Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 early game impressions

I?ve spent 8 or so hours with The Division 2 on PS4 at this point, and while I?m certainly far off from having an actual review ready, I figured I should jot down some impressions prior to the full launch tomorrow.

The Division 2 is pretty good! Really good in fact. Having played the first game ages ago, and just thinking it was O.K, I?m surprised at how engrossed I?ve been with the sequel so far. Granted, I know the first game had a lot of work done on it post-launch that I likely missed, but it?s clear that developer Massive Entertainment took feedback from the first game seriously. The Division 2 feels far more fleshed out, with a lot of content available from the get go, and tons of side activities to keep you busy as you move through the main story. I?ve spent probably too much time in the starting zones, exploring alleyways, buildings, and collecting loot. Enemy encounters feel largely organic as I stumble across enemy patrols, and events like public executions. The world also feels lived in, with friendly NPCs roaming about, collecting resources, and even teaming up with you in a firefight. Hours have melted by as I?ve played the game over the past couple of days, which is always a good sign for me.

Let?s talk a little about the early side of the game. Character creation is decent, with the typical selection of preset faces, hairstyles, facial hair, and a handful of beginning clothing options. There are sliders for the faces so you can adjust beyond the presets, and a decent host of color options for skin tones and hair. Clothing is limited to some basic shirts, pants, and hats, in part because the game does have cosmetic options that can be purchased using real money. That said, you?ll come across cosmetic loot while playing, and I?ve found clothing frequently, making the microtransaction side of things a little less egregious.

The Division 2 will give you a real basic overview of the events of the first game, namely the Black Friday terrorist attack that threw everything into disarray to begin with. The general plot of the main storyline hasn?t felt too important to me, and hasn?t advanced much in the early hours past the whole take back the city angle in Washington D.C. I have found some of the snippets of story from cell phones and other collectibles to be entertaining though, much like the first Division.

Opening hours are in line with what the closed and open beta featured. You?ll start off helping the efforts at the White House, then move on to your first settlement. Settlements serve as a mini-base, with side missions, main missions, vendors, and so on. Settlements also feature projects that you can complete for upgrades. As you advance a Settlement, you?ll gain staff members for the Base of Operations in the White House, which is how you?ll unlock things like crafting or clans. At this point I just unlocked clans after completing a main story mission, but haven?t advanced into the Dark Zone yet. You unlock crafting early, and I?ve found that crafting items can be helpful, but the items I have access to don?t seem to generate set bonuses that you?ll find on loot out in the wild, so there is a trade-off.

Part of completing objectives for Settlements, besides donating resources and gear, involves completing side missions or little events found on the map. These event locations usually show up as a question mark on the map until you get close, and so far have consisted of stopping public executions or propaganda broadcasts. There are also control points on the map that you can take over to create more fast travel options besides Settlements and Safe Houses. You can also donate resources like food and water to NPC?s at these points, and in combination with an unlockable perk, you?ll get little visible pings nearby to help uncover loot. Pretty much every activity seems to feed into something else, so there?s no effort wasted here.

Speaking of perks, there are a couple of ways to upgrade your Division Agent as you play. Leveling up will earn you both SHD (Shade) Tech points and occasional skill points. Skill points are used to unlock equipment, like Turrets, Drones, a Riot Shield, and so on. Once equipment is unlocked, you can have two equipped at one time, and they work off of a cooldown timer when deployed. After the initial unlock, you can opt to use skill points to upgrade equipment with a handful of options on each skill, or unlock new equipment to change out your build. SHD Tech is earned every level, and you can find more on the map as you explore. SHD Tech Points are used to unlock and upgrade perks, which will grant benefits like additional grenade and armor kit capacity, increased XP gains for special kills, mods for weapons/armor, and more. Most perks can be upgraded as well, generally increasing the SHD Tech Point cost for each upgrade. You?ll get SHD Tech Points at a steady pace while exploring, so early on you?ll upgrade your Agent often enough.

You?ll want to keep up with your upgrades as well, since combat can be a bit of a challenge. Enemy A.I. comes off as intelligent in The Division 2, with enemies constantly attempting to flank your position, forcing you out of cover, tossing grenades with surprising accuracy, and generally just keeping you on your toes. It?s refreshing to see this from a cover shooter, most of which devolve into a waiting game if not handled right. Instead, in The Division 2, you?ll need to be on the move frequently, and you?ll want to keep a close eye on radar as enemies can pop up from the side quickly. You?ll also need to keep an eye out for vicious melee focused enemies that?ll swarm your location, occasionally powering themselves up before charging in. The new armor system used for tougher foes here is also neat, giving an actual reason for elite class enemies to feel tougher than normal. It?s cool to see armor peeled off of these enemies as you concentrate fire on particular spots, eventually removing enough of their armor to actually cause damage.

As far as early complaints, I really don?t have much. The only annoyance I?ve had is with small text that pops up on the bottom left of the screen that generally just relays info that I haven?t had much use for anyways. The tutorial text is also a little too small, but it?s also not something you?ll pay attention to after a couple hours. It does strike me as odd that it?s an issue though, considering the accessibility options found elsewhere, like larger font for subtitles, text-to-speech, and colorblind options. You can even customize the HUD and enlarge different fields there, so having one onscreen section stuck on small font stands out a little bit more. I?m also playing on a standard, non-pro PS4, and the game does have some framerate issues here and there, but nothing that has felt overly awful or unexpected.

I?m certainly impressed with The Division 2 so far, and look forward to experiencing more in the days to come. My understanding is that the campaign can take somewhere in the range of 30 to 40 hours to complete, and then the end game content is supposedly substantial too. I might be a ways out from an actual review at this point, but unless there some drastic changes on the horizon, I don?t see my enjoyment tapering off any time soon.