get me all fired up.
However, the gameplay itself was engaging and as polished as a sequel *should* be in my mind. They've streamlined a lot of aspects, game mechanics and gunplay were very satisfying and they’ve reduced bullet sponginess compared to the the original.
The NPC AI is brutal! Both your friendlies and the enemies flank, and perform some pretty impressive and hard to counter tactical movement. Having a buddy watching your back was very handy. Taking on enemies at any sort of crossroad was to be avoided, and engaging on a whim without scoping the terrain was positively suicidal.
The abilities would be familiar to any player of The Division, although their availability during the beta was limited and boy oh boy did I miss Pulse! I didn't get a chance to try the seeker mine or unlock the bomb drone as neither initially appealed. However, I really enjoyed the turret this time around and the drone was a fun way to handle "healing".
Both the main and side mission I played were meaty affairs in comparison to The Division, which was a nice surprise.
If this level of detail and content persists throughout the rest of the game then I can see this being a very welcome addition to my solo game playing arsenal, as well as one to play with a group of mates. I wish I had the chance to play more and play with my friends.
Take note EA, this is how you manage and *exceed* expectations! In contrast to Anthem, if I had the disposable income I would have pre-ordered the game on the Saturday without hesitation.
I'd be happy if this was the final state of the game at launch. There seems to be plenty to do and the game had, apart from some audio issues, no substantial bugs that impacted my enjoyment.