I was ready to enter The Division’s Dark Zone after hitting the level cap of 30 a few days ago and then spending the next day capping off upgrades at my base of operations. I was almost fully decked out in purples and just crafted a “high-end” (yellow) piece of gear from a schematic earned during the final story mission. I thought I would roll through enemies like a Whirlwind Barbarian from Diablo 3. I was expecting a war zone, with top-tier loot dropping left and right. Reality revealed a somewhat different scenario. I believe my first experience of the Dark Zone, a roughly three-hour play session, perfectly summarizes some of the issues the community has with The Division’s endgame thus far. But it also showed off some of the great potential it has.
When you first step through a checkpoint and into the Dark Zone, things are eerily silent as your radio crackles and “Isaac” tells you your communications have been jammed. More often than not, I found myself unable to find a single friend or foe for the first few hundred meters. At first, this emphasized the tension, as I was just waiting for another player to go “rogue” on me for a large bounty of experience (the area has a separate leveling system) and loot. But as I looped city blocks finding nothing but snow and a few squads of purple enemies, it soon started hindering the experience. That was the first hour and a half.
Firefights that did erupt were brutal. At first, I was admittedly annoyed. In the Dark Zone, The Division will throw full packs of elites and named enemies at you. On top of that, in the easiest sections you will find that they are all at least level 30. Enemies that run at you with baseball bats and pipes are much more difficult to handle when they take a magazine and a half to kill. The game almost forces awkward “kiting” strategies upon you that are difficult to execute with the control scheme and mechanics of the game. Full disclosure: I was playing solo and the difficulty I encountered may have been inflated. Nevertheless, after adjusting my strategy, I finally started raking in some purple “superior” gear.
Enter “Delta Squad,” as they will be referred to for anonymity.
Upon respawning at a checkpoint, I went outside to be slaughtered by a group of four “rogues.” I found this interesting, as up until this point I had not seen a “rogue,” aside from those that had not really “gone rogue,” but had accidentally shot friendlies during a firefight (an issue that should somehow be rectified, as it is easily exploitable). Everyone had just sort of naturally cooperated. But these four had a purpose, as I was not the only one to fall at their hands. Most likely, they were grinding for Dark Zone experience, as they were level 40’s killing guys who hadn’t even reached 10 yet.
Now, a point of contention among the community has been how there is too harsh of a penalty for “going rogue,” discouraging it. This is why: immediately, those of us who were able to figure out what was happening respawned at the closest checkpoint. When we entered the Dark Zone, we had four big red skulls on our map telling us the location of Delta Squad, and EVERYBODY on the map was rushing to that spot. This caused a running battle through the Dark Zone, that settled around Koreatown. Delta Squad put up a valiant defense, but was eventually overrun by superior numbers and quick respawns. They lost everything to us and I turned off The Division with a nice chest of purples waiting for me back at base and a good story to tell readers.
The firefight was much longer and far more intense than it probably sounds from the written word. It took around an hour to put down all of the “rogues,” including those who accidentally became one via friendly fire. Things became even more interesting when a pack of elites spawned on the fight. More importantly, it showed the possibilities of such a free form multiplayer platform. But it also showed how “going rogue” means you’re probably going to lose unless you coordinate multiple squads. Hopefully, Ubisoft Massive is taking note of stories like these.
Check out the Outerhaven’s recent review of The Division, and stay tuned for more coverage!