With the open beta for The Division 2 winding down, the game offers more or less the same of its predecessor, but with many improvements.
I jumped into The Division 2 beta with lots of skepticism because of how its predecessor left mixed impressions on me. But this beta alone was really polished and bundled with content that made that skepticism disappear, for the most part.
This isn’t the final product, so some basic game features were withheld.
You start off The Division 2‘s beta with randomly selecting a character appearance; you can’t go into the specifics. The presets look fantastic already, so I have no doubt that people who care so much about customization are going to spend quite a bit of time making their character just the way they want (I sure will).
Then comes a beautifully made cut scene to set the precedent of the story. It’s a continuation of the first game except it takes place in Washington, D.C. A massive epidemic hits society, death tolls are high, chaos spreads and everything gets looted. Then comes the US government to call in Division agents to help restore order for civilian life, which has been compromised by the bad guys of the game.
Right after, you’re thrown straight into the gameplay, having to fight your way to the White House, which serves as the Base of Operations or your primary home base throughout the game. The game then presents you with some tutorials on how to upgrade, show you where things are located, and how to craft.
This time around it seems these abilities are tailored more to being additions to your gameplay rather than feeling like necessities. Clearly, some of these are more advantageous to the others, but there is no doubt they’ll be more balanced in the final release.
Speaking of the gameplay, it feels very much like the first Division game, which isn’t a bad thing since that was probably its only strong suit. It’s a third-person, cover-style tactical shooter. You can climb high walls and fences, vault smaller objects like roadblocks and rails, and shoot overhead to remain mostly in cover. Those who dig this kind of gameplay should have very little reason to dislike it. The gunplay is still very much the same as its predecessor as well. It’s solid, feels great, and the weapons, for the most part, each feel unique with the feedback and recoil.
What I am even more impressed about this beta alone is that the players were given a sizable amount of D.C. to explore and it’s only a mere fraction of the whole game. Judging from the map, it’s even bigger than the playing field was in the first Division game, so that’s a huge step in the right direction.
It feels like this game has even less dull moments as you’re trying to get to your next objective, whether it is trying to claim a control point, making your way to a mission, or stopping a public execution. There’s loot to be on the lookout for on the way, firefights to quell, and other random events that occur on your way to said objectives. It feels like you have more purpose in this game because you can see your impacts on helping people establish safe points and unlocking more tech and supplies for your allies.
The story even feels more refined. Sure, your character essentially never utters a word, but you get a sense of immersion in the game’s environment, especially when interacting with your allies and fighting the enemy. Even the cut scenes and dialogues throughout this beta set up a good precedent for the rest of the story.
Enemy dialogue can be repetitive in combat, but I appreciate how they make remarks like telling their allies not to let you heal, or warning them that you’re throwing a grenade or using a drone. It’s a nice touch and adds to the immersion of combat.
Speaking of the immersion, it’s no joke that your adversaries want you dead. It shows especially with their AI being so much more tactful and advanced. Should play very defensively and hide behind cover, they will run up on you, surround you, or even flank you. Even on the easier difficulties, I had CQC enemies sneak up on me and push me out of my cover, almost compromising my missions at times. It really mixes up gameplay strategies, especially when playing higher difficulties.
Enemies were not as tanky and ridiculously hard to pepper down. The bullet sponge problem was dealt with for the most part. The only ones who will still need some serious firepower to take down are the heavily armored boss targets with yellow health. Usually, they have weak points or ways to exploit their movements to get an edge in combat. But do keep in mind, these boss enemies hit harder than the rest and can easily turn the tide in favor of the bad guys.
That’s just the story and open world, but this beta also included online matchmaking in exploration, the story, PvP, and the Dark Zone.
For most of the time playing this beta, I had a notification on the bottom left of my screen telling me my connection to the host server was poor, but it never felt that way. The matchmaking was fast, smooth and never gave me problems.
Getting to matchmaking, I’m so glad that The Division 2 is getting a designated PvP mode. It has the gameplay infrastructure to have fun online matches against other teams. Unsurprisingly, the matches played well.
The stats are normalized to create better balance in terms of gear and the abilities, so that’s definitely something welcomed. I am remaining wary that once the full game releases as there will definitely have to be better tuning of the high-end weapons so the PvP doesn’t become a cesspool of absurdly strong gear and weapons.
The Division 2 beta also offered a portion of the Dark Zone, a returning gameplay aspect of the first but with a few changes. While most of the mechanics of the Dark Zone are kept the same, the beta walks the player through the area and how it works.
You go into an extension of the open world area and fight through mobs of enemies on patrol, with higher level areas rewarding better loot. You can also run into other players and squads there as well.
Here’s the point of contention for many, though: the Dark Zone is still a PvPvE (Player versus Player versus Environment) area. Other agents who aren’t in your immediate squad are neutrally allied with you. They can defect at any time and become your enemy and vice versa. It’s nerve wracking, but it’s the risk you have to take to get the higher-end gear.
The point of contention here is that in order to keep the loot you acquire here, you have to take it to an extraction zone, shoot a flare, and hold out against reinforcements until a chopper arrives to secure your spoils. If successful, you can either continue int he Dark Zone or go back to a safe house. Should you die at any time before securing the loot, you risk having it taken by nearby players. It’s a high-risk, high-reward area not necessarily aimed towards all players, and I can definitely see frustrations arising should you get targeted by other squads.
They might have better gear than you and could ruin your experience, or could underestimate your abilities and gear and now you have free loot. At least this time around, you’re notified of rogue agents well before they start shooting you to make any firefights or escape plans more viable and fair.
To finish it all off, the open beta offered three preset characters at endgame level to give a preview of the specializations and the sheer difficulty of the later game content. The customization and gear look plentiful and diverse which made me hope that it won’t be such a tedious task to grind for at the game’s initial release.
Overall, this beta left me wanting more of the base game, especially with many quality of life improvements that the first didn’t have at launch. With a year’s worth of free content updates planned and the promise of better endgame activities like 8-player raids, The Division 2 will have plenty to keep you busy post-launch.
If the beta is indeed reflective of what The Division 2 will be at launch, this game should be on your radar. Let’s hope Ubisoft Massive delivers a content-filled and minimally buggy game at launch so The Division 2 can see even more quality updates during its lifespan.