Hands-on: With Warlords of New York, The Division 2 gets a huge revamp

Since its launch almost one year ago, The Division 2 has seen significant upgrades, updates, and new content added regularly. In 2020, there’s no slowing as Ubisoft has announced the game’s expansion, The Warlords of New York, which not only brings in a new campaign, new characters, new gear, and a new location, but also a revamp of the game’s RPG mechanics and quality of life improvements to some of the game’s features.

We were recently in San Francisco to gets hands on with some of the content and learn about the changes coming to the game.

Back to New York

Warlords of New York launches on March 3 and brings with it a new campaign where agents return to New York and hunt for Aaron Keener, a rogue agent players may remember from The Division 1. But don’t worry, you don’t have to play the first game to follow along with the story. Before you reach Keener though, you must take down four of his rogue agents, each with their own special skill, which you acquire when you take them out. The new skills include a decoy skill, which displays a hologram of your agent in another area to distract enemies, a shock trap that deploys shock mines on the ground to neutralize enemies, and two versions of the sticky bomb launcher from The Division 1, an explosive version and a flame version.

The expansion will have five main missions, eight side missions, eight Control Points, four safe houses and gameplay in iconic New York City neighborhoods like Chinatown, Wall Street, and Two Bridges. Later on, a new raid will also be released called The Foundry. Not much info was given on the new raid except that we’ll be going up against the True Sons.

Along with the new content this spring, is a major RPG overhaul. The way the game’s stats on gear and weapons function in the game will be changing to be more streamlined by removing the stat budget system and introducing god rolls (fixed stats on a weapon or piece of gear). In addition, the game will introduce a “stat library.” When you find weapons and gear out in the world of The Division 2, you can bring them back to a recalibration station and take those weapon or gear stats and store them in the stat library to put on another weapon later. Ubisoft developers explained that these changes will make it more accessible for everyone while keeping the depth of customizing your loadout and making it as powerful as possible.

With the new expansion, the level cap for players will be moving from 30 to 40. Plus, the game will be introducing SHD levels and a new progression system that allows you to level up certain stats and bonuses to make your character stronger.

The Dark Zones are also being revitalized with a focus on player-to-player interactions as well as new contaminated loot in all the Dark Zones.

Finally, The Division 2 will also be introducing seasons. A season will run for three months and feature a number of activities, challenges, trials, and global events. Each season will have its own progression system where, of course, you earn new skill mods, weapons, gear, and different cosmetic items, some of which are exclusive to the season.

Empire state of mind

For our hands-on session, we were first dropped into the Civic Center area in lower Manhattan. New York looks even worse than it did before thanks to a hurricane that recently ravaged the city. Buildings are torn apart, trees are strewn in the middle of streets, and debris is everywhere. New York looks like a disaster zone more than ever. The enemy attacks are stronger, especially their flame bomb dropping drones, but they’re not invincible and the game is continually doing a better job of making your agent feel like he or she is making an impact and causing meaningful damage.

I was tasked with finding Theo Parnell, one of Aaron Keener’s rogue agents, and taking him out to secure an area of lower Manhattan as well as getting closer to Keener. Like any traditional manhunt, the mission has you searching for clues on where he might be. We had to get information from a downed drone on a rooftop. We cross-referenced that information with another agent’s findings in one of the game’s new safe houses. That led us to a prison where we had to work through multiple of levels and dozens of enemies.

While battling through the prison was fun, it was all that easy. Walking into an empty cafeteria, my partner and I started searching the area for loot when all of the sudden the lights went out, pitch black, and we were ambushed by enemy drones and a dozen or so enemies. In other parts of the prison, like the infirmary or the courthouse, we had to take on the powerful yellow bar enemies in confined spaces. Even walking down quiet halls in the prison, you had to be careful opening certain doors because you’d be met with a barrage of bullets from five or six enemy drones.

When we finally found Parnell in the prison yard, he had multiple decoys of himself perched up in the watch towers. While me and my partner we’re trying to figure out which one was the real Parnell, we had to contend with powerful turrets and a continual stream of enemies piling into the area. Once defeated, we were able to acquire Parnell’s decoy skill to add to our arsenal. Unfortunately, the amount of time it took to complete the mission took up most of my 90-minute play time. I didn’t get to use the new skill or explore the changes with the weapons and gear stats.

Overall, The Division 2 continues to be a top-notch experience and with the upcoming changes and content additions, I’m looking to get back to New York for a good ole fashion manhunt.