“There are some places in life where you can only go alone. Embrace the beauty of your solo journey.” –Mandy Hale
Since the events of the last manhunt, I primarily shifted my focus to on collecting exotic weapons and gear in The Division 2. In The Division, exotics were the rarest of the rare items, and for this, featured some of the must unique traits of any weapon in the game. The Division 2 took exotics a step further, allowing them to fundamentally change the way the game was played. Unlike The Division, exotics are now counted as being powerful enough such that players can only equip one exotic weapon and gear piece at a time, and moreover, there are some exotics that can be crafted following a quest chain, giving endgame players something meaningful to work towards: the Chatterbox requires that special parts be located in Hyena missions, while the Nemesis involves beating invaded missions. Between hunting for exotics and working on the different specialisation field research, The Division 2 has continued to remain highly engaging during the interim between the two manhunt seasons: the latest Manhunt entails hunting down Bardon Schaeffer, leader of the Black Tusk Specialist Unit who believes that eliminating the SHD is a necessary step to saving America. After a lengthy hunt in tracking down and neutralising his subordinates, it turns out that Schaeffer is hiding out at Coney Island. Despite his versatile loadout, the agent manages to bring him down, although even in his absence, the Black Tusk remain a formidable and dangerous force. The task was made easier by the collection of exotics I’d accumulated since the second manhunt, and for this third manhunt, I made a concerted effort to acquire all of the exotics in The Division 2 that do not involve pre-order bonuses, raids or legendary missions. At the time of writing, I believe that save the Dodge City Holster, I’ve got every exotic available in The Division 2 that can be acquired through solo play, bringing me back to where I had been towards the end of my time in The Division. In The Division, the Classified Striker’s Battlegear was the go-to option for anyone looking for a high damage build that vastly improved the performance of any automatic weapon. However, I found that The Division 2‘s iteration was far less effectual than it had been relative to my Classified Set, and after acquiring a Striker’s Battlegear set, I found myself distinctly worse off than I had with my previous gear.
The Division 2 would remedy this not long after, by introducing Hunter’s Fury: this gear set is intended for close quarters combat, and the set bonuses facilitate an aggressive, high-risk-high-reward play-style. The initial bonuses for having two active gear pieces are a fifteen percent boost to submachine gun and shotgun damage. At three pieces, players will recover a fifth of their armour and all of their health on each kill. Finally, when at least four pieces are equipped, the Apex Predator talent is unlocked. All enemies within fifteen metres take an additional twenty percent damage, and killing an enemy will disorient all enemies within five metres, as well as granting an extra five percent damage on top of this for ten seconds. Having the chest piece increases the duration up to half a minute, and equipping the backpack increases the range of the Apex Predator bonus to ten metres. Purely driven by damage, the Hunter’s Fury is the ultimate gear set for solo players favouring CQC, turning individual agents into an unstoppable wrecking ball in close quarters, whose rampage is only constrained by a need to reload and the fact that one is rendered less effective for long range combat. The weaknesses in the Hunter’s Fury gear set’s range can be offset by careful use of cover, while the constraints imposed by reloading can be trivially solved by adding the Ninjabike Messenger Kneepads, which favours cover-to-cover and parkour movements. To further enhance the Hunter’s Fury, the Chatterbox makes for a powerful primary weapon: it’s a custom P90 with a powerful set of talents. The first is that every kill refills half the magazine (a maximum of thirty rounds per kill), and moreover, reloading will increase the rate of fire by twenty percent for every enemy within a range of fifteen metres, up to a maximum of five stacks. The synergy between the Hunter’s Fury, Chatterbox and Ninjabike kneepads results in a build that is downright unfair: the gear set boosts damage at close quarters and provides healing, so I can wade into a firefight, down an enemy to stun the group, reload to secure the increased firing rate, and then mow down enemies back-to-back with a super-charged P90 without needing to reload. Once a firefight ends, I can then use the Ninjabike kneepad’s talent to top off my magazine without losing the bonus firing rate. Careful reload management and positioning means I have an immensely powerful build that allows me to maximise damage and constantly repair and heal without needing to dedicate skills or gear attributes towards defense: having now spent upwards of 160 hours in The Division 2, I have a build that is tuned to my preferred play-style, and moreover, as of the next title update, the inclusion of an optimisation station will allow me to further refine my gear.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Besides a new season’s worth of content, The Division 2 also introduced “The Summit”, a new game mode in which players finish the floors of a building with the aim of progressing to the hundredth floor for a prize. The fact there’s a hundred floors brings to mind the likes of Sword Art Online and Aincrad, which similarly had a hundred floors. The Division had a similar concept dubbed “The Underground”, set in the subways of New York.
- Conceptually, The Summit game mode sounds fun, but I’m unlikely to play it because it doesn’t fit in with why I play The Division 2. Granted, there are other players who do enjoy the mode, and I am getting this mode for free since I purchased Warlords of New York, so I do have something else to do if I’m feeling up to slaughtering NPCs: I’m certainly not complaining about this game mode in any way.
- I only ended up playing The Summit so I could finish off one of the requirements for the earlier Manhunt missions. Manhunt has been surprisingly fun, and the progression system has provided plenty of incentive to play: awards range from gear set items, to cosmetics, blueprints and even exotics. Reaching certain ranks in the Manhunt progression guarantees the new exotics, and this has been a fantastic way to collect some of The Division 2‘s best weapons and equipment.
- I’ve heard that properly geared players can solo even legendary difficulties in The Summit, since the mode does scale for solo players somewhat. This would probably be the only way to get the Bighorn exotic assault rifle on my own, since I don’t particularly have an inclination to join groups for legendary missions. While a large part of The Division 2‘s best content is behind group activities (specifically, raids and legendary missions), a reasonably determined (and lucky) player could still collect most of these items without too much difficulty.
- The main appeal about The Summit is that no two playthroughs is exactly alike, since the floors and setups differ every time one starts anew. Earlier iterations of the game allowed players to choose which floors they’d start on, but now, all players are reset to level one, but then save points are more frequent, and leaving a match at a level will only result in the player starting one level back (so if one were to be on floor 25 and left before finishing, they’d start on level 24 the next time they returned). On top of this, determined players who reach level 100 in The Summit will receive an exotic cache for their troubles.
- The closed-in environment in The Summit means that CQC-oriented weapons like submachine guns and shotguns become immensely powerful: the Hunter’s Fury gear set was specifically designed with The Summit in mind, and after breaking in the set here, I realised I was onto something big: up until now, I played with a much slower, methodical pacing, but with the Hunter’s Fury, I can return to my play-style from The Division, where I played with a much more aggressive style.
- Because the Hunter’s Fury limits me to close quarters combat, I’ve begun experimenting with loadouts, allowing me to switch my specialisation, equipped gear pieces and skills on a moment’s notice. This enables me to adapt to a situation and capitalise on a range of perks and talents depending on what the mission calls for. The downside to changing loadouts mid-mission is that it will empty out one’s special ammunition for their signature weapon, so switches must be made in a strategic manner if one makes extensive use of their signature weapon.
- I’ve found that the signature weapons are merely another tool in the player’s arsenal, rather than a game-changer that allows one to individually change the tide of battle. For the third Manhunt season, I had focused on levelling the survivalist specialisation, which proved to be surprisingly entertaining. The crossbow and its explosive bolts, while dealing less direct damage than the M32A1 and having less range than the TAC-50, are a fun option that can one-shot Black Tusk warhounds. The other bonuses the specialisation confers is increased resistance against elite enemies, as well as enhanced healing in a team. This is very much a group-oriented specialisation, and I’m sure that I would’ve gotten more use out of the survivalist specialisation were I to squad up with other players.
- A part of the Manhunt had included taking on Aaron Keener again. This time around, he was trivially easy to beat: knowing that the Eclipse virus doesn’t immediately harm the player, I was able to close the distance to Keener and melted him on very short order before he could do any real damage. During the early parts of the season three Manhunt event, I primarily ran with the Lady Death exotic submachine gun, whose main bonuses are increased critical hit damage with player movement, and bonus melee damage. The weapon’s main limitation is its small magazine size, but the reload is very quick.
- With the damage bonuses from the Hunter’s Fury, shotguns go from being modestly useful to monstrosities at close quarters: most enemies now fall in a single shot. The Sweet Dreams, an exotic SPAS-12 shotgun, thus becomes particularly entertaining: a few shells will destroy all but the most heavily armoured of enemies, and in a pinch, the Sweet Dreams’ unique talent allows one to knock out veteran enemies with one melee strike.
- After finishing off the first Manhunt target, I found myself one step closer to Schaefer; during my first-ever Manhunt, I initially struggled to locate the bounty targets and assumed that they were for the ordinary bounties. The Division 2 is generally intuitive, but there are some aspects that do not make sense off the bat. Compared to its predecessor, The Division 2 has a lot more to do at the end-game, but the tradeoff for increased content variety is that some things are not explained quite as well. Once I figured out how the Manhunt bounties worked, however, it was simple enough to finish them off.
- Since September, I’ve been completing the weekly SHD Acquisition missions for the guaranteed exotic caches that the assignment gives. Players must donate resources to the Projects Officer (one of food, water or components, together with any combination of polycarbonate, ceramics, titanium, steel, cloth or receiver parts), and in exchange, will receive an exotic cache, a named item, and a blueprint, plus specialisation points for the active specialisation. This has been a fantastic way of keeping busy in the game: by raiding resource convoys, one can top off fairly quickly, and then completing missions and lighting up bad guys will provide the other resources.
- In this way, I’ve gotten several exotics that I found immensely useful, including the Ninjabike Messenger Kneepads, the Pestilence LMG, and even a Bullet King LMG. However, the exotic caches are a bit of a gamble: I remember going three weeks in a row where I got nothing but Sweet Dreams. The plus side about exotics are that, if one should receive duplicates, they can be broken down for exotic components, which can be used to reconfigure other exotics.
- On one particularly wild run, while I had been focused on other things, I wound up picking up not one, not two, but three exotics: the Acosta Go Bag, another Coyote Mask and my second Chameleon assault rifle. This run happened during the Thanksgiving Long Weekend: that Saturday, I had just finished writing about GochiUsa BLOOM‘s first episode and had gone for a nice walk in the afternoon, so as the evening set in, I decided to try and make some progress in The Division 2. I ended up finding three exotics over the space of an hour. While there were two duplicates, the Chameleon was rolled better than my previous one, which I’d gotten randomly from clearing a hard control point.
- For a time in September, I had my sights set on the Chameleon assault rifle: its unique talent gives a bonus based on which part of the body one hits with it, offsetting the fact that the weapon initially has a poor base damage. Headshots increase critical hit probability and damage, body shots increase base damage by up to 80 percent, and leg shots makes a reload speedier. The weapon handles more similarly to an SMG than an assault rifle, and is only really useful in some scenarios, but when all of the buffs align, the weapon can melt through named characters in the blink of an eye, and on top of that, looks downright awesome.
- Since the Chameleon is an assault rifle despite having the handling of a submachine gun, I typically don’t run it for serious missions: the Hunter’s Fury is geared towards SMG and shotguns, so typically, I’ll run the Chatterbox with either an assault rifle, rifle or LMG depending on what the mission requires. One aspect about the Hunter’s Fury gear set I particularly liked, beyond its bonuses and attributes, was the fact that the backpack was stuffed with arrows, making it a solid choice when running the survivalist specialisation and its crossbow.
- By the events of the third Manhunt, I’d also unlocked the gunner specialisation, which favours controlling enemy movement and suppressing them with sustained fire. The M134 mini-gun fires 7.62mm rounds at a blistering 1000 RPM, and holds up to 150 rounds in its drum. Reloading is quick, and equipping the M134 also temporarily boosts one’s armour, allowing agents to wade into a firefight and deal out an absurd amount of damage. The gunner specialisation proved much more fun than I’d expected, and it very quickly became a personal favourite, being suited for close-quarters engagements where I can mow down entire groups of enemies quickly.
- Opinion on the Chameleon is generally mixed for most players, and in practise, I’ve found it to consume ammunition at incredibly high rates. With the perks from the gunner specialisation, however, I can regenerate ten percent of my ammunition capacity every minute, and with the right specialisation perks, I can even regenerate the 7.62 mm rounds for the M134. The requirement for obtaining M134 ammunition is to score multi-kills without letting go of the trigger, and I’ve found that this synergises very well with the Chatterbox: by wading into a group of enemies and overwhelming them with Hunter’s Fury, entire squads are decimated without once letting up on the fire.
- While the M134 is powerful, it is less effective against named enemies, and I’ve found that on the whole, a Chatterbox fully buffed with the improved firing rate bonus, in conjunction with the stacked damage bonuses from the Hunter’s Fury gear set (and bonus damage from the specialisation) will tear enemies apart even more quickly than the M134. I’ve not really focused on dealing bonus armour damage this time around because the other perks mean that I’m dealing enough damage now to equal my old The Division build, where I had 60 percent bonus armour damage on my Striker set.
- During one invaded mission at the Washington Grand Hotel, taking out a named enemy landed me a Pestilence LMG. As an exotic, the weapon’s special talent is to apply a debuff on enemies that deals damage over time, and when the afflicted enemy is downed, the debuff transfers over to the next nearest enemy. My Pestilence also had bonus armour damage, making it a decently powerful option for squaring off against tougher enemies, and I’ve found it to be a fun LMG to have around. While not shown in this post, I also found a Bullet King. This is probably the most distinctive LMG in the whole of The Division 2: sporting a golden finish, the Bullet King’s unique talent allows it to never require reloading, and so, its effective magazine size is one’s LMG capacity. This gives the Bullet King the greatest potential for sustained damage in all of The Division 2.
- The Bullet King goes well with my Hunter’s Fury gear set, but during a handful of missions, I found that being restricted to close-quarters combat left me at a distinct disadvantage. During my quest to unlock the firewall specialisation, I ended up creating a long-range build centred around the Aces and Eights gear set, which emphasises sniping: one of the field research assignments had been to complete the DARPA Labs mission on hard, and Brenner was defeating me at every turn, since I couldn’t get close enough to damage him. With a sniper-oriented set, and the capacity to hit for up to seventeen million points of damage with the headshot bonuses, however, I shredded Brenner with a pair of well-placed headshots from my Nemesis exotic sniper, which took me the whole of September to gather the parts for.
- Here, I square off against a named elite named “The Westie” – it is with some amusement that I remark that MrProWestie is one of my favourite YouTube channels, and his content on gaming, especially with Battlefield and Call of Duty: Warzone, is relatively well-known, so I wonder if this is a clever shout-out. I fonud MrProWestie’s channel while looking for Battlefield 1 content some years ago, and stuck with it because he’d been fond of adding Wilhelm Screams into some of his videos. At the time, I’d already been following LevelCap and JackFrags: LevelCap’s videos are generally the most cut-and-dried, offering a good range of opinions and perspectives, while JackFrags injects the most humour into his. MrProWestie is a happy balance between the two videos, and I’ve gotten most of my Battlefield news from these three YouTubers,
- Because of their approaches, I respect each for being consistent, fair and bringing something noteworthy to the table. Back in The Division 2, I returned to Coney Island for the last few segments of the manhunt. At this point, I’ve played enough of the Year One maps to know them as well as any of the locations in Washington D.C., and I believe I’ve mentioned this last post: Coney Island looks amazing by day. On my first play-through, I had gotten the map at night, with all the carnival rides and midway alit. However, the small details in each area are at their best during the day.
- As I reach the ball field, a bolt of lightning strikes the ground, creating a literal bolt from the blue. I imagine that the weather effects had been intended for when it rains during this segment of the mission, but since there’s dynamic weather in The Division 2, there can be some unusual occurrences. It was a stroke of luck that I captured the lightning when it struck: even in video games, lightning bolts occur quickly, and are therefore difficult to capture for screenshots.
- Having now unlocked the firewall specialisation, I now only need to finish off the technician’s field research: my aim is to have most of the field research done so that come season four, I can focus on earning specialisation points to max out both the firewall and technician. The K8 Jetstream Flamethrower is a compact weapon capable of projecting a jet of flame out a short distance, dealing massive damage to those caught in the blast, and reminds me of Elon Musk’s Not A Flamethrower in terms of appearance. Unlike the Not A Flamethrower, the K8 deals serious damage, and the fuel for it is earned simply by killing enemies at close range.
- This Manhunt marks the first time I’ve ever faced off against a Hunter. Hunters are the single most lethal individual enemy in The Division and in The Division 2, have been given superior armour and firepower over their earlier counterparts. These enemies carry a range of skills and moreover, are able to emit a jamming signal that renders one’s skills ineffectual. Furthermore, they are equipped with a combat axe and can kill players in one hit at close quarters. Beating this Hunter here is just a part of the mission, but elsewhere in The Division 2, Hunters can be summoned and drop special masks that can be collected.
- I think that after season four ends, it might be worthwhile to go back and try collecting the masks: at that point, I imagine that I’ll have all of the items that are worth collecting, and in the next update, with the optimisation station, I can simply focus on making my current gear as powerful as possible. Back in the season three Manhunt, radio chatter indicates that there’s more to Schaeffer than meets the eye: he references a Natalya Sokolova, but not much more is known about her.
- At long last, it’s time to face off against this season’s prime target: Schaeffer is armed with an SVD and an AUG-A3 rifle, along with airburst seeker mines, sticky bombs and jammer grenades. It was during this fight where I realised my Hunter’s Fury was probably not going to work well against Schaeffer: Hunter’s Fury is designed for dealing with multiple, weaker enemies, whereas against individually strong enemies, the healing and repair perks, plus the ability to stun nearby enemies, are largely irrelevant. In this fight, I came close to death on two occasions, and ended up beating Schaeffer using the Mk. 46, a modified M249 firing 7.62 mm rounds.
- It turns out that defeating Schaeffer will drop another Momento exotic backpack for me, which was pretty neat. I still need to do the Jupiter Manhunt, which had ran before I picked up Warlords of New York, but fortunately, I was able to unlock access to it during the previous Manhunt, so that is something I can look at before the next set of events. According to the developers, the next major update for The Division 2 will become available in just a few days, and besides the optimisation station, I’m also excited about the game’s increasing inventory capacity from 100 items, to 150 items, and the increased number of loadouts from four to sixteen.
- This image here indicates my current preferred loadout for PvE activities. It’s not exactly an optimised setup by most standards, but I’ve been having a great deal of success with it in all missions up to and including the challenging difficulties. Things have certainly come a long way in The Division 2, and at this point in time, I’m definitely feeling at home: I’m now as familiar with missions as I had been during The Division, and have the confidence to deal with almost anything in the game on my own. As such, next season’s Manhunt is an exciting one – I’m supposed to be fighting Faye Lau. This offers a bit of closure on the story set up in Warlords of New York, and with that to look forwards to, I’ll be turning my attention next to Halo 4, which I finished yesterday. The post is going to be a larger one and therefore require a bit of time to write out.
Altogether, I’ve now reached a point in The Division 2 where I’m completely comfortable with a loadout that I’ve had the chance to put through extensive gameplay. At this endgame, I am now confident in my ability to engage and survive fire-fights at higher difficulties: the current setup I have has allowed me to remain effective up to and including challenging, so completing different assignments, field specialisation and events has offered a refreshing experience that reminds me of my old build from The Division. With this build, I’m far more effective than I had been previously in The Division 2: Invaded missions that I barely could complete at level thirty on normal difficulty are now trivially easy to finish, and the Black Tusk’s Warhounds or mini-gun wielding tanks, which previously demanded I always carry an LMG at all times, could now be dealt with in a single magazine from the Chatterbox, leaving me free to equip a different secondary weapon for longer range fire-fights, or double my ability at close quarters. With the dramatic change in The Division 2‘s pacing as a result of the synergy in my loadout, I’ve turned my attention towards completing the field research for the different specialisations. In this post, I’ve brought the Survivalist up to maximum level, unlocked and maxed out the Gunner specialisation and recently acquired the Firewall, which is another excellent close-quarters specialisation. At the time of writing, the only specialisation I have left to unlock is the Technician. Altogether, it would look that I’ve made reasonable progress in The Division 2 as a solo player, and so, a little more than a year after I picked the game up on a Black Friday sale, I can say that The Division 2 has been a superb experience all around, featuring much more to do than its predecessor: I managed to hit The Division‘s endgame and had an all-exotic loadout within a half-year of picking that up, but here in The Division 2, the journey’s been a bit longer. However, it was by no means a grind, and at present, now that I’m rocking a setup I’m happy with, all eyes turn towards the next title update and the fourth manhunt assignment, which, unless I’m mistaken, will bring back a familiar face as the primary target.