The Division 2 Warlords of New York Review – Small Bite From the Big Apple (PS4)

Kicking off the second year of The Division 2, Warlords of New York is the game’s first major expansion that takes players back to the setting of the original game. Set in Lower Manhattan, amid what used to be a quarantined Dark Zone now wrecked by time and a hurricane, Warlords of New York is a return to the familiar with a splash of the new, all while retaining that Division feel, for better or worse.

The structure of Warlords of New York takes some very obvious influences from other Ubisoft games like Far Cry 5, letting players tackle the story how they want to. The ultimate goal is to take out rogue agent Aaron Keener, the looming threat from the first game who disappeared amid its climax. He’s back and trying to make yet another bioweapon, as if the first pandemic didn’t cause enough issues. Keener has surrounded himself with other disaffected Division agents, four main targets who stand in your way before Keener himself can be confronted.

My biggest issue with this format remains the same as the problem I had with Far Cry 5. Structuring your story from a “play in any order you want” approach leads to the story not actually having much structure at all. I can’t actually recall the names of any of Keener’s lieutenants (except Theo Parnell, and that’s only because he’s the one we took on at the preview event for Warlords of New York). I don’t distinctly remember their missions or why I was hunting each of them. I recall the beginning and the ending of the expansion campaign, but the moments in between are lost in a blur; a bunch of checkboxes I filled to reach the end goal of discovering Keener’s location so that I could confront him.

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Each of the four rogue agents occupies a borough of the Lower Manhattan. With a series of missions leading up to taking each one of them out. Eliminating a rogue agent will grant you with a new skill, from the new decoy ability to the return of The Division 1’s sticky gun. They each use their respective abilities within their boss encounters, which makes for some of the more unique boss fights in the series, even if the vast majority of the missions leading up to them amounts to traversing to new arenas to take on waves and waves of enemies.

And that’s really the crux of what Warlords of New York is. It’s simply more Division. If you’re a player who loves what The Division is, it’s a worthwhile continuation of what you know, adding enough new to keep players engaged. To that end, Warlords of New York is fantastic and worth staying with until the end and beyond. The Division franchise’s strongest element has always been its gameplay: an excellent third-person cover-based shooter that deftly blends loot-based RPG mechanics with the shooter genre.

It also sees a return of classic enemy factions from the original game, which give some notable new (old?) challenges that weren’t present in Washington DC. The Cleaners rely heavily on fire which ensures that any safe spot won’t be safe for long, and the Rikers tend to love rushing in with makeshift melee objects, overwhelming you before you quite know what’s going on. It was great to see that Warlords of New York didn’t simply reuse enemies from the base game, respecting instead the region’s specific enemies that arose in that area after the pandemic and continuing to develop their stories.

The Division has also always been an absolute leader in building its environments with an exceptional amount of detail. Lower Manhattan is full of iconic New York locations left to their own devices after a pandemic, quarantined, and then hit by a hurricane. The layers of the city tell the story of the past eight months, and while it’s now August in-game, vestiges of the November outbreak still exist eight months later, Christmas decorations half-covered in mud and the abandoned wreckage of quarantine efforts scattered throughout the city. Seriously, some of the set pieces in Warlords of New York are absolutely incredible, whether it’s the massive crashed tanker on the southern shore, or getting into a fight in the heart of the Stock Market.

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The campaign itself is rather brief, depending on how much time you take to stop and enjoy the views. You can pretty much fully complete the Warlords of New York expansion in about six to eight hours. You might be able to squeeze a few more hours out with collectibles and uncovering the full map, but overall it’s a comparatively brief experience when put up against the main game. During that time you’ll be leveling from 30 to the new level cap of 40. Brand new players can opt to jump right into Warlords without playing the main game first, and a level boost will take them immediately to Level 30 World-Tier 5 to compensate and let them start the new campaign. It aims to be as newcomer friendly as possible, even if some of its systems are still a little obtuse and overwhelming. That just seems to be the nature of many RPGs these days, balancing a complexity for the hardcore players with a beginner-friendly attitude for those just getting on board.

The Division 2 Warlords of New York Review – Echoes of New York

In a game like The Division 2, an expansion like Warlords of New York is far more than just its contained release. It’s the foundation for the upcoming content and continued living seasonal model, setting the stage for what’s to come over the next year of The Division 2’s life. Following its release earlier this month, a new season of content started free for all Warlords of New York owners, an ongoing carousel of events and activities set up by the conclusion of the expansion campaign.

Unfortunately, so far, despite being free for all players who own Warlords of New York, the seasonal activities haven’t actually taken advantage of the new New York content. The first target to hunt down required players to re-complete a bunch of existing DC missions from the base game. Somehow these seasonal manhunts have even less story than those in the Warlords of New York main campaign, and instead of anything in the mission itself being different, occasional voice clips will play when you complete requisite tasks that provide a little bit of backstory. Eventually, there’s the opportunity to hunt down the named rogue agent until the next timegated target is made available to hunt later in the season, presumably using the same format.

It’s rather disappointing to see the brilliantly designed New York playground seemingly abandoned following its campaign completion. Since rolling credits on Warlords of New York, I haven’t actually returned to Lower Manhattan for anything. All of my ongoing gameplay, including everything so far in the Seasonal update model, has been DC-based. Perhaps later targets will take players back to New York in some way, but it’s still not all that likely to have a more engaging story, instead simply reusing the base content for ongoing seasonal goals. It’s a clever use of the base content, to be sure, but with the bar that was set by Invaded missions in the original Division 2 endgame, having the seasonal objectives not change up the mission structure at all presents a rather weak argument for continued play.

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The seasons also come with their own version of a battle pass. These rewards are earned as you continue to level up over the course of the season’s 12 weeks. It adds a few effective layers of engagement that keep my logging on and playing despite other disappointments with the seasonal model. At the end of the day, The Division 2 is simply fun to play, and that alone goes a long way in giving me a reason to continue taking missions and shooting baddies.

The Division 2 Warlords of New York Review – Protocol Updates

Sometimes it’s hard to parse expansion content from massive free updates that add and change so much within a game. Warlords of New York heralded a free update for The Division 2 that sought to simplify many of the more overcomplicated systems and provide new endgame chases and reasons for people to keep playing. Gear score and item stats have been simplified. A new gear stat repurposing tool allows you to “extract” stats and perks from items, saving them in a library to apply to other gear later.

No longer do you have to wait for the perfect god roll. Now you can simply extract that high attack stat, big armor number, or pristine armor recovery. You can grab that amazing perk from the crappy stat roll backpack. Once it’s in your library, it’s unlocked for good (to apply for a cost), so the chase suddenly becomes one of getting higher numbers. RNG still has an effect, but it places a lot more control on the player and actually gives everything you do a much more meaningful grind overall. It’s a fantastic system and one that I’ve become obsessively enamored with as I chase high stat rolls across the game.

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The endgame also allows for a new infinite leveling system (though I’m unsure if this system is specifically tied to Warlords of New York and hitting level 40 or came via the free update). A certain event at the end of the Warlords of New York campaign gives the player a new item, one which allows all levels earned past 40 to slowly apply incremental small stat increases, boosting things like health, armor, and reload speed. These bonuses are minuscule in the grand scheme of things, but it’s yet another layer, putting another carrot at the end of another stick in the ongoing effort to keep players coming back for more. Those who play a lot are actually going to see this system pay off over time as the bonuses are percentage-based and scalable.

Warlords of New York is simply more The Division 2. For some, that’s going to be enough and it will immediately hook them right back into this post-pandemic world (strangely ironic escapism given current events). For others, it’s worth going back to see if the game updates made with the expansion do enough to redefine how you play. Either way, it’s a solid campaign utilizing some of the best third-person cover shooter mechanics around, even if the stories of the four rogue agents leading to Keener are poorly implemented and the ongoing seasonal content fails to use the incredible locations and enemies added in the expansion. I hope it’s indicative of what’s to come and Ubisoft continues to try to push the boundaries of what people expect from The Division 2 moving forward, but I also hope the implementation can be a little bit more cohesive if The Division 2 is truly to become an ongoing live-service seasonal experience.

The Division 2 Warlords of New York review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on a launch PS4. For more information, please read our Review Policy.