If you, like me, have an eclectic friends list consisting of people who can’t stand “looter shooters” or Fortnite kids who added you because they liked your skin, it can be a little difficult to gather a squad together for something like The Division 2. These games aren’t for everyone, so you may find yourself being the only one in your group of friends playing, forcing you to go it alone.
The question is, though: is The Division 2 a good fit for those who primarily want a single-player experience? The answer is a resounding yes, possibly more so than for any game of its ilk in the past. And this is coming from someone who thought playing solo in the original was about as fun as headbutting the pointy end of a pencil.
The most obvious reason for this change in opinion is the sheer wealth of things to see and do. Washington is bustling where New York was arid; you’re never more than a saunter through its stunning streets filled with dogs you can’t pet (the biggest fault the game has) away from finding something to do. Whether it’s helping a hostage escape or simply eradicating all the edgy idiots who have made DC their playground, The Division 2 has no shortage of content.
Often when you clear a main mission in The Division 2, a whole new bunch of activities crop up. This keeps it feeling constantly fresh: I have spent fifteen hours in the game and my map still looks like an itinerary for a very dedicated tourist. Beyond the essentials, The Division 2 allows you to restore and improve settlements by completing tasks, which will then open the game up even more. So far, The Division 2 has nailed the feeling of measured and satisfying progress, and that’s without even mentioning things like the ability to unlock the Dark Zone and Conflict PVP.
There’s also the fact that the game world feels considerably more alive and fleshed out as a solo player than previously — you are actually better off rooting yourself in this world on your own than with friends. Exploration is a lot more rewarding here, the game offering you digestible chunks of lore beyond sitting and waiting for an echo to do its thing. Going off on your jollies and exploring the destitute nooks and crannies of Washington is almost as fun as teaming up to kill swathes of bad guys.
It must be said, however, that some of the activities are a little on the oppressive side if you’re on your lonesome. Clearing control points can be far too overwhelming without backup as the Hyenas tend to simply appear from behind you, and side missions aren’t really that well balanced for solo play. They’re not even that fun to play, either: the cards are stacked very much against you, so it’s just a case of attrition and grinding engagements out. You have to take your time from behind cover, pop up, kill or weaken enemies, and then repeat. It’s not all that entertaining, but “winning” against the odds is admittedly quite fulfilling.
If you do fancy leaving the single life behind, however, The Division 2 makes it very easy to team up with other players to just mess around in Washington or take on missions. It’s all accessible from a menu; matchmaking itself is quick and painless, though I have been stuck in loading loops once or twice. Once you’ve finished with your dalliances, you can just drop back out again and return to your own world.
Where The Division 2 lets itself down in the single-player experience is with its narrative, which I guess extends to all players. From what I’ve played so far, it’s a little directionless. I know I’m supposed to help the citizens of Washington to get back on their feet, but beyond that there isn’t much of a driving force, such as a big bad to contend with — at least not one that I’ve noticed. I don’t mind it too much, but I hope that the story begins to come to the fore soon or I may feel like I am just doing things for the sake of doing things.
That overarching criticism aside, The Division 2 has been a lot of fun as a single-player sojourn so far. Sure, it may not keep you as hooked as playing with friends and catching up while you mow your way through those bastards with batons, but it’s significantly more inviting to play solo than the first game. I’d struggle to recommend you play it over primarily single player games on your pile of shame, but if it’s a Ubisoft open world you want to enjoy without others butting in, you could do worse.