It's a good time to love loot. With Destiny 2 and Warframe in top form and a new Borderlands being announced later this month, the genre is more crowded than ever. Now that Anthem and The Division 2 are both out, and with each one wanting to be the One Game to Rule Them All, it's tough to know which is worth all your evenings and weekends.
Though our review is still in progress, The Division 2 already stands head and shoulders above and Anthem in a lot of ways. Sure, Anthem lets you fly around in Iron Man exosuits (which is definitely fun), but it's also hampered by a ton of bugs, infuriating design flaws, and a nonexistent endgame. So if you and your friends are looking for a satisfying RPG shooter to play together, here's why I'm enjoying The Division 2 so much more.
A seamless open world that's actually fun to explore
Anthem's world is gorgeous but it doesn't take long to see it as little more than set dressing as you fly from one objective to the next. There's a bit of wildlife roaming around and the same repetitive events do crop up when exploring the freeplay mode, but other than that the world feels empty. There's just not a lot of reason to explore off the beaten path—especially because Anthem's crafting system is so shallow that it's easy to ignore all the resources tucked away in different nooks and crannies. What's worse, though, is that everything in Anthem is segmented by awful loading screens that can take ages to complete. Moving from the singleplayer Fort Tarsis area into a mission can take minutes, and once you're out in the field you can't change your gear or join up with friends.
The Division 2 has none of those restrictions. Not only is Washington D.C. full of hidden areas, dynamic missions, and tons of useful loot and resources, but there's very few restrictions on how you explore it. There's two loading screens to first enter the game, but once you're playing everything loads seamlessly without interrupting the experience and you're free to change gear or move in and out of missions as you please. Playing with others is just as simple—sometimes requiring a short loading screen as you're teleported you to their location. It all feels so effortless and it makes it easy to get absorbed doing one task after another because there's no artificial barriers, like constant loading screens, breaking up all the fun.
What's more, The Division 2 has an incredible level of detail and a small layer of simulation behind its open world. Washington is stunning and every area feels bespoke and unique. Groups of survivors will salvage for resources and return them to their settlements while enemies do the same, often crossing paths with each other and starting shootouts that I'll randomly happen upon. And there's just so much to do, it's easy to get sidetracked from the main story. Control points to liberate, settlements to upgrade, dynamic world events to fight over, hidden bosses to kill, secret stashes to uncover—it's a lot.
Enemy AI keeps you on your toes
Anthem's enemies are dumb as hell. If they're not rushing straight toward you, they're standing still and occasionally remembering how to shoot. The simple joy of fighting in your javelin exosuit carries the experience, as you trigger eye-watering lightning strikes or fire a swarm of homing missiles that obliterates everything in sight. Being a semi-realistic tactical shooter, The Division 2 can't hold a candle to that kind of spectacle. But what The Division 2 does have is smart, aggressive enemies with a variety of abilities they'll use to kick your ass if you're not careful.
With four factions each having a variety of enemy types, there's a lot of chaos that can unfold on the battlefield. Units will bombard my position with mortars while others rush you straight on. Some will pilot RC cars strapped with explosives while others set up automated turrets to lock me down. Because enemies often have access to similar abilities as me, fights in The Division 2 feel dynamic and deadly, and I'm constantly having to keep on the move to stay alive. It's frantic and a lot of fun.
Thankfully, my weapons also feel much more fatal than they did in The Division. While there's still armored enemies that can take a few magazines to bring down, average soldiers don't feel like the bullet sponges they did in the first game.
Loot that actually matters
For a loot shooter, Anthem has a lot of problems. Not only are endgame loot drops stingy and often useless, but players are quickly discovering that the underlying math of how that loot affects your character is pretty busted. While I haven't played enough of The Division 2 to talk about its endgame or the theorycrafting behind it, I can say that it does feel damn good to play a game that constantly showers me in loot.
With such a variety of weapon types that each have strengths and weaknesses, just choosing what kind of gun you want to use is a big decision—not to mention all the randomized stat rolls and custom mods you can attach to further enhance its performance. At earlier levels, gear is relatively simple, but once you start getting into the higher rarity tiers, you need to pay attention to all sorts of bonuses that'll help or hinder you playstyle.
The abundance of loot coupled with the variety of activities means it's easy to ignore the story missions and just get lost exploring D.C. and raising hell. And even if that locker I opened has no loot, it'll be full of crafting materials and resources I can use to upgrade settlements or build new gear—or it'll contain a nice hat I can wear because sun protection is no joke.
Story missions that are diverse and exciting
Here's the gist of every mission in Anthem: Fly to a spot, complete one of a handful of recycled objectives, fly to another stop, rinse, repeat. After a few hours, nearly every mission, whether it's a story mission or just a random contract, blends together. They all draw from the same pool of a dozen or so different objectives—all of which involve shooting things until they're dead.
The Division 2 is also about shooting things until they're dead, but what I'm really enjoying is where and how I'm supposed to shoot those things. Each of its main story missions involves diving into some Washington landmark like the Air and Space Museum, Jefferson Trade Center, or the Grand Washington Hotel. Being a cover shooter, The Division 2 smartly cares a great deal about making that cover interesting to look at. So far I've fought in Vietnam War exhibits, gaudy hotel lobbies, airplane hangars, and loads more of cool places. Combined with The Division 2's excellent AI, every mission is exciting—even if the story is frequently nonsensical or silly.
A wholly original PvP system that's pretty scary
One of the most original features in The Division series is Dark Zones, areas where players fight tough enemies for powerful loot but can also betray one another. The Division 2 expands on that feature with more Dark Zones that are easier to get into but still terrifying because at any moment someone might ambush you and take your loot. It's a bit terrifying and a lot of fun, and it's one of the best things that makes The Division 2 stand out from the crowd.
While I respect that BioWare chose not to add PVP in Anthem, it's frustrating that there's no game modes that compensate for its absence. Aside from the repetitive missions, there's a basic freeplay mode and three Strongholds but nothing else to do. I desperately wish there was just more to Anthem than what's currently available.
You're probably getting the hint: The Division 2 is a much better (and bigger) game than Anthem in a lot of ways. It's a shame, because Anthem's flying and explosive combat have a lot of potential. If there's one lesson to learn from other loot shooters, like Destiny 2, it's that things can change. Quickly. But if you're looking for a long-term co-op shooter, The Division 2 seems like a much safer bet.