It’s been a long and somewhat unusual year since The Division 2 released, and the latest DLC release, Warlords of New York is probably far more topical than developers Ubisoft were hoping for. Many of the game’s striking visuals, of empty and barren landmarks across New York and Washington, are now looking closer to real life than they could have ever possibly imagined as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
As you likely guessed from the title, Warlords of New York takes players back to the epicentre of the Black Friday chemical attack some eight months later. New York is looking a little worse for wear this time after suffering at the hands of a brutal hurricane before the players arrival. Cars are overturned, mud and swamps fill some streets and there are a few new additions to the world including a huge washed up tanker. It doesn’t capture the same moody aesthetic that the first game accomplished, but it does win points for the sheer spectacle of a barren and destroyed New York city.
But why are we back in New York you ask? The short answer is Aaron Keener. If you played The Division, you may remember the ex-Division, gone rogue agent through a number of ECHO recordings around the city, as well as a brief encounter in which he gets away. In Warlords of New York, Aaron has developed his own biochemical weapon (with a little help from the creator of the original Dollar Flu) and it’s up to you to stop his attempts to bring further misery and death to the USA.
Before you can get to Keener though, you have to take down his four lieutenants in a gameplay loop that feels somewhat similar to last year’s Forsaken expansion in Destiny 2. Each one of the lieutenants holds their own portion of the city, which you must explore in order to find their location. Each of the four different areas culminates in a spectacular showdown which provides the player with a new skill to add to their arsenal – including the return of the much lauded sticky bomb.
These showdown missions can take anywhere up to an hour or longer, with each one ramping up the ante to excellent effect. My only major complaint is that some of these missions are incredibly long, and as such it can be quite easy to lose an hour’s worth of progress if you suddenly have to leave, or even worse, should you end up disconnecting from the server (this happened to me a few times.) That minor frustration aside, these four showdowns were probably the most fun I’ve had in The Division so far, with plenty of varied environments and unusual bosses creating some genuinely engaging moments.
Outside of those main missions, there are still plenty of side missions and activities to focus on if you want to unlock more loot and mods. I would have loved to see the developers introduce some new activities specific to this DLC in New York, as it’s just a continuation of the activities introduced a year ago with the release of the game. Which means you find yourself still hacking enemy broadcasts, stopping public executions, defending supply drops and all the other activities seen back in Washington.
Warlords of New York also brings with it a hefty number of updates and changes, including a welcome evolution of the loot system and the introduction of Gear 2.0. The new system looks to streamline the loot system so that drops and build development mean more to players. There are now fewer drops altogether, but some loot drops now include items, weapons and talents. These talents provide players with active stat buffs, so armour and weapons can now be built towards a specific player build. This welcome addition meant I spent far more time considering my character’s build. Rather than simply going with whatever piece of loot had the highest number, I would spend some time building towards my Division agent. This meant I had the opportunity to build a character with high-crit damage and a low reload speed, which works well considering I typically swap between a bolt-action sniper and an LMG for long and short range damage.
All these new additions make playing through Warlords of New York a lot of fun, although it’s the narrative that really stands out for me. Even way back in The Division, Aaron Keener was one of the more interesting characters. His spiral into rogue status was a measured, drawn-out one following the tale of a man who was let down by the U.S Government and those in charge. Warlords of New York does a great job of further fleshing out the character and giving him the spotlight as the antagonist. By the end of the DLC, I honestly couldn’t wait to run into battle with him.