VIDEO: We discuss what we want to see in The Division 2 on this week's stream of The PC Gamer Show.
At E3 this June we’ll find out more about The Division 2, the recently announced sequel to Ubisoft’s contentious Clancy-verse looter shooter. It’s been a bumpy road for The Division, but with the aid of regular updates and expansions from developer Massive, what released as a fun co-op shooter with almost no incentive to play beyond the campaign has since become an easy recommendation for anyone that likes a little RPG with their stop-and-pop.
And as connoisseurs of the young and precious looter shooter subgenre (and in the wake of Destiny 2’s perplexing design choices), we have some strong opinions about which pitfalls The Division 2 should avoid, and which new or existing ideas it should embrace.
Be careful with the loot boxes (or leave them out entirely)
Let's get this one out of the way. Loot boxes shouldn’t contain anything that we can’t earn by putting in the time or proving ourselves. If they must be included, do not stray: cosmetics only, a way to earn them without paying, and the opening animation better be absolutely incredible. It’s almost there already, but don’t even bother if they’re just going to open up to a flat icon signaling our new pants. Show me the damn pants in 3D. I want to see the pants, Massive. —James Davenport
Why spend so much time with the endgame grind looking for a particular pair Classified boots if you’re not going to use them? The Division eventually added some difficult endgame events with Incursions, but they didn’t feel particularly unique, nor did they introduce new enemies or push the story forward in meaningful ways. They were good fun, but not the kind of climax you want to spend dozens of hours building towards.
The Division 2 is an opportunity to open with a golden goose that gets the entire playerbase talking. Division raids should introduce clever new mechanics (that don’t necessarily have to involve shooting) to pace the thing out, special enemy types, a stylish new setting—though, I admit, I don’t envy the designers whose job it is to make a quarantine zone feel exciting and new—and a final boss that isn’t just a tank or helicopter or large man in a hood. Oh, and at least six-person squads. Maybe even bigger. —James Davenport
Make the Dark Zone scarier but fairer
The Dark Zone is easily The Division's posterchild, its open PvP, tougher PvE enemies, and intense loot extraction system is a cool (if controversial among players) representation of Massive's spin on a loot-shooter endgame. There's bound to be a barrage of buzzwords and bullet points to sweeten The Division 2's reveal later this year, but the Dark Zone needs a prominent place as one of The Division's strongest hooks to stand out. It needs to get sinister with a stronger slant on the horrors of the viral outbreak. It also needs to underscore the chaos of desperate survivalism with randomized spawns of unexpected threats similar to the excellent volatility of 1.8's West Side Pier area.
At the same time, it needs to address long standing balance issues surrounding gear advantages in PvP. Massive has the pick of existing solutions—I'm partial to an Iron Banner-style event where gear stats are turned on for a specific period of time—and I'm eager to brave The Division 2's Dark Zone with a fighting chance. —Omri Petitte
A new city
Gorgeous as The Division’s trash-ridden rendition of Manhattan was, it’s hard to imagine spending hundreds of hours there again in the sequel. The smallpox attack was isolated to NYC originally, but if the Tom Clancy-verse knows one thing, it’s that literally everyone is a terrorist. As they always do, a new organization and a new threat can crop up anywhere in the world, but it’d be nice to stick to the cities. If we’re desperate for some diverse scenery, set it somewhere nature adjacent. Seattle might be a good spot. It’s cold, rainy, and there are thick pine forests just a short ferry ride away. But who knows? At this point, I’m just hoping to be surprised. —James Davenport
Make it more procedural
Here's the news: It doesn't matter how much content Massive crams into its next flu-based third-person grinder, the playerbase will chew through it twice as fast as the developer expects, and then the Reddit wailing will begin. The best solution to this conundrum is one that The Division has already toyed with: some amount of procedurally generated mission design. The Underground mode which was added to the first game ended up being kinda undercooked, but for my germ-ridden dollars it was still fun and had a huge amount of potential. If Massive can massively expand on the concept, it could solve a lot of issues with replayability. Better still, enable a mission-designer mode so we can create and share our own enclosed levels. That kind of feature could put The Division 2 over the top. —Tim Clark
An instanced open world
While I don’t want The Division’s next open world to be crowded with hundreds or players, I’d love to see instanced PvE areas come to the sequel. I want to see the entirety of the city come to life, in part with the introduction of instanced zones where you can run into other mob-killing, loot-hunting agents. Such a change would make public events a possibility, though I’d hope they wouldn’t become the same crutch they’ve become in Destiny 2. —James Davenport
Fix the fashion
After the events of the first game, I think The Division 2 is ready to inch closer to true post-apocalyptic fashion. If I were quarantined in a small section of a big city brimming with metal and rubber, I would’ve made spiked tire shoulder pads a few weeks in. I’m not saying The Division 2 needs to go full Mad Max quite yet, but I’m dying for a better way to express my character beyond the confines of L.L. Bean’s winter catalog. —James Davenport
Borrow from Borderlands
Having seen how James dresses, I'm not convinced by his anti-hikingwear screed. But I do think The Division 2 can afford to make some of its designs a little more outre, particularly when it comes to loot. The best thing about Borderlands was the sheer diversity of guns you could find, and the weirdo combination of perks that led to hilariously over- (and under) powered combinations. The Division's unique weapons have largely erred to much on the side of safety, both in terms of form and function, and I think gear could generally do with a greater injection of randomness to make true god rolls more exciting and obvious. Also: add a portable flamethrower please.—Tim Clark
Separate PvE and PvP gear tuning
Sure, it's nice to confidently step into a PvP arena with a full Classified set from boots to brains, but undergeared opponents would tiredly AFK for their inevitable defeat. Flavors-of-the-month and optimal DPS builds are the norm for number-crunchy games such as The Division, so let's tweak the pursuit of ever-stronger loot in The Division 2 with separate checks for PvP and PvE activities. You'll still enjoy your blink-and-gone Predator bleed when deleting poor Incursion bosses—the potential for broken PvE builds is one of the first game’s unique draws (looking at you, Destiny 2)—but perhaps a dialed-back version of Classified stats would better shape a skill-based take on PvP. —Omri Petitte
The obligatory battle royale mode
It wouldn’t be for me, but imagine a battle royale mode that lets players bring in their loot with them (scaled of course) to duke it out with 99 or so other players. Maybe populate the map with some elite mobs, hot spots for new loot (that you can take out of the match with you), and I think there’s good potential to cash in on a big trend while leaving a distinct looter shooter mark on the genre. —James Davenport
Don't dump The Division 1 entirely
My counterpoint to the moving away from Manhattan completely is look what happened when Bungie left the first Destiny behind for the sequel. It effectively tossed out the alien baby with the bathwater, meaning Destiny 2 had a much bigger content gap to fill than ought to have been necessary. I'd like The Division 2 to add two new cities onto the existing one—maybe one in Europe and one in Africa—but largely retain the modes and missions from the original. The model here should be how WoW handles expansions. Starting from scratch would be a serious mistake.—Tim Clark
Give more enemies Hunter AI
Hunters were special enemy types introduced in patch 1.5's Survival mode, tacti-cool agent-killers that could halt an otherwise smooth extraction in a matter of seconds. They ooze the elite assassin look—a spec-ops plumage of black-on-charcoal rigging and glowing goggles—but more importantly, they're smart. Compared to standard enemy behavior, which juggles between riveting maneuvers such as ‘run away’ or ‘stand still,’ Hunters roll, strafe, juke, dive between cover, ambush, flank, stab, heal, and generally try to emasculate whatever shred of pride you've built up mowing down the gentler mobs.
I wouldn't want to give a desperate rioter in The Division 2 the same tricks Hunters can throw at you—those shock grenades can go straight to hell—but I'd love to see the same unpredictability and reactive behavior in overworld combat. —Omri Petitte
Maintain the garbage bag quality
They were so, so beautiful. If we do move to a new city, keep it pretty and somewhere where eerie weather is still possible. The Division, even if it is just a grindy looter shooter, is helped immensely by the level of detail in its setting. To sacrifice that for scale would be a mistake, I think. —James Davenport
Don’t leave the story behind
Equally as exciting as a return to the gear grindstone in The Division 2 is the continuation of its intriguing narrative, sadly languishing since launch over two years ago. We'll possibly trade Manhattan for a new city and a new crisis, but I'd prefer closure for character arcs and unanswered questions that personify the struggle of picking up the pieces of a stricken society. Will Faye Lau ever get that eyepatch removed? Are we chasing after rogue agent Aaron Keener? What's the origins of the Division organization? How are other cities handling the smallpox outbreak? At this point, I'll even settle for a spinoff on Alex and his many life decisions leading up to his inevitable demise. —Omri Petitte
Simplify the inventory system
Time yourself taking a new gun out of your stash, finding it in your inventory, comparing attachments on it, and repainting it. If you managed anything less than a couple minutes, you need to get into speedrunning. The Division's menus are a chore to work with, especially when scrolling through piles of gear in each slot or marking items for selling or salvaging. Patch 1.6's loadout system was a vastly welcome improvement for hot-swapping gear sets in a couple clicks, and I definitely wouldn't mind The Division 2 providing further sorting and organizational options for filing away gear for later use. Having some neat API functionality to remotely tweak setups à la Destiny 2's companion app wouldn't hurt, either. —Omri Petitte
Give us stealth
There's no place for the MMORPG trope of vanishing rogues or teleporting ninjas in The Division 2, but there's definitely room for silenced kills and stealthy crouch-walking expressive of an agent's enhanced training. Mark-and-executes from Ghost Recon Wildlands would work well as a fun co-op tool for quietly clearing hideouts or taking down a mission target, and while I'm not expecting angry Sam Fisher-style takedowns at close quarters, I'd be ecstatic at the opportunity for hand-on-mouth backstabs and ghosting through an area undetected. —Omri Petitte
I’m shaking my head here, Omri, but I admit, you might be onto something. A stealth class or stealth builds could give combat some much needed pacing—soften the mob with some sneaky kills and then finish ‘em off with the classic cover shooting. It could also be the worst. Benefit of the doubt, granted (for now). —James Davenport
Keep the great ladders
The ladders in the Division were great. Maybe the best ladders ever in games. Don't fuck with them. Don't try to improve them. Don't even tweak them. Just select and copy the ladder code (it's probably in a folder called 'great_ladders') and paste it directly into the new game as-is. If I play The Division 2 and the ladders are not as good as they were in The Division I'm going to be extremely disappointed. —Chris Livingston