The Division Resurgence is a new free-to-play entry in the RPG shooter series coming to iOS and Android devices in fall 2023. Anyone can register to participate in upcoming test phases at the official Division Resurgence website, but as announced during Ubisoft Forward today, players in certain territories will be eligible for the Regional Beta running from June 13 through July 24 (see below for more details).
To give you a better idea of how The Division Resurgence is serving up its own spin on the franchise, we played an in-progress build of the game and chatted with creative director Jonathan Lavergne for more details on the Dark Zone, insight into how they made Specializations more impactful, and the ways in which they are telling a more human story.
What Happened in New York City?
The campaign of The Division Resurgence primarily takes place following the events of The Division; so if you played to the end of the game that launched the franchise, you’ll get to see how the conflict evolved after you and your crew dispersed the warring factions vying for power. But the game actually begins with a prologue that puts you in the first wave of SHD Agents to be activated in New York City.
In this opening scene of disaster response, I met a woman trying to safely evacuate a group of people from a restaurant while her nephew champed at the bit to accompany me and my partner into the fight. That partner, Captain Kelly, deftly kept the eager young man away from the front lines by charging him to be the last line of defense for the people he was sheltered with, but it was clear when we met up with him again, now in safety, that he wasn’t going to be content staying out of harm’s way. Just a few sequences in, I got the impression that I had already met a variety of characters that I’d see later in the game.
“We really wanted to stay a longer with our characters,” said Lavergne, “to get closer to them, live more moments with them, and see how they evolve with the story. Some of those characters you meet in the prologue you will keep seeing as the story evolves. You will also meet some familiar faces, [like Dr. Kendall who was working at the Base of Operations]. We really try to involve the characters a little bit more in the story and have you interact more with those characters as well.”
I also contended with a brash antagonist early on, showing that the emphasis on characters in Resurgence won’t just be on your allies. Embodying a reckless, it’s-our-world-now energy reminiscent of the Hyenas in The Division 2, a rowdy fellow named Jax proved to be a motivated enemy, securing heavy weaponry after a raid on an improvised JTF outpost in a church. Captain Kelly and I pursued him and his henchman to Liberty Island for a climactic encounter that concluded the prologue, after which we jumped forward in time to the period after the events of The Division. From there, I began to see the titular resurgence in action.
“The civilians have started to establish a settlement, the first settlement in New York City. You will see the Base of Operations in its final state from the end of The Division. It's all restored; civilians can go there to get food, support, things like that. So there are little touches here and there of how things have progressed since the first game. We also have some parts of the map that are beyond the open world of The Division for new main missions or faction bases, so those are new parts of the city that you will be able to see and explore in the game.”
Specializations That Pack a Punch
Introduced in The Division 2, Specializations featured a signature weapon and a skill tree that helped buff that weapon and unlock skills and abilities generally related to the playstyle the weapon encouraged. In The Division Resurgence, Specializations have evolved into powerful packages of abilities, based not around a specific weapon, but a specific playstyle.
Lavergne says, “our philosophy when we designed the Specializations was to enable you to play a specific role when you’re on a team, and to help players figure out a loadout and a playstyle to pursue. Some of the gadgets are a little bit stronger in some aspects than in The Division and The Division 2, so you will feel the difference more from one Specialization to another in terms of how you use the skills and what you use them for.”
Some Specializations are comprised of familiar elements; the Demolitionist, for example, wields an explosive grenade launcher, explosive seeker mines, and an automatic turret that, while not explosive per se, is consistent with the theme of dealing serious damage downfield. The Vanguard (the class I played) takes a different tack, introducing a new piece of equipment — Mobile Cover – that can help Agents dictate the angles of engagement in a firefight. Move your way to an advantageous viewpoint and deploy your cover to establish your position; then, pop your Scanning Pulse ability (marks nearby targets to take increased damage) and activate your Tactical Link (a temporary damage boost and auto-aim ability) to absolutely devastate your foes while remaining relatively protected. Each individual element was helpful, but when combined, they were very powerful indeed.
In addition to the variety between Specializations, there is also variety within them; each Specialization has two Focuses which take a different approach. For example, the Field Medic has healing abilities that can, as you might imagine, bolster your health and that of your teammates to keep you in the fight longer. Change the Focus, however, and now the Field Medic unleashes corrosive poison on your enemies, causing lingering damage and controlling large areas of the battlefield. And the best part? You don’t have to choose to progress one Focus over the other; when you gain skill points for a Specialization, you gain them in both Focuses, so each one can remain a viable option.
This variety in Specializations and Focuses is meant to give you lots of ways to approach combat, to encourage you to try out different tactics, and, crucially, to allow you to synergize with teammates.
“We want players to collect [the different Specializations], try them out, and switch them as they progress in the game. You can switch your Specialization freely later in the game so it’s really, ‘Ok, now I want to play a very challenging mission with my friends. Friend #1 is gonna play Field Medic; she’s gonna be our healer, so for this one I will switch from DPS guy to Tank guy, so I’ll pick the Bulwark.’ Together you can optimize your team strategy for a specific challenge, and it’s fun to try different playstyles.”
And even more options are on the way; new Specializations will be added to The Division Resurgence after it launches this fall as part of the post-launch seasonal content plan.
Putting You In Control
Bringing the full Division experience to iOS and Android devices means ensuring that players can control their Agent confidently in the heat of battle.
“The intention was to make it possible to play with touch controls as comfortably as you would with a controller, and as efficiently as a controller, while having access to all the same actions, same verbs, same abilities,” Lavergne says.
There are a few touch control assists that I found very useful during my time playing the game. The first was being able to tap a button to snap to the highlighted cover, which was great for popping into cover at the start of an engagement or performing cover-to-cover moves. Another assist allows you to enter a continuous sprint by pushing the virtual left stick (movement) up beyond the screen area reserved for the stick controls. Once I got the hang of it, it became a great way to fluidly navigate the battlefield to grab loot after an encounter.
I also enjoyed the marksman rifle’s auto aim-down-sights feature, which puts you right into the scope vision when you press the button to acquire your target and then fires once you release the button; taking my thumb off the button of a well-aimed shot and seeing my opponent fall felt like putting a punctuation mark on it. There are customization options available to help you tweak the controls and assists to make them work for you, and The Division Resurgence has full controller support as well, so you can always connect a controller and get into the action.
Looting, Upgrading, Things of That Nature
Though I didn’t venture very far into the campaign of The Division Resurgence during my play time, I did notice some new facets of weapons and gear that offer something beyond the familiar Division loot loop. Firstly, weapons and gear can be upgraded from very early in the game using materials you find or earn in your missions. This can help them keep pace with your power level, so you can buff the stats on that Military MP5 submachine gun you’ve been enjoying and keep it viable for longer. However, this kind of upgrade does not change the rarity of the weapon or affect talents, so you may have to eventually swap out your gear for a newer model. (A note about talents: Resurgence has recalibration to help you manage those.)
Fortunately, there is a new system that allows you to invest in longer-term upgrades that will go beyond a single weapon. The Armory system works like a catalog of all the weapons and gear in the game, even the ones you haven’t looted or purchased yet. In addition to being informative, it also allows you to use Tactical Augmentation Modules you acquire to improve a specific model of weapon. That means that any upgrade you apply here will apply to all of the, say, M700 marksman rifles you find or loot, allowing you to cultivate a few favorites that pack an even greater punch.
Another new facet of weapons is damage types; be it blast, shredding, or piercing (the three types I encountered). These new types are visible from very early on, but don’t come into play until much higher-level encounters. When you’re clearing Dark Zones, tackling missions again on higher difficulty for better loot, or engaging in other endgame activities, you’ll be able to spot the colored armor bars on enemies that indicate what damage they are weak to, and that’s when it’ll be crucial to adapt your loadout and synergize with your co-op allies.
The Dark Zone Sessions
The Dark Zone is back in The Division Resurgence, offering the promise of valuable loot you can acquire from taking down enemies, exploring contaminated locations, or going rogue against your fellow players. In order to adapt the PvEvP area to the mobile platform, the team made Dark Zones forays session-based. Now, you’ll matchmake into a game with up to 19 other players and have 20 minutes to find and extract as much loot as you can. If you die within the session, you can respawn and gather more loot (or try to take your revenge).
Lavergne says, “it's our spin on the original experience of the Dark Zone to make it a little bit more mobile-oriented, more fast-paced. So whenever you want to have that Dark Zone experience with some friends or just other players, you can jump for 20 minutes, get some great loot, go again, and so on.”
Regional Beta Coming on June 13
Starting on June 13, players in Australia, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Spain and Sweden will be eligible to join a Regional Beta for The Division Resurgence. Here is the official Division Resurgence website where you can sign up; even if you aren’t in the right spot for the Regional Beta, you can still register and be eligible for in-game rewards at launch.
The Division Resurgence is releasing for free on iOS and Android devices this fall. For more on all the game in The Division franchise, including the upcoming free-to-play Division Heartland, check out our Division news hub.