Tom Clancy’s The Division became Ubisoft’s best-selling launch game of all time when it released in March 2016. It also broke launch records for a brand new game franchise. As Ubisoft’s answer to Destiny, The Division emphasized online co-op and endgame content, which it has released periodically since launch. The Division‘s main campaign was lengthy and well-made, but the endgame got off to a rough start. Regardless, there’s no denying that The Division was a major commercial success that many players thoroughly enjoyed.
The much-anticipated sequel, The Division 2, lands on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on March 15. Here’s everything we know about what will likely be one of the biggest releases of 2019.
Goodbye NYC, hello D.C.
The Division 2 trades snowy New York City for an apocalyptic Washington D.C.. Set seven months after the original game, the weaponized flu epidemic that decimated NYC has had rippling effects across the country. Based on the story trailer, we know that the Division agents were called upon to D.C. as a new civil war looms.
The threat of the virus may be gone, but D.C. has devolved into chaos. Now it’s up to the Division agents to help save the country from threats coming from rogue factions, religious zealots, and fascists. All of these groups seem to have different goals, but all of them appear to embrace pandemonium. As a 1:1 representation of D.C., expect the map to be quite large. Washington D.C. is more rundown in The Division than it is in real life, with dilapidated buildings and a general sense of chaos.
Still, there will be some familiar set pieces ripped from reality. For starters, the White House is the sight of at least one mission. The U.S. Capitol building can be seen in the backdrop of the demo we played at E3. You’ll also visit the forested area of Roosevelt Island, the narrow strip of land separating Manhattan and Queens. Another mission takes place in the National Air and Space Museum.
Open world changes
As part of Ubisoft’s vision to create a more vibrant open world, your interactions with NPCs are designed to have more weight. While Safe Houses, areas throughout the map with traders and quest-givers, will remain, The Division 2 also introduces settlements.
Areas on the map can be liberated by completing Control Point events. When liberating an area, you sometimes are able to call in AI-controlled reinforcements. After the area is liberated, NPCs set up a makeshift encampment. Similar to Safe Houses, traders and new quests open up with each liberated settlement.
While The Division 2 is still designed to be played co-op (2-4 players), Ubisoft has made sure to make the game completely playable as a solo Division agent, even the endgame content.
Eight-player co-op raids
It’s not entirely clear what the raids will entail, but you can take on endgame raids with two four-person teams. The eight-player co-op option will add an additional challenge to each raid. The Division capped out at four-player raids.
The Dark Zone
The Dark Zone, The Division‘s PvE and PvP map area, will return in The Division 2. There were some problems with the Dark Zone around the launch of the original, so Ubisoft has made some changes to (hopefully) improve the Dark Zone experience for all players.
At launch, The Division 2 will have three Dark Zones: Dark Zone West, Dark Zone East, and Dark Zone South. Each of the zones has their own aesthetic and caters to a different type of combat strategy. Dark Zone West is set in a suburban area for medium-range combat. Dark Zone East is the commercial sector where you’ll find D.C. landmarks in the distance and is designed for long-range warfare. Dark Zone South is a forested area that accommodates multiple different combat approaches, including stealth. Each instance of a zone can hold 12 players at one time.
Before entering the Dark Zone with online players, you must complete an introductory story mission, which lets you get the lay of the land without worrying about other players. This is just one of the features that will help make the transition to the Dark Zone more welcoming. Gear stats will be adjusted accordingly inside the Dark Zones to ensure players aren’t too overpowered. The matchmaking system will also split players into one of four level categories when finding matches: Level 10 and below, Level 20 and below, Level 30 and below, and World tier players.
Still, the Dark Zone is supposed to be a more chaotic version of the game. To reflect that, Dark Zones will periodically become “occupied.” What this means is that friendly fire will be allowed, and all identifying markers will be removed from players. Essentially, you’ll have no idea who you’re shooting at. When entering an occupied Dark Zone, your build stats will not be adjusted. Never fear, only one Dark Zone can be occupied at a time, so you can completely avoid this feature if you so choose.
The goal of the Dark Zone still revolves around loot, and contaminated gear returns. You can steal the gear from other players before extraction. In a change, it will always be better than what you already have, which incentivizes the task even more.
Changes are also coming to the Rogue system, which now has three different statuses. To become Rogue, you will have to do things such as steal loot from other players. After becoming Rogue and completing a few activities, a Thieves Den opens up on the map, which has vendors that only sell to Rogue agents. Killing another human player while Rogue turns you to Disavowed status. If you kill multiple human players, you’ll eventually enter Manhunt status. Manhunt status means that you have to head to a terminal before being allowed to take loot from the Dark Zone. In Manhunt status, other players will know the location of the terminals, so you’ll have to be careful.
Domination and Skirmish are the two organized PvP conflicts that will be available at launch. Skirmish is a 4v4 team deathmatch with a brief duration. Meanwhile, Domination tasks teams with capturing and holding zones on the map. This time around, the competitive multiplayer will have designed maps. So far, three maps have been revealed: Capitol Ruins, Stadium, and Georgetown. Capitol Ruins is a Domination map set in the forest. Stadium is a skirmish map on streets and parking lots by a stadium, and Georgetown takes place on rooftops above a residential area as a Domination map.
Like its predecessor, The Division 2 will not have character classes at the jump. Instead, you’ll level up just like the original, equipping whichever weapons you desire. However, once you reach the level cap (30), you’ll be able to choose one of three Specialist classes: Sharpshooter, Survivalist, or Demolitionist.
Each specialist has their own special weapon and skill tree. As you continue to “level up” in the endgame, you’ll earn additional skills and gadgets pertaining to your specialist role. These roles figure to be key to the endgame content and will likely go a long way to creating a balanced team for the game’s more challenging content. Don’t worry, though, you can switch specializations as you please.
Each specialist class will also have its own grenade type. Sharpshooters get flashbangs, Demolitionists have Incendiary grenades, and survivalists have frag grenades. That also means that you won’t have access to any of these grenades until you reach level 30. From the jump, players can only use Concussion grenades.
Enemies aren’t as spongey
Enemies in The Division were bullet sponges. You’d unload a clip (or several) and somehow they’d still be standing. Ubisoft has addressed weapon damage and enemy health in The Division 2 to make it a more realistic experience. When you shoot armored enemies, Ubisoft says the armor will visibly weaken and fall away to demonstrate that their health is going down. We go into more detail about enemies in our The Division 2 hands on review.
Weapons, talents, and mods
Ubisoft has refined each weapon class to make shooting feel more realistic with regards to recoil and impact. Ubisoft is also adding a third rifle weapon type, simply called rifles, to join Assault Rifles and Marksman Rifles. In the rifles type, you’ll find both semi-automatic and burst-fire rifles. According to Ubisoft, the change lets them further differentiate bonus stats across all of its classes. Exotic weapons, the rarest of finds, will look more the part this time around. All exotics have a distinct look.
In a change from the original, weapon mods will be unlocked by play instead of awarded from random drops. This will be a welcome change for most players, as it eliminates the tedious grind of hoping to get the mod you’re looking for. Now each mod will be tied to set conditions, rewarding you for completing missions rather than happening upon a useful mod. A single mod can be equipped with as many compatible weapons as your heart desires at one time. This will free up inventory space.
As a loot-based experience, Ubisoft wanted to make weapon/armor builds more interesting. Weapon talents, bonuses and buffs, have been tweaked. Equipping multiple pieces of gear with the same “brand” can boost the stats of that talent. One really cool addition to weapon talents is the augmented reality tracker.
“It is a real-time tracker for you weapon’s talent that will show different things depending on what talent you have equipped. For example, it can light up when the talent is activated or help you keep count of shots left until the talent activates, etc. The purpose of this is to make it easier for you to understand your talents and use them in the most efficient way,” Ubisoft said in a blog post.
Agent Special skills
In one of its Intelligence Annex updates, Ubisoft outlined five of the special skills that will be available at launch for Division agents.
- Chem Launcher: Grenade launcher that fires four different types of chemical blasts, including flammable gas, riot control foam, corrosive chemicals, or an armor repairing cloud (the lone healing blast).
- Drones: Five different types of drones can help you in combat, including the Striker, Defender, Tactician, Bombardier, and Fixer.
- Hive: The Hive are micro-drones split into four different types, including the Stinger, Restorer, Booster, and Reviver.
- Seeker Mines: Making its return from the original, seeker mines are split into four classes: Explosive, Airburst, Mender, and Cluster.
- Turret: Also making its return from the original, turrets are broken into four classes as well: Assault, Incinerator, Artillery, and Sniper.
The Division‘s initial year of post-launch DLC was tied to a season pass. In a move that will undoubtedly make plenty of fans happy, Ubisoft will give out three pieces of major story DLC for free as well as additional content throughout 2019. The story DLC will be broken into three episodes.
- Episode 1 (Summer 2019): D.C. Outskirts, Expeditions, adds two main missions in the greater D.C. area along with “a new game mode to investigate the fate of a lost convoy.”
- Episode 2 (Fall 2019): Dubbed Pentagon: The Last Castle. Adds two main missions centered around the Pentagon.
- Episode 3 (Winter 2019): Currently untitled, the end of the first year of content that sets up the story for future DLC.
Before the release of the first episode, Ubisoft will give players at least two pieces of free content: Tidal Basin and Operation Dark Hours. Tidal Basin is a stronghold controlled by the Black Tusks. Meanwhile, Operation Dark Hours is The Division 2‘s first eight-player raid. Both are expected to arrive “shortly after launch.”
Ubisoft plans to add new PvP and PvE modes and additional specializations in free updates as well.
While all of The Division 2’s major DLC will be free for players, you can get your hands on the content early by purchasing the Year 1 Pass. The Year 1 Pass comes with the Gold and Digital Ultimate editions or can be purchased separately for $40. The pass gives you one week early access to each episode. It also gives you “instant access” to new specializations, which suggests there could be a grind to unlock new specializations for players without the pass. Year 1 Pass owners will get access to eight classified assignments, some in-game activities, and exclusive cosmetics.
The Division 2 private and open betas
A select portion of users already had the chance to check out a sampling of The Division 2 in the private beta from February 7 to February 10. We enjoyed our time with the private beta immensely. If you didn’t get to partake in the fun, though, don’t worry. Ubisoft is hosting an open beta on PS4, Xbox One, and PC from March 1 to March 5.
The open beta has a bit more content than the private beta, with three story missions, five side missions, and open world activities in between. One of the three Dark Zones will be available for PvP and PvE play, and you can try the competitive skirmish (deathmatch) mode on multiple maps. Open beta players will also get a brief glimpse at the endgame specializations via the Invaded mission. You won’t be able to get a feel for everything The Division 2 has to offer in the beta, as the level cap is eight and only four of the agent skills are on hand throughout. But it should give you a decent idea of what it’s all about.
If you’re interested in checking out the open beta, we’ve put together a brief guide on how to jump into the fun.
Release date and editions
The Division 2, like many games, will have more than just the $60 standard edition when it launches March 15. That said, a pre-order of the standard edition gets you the Hazmat 2.0 outfit, an exotic shotgun, and access to the private beta. If you pre-order at GameStop, you’ll get a limited edition hat.
For $100, the Gold Edition comes with the Year One Pass (for DLC early access and exclusive items) and three-day early access to the game itself. Exclusive to GameStop, the Steelbook Ultimate Edition comes with all of the content of the Gold Edition plus three content packs including outfits, weapon skins, and other items.
For $190, you can get the Dark Zone Definitive Edition. Exclusive to the Ubisoft Store, it comes with a Heather Ward figurine, the soundtrack, a map of the game, and a lithograph book. It also includes the Ultimate Edition content. And for a whopping $250, the Phoenix Shield Edition comes with a Brian Johnson figurine (articulated) instead of the Heather Ward figurine and a steelbook case. It also includes the lithograph book, soundtrack, game map, and Ultimate Edition content.
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