Ubisoft dropped a release date and confirmed setting yesterday for its upcoming sequel to online-only shooter-RPG hybrid The Division, with launch for The Division 2 slated for March 15th, 2019 and an open-world game environment set in Washington, DC. Beyond the few trailers for the game we’ve seen thus far, and yesterday’s extensive gameplay demo, we haven’t been told too much about how the game will differ from its predecessor and what fans of the first should expect.
Luckily, The Verge got to go hands-on with a limited four-person co-op mission this morning, and Massive Entertainment’s Mathias Karlson, the game director on The Division 2, sat down to go over some of the more broad details about the game. There’s still a lot we don’t know about The Division 2, but we got some crucial answers about player progression from the first game to this new sequel and the critical end-game portion of the game after players hit max level and complete the main campaign.
Here’s five takeaways from our time with the game and our chat with Karlson.
1. The Division 2’s first year of expansions will be free for all players
Unlike with the first game, The Division 2’s post-launch roadmap for its first year will involve three free expansions for all players. Ubisoft confirmed this in a press briefing this morning and repeated the announcement live at its E3 press conference this afternoon. The news is great for players worried about the business model of service-style online-only games like The Division and Bungie’s Destiny.
But it looks like Ubisoft may have learned a thing or two from its multi-year development cycle with the original game, and from Bungie’s troubled experience with Destiny 2. (Fans of the latter game incensed that Bungie is charging players a minimum of $70 and a maximum of $100, depending on if you purchase a new annual pass subscription, for Destiny 2’s second year of expansions.)
When asked how Ubisoft plans to fund ongoing development for The Division 2, Karlson wasn’t able to say. It sounds like the developer is still working out the kinks, and a PR representative said the company plans to release more details about monetization and microtransactions at a later date.
2. The Dark Zone will be back, but we have no idea if it will feature battle royale
One of the most interesting, and yet flawed, aspects of The Division when it launched in 2016 was the Dark Zone, a hybrid player-versus-player and player-versus-enemy area where you could battle against other real people and AI combatants in search of rare loot. Although Ubisoft beefed up the Dark Zone with more focused game modes like Survival and Last Stand, the area never reached its full potential as a competitive multiplayer experience in the same fashion as traditional shooters.
Karlson confirmed that the Dark Zone is in The Division 2, but he wouldn’t say what it would look like and what players might expect from game modes like Survival, which in 2018 seems ripe for battle royale-style gameplay. “I want to confirm we’re super committed to PvP, it’s an important part of The Division 2. The Dark Zone is something that’s very dear to us and we acknowledge that it wasn’t without some issues,” he said.
When asked about whether battle royale elements and the popularity of Fortnite would influence the Dark Zone in the game, Karlson said there were obvious ways to imagine a more full-fledged Survival mode that featured more players, though he did not confirm any concrete details.
3. The Division 2 now has subclasses for your character
One new element of The Division 2’s endgame activities are called specializations, and they are essentially subclasses for your character to choose and level through to unlock new skills once you hit max level and complete the main campaign. Each one is centered around a weapon type: sniper, grenade launcher, and crossbow. Picking one does not exclude you from the others, Karlson confirmed, but you will need to level up through one before unlocking access to the others it seems.
How this plays out in actual missions is actually quite interesting. In my gameplay demo, I chose the sniper class, which gave me access to a .50 caliber Barrett M82 rifle that could pierce multiple enemies, send bullets through cover and armor, and pinpoint and capitalize on an enemy’s weak spot. Beyond being an interesting, MMO-style twist in the vein of Destiny’s subclasses and those from more traditional fantasy role-playing games, the specializations in The Division 2 help you and your team of up to three other players better coordinate on the battlefield.
For instance, when tasked with clearing out an abandoned airfield of enemies to take back a control zone in our demo, I climbed up onto the plane wing of an aircraft. From there, I used cover to provide sniper fire while my three teammates pushed the ground in a three-pronged attack covering left, right, and middle. Each specialization also comes with special abilities. In this case, only one of two available powers with any given loadout was made available, and it gave me access to a remote drone I could use for support fire and distractions. It was fun and the customization is a welcome change to the game given how flat and boring your character could feel in the first game.
4. Your character from the original game will not carry over
Karlson confirmed that your character in The Division 2 is an all-new one that has no direct connection to the first game, given the seven-month timeline jump. That means your character, weapons, and other aspects of profile from the original game will not carry over.
Ubisoft announced some details about the progression from the original to the sequel back in March, when it announced the inclusion of new “shields” in The Division for players to complete challenges. Doing so will unlock content in The Division 2, and Karlson said this is how Ubisoft plans to reward players for their time spent in the first game. (Bungie did something similar with the original Destiny, giving players a record book with challenges to complete that unlocked special emblems and other collectibles in Destiny 2.
5. The Division 2 will have raids and the first one will allow up to eight players
The first Division featured a raid-like activity called Incursions, and while those multi-hour missions were similar in style to the a traditional MMO raid, they only let you play with up to four others. Onstage at its E3 press conference, Ubisoft confirmed that The Division 2 will have full-fledged raids. Not only that, but Karlson told us in our interview that these raids will feature as many as eight players in two teams of four. We don’t know if that means you and three friends will be teaming up with four strangers, or whether you and seven friends can only cooperate on a single team. But Ubisoft plans to release more information about the first raid in The Division 2 closer to the game’s release next spring.