Recently, Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment unveiled their answer to bringing people back into the world of the division. On Feb 13, the developers of The Division 2 announced Warlords of Draenor, I mean Warlords of New York. This new expansion has the players going back to the streets of New York City once again in order to find and put an end to the reign of Aaron Keener, the elusive antagonist of The Division 1.
The Division 2 came out with a bang in 2019 with a large selection of unlockable content, a free season pass that only had timed exclusive missions, lots of progression options in specializations, and of course a brand new gear grind for those seeking to power up their agents. For a time, Division 2 players enjoyed everything the game threw at them. Beautiful landscapes of a war-torn D.C., lots of fun story missions with amazing settings like the AeroSpace museum and a new revamped Dark Zone area. Then came the drought and the obtuse gear system that hit a peak with a gear level of 500. Both I and Mike poured a ton of hours into developing our gear sets but the system was complex.
Several players turned away from The Division 2 once they had reached the final phase of their gear grind, where abilities and stats weren’t entirely clear and frankly each piece of equipment needed a spreadsheet formula to make sense of what to keep or throw away. Mike Sol and I are excited about having this brand new expansion that will revitalize the player base and bring a ton of quality of life changes to the gear grind in The Division 2. However, we did have our concern and thoughts on some of the finer points that this expansion may or may not address.
Is it a good idea to have The Warlords Expansion set in New York?
Kevin: I’m sure Mike will agree with me on this one. I love that we are going back to New York City and exploring a new area of New York that we weren’t able to explore before. Aeron Kenner? He’s got a crew of ex-Division agents who went rogue? Hell yes, ticks of the boxes of what I want from a story perspective. However, I can’t help but see this as a negative considering the amount of work Massive put into creating a highly polished D.C. and going back to New York feels like a cop-out.
Either way, I’m still excited about what Warlords of New York are bringing to the table. We get to explore lower Manhattan and revisit those old factions. Each one of those factions is being led by a highly capable ex-Division agent. Division players know that there was the first wave of Division agents that went rogue that was teased in surveillance footage, NPC dialogue, etc. The stakes are higher and the challenge is perfect when considering how hard it was to beat some of the higher tiered Black Tusk agents and Predators.
The Unfinished business In New York
Mike: Oh definitely! Using New York as your main setting in a video game is nothing new, but the approach that The Division took was certainly something special since there was this sense of realism of what would happen if society just suddenly fell apart.
Of course, it isn’t to say that going back to New York is all bad as we will be exploring the Northside as opposed to the south side. Still, it does feel like we are leaving a location that was rather open and diverse as D.C. and going back to a location that felt more cramp and secluded. But really, I would argue that those closed quarter areas of New York do feel like they bring themselves better to the idea of “Urban Warfare” better as opposed to what we got in D.C. I loved the locations there, but can get a bit crazy with some of the things it wanted you to do like “Storm Capitol Hill ” while you’re avoiding mortar shots. It feels like we’re going back to basics, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Not to mention that it always felt like the story in New York was left unfinished with Aaron Keener getting away and nothing else coming from it. It will be fun to see what New York has become and to finally wrap up a plot element that’s been a story that has been four years in the making.
Did Massive abandon their story plans for D.C. in favor of getting Division 1 players back?
Mike: While the original Division did feel like there were story elements that didn’t see a conclusion, it almost does feel like what happened in D.C. wrapped up almost too nicely. With all the enemy faction leaders dealt with and seemingly some sense of order being restored (outside of remnant forces and Black Tusk still running around). I’m sure there’s more we can do in D.C. but it’s almost like our attention is being turned back to the place where many people are more accustomed to.
I don’t want to say that D.C. just got left behind, but there was something about the first Division that did ruminate with players. The locations in D.C. were much more vast and spread out, but something about New York’s setting and it almost being like an urban battlefield made it feel like it was a fight to retake the city after it fell into chaos. Not so much with D.C., or at least now with the pressing matters there seemingly taken care of.
Or at least there’s still one unresolved issue with Andrew Ellis, the President turned traitor. While no one knows where he ran off to, it would be one hell of a coincidence if he decided to flee to New York of all places. Just like how the first Division game left some unanswered questions that we could see answers to here, there are just as many stories in Washington that we need to wrap up.
Kevin: Mike is right about having unfinished story beats from New York that was left unfulfilled and the story in D.C. is semi-complete. However, there’s an argument to be made that Massive could’ve started teasing a bigger story for D.C. or the next game in the series similar to what happened at the end of the first Division game. I want New York and I want Aaron Keener to pay for abandoning his duty as a Division agent to restore people’s lives back to normalcy.
The way we left D.C. does wrap up nicely for the most part but still teases possible threads for future games or expansion. Warlords of New York is The Division 2’s Taken King from Destiny, it’s the BIG expansion that gives players a big challenge but also a massive overhaul on the things people didn’t love. Setting it in New York makes almost no sense to me because it’s not part of the world they built in D.C. and it’s definitely an answer to players who liked The Division over The Division 2. At the same time, it’s the right choice to get the player base who lapsed on The Division 2 and also gives new players a chance to jump aboard that sweet “let’s be futuristic badass special agents” gameplay.
Will the loot grind matter this time?
Kevin: I hope so. A big problem that I have with The Division’s loot grind, in general, is the aesthetics and feel of your weapons. The game is set in a semi-realistic setting but several of the high tier weapons still all relative play the same. A good high tier assault rifle feels exactly as other high tier assault rifles, the only difference is if it melts the enemy’s armor or health bar faster. I doubt this would happen but have fun perks that make weapons have more of an identity. For example, You like fire? Assault Rifle X increases fire damage and when shooting enemies it has a chance to spread the fire to 2 more targets.
For me, it felt like you had way too few options and yet tons of weapons to choose from. You’ll stick to the same archetype of weapon that you like but then having to calculate which did more damage, which perks were better, and how to balance it out with your build was an ordeal. I don’t play The Division to create a spreadsheet on what to keep or let go, it should be made clear to the player that Gun A is better than Gun B.
I play other looter shooters like Destiny, Borderlands, Warframe, etc. Those game’s systems make it clear on what is viable as a powerful weapon. I want something similar for that in The Division 2, just make it clear what guns we should be looking out for and have them either A.) Have a gun that you need a good build to make it shine or B.) Make it complementary to the build you have.
Why Loot Matters even More in the expansion
Mike: Considering how The Division has set itself as one of the better “Looter Shooters” of recent times, it is far more important than ever to nail the loot grind. Kevin did list off some great examples of recent looter shooters, but the same principle can also apply to other games as well.
As someone who is still playing Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, it is paramount that the loot that comes in the expansion of a game feels like you are earning something that makes you feel even more powerful than when you first beat the original title back when. Yeah, the weapon drops will be far more powerful than what we got in the base game, but when you are asking your player base to abandon their previous builds that they have spent so much time with, you better do more than just “increase the value and damage output.”
As much as I hate to say this, I tend to find myself sometimes hating to keep changing up what weapons I use. I like the Police M4 Assault Rifle and tend to stick with it even if there’s a different weapon that can do a higher amount of damage per shot. My hopes are that when going into Warlords of New York, there will be a wider spread of weapons that makes it feel as though I’m not completing abandoning a preferred weapon just because the bullets can kill the enemy a bit faster.
That’s why I’m interested in the update to the loot game for the expansion since it will be easier to figure out and you’re not having to take wild guesses during gunfights and realize you were better off with that other gun (and are about to get violently murdered because you chose poorly).
What is Massive missing from this expansion to make it a success?
Mike: A while back ago when I was planning an article about The Division 2, there was one thing that I was trying to figure out: Specializations. It was, by far, one of the most interesting gaming aspects The Division added in the post-game. Who doesn’t love using a minigun to mow down enemies? Or a super-powerful Sniper Rifle? Or even a Grenade Launcher? And with the Warlords of New York, we are going to get the highly requested Flamethrower with the focus on close-range combat with the shield to buff allies behind you and to use the flamethrower with it and the tactical short grip for 10% critical hit damage.
The reason why I bring this up is that it feels like with Firewall being the 6th specialization, it might also be the last specialization the game could provide. Up to now, all weapons did have a special accessory with their skill tree, and now all skills (except for Firefly and Chem Launcher) also have special variants too. And with the update, we know that Hive will have a shocking new variant, while the Chem launcher will have the returning Sticky Bombs from the first game.
We are probably at our end of what specializations in The Division 2, but I would love to see what other kinds could be developed for the future. It would be great if we had one that let your Agent use an Axe or some kind of melee weapon so you can smash their heads in or maybe give players an RPG to blow them up. Once the Warlords of New York are dealt with, it might become a problem of what to look forward to after that.
Co-op & Tiers
Kevin: There needs to be more co-op activities that don’t require a massive investment in having optimal min-max gear. Yes, I’m directly addressing the debacle that was the first raid in The Division 2. I have no problem with having a special mode to obtain the best and highest tier loot. However, the way it was marketed before the game came out made it seem that every mode in The Division 2 would include matchmaking and sadly that wasn’t the case.
The Division needs high tiered content for those seeking the ultimate reward but you also need other modes for casual players to enjoy as well. One of my favorite modes from The Division 1 was Survival and Underground. Both of those offered a variety of new locations and mechanics that were fun either solo, with randoms, or a group of friends.
I 100% agree with Mike that we need more specializations that offer different experiences when it comes to gameplay. Firewall is a fun new specialization but I worry that because of the restraints of the game being semi-realistic that it would hold awesome ideas behind. Then again, artists that are limited sometimes breeds even more creativity. I’m excited to see what other specializations or core abilities we will gain. Massive already addressed making different builds more meaningful like a complete Tech-based build. I want to see what that offers to a player who loves using drones, turrets, and other gadgets if the build is 100% centered on tech abilities.
What are your final thoughts about Warlords of New York?
Kevin: It’s time to put Aeron Keener down for good this time and I love that we are going back to New York to finish what was started. Everything in the trailer only gets me more hyped to get back into the game to enjoy the new quality of life changes. I started getting back into The Division 2 to level up my specializations but honestly, I’m just ready for new story missions and modes. I can’t wait to see how Massive creates new content this second year now with lots of systems being changed for the player base.
The only question I have is if everything in year 2 will take place in New York only? I could see a story in which rogue Division agents partner up with Black Tusk. I hope we don’t completely abandon D.C. because I love that location just as much as New York. I would like to see some type of synergy between the locations in some way or possible hints on what the next city that needs help from Division agents.
Retaking New York
Mike: Overall, I’m impressed with the teaser and what we have to look forward to. Ubisoft has usually been good about supporting their games post-launch, and it is great to see that The Division 2 will be getting that extra special treatment while adding in fun new challenges for us to enjoy.
As one final note, I hope that some of the big features from the first Division do make a return. I know asking for Survival might not make much sense since the mission being done while “in the middle of a freak blizzard” is something that feels like can’t be replicated unless you drastically change the time of year, unless if New York somehow succumbed to a freak heatwave and you have people literally baking unless if they can find a way to cool off…
But really though, I would love to see some kind of return of Underground. I thought the college was going to be that, but I was sadly mistaken. Just something to where you can have randomly generated dungeons and have it provide a fun and engaging challenge to players to enjoy once more. Who knows if that might be an upcoming feature, but we need those engaging end game content in place by the time Warlords of New York launches.
Let us know in the comments below! Don’t forget to check out my interviews with Skip Stellrecht, Lauren Landa, and Evil Ted at ALA2020! Also check out Mike Sol’s For more great interviews, reviews, editorials, and news stay tuned to CultureOfGaming.com or check us out on OpenCritic.com!