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Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: everything we know (update)

All that is known about the next chapter in Ubisoft’s answer to Destiny

Massive Entertainment/Ubisoft

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Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Unlike its predecessor, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 has seen a comparatively brief hype cycle. Word of it leaked in March 2018, and it wasn’t formally announced until E3 in June that year. Perhaps mindful of the expectations that built up with the first game, some of which went unfulfilled in a rough launch, it appears Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment are trying to avoid over-promising with this game.

The Division 2 is on the way in just a few months, and if the end of The Division’s post-release support cycle is anything to go by, it should have a much more smooth arrival, building on a solid two years of community feedback and gameplay balancing. It’ll be the third Tom Clancy game in Ubisoft’s bread-and-butter genre, the open world, as opposed to a pioneer trying to do something different in a brand known for tactics and stealth.

Here is everything we know about Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, which brings the pandemic and pandemonium to Washington, D.C. this March.

When does The Division 2 launch?

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 launches March 15 on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. It is being developed by Massive Entertainment, in cooperation with Red Storm Entertainment, the gaming studio Clancy founded in 1996 that Ubisoft later acquired.

It will be preceded by a private beta that hasn’t yet been dated. Those who pre-order the game will get access to this beta. The beta will run on all three platforms.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 will not be sold through Steam; Ubisoft said at the beginning of January that the PC version of the game will be sold on the new Epic Games Store (as well as Ubisoft’s own storefront).

Update: Jan. 16: Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 will have a limited beta from Thursday, Feb. 7 to Sunday, Feb. 10, Ubisoft announced today. The surest way into the beta is to preorder the game. Otherwise, Ubisoft is taking registrations, but it says only a limited number will be let in.

Other details about the data were not shared, including whether or not the Dark Zone will be a part of it. It was for the beta of the first Tom Clancy’s The Division at the same time of year in 2016.

What is The Division?

The Division is the newest franchise within the Tom Clancy universe of games Ubisoft has published since 2001. It’s an open-world shooter with some role-playing elements and plenty of online interaction, both cooperative and competitive. It’s faster-paced and more action-oriented than the stealth-focused Splinter Cell series. And it’s less dependent on tactics and cooperation than the Ghost Recon series (which got its first open-world game with 2017’s Wildlands) or the multiplayer-focused Rainbow Six: Siege.

More or less, The Division as a franchise is Ubisoft’s answer to Activision’s (now Bungie’s) Destiny. And it made a nice reply when it launched in March 2016. Ubisoft boasted of record (at the time) sales for a new franchise at $330 million, topping the $325 million Activision reported for Destiny in September 2014.

The Division 2 Massive Entertainment / Ubisoft

But didn’t the first game have a lot of problems?

Tom Clancy’s The Division stumbled at launch, suffering from the usual exploits and glitches one might expect of a game with such a large multiplayer component. More disappointingly, though, it had very little for players to do in the way of end-game content. Several patches followed as Ubisoft attempted to respond to player feedback and expectations, but it wasn’t until the 1.4 update launched in September 2016 that the game started to hit its stride. The second season of content, comprising two expansions, was given out for free and launched on all platforms simultaneously; fans had criticized Ubisoft and Massive for a timed-exclusive arrangement with Xbox One giving that platform first crack at new content.

Developers and Ubisoft executives have since said the lessons of The Division have been fresh in mind throughout the creation of The Division 2. At E3 2018, when the game was formally announced, creative director Julian Gerighty promised that eight-player end-game raids would be delivered post-release — for free — as downloadable content. Ubisoft envisions launching them in the form of new episodes for the overall story.

What’s the story of The Division 2?

In the world of The Division (beginning with the first game), terrorists spread a catastrophic smallpox epidemic by lacing money with the virus in New York City on Black Friday. “The Division” is the Strategic Homeland Division, a team of sleeper agents that activates for dire crises within the United States.

In The Division 2 the scene shifts from the snow and slushy streets of New York to the swampy summer heat of Washington D.C., seven months after the events of the first game. The Division’s campaign concluded with the player learning the source of the “Green Poison” (or the “Dollar Flu,”) and their motives. They also learned that it was now in the hands of a rogue agent, Aaron Keener, who intended to continue the mission of the virus’ creator.

Little has been revealed of the story in The Division 2 but at E3 2018, Terry Spier, the creative director at Red Storm, said the story’s theme would be focusing on rebuilding and supporting the civilians trying to make it. Other marketing materials suggested that the overall conflict would be a near-Civil War in which the agents of The Division, as the old government, are pushing against corrupt leaders of a new one. Either way, Spier insisted Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 “is not making any political statements.”

The Division 2 - four soldiers walking down a street toward the Capitol in the late afternoon Massive Entertainment/Ubisoft

What can we expect to do in The Division 2?

Open-world games are Ubisoft’s stock-in-trade and based on previews, there is a lot more of the same coming in The Division 2. The player will have a large map with storyline missions, side missions and random encounters to progress through, cooperatively with other players if they wish. The overall goal will be to pacify or wipe out violent factions before they can take control of a desiccated Washington D.C.

The Division 2 will differ from its predecessor in that once players reach the end of the story mode, they will be able to pick from one of three specializations — Sniper and Demolitions, with self-explanatory abilities and weapons, and an all-arounder Survivalist. These class differentiations will help players serve different roles for their online squads during raids.

Weapons will be further differentiated in The Division 2. Massive Entertainment, back in September, said that rifles would now be separated into their own category, giving special attention to semi-automatic and burst-fire weapons. Exotic weapons will be more visually distinctive, although specific abilities were not mentioned.

Mods, which were a key feature of weapons and progression in The Division, will return but this time, the components must be unlocked instead of looted or found in the environment. Massive Entertainment designers say they’re trying to make weapon modification more interesting by removing the need to equip mods that deliver certain must-have capabilities. This process will be more about fitting a weapon to a player’s style as opposed to hitting a stat number.

A player’s grenade loadout will slim down from six in The Division to two in The Division 2. Moreover, only a concussion grenade will be available from levels 1 to 29. At level 30, when players may pick a class specialization, they will then add either a flashbang, incendiary or fragmentation grenade depending on class.

New skills mentioned in other previews include an assault drone — essentially an airborne version of the first game’s super-effective turret; a chem launcher that can buff, debuff or damage others and the “hive,” which launches a swarm of small drones.

This trailer, which Ubisoft published on Jan. 9, touts the features specific to the Windows PC edition in development. It’s being developed natively for that platform, an important point as the first Division was announced for PC after the fact, and only after a motivated response from PC gamers asking for it. The Division 2 on PC will include 4K resolution and HDR support, variable refresh rate, support for widescreen and multi-screen monitor setups, uncapped frame rates and resolutions.

Will my progress from The Division carry over?

No. Some got their hopes up that it would when the first game added new “shields” (rewards for completing challenges) that will unlock content in The Division 2 (played on the same account and platform, of course). But other than this reward, nothing will transition with the player to the new game — whether characters, gear, weapons or progression.

What about the Dark Zone?

A Dark Zone will be part of The Division 2 but developers have not discussed it beyond the barest details so far. In the first Division, it was a wide-open player-versus-environment-versus-player scene where the risk of tougher combat was rewarded with higher-level gear (provided it could be safely extracted). Post-release, it was buttressed with additional PvP game modes like Survival and Last Stand (both paid content). There’s been no discussion of what modes, if any, will carry over, but the battle royale craze has happened meantime, so who knows.

Narratively, The Dark Zone is an area so toxic it’s quarantined, written off by public safety and left to its own law (usually enforced at gunpoint). Though little has been discussed, the Dark Zone is an indispensible component of the combined single-player and multiplayer experience The Division seeks to serve.

What else will we see in The Division 2?

One thing Tom Clancy’s The Division did do well out of the box was present a scale representation of midtown Manhattan from Union Square to Columbus Circle (although, fans will remember being promised a lot more going back to the game’s original announcement at E3 2013). A large portion of that was dominated by the anything-goes multiplayer Dark Zone, but iconic locations such as Madison Square Garden and the nearby James A. Farley Building (the post office), Times Square, the United Nations Building and Grand Central Terminal were all prominent locations.

Previews and screenshots for The Division 2 have shown the U.S. Capitol and surrounding Mall area; the Smithsonian and the National Air and Space Museum; the White House and the surrounding building complex. There’s even a downed Air Force One somewhere in D.C.

How many editions are launching, and what comes with them?

Pre-ordering the standard edition ($59.99) will get the customer access to the private Beta and some additional in-game content. From there, there are four deluxe options:

  • The “Gold Edition” ($99.99) includes all of the above and a “Year 1 Pass,” which gives holders access to the new year one episodes seven days before everyone else gets them and the game itself three days before launch. The Ubisoft store also has a steelbook version of this for $109.99.
  • The digital only “Ultimate Edition” ($119.99) includes the pass, the early access and then three more packs of bonus digital content (skins, weapons, emotes and such, for a total of four packs).
  • The “Dark Zone Collector’s Edition” ($189.99) offers the three-day early access, the pass, the in-game content packs, a map, a soundtrack, an art book and a collectible statue, all in a special box.
  • And the “Phoenix Shield Collector’s Edition” ($249.99) includes the three-day access, the pass, the content packs, all four of the in-game content packs, a steelbook and an articulated figurine, and the soundtrack, artbook and map. It’s only available through Ubisoft’s online store.

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