The extensive patch notes for The Division 2‘s big Title Update 6 have been posted by publisher Ubisoft. Overhauls to the game’s loot system are a big part of it, but this is also kind of exciting: “Added the option to add a dye to all armor pieces.” At last! The updates hit the game on Tuesday.
What is enough for a free expansion? We’ll find for The Division 2 this month, as the game’s second expansion, touted by Ubisoft as its “biggest,” starts rolling out this week.
Promised for this addition to Ubisoft’s shooter about taking back a besieged Washington DC are two big new missions, one set in the Pentagon and one in DARPA labs, both expected to extend the game’s story. The two missions added via July’s expansion were superb, as the look and flow of missions in this game have been a strong point.
Here’s an official description of each:
First Main Mission – Pentagon: Agents will discover the location of the perfusion bioreactor inside the Pentagon’s underground research facility. The Black Tusk have already infiltrated the lab and are attempting to extract the reactor.
Second Main Mission – DARPA Research Labs: Players must make their way through the Pentagon and into the DARPA Labs, as the Black Tusk are in the process of transporting the perfusion bioreactor through an abandoned Cold War tunnel network.
The missions will be accessible once players take control of a new safe house being added to the game. Cool, but the game’s map is not being expanded. Rather, these new missions, as with the July ones, will be levels that players load up via an in-game helicopter. There is no expansion to the game’s open world this time.
In addition to those missions, Ubisoft is adding a new specialization character class called the Technician, which will let them use a “multi-missile launcher,” according to the press release: “Agents can lock-on and hit up to six enemies (depending on available ammo). With a simple push of a button, six missiles are unleashed to seek out their targets.”
And there will be a new team elimination PvP mode and a new map.
All of this will go live on October 15 for people who bought the game’s year one pass and will go live on October 22 for those who did not.
Year one pass people get two more Classified Assignments, which have been medium-sized missions set in interesting locations and woven together with short audio-log-based stories. Previous Classified Assignments included missions set in a bank and an aquarium. The new ones will be set in a marina and in the Mexican Embassy. These Classified Assignments don’t get released to all players, at least not in the game’s first year.
A new raid initially slated for this episode has been delayed. According to the release: “The additional time allows the development team to focus on the overall quality of The Division 2, while developing a raid that will better meet the standards of its players.”
This amount of stuff actually measures up pretty closely to the game’s first sprinkling of additional content that followed its March release. Across the first few months, Ubisoft released a new specialization, a raid, three main missions, four classified assignments and a special three-zone challenge mode called the Expedition.
There actually is nothing like the Expeditions mode slated for this new episode, certainly not the addition of a much-requested return of things like the repeatable randomly generated Underground mode or Survival mode, which were added in the first nine months after the release of the first Division. The series’ creative director, Julian Gerighty, said as recently as last week that he wants to bring Survival mode back at some point. But, then again, Division 1 never had any expansions to its story, which the new game keeps getting.
Potentially most impactful of all, though, is all that is coming to The Division 2 on the 15th for all players outside of the Episodic update. There’s an overall game overhaul in terms of loot and balance, which has been detailed in recent State of the Game livestreams and was broken down in today’s press release:
Named Items overhauled
Inventory Management 2.0
Increased stash space
Rebalance of talents and weapons
Dark Zone Server Transfers
Updated Thieves’ Den Vendor
Dark Zone Supply Drops Changes
Occupied Dark Zone Ambushes
Normalization in Dark Zone changes
Conflict: Loadout Selection during map voting
Bonus armor visualization increased
Conflict: End of Match Rewards changes
Those changes are meant to make the general flow of the game more exciting and interesting. Will it work? Are the developers adding the right stuff? We’ll find out as we play it all starting next week.
Game developer Trick Dempsey recently started Googling to see if anyone had found a secret boss encounter in The Division 2, the giant Ubisoft game he helps make. “I was just like: I don’t [see] a video guide for finding this dude,” he said on today’s State of the Game developer stream. “There’s just nothing.”
Dempsey knew the boss was in the game. He had just triggered its appearance earlier today, before the stream. He was on the weekly stream to talk about some other stuff, but just had to mention this seemingly undiscovered secret. At around 11:30 a.m., he dropped some hints about it.
And what happens when you offer the players of your game even just a hint of where a secret might be? At about 1:05 p.m., a Reddit user posted that they’d found the boss. On Twitter, someone posted a video of its discovery at 1:32 p.m.
The boss was hidden in the Manning National Zoo mission that was added to Division 2 in late July. In the stream, Dempsey and host Hamish Bode noted that it was not an obvious secret to find. There are no prompts in the game for it, no mysterious objects that have an interaction icon next to them.
“It’s there,” Dempsey added. “I tested it. I played it today just to make certain.” He did make the activation process sound tricky. “Man, it takes a while to find him, but it’s something.”
“The only other tip I will give,” Dempsey said, “is if you find yourself in one of our levels and you have about a football field’s length in which you are doing nothing, you should probably look around.
Sure enough, within a couple of hours, dedicated players made the most of those clues.
The video shows that the boss is called The Agony and is activated after the player shoots several beehives in the zoo level and then interacts with an exhibit of bees and butterflies. The Agony looks like one of the game’s heavily armored enemies from the Outcast faction. He wears a hazmat suit and swings a hammer.
On Reddit, user ArcLight079 posted the discovery and noted the boss carries a stinger hive, an item that can send small drones at players. Arclight broke down the steps to activate the boss:
so after crocodile pit, in exhibit area before you proceed to monorail, huge open area. shoot 5 bee hives- one straight from entrance , one near ocelot exhibit, one on high ground at wolf exhibit, one near butterfly exhibit, one in mainteance area behind monorail entrance, to left of it, hidden behind cars. after shooting them , go to butterfly exhibit, panel now can be interacted with. secret is done.
One user speculated that the bee references and the Agony name could be an homage to the bee-wielding Metal Gear Solid enemy The Pain.
The approximate two hours it took for the discovery is about the same amount of time it took for a player to pick up on a tease from The Division 2’s creative director in August and spot the one police car in the game that includes an intentional misspelling on its doors.
The note atop the thread in The Division 2 subreddit was awkward. “The moderators have allowed for many congratulation raid completion posts,” it began. This was one of many threads in celebrating various groups of gamers for clearing TheDivision 2’s daunting eight-player raid. But, it continued: “This one is unfortunately being locked due to increased nastiness.”
The thread was posted in mid-July by a lawyer who plays games on her PS4 under the name The Grapple Girl. She and seven other female players had finished The Division 2’s Operation Dark Hours raid, which was added to Ubisoft’s cover-based shooter in May. The raid, the first one for the series, was only accessible to players who’d poured dozens of hours into the game, leveled up and equipped themselves with the best gear. It challenged players to take on four tough fights, starting with a shootout with a heavily armored character called Boomer in the airport’s entrance and culminating on the tarmac with an assault on a drone-launching truck called Razorback.
The Grapple Girl was proud of what she and her group had done, something that was unusual to see in a competitive game space that is predominantly made up of men. Eight women who played a fairly popular shooter had found each other online and overcome the hardest challenge in their game of choice.
“Congratulations to the ladies of Valkyrie Rising who achieved the FIRST EVER ALL FEMALE raid clear on PS4 last night,” The Grapple Girl wrote. She appended an image of eight female avatars in tactical gear standing on top of a truck just after conquering the raid.
The Grapple Girl’s thread was upvoted heavily and included numerous congratulatory replies. But it was also loaded with negative comments.
“Not sure why gender matters in a video game, but congrats,” one user wrote.
“Why is this a thing?” another wrote. “My gf plays with me and is just as good as I am so we don’t really need special accolades based on gender.”
Some Reddit users challenged The Grapple Girl’s assertion that the Valkyrie Rising group really was the world’s first all-female team. Did she have proof?
She replied to that one, “Do you know of any other women raid group who beat it? Please let us know. We’ve outreached to TD2 and done our due diligence to search. That’s another reason for this post.”
More negativity followed, and the thread was soon locked.
Valkyrie Rising started in late June. It’s a Discord-based matchmaking group for women who play TheDivision 2. It emerged from The Grapple Girl’s desire to find women with whom she could tackle the Operation Dark Hours raid. Women play any and every game under the sun, but finding seven other women to play a Division 2 raid wasn’t the easiest task. The Grapple Girl was in a Discord-based clan consisting of hundreds of Division 2 players and, as best she could tell, there weren’t even seven other women in it.
She began reaching out online, and as word spread, she eventually started the Valkyrie Rising Discord, where women who was interested could connect.
Her efforts caught the eye of gamers such as Ashley, a data entry specialist who plays on PlayStation 4 under the name Athena19. She’d been feeling uncomfortable in the Division 2 clan she was in. “It just started to get kind of toxic,” she said over a Skype interview. She found another one she liked more. It had some players who were able to take her through the raid in about half an hour and, even more surprising, this clan had some women in it. “I was even more interested because I hadn’t met a single other lady playing The Division at all, ever,” she said. Ashley soon heard about plans for Valkyrie Rising and an all-female raid run. She joined in.
Ashley is a lifelong gamer. As a kid. she played Doom with her dad, got into PlayStation growing up and has been into The Division for some time. Gaming has been, among other things, a way for her to connect with people and get around the anxiety she’s experienced since the age of 12 when, as she tells it, she was boogie-boarding near a beach in North Carolina and was attacked by a bull shark. “It just came out by me, and it bit me on the leg, and I had over 300 stitches,” she said. It left her shaken for a long time.
Valkyrie Rising was a new way for Ashley to find comfort in online gaming. With The Grapple Girl and six other women, she tried tackling the raid. The VR group tried a few times over the course of the week, learning tactics and developing better chemistry. On Monday, July 1, they tried again and pulled it off. Ashley streamed it on her Twitch channel, where her username is sharksurvivor101.
One of the reasons the women of Valkyrie Rising were so excited about finishing the raid back in July was that so few players of any gender had cleared it or even been able to access it in The Division 2’s endgame, given the skill and playing time required.
“It’s difficult enough to get a people that have the correct builds to begin with to even complete or do the raid,” said Korrie, a doctor and member of Valkyrie Rising who was also part of the group that cleared the raid (she’s on PSN as kdubsdo). A lot of players just weren’t powerful enough to take it on. They may not have the wherewithal to deal with the game’s random-number-generator grind that constrains the hunt for the most statistically favorable gear. Or, as Korrie put it to rhyme: “You know, you have to pray to RNJesus to get those sweet gear pieces.”
Watching the stream of Valkyrie Rising’s successful raid, most of the action is similar to what you’d see in other raid clears at the time. Everyone’s running pretty much the same build with the chem launcher and hive revive equipped. They kite Boomer. They call out their shots to take down Razorback. The main difference is what the voices of the players doing the raid sound like. When they clear it, they’re as euphoric as any other group.
Completion of the raid is rare. To this day, on PlayStation 4, the trophy for clearing it has only been achieved by 3.4% of players. That percentage was even lower in early July. The Valkyrie Rising team was excited to tell the world they’d pulled it off. “We wanted to, just, you know, [say], ‘See… ladies did it,” Ashley said. “And we thought it would kind of help get more ladies to play and kind of join up.”
To get the word out, Ashley e-mailed a group photo of the Valkyrie Rising team to Kotaku. The Grapple Girl made that Reddit thread. The game’s developers noticed, offering a congratulations during the official weekly State of the Game livestream. Other women playing the game noticed, too. Even as that Reddit thread went ablaze, women were sending private messages to The Grapple Girl saying they wanted in.
Valkyrie Rising, just a few dozen women early on, grew from 20 to 70 and eventually more than 100 women, networked together for the opportunity to play with one another. They are from around the world, with members in America, England, Australia and more. They’re not so much a gaming clan of their own as a matchmaking group where women who are part of any Division communities can still find each other if they’re in the mood to play with more women. Valkyrie Rising’s admins ask new users to submit to a verification process, usually involving a selfie or voice chat or verification from an existing member. The goal, The Grapple Girl said, is to allow anyone who identifies as a woman to feel at ease.
“It’s all just really positive,” said Korrie. “Everyone has a similar kind of experience that we initially did when we found each other, which was just [that it’s] so exciting to be in a positive environment with other female gamers where they don’t feel judged because of their gender.”
Playing with other women has been a relief for some of the members of Valkyrie Rising. It gives them a break from some of the sexism that can arise when they’re playing with random people online and just trying to have fun. “There are definitely women that we play with regularly that get the comments about how their voice is sexy, and it makes them very uncomfortable,” Korrie said.
Playing alongside other women can be empowering. Ashley recalled a recent experience in The Division 2’s treacherous Dark Zone, where players can group up cooperatively but also ambush one another. She was in it with several other women from Valkyrie Rising when they came across a male player with an open mic. “He immediately started, like, harassing us and saying stupid stuff, but it was nice because we were in a group, so we could kind of just like laugh it off.” In the parlance of the Dark Zone, Ashley and her crew went rogue on the guy. “Oh yeah, we wiped him out like a billion times until he got sick of it.” He kept coming back, she said. “We just kept sniping him.”
Any negativity around Valkyrie Rising’s existence has left its founder unfazed. “Our response is always the same,” The Grapple Girl said over e-mail regarding how she deals with skepticism about the group. “VR is necessary to create a safe space for women in light of the negativity that can be found surrounding the words ‘female gamer.’” To the why-does-this-matter crowd, she says: “representation and inclusion matter.”
Members of Valkyrie Rising are now tackling new challenges. Ashley’s been trying to find a way to clear an easier version of the raid with fewer than the recommended eight players. The Valkyrie Rising group hosts weekly speedrun challenges, offers training for women who want to learn the mechanics of the raid and has been expanding to encompass players of Borderlands 3. The group will likely also have spots for women who play the upcoming Call of Duty and Ghost Recon Breakpoint.
“We all share in the same goal as found in VR’s welcome and rules – to play, play hard, play smart, play better,” The Grapple Girl said, hyping up the idea of more women joining the Valkyrie Rising Discord. She hopes any women who are interested in joining in to message “thegrapplegirl” on PSN or Discord. And, of course, The Division 2’s developers plan to add more raids to the game. The women of Valkyrie Rising will be ready for them.
Ending a month-long hiatus, The Division 2’s otherwise weekly State of the Game stream returned today with promises of a wave of encouraging changes to the game’s loot, and a change in how content will be beta-tested, that should make the game’s season pass a less regrettable purchase.
Content developer Hamish Bode and game designer Nikki Kuppens spent most of the stream outlining alterations to Division 2’s loot system, acknowledging complaints that many players have drifted from the March 2018 game because they find its endgame to be an unrewarding grind.
They also revealed that these changes will debut in another public test server (PTS) phase that will be available in the coming days or weeks, leading to an October launch of its sixth major update. That update will include The Division 2’s second large episodic add-on.
This time around, the PTS will not include any story-based missions that are coming in the next episode—a welcome change, given that the last one wound up offering all those missions for free to PTS players weeks before anyone else, even though the game’s publisher, Ubisoft, has been selling a $40 season pass that was supposed to give paying customers a one-week headstart on such missions before they would go live for free in the main game. Making them available even earlier for PC-only PTS players, as the developers did for the test period before Division 2‘s first big downloadable episode, undermined that.
“We’ve heard your feedback about future content being spoiled on the PTS, missions and things like that,” Bode said. “So those narrative pieces of content will not be on the PTS phases this time around.”
The changes to loot will seem granular to non-players, but to those who’ve crawled through the game’s virtual Washington, D.C. taking on missions and fighting open-world enemies hoping to score the best guns and armor drops, they present at least the potential of a much more rewarding game.
The update will offer a new view of the game’s map, which will show that specific types of gear will be available to get in specific missions or zones in the open world. The Division games have always been Tom Clancy-branded Diablo—in other words, games in which players are expected to repeat the same content for dozens or hundreds of hours, hoping for better and better-scored loot to drop. The new map view will help players know where to focus to get the loot they want.
For example, players who want better holsters will see certain missions or zones in the game where enemies will tend to drop holsters. The same will be true for any other type of gear, and ever for the specific (mostly fictional) brands of gear. Division 2 rewards players for getting multiple pieces of gear of the same brand, so such guidance from the new map view or where to find them should be helpful. will be helpful. All of these farming locations will change daily, Kuppens said. Players who want to keep running missions to get, say, those better holsters will be directed to different areas each day to keep trying to acquire better ones.
Gear in Division 2 is smothered in statistics, some of which are color-coded to indicate their tendency to amplify offensive (red), defensive (blue), or skill-based (yellow) attributes. Many items and weapons also have special perks that activate if a player has the right number of overall perks of a certain color across all their gear. This system, complex as it sounds, has frustrated players who want to try different builds with different combos of gear but can only do so while tweaking what their overall total of blue, red, and yellow attributes are.
An in-game recalibration system hasn’t helped, since it has only allowed players to swap attributes of one color from one piece of gear with an attribute of the same color. Want to equip some gloves but also up your count of blue attributes? You couldn’t, if the gloves only had red attributes. That will no longer be an issue, Kuppens said. Players will now be able to recalibrate and swap attributes of different colors. That should give players many more ways to wind up with the ideal number of red, blue, or yellow attributes—again, a very granular but potentially very impactful change.
Other changes promised include a reduction from six to four of the number of rare gear pieces that a player needs to collect and equip to activate a gear set’s special abilities, the addition of more than 30 new, named items, an increase in the player’s capacity to hold crafting materials, and an expansion of their inventory stash to 300 slots. That last increase is something for which the game’s fanbase has been clamoring for months, and was announced by Bode during a seemingly spontaneous cut-in today during the stream’s regular ending montage of fan-submitted screenshots.
All of the promised loot, reclaibration, and crafting changes are detailed in an official summary on The Division 2‘s website.
Not mentioned in today’s stream are changes to the game’s PVP and Dark Zone sections, which will be the topic of next Wednesday’s show. The developers also chose not to discuss the meat of the big second episode, which is supposed to involve the addition of the Pentagon and combat missions set in it. Given the date of today’s stream, that seems a sensible thing to save for another day.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
Video games can inspire us do strange things. For example, there I was yesterday playing The Division 2, checking whether the shadow or reflection of an obelisk in the game fell upon the statue of a naked woman in a certain sexual way. It wasn’t my idea. It was in the game.
This misadventure began when I turned to my colleague, Kotaku editor-at-large Riley MacLeod, and asked him if he wanted to hear a good video game audio log. Riley’s a good sport so he turned his chair around to face our office TV.
I played him one of the collectible logs in a newly added part of Ubisoft’s post-disaster Division 2 world. The new section is set on the grounds of the fictional Kenly College where there is loot to gain, mysteries to solve and, my favorite, audio logs to collect.
I love in-game audio logs in general, so I’m always pleased to find good new ones. The college contains a bunch, including a trio that are part of a student podcast recorded by a student named Eve Garcia. In the first installment, she talks about the founding of the college. In the second, she talks about the reasons it went co-ed; apparently, the change was less about progressive values and more about trying to earn more revenue after the potential male student body was depleted by World War I.
The third installment of the podcast is about the architecture on the Kenly grounds. First, Garcia shared her thoughts on the obelisk: “Could there be a more phallic symbol just hanging out in the quad? We get it. You were a men’s organization. You need the penis beacon to light your way. It’s just super weird.”
I turned to Riley. See? These games have political ideas in them. You just need to dig for some of it.
Riley was intrigued but wasn’t sure whether we were supposed to be taking Garcia seriously. As we listened on, he wondered if we were meant to see her as ridiculous.
A few seconds later, she talks about a nearby statue of a woman: “… that, like, weird silver lady? You know why that’s there, right? Some chick in the ‘70s got tired of staring at the big dick in the quad, and she was like, ‘We need a naked chick in the quad to counter-balance that shit.’ That’s some white feminist nonsense. Like, not to body-shame or whatevs, but just throwing a naked silver lady that just blinds the fuck out of you on sunny days in front of the library does not offset the huge marble dong that you can see from space.”
I thought it was pretty funny and that the character was making some solid points about how this kind of stuff works, but I couldn’t rule out Riley’s idea that the audio logs could have been meant as more of a mockery of feminist critique.
Soon, though, that didn’t matter, because the next thing Garcia said was:
“And I swear to god: sometimes if that angle is right, that obelisk is right between her tits and she’s grabbing it, like… the miror-reflection titty-fucking thing is like so not what the artist intended. I probably shouldn’t smoke and then record this podcast. Good thing this shit’s not live.”
Riley wondered if Garcia’s description was accurate. Was she talking about a shadow cast on the statue from the obelisk? And could we see that shadow in-game?
The obelisk seemed too far away, but the in-game weather at the time was overcast. Later, when I checked again during a sunnier in-game day, it was clear the shadows couldn’t reach.
In re-listening, I realized Garcia was talking about the reflection. But the statue isn’t reflective enough.
I didn’t mind this, but Riley took issue. If the audio log says a thing is possible, he reasoned, it should happen in the game. We had a brief but serious discussion about this. Then we stopped. This was too silly. After all, we were talking about whether it looked like one video game statue was trying to have sex with another. We moved on. But, hey, how about those audio logs?
Ubisoft’s sprawling loot shooter The Division 2 just received its biggest free update since its March launch…except most of it isn’t really free until next week, except for two parts that won’t even be free then, but some of the free stuff won’t be out until the week after next, and one promised part is on ice and…Shall we start this over?
On Tuesday, The Division 2’s Title Update 5, which happens to also be considered the game’s first episodic expansion, was added to the game.
There’s a chart for what’s in it:
The update includes two new missions that extend the game’s story, one of which I played last night and liked a lot. That mission, called Manning National Zoo, involves hunting down the leader of the enemy Outcast faction while fighting enemies throughout dilapidated wildlife exhibits. If it seemed like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed artists were showing off with their downloadable content last week, well, check out what their Division 2 artists can do with a mission set in a zoo:
The mission took me about 90 minutes to solo, with a few tricky skirmishes and some time spent just soaking in the sights. It’s a very fun mission with a lot of eye candy as you fight your way through habitats set up for lions, crocodiles, birds and more. There isn’t that much wildlife around, but there are a few neat creature cameos.
Like much of Episode One, the zoo mission is available in The Division 2 now for people who bought the $40 year-one pass. It’ll be available for free for all players on July 30. The idea is that The Division 2’s downloadable content will be available for free, unlike that of its predecessor. The paid approach to DLC backfired in the first Division when Ubisoft tried to charge for new Underground and Survival modes while the base game was essentially on fire with problems and player complaints. By the end of The Division’s second year, Ubisoft was releasing a huge map-expanding expansion for free, a sign of things to come.
Aside from the story missions, the other major new content in the update is the Expedition, a new set of missions being offered in three parts. The first, accessible this week, is fine so far but not great. It’s set in Kenly College’s library and kicks off an overall investigation into the fate of a convoy that went missing nearby. It’s best to think of each part as a medium-sized mission with some goals to complete.
The game’s developers have pitched the Expeditions as more puzzle-based content that will ask players to think through what they’re doing. This first installment in the library isn’t that much of a puzzle. It starts with the discovery of an “echo” hologram that depicts members of the Outcast carting around some improvised explosive devices. The player can activate parts of the hologram to trigger what’s described as investigation. The investigations amount to going to different parts of the library, getting into shootouts with Outcasts, solving some basic puzzles such as activating four power nodes in the correct order, and picking up some audio logs along the way. The gunfights are slightly more intricate than most of the standard story missions, asking players to, say, stay in a specific area while a hack occurs, but they’re not complex. The audio logs are scant but good, as they’re more in the style of the ones from the first Division, telling stories of people in the college from before the societal collapse rather than after.
Missing from the Expedition is something called a Mastery System, which the developers said would incentivize replaying the investigations. Last week, the developers said it was not coming together well enough to release yet. A second Expedition area opens next week for all players (as well as the first one for those who don’t have the year-one pass), with a third to follow presumably a week later. It’s not clear if this three-parter is the only Expedition or if there will be more.
The new update also includes an easier difficulty for the game’s raid. It supports matchmaking and is intended to enable more players to experience its sequence of events, but the new “discovery” difficulty level also limits loot payouts: This version of the raid won’t drop the elite gear that’s obtainable by completing the default version.
Ubisoft’s developers have shown that the update includes a new flashlight pistol mod, answering player complaints that some areas of the game were too dark. It also appears to add a batch of audio logs that provide more information about major characters. It’s accompanied by a timed “apparel event” that rewards players who complete various in-game activities with silly, gaudy summer vacation wear.
Perhaps more important than any of this, though, is that the update is overhauling the game’s gadget-based skill system. While the game’s new content isn’t available to all players yet, these balance changes are. They ratchet up the power of players’ skills, be they shields, drones, turrets, seeker mines, or whatever, while also greatly reducing the cooldown on them. This follows months of frustration from players who said that skills were too weak to build a character around.
I’ve played most of the game solo and from day one have relied on skills such as the assault drone to help me through tough encounters. From the start, I had to manage my approach to in-game combat around long waits while my drone would cool down. I’d activate it, get it to attack some enemies while I focused on others, then wait more than a minute while it stopped working before I could use it again. After the patch, my drone is a near-constant companion. Its cooldown dropped to about 38 seconds, and with some gadget upgrades, I’ve shortened that further. It’s also clearly more powerful and has been effectively perforating enemies. This feels different and, so far, much more satisfying.
The game’s changes to skills were trialed on a PC-only public test server earlier this month. Strangely, all of the aforementioned content was as well, meaning that year-one pass owners are actually not the first members of The Division 2 player base to go through Episode One’s new missions. That’s provoked some discussion about what value the year-one pass has. Currently, the pass gives owners a chance to play stuff early while earning loot they can retain in the game.
The year-one pass also gives owners access to a slew of small but enjoyable missions called Classified Assignments, which actually weren’t on the PTS. The two that came out in May were polished and fun, with little audio log narratives threaded throughout. Two more are part of this update for year-one pass owners, with no announcement about when they’ll be available to others. I’ve played one of the two new ones set in an aquarium. It involves rescuing some civilians while fighting Outcast enemies and learning how the people and fish coped during the societal disaster afflicting The Division’s world. I liked it.
There’s no single thing for players to sink their teeth into with this Title Update 5 / Episode One addition to The Division 2, and there’s nothing about it, cool Classified Assignments aside, that makes it easy to recommend the game’s year-one pass. There are, however, myriad interesting things being added to the game via this update, and at least a short burst of fresh adventures to experience. Of course, it’ll take weeks to see how all that’s been added and tweaked shakes out. As a sign of the heft of the game’s free updates, it’s encouraging. As a marker of the developers’ progress with improving the game, it shows the team moving in a good direction.
There’s going to be a lot less to complain about regarding The Division 2 if a batch of features going live in a test build this week make it into the proper game later this month. Ubisoft’s impressive but contentious shooter appears to be getting flashlights (much requested!), badly needed buffs for gadget skills, and even matchmaking for its raid, though there’s a big catch to that last one.
The changes are all part of the Public Test Server build for the game’s Title Update 5, scheduled for a July release. Anyone who own Ubisoft’s cover-based shooter on PC could start accessing the new PTS yesterday, though a bug appears to have delayed some key content until today.
Different aspects of Title Update 5 are being tested in phases. Today, PTS players can test two new story missions that will be part of the update.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Ubisoft is letting them try the game’s notoriously difficult eight player raid on a new “discovery” difficulty setting that will allow for matchmaking. This is one of the bigger deals in the update.
When The Division 2’s raid launched in May, many players complained that the new multiplayer mission wouldn’t allow for matchmaking, despite a promise in marketing materials that “every activity” in the game would have it. Instead, players had to manually sync up with seven others, which Ubisoft developers said they felt was important to assembling groups that would work through the raid as an effective team. (Similar games, like Destiny 2, have taken the same approach.) The developers later said they would work on a compromise offering. It’s unclear if this is the entirety of it. Matchmaking support for an easier version of the raid will allow more players to see its content, but said “discovery” version of the raid won’t pay out the game’s top loot rewards.
The PTS’ patch notes also describe a slew of buffs being made to the game’s turrets, drones and other equippable gadget-based skills. These were badly needed, as players striving for the most powerful character builds have all been running the same gun-centric loadouts. Some of these changes were demonstrated in the weekly State of the Game developer stream last week, with more detailed in new PTS patch notes yesterday. While the nature of the PTS means the buffs being tested may change before release in the main game, they should lead to dramatic increases in damage for gadget skills—five-fold in some cases.
Somewhere in the PTS, players will be able to find flashlight attachments for pistols. Believe it or not, this is something players have clamored for. Parts of the game can get pretty dark.
As many problems as this Public Test Server might solve, it’s also introducing a new one. Later this week, from Friday through Sunday, the test build will feature the game’s new puzzle- and exploration-based Expeditions mode, giving testing players a big head start on what the game’s live content manager, Yannick Banchereau, recently told us will be a mysterious, puzzle-based experience. Letting PC test players have a crack at them all this week certainly seems like it’ll spoil some of that challenge. After all, the inclusion of coded messages in The Division 2’s pre-release beta led to those messages being cracked weeks before the game was fully released. In response to a player complaining about Expeditions being offered to PC PTS players, The Division 2’s creative director, Julian Gerighty replied: “Too late for this one – will consider for the next.”
Title Update 5, which includes the new story missions, the Expeditions and presumably the features or some variation of them being tested on the PTS, is expected to go live later in the month. It’ll all be free, though players who have paid for the game’s year-one pass will get a week’s head start, presumably shortly after the PTS ends.
So much for deer in The Division 2 not dropping meat or any other rewards when you shoot them. The animals scurrying through the game’s post-disaster Washington, DC recently started dropping special ammunition.
The developers said last week that the issue would be fixed possibly during a maintenance period last Friday, but we’ve still been able to kill some animals in the game to get bullets. We’ve gotten them from dogs, eagles and rats, but not crows and deer, for some reason.
We’ve also noticed that even when an animal kill doesn’t drop ammo, it helps fill a meter that eventually leads to a special ammo drop.
All of this stands out, because, for the game’s first three months of existence, it offered no gameplay benefit for killing animals.
The issues are the result of a revision to the system that governs when ammo drops for the special weapons players can wield once they reach The Division 2’s endgame. Since the game’s launch in March, players had complained that special weapon ammo seemed to drop too infrequently. Last week’s Title Update 4 patch added a meter that fills up, notch by notch, as players shoot their way through the game. Score enough kills and the meter fills, causing the next killed enemy to drop special weapon ammo.
It’s a useful system when you’re in a firefight with a crowd of enemies. If you score enough kills, that meter fills, triggering a special ammo drop which you then grab and use to unleash an attack with your high-level minigun, grenade launcher or other top weapon. That flow feels very different if getting to that empowering moment involves shooting some dogs, deer or rats along the way.
We are certain that the animal kills dropping ammo is a bug. On Wednesday, during the weekly State of the Game developer stream, host Hamish Bode said “apparently killing wildlife gives you specialization ammo” as he rattled off a bunch of issues tied to the new update. We’re less sure if the developers mean to let animal kills help fill the meter that leads to a special ammo drop. We’ve asked for clarification.
In this video, our animal kills help fill the game’s new special weapon ammo meter
On Saturday and again today, we tested things for ourselves. In one trial, we couldn’t get killed animals to drop special weapons ammo. In another, we got it from shooting dogs three times (please don’t judge us), even though deer never did. Shooting a crow when the meter was filling seemed to trigger the sound effect for the ammo drop, but no ammo appeared. We’re not sure if the specific animals caused a difference or if that’s just how it broke down in our limited tests. We also found that killing any animal at least helped fill the ammo meter.
The animal issue is weird but far from game-breaking. It stands out more as an example of how design tweaks and bugs can alter a game’s themes and values. Before this ammo meter was added, the Division 2 developers’ efforts to not reward killing the game’s animals were conspicuous. The game depicts a ravaged Washington, DC full of enemy fighters who will drop weapons, gear, ammo and other supplies when the player kills them. It’s signaling that it’s fine and even encouraged to shoot armed people who would otherwise do you harm.
The game’s striking rendition of the wrecked city also shows nature’s resurgent power, as plants grow beyond their urban enclosures and deer and other wildlife amble down roads full of abandoned, damaged cars. All the animals can be killed, but they dropped no loot, no supplies, no nothing. This choice signaled that the developers saw no value, at least in this piece of interactive fiction, in killing animals, despite the survival trappings of the setting. That choice for animals to drop nothing useful even sparked an entertaining debate in an earlier State of the Game about whether killing a deer should earn a player meat. That changed with this update. There’s suddenly a good reason to shotgun some deer and snipe some birds. As the game gets more patches, we’ll soon see how much of that was unintentional.
E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.
Just when we thought we were done scouring the streets of NYC, The Division 2 drags us back in. While the first and second episode updates for The Division 2 take players to the National Zoo and the Pentagon, the third episode brings players back to the big apple.
Due out in early 2020, The Division 2‘s episode three sends players on a manhunt that will take them back to the setting of the first game. The cinematic trailer below shows characters traipsing towards the main city from Coney Island.
Other The Division 2 news announced during Ubisoft’s E3 2019 press conference includes the game’s second raid, due out this fall. Sounds like there’s a whole lot of world saving left to do.