The Division Heartland was announced in 2021 as a free-to-play shooter that "will provide an all new perspective on the universe in a new setting." Details beyond that were basically non-existent but I speculated at the time that it would be a battle royale of some sort. Today we got our first proper look at it in a "developer deep dive video," and it seems that I was a little off the mark.
Unlike the first two Division games, which were set in New York City and Washington DC respectively, The Division Heartland takes place in Silver Creek, a small town in middle America. You're there because your old boss in Boston wiped out your team of Division agents and did a runner in that direction. Now he's putting together an army of "reapers" for reasons that remain unknown.
And despite its small size, Silver Creek faces a lot of the same problems as the big cities of the nation, including "a hostile environment filled with deadly contamination, roaming enemy hordes, and the looming threat of sickness and dehydration." There are also no good restaurants.
But Silver Creek has some substantial differences too, including the addition of a shared base of operations located at the town's abandoned roller skating rink. Here, players will come together to fabricate supplies, prep their "go-bags," and shoot the breeze, before heading out to help re-establish law and order in Silver Creek by shooting anyone who isn't part of their squad.
Other potentially interesting ideas in Heartland include the addition of a day/night cycle during each play session: In the day you'll explore, scavenge for materials, complete various objectives, and of course shoot people; at night, the dangers and the violence will increase, as you'll face off against rogue NPCs and "newly hostile players." You'll also have to deal with dehydration and sickness, and ensure you have sufficient filters to enable you to enter into constantly-shifting contaminated areas.
The ultimate goal, aside from imposing the rule of law through brutal vigilantism, is to get out in one piece with all your stuff—to extract, you might say. "Each successful operation allows you to complete more missions, and unlock unique abilities, new map areas, and crucial functions at your base," the Heartland website says. "Die before you extract... and come back empty-handed."
It certainly all sounds more than a little like The Division's 'Dark Zone' take on PvEvP, which managed to be both incredibly tense and massively infuriating, depending on whether you were the ones rolling noobs and stealing their loot, or you were the on the receiving end of the paramilitary cyber-bullying. The use of prox chat only added to the tension/infuriation, and in hindsight was pretty ahead of its time. Ubisoft further iterated on the PvEvP concept with The Division's 'Survival' mode, which also focused on mask filters to create a time limit before extracting with newfound gear.
Ubisoft says the development team at its Red Storm studio is "taking a test-and-learn approach to building this game," which means "continually conducting test phases and gathering player feedback before moving on to the next phase." If you'd like to get in on that action, you can sign up to take part at thedivisionheartland.com.