Try as Activision and Ubisoft might, it’s hard to separate The Division from Destiny and vice versa. They are two flagship MMORPG titles with more than a few shared strands of DNA with both being generally maligned after landing on a wave of hype. Despite what some might try to suggest, however, they were both sales successes, which inevitably breeds new franchises.
Destiny 2 is already out in the wild and The Division 2 is expected to be detailed further at E3 2018. Judging by the disastrous post-launch reception to Destiny 2, it might be time for The Division to step completely out of Destiny’s shadow with a new direction.
The early signs were good for Destiny 2 with its campaign being a considerable step above the non-event of its predecessor. Long-time and even lapsed fans came flocking back to Destiny to see what Bungie had changed and improved upon, but once you peeled back its veneer, it was clear that they hadn’t really done enough to warrant the number in the game’s name.
Destiny 2 didn’t bring any wholesale changes to the gameplay experience, which meant that even some of its biggest supporters were left jaded by more of the same that they had previously been grinding through for hundreds of hours. There still wasn’t much to do outside of the loot loop, which didn’t do much to persuade the curious to stick around.
For The Division 2 to earn back its players and convert the cynical, it needs to do more than just tweak the most basic of things and deliver something that feels fresh, not just a refresh.
It’s clear what Ubisoft need to do to make The Division 2 more appealing, making full use of its setting being one of them. A post-apocalyptic New York City is ripe for exploration in a game and it certainly was in the original game. However, there simply just wasn’t enough to do in-between getting prodded from cover-to-cover. It’s as if they built the ultimate digital playground and forgot to include the toys.
Likewise, there should be more involving mechanics beyond constant firefights; one of its pieces of DLC even pointed the way. Survival’s simple premise saw you trying to survive against the elements long enough to find a cure for a disease that was crippling you. It also brought with it an excuse to make clothing worth a damn with torrential weather to contend with meaning that you had to seek out shelter and find warmer clothes. The Division 2 obviously shouldn’t include this idea wholesale, but certain elements would certainly make for a welcome distraction and bring some variety.
The landscape of gaming has also changed a lot since The Division first landed with battle royale games now the New Big Thing, for better or worse. It’s going to take a lot to drag people away from Fortnite and PUBG, which may mean that Ubisoft will have to consider how they approach their infamous bullet sponges. It’s all about immediate action right now, which loading clip after clip into dudes wearing hoodies doesn’t really provide. It makes logical sense in Destiny to have robust enemies, but not so much in a “realistic” New York City.
Above all else, however, what The Division 2 needs to learn from Destiny 2 is respect for its fans. Bungie and Activision’s treatment of its playerbase has been nothing short of, well, shitty, to say the least. Whether it’s going radio silent in the face of backlash, adding microtransactions that weren’t in the first game, lying about XP gains, or adding DLC that locked regular players out of achievement hunting, it’s been a masterclass in how to alienate people.
Much in the same way as Xbox One’s disastrous reveal effectively rolled the red carpet out for the PlayStation 4, Destiny 2 has given The Division 2 a lesson in failure to improve from. Time will only tell if Ubisoft have grown from their own shortcomings and also Bungie’s, so I’ll be watching out for it with interest at E3 2018.
If they announce a battle royale mode, though, I am done.
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