“Brave men rejoice in adversity, just as brave soldiers triumph in war.” –Lucius Annaeus Seneca
After taking back Washington D.C. from the Hyenas, Outcasts and True Sons, the Strategic Homeland Division appear to have regained their footing over the American capital. However, the arrival of Black Tusk, a private military organisation whose objectives are shrouded in enigma. With training and gear surpassing that of even the Division’s, Black Tusk are the toughest enemies players will face: after their arrival, they take back strongholds and settlements, armed with highly sophisticated weaponry and automaton. They are the equivalent of The Division‘s Last Man Battalion, but having likely benefitted from Aaron Keener’s betrayal, are counted as even more formidable enemies. This is the faction that players fight at the end of The Division 2, and the private beta offered a chance to square off against the most lethal enemies seen in The Division since the First Wave and Hunters – upon completing the Jefferson Trade Centre mission, players gained access to three level thirty characters, one for each specialisation, and had an opportunity to take a shot at Black Tusk. I decided to attempt this mission solo: I had, after all, gone through more or less the whole of The Division, save the Legendary missions, on my own, and at level thirty, access to a signature weapon would have offered some quarter even against overwhelming odds. At least, this is what I initially thought: shortly after spawning into the Invaded mission, I found myself wiped out after setting foot into the Jefferson Trade Centre’s first corridor, being blown to bits by the exceptionally tough enemies and their liberal use of explosive drones to flush me out of cover. I was thus stuck at the first hallway, unable to advance further.
However, The Division is not known for being forgiving, and I decided to look through my inventory to see if there was another way: besides the SR-1 rifle and PP-19 Bizon, I found that I had an L86A2 available to me. The PP-19 was woefully inadequate for close quarters combat, and against my enemies, was simply not dealing enough damage, so I switched over the the L86, and the mission suddenly played differently. The SR-1 remained useful, and with this setup, I approached the mission with greater caution, slowly picking away enemies from range with the SR-1 and luring them towards my position so that they could be dispatched, one at a time, with the L86. I thus fought through the Jefferson Trade Centre’s crumbling hallways and derelict parkade, reaching the ISAC terminal, which was guarded by a named elite. The time had come to use the McMillan TAC-50 anti-materiel rifle, and even though it was close quarters, I managed to line up a shot, decimating the elite and much of his armour. Finishing him and the automaton off, I managed to prevent shutdown of the ISAC terminal. I subsequently fought through an atrium, disabling jamming devices and fending off hordes of Black Tusk soldiers, before returning to the courtyard to square off against the stronghold lieutenant. Again, the TAC-50 found its place here: two headshots, and the named elite was downed, allowing me to finish the mission in its entirety. In the release version, a pile of awards would await players, but for now, the sense of accomplishment from having finished the mission solo is not a bad substitute at all.
Screenshots and Commentary
- When I reached The Division‘s endgame a year ago, I had a gear score of 137, and so, my priority was collecting better gear. I was reasonably well-equipped to deal with most threats of my world tier, and so, entered expecting the endgame mission to be about as difficult as a challenging mission in The Division: quite manageable if played correctly. However, here in The Division 2, I have not spec’d out my character to my liking, and so, did not have a character that was tuned to my play-style.
- The start of this mission, however, felt more like a legendary mission: I spent quite a while trying to figure out how to get past this hallway, and it was not until I switched over from the PP-19 to the L86A2 where things began turning around. Without another player to help me deal with threats that had flanked me, I was forced to retreat and make use of my armour-repairing drone to keep alive. However, the amount of hot lead the L86 could deliver was a much-needed asset in the narrow hallways of the Jefferson Trade Centre.
- An automatic weapon dealing respectable damage is essential for The Division, and I admit that the PP-19 was never my choice of weapon, doing far too little damage to be useful at the endgame. I traditionally run with assault rifles and the extended magazines since they have bonus armour damage, and with the Destructive perk, plus the additional armour damage conferred by the Striker’s Battlegear, I am predominantly geared for PvE. In The Division 2, extended mags will no longer be as powerful, and this is where LMGs will shine: the L86 can hold 60 rounds and this proved to be useful, allowing me to take on more than one enemy at a time before reloading, and at close ranges, their recoil is more than manageable.
- Every version of The Division has its frustrations: in The Division 2, the drones that enemies can deploy are an irritant. They deal a non-trivial amount of damage and force players out of cover. Because one is now made to deal with them, enemies can then flank players while they are distracted. This is especially tricky for solo players – in groups, players can coordinate attacks on the enemy. I ended up burst-firing the L86 to take out drones approaching me.
- I’ve heard nothing but frustration for some players who attempted the Invaded mission: in teams, the challenge comes from a greater number of enemies to deal with, whereas solo, the difficulty stems from being flanked. The changes in The Division 2 meant that some players found it even more difficult than The Division‘s Legendary missions, but I disagree: I’ve never beaten a Legendary mission solo before, primarily because the end of each mission has players square off against First Wave Agents that are incredibly tough.
- One of the biggest surprises in The Division 2‘s endgame is that Black Tusk medics can revive downed enemies, rather than just healing them. This was such a shock, and also impressive as a mechanic: it suddenly becomes all the more important to take out enemy medics, since they can bring heavily armoured forces back into play. Carelessness can quickly shift the tide of battle, so one’s priority should be dealing with medics – they are vulnerable while reviving, so this is the best time to take them out of the fight.
- The TAC-50 is one of three signature weapons in The Division 2: for the marksman specialisation, the TAC-50 is a long-range weapon that can rip distant foes apart. Chambered for the .50 BMG, the TAC-50 is lighter and more accurate, but has a lower muzzle velocity than the Barrett M82. I’m guessing it was chosen for its lower ammunition capacity and bolt-operated action (in turn conferring balance): the M82 has a ten-round detachable box magazine and is semi-automatic, while the TAC-50 runs with a five-round magazine.
- Even though it may not be an iconic Barrett rifle, it is powerful and can blow enemy elites away: on my lonesome, I managed to clear this part on short order and secured the ISAC terminal before it could be shut down. During The Division 2‘s Invaded mission, I found that a headshot with the SR-1 deals upwards of two hundred thousand points of damage, while the TAC-50 can hit for three hundred thousand. By comparison, my M700 Carbon from The Division hits for around six hundred and fifty thousand without any damage bonuses, but it can easily reach one million damage if I’m running with sniper-oriented gear.
- The main downside about signature weapons is that ammunition for them is incredibly rare. I found that ammunition for the TAC-50 dropped frequently enough, since I was commonly using the SR-1 and dropping distant enemies with headshots. Headshots in The Division 2 aren’t quite as satisfying as they were in The Division, where kills from headshots made a whooshing sound. While an indoors mission, the open spaces of the parkade allowed me to make good use of the SR-1: from the looks of things, killing enemies a certain way will increase the likelihood of special ammunition dropping.
- Games journalists for major sites found the Invaded mission to feature bullet sponge enemies, a common complaint with The Division: one article I read had the author recount nigh-invincible enemies that took, and I quote “400 light machine gun bullets … to the face and [were] still standing”. As well, the author found that skills were ineffectual, barely dealing any damage. I disagree – the automatic turret is effective for dispatching drones while holding down a location, and I could drop purple enemies with a thirty rounds from the L86.
- Special ammunition is rare, but the drop rates aren’t abysmal, either. With this being said, I can see the higher difficulty missions as definitely requiring more than one player to complete; the Raids that will be coming in The Division 2 involve eight-player teams, attesting to their difficulty, and I wager that the rewards for completing those missions will rival the exotics and classified gear of The Division.
- With this being said, I wonder if the signature weapons will be replacing the Exotic and Classified gear sets of The Division; a part of the joy in The Division was going on excursions to find the rarest gear, and on my part, I managed to complete the Marshall Shield, which entails collecting all twenty-five of the Exotic weapons and gear pieces in the game. The Golden Rhino, a special revolver, dropped for me, and since then, I’ve now got all of the Exotics available in the base version of The Division. This was no small feat, especially considering that I went through the entire game solo except for the occasional Legendary mission.
- The selection of Exotics in The Division weren’t bad: I’m especially fond of the Urban MDR, The House, and the Bullfrog. I wish there was an exotic bolt-action rifle in the game that acted as an anti-materiel rifle, although I know full well that such a weapon would be difficult to balance. An exotic bolt-action rifle firing .50 BMG rounds would be devastating against named elites and would render some missions too easy. The Division 2 has signature weapons fulfilling this role, using ammunition capacity to ensure that players only use the weapons under certain conditions.
- One nice feature to have in The Division 2 would be variations of the signature weapons, which would alter gameplay slightly. For instance, players would be able to swap out the TAC-50 for the M82, allowing them to deal damage faster, but it would also burn through special ammo more quickly. Similarly, the M32 MSGL could be exchanged for a RG-6, whose smaller dimensions make it faster to reload, but at the expense of range or firing rate. Finally, the crossbow could be exchange for a compound bow: a crossbow would hit harder and be more accurate, while a compound bow would have a faster firing rate and be stealthier.
- I ended up having enough time to beat the Invaded mission once with the sharpshooter specialisation, and when I attempted the demolitions specialisation, I found that the total absence of special ammunition meant that I could not get enough rounds into the M32 MSGL to make it effective. I imagine that a grenade launcher would be more effective for crowd control than against a single target, and a team of players with varied specialisations could be far more effective in endgame missions compared to individual players.
- The time has come to break out the TAC-50 again and wield it against the final wave of enemies to clear this mission. To convince readers that I was, in fact, able to solo this mission, all of the screenshots I’ve provided all have timestamps. I knew that I would be squaring off against a powerful named elite here, but before that can happen, waves of Black Tusk forces appear. For my solo play, I found that the automatic turret was most useful: it can automatically lock onto drones and destroy them, or else keep an enemy distracted long enough for me to waste them.
- As such, unlike many of the gaming journalists who found the endgame pure frustration, I managed to complete the Invaded mission of the private beta in under an hour. One of my friends remarks that gaming journalists of late are probably more equipped to deal with low-skill games (like kinetic novels written in the Twine Engine) than games that involve spatial awareness, good reaction times and a reasonable understanding of mechanics, hence their miserable experiences in The Division 2‘s endgame.
- Two shots from the TAC-50 were sufficient to utterly destroy the named elite: this is offset by the fact that the named elite is so powerful, he can one-shot careless players. Because of my setup, I simply engaged him from range, then peeked around a corner and fired a second shot to finish the job: there is a degree of satisfaction from firing the TAC-50 owing to its powerful report. The signature weapons prima facie seem more skill-driven than the signature skills of The Division: I ended up running purely with recovery link to instantly revive myself from lethal damage and in Legendary missions, save my entire team from being sent back. Here, no such abilities exist, forcing teams to be more careful about how they approach missions.
- Just like that, I managed to complete the endgame mission alone, with no support. Many of the other folks I’ve seen, including Jusuchin, ended up joining a group in order to complete the mission: while squadding up gives the advantage of having more guns available to prevent flanks, and also allows for teammates to revive one another, enemy difficulty is also elevated in response. Both group and solo play have their own unique challenges.
- I ended up getting a handful of high-end items, allowing me to replace the superior gear pieces in my loadout, and during the course of the mission, also got an improved L86A2 to replace the default one I started with. It looks like the gear scores have also been raised in The Division 2, going up to 350. For now, there’s no way to optimise gear or weapons, but once the full game comes out, I’m certain that once players are able to properly tune their loadouts, the endgame will become much more enjoyable. With this post on The Division 2‘s private beta in the books, I will be writing about Ace Combat 7 in the near future, and Penguin Highway. I’m sure that Penguin Highway will be a breath of fresh air for my readers, who doubtlessly grow tired of my endless posts on games.
I note that at this point, being handed a level thirty end-game character geared completely randomly mean that this mission was already quite tricky – under normal circumstances, I would pick the gear and loadout that matches the way I’d like to play. A good assault rifle and secondary weapon would be my choices in a given mission for The Division, but given that The Division 2 has a much more balanced weapon attachment system, it suddenly dawned on me that LMGs might also have their roles to play; with their larger capacities, they are capable of sustained fire, ideal for dealing consistent damage against the tough Black Tusk units. Even the standard “grunts” with red health bars are no pushovers. Between Black Tusk’s flanking and their liberal use of equipment, they are an incredibly challenging, nigh-frustrating foe to fight. In spite of this, patience and understanding of enemy patterns eventually allowed me to prevail. Overall, the mission took me about an hour to finish: after a quarter-hour of struggling against the first hallway, I eventually found my rhythm and made my way through the remainder of the mission at a more methodical pacing. It is immediately apparent that the endgame was designed for players to group together, even though Ubisoft has made it clear that The Division 2 is more solo-friendly than the first. I’m curious to see what directions The Division 2 will take, and while I’m presently undecided about the game, I could see myself picking this title up during a good sale – the campaign itself is supposed to last forty hours, and that alone could merit the price of admissions. The question, at that stage, becomes whether or not I would have time to sit down and experience The Division 2 in all of its glory.