The Division didn't have the smoothest of launches back in 2016. The game had bugs, Ubisoft messed with the economy early on, and there was a lack of strong endgame available, with the first Incursion mission not living up to expectations. But as has been the case with recent Ubisoft titles, the publisher and developer stuck with the game. By time the 1.8 update rolled around in December of last year, the sentiment on the game had turned.
Just in time for Ubisoft to announce The Division 2 it seems. The sequel to the online multiplayer shooting role-playing game was fully announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2018. The Division 2 moves the game's environment from New York City to Washington, D.C. taking place seven months after the initial outbreak that forms The Division's post-apocalyptic lore.
Ubisoft promises a title that won't make the same mistakes as the first game, while improving upon features players loved. While New York only had two biomes, Washington D.C. moves to a total of six spread across the downtown area, including swamps and forest areas reclaimed by nature. There's a renewed focus on endgame play, with three weapon specializations for max-level players and a raid available at launch.
There's some space before The Division 2 launches, giving Ubisoft time to prove it can deliver on promises. USgamer spoke with Ubisoft Massive Senior Producer Cristian Pana about his team's plans for The Division 2.
USgamer: So why the choice to move to Washington D.C.?
Ubisoft Massive Senior Producer Cristian Pana: So we wanted to go from New York City, right? From the narrow streets of Manhattan. We wanted to move to a city that would offer us much more diversity and different opportunities for encounters.
We did the research and searched multiple cities; there was only one choice for us and that was Washington D.C. That's the seat of power in the U.S. This is where The Division HQ actually also is. It felt for us very natural to go there and looking at Washington D.C. offered this diverse environment. All these biomes that offer us a great opportunity. The Washington Monument is a great example because its wide spaces allows us to create different tactical opportunities for players.
Why these specific sections of downtown? Mostly for the landmarks?
CP: Of course, we looked at that. When we made the choice, we worked with architects, Special Forces, people that are from the city, urban explorers, researchers and so on to pick where was the best place for us to create this environment. So we ended up with that section of the map that you've seen. Of course we have some surprises in the post-launch that may extend on that.
You had two biomes for the previous Division and you have six biomes for The Division 2. One of them looked interesting, sort of the reclaimed nature. How was it designing that, because the first game was very urban?
The bit of nature that we saw seemed to have a slightly different feel, almost like the jungle in Ghost Recon: Wildlands.
CP: So what is very interesting and actually gives the artists a lot of power in this game is when we were thinking, "Okay, what would happen in a city seven months after an event like that? With nature, with everything? When infrastructure stops working?" Nature will take over the place. Instead of the concrete jungle that you have in big cities like that, nature will take over. You'll have the overgrowth of all the patches that exist in parks and so on. Because there's nobody to take care of them anymore. We have to imagine how that would that take over the city. And of course it allows us to create beautiful atmospheric places for players to enjoy.
It feels like you can move from The Division right into The Division 2. Did you guys think that you needed to push out the mechanics more in order to really justify that "2" or is it more that you wanted the player to have a smooth continuity between games?
CP: The way we look at it is that we want to improve on everything from the first game. It's not only for the players from the first game, but also for new players. What's at the core of our game is RPG progression. So we push that up on that and have a deeper RPG that empowers even more of the players. We thought that if you start fresh with a new experience from start, you're going to feel all these new elements that we're going to bring in to create a better experience for everyone.
One of the things mentioned with the focus on endgame are the three specialization weapons. If you pick one of those are you locked into that forever?
CP: No, there's a choice that comes at level 30. So when you finish your campaign, we have a very long progression. And once you're there, besides some mysteries that you can uncover, you have the opportunity to choose one of the specializations. That comes with the signature weapon that you've seen in the demo, but you're not locked into it. It just empowers you to see what you want to do. Maybe when you play with your friends, they will have a different specialization which allows you to synchronize better, but it doesn't lock you from actually progressing in all of them.
Is the high-level content aimed towards the idea that players will be in teams of different specializations, or is there not even a consideration of balance?
CP: We build it for any type of player, right? So you can play alone, or you can play up to four players co-op when you progress in all the activities that we have. And the specializations that are coming right at the end of the campaign will unlock new opportunities. For the first time in The Division we have a raid and that's going to be a very, very hard challenge. You will not be able to complete that alone. You have to work with your friends and synergize with their playstyle to make sure that you're going to beat that type of challenge.
For fans of the first Division's Dark Zone, is that's something that they can expect moving forward with The Division 2? And how will that change?
CP: We're definitely going to have the Dark Zone. We wanted to improve on the Dark Zone experience because we saw during the post-launch of the first game, we did a lot of work to respond to our community. The community was very vocal for the Dark Zone and what we wanted to create there. And we want to push that even further. So we're going to have a revised and much improved version of the Dark Zone in The Division 2 for sure. At launch.
Part of the demo was an area where you took the Air Force One crash site from the True Sons and then they try to take it back. How is the flow for that in-game? If you take a site, will that eventually be taken back or is that just, once you take it, it's yours?
CP: That's a very great question. We don't feature it in the demo, because the demo is short. It's very hard for us to express what we want to do in the game in 15 minutes. But to answer your question, we have what we call the Living World system that will be the beating heart of the city. And with that comes different types of activities and different positions.
That control point is one of the activities: you see that Air Force One has crashed. It's taken over by the True Sons faction and they create an outpost to control that region. It contains equipment that is very important for them. You capture it in the demo and then you continue doing different activities; what will happen is maybe when you come later to see that base, it's been taken back by that faction or another one. So everything is interconnected; there are things that will happen while you are not around.
You're having the raid at launch, but what other high-level PVE challenges can players expect?
CP: We look at what we did in the first game; how do we push that even further for the sequel? The Dark Zone is not only PVP, but it comes with a PVE experience. It's a place where you can create your own story, because it doesn't have a narrative to it. Then we have all kinds of activities from the first game that will allow you to use your new specialization. We have War Tiers that will be coming at launch and stuff like that. It's a new hardcore type of experience.
So will there be any situations like the line for the laptop?
CP: That is a very good question. Things like that happen; I think it was seen as a fun thing by the community and then we responded very fast and we fixed it. So we're going to be there listening to our community. Making sure that we respond super-fast. Making sure that everything that we put out there is going to be absolutely spotless.
The Division 2 is going to have significant post-launch content. When The Division 2 launches is The Division going to be left behind completely?
CP: To be very honest, our focus is on The Division 2 and making that shine. Listening to community like we did in the first game and making sure that we are applying that knowledge to our production on The Division 2. We want to continue to support the first game of course. We are not going to shut down the servers.
There's still a signifcant amount of time before The Division 2 hits launch. In the meantime, Ubisoft has beta periods planned to get veteran and neophyte players testing all the new content. You can find out more about the beta sign-up by checking our guide hub, where we have everything else we know about The Division 2. You can also pick up the first game, which is vastly improved, for just $9.99 on Xbox One during Amazon's Prime Day!
The Division 2 is coming to Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4 on March 15, 2019.