Content of the article: "Good Time to Come Back? (Or Start?) I think so, here’s why."
Bottom line: Yes
Why: It feels good to play, all around.
Explain? Sure. This is gonna be long. I like to write, and I tend to wax philosophical over games because, well… because I love them. If you just want to see my opinion on coming back, skip down to "THE POINT."
First, we should start by talking about when I left. Leaving isn't actually one thing for an evolving game, but needs to address two areas: when you left in IRL time; when you left in game story line content. I left soon after launch- late March 2019, and didn't even finish the main campaign. To be honest, it just didn't grab me like the first one.
I came late to Div 1, around 1.8, and I came from Destiny like many others. For much of the intervening time between March 2019 and now, Destiny 2 was my main game. I generally like the looter-shooter genre, but recently that has become synonymous with also liking live-service games, or as they're more frequently called- unfinished games that launch anyway. So it's fitting that the current pause in Destiny content has delivered me back to the Division.
As I was starting to really fall for the Division 1, a conversation started taking place that you also saw in the Destiny community. It was 'this game is finally in a good spot, pls Massive/Bungo don't dump it for a goddam sequel. Just add it to this one.' I was firmly in that boat, and saw unfinished storylines all over New York. Saw progression systems and endgame activities that I was finally starting to understand, and then it was all given a shelf life, an expiration date coinciding with the sequel's launch.
Destiny 2's launch was notoriously bad, especially for those who want deeper RPG systems and character crafting choices. I just looked at Division 2, with its beautiful, iconic world but dumbed down systems and the samey, overacted cutscenes with dialogue that would make Mr. Clancy blanche, and thought – this is AAA corporate, forced serialization clashing with the MMO-ness of investment economy games. Whatever commitment I make to this game is going to get dumped for a sequel. Everything about the Division 2 just felt forced, from the ridiculous pre-order bonuses (stash space!?) to the vapid copy/paste characters you meet.
So anyway, all of this was weighing on me while I was playing the Division 2 campaign and I just went "fuck it. It's beautiful and fluid, but this is phoned in as hell. I'm not no-lifing this." So I left.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and my buddy was talking it about TD2, saying he was thinking of getting it. The Summit was live on test servers, and the game was regularly on sale. I kept telling him it was probably too early, that TD2 has not had its proverbial 1.8 moment yet, but he went ahead anyway. So I did too, and here we are.
Before I get further into this I have to confess something: for someone who felt slightly burned by the way Ubi/Massive dumped Division 1, Warlords of New York felt like a kick in the groin. My opinion, and there's almost nothing and no one that could change my mind on this, is that WONY absolutely should have been released during the first game's lifecycle. There's no doubt in my mind about that and I'm set on it. I'm less confident about it, but feel that WONY was almost certainly developed during and for TD1, but someone decided to keep it for the sequel. While I was playing through the WONY campaign, I was so bitter about the fact that they held onto this, when everyone in Division 1 was screaming 'WRAP UP THE KEENER STORYLINE!!' It chapped my ass to no end, and I despise the choice not to put it into the first game. However, in many ways, I think the endgame is better in Division 2, so it's nice to have the WONY missions play nicely with my ongoing investment.
Okay, with all that out of the way, let me say this: when I left in March 2019 I had like a dozen hours into the game. I've put around 120 hours into it in just a few short weeks since returning, and am having a blast.
In its current state, Division 2 represents what I think is the best of many worlds. It blends third person action gameplay with insanely deep RPG character sheets. It has diablo-esque repeating content and a targeted loot system. Its world feels lovingly crafted and meaningful, and the activities therein are impactful and rewarding. The gameplay loop is solid: build, target, farm, sort, enhance, repeat. You can start the session by focusing on daily a global event or League challenges, choose an activity that also drops a gear piece you need to enhance your build, you do the activity/ies in question, get all the gear, go to base then you make decisions about what to enhance. If you sell it all, you have more money. If you scrap it all you have more components. If you pull traits and stats off it you can store it for later, and there are moments where you get something you didn't expect- a great cache drop or a god roll in stats you weren't farming but are so good you keep it for later. That's the biggest draw for me right now: almost every decision you make with your gear enhances you in some way, even if you don't get the targeted loot you want.
This is an intricate, delicate gameplay loop, but one that I feel has been so well-executed it beats almost everything else in the genre. You can apply an almost limitless number of variables to how you execute the loop, but the rewards are baked into every single thing you do. How often do Destiny players bemoan the fact that there aren't dedicated farms, aside from raids and nightfalls? Not only do all these different activities and difficulty levels scale with your investment, they also respect your time in a way that is woefully absent from the live-service space. If you have just one hour, and just one objective for that hour, it's entirely possible to make real progress in that one hour.
But the moment-to-moment gameplay is equally as important. In the Division 2, the gameplay is extended over a much longer loop but with gameplay that fills the long periods of time with meaningful choices. It's like there are two loops playing out simultaneously. One is combat: plan, position, engage, assess, and this is where the intricacies of the bigger loop play out. Combat is more deliberate, more tactical, than in the first game. Before you're even in a fight, or in a mission, you have to consider your build choices, and you are given a massive range of options to play with. The skills all have meaningful depth to them, and are fun to experiment with. The endgame specializations add a whole new layer of customization and buildcrafting potential that you don't see in many places. It's almost Path of Exile big. Once you've made those build choices and targeted your activity, you hop into the fight, which has its own list of choices separate from your character sheet.
YouTuber Skill Up described the combat in Division 2 as more closely resembling X-COM than Gears of War, despite both games ostensibly sharing a third-person action perspective. I couldn't agree more. This strategic gameplay style becomes more pronounced as you increase the difficulty, where your builds are put to the ultimate test, but a build alone won't allow you to execute that frustrated YOLO charge into the a pack of tanks. That will end you, as it should. You have to plan your engagements according to the variables in your current situation, and this scales dynamically across the game's million variables and activities. Level design, enemy design, enemy AI, weapon functions, talents, skills, modifiers, and your build are all working in harmony in each moment. All of the game's dizzying array of systems apply variables to each encounter to make a singular, distinct moment in time you must engage with in the appropriate manner. The beauty of it is there's no one right answer to any of these situations, lending credibility to most playstyles.
So to start wrapping this up- I would say that beyond all this stuff just feeling satisfying and rewarding, there's a staggering amount of content here, way more than at launch, and maybe more than the end of Division 1. You have all the story missions from both campaigns, including strongholds, plus all the side missions, which are ridiculously well-crafted for side missions. You have classified missions, raids, projects, bounties, PVP, and now the Summit. PLUS you have the live components, time trials to master, open world objectives, global modifiers, and a PVP game I haven't even touched. To top it all off, you have scaling difficulty for every activity in the game, so that you can chill or sweat it out at any moment you choose. And if all else fails and you just want to help someone out, answer the call, which has gotten a rework and now even THAT feels somewhat rewarding, when used correctly.
I fully expect Ubi to be a AAA studio and force a sequel on us again, but I'll do what I did here: wait it out. But this time, I probably won't buy it at launch, just wait until it's matured into something enjoyable.
Until then, yes, in my opinion Division 2 is in a great spot for either a new or returning player.
Good luck out there, Agents.
- Destiny 2 is an incredible game— if you have the time.
- Such a joy to watch my boys discover The Division 2
- Is it ok for a game to have a repetitive gameplay loop, as long as the gameplay itself is fun?
© Post "Good Time to Come Back? (Or Start?) I think so, here’s why." for game Tom Clancy's The Division 2.
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