Ubisoft has talked a lot about how much better the endgame will be in The Division 2, and we can understand why after trying it out for a couple of hours. What we don't understand is why the developer hasn't talked more about some of the other brilliant changes they've made to the game in general. Maybe it's because they want to surprise us, because we definitely were when we went to Paris to play the first three hours of the campaign and a couple of hours of endgame content.
We've already shared our impressions after playing with others in The Division 2's interesting new take on Dark Zones and Conflict modes, but one of the most common questions we hear is people asking whether it's possible to have fun playing alone. That's why we decided to go against the developer's suggestion to team up and instead we started the campaign solo. It was a choice we never once regretted.
One of the main reasons for this is how much more alive and believable Washington DC is when compared to Manhattan. Our thoughts went straight to I Am Legend when we saw a few deer enjoying the calm as they wandered around eating the stubs of grass that had pushed their way through the cracked pavement. It didn't last long though, as a group of survivors came looking for food and resources. Having these realistic-looking animals go about their day while seeing that we weren't the only ones able to take care of ourselves or have needs might not sound impressive, but the world is filled with smaller details that make a really big difference. The Division 2 doesn't feel like a video game - it feels like a realistic depiction of what it would actually be like trying to survive after such an event, which makes exploring a lot more fun.
Sure, we only played the first three hours of the campaign, but that short introduction made it clear that there's a lot more variety to the world this time around. You won't come across the same two baddies having a hostage on its knees or scavenging a body over and over again. Taking control of broadcast towers, clearing areas from one of the four different hostile factions, encountering enemies with widely different agendas, and gathering resources to upgrade your bases are just a few of the activities we spent a lot of our time doing in-between missions and marvelling at how the world kept going without our involvement.
Then it was time to really get involved. With this being the start of the game, most of the story missions tasked us with finding missing agents and activating stuff that would help us survive. You've heard it before, but what you might not expect is the variety. The first few missions didn't just introduce us to new enemy types like the robot dog with a turret on its back, the suicide bombers we met back in December, and enemies with grenade launchers that kept flushing us out of cover, but both also offer very diverse environments and pacing. One of the best examples of this is an endgame mission that took us to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Those of you who've been there probably understand how this is a mission where diversity is at its maximum. Running and fighting our way through a recreation of the moon, an auditorium, giant halls filled with space shuttles, and the outside area was fascinating because it offered diversity both in terms of visuals and gameplay.
This is why we're also somewhat disappointed to see that story and characters still don't seem to be anything to talk about in The Division 2, having a mute protagonist and B-movie-worthy characters that are as shallow as they come and only serve to explain what you're tasked to do in the next story mission. Most of the cinematic sequences we saw generally went something like this: our character enters a room, a person with distinguishing scars, sunglasses, or similar "please remember me" details gives us an explanation and reasoning for a mission that they apparently got from a single tweet, our character says nothing, and the other person says "go get them, tiger", "now go and save our city", or another motivating sentence. Three hours with this, and we still can't remember a single person's name or imagine what they do to relax. The good news is that the gameplay after the campaign more than makes up for it.