I’m heading into the last third of The Division 2’s leveling curve, coasting through level 20 on my way to the maximum cap of level 30. In the private and open beta, some players were wondering if The Division 2 was going to be too easy. And outside of bosses, I breezed through most of levels 1-10.
Around level 15, things started to take a turn. Not only does it throw new events into the mix, like supply caravans, elite territories, and contaminated zones, but the enemies get much harder. It was like The Division 2 was just waiting to take the training wheels off and kick my teeth in.
Open-world spawns become punishingly difficult at times. Part of this is down to the factions themselves: the starting Hyena faction is relatively straightforward in terms of attacks, running straight at you and only occasionally hiding behind cover. The military-style True Sons and the guerilla Outcasts who appear later tend to do a lot more flanking, with one or more enemies keeping you suppressed with automatic fire, grenades, and turrets.
You’ll also start to see more types of enemies. Early level Hyenas tend to pull from more standard archetypes: the standard Assault enemies that offer basic cover shooting and Rushers who do their best to reach your position. As you level up, the True Sons will start to add Controllers, who send remote controlled bombs your way, and Supports, who heal their squad. The Outcasts added suicide bombers and a new boss type enemies in heavy armor, wielding sledgehammers and chainsaws. Finally, you’ll start to see way more Veteran and Elite enemies, who sometimes get special weapons, but nearly always come equipped with body armor you have to crack before you take them down. After level 15 though, you’ll start seeing multiple veteran enemies in a group, and maybe even one or two elites. These monsters can and will one-shot you if that get close enough, forcing you to dodge roll around like you’re playing a Souls game.
My first encounter with the Outcasts was frightening. I was just wandering around, and over in a carpark I saw the new enemy type, clad in hoods and yellow facemasks. I got behind cover, dropped my turret and lobbed a grenade in as an opening salvo to soften them up, which was how I had generally engaged enemies up until that point. What I did not expect was for most of them to survive the initial explosion. At this point, I looked at the life bars: I was up against two elites and two veterans. I was pinned down, as one of the elites had a damned flamethrower. Now only did this chip away at my health and armor, it meant I wasn’t able to find new cover as the others rushed my position from the left and right flank. Boom, I took a glancing hit from a suicide bomber, which pushed me out of cover, and then a sniper took me down. I assumed this was a chance encounter, but around level 19-20, it’s become the new normal.
If you’re not paying attention, it might surprise you when realize you can technically play the entirety of The Division 2 solo , only seeing other players in safe houses or when you choose to matchmake. Most of the early missions can be tackled alone with no problem. Given this, you might think that you can safely go it alone , but the later game missions are there to disabuse you of that notion.
It’s hard taking on these harder groups alone. High-level Hyenas use drugs to shrug off damage, especially their rushers. Enemies with grenades or grenade launchers have pinpoint aim across huge distances. Heavy armor enemies with machine guns can take forever to soften up, and that’s much harder when their lackeys are flanking you or remote bombs are heading your way. Once they’ve seen you, it’s hard to distract enemies and flank them, as they seem to know exactly where you are. And if you’re caught out of cover, two or three enemies can quickly chew up your armor and health. You will start dying a lot if you’re not careful. (I think there needs to be a little tuning in this respect, because sometimes you die before you can even react.)
What The Division 2 wants you to do is join a team. Sure, you can play solo, but once you have a few squad members, tactical options once again enter the picture. One player can draw fire, while the others flank an enemy. Grouping also allows you to pick skills that complement each other. One version of the Chem Launcher skill, which creates a cloud of flammable gas, is hard to utilize alone, but works great in a group. A firefly can break shields and armor, setting an elite up for your teammate with a riot shield and high-damage shotgun. In a group, you have the chance to move from cover without taking all of the fire, and your teammates can split up the elites.
In the beta, I took on a Stronghold with a group of absolute monsters and it was a blast. While playing solo is about sitting behind cover, waiting for the eye of the firestorm, and maximizing your damage windows, this group was a blitzkrieg. We were flanking foes, setting them up for double taps, and keeping them locked down. It was amazing and a ton of fun, even when we did hit the occasional wall.
The Division 2 pushing you towards team-based play is odd because the game hides so much of its online and matchmaking features. You’ll occasionally get a prompt to help another agent, but hitting the button prompt doesn’t put you in a group automatically. Instead, it takes you to the map, where you’ll find an exclamation mark icon with the option to ‘Answer the Call’. Everything else in regards to grouping is in the Social menu. From here, you can call for backup if a mission is messing you up. (You can also do this from the map screen.) Alternatively, you can answer the call for assistance from the first available agent.
The Division 2 might be structured like a solo experience, but honestly, you need to be playing it in a group. Or you can just gung-ho it solo, assuming you’re a much better agent than I.