The Division 2 is another loot shooter with a dull story. Does it matter?

My last dental appointment was by far more entertaining than watching a cutscene from The Division 2. My dentist, however, at least has the good sense to let me watch Netflix while he goes to town on my teeth. The Division 2, on the other hand, doesn’t want me to skip its laborious narrative.

I haven’t finished the story missions. I haven’t even played through 10 hours yet. But I don’t need to drink a gallon of sour milk to know it’s a bit off. Instead, I’d recoil at the first sip and promptly dump the remainder out without giving it a second thought. I can’t even quote you the name of a single character from the game and, in most cases, my knowledge of a mission’s objective is no deeper than “get to the roof and shoot the baddie.”

But does that matter?

A narrative bind

There’s a quick, obvious answer to the question above. No. Not even a little bit.

Cutscenes in The Division 2 can be treated as a chance to take a bathroom break with no detriment to the game. Fundamentally, it’s true. It doesn’t rely on cutscenes to deliver vital game information. It’s not a puzzle game or a narrative adventure. If you were to play a version of the game with every piece of dialogue removed, you would still understand all you need to play it. Sure, there’s bits of tutorial here and there, but aside from that, the story doesn’t change how you play.

The Division 2 review

Plenty of similar games take the same approach. Destiny, the original sin of the loot shooter genre, remains the most obvious example. Its sci-fi word salad may have been told with dramatic flair, but it never influenced how the game was played. Most games built in its image take the same approach. Even Anthem, despite its aspirations, never firmly ties the story to the gameplay.

So, why not just ignore it? Well, The Division 2 desperately wants you to care. It follows a simple but rigid narrative structure that starts with a cutscene. Gameplay is frequently interrupted by cutscenes or radio dialogue from characters that have very important (read: boring) things to say. The United States has fallen, you see. Or it kind of has? You’re so very important, and well, ah…

Sorry, I was about to nod off.

The most frustrating part is that while The Division 2’s story doesn’t matter, the game refuses to acknowledge it. Instead, it forcefully smashes a poorly written, half-baked and irrelevant narrative into your face, all the while screaming “CAN YOU FEEL THE FEELS?!”

No, Ubisoft. I don’t. So can I please just play the damn game?

Just let me play the damn game

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Though annoying, the story in The Division 2 is a one-time issue. Unlike World of Warcraft, which forces players to grind up every time they want to play a new class, The Division 2’s story is a one-and-done.

And yet I find myself loathe to complete it. I’ve done the campaign slog in other games, but that makes the repetition all the worse in The Division 2. How many times have I endured a bad story just to unlock what I really want to play? Dozens? No. Probably hundreds.

The Division 2 builds and specializations guide

This isn’t the only online game that has me stuck in a narrative bog. I’ve found myself stuck on the side of a much larger, steeper mountain in Final Fantasy XIV. It’s a charming MMO with smart strategic combat, but the game’s narrative slog is absurd. About 100 quests separate the end of the original game and the beginning of the first expansion, Heavensward. Assuming each quest takes 15 minutes (which is conservative), that’s 25 hours trudging through quests mostly introduced as patch filler. I just can’t do it.

And why should I do it? I could spend my time chasing the hope that if I eventually put in the effort, the game will let me have fun. But I’d rather just play a game that lets me have fun from the start.

That’s a revelation the battle royale genre figured out from the start. There’s lore, yes, but there’s no story. There’s barely a tutorial. Rush in, have fun, die, learn, repeat. That’s the loop. It’s enjoyable. It’s immediate. You can play a half-hour and enjoy a match, or you can play all day and chase new character or weapon skins.

Games like The Division 2 should learn from the failures of its predecessors. Screw the story. Ditch the yawn-worthy “echoes.” Just let me jump into a warehouse with a machinegun and a few friends to mow down loot pinatas.

That’s what I want to play. If I have to grind through a dull 30-hour story to unlock the real game, well, I probably just won’t.


Google’s Stadia is the future of gaming, and that’s bad news for our planet

Google’s upcoming Stadia cloud gaming service, and its competitors, are ready to change the way gamers play, but in doing so they may kick off a new wave of data center growth – with unfortunate consequences for the environment.

These awesome free-to-play games might be even better than the ones you paid for

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially popular League of Legends.

25 awesome indie games you should definitely be playing right now

These days, some of the best video games are made by independent studios. Here are 25 of the best indie games, whether you prefer grueling dungeon crawlers or otherworldly, meditative adventures.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Movies & TV

Best new podcasts: The Ballad of Billy Balls, Decomposed, and more

Feel like you’re drowning in podcasts? In this weekly series, we’ll help you pick out the best of the new and returning shows. This week’s picks include a punk love story, disappearing referees, gun court, and intriguing tales from…

Cyberpunk 2077 dev speaks on gameplay and Witcher 3 Easter eggs

A Spanish publication had the opportunity to pick the brain of Cyberpunk 2077's quest director at CD Projekt Red and he speaks on gameplay changes, player choice, and how the team approaches Easter eggs across games.
Product Review

Gloriously gory and fantastically fluid: Mortal Kombat 11 is the best one yet

Mortal Kombatt 11 reinforces NetherRealm Studios’ status as the greatest western fighting developer on the planet, building on what made Mortal Kombat X so great while adding in a few new tricks.

Asus launches a fleet of ROG gaming laptops with 240Hz screens and 9th-gen CPUs

Asus launched updates to nearly every gaming laptop line they have, ranging from the high-end Zephyrus to the budget-level TUF Gaming. The naming schemes might be hard to parse, but there are some impressive options in Asus' new lineup.

From fatalities to new characters, here's what we know about Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11 releases April 23 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Here is everything we know about NetherRealm's latest fighting game, including its characters.

A guide to climbing the Klassic Tower and Towers of Time in Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11 has two Towers modes: Klassic and the Towers of Time. Klassic is an offline mode, whereas Towers of Time is an online revolving door of challenges that force you to deal with combat modifiers and wield trusty Konsumables.

Master Mortal Kombat 11's cryptic Krypt and get the best rewards

Once you complete the story mode in Mortal Kombat 11 and try out the Towers, you'll head into the Krypt to get your rewards. In our Mortal Kombat 11 Krypt guide, we'll show you how to make the most of it.

Swing Thor’s Stormbreaker during the Fortnite-Avengers: Endgame crossover

Epic Games revealed a new crossover with Marvel and Disney's Avengers: Endgame film, showing off Captain America's shield. Players will also get to summon the powers of a god as well when they wield Thor's Stormbreaker.

Here's our guide to becoming a master of Fatalities in Mortal Kombat 11

Fatalities are the bread and butt of any Mortal Kombat game, and they're particularly brutal in Mortal Kombat 11. Here's how to do Fatalities in the game, and how you can unlock new ones.

Acer gives Predator, Nitro gaming notebooks CPU and GPU upgrades

Acer's latest gaming notebooks will be getting a processor and graphics boost. The company announced that Intel's ninth-generation mobile CPU and Nvidia's GTX 1660 Ti will land on the Predator Helios 300, Nitro 7, and Nitro 5 laptops.