I’ve never been a big fan of mobile gaming. It’s always been tricky to differentiate between the games made with a clear vision and ambition, and the games made to siphon your cash as quickly as possible. And often when you do manage to separate the two, there’s still significant overlap. But there are plenty around that at least offer a meaty chunk of content before they start stinging you, and surprisingly, The Division Resurgence looks set to fall into this category.
This is essentially The Division 1.5, slotting in-between the two mainstream games in terms of story and lore. It comes after the events of the original, and reintroduces a handful of characters. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “fan-favourites”, but it’s nice to see certain faces again if you played the original way back when.
At brass tacks level, it plays the same as the main games. It’s a third-person cover shooter that sees you fight your way through a ravaged New York City, fighting down the same old gangs in the same old streets. The “Resurgence” part of the title is the giveaway here: everything you did in the first game has kind of been undone, all the snake-heads you severed have grown back, and it’s up to you to go out and machete them all off again.
It will also feature pretty much all the content of the base release, including the PvP Conflict mode and the Dark Zone, The Division‘s PvPvE mode that gave the original game its legs for quite some time. Both modes will work the same as they did before, with dedicated instances for both and their own line of rewards for taking part.
I played through the first five story missions in the preview build, and took care of a few side missions along the way and it was satisfying to be back in this world. The shooting feels just as smooth as it did before, with a satisfying zip and crackle when headshots drop an enemy or you stich a line of body shots across some ruffian’s windbreaker.
That The Division Resurgence has a full campaign as well as open world gameplay is both welcome and encouraging. With the added emphasis on cosmetic microtransactions, this could easily have been a PvP-focused cash grab, but there’s actually been some work put into it. The cover system is smooth, and shooting feels precise and responsive.
In the interest of science I played with the touchscreen controls for as long as I could. I really don’t enjoy having my massive thumbs obscuring half my screen – but then I was playing on an Oppo Reno-8 which is hardly a gaming phone. The 6.43 inch screen doesn’t lend itself to a UI that’s half-covered with prompts and touch buttons. I switched to my Gamesir X2-36 Bluetooth controller after about half an hour and the experience rapidly improved.
Played like this, it might as well have been any handheld game on a Switch or Steam Deck – though with some fairly massive graphical concessions. Again, my phone isn’t built for gaming so I was thankful I could run it so smoothly on Medium settings. On a low/mid-range phone the environments are covered in low-detail textures, the colours are too bright with very little shading, and there was horrendous texture pop-in throughout. That said, it’s a work in progress, and a more powerful device would likely yield better results for sure.
There were a few noticeable issues though, and not all technical. Your “partner” for the first few missions is Agent Kelly, one of those no-nonsense characters that the writers couldn’t decide on a personality for. She’s either rude to the point of frustration or offering to buy you a cold one, and her repeated cries of “Found some cover!” made it fortunate that I couldn’t turn around and shoot her myself.
In between missions there’s the standard Division hub where you can buy and sell gear, upgrade your equipment, and access your stash. This is very much The Division all over again and anyone familiar with the franchise will feel right at home. You can jump directly to a mission at any time from the map screen, too, which is convenient, and load times are surprisingly tight.
The Division Resurgence lacks the decayed beauty of the larger games, but loses little of the gameplay flavour. The loot system remains almost unchanged, with an onus on collecting sets for the bonuses they offer, and upgrading to succeed. It is very much the game you played before, with a different selection of Specialities but the same familiar gameplay nestled within each. After character creation I chose Vanguard, a class that carries a section of deployable cover, but I rarely found a use for it as there’s cover pretty much everywhere. Perhaps the Demolitionist would be more up my street.
Ubisoft have yet to show the cash shop in full swing so I can’t speak to prices or what it will sell, but at the very least the gameplay offers something for fans of the franchise to get their teeth into without MTX. It’s early days, but getting me interested in a mobile game is always a tough sell, and I came away from The Division: Resurgence at least looking forward to playing more.
The Division Resurgence is slated to release on iOS and Android in 2023.