Even before The Division 2 was released (buy now for € 32.72) Massive Entertainment’s developers had announced their plans for new content over the course of the first year. These included three story episodes, which continue the story of the fight against the dollar flu with new main missions. With episode 3, this first year is now coming to an end. At the same time, the trip to Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York serves as a prologue for an entirely new chapter of The Division 2.
Already in March, Ubisoft released Warlords of New York, an expansion for the loot shooter, which marks the beginning of the second year in the life cycle of The Division 2. We visited the developers of Massive in Malmö, Sweden, to explain what new adventures await us in the add-on, how the endgame will be in the second year, and for part of the new content ourselves for two hours to play.
As the name suggests, the expansion goes back to New York. During the short trip to Coney Island in Episode 3, the division's agents look for the virologist Vitaly Tchernenko, who was kidnapped by renegade agents and the Last Man Battalion because of his connection to dollar flu creator Gordon Amherst during The Division 1 events , During this mission, Aaron Keener also reappeared, who at the end of the predecessor had seized the technology to create the deadly virus and initially went underground.
Eight months after the outbreak of the flu, Keener is now threatening to release a new, even more deadly version of the virus. To prevent this, the division begins hunting its nemesis by sending its agents back to the lawless hell of New York City. The city has been through a lot since the events of its predecessor. The hurricane, which is also parts of Washington D.C. has suffered much more damage in the Big Apple. Fractions like the Cleaner and Riker have continued to evolve despite losing their charismatic leaders and continue to dominate the streets of Manhattan.
Even if it goes back to Manhattan in Warlords of New York, there will be no reunion with famous streets from the first part such as Times Square or Madison Square Garden. The confrontation with Aaron Keener is in Lower Manhattan on the southern tip of the island. But iconic landmarks such as Wall Street, China Town and City Hall are also here. Overall, the playable area will consist of four districts, each controlled by a lieutenant from Aaron Keener.
Our job is to investigate in the areas in order to find out about these henchmen and thus ultimately face Keener himself. The structure of the game is completely open. That means we are free to choose the order in which we tackle each area and mission. There will be no progress based on level restrictions like in the main game. In this way, the plot is more integrated into the living world, which also determines what happens on the streets in New York. That means we have to deal with checkpoints, convoys and other events again.
The actual story is told in a total of five main and eight side missions. We can look forward to the return of familiar faces. For example, we are again dealing with Division Agent Faye Lau, who is still trying to sustain the Strategic Homeland Division's efforts in the city. JTF captain Roy Benitez and engineer Paul Rhodes are also back. A facility in the middle of the four boroughs, simply called Haven, serves as the base of operations. However, the developers did not want to reveal any further details.
In addition to the narrative expansion of the division universe, the developers also use the expansion for fundamental changes to the game systems of the loot shooter. In various live streams from the community team, the makers have already given insights into the so-called Gear 2.0, which hides a complete revision of the equipment system. The team is pursuing three central goals: streamlining the equipment, making loot more exciting and ensuring build diversity. The handling of items should be designed intuitively so that the quality of individual items can be seen more quickly by the player.
This revision also includes a new recalibration system that, among other things, allows attributes and talents to be permanently collected in a library. This eliminates the hassle of hoarding objects just because you may need a value again later
could. The abolition of skill levels, which will be replaced by a new skill tier system, is also intended to ensure that there is more diversity in the character builds. Builds designed to use skills should have as much relevance as pure DPS or tank builds.
With the add-on, our agents become more powerful not only through changed equipment. The developers have also raised the maximum level from 30 to 40. While we are chasing renegade agents in Manhattan, we can look forward to climbing stairs with correspondingly more powerful gear and thus more power for our character. But even after reaching the new maximum level, the player should keep a sense of progress. To this end, the developers are introducing a new endgame progression system in which the player can decide which character value he would like to develop further.
The range of skills will also be expanded. The add-on adds four more to the eight previous basic skills of The Division 2. Veterans can look forward to the return of the Sticky Bomb, which was part of the technical skills in the predecessor. Also new are Decoy, Firebrand and Shock Trap. However, the new skills are not simply unlocked, but must first be captured. These are the special skills that the four lieutenants of Aaron Keener have against you in the field. If you have defeated these bosses in the course of the action, you can capture their skills and use them for yourself.
We got a first glimpse of the innovations in a roughly two-hour preview session of the expansion. With a level 33 character, the developers drop us off in the district called Civic Center, where we are supposed to search for Theo Parnell, one of Aaron Keener's four lieutenants. To do this, we follow instructions on specific locations in the open game world. On the way there we are always caught up in the processes of the living game world.
As usual, the makers again rely heavily on so-called environment storytelling. This does not only include the various audio recordings that reveal interesting details to us. Places such as a shelter for animals created by survivors also contribute to our picture of the condition of survivors in New York eight months after the disaster. In addition to cute dogs, cats and rabbits, we also find people here who provide us with further information for our search for Parnell.
Already during the first fights on the streets of Manhattan we notice changes in the gameplay that result from the revision of the gear system. Since the character provided to us is not really geared towards the use of skills, we notice with some skills such as the healing drone that they no longer work as effectively as we are used to. When looking at the inventory, however, we immediately notice the clearly better intelligibility and comparability of the items. Overall, we don't find enough items during the playing time to really dive deeply into the new system.
Our investigation finally leads us to a main mission called "The Tombs". Here we fight our way through the Manhattan Detention Complex and accordingly have to deal with the Rikers as opponents. These have learned some exciting new tricks since the predecessor. So their snipers barricade themselves behind a shield that leaves almost no target area of the enemy unprotected. The strikers are now running towards us armed with two Uzis.
At the end of the mission, a full-blown boss fight against Theo Parnell is waiting for us. This is equipped with the Decoy ability and has accordingly placed virtual doubles of itself everywhere in the combat area. Finding the right target under these circumstances – especially when other enemies fire us up – is not that easy. All the more satisfying, however, when we finally gained the upper hand after more than ten minutes of fighting and picked up our prey: a special sniper rifle and the decoy skill.
As with the main game, the contents of the expansion are of course played through sooner or later. For a game like The Division 2, it is important to have a functioning endgame to keep the player on the ball. The developers also came up with some ideas for this as part of the add-on. An important aspect is supposed to be the revitalization of the Dark Zones, which could not develop the same attraction in The Division 2 as was the case in the predecessor. It should again focus on the interaction between players, be it hostile or friendly. However, the developers have not yet explained how exactly this should be achieved.
The end game of The Division 2: Warlords of New York will span the entire game world, both in Washington D.C. as well as New York City. Everything that is known from the previous endgame will of course be preserved. Repeatable missions, invasion mechanics and open world activities. The legendary level of difficulty in the main missions is intended to create a new challenge.
However, the developers' aim for the expansion was to bring a little more structure into the endgame process. This will take the form of so-called seasons. These are mini-campaigns lasting three months each and always have their own narrative background. For the division, it is important to complete various activities in order to achieve the respective goal of the season. So that there is no boredom, each of the three-month sections with special modifications should always create new challenges.
Manhunt will be new to the catalog of activities. The element of chasing the lieutenants from the add-on campaign is transformed into a recurring event in which a new goal has to be eliminated every season. During each season, you earn special experience points that flow into a special progress system that is specific to each season. In this way, various ranks are unlocked, which come with special rewards. There will also be a kind of Battle Pass system.
For veterans and newcomers
As the ultimate challenge, the developers continue to work on the second raid, which is due to appear sometime in the spring after the release of Warlords of New York. With the experience that the team has gained with the first raid at Washington Airport, the demands on teamwork, the mix of builds and tactics should increase again significantly. The raid, which is simply called Foundry, is made available to all players. In addition to a variant for level 40, there will also be a version of the raid for level 30 that players can tackle without the expansion.
With the expansion, the makers of Massive Entertainment want to lure experienced division veterans as well as inspire new players for the loot shooter. Warlords of New York will be available in two different versions. Those who already own The Division 2 can purchase the expansion at a price of around 30 euros. For 40 euros or 60 euros in an Ultimate variant, the add-on is also available for new players, including the main game. Newcomers can even decide whether they want to start from scratch and play the Washington campaign first, or whether they start the New York campaign directly with a level 30 character. Whether you're a newbie or a veteran, the fight against Aaron Keener starts on March 3, 2020, when The Division 2: Warlords of New York appears.
I look forward to returning to Manhattan.
For division veterans like me, going back to New York will be something special. I am particularly pleased that the developers are finally picking up on the predecessor's open plot. The disappearance of Aaron Keener at the end of the first part, along with one of the most dangerous biological technologies, was not an insignificant cliffhanger. I am just as excited about the continuation of the story of the dollar flu, but also about the playful innovations, especially the promising Gear 2.0. The previous system is too complex for my taste and can only really be seen through with a lot of time and theorycrafting. What I have seen of the new system so far gives me hope that in the future I will be able to make a decision for or against a certain item in a much more understandable way. For me there is still a big question mark behind the planned seasonal structure for the second year of The Division 2. Apart from the great increase in content by Warlords of New York, no new content seems to be planned for the near future. Only new challenges, rewards and modifiers every three months. It remains to be seen whether this is enough to keep the players happy.
The cleaners are also back in the game and are still convinced that they can solve all problems with fire. (Source: Ubisoft)
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