“All trust involves vulnerability and risk, and nothing would count as trust if there were no possibility of betrayal.” –Robert C. Solomon
After Warlords of New York revealed that Faye Lau had gone rogue, the question of what would happen next lingered on my mind: The Division had Aaron Keener escape before agents could take him down, and with this as the precedence, there was always the possibility that Lau might return in a future title. This was, however, not the case: the fourth manhunt season allows players to take on Lau. While Lau had been presented as a devoted Division agent in the first game, taking command of the New York City base of operations and supporting the second wave agents. However, the death of her sister weighed heavily on her mind, and after hearing out the other rogue agents, Lau disavowed the Division and took things into her own hands, joining the Black Tusk so that she could work her way through the organisation and reach a point where she could assassinate President Ellis for her own ends. After fighting through Camp White Oak, the agent finally confronts and defeats Lau, but this operation leaves more questions than it does answers. At this point in time, it does appear that most of the major players in The Division 2 are accounted for, and while the Black Tusk’s objectives and intentions remain a mystery, by this point in The Division 2, what is clear is that playing through well-treaded maps now have allowed me to refine my setup further; I’ve encountered no problems at all with everything up to and including the challenging difficulty. With everything in the books, the only goals left for me in The Division 2 will be to complete the assignments that will allow me to enter the Dark Zones, and subsequently, determine whether or not my current set up allows me to explore the two raid missions in any capacity. During the course of the fourth manhunt season, I also unlocked the technician specialisation and have since levelled everything up to completion, allowing me the full set of options for building and experimenting with different setups for solo play: more so than The Division, I’ve found that The Division 2 is even more solo-friendly than its predecessor.
The fourth manhunt season also saw me attempt the global events for the first time: previously, I’d not really paid attention to the global events, which are, compared to its predecessor, less intuitive. Whereas global events in The Division were always-on, The Division 2 requires that players manually activate them. However, once activated, players can complete challenges to unlock stars that go towards unlocking different rewards, and ultimately go towards purchasing crates. The global events of The Division 2 were unexpectedly enjoyable: “Golden Bullet” gave enemies the ability to use a buff that increased their damaged, but killing enemies who had this buff active or were readying it gave players the bonus damage. The prize for this was a gold-plated P08 Luger backpack charm, which looks amazing and was worth the effort to collect. The other event I participated in was “Reanimated”, where enemies are given an automated defibrillator that brings them back to life unless they were killed with a headshot. Headshot kills create a corrosive gas cloud that deals damage to nearby enemies. While the prizes for the second global event were less inspired, the mechanic itself was a tangible change to The Division 2‘s gameplay that proved quite entertaining. After both global events ended, I had enough stars accumulated to buy exotic caches, and coupled with the exotic caches I’ve earned from regular gameplay, I ended up filling up all of my available cache storage with exotic caches. Having now defeated Faye Lau, I’ve decided to open all of these crates to free up space. Because of how the loot pool works, the exotic crates only give what I’ve already picked up. However, unboxing twenty crates gave me enough exotic parts to recalibrate my existing gear: as a result of unpacking all of my exotic caches, I’ve now been able to build a near-perfect rolled Chatterbox and Nemesis, which are my mainstay exotic weapons.
- Once the fourth manhunt season began, I played through it as I had the earlier seasons, but once the “Golden Bullet” challenge went live, I realised that it would be worth taking a look at how global events worked for The Division 2: the prize for completing all ten ranks was too tempting to pass up, and being a James Bond fan, I’ve always had a fondness for gold-plated weapons. The basic setup behind the “Golden Bullet” event was simple enough: enemies could construct golden bullet buffs, which made them immensely damaging to players.
- However, if these enemies were ever killed, players would inherit the buff, making them more powerful, and consecutively chaining kills would keep the buff active for longer durations. As long as one were to be mindful of which enemies were equipping the buff next, one could maintain a near-constant advantage over them. Each global event comes with a set of challenges, and while I started a bit late, I caught on to the mechanics quickly enough, allowing me to reach the final reward tier before the event ended for that cool-looking golden P08 Luger.
- While the Golden Bullet buff allows players to do massive damage to enemies, it isn’t quite like the original Golden Bullet from James Bond. My friend remarks that the Golden Gun is a true skill weapon: it is capable of killing an enemy in one bullet, and rewards players who have a sure aim and patience. The Golden Gun is balanced out by the fact that it is a single-shooter, and reload times are lengthy; missing a shot can be a death sentence. This is a high-risk, high-reward play style that really pushed players to improve their aim, although such mechanics do appear to be the hallmark of an older game, back when skill was worth something.
- Here, I finished off the fourth field research level for the technician specialisation: the technician equips the P-017 missile launcher, a custom weapon that launches miniature missiles that lock on to multiple targets. This specialisation is focused around skill and hybrid builds, increasing one’s skill tier permanently by one level when the specialisation tree is properly kitted out and offering bonuses for destroying enemy skills. It’s not a specialisation I’ve gotten too much use out of, but after I unlocked it, it was fun to fully level it up and experiment with different setups. At the time of writing, I’ve now unlocked all of the three Year One specialisations and earned all of the point for their respective trees.
- I have heard, however, that the demolitionist build with seeker mines and skill-oriented gear allows one to solo even legendary missions, so that could be something worth taking a look at in the future. The second global event I participated in was “Reanimated”, and here, I land a headshot on an enemy during the Tidal Basin mission. When I realised I had been quite close to filling my inventory with exotic caches, I decided to hold off on opening the caches and unbox them all at once, purely for fun. Completing assignments for the global events was a solid way of earning a few extra caches, and by the time the event drew to a close, I had nineteen exotic caches.
- The idea behind “Reanimated” was that headshot kills would spawn a corrosive cloud that damaged nearby enemies, whereas enemies that were killed by anything other than headshots could get back up and keep fighting, in a zombie-like fashion. Having once-defeated enemies come back to life initially proved tricky, especially when I ran missions on tougher difficulties and directives to finish some of the assignments: after clearing an area and moving forwards, I could come under fire after dead enemies came back to life. As the event continued to run, I eventually wised up to this trick and killed enemies before they could fully reanimate.
- Once I got used to the mechanics behind “Reanimated”, I was having a great deal of fun with The Division 2: the global events here are even more entertaining than those of the first game. Rewards from global events in both games made them worth participating in: The Division‘s global events were how I ended up completing my classified gear sets, and here in The Division 2, exotic caches can be purchased from the global event vendors: even if one is getting duplicates, exotic gear can be deconstructed for exotic parts, which are useful in reconfiguring exotic weapons.
- Because some of the assignments for the “Reanimated” event required that I get headshots with a specialisation weapon, I did end up going back to my sniper loadout (Aces and Eights gear set, with the Nemesis as a primary weapon and the sharpshooter specialisation). It’s been a while since I’ve run with the TAC-50, and it is not lost on me that with the accumulated bonuses and stacks, a fully-charged round from the Nemesis can do more damage than even the TAC-50 can upon landing a headshot. The Nemesis has proven to be a fun weapon to use, although it is clear that this weapon is best suited for situations where one has a team drawing fire and keeping enemies busy.
- One of the trickier assignments for the “Reanimated” event was to have every enemy come back to life while capturing a control point, all without leaving the control point’s boundaries. To achieve this, I could not kill enemies that were close to one another in rapid succession or be too aggressive, lest I land a headshot that permanently puts an enemy down. To this end, I wound up using a pistol and picked my shots slowly, so that I was assured body shots. I ended up successful at No Hope Hotel, and seeing the criteria for this challenge did lead me to wonder how The Division 2 was keeping track of this without negatively impacting performance. Since the game does know one’s position, I suppose it could always just record a user’s path and then compute whether or not any point on this path is outside the bounds of a control point while the control point was being taken. Once the points are recorded, a function could be used to check at the end of a successful capture and provide the rewards accordingly.
- With the last target, I ended up returning to Lower Manhattan to finish the manhunt off. While the Warlords of New York missions were fun and refreshing when I first played them, returning to Lower Manhattan demonstrated to me that these missions were not like the Washington D.C. missions in that I couldn’t rush through them with superior firepower alone. In particular, I’d become powerful enough to completely remove Kajika’s armour and health before the climactic fight, but because of the way The Division 2 is implemented, the game didn’t count that as a kill, and I would have to wait for the final segment of his mission in order to defeat him.
- I’ve not returned to Lower Manhattan since the last manhunt event, and the contrast between Washington D.C. is evident. Looking back, Warlords of New York proved to be a superb expansion to The Division 2, and considering that I picked it up at half price, I’ve gotten more than my money’s worth out of the purchase: as it turns out, having Warlords of New York‘s manhunts gave me reason to come back time and time again. At the time of writing, I have 193 hours in The Division 2, after a year and three months of play, compared to The Division‘s 204 hours over ten months. It is possible that, in the absence of Warlords of New York, my time in The Division 2 would’ve been much less, and it does feel like the expansion is necessary to have a full endgame experience.
- On the first day of the Year of the Ox, my new year got off to a good start as I picked up my first exotic drop in while after melting an elite en route to a bounty; I managed to score another Bullet King with slightly better specs than the one I currently have. The Bullet King is probably one of the most noteworthy of the exotics in The Division 2 in that it never needs reloading, and I’ve found it a fantastic choice for situations that demand sustained damage – especially against the XB-31 Marauder drone and vehicles, the Bullet King has no equal.
- The timing of this post was a deliberate one, to coincide with when I first wrote about the private beta two years earlier. As a result of trying to hit this milestone, it was a bit of a stressful run to finish the Manhunt off – of the games I’ve played of late, The Division 2 is probably one of the few that have successfully gotten under my skin. Most notably, the suicide Outcasts bum-rushing me at Manning National Zoo and the modified EMP jammers first encounter during the Jupiter manhunt stand as being the low points I had with The Division 2: losing progress because of unexpected mechanics is always frustrating.
- While there are frustrating moments in The Division 2 that are quite unlike anything I’ve faced in other games, The Division 2 is an improvement to The Division in every way; since the private beta days, the movement system feels a little more polished, and the issues I’ve noted in the private and open betas have since been rectified. Overall, the game feels responsive and crisp: the only major performance issue I have with The Division 2 is that the game will (rarely) crash unexpectedly – The Division 2 doesn’t save mission progress, and being forced to restart a mission is unpleasant.
- With this being said, across 193 hours, I’ve maybe encountered at most two to three hours of frustration, and the law of large numbers suggests that given that 98.5 percent of my time was otherwise positive, the game overall isn’t problematic. This is, strictly speaking, true: I simply happen to remember the worst moments more vividly than I do the positive moments. Fortunately, the list of positives about The Division 2 are too many to list – high on my list of things that I enjoy about The Division 2 is the fact that much of the game can be soloed, and thanks to Hunter’s Fury, my ability to challenge all foes is made much easier owing to the fact that this gear set is, for the lack of a better word, overpowered for the most part.
- Whereas the initial fifteen percent bonuses to submachine gun and shotgun damage is fair, but equipping three pieces of the gear set confers twenty percent armour on kill on top of instantly healing the player, giving players a massive advantage. With all four pieces, enemies within fifteen metres of the player take an additional twenty percent damage, and killing these enemies stuns nearby enemies as well, as well as giving an additional five percent damage that stacks five more times. These traits make the Hunter’s Fury immensely powerful already, but I’ve got my own twist on the setup. Together with the Chatterbox’s talents, I have a submachine gun of prodigious power, and the Ninjabike knee pads allow me to continuously keep topped off even when out of combat, as well as giving me enough bonus armour when vaulting to escape difficult situations.
- With this setup, missions on difficulties up to challenging are not a problem: even tougher enemies don’t really pose a threat, and as long as there are standard enemies to kill, I am able to continue fighting. The Hunter’s Fury set is not totally overpowered, however: it is weaker against individual opponents without an entourage of minions – whenever rogue agents show up, if I did not already buff the Chatterbox to increase its firing rate, I am left at a major disadvantage. For the most part, named elites always are accompanied by weaker minions, so I’m able to knock them out, stunning the elite long enough to deal major damage.
- After blasting Circe, I picked up yet another Chameleon assault rifle. Despite being a fun weapon to use in some circumstances, it’s nowhere nearly as consistent as the Chatterbox. The Chameleon requires shots be landed before its bonuses kick in, but for the Chatterbox, its talents mean that reloading right before a firefight while close to enemies will allow the fire rate buff to take effect, and killing enemies refill half the magazine; so as long as one is getting kills, the weapon effectively has unlimited ammunition. I’ll still occasionally run the Chameleon for fun, but where I am looking for a quick run through a mission, the Chatterbox is my go-to choice.
- I somehow managed to finish off everything yesterday, the second day into the Chinese New Year. The brutal winter cold still shows no sign of abating, rendering today as cold as it was the day I finished writing about the closed beta two years ago. With this being said, weather forecasts suggest that things could warm up for tomorrow, as the polar vortex begins moving away from our area. This will be much welcomed, although for now, there’s nothing like a hearty dinner to keep warm: to celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Ox, we had a poon choi (盆菜) yesterday evening for dinner. These dishes are a Cantonese festival meal consisting of an impressive array of ingredients layered into a bowl, and because it consists of a wide range of ingredients, flavours from everyone flood into one another, creating a highly distinct and rich flavour. Poon choi is said to date back to the Song Dynasty, and today, it is enjoyed during times of celebration.
- The poon choi we had this year consisted of some exotic ingredients, including abalone, whole prawns, oysters, fish-stuffed tau pok, chicken, ham hock, duck feet and a range of other things I don’t know the names of. Paired with half a white-cut chicken, it was a pleasant meal that warded off the bitter cold: all of the flavours of the ingredients soak together to produce a rich, warm flavour that dishes of this sort are known for, and the dish itself looks like a particularly extravagant nabe that looks like it came straight out of Yuru Camp△. February is generally the coldest and cloudiest month of the year in my side of the world, although when Chinese New Year falls in February, there are always special dinners and New Year foods to look forwards to. As my friends put it, the Cantonese sure know how to party 🙂
- During the Camp White Oak hunt for Faye Lau, I was equipped with the Achilles Pulse, named after the Greek hero Achilles, who was invulnerable save for his heel. This pulse identifies weak areas on a single target, making it an excellent tool for one-on-one fights against exceptionally tough foes like other rogue agents. In more conventional use cases, however, I prefer running the standard pulse; ever since I began using the Hunter’s Fury gear set, I’ve been able to free up a skill slot, and have experimented with a range of skills. I’ve found that the pulse is a great tool, allowing me to swiftly locate enemies and get into range to engage them.
- The biggest surprise about the Faye Lau hunt was the fact that she ultimately ends up killing President Ellis, which only serves to increase the mystery behind what Ellis had been involved in, and to what extent. An ECHO log I found mid-mission suggests that Ellis was only a pawn in a larger and more sinister political agenda. I imagine that Lau had become disillusioned with these games and sought to end things on her own terms, and her dialogue to players suggest that she’s still convinced that going rogue was the proper course of action. The reasons agents have for going rogue are numerous, and one of the things players have long wished for would be making these game-changing decisions themselves, such as allying themselves with Aaron Keener and disavowing the Division.
- Such a mechanic would require an all-new story to be written and packaged with the game; while this would no doubt add a depth to The Division in an unparalleled manner, I imagine that the development and resources would be nontrivial. Players can continue to dream, of course, and there are some times where these dreams are realised. For instance, a few days ago, Ubisoft released the original soundtrack for Warlords of New York, and players have been looking to hear the soundtrack for some time, especially the song that played when the agent squares off against Aaron Keener himself. As it turns out, this track is called City Hall Siege, and being able to listen to a remix of Precinct Siege with Keener vibes was a blast: I’ve been longing to hear this song since beating Keener back in August.
- My final confrontation with Faye Lau proved to be anti-climactic – the game’s dynamic weather system suddenly felt the need to drape a thick fog over the combat area, making it impossible to see anything, and by the time I got close enough to Fay Lau to see her, she was already on the ground. Because of my setup, Lau didn’t even put up much of a fight: despite using an armour kit mid-battle and possessing some impressive gear of her own, the fact that my DPS was so high made this irrelevant. I suppose this was only appropriate, but it does come across as suggesting that for all of her beliefs, her end was no different than the other rogues I’ve knocked out.
- Once Faye Lau was defeated, I returned to the White House and turned my attention to the twenty exotic caches I’ve accumulated. I knew full well that I would not be getting anything new with these caches owing to how loot tables are calculated in The Division 2 (that means no Bighorn, Eagle Bearer or Ravenous until I squad up for the game’s toughest content), but even then, I had been looking to see if I could pick up a better Chatterbox or Lady Death. After opening all twenty exotic caches, I wound up with three more Lady Deaths and two more Chatterboxes. One of the Chatterboxes proved to have a stronger set of base stats than the one I currently ran with, and in conjunction to the host of exotic components I now had, I could begin improving some of my exotic weapons.
- My first roll with the Chatterbox was a near-perfect weapon with maximum bonus submachine gun damage and critical hit damage. The critical hit chance on this weapon isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty close, and I imagine that this small difference could prove helpful when I do decide to check out The Division 2‘s raid content in exploration mode. The Chatterbox has become my favourite exotic in the whole of The Division 2 for the fact that it is unrivalled at close quarters: with the right application, one can essentially keep their finger on the trigger for as long as a firefight is running. The Chatterbox pairs well with an assault rifle or rifle, which allows one to pick off more distant foes. The only downside about the Chatterbox is that switching weapons will cause the firing rate buff to be reset, and the Chatterbox’s base RPM renders it less effectual.
- The Chameleon might not be the most effective exotic in The Division 2, and while it’s got a great firing rate and magazine capacity, its buffs do require that one enter a firefight first. The base weapon is unremarkable, but once activated, the buffs turn the Chameleon into a powerhouse, making it easily one of the strongest burst damage weapons in the game. The weapon’s low accuracy means it handles more like a submachine gun than an assault rifle, but when everything lines up, the Chameleon is a remarkably fun weapon to use. It has has the coolest-looking appearance of any exotic in the game, being a highly customised Kriss Vector with a special high-tech scope and a unique polymer coating that allows it to change colours in response to the environment.
- Before I picked up the Chatterbox and its practically bottomless magazine, I ran with the Lady Death, which is an excellent submachine gun whose damage increases as players move around, and upon every kill, increases the player’s movement speed. I found it an effective weapon, although during prolonged firefights in PvE missions, the smaller magazine capacity puts it at a disadvantage. Conversely, the Lady Death’s traits make it perfect for PvP in the Dark Zone and other modes: being able to escape from bad situations and build up the damage buff makes this an effective choice. Since PvP features smaller numbers of enemies, the Lady Death’s thirty-two round magazine isn’t a concern here, as one could reload while running.
- Like the Chatterbox, the Nemesis is an exotic that can be acquired through patience rather than luck: collecting the requisite parts during Invaded stronghold missions will allow one to construct one of the most entertaining sniper rifles in The Division 2. I completed this back in September of last year after spending a month of waiting for the strongholds to go on rotation, but the results were worth it: the Nemesis can, with the right perks and attributes, hit even harder than the TAC-50 upon landing a successful headshot, and in situations where I am engaging a lone, distant target, this sniper rifle has no equal.
- If and when I’m asked, my favourite exotic equipment piece is probably the Ninjabike Kneepads, with the Memento Backpack being a close second. The Ninjabike Kneepads offer an instant reload when vaulting or performing cover-to-cover moves, allowing me always keep my active weapon topped off. This is how I keep the boosted RPM on my Chatterbox for entire missions. I’ve since swapped out the extra Hunter’s Fury mask for a Sokolov Concern mask, which adds a ten percent submachine gun damage bonus to ensure I’m even more effective in CQC. This is by no means a perfect setup: a fully optimised CQC loadout would require that I improve my critical chance probability and damage to the greatest extent possible. With this being said, I think that what I do have isn’t bad at all.
I imagine that with my current setup, I should stand a much better chance of being able to explore the Dark Zone in peace and even consider exploring the raid missions now. I recall attempting the latter with my Striker loadout some months previously and ended up quite unsuccessful, but now, with a loadout that basically gives me a very high DPS and never needs reloading, coupled with what some might considered to be overpowered, armour repair and self-healing capabilities, I am much more self sufficient and should be able to hold out for much longer in firefights, provided I can position myself to be effective. Having grown proficient with my setup’s strengths and weaknesses, I have no trouble with getting myself into a situation that lets me to fully capitalise on what my loadout has to offer. As a result, I now have a shorter TTK than I did even during the height of my time in The Division: named elites fall in the space of seconds when everything is lined up (this was most noticeable when I revisited New York to fight Kajika as a part of the Manhunt assignment, where I dropped his health and armour to zero before the scripted event kicks in and triggers the next part of the mission to become active). All of this was done without a fully optimised Chatterbox, so I am now curious to see if I might stand a better chance than I had previously with the raid missions. For now, however, Ubisoft has announced that they do intend on supporting The Division 2, and while I concede that the manhunts have become a little tiresome, it would be interesting to hear what Ubisoft has planned for the game as it enters its third year. Until then, I’ll take a bit of a break from The Division 2 and spend that time to unwind a bit more: this month’s been incredibly busy on all fronts, and so, every respite is something I’ve come to look forwards to.