This morning I am going to take a break from Anthem and talk about The Division 2 which released for me on Friday… but for other folks earlier in the week. I still played a significant amount of Anthem including some running around with a large group of people on Saturday, but until the drop rates are fixed to reasonable levels I am probably going to be tapering off my time played to stave frustration. At this point I am up to 192 hours played of Anthem… and by contrast I am sitting at roughly 6 hours of time played in Division 2 so far. Largely I am approaching the game as a much more single player experience, and in the same manner I would one of the big Ubisoft open world titles like Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed.
Probably the biggest praise that I can give to Division 2 is that it is a game that has learned from its past without forgetting it. Division 2 feels like I am picking up where Division 1 left off, with all of the quality of life improvements that came towards the end of the patch cycle… and then this game takes that position and builds upon it. This was the problem with Destiny 2 in that it felt like we were losing more from Destiny 1 Year 3 than we were gaining in the process. Sure Destiny 2 turned out eventually to be a really great product but it took some time to get there because it had felt like they forgot all of the lessons learned along the way. Division 2 is cognizant of what came before and gives us effectively all of that product… with more features heaped on top of that.
One of the core problems I had with the original Division is that it was a game without hope. The setting was bleak and it felt like as a Division Agent I was doing very little to actually help those around me. Sure there were those occasional events where someone would run up on me and ask for food or water… but if I moved even in the slightest they would go running off. The citizens were scared of me… and for good reason… because I while I was attempting to help make things better… I was doing so by laying down a trail of dead bodies in my wake. I think the core problem with the narrative is that I was helping to try and prop up what was ultimately a dying vestige of the government… of control of the masses. Division was a game more or less about trying to salvage the status quo at all costs.
Division 2 on the other hand is something entirely different. The status quo died long ago and from the ashes new communities sprung up of survivors trying to hold things together and carve out some piece of this new world. The setting shifts from New York to the Washington D.C. where our nations former capitol lies in ruins… and what is left of the former government operates out of the husk of the White House. As such the story shifts from rebuilding the nation… to acting as a sheriff of the wild lands and helping these struggling communities gather resources that they need to survive and thrive. Similar to the first game as you finish missions your bases evolve… but this time around the results feel more tangible as new areas are added like this game room for the kids for example.
The game map is similar to the first game, but once again has evolved to include a bunch of new options. There is now the concept of a control point, and these take various forms… but are more or less outposts that have been overrun by whatever enemy faction is in a region. In the White House area and Downtown East this is controlled by the Hyenas… which are part street gang and part borderlands bandit psychos. In the above map everything that is a green flag is a control point that I have reclaimed and was previously held by the Hyenas, ans as a result there is a tangible feel to winning back an area because you start to see it improving. As you hold more control points it seems as though there are more frequent NPC foragers going out into the wilds to scavenge for resources. Additionally there is a whole mini game surrounding delivering food and water to these outposts for experience. The markers in Red on my map are of course control points that I have yet to liberate… and I am focusing on clearing 100% of this single map before I move on to other areas.
As I mentioned earlier… Division 1 was a game without hope… and I think Division 2 more than anything is a game with a lot of hope in it. You seem to no longer be as focused on fighting for the sake of a government, but instead roam around as a free entity helping everyone in your path. I am not very far along in the game but I am assuming each region is going to have one major settlement that you will be helping to reclaim the wastes. Ultimately I can see that they are trying to modify the tone of the game. The first game had some really awkward feelings associating with it… as you spent much of your time gunning down people trying to survive. Sure there were factions that felt good to take down… like the Cleaners or the Last Man Battalion that were just fucked up ideologically. You know I will even lump the Rikers into that group with their public executions of JTF agents… but the Rioters… they felt real bad to be taking out given that they were just doing exactly what you were doing and trying to survive. So far the Hyenas do not feel like taking out Rioters, because they do feel like more of a twisted and cohesive threat given that they are taking on the role of bandits in Fallout and attacking settlements.
While I am again only about six hours into the game, I am enjoying it far more than I did the first one. I also feel like they have done a lot to fix some of the issues the original had with item drop stinginess. I sat at level 26 for the better part of a year and a half because I felt like my weapons were ineffective… and I didn’t have the cash or crafting resources to make anything better. I came back towards the end of the game and found that drop rates were greatly improved and actually provided pieces of gear that were useful. Once again this game seems to have learned that lesson because I am swimming in loot right now. It really seems to be rewarding me for exploring every nook and cranny of a zone as I am constantly coming across abandoned gun cases and such.
Essentially where I am now… is I will be poking my head into Anthem and keeping tabs on that community in hopes that we see a future patch where the loot is truly improved for everyone… not just the folks doing GM2 and GM3. I will also be hanging out with my friends whenever they are free to be playing Anthem as well. In those solo periods though, I am going to ease back on the throttle and spend some more time exploring the DC area in Division 2. I realize it is too soon to really give a proper review… but in every way I am seeing it is a worthy successor.