The long-awaited showdown with Aaron Keener is finally upon The Division in the first expansion for Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Warlords of New York takes players back to the Big Apple where the situation on the ground has changed significantly over the spring and summer. Paul Rhodes and Roy Benitez have split with Faye Lau and the Division. Rogue agents have risen in the ranks and now lead the reformed Cleaners and Rikers faction. The new expansion introduces the New York City map, a ten-level bump to the level cap, new equipment, a completely refreshed itemization system, and a transition to a season-based content system.
The Division 2: Warlords of New York’s plot is a bit of a disappointment. The build up to the inevitable showdown with Aaron Keener has been a long time coming but the conclusion falls flat. At this point, it feels like the writers are trying anything to keep the twists coming without any concern if it makes much sense. It isn’t entirely clear if the story is going down the path of a guilty pleasure or a train wreck, but it seems to be heading down the latter.
Warlords of New York coincides with the implementation of a slew of quality of life changes and a major overhaul of the loot system for all Division 2 players as part of Title Update 8. A lot of the changes were direly requested by players for months now. The biggest change without a doubt is the Gear 2.0 system. The stats and talents have been completely overhauled, simplifying the talents and improving the recalibration system. The changes make talents feel like they have more impact as flat stat buff talents have been merged into the item’s base stats. The recalibration system singlehandedly addresses the bank clutter problem with one swift strike as players no longer have to horde hundreds of items across several bank alts to keep rare talents and max attribute rolls. Players now extract those into their library and can apply them to as many items as they wish.
The quality of life changes are fantastic overall. Most are smaller fixes that address minor issues that have nagged the game from the start, like the inability quick travel to missions invaded by the Black Tusk. Other are a little more noticeable, like removing the intel cost for bounties and increasing the rate specialization points are awarded. The changes make the gameplay smoother and less of a hassle for the most part.
Warlords of New York introduces a new campaign, a revamped end game, and the season-based content system. The campaign itself is similar to the base game. It is a string of missions, with the longer ones being dungeons that can be replayed in full and smaller ones being revisited as possible bounty locations at a later time. The big difference is the more open-ended nature of the campaign as players are able to choose what order they wish to pursue Keener’s four lieutenants. The New York map is smaller than DC, but the mission design requires players to do a lot more exploring outdoors.
The revamped end game is where players will spend the bulk of their time. Progression has been lengthened with the SHD Watch that allows players to permanently increase their stats every time they level. This is a good replacement for the field proficiency caches that became useless after players completed their builds. The world difficulty can be increased like missions, which brings much needed challenge to the open world gameplay. More importantly, five modifiers have been added to the game. When enabled, these hobble the player in specific ways like removing their armour regeneration out of combat. In exchange, players get a sizable XP boost to their mission bonuses. These two changes go a long way in giving players some end game option outside of participating in raids.
Skill builds have always struggled in end game. Although Ubisoft Massive have made attempts to rebalance the issue, the Dark Hours raid proved the hardcore endgame was still tuned for weapon DPS builds. Part of the problem has been addressed with the major revamp to the skill system. The buffs and balances take a big bite out of untalented healing skills while significantly rewarding players who spend points into skill attributes. While this is a good step, the other half is creating content that requires a skill build or two in a team comp. Right now, a healer in the group is needed for end game content, especially as the difficult levels rise. The second half of the problem is how content is designed. The missions tend to be light on mechanics, which allow a certain degree of build agnosticism. The design of the next raids will be the big test for Ubisoft Massive’s implementation of the skill system. Unfortunately, Massive never released the promised second raid before Warlords of New York, and it was not included as part of the expansion.
Ever since Fortnite popularized the sea son-based strategy for monetizing games as a service, publishers and developers have been throwing their titles on the bandwagon. The Division 2 is the next title to get the treatment. No matter your opinion on season pass, almost everyone will agree it is better than the absolutely atrocious cosmetic events that ran for two to three weeks. The worst iteration of the event required players to grind levels in hopes of being lucky enough to be gifted a randomly awarded event chest for cosmetic items, with the final outfit being handed out for those willing to grind out the entire event. While things improved to a certain degree when chests were handed out every three levels, the event lengths seemed to shorten in comparison. The season pass system feels better balanced. Though the levels are more extensive, the 12-week limit feels more reasonable than the last couple of apparel events, and I found Ubisoft Massive’s estimation of 30 to 60 minutes per season pass level was correct.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of the Dark Zone. The concept works well, and I can see how many players enjoy it. I wander in there on occasion as it is still the best source of high-quality gear in a short period of time if players are willing to risk PVP. The Dark Zone changes are trying to drive players further towards PVP. Dark Zone currency and experience is now tuned as a PVP reward. PVE focused players are still given a hand as players can now see the rolls on their item so they can decide if its worth risking an extraction. The design is more like the original Division. At the end of the day, the changes will hopefully continue the trend of focusing the DZ experience as a PVP area versus one or two teams of min/maxed rogues curb stomping an entire map of PVE players trying to grind out gear quickly for their raid builds.
Warlords of New York has brought back four major neighbourhoods in New York City. Those of us who are only familiar with the city in pop culture will recognize some major landmarks, while other parts of the city will look a lot like DC. Compared to The Division 1, spring and the hurricane that supposedly happened earlier in the summer has changed the environment significantly. The Cleaners and the Rikers have also been given a makeover to mark the passage of time and the change in season. The entire look of the game has an eerie familiar yet not feeling that suits it well.
The audio experience has not changed significantly since the base game’s release. The sound effects and soundtrack are still an enjoyable listen. The voice acting is still solid, with the return of many familiar voices from the first game.
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: Warlords of New York and Title Update 8 is a step in the right direction for The Division 2. It addresses a lot of the long-standing complaints to the game and adds a decent amount of much needed content for players to enjoy. While the new changes help breathe some life to the end game, it’s a shame that the long delayed second raid was not included in the expansion. As with the base game and the first Division, only time will tell how well the end game ages, but it’s a good start at least.
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