After some unprecedented hype for The Division, the game launched to relatively mixed responses. The Division is a role-playing game (RPG) shooter set in an apocalypse-in-progress, where a deadly plague has killed thousands and displaced even more. Anarchy reigns on the streets of New York City, and you're part of a clandestine government military organization set up as a last defense against complete societal collapse. Throughout the base game, you and up to three friends work together across a dark reimagining of New York City, battling gangsters, escaped convicts, and rogue military forces.

The leveling experience was solid, sending you into dungeon-like enemy strongholds, as you built up facilities to help survivors and improve your own abilities in the process. Sadly, though, many of The Division's systems didn't live up to expectations. But 2016 feels like an incredibly long time ago, and it's even more true for The Division, which, in 2018, is finally the rewarding loot-'em-up it should have been.

Here are some of my experiences with the new end-game.

Playstyles that matter

Perhaps my favorite improvement in The Division is the sheer volume of playstyles that are now supported via the game's gear sets.

Fairly soon after The Division launched, Ubisoft began adding special themed gear sets that came with unique bonuses that enhanced certain skills. As of 2019, there are now tons of different gear sets that enhance and compliment The Division's fairly-limited active skillset, allowing you to create unique playstyles that go far beyond what was available in the original game.

Want to play as an enhanced combat medic? There's a gear set for that. Want to play as a disruptive tank role with the ballistic shield? Now you can. Fancy taking incendiary seeker mines and a flamethrower turret, becoming a pseudo fire mage in the process? You'll need this set. There are over a dozen gear sets that enhance all sorts of playstyles and rarer exotic off-set pieces and weapons that can create unique and interesting combinations when used in tandem with different set bonuses. Additionally, there are now tons of different activities and ways to get all of these new goodies, too.

Finally, stuff to do

I quit The Division originally when the first Incursion launched because I'd run dry on things to do. The Dark Zone was a bit of a mess, where gear level played far too great a role in competitive PvP combat. Much of the best loot was to be found in the Dark Zone, and unless you wanted to spend hours being ganked, your only other option was to run through a single Incursion raid against a tank, or grind hard-mode versions of dungeon missions you had already completed.

Thankfully, there is now much more to do. The West Side Pier areas are an end-game PvE zone that spawns quest objectives dynamically as you traverse its dangers. It's also full of high-value targets (HVTs), bosses which often provide great loot and a rewarding challenge. This zone also has a Call of Duty Zombies-like "Resistance" mode where players must battle waves of enemies, accruing points to create new fortifications and progress to new areas, in exchange for awesome loot. It also has a PvP area dubbed Skirmish, which functions similarly to Team Death Match.

There are many new Incursions to undertake, which provide a greater variety of objectives than what was previously available, and you can also partake in even harder versions of existing missions. Ubisoft also spiced up general outdoor gameplay, adding daily and weekly missions to hunt down and kill HVTs with increasing difficulty. The most challenging ones offer the best loot, but also only allow for one failure, making the fights particularly nerve-wracking.

Perhaps my favorite part of The Division's 2018 end-game is the Underground, which is often compared to Diablo III's rift system. The Underground is a sprawling reimagining of New York City's subways and tunnels, filled with all sorts of bad guys. As you move through the randomly-generated areas, you'll have to contend with gameplay modifiers that add to the challenge, granting unique disadvantages that require you to change your tactics on the fly.

All of these activities give you the opportunity to collect gear sets, and the more advanced classified sets, with greater rewards depending on the difficulty you choose.

Ubisoft is also adding new Shield challenges every few weeks that require players to meet certain criteria. These challenges offer cosmetic loot and advanced gear cache crates, as well as content for The Division 2, set to launch in March 2019.

Give it a try, on the cheap

The Division's 2018 endgame feels like one of this generation's best-kept secrets. The game still enjoys a vibrant (and helpful) community on reddit, and it has tons of support from pro YouTubers like MarcoStyle, who produce tons of guides on how to get the most out of the game. It's well worth a look, and it's pretty cheap to get back into it, especially on Xbox One.

The Division's base game is available now as part of Xbox Game Pass, for just $9.99 per month. Some of the features I mentioned such as the Underground are available as part of DLC packs, but the season pass is relatively cheap at $39.99, particularly if you plan to play with friends.

If Ubisoft takes what it has learned throughout The Division's development and pours it into The Division 2, we could be in for a real treat.