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The Division 2 Warlords of New York has good villains but a weak ending

Warning: Heavy spoilers follow for the Warlords of New York campaign.

The Division 2 Warlords of New York has been out for a few days now and it’s high time we talked about the highlight of the DLC: the manhunt for Aaron Keener. Agents everywhere have been tracking Keener and his rogue agents across lower Manhattan, and in doing so Massive has put on a masterclass in fleshing out the stories of these villains.

For the uninitiated, Aaron Keener was the shadowy antagonist of The Division 1 and makes for the perfect villain. He was an agent like you once, until the corruption and red tape of the Strategic Homeland Division turned him away from “the greater good” and towards a victory at all costs mantra. Throughout the DLC, you’ll find tapes of him helping people, saving them from the various factions of New York and becoming more and more frustrated with the Division’s unwillingness to act. It’s for this reason that Keener is so relatable and easy for you to identify with – after all, the Division clearly doesn’t have the best interests of the residents of New York at heart, focusing instead on containing the situation.

Before you can get to Keener though, you’ll need to take down his lackeys. Make no mistake, these boss battles are the clear highlight of The Division 2: Warlords of New York. It’s a bit of a surprise; Massive hasn’t been known for crafting particularly compelling boss fights thus far, with most fights being rather simple affairs: see boss, shoot boss. It’s a formula that works, but not one that players find overly engaging. Warlords of New York sees a departure from that formula, with Keener and his rogues all having battles that match their personalities, playing out differently from one another.

Take Vivian Conley for example, the first rogue I took down while making my way through New York. She’s a former Division agent who’s now head of the Cleaners, a faction who is attempting to literally burn out the infection from the city. As such, fire is a big part of her character, and across the campaign we see the chaos her gang has left behind: burned out buildings and charred corpses. It’s gruesome stuff, but it builds well into the final fight with Conley atop a crashed oil tanker. There, you’re tasked with redirecting the flow of gas into Conley’s hiding place to flush her out and take her down in an explosive finale.

Dragov, a former NYC cop, is trying to unite the Rikers into a family under his leadership. Throughout his campaign we see how much he cares for those underneath him, and in his final battle you’re faced with not just Dragov, but two other shield-wielding Riker tanks in the kind of formation that would make Roman legions proud.

The only rough patch among the new bosses is Kajika, a stealthy former agent who you pursue through a network of underground tunnels. The mission itself is stunning, but the boss fight features three whole immunity phases after which the damage you’ve dealt resets. Immunity phases are never fun, but full health resets? Yuck. I can’t see myself ever playing that mission again by choice.

Kajika aside, the spectacular lead up left me itching to get to Keener and see what he had in store. After all, the big boss may be easy to relate to, but after taking down his henchmen it’s clear that he’s no longer a good guy by any stretch. The lead up to — and the actual boss fight with — Keener is great; it shows how easy it is to manipulate agents through their ISAC devices. The fight itself provides the ultimate agent vs agent battle, with gadgets and skills flying left and right. It’s a shame, then, that the final resolution is so unsatisfying.

I won’t lie: I’d been hoping that Keener would escape the justice we were attempting to dispense, or that his death would at least be a memorable one. Instead, we’re treated to a death that comes in one of the two least satisfying ways in video games: one delivered through cutscene. That’s right — after years of chasing Keener down across multiple games, we don’t even get to deal the final blow. Instead, he dies of his wounds moments after activating his newly created rogue network.

The ending feels cheap, like Massive just wanted Keener out of the way. Instead of treating the character with respect, the studio has simply tossed him aside to focus on its new big bad evil gal. The twist that Faye Lau is now a rogue is even undercut by this poor ending, taking the wind out of its sails before that ship even leaves port.

It’s a real shame that this final fight represents a black spot in an otherwise top-notch story DLC. The twist is an excellent one — and it certainly blindsided me — but I can’t help but wonder what could have been.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is currently available on Windows PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Stadia.

 

Hamish Lindsayhttps://hamishslindsay.squarespace.com
Avid reader and general geek, justifying the time I spend playing games by writing about them. I try not to discriminate by genre, but I remember story more than gameplay. I’ve been playing League for longer than Akali and I’m still Silver. Fallout 3 and MGS3 may be the pinnacle of gaming.