I was cautiously optimistic towards The Division 2 after my time in its PC beta. It ran well enough, looked great, and had competent gunplay. After spending 13 hours in the final game, I am thoroughly impressed.
The Division 2 is everything Anthem is not. I played Anthem with my Origin Access 10 hour playtime and while I found the flying and customization to be intriguing, the game has some very serious problems which cannot be solved by patches. The game needs a ground-up overhaul, or better yet, a completely new game.
We’re getting to a point where the conversation around Anthem’s self-inflicted wounds is more far more interesting than the game itself. It has become 2019’s Fallout 76.
As a quick recap, there was a bug which caused consoles to shut down. Players discovered that removing gear actually makes you more powerful and gives you infinite health. People also discovered that Anthem’s starter rifle is more powerful than any other weapon. And all this culminated last week with players calling for a boycott to protest the terrible loot drops.
Just recently, BioWare confirmed they made changes to Anthem’s loot drops — but this doesn’t affect all loot. This is very much a piecemeal patch to address only some of the issues with loot in this game. In fact, BioWare appear to be in damage control mode seemingly every day with Community Manager Jesse “Darokaz” Anderson writing at length on Reddit that Anthem is, “here to stay.”
Given how Anthem can’t make up its mind on what kind of game it wants to be — let’s be a story-driven game, but with co-op where every other person is also the hero, but also with loot, but also open world too — I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if we find out it was supposed to be a single player story-driven RPG before EA forced BioWare to change direction, especially when we know this game has been in development since the end of Mass Effect 3.
Having played 10 hours of Anthem and then jumping into The Division 2, the differences in these two games are enormous. I will never again take for granted the ability to change my inventory whenever I like, or to simply place a waypoint on the map. These two long-standard mechanics are not possible in Anthem. No, I’m not joking.
I’m absolutely loving just how much content there is in The Division 2. Naysayers may retort by saying I’m doing the same handful of activities over and over again. But then, they’d simply be describing literally every game ever made.
Games are, by design, the same loop repeated over and over. The trick is how well the developers manage to hide this repetition. In a game like Anthem, this repetition is obvious. In The Division 2, it’s done extremely well.
Compared to Anthem‘s desolate empty world, The Division 2‘s Washington D.C. feels packed to the gills with content. There is simply a ton of stuff to do in The Division 2. The game does a good job making you feel like you and your friends really are in charge of cleaning up Washington D.C. I’m having a blast shutting down propaganda broadcasts, taking over control points, hunting down bounties, gathering resources for my allies, and simply exploring.
It’s through this exploration where the sheer density of detail in The Division 2 becomes mind boggling. Even things so incidental as trash(!) are so intricately detailed with creases, grime, and general detritus strewn about. The artists clearly went to town making D.C. feel thoroughly wartorn, and it shows.
I love how ally NPCs actually roam about with clear activities they’re trying to carry out. If I clear out a control point, my allies then occupy it and set about gathering resources like food and water to stock up.
The more you help liberate a zone, the more you’ll see your ally NPC’s occupying territory and fighting the enemy factions — The Hyenas, The True Sons, and The Outcasts. They’ll remark on their excitement to see you, and will gladly join you as you take the fight to the enemy factions.
On top of all this are the main missions. The story and voice acting are nothing to write home about. But the mission design itself is so good. Ubisoft Massive have done tremendous work to make each mission look and feel different. At its heart, The Division 2 is a cover shooter, and Ubisoft Massive have gone to great lengths to make sure each Main Mission environment in which you take cover feels thoroughly unique.
These environments create some truly spectacular tense moments as you’re forced to think tactically to deploy your skills, guns, and sheer ability to outthink the enemy in order to take them down. This is made all the more fun with friends as you combine skills and work together.
I’m only Level 10 as of this writing, but if you can’t tell, I’m loving The Division 2. This game is such a huge breath of fresh air after Anthem. Ubisoft Massive seem to have learned and genuinely listened to all their player feedback from The Division 1 and poured all their learnings into making The Division 2 a complete game on Day One.
Make no mistake. Both Anthem and The Division 2 are Games as a Service. I fundamentally believe that for GaaS to truly work, you need to launch with a complete and content-rich game first, and then supplement that with a worthwhile service. I don’t want to wait 12 months for a game’s potential to be realized. I want a complete content-rich game on Day One for my hard-earned $60.
And from where I sit, only one of these games seems to have learned this.