The Tom Clancy Chronicles: The Division 2
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia
Bigger actually is quite better in Ubisoft’s The Division 2!
Welcome back to The Tom Clancy Chronicles: One Millennial’s quest to understand what draws him to the paranoid sociopolitical techno-thrillers of the late semi-great Tom Clancy. Today, we are going to be discussing a rare modern entry into the Clancyverse! Ubisoft’s The Division 2, the sequel to the mega-hit and intensely problematic The Division (coming soon to Netflix from the director of John Wick!).
So, some background first, The Division was a largely popular third-person “cover shooter” released in 2016. It was part of Tom Clancy’s initial round of pitches attached to Red Storm Entertainment, his branch of video game development, which was then absorbed by Ubisoft. To be honest, The Division is one of the major factors that contributed to this silly little column being a thing. I jumped in on the beta of the game, having suffered deep bouts of apathy toward my time and status on Destiny. I weirdly found myself engaged by the tight shooting mechanics and just how easy it was to pick up and play.
Then, I got the full game. For lack of a better term, I ran it into the ground. Due to its relative blandness, engaging gameplay, and the steady stream of DLC content, I clocked some MAJOR hours on that thing, usually while binging podcasts. But as I played, and more and more think pieces cropped up to support my suspicions, I learned that the game’s whole deal narratively is insane. And pretty fucking racist as well.
Most, if not all, of the game’s antagonists, are racially coded. All of whom are reeling from the “Green Poison” a bioagent released on Black Friday in Times Square (at a mall just in case the whole thing wasn’t thuddingly subtle to start with). In the wake of the attack, New York has fallen into chaos. The first game posits that chaos was basically caused by Black Lives Matter activists and the “Radical Left” analogues. These activists command armies of NPCs who wear red hoodies and will completely and always call you a bitch when you play as a female PC. Oh, and you are a member of a clandestine government agency. You’re deeply embedded in everyday life and trained to activate and abandon your old life at a moment’s notice to “ensure continuity of government.” Yeah …. YEAH.
I am going to do a whole entry on the first game when I can work up the stomach to play it again. Trust me when I say it’s super troubling and weird while also being a hollow timesink.
But I told you ALL OF THAT to tell you that The Division 2? It takes the note! And it’s a better game because of it!
I mean, optically it still isn’t PERFECT, but we are going to get into allllll that, squad. Welcome back to the Tom Clancy Chronicles.
So we open 6-8 months after the events of the first game. Your PC Division agent, now with the crypto-facist origins largely filed away outside of lore, is drafted into the ongoing war of attrition that has become Washington, DC. Roving gangs (now mercifully masked and designed more like Purge extras than racial analogues) have captured key places across DC, and it is up to you to get them back and restore order to the nation’s capital.
From the jump, players will notice a whole new variety of activities. Uncontained now from New York’s claustrophobic building ‘scape, DC offers an expansive new space for all manner of stuff to do beyond the main story missions. As you continue to “liberate,” players are offered various other Settlement areas. They offer fully upgradeable game hubs with Vendors, Matchmaking Stations, and Social Areas where players can congregate before tackling the activities.
Beyond the main story missions, players are offered side missions that count toward customization of your Settlements. The offer extends to tech caches that go toward skill upgrades, and an evolving and dynamic enemy system that keeps “random encounters” with Elite level enemies and loot drops coming.
The dreaded “Dark Zones” are back as well. That’s right, the ruthless PVP area chock full of “contaminated” but high-level loot from the first game has now been split into three separate, but just as deadly areas to the East, South, and West of the main map. Not only does this add a whole new variety to the Dark Zone mechanic, but to me, spreads out the “Rogue” and “Disavowed Agents” (i.e.: player characters that take shots at other player characters and take part in more dubious activities). It’s a little better so players can get the most out of the Zones without a high death count.
There is even a new multiplayer mechanic! Conflict mode, nestled in the corner of your main settlement The White House (but remember this is NOT a political game!), starts as a basic team-based deathmatch. But as your level increases, more game modes are unlocked with higher chances at high-level loot through victory!
If that all sounds a little overwhelming, it kind of is. The game’s “endgame” state after you beat the main missions doesn’t do much to help. It just “Invades” the map with a whole new faction and forces you to replay things to improve your Gear Score. But, that said, the tightness of the mechanics and newfound variety in activities and play styles engage players even if you aren’t a 30-something oddly obsessed with the insanity of the Clancy brand.
Because if you ARE like me, then The Division 2 offers up plenty of grist for that mill along with a fun play experience. Though some of the more troubling aspects of the first game have been filed away, this sequel still has plenty of weird optics to offer up in its place. Details like how one of the Dark Zones was contaminated thanks to a citizen movement that a grassroots “radical left” figurehead brought to power, betrayed, and then sealed off, effectively killing them all for a chance to get out. Or how one antagonist is one of those war re-enactors who went insane after the collapse of DC and set himself up as an iron-fisted Colonial-esque general, commanding a legion of DIY insurgence.
To go into more would be another thousand words, but trust me when I say, The Division 2 contains a fun, deeply weird Clancy experience – an experience that seemed to learn from the mistakes of its predecessor. Time will tell if the game can sustain this as it moves into its Year 1 content, rolling out the first rounds of DLC for season pass holders (which will come free to the rest of us plebs later on). Rest assured, my Agent (@AGENTofASGARD on Xbox Live) and I will be right there on the front line, and we’ll report back as soon as we can.
Until next time, Squaddies, let me know what other Clancy things you want me to cover. The rest of the movies are still incoming, and I am reading several books much to my family’s chagrin. Until then, be seeing you.