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October 2021

Tom Clancy's The Division 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Release Date: March 15, 2019


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Xbox One Review - 'Tom Clancy's The Division 2' Warlords of New York + Season 1 DLC

by Adam Pavlacka on April 30, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Tom Clancy's The Division 2 is a shooter RPG with campaign, co-op, and PvP modes that offers more variety in missions and challenges, new progression systems with twists and surprises, and fresh innovations that offer new ways to play.

Buy Tom Clancy's The Division 2

As the first paid expansion for The Division 2, Warlords of New York brings a new map, new enemies, and new weapons to the game. It also wraps up the story that began in The Division, finally letting you go head-to-head with rogue agent Aaron Keener, while introducing a new end-game that is designed to keep players coming back for seasonal content. While most of the improvements bode well for the overall experience, there are still a few rough patches that never got smoothed out.

Shortly after Warlords of New York released, most of California shifted into a shelter-in-place semi-lockdown due to the real world COVID-19 pandemic. While we don't have gun-wielding militias walking the streets here, it was interesting to see all of the things that Massive got right in its fictional pandemic: the warning posters telling people to wash their hands and avoid touching their face, the corner store that's out of bottled water, and the anxiety in the stories that are told via audio logs. All of this helps form the foundations of a solid world. Yes, much of this was in the base game, but in Warlords of New York, it almost feels enhanced, in part because of current events. Unfortunately, that also makes the misses in the world-building stand out even more.

New York is where the story of the Division started, so it's a bit surprising that we don't really see any changes to the world. Yes, bad stuff happened. Yes, people banded together in ways both good and bad. Yes, we're told of changes, but as the player, we never actually see those changes. Trash is piled high everywhere, and there is still Christmas music playing in certain parts of the game. Cars that were abandoned months ago still have working alarms. It's like time froze in New York, and the only changes are the changes we heard about. From a world-building perspective, it would have been amazing to see a New York with actual changes due to the survivors.

For example, I would've loved to see an area that had been somewhat rebuilt. Instead of bringing back factions, tell a story about how one of those factions had a change of heart and is now on the side of those trying to help save the city. We even saw some hints at this level of complexity, with an audio log story about how Keener tried to help a specific family escape from the city, but in the end, the game is afraid to push a strong narrative choice. Everything always drives back to the status quo (including the ultimate conclusion), as if the developers didn't know where to go with it. Really, the only point at which we ever saw a hint of society rebuilding was in the prologue mission at the very start of The Division 2 — a location that you never revisit after you play it.

While the story plays it safe, the gameplay in Warlords of New York feels fresher and more robust than the previous endgame. Playing through the world tiers in The Division 2 just to get to the episodic content felt a bit on the grindy side. Even the episodes ended up being of varying quality, with the Pentagon's quadcopter being more of a challenge as a bullet sponge than an actual opponent. Warlords of New York avoids the bullet sponge approach during the story and normal levels of play. It gives you opponents that are aggressive but fair. They won't hesitate to punish you if you give them an opening, though.

The exception to this rule is the final encounter with Keener. The buildup on the way there is solid, but when you finally take him on, it feels like the development team ran out of ideas. Instead of fighting strategically, Keener simply throws a bunch of tech at you, while healing whenever he takes too much damage. This makes the fight against him feel like one of the aforementioned bullet sponge face-offs, until you realize that you can just charge him. In close quarters, Keener can't do much, so you can take him out before he even has a chance to heal. After losing to him a handful of times, I charged (mostly out of frustration) and ended up taking him out in around 30 seconds. It was a win, but it didn't feel as rewarding as other fights that required actual strategy.

The playable area in the New York map is smaller than what you'll find in the Washington, D.C., map, but it's also more visually appealing. It's not something I noticed at first, but the more I played, the more New York grew on me. The buildings and locations are more distinct than those in D.C., which meant I was checking my map less and navigating by sight alone. There's also a sense of verticality that adds to the feeling of New York as a distinct location. The distinct design of New York also feels like it lends itself to more photo mode opportunities. If that's not your thing, then you can appreciate the city design, but for those who like to bust out the camera, you'll find plenty of opportunity to do so here.

Once Keener has been defeated, Warlords of New York unlocks the SHD watch, which is the new infinite leveling system. Earning SHD levels grants you points to further develop your agent by upgrading specific abilities. For example, you can focus on adding default weapon damage or choosing to put points into improved headshot damage. Each point is small but incremental, so the more you play, the better your base character becomes — and that's before any weapon and armor bonuses come into play. The new season system also unlocks after you've beaten Keener.

Season 1 offers up a new manhunt, with four lieutenants and another leader to beat. There is some additional story lore through voiced comms, but the bulk of it is simply re-running previous missions with slight tweaks. For the first half of the season, all of the manhunt missions were located in D.C., which was a bit of a bummer. While re-running the missions was fun, I would've preferred to have stayed in New York with the new map and not have to return to D.C., right away. Thankfully, the season midpoint recently passed, and the manhunt missions for the third lieutenant are back in the Big Apple.

Between the manhunt missions, the season also includes global events (limited time modifiers to gameplay) and league activities. These are designed to give you a way to earn season XP and level up within the season. Season levels reset at the end of the season, but they are also how you earn bonus gear, including additional benefits from the season pass.

Anyone who purchased Warlords of New York has the first season pass for free. The season pass enables a second, parallel, set of rewards that unlock as you move up season levels. These are in addition to the standard rewards for playing. It remains to be seen what Ubisoft will charge for future season passes, but if it is simply additional items, it will probably be easy for most players to skip.

To help you accelerate your item collection and XP gains in the end game, you can adjust the global difficulty and global directives, since a higher difficulty level usually results in better stats on found items. Directives are five modifiers that each make gameplay more challenging. Each offers an additional 25% XP boost, for max boost of 125% extra XP.

One welcome change that applies to all players (not just those who purchased Warlords of New York) is the new Gear 2.0 system. It's a big improvement over the previous system. When I first played through The Division 2 with Gear 1.0, I often hoarded gear because I never knew when I might need a specific piece to use for recalibration. With Gear 2.0, you can extract the "good stat" from a piece and store it in a library to use later. Your inventory UI now shows you when an item has a perfect roll (AKA max value for a specific stat) and lets you know if what you picked up has better or worse stats than your current gear. You are limited to extracting a single stat, so there are choices to be made when you have an item with three awesome stats; and you cannot extract "perfect" stats from named items, but otherwise, the sky's the limit.

The key limitation to the recalibration system is that you can't recalibrate an item's base level. This isn't an issue for players at level 30 in the base game or at level 40 in the expansion, but it does mean that all the gear you had at level 30 is more or less useless once you start playing Warlords of New York.

Despite the improvements to the overall game, a few of my complaints from the base game remain. For one thing, your agent still cannot go prone, even though enemies can. You'll also find that enemies still feed from specific points during missions and objectives. These "spawn doors" don't take into account your location, so they can surprise you by coming through an otherwise unopenable door after you clear a room. On the flipside, once you learn the locations, you can camp them and get a handful of easy kills at the right moment.

Texture pop-in is still a thing, especially if you're moving quickly through the open world. You'll run into the occasional scripting error, like the open exit to the tanker area in New York that you can't go into (because it's supposed to be closed until you finish the mission) or the season manhunt bug on the Pentagon mission that requires you to suicide yourself to make the game realize that you're ready to unlock the next door and progress the mission. Still, none of these complaints are game-breaking.

The one issue that really needs to be addressed is the idle crash bug. It was present in The Division 2 before the update, and it still persists with Warlords of New York. On an Xbox One X, if you time out while in game and your system goes to sleep, it doesn't wake up. The console ends up doing a hard shutdown, even if you have instant on set. Again, it's not game-breaking, but it is annoying since you can't power on from the controller when this happens. You have to manually turn on the system and wait for a full boot.

Ultimately, when all is said and done, Warlords of New York is an improved version of The Division 2, but it's not a complete revamp. It was more than enough to bring me back (and keep me coming back during the season), but it wasn't enough to say that this is a whole new experience. Warlords of New York doesn't fundamentally change the sandbox that is The Division 2. It just makes that sandbox bigger. As someone who enjoys playing in that sandbox, bigger and better is enough to make Warlords of New York a worthwhile purchase.

Score: 8.5/10

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