In the current era of gaming, where unfinished or broken releases are a mainstay, it is becoming increasingly rare to encounter a game that simply works right out of the gate. It seems like such a trivial thing to appreciate, seeing as how it wasn't so long ago that a game lived and died by its' quality at the time of launch, but such is the modern landscape we live in where publishers can opt to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.
Ranting aside, the reason why addressing these issues is so pertinent is because games like the Division 2 just don't happen as often as we'd like. There is a level of polish that feels almost novel, and that is felt in every interaction - from the fluidity of the firefights to the stray dogs taking an impromptu dump on the sidewalk. This all to say, a lot of care and attention went into the Division 2, and it shows.
Started from the bottom now we're here
In order to provide proper context to the expectations most had for the Division 2, we must first take a step back and examine the short-comings of its predecessor, as well as the backlash surrounding its , to put it politely, rocky launch.
The year was 2013, and the annual E3 was abuzz with hype for Ubisoft's most ambitious game to-date. The Division, a game not-so-based-on famed author Tom Clancy's works, was being sold as an open-world experience with dynamically driven events, where you and your friends could take on the streets of a post-disaster New York City. Everything about it was stunning. The sheer scope of what it was offering baffled most, and based on those initial impressions, the Division had a lot to live up to.
As you can probably imagine, the actual game that was released years later did not meet expectations. We've come to know now that throughout the development process there were some key concessions made in order to get the game out the door. It was a classic case of "I'm not angry, just disappointed" because while the final product was a pretty good game in its own right, it just wasn't what we were lead to expect it would be.
All that said, and despite its turbulent beginnings, Ubisoft spent the next few years trying to bring the game up to the standards that we had originally envisioned. Kudos to them for sticking with it despite the majority of its player base jumping ship.
Don't call it a comeback
For all intents and purposes, the Division 2 is everything that its predecessor was at its height. You're still going to be constantly rotating out your arsenal as you find marginally better weaponry and gear. You're still going to be spending a large portion of your time hiding behind somehow-bullet-proof-everything and firing blindly at your attackers while yelling obscenities. You're still going to interact with forgettable, one-dimensional NPC's whose sole purpose is to sell you stuff or move the plot forward.
You may want to interpret these similarities as being negative, but if you're a fan of the Division's particular flavor of gameplay then this is exactly what you were hoping for. Ubisoft was not trying to reinvent the wheel with the Division 2 - they simply wanted to make a sequel that incorporated the best of the feedback they received throughout the original Division's lifecycle and provide some continuity to a storyline that remains captivating despite being light on exposition.
The bois are back in town
There is no question that the Division 2's greatest strength lies in its seamlessly executed co-op. Players can easily drop in / drop out of each other's game without missing a beat. Whenever you join in on another player, you are transported to their "instance" of the game - meaning that you get to drop in to their game at their current progress . This setup is perfect for when you need to help your buddies get caught up, and anything new you gain out of it carries over to your own game.
One notable addition to the Division 2's multiplayer is the inclusion of a "Clan" feature. While currently barebones in terms of benefits, it does have some potential to be something to care about if, for example, clans are granted special bonuses for playing together, unlocking achievements, etc. At the very least, Clans makes it easier to bring larger groups of likeminded players together.
It's the end of the world as we know it
In terms of endgame, one could argue that it's when the real game begins. Once you hit the max level (currently level 30), weapons and gear really start to matter as they contribute to your overall "Gear Score". Oh yea, that's another addition making its' debut in the Division 2 - Gear Score. If you've ever played an MMO before, you will probably recognize this concept as being an integral (if not uninvited) part of those endgames. This seemingly arbitrary number a literal, quantified measure of your worth, ability, and overall suitableness to participate in content. It remains to be seen how the inclusion of Gear Score effects the Division 2's endgame culture, but if its use within other games is to be any indication, we may soon have a "gatekeeping" situation on our hands that prevents more casual players from accessing advanced content *coughwowcough*.
While I've only just reached the endgame and started the arduous grind to getting max Gear Score, the outlook is not all shaded in repetition. Ubisoft is trying to break the mold of what a RPG-type shooter can be by introducing dungeons, in this case called "Strongholds", that are made to support 8 players at once. If that sounds bananas, it's because it is, and I can't wait to see what sort of difficulty spikes and mechanics will be leveraged in order to keep it interesting for that many players.
Get busy looting, or get busy dying
To be absolutely clear, the Division 2 is a game designed to be shared with your friends, or if you're short on those, other players that embrace the social aspect of gaming. If you're hoping for a narrative-driven, cinematic experience that was created with solo players in mind, then you should probably look elsewhere. Boiled down, the Division 2 is an unapologetic grindfest that wants to occupy all of your free time, but if you're like me, you have no problem with that transaction.