In introducing The Division 2's endgame content, Ubisoft reminds us how The Division steadily improved over the almost three years since its release. From quality of life updates like being able to save loadouts to substantial new PvE modes, its reputation came a long way from launch. It makes sense, then, that Ubisoft spends a sizeable portion of this PvE reveal event explaining what you'll be doing after you hit the initial level 30 level cap.
The headline addition is an entirely new faction, called the Black Tusk, who arrive in the world when you've finished the main campaign by completing each of the existing factions' stronghold missions. Activities and missions from the main game will be 'invaded' by this new enemy, remixing the kind of challenge they offer. The Black Tusk bring high-power equipment like drones and robot dogs into battle, and generally look rather threatening.
These are the elements of the endgame that Ubisoft's presentation dials in on, but given just how many possibilities the first game eventually offered after hitting level 30, I ask creative director Julian Garrity how much else there is. "This is just a slither. I'm gonna be a little bit negative, but I don't think the presentation that was shown does justice to all of the range of activities in endgame. To sum up endgame as 'we've kept a new faction for that moment and they're going to invade main missions and strongholds', yeah, that's a huge part, but it's only one of the parts."
"At the end of the day, in The Division 2, you're going to complete the map, you're going to play more and more activities, you're going to choose your own path, it's going to be completely non-linear after the first few beats. And then it completely opens up: by completing that campaign, you're unlocking main missions, side missions, open world activities, control points." Crucially, the world will be populated with Black Tusk soldiers, too, so you could encounter this new threat at any time.
Endgame progression will work similarly to the first game, with world tiers tied to your gear score. As Ubisoft has previously detailed, at level 30, you pick a specialisation—one of three 'classes', as it were. At launch, there's Sharpshooter, Survivalist, and Demolitionist, and you can switch between them if you want to.
Each has a signature weapon, which "upgrades with you", according to Garrity. As a Sharpshooter, I've got a particularly good sniper rifle called the TAC-50, which can penetrate armour and do damage to surrounding enemies after I land a hit. I've also got an exclusive skill mod for the drone that allows me to pick out targets with it, and I have a mod that turns my turret into a sniper turret. Three new specialisations will also follow in the game's first year, presumably with their own custom upgrades for your skills and signature weapons.
We played two 'invaded' missions featuring the Black Tusks, including one memorably set inside Washington DC's air and space museum (which, shamefully, I only recognise from Fallout 3). It's hard to get a sense of how difficult the endgame content actually is during this event. As Chris notes in his preview of the campaign content, enemies seem less bullet sponge-y than the first game, and I don't find the Black Tusks particularly difficult to deal with during these missions—indeed, my sharpshooter's High-End sniper rifle does over 200,000 damage when landing a headshot, which kills all normal enemies instantly, and most veterans with two or three. Even Elites don't take too much to bring down in a group of four with our loadouts.
I imagine getting gear that's this effective at release will take some time and effort, based on my experience with the first game. I'm loathe to comment on the game's difficulty, then, without having the context of the player's journey in getting there.
You definitely sense that Ubisoft wants the Black Tusks to be the game's true threat, though, and I like the novelty of having brand new enemies to fight after beating the main campaign. I don't quite get a sense of what Black Tusk's beloved robot dogs are supposed to do other than run in and get shot at—perhaps their AI is still being tweaked—but they offer some variety (shoot the legs!), and underline that these guys have the best arsenal among your opponents in The Division 2.
What effect the Black Tusks have on exploring the world is more of a mystery to me—we're not allowed to wander outside of the mission area in this build. In the map screen, though, I can see that previously visited locations now offer an 'invaded' variant.
I'm pretty convinced that Ubisoft knows how to please The Division 2's most hardcore players after three years of trying, and my feeling is they'll set out a roadmap pretty quickly of that first year. As well as the daily and weekly rewards for replaying missions, the first year will bring three new episodes that build on the story of the game. New areas of the map will open up, new game modes be deployed, plus there'll be new bounties, projects and gear updates. On top of that, there's the aforementioned three new specialisations. Oh, and the previously-revealed trio of Dark Zones, and eight-player raids, the first of which arrives shortly after launch. It seems like a pretty robust plan for keeping people playing.
I ask Garrity if The Division 2 will feature an endless mode similar to Resistance from the first game, or a version of the Underground expansion from the original. "I'm trying to think what we're launching with, and what we're coming up with...the best way to approach that is, the living world system we've built into the base map, is going to be providing that endless content. From the living world activities, hostages, propaganda, all of those living world activities, plus the control points. That is the activity engine for PvE. It doesn't mean we won't be releasing a lot of content in post-launch."
All other coming attractions will be free, of course, and I assume the plan is that the game will follow a similar yearly pricing model to Rainbow Six Siege thereafter. 12 months after launch, The Division 2 could be an extremely different game, and I expect players will be happy with that, as long as they have an endless stack of rewarding things to do.
You can sample The Division 2 in the private beta later this week if you're prepared to preorder the game.