Ubisoft's betting big on The Division, but is it late to the party?

The Division Heartland
(Image credit: Ubisoft)

For Division Day, Ubisoft has revealed new details on the entire The Division franchise, including the future of The Division 2, mobile spin-off The Division: Resurgence, and middle-America's The Division: Heartland.

The Division 2 is entering its fifth year, but Ubisoft shows little sign of slowing down. Season 1, which arrives in June, comes with a new roguelite game mode, Descent. Existing inside a simulation, it's a mode that can be played solo or in co-op, and is all about fine-tuning your build to complete each run.

Through the rest of the year, Ubisoft will be working on a rework of the game's Castle area, with new activities taking place around that. In Season 3 we'll be heading back to New York for Christmas, while Season 4 will introduce new story DLC. Around that, there'll also be new cosmetics, including a Sam Fisher outfit available as part of Ubisoft's ongoing attempts to keep Splinter Cell's chambling corpse alive until the Splinter Cell remake, and Leon Kennedy's Raccoon City PD gear for a Resident Evil crossover.

While The Division 2 is still trucking, it's far from the only thing the Division franchise has going for it these days. During the Division Day stream, Ubisoft also showed off The Division: Resurgence, which it claims will be a "full-fledged Division experience," complete with a campaign that will bridge the gap between the two mainline games. It looks pretty ropey from the brief snippet of gameplay shown off, but if you're interested in checking it out, you can register for a test phase via the game's official website.

Ubisoft wrapped up with what was clearly intended to be the main event of its broadcast – The Division: Heartland. A free-to-play survival spin on The Division, Heartland explores what an apocalypse scenario looks like outside of a major city by heading to the Midwest. The survival ideas look like they have some merit – you'll be contending with pockets of 'contagion' in a way that should work to deter some players and reward those who are less risk-averse, while also working to avoid 'dehydration', which slows you down if you can't find enough fresh water – but my bigger concern is Heartland's 'PvEvP' format.

You'll be dealing with The Division's traditional AI foes, but as Heartland's Day/Night cycle rolls around, you'll also be fighting off real human players. Heartland looks like it blurs the lines between the traditional areas of the mainline games and their Dark Zones, where you fight actual players. It's an interesting adaptation, and it's clear that Ubisoft is trying to position Heartland as something of a bridge for the franchise. There's no word on The Division 3, but Heartland is free-to-play, and its team describe it as a "living game" intended to develop with its audience. 

I'll be interested to see if that works, but I'm not holding my breath. Games that blend player and AI combat in this way tend to struggle to find an audience – Scavengers shut down without even leaving early access, and my Destiny-loving colleagues tell me that its Gambit mode, while well-received, has consistently struggled. While potentially the natural successor to the MOBA boom of the noughties, PvEvP has struggled to capture anything like that level of popularity. Add to that Ubisoft's propensity for coming to popular genres a little late, and I don't know that Heartland will offer the road to the future that The Division probably needs by now.

For all my skepticism, it's interesting to see the developer really committing to one of its most popular new IP. As its older franchises have struggled to maintain their relevance and its brand-new games have faltered, it feels like games like The Division 2 and Rainbow Six Siege, which have quietly become some of the company's juggernaut titles, deserve exactly this kind of love. What remains to be seen, however, is whether their lapsed players agree.

Ali Jones
News Editor

I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.