Tom Clancy's The Division 2

Long read A Division 2 Veteran gets into Division 1: some assorted thoughts

Content of the article: "Long read A Division 2 Veteran gets into Division 1: some assorted thoughts"

Here is a disclaimer: this post is not meant to be a nostalgia/boomer bomb, I don't want to be a "Disgruntled Snow Lover" or something. After spending 15 months with Division 2, I gave up because Gear 2.0 feels, to me, more boring than watching paint dry and the extremely short Time-to-be-killed makes me feel like a dumb mole rather than a cool agent.

Despite this, Division 2 is still being worked on, so things might change. In the meantime I decided to go back to Division 1: at launch I played the campaign and a bit of Underground (when it released), but I never got the "making a build/endgame/farming" thing, so I always was the guy getting carried in pubs (the best thing I managed to do was a mediocre Nomad build). After spending all that time with Division 2, I restarted the first game (on PC this time, after the Free giveaway) and I have been enjoying greatly. Not in a "the original is better" way, but rather in a "oh, so this is where these elements come from" way.

Knowing this, here is an assortment of opinions of, like, 30/40 hours as a Division 2 veteran in Division 1 New York.

The 1-30 Journey: I don't remember it being this hard.

Seriously, I don't remember it being this hard.

When I played the original at the time, I thought the game was … kinda mediocre as a single player experience: 2016 was a different time, you reference for third person cover based shooters was Gears of War or the Uncharted series. At the time I didn't get how gear worked, how to evaluate it and the whole "looter shooter" thing was way above my head, so I approached the game as I would approach Gears of War. With this frame of mind I found the whole process kinda … barely there. The shooting was nice but, that was it, the missions were okay but not particularly complex, there were no set pieces or "ahhh" moments. New York was gorgeous but in general I treated the game as a popcorn experience. Play it, put your brain in power saving mode and, that's it.

Boy it wasn't it anymore.

Now, I understand that during the 1-30 you are often undergeared and you do not have coherent builds, but man this time it was rougher. I don't know if Massive messed up the balance of the 1-30 levels or I became a shittier player (totally possible) but the journey really gave me Heroic Division 2 vibes: deadly snipers, grenade spam, flimsy cover opportunities. It was a bit of a slog.

Despite this, redoing that was kinda nice: I remembered half of the missions, I discovered a new appreciation for the personalities of the radio operators, I gasped at some of the ECHOs and I generally liked my time.

Division 2 does a lot of things right, even on a narrative level (yes, I'm ready to die on this hill), but there is a kind of unique value in Division 1, and that is the fact that while Division 2 has a post-apocalyptic frame, in Division 1 you are witnessing the apocalypse in the present tense. This difference might seam small, but it is a big component of the narrative part of the game: on one side, the fact that apocalyptic media (as opposed to post-apocalyptic media) is rarer makes it automatically more original (or at least something fewer people tend to come at), on the other, the fact that the narrative focuses on the personalities of the people which are desperately trying to survive this event (and not being used to the "new normal" routine of Division 2) adds a layer of melodrama which is really compelling. Division 2 managed to reproduce this sometimes during the Classified Assignments, but Division 1 does it way better.

So yeah, I enjoyed it, it was harder but at the end>! destroying that helicopter was good enough!<

The World Tiers climb

Not much to say here, I made a meme about this

Aside from the abrupt change in difficulty, I can safely say that the boring Invasion slog in Division 2 was completely unnecessary: WTs are meant to be a gameplay ramp of access to endgame, tieing them to the narrative progression of the BT Invasion was just … bleah.

So yeah, I quickly got into WT5, let the endgame begin.

The Endgame: first impressions

I'm gonna interrupt the vibe of the post (which seams very pandering to Division 1) with some credit to Division 2:

Going from the open world of Division 2 to the open world of Division 1 is ROUGH.

Like, legitimately ROUGH.

After emptying the map of the Encounters (think of it as open world activities) and the Side Missions (which are glorified Encounters with some good dialog) the open world feels barren and underused. Yes there are Search and Destroy objectives and Named Enemies but the endgame map really game me an appreciation for the work Massive put into DC. There is a "flow" in navigating the open world, especially after the QoL changes introduced during Year 1 (Global Difficulty, Reset Control Points and Targeted Loot) and that flow is very limited in Div1, mostly requiring you to optimize the route for killing the Open World Named enemies.

Despite this, at the current stage, between WSP, Underground, Named Enemies, HVTs and Missions, I feel there is enough variety to keep me busy. I still think Underground is kinda overrated and the Daily/Weekly assignments are … meh, but the Endgame flow overall works still pretty well, despite personally preferring the open world of Division 2

At the time of writing, I am playing during the Onslaught event and man I have to agree with the Division 1 veterans: between the less obnoxious mechanics and the reward structure, GEs in Division 1 are the way superior implementation. No contest there, don't @ me, truth hurts etc. etc.

Read:  Rate my build.posted this as a response but though it diserved it's own thread.

Before going to the loot (and boy we getting there), here are a few words on Currencies, Crafting, Recalibration and Optimization

Currencies – boy this is a mess: credits, Phoenix Credits, Division Tech … I played some Korean F2P gatcha games with clearer resource structures. You get used to it after a while but keeping track of what you need and how to acquire it made me pause for a bit.

Crafting – meh, it's okay. Up until now I mostly crafted attachments (sweet 120% Extended Mags), once I get more BPs I might use the system more, but in general I'd say Division 2's scaling crafting bench and the diverse ways to acquire blueprints are the superior implementation from a QoL perspective (cannot comment yet of the quality of the crafted items).

Recalibration – not a fan here as well, the RNG involved is a pain. It took Massive the entire of Division 2 year 1 to come with a good system. Despite Year 1 Division 2 being worse, the Recal Library in Division 2 is the better system.

Optimization – I mean, it's … okay. It helps more casual players for sure. I am not sure it would have a place in Division 2 though (will explain this better in the next session)

The Gear: a premise

Ok, lemme iterate again to remind you where I'm coming from: I think Gear 2.0 sucks major amount of donkey balls.

There are two reasons I really dislike Gear 2.0: distribution of minor attributes and lack of talents

Distribution of minor attributes – Both Division 1 and Div2 Gear1.0 had systems for which not all attribute rolled in all pieces of gear. To make an example: % Weapon Damage rolled as an attribute on Chest and Backpack (Gear1.0) and nowhere else. This means that you had specific slots in which you had to decide what attribute you wanted because you could not have it anywhere else. Putting aside how balanced those attributes were, those systems let you make conscious choices about what you wanted and what you gave up for it. Not only that but the option to concentrate these attributes in fewer places meant that there were more appreciable jumps when you got an upgrade: going from a 25k Health roll to a 52k Health roll on your Fenris Chest for your Berserk Clutch meant something, you could feel it, and it could mean the difference in some encounters … at least that was the impression.

With Gear 2.0, this is no more. The reason is simple: because all minors roll everywhere, the "value" which you would have concentrated in a couple of rolls is diluted in 6 (or 9 counting mods). Let's use an example: let's assume that your maximum Skill Haste you can have on gear is 120%, this means that if you want to distribute it on 6 equal slots, than each slot with have 20% at most. If you instead decide that you want to put Skill Haste only on (say) Mask and Kneepads, than each slot will contain a max of 60%. So let's say you get an upgrade: with the first system an upgrade gets you from 14% SH to 19% on the piece, while in the second system a similar upgrade will send you from, say, 40% to 55%. The "relative" upgrade on the piece is 25% in both cases, but getting a 5%upgrade in the first system doesn't feel as impactful as the 15% in the second one.

This was the philosophy during Gear 1.0: imbalanced stats and potential big swings. Of course Gear 1.0 carried a lot of problem on its own (getting upgrades was a pain, the RNG was brutal), but the upgrades that happen felt meaningful. In gear 2.0 instead, once you are at 85% capacity, upgrades are slow and are counted in .X% increments. "WoW, I got my Ceska holster WD from 13.5% to 14.1%, NOW I CAN FINALLY TACKLE HEROIC" – said no one, ever (sarcasm). This is why, partially, I don't find a place for an Optimization Station in Division 2: having a resource dump for small, nominal, increments feels like a waste.

So yeah, numerical upgrades are meh, and this is why (in my humble opinion) people are always grumpy about the reward system in Division 2, but there is also another problem …

lack of talents – Ok, before anyone cancels me and gets my old comments, I will ay this pre-emptively: I was wrong. When Massive announced that the new Gear System would only have talents on Chest and Backpack, a lot of people said that it would "dumb down" the system. At the time I dismissed the criticism saying: "well, all meta builds have, like, 2-3 main talents, the rest is nice-to-haves", and to a certain degree, that was true: Berserker Clutch only relied on … Berserker and Clutch (and Strained on weapon), the rest of the talents were passives until TU6, with Concussion, Spark and Composure filling Backpack, Mask and Pads (an argument could be made that Destructive with Merciless procs was better than Concussion, but I digress), same for the 3/11/7, which relied primarily on On The Ropes and Unbreakable, with Compensated being mostly a stat buff with a weird requirement. So I mean, I didn't see the problem at the time because I knew that aside from 2-3 combo talents, everything else was there due to flavor or utility.

Boy was I wrong.

First of all, having options is nice, like almost always. Even if half the options are bad or underwhelming, having options is nice, having talents filling every slot is nice, even if they are boring passives. Talents give a piece of equipment a bit of an identity: saying you used "Calculated Alps Pads" meant something, even in discourse or theorycrafting sessions. Now ? Unless it is a named item, everything is interchangeable and pedestrian. Secondly, having options means that theorycrafters and people that like to make off meta builds (like me) had a bigger sandbox to play with: Kneecap/Sadist ACS ? Offmeta, sucked in Heroic but man was it fun coming up with it. Payload/Spark Negotiator Dilemma with Merciless Primary ? Yes Please. Diamondback "Crit Damage build before it was cool" builds ? YEP. There was a lot of off meta possibilities in Gear 1.0.

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Were they optimal ? Hell no. Where they Good ? Sometimes. Was it fun coming up with the combinations ? Hell yes.

Now, between the 2 talents limitations and the fact that the game became harder and more "elitist" (playing on Challenging feels like a waste sometimes), this theorycrafting aspect is very numbed. There is so much you can do with 2 talents, 1 exo and maybe a Gear Set, and a lot of times it feels underwhelming, especially when the same slot has some talents which are so far ahead they are not even funny and some absolute stinkers (seriously, who the fuck chooses Protected Reload ?).

Given these 2 problems, put yourself in my shoes: if farming for numerical increments is boring because they feel nominal only and farming for offmeta builds feels meaningless, what do you do ?

You change game.

Gear in Division 1: the Good

After 40 Hours, I feel the Gear System in Division 1 is almost what I always wanted Division 2 Gear 1.0 to become in WoNY.

Playing Division 1 after loving Div2 Gear 1.0 and detesting Gear 2.0 feels … a bit depressing because it gave me the "THEY GOT IT PRETTY MUCH THE FIRST TIME, WHY THEY CHANGED ?!?!" vibe.

Division 1's Gear System combines the Distribution of Minors "thing" I illustrated in the previous section with the "Cores" system of Gear 2.0 (which is the part of Gear 2.0 that I like). On one side the Firearms/Stamina/Electronics system gives a good idea of what a build is going for (more or less), on the other, you have attribute slots which concentrate mutually exclusives attributes like Gear 1.0.

And I love it.

If there was a thing I would change though is to make the attribute ranges slightly wider, maybe not Div2Gear1.0 level but slightly more gap from the min values to the max ones. But otherwise I love the system: seeing what a piece can offer is always interesting, seeing how the attributes match is always a pleasure. Getting Gear became fun again.

And the Weapons …. my god the weapons ! 3 talents. 3 TALENTS. imagine the possibilities, combining active and passive effects. Yeah the requirements for FA/ST/EL are kinda bad (the Colored Cores system is much better) but man discovering everything feels sooo good. There is enough variance to give the player and idea of short, medium and long term goals and I LOVE IT.

So yeah, it might be the "honeymoon" period but, from an High Level perspective, I'm loving the system and I look forward into discovering it in full.

But I can already see some cracks …

Gear in Division 1: the Bad

Boy, oh boy, this High End Gear Talents suck.

Man they really do.

Now, to be absolutely fair, I can see that maybe Massive was still trying and experimenting, maybe they didn't know how to make good talents or whatnot, but after 8 versions (and intermediate patches) it really seams like the team just … gave up on high end talents.

Going from Division 2 and WoNY, these talents look pedestrian at best and horrible at worse: Kneepads have only 2 talents and they are mostly tied to farming, Holster talents are tied to cover and seeing how arcade-y the game is they seam very situational, Mask and Chest talents are … ok, Backpack has mostly Skill talents, with only Specialized meaningful for non-skill builds, on Gloves Savage is so clearly BiS it's not even funny …

But like, even when you get into the values, you kinda realize that they didn't have either the time or willingness to revisit them meaningfully ? Like, compare Reckless with Div2 Glass Cannon: from 8/10% to 25/50% … some of them are not too bad, like Rapid and Vigorous, but when you start comparing these to the Gear Sets and especially the Classifieds, you can see both qualitative and quantitative problems. Compared to Div2, in which we got various extensions on talents, it exacerbate that feeling that HEs were left in the gutter.

On the other hand, I like how there is an option to mix and match Gear Sets. Gear Sets in Division 2 are clearly meant to be used with their 4 pieces in full (I would argue there are exceptions with, for example, Pestilence with 3 piece Striker), but in Div1, until you get to the Classies, you have some very interesting options. This, combined with the Ninjabike BP, makes me more optimist about what kind of setups I can find.

Also, the whole FA/ST/EL system is kinda rough: again, the cores system in Div2 (which is functionally the same thing) works better overall; additionally, getting around learning it is not 100% straightforward and I can see why it was changed.

This problem is partially linked to the Exotic Gear pieces: while Exotic weapons have a good enough variance between meta (the House) and meme (the weird Set ones), Exotic Gear is … ok I guess: Pads and Holster win because they are better than the high ends, mask is way too situational, Chest/BP/Gloves are ok but again … kinda limited and not as exciting as they should be. More options would have been nice and I'm glad that, with Season 3, we have 2 exos per slot (except for Gloves).

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But I guess we have to address the elephant in the room …

Gear in Division 1: the Ugly Classified Conundrum

Classifieds are overpowered.

Classifieds invalidate a lot of the gear of the game.

Classified power crept, leaving the rest in the dust.

This is bad for build diversity.


Would Global Events feel so good if they didn't speed up Classified Set farming ?

Would people optimize their Named Enemies routes if it wasn't for Classifieds ?

Would people care for Named enemies, Hunters in UG and such if it wasn't for the Classies ?

I don't know, I kinda doubt it.

At the time of writing, thanks to the Onslaught Event, I finished my first Classy Set (Predator), and guess what, I'm glad: I'm glad to have a backup if I decided to get into the DZ, I'm glad to have this beast in the stash, I'm glad to look forward to getting an Urban MDR to pair with it. These days, I farmed as a mofo to get this in time. And I know that normally it would take me a considerable amount of effort to get it.

There was expectation and desire. When did I get that feeling for a Div2 GE ?

Never, since I learned that I can cheese 90% of the challenges in Federal Bunker for an Exo Cache.

But, it's still fine.

I still feel I can tackle Legendary missions without a Classy. Classy Striker would make it easier, but it's not impossible.

There is plenty of content for which not having a Classy is enough. and because the goal is always the Classy drop, I don't feel bad dropping the difficulty from Legendary to Challenging in terms of loot acquisition. In Division 2, given the loot distribution, farming below Heroic feels like a waste of time.

In the past, I might have been more negative towards Classies, but I recognize that they constitute a drive, a long term carrot which keeps the donkey going.

And this is the dilemma, isn't it ? On one side, you purposefully have an OP class of gear that, from a meta perspective, invalidates the rest of your rolls, but on the other you have such a powerful drive that the presence of it is iconic and so strong that it will give you a meaningful incentive.

This is the opposite problem with Division 2 Seasons, GEs, Leagues, Summit … you name it: there are all these challenges, all this effort, but the carrot is the same, is the same Fox Prayers', the same High Ends with marginally better stats, the same gear which is flattened. You know when reviewers describe games or movies as "rollercoasters" ? meaning that there is a certain rhythm and that there are quiet, slow moments with huge peaks of excitement in between ? Division 1 is that rollercoaster, while Division 2 feels like a numbed version, in which the peaks are lower, even if the average level is slightly higher.

At the present moment, I hugely prefer Division 1's pace, and I am much more willing to escuse the classifieds if this is the end result.

In Conclusion

I could talk about so many more things: like the fact that 9k Stamina builds make sense compared to 6 Blue Core ones in Division 2, I can comment on the fact that I'm glad Division 2 has Armor on the player and doesn't have Damage to Elites anymore, I can commend the stash space and UI improvements in Division 2, there are all sorts of things I could talk about, but the posts is getting way too long.

I guess these are my takeaways:

1) I doubt I will buy Division 3 or any other looter game at launch anymore: the mess that is Gear 2.0 left a bad impression on me. I can understand "bad" patches which shuffle the meta, but that 180 really showed me how unreliable these games and experiences can be.

2) I'm glad Ubisoft gave the game for free: I doubt I would have rediscovered it otherwise

3) I realize, more than ever, that game design is a game of compromises: what do you decide to implement, which one of these negative outcomes do you feel is the lesser of the two evils ? Seeing Division 2 and 1, with the relative systems, made me realize how there is no "perfect" or better system, only the ones which you are willing to deal with.

Thanks for reading.


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