“Being a victim is more palatable than having to recognize the intrinsic contradictions of one’s own governing philosophy.” ―Tom Clancy
The Division 2′s open beta ran three weeks after the private beta, adding one new mission and raising the level cap; since the private beta, the open beta has shown that the game has become a bit more stable and responsive. After speedily making my way through the first two campaign missions, and utilising the experience bonuses to quickly hit the minimum level needed to take on Viewpoint Museum, I finally arrived at the new level. The journey here was a quick one, but upon revisiting Washington D.C. in the open beta, I found that the new setting isn’t a bad one after all – the empty streets of Washington D.C. no longer feel quite so sterile, and there are more activities to do while one is moving around on the map. Handling has also been improved since the private beta; my character feels more responsive, and I no longer stagger whenever my armour is depleted. However, some bugs in the movement system still persist: I find myself getting stuck after interacting with doors and keypads, and there was one instance where I was unable to move after attempting to open a supply drop. Beyond minor grievances with movement, which can be the difference between life and death, The Division 2′s open beta shows that the title is largely ready for launch. Even on my older computer, I was able to maintain a smooth sixty frames per second, dipping down to fifty in more intense moments, and on the whole, the gunplay feels much more satisfying at lower levels than they did for equivalent levels in The Division.
After completing Viewpoint Museum, I went back into the Dark Zone to quickly hit the maximum Dark Zone level: normalisation of gear has made the Dark Zone a lot fairer, and while I was clearing landmarks on my own, a pair of players decided they wished to go rogue against me. Equipped with a good knowledge of my preferred skills, how my weapons handled and familiarity with the mechanics as a result of the private beta, I ended up squaring off against both agents head-on and managed to defeat them. PvP combat never really was my cup of tea in The Division, but The Division 2′s normalised Dark Zone provide a rather interesting environment to fight in: all players have an equal chance here. This particular Dark Zone is a bit small, but there are other Dark Zones, including at least one where players go in with their regular stats, allowing individuals to experience the Dark Zone as they please. Besides destroying rogue agents, I also successfully completed through the Jefferson Trade Centre Invaded mission, solo, with the demolitionist specialisation. It turns out that the M32 MSGL is an absolute terror, and upon encountering the named elites, I was shocked to learn that the grenades could bring down these enemies in one shot. Again, experience with the private beta meant that I had no difficulty melting my way through the Black Task on my own. With this particular experience under my belt, I spent the remainder of my time on improving my loadout and finishing off all of the different projects to upgrade the Theatre Settlement.
Screenshots and Commentary
- While LMGs in The Division became obsolete very quickly, I found that at all points in The Division 2, from the story missions to the endgame, LMGs were versatile, viable weapons that could hit reasonably hard and put down sustained amounts of damage downrange, making them especially useful against crowds and heavily armoured enemies. I spent most of Friday evening working my way back to the point where I could complete this mission: my progress from the private beta did not save, and I took advantage of this to run a new character.
- The Viewpoint Museum is based off the Newseum, a museum that showcases a history of journalism. The locations of Washington D.C. are faithfully replicated, and looking at a map of Washington D.C., it is quite impressive as to how accurate The Division 2‘s D.C. are to the real-world equivalent. In the beta, much of the map remains locked, and in the full game, I imagine that players will be able to visit Capital One Arena, home of the Washington Capitals.
- It seemed curious to be fighting a building about the history of journalism, with the intent of shutting down the True Sons’ propaganda broadcast: the True Sons are probably most similar to the LMB, being well-trained and well-organised. They were formed by a former JTF officer who was disillusioned with how things were handled following the Dollar Flu crisis, and are probably the most lethal enemy players will face until the Black Tusk arrive.
- Despite Ubisoft’s reassurances that The Division 2 is not directed at conveying a political message about the current state of government in the United States, and the fact that the game is ultimately about showing how people can come together to survive and overcome adversity, some game journalists have insisted on pushing their own narrative. Arguing that The Division is symbolic of using force to take back a fallen system, journalists claim that it is “[disrespectful to] the intelligence of the players” to claim that the game is apolitical because of its symbolism. The page quote is one of Tom Clancy’s very own remarks, speaking succinctly to my own thoughts on the presence of virtue signalling and the excesses that accompany it.
- While all people are entitled to their opinion, it is disrespectful to suppose that the creator’s intent is irrelevant when considering the merits of a game and its messages. It typifies games journalists of a certain type to insert their discourse into something meant to entertain players: this issue has been especially prevalent since an incident some five years ago that threw the practises of gaming journalists into the open, although I personally find the discourse that such journalists raise to be largely irrelevant to my own perspectives of a game. Simply put, gameplay mechanics and progression matter much more to me than political messages.
- I ended up running an M249B throughout most of The Division 2: the hordes of enemies that storm the player means that for most mid-range engagements, my assault rifle would run dry after three enemies, and being caught in the open with an empty chamber spells certain death. Throughout The Division 2, I switched between the different kinds of weapons, and found that the weapons’ different performances are much more pronounced than they were in The Division: every weapon has a role to play now, and so, it is useful to carry a range of weapons now.
- The final stage of taking back the Viewpoint Museum involves disabling EMP jammers on the rooftop, while simultaneously engaging True Sons. The EMP will prevent players from using their skills and also introduce a considerable amount of visual disruption on the screen, so it is imperative to take the jammers down right away. Once this is done, players will square off against the named elite that appears.
- During the course of The Division 2‘s open beta, I found that enemies of all difficulties, from basic enemies right up to the named elites, all were relatively straightforwards to engage at all levels. When I first played The Division, enemies with yellow health bars were always intimidating to fight, and that The Division 2‘s enemies never invoked a sense of fear in me the same way the toughest enemies of The Division did suggest that I’ve since become more familiar with the mechanics of The Division. With this being said, the First Wave agents that were the bosses of Legendary missions were absolutely monstrosities to fight, and could easily wipe the careless teams out wholesale. I imagine that these enemies will be present for The Division 2‘s equivalent of legendary missions, such as raids.
- Having completed the Viewpoint Museum with minimal difficulty, I had now caught up with the open beta’s experiences and soon turned my attention towards maxing out my Dark Zone rank for a second time. The Dark Zone available in The Division 2‘s open beta was about the same size as one of the sectors in The Division‘s Dark Zone, but despite this, seemed to offer plenty of opportunity for exploration. Randomly roving bands of enemies are absent, as most enemies seem concentrated around the landmarks.
- During my run in the Dark Zone, I never bothered extracting any items since the gains from a successful extraction seems outweighed by the risk of losing it. However, I did have two separate instances where other players turned rogue in my face, hoping to score a quick kill, and I ended up pasting them on the pavement: this fellow here opened fire on me, and I happened to have my M249B out: its large ammunition pool mean that while he was stuck reloading, I could continue to lay down fire, eventually downing him.
- I brought down another rogue agent using a superior CTAR-21: during the course of the open beta, I found two superior items in my travels, and their performance gave me a very minute edge over would-be assailants. The sum of my experiences in The Division 2‘s Dark Zone meant that it would be worthwhile to buy the game just to cause trouble for the agents that would turn rogue: normalised gear means that winning a firefight with other players boils down to better spatial awareness, weapon control and skill management. Against individual rogues, they simply stand no chance.
- I decided to give the endgame Invaded mission another go, and this time, rolled with the demolitions expert loadout. This specialisation gave me access to the M32 MSGL, a six-shot grenade launcher. There’s a special way of improving one’s odds of acquiring signature weapon ammunition: with the marksman, it was nailing headshots, and with the demolitions expert, it’s using explosives or weak-point kills. I had no shortage of 40 mm grenades during my second solo run, and this time, with improved map knowledge, I made it through the first corridor without too much trouble.
- I decided to save the 40 mm grenades for a named elite, and I was horrified with its effects. Unlike the TAC-50, which requires a direct line of sight and is better suited for long-range operations, the M32 MSGL’s indirect fire capabilities means that it is capable of being used against enemies in cover. I fired off one grenade in the ISAC Terminal room, and killed the named elite in one round, preventing the shutdown of the ISAC Terminal in record time. I subsequently used the grenades to annihilate hordes of enemies: the grenades appear to be capable of doing up to 500 thousand points of damage.
- The biggest disadvantage about being a solo player is simply the risk of being flanked is increased by several fold: blindly charging into a new area without being mindful of enemy placement is the surest way to death, and I’m sure that many games journalists of late don’t know this simple, but effective trick to staying alive longer. When I entered this room, I had no idea where the enemies would spawn from, and so, threw my auto-turret into the center. The turret is very effective at whittling down health of enemies, and can be set to lock onto drones, as well: any complaints that the skills are ineffective are a consequence of not experimenting and doing some reading on what the different specialisations have.
- I feel that for gaming journalism to be more relevant, organisations would need to encourage their staff to cultivate a more satisfactory understanding of game mechanics, as opposed to tangential matters that do not impact gameplay. For me, I had no trouble blasting my way through the Black Tusks at this point: the M249B was my go-to weapon during this run, and I was very impressed with how LMGs from The Division 2 handle: assault rifles no longer deal bonus armour damage, and extended mags have a unique set of drawbacks that force players to be mindful of how they mod their weapons. As such, for their impressive ability to suppress enemies and sustain fire, they are excellent for solo players to control large numbers of enemies.
- When the named elite appeared, I lured him into a narrow corridor and equipped the M32 MSGL: I was fully expecting a challenging fight ahead, as the elite here has an RPG of some sort that can one-shot players from full health, but I was left speechless after absolutely shredding the elite with a single shot. This brought my second end-game run to an end, and I leave finding the demolitions specialisation one that could be very entertaining for close-quarters maps.
- Exploration found the starting area to be revisitable, and here, I pass through the area The Division 2‘s beta began in. Compared to three weeks ago, the weather back home has remained bitterly cold, and we’ve broken some records now. Besides being the fourth coldest February in the city’s history, we’ve had more than four straight weeks where the temperatures have not broken above 0ºC. To stave off nearly a month of non-stop cold, I stepped out to an Irish Pub on Friday for some hearty Irish classics: a piping-hot Steak and Guinness pie with large chunks of beef and root vegetables proved more than sufficient for warding off the cold.
- Having said this, it looks like temperatures will finally warm up at least a little in the upcoming while. Despite being nowhere near as warm as the atmosphere conveyed in The Division 2, anything above zero is considered balmy for me. The Division 2, being set in the summer, definitely gives off a sense of warmth, even mugginess: the lighting has vastly improved over The Division, and here, I stopped to admire the volumetric lighting streaming between the trees while pushing to complete more of the activities for the settlement projects.
- Unlike the private beta, I had a bit more spare time available over the weekend to complete the settlement projects in full. The Division 2 offers plenty to do, and it’s clear that the game has taken the lessons of The Division to keep things engaging for players en route to the endgame, as well as during the endgame itself. With this post on The Division 2 at a close, readers left wondering about my writings in March won’t need to worry: I do have a few more posts on games upcoming, but coming up next will be a lengthy post on CLANNAD ~After Story~ as Ushio’s arc concludes, and then a reflection of why I felt the ending in ~After Story~ was one that was appropriate for the story.
- This is my final loadout from the open beta: I ended up collecting quite a number of specialised assault rifles during my run, as well. On the whole, my final loadout for The Division 2‘s open beta proved to be rather more impressive than the one I had after The Division‘s open beta: this particular arsenal will be moot, given that all progress will reset once the game goes live, but I’m still very pleased to have found a superior CTAR-21 and backpack during my run. All of this was accomplished without using any exploits or tricks; I was able to find everything just from normal gameplay.
Overall, I spent around eight hours in The Division 2′s open beta. During this time, I acquired more specialised gear than I had expected, and even managed to find two pieces of superior gear. My experiences in The Division‘s beta and the final game showed that the superior items would appear much later in the game than they did in the beta: it wasn’t until level twenty where I began seeing purple drops. This open beta was exceptionally fun and also illuminating in that it helped me reached a more informed decision on where I stand with The Division 2. On one hand, Washington D.C. has proven itself to be a distinct and engaging setting to fight in. New mechanics show that The Division 2 has definitely applied the lessons learnt from The Division to create a more compelling experience. Crafting and inventory management has seen vast improvements over its predecessor, and this time, shooting is much more satisfying even when one has not reached the endgame. While some issues remain with the movement system, The Division 2 has made considerable strides since its private beta. All of this is very positive for the game, and I expect that fans of The Division will definitely enjoy this one upon its launch. However, having said this, I do not see myself pre-ordering The Division 2 or purchasing it shortly after release for two reasons – I already have a considerable backlog of other titles that I’d like to go through, along with quite enough to do in the foreseeable future. It does not appear in my best interest to buy a title at launch, only for it to accumulate dust in my library. Instead, what will likely happen is that into the future, once I’ve made enough headway in my backlog, I will pick up The Division 2. In all honesty, this does seem like a game that merits purchase at launch price, and I think that anyone familiar with The Division will do well to grab this one.