Historic. When we developed the new review policy for Seasoned Gaming, we were very deliberate in the wording for our scores. Historic, our top score, was only to be used for generational games that had a historic impact on the industry. As you can already see, I’ve scored The Division 2 one step below that in Sensational. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t debate on giving it Historic. Let me explain why.
I can vividly remember nights spent on the first PC I ever built, playing Diablo and humming the Sanctuary tune for hours on end. Blizzard’s seminal release in 1996 brought the ARPG genre into the spotlight and in the decades since, has become a sacred name in the gaming industry. Since then, many titles have represented the genre with some standing alongside Diablo as pillars. I have spent thousands of hours on these titles over the years and after nearly 80 with The Division 2 I can simply say this: it’s time to construct another pillar.
First, despite being an ARPG at its core, it’s also a game as a service. Post-launch content is already mapped out for the rest of 2019, with an entire “year one pass” still to come in 2020. As we’ve seen in the past several years, games as a service can be problematic. At best they launch without technical issues but players are left awaiting content delivery post-launch while at worst, they are complete disasters that can leave a lasting, negative mark on developers and publishers. Not only was The Division 2 up and running for nearly everyone without issue at launch, but the wealth of content included with the title on day one is incredible due to smart decisions by the development team which I will touch on shortly.
The core of The Division 2 begins six months after the initial outbreak, with enemy factions attempting to gain control of the capital in D.C. While the recreation of D.C. is remarkable, and I love the new settlements in which you aid citizens by helping them to rebuild, the story didn’t have much of an impact on me. Unlike the original title which portrayed a sense of desperation during the holidays in New York City, this follow up felt less impactful and more of a bland continuation. Fortunately, that’s about the only gripe I have with The Division 2.
As I wrote in my initial impressions, The Division 2 gives players near endless options in both how you build your character and how you engage D.C. If you enjoy character building,you’ll find eight skill types and a wider array of weaponry with expanded talent types to find, resulting in a host of possibilities. If you enjoy mission content, you’ll find a much larger variety in the types of missions as well as several new objectives that are scattered around the city for you to tackle at will. And if you enjoy exploration, D.C. is a sprawling, beautiful landscape which the artists have polished to an almost surreal degree. And best of all, it can be enjoyed however you prefer. If you’re a solo player who wants to complete the entire game alone, you can. If you want assistance or enjoy camaraderie with your friends, you can invite your friends or any other players online via matchmaking at any time, and take advantage of the new Clan system. Lastly, if you’re itching for some PvP, you can play 4 on 4 matches in the Conflict mode as well. In short, The Division 2 has something for nearly every type of player.
What’s most impressive in The Division 2 however, is how it was designed to keep players engrossed for months and/or years on end. Massive Entertainment was very clear in their design methodology when creating the follow up to their original hit. After the launch of The Division, Massive learned that players would rapidly move through the core game as with ARPGs the replayability is to be found in the “end game”, a term that has become rather common over the past few years. Whether a dedicated ARPG, a shared world shooter, or a mix as The Division is, it’s all about the long term viability of the world and game mechanics to keep players returning. Major titles have stumbled in this area repeatedly, Destiny and Anthem being two of the largest often discussed, but fortunately Massive’s development focus for The Division 2 has paid off in a big, big way.
Once you complete the main story and reach level 30, the game world evolves. A new faction called The Black Tusk invades D.C. and you are moved to “World Tier 1”. This results in previously held control points once again battling with residents, new missions along with revised versions of the original missions becoming available for play, strongholds opening, new enemy types who have new weaponry at their disposal, and all gear converting to a Gear Score. For dedicated players, this is where the fun truly begins and even as a long time ARPG player, I’m amazed with the system Massive has implemented. Most impressive is that missions are not only able to completed in new difficulties with stronger enemies and better loot as you would expect, but certain objectives within the missions are changed entirely thus creating a fresh experience.
These design elements, combined with the expanded skill system, gear variety, and plethora of content, are why The Division 2 is a resounding success. It’s taken the game as a service model, combined it with much of the best ARPG thinking, and added unique design choices to create a truly memorable entry in the genre(s).
And yet, the best is still yet to come. The first update for the free year one content arrives on April 5th adding a new stronghold, world tier 5 and thus an increase to the gear score max, and full 5 and 6 piece gear sets thus further broadening the loot hunt and skill builds for players. The continued expansion of the title over the next 18 to 24 months, combined with the continual balancing and tuning of skills and gear, will result in The Division 2 being reflected upon as one of the greatest ARPGs ever developed. And that would indeed make it historic.