By Now many people will be knee deep in Tom Clancy’s The Division. In my earlier piece, I was very fond of the way the game, despite being Multiplayer focussed, played like a nice open-world singleplayer game. Now after a full week with the game, I have to talk about the taboo of the game. The Dark Zone
The Dark Zone is the player versus player element of the game. It is a large section in the middle of the Manhattan map, that allows for some form of competitive gaming. The beauty of this section, however, is it’s complete lack of rules. You really are entering the wild west of shooters.
There are a few simple things to know before you dive in. The lure of the area is the loot you have a chance of getting. In here the best weapons and gear in The Division are just waiting to be found. Unfortunately, everyone else has the same idea. Once you find some nice weapons or gear, you have to get it out of there. Now the game could have been simple and just force you to run for it back to the entrance you came in. Indeed, this is what I thought on my first run through. When you get to the door you are told that the gear in your bag is contaminated and needs to be extracted. This is done by getting to an extraction zone and calling in a helicopter to take your gear. Once you get there the chopper takes 90 seconds to arrive, then you have to attach your gear and wait for it to be extracted. In reality, this means surviving for 2 minutes in the Dark Zone with a bullseye painted on your head.
You see in the Dark Zone there are no morals. It is hard enough to just survive against the overpowered AI that roam the streets. Often you are slowly walking about when you stumble upon a firefight involving characters many levels above you. Until you level up, you can be downed and killed by one shot from an enemy. Being downed makes you drop any items you have looted and costs you some Dark Zone XP and DZ credits. The pain of this means that levelling up is very much a harrowing experience in the early hours of the game. I personally wouldn’t recommend going anywhere near the DZ until you are at least level 10 in the main game and have decent weapons. Even with these, it will be a shock to the system. You start at level 1 in the DZ so the only way to level up is to kill something. The AI is so tough compared to the main game, meaning the only thing you can do is join in to fire fights already in progress. A decent sniper rifle helps, meaning you can sit a safe distance back and fire a few weak shots at the enemies, meaning you get a share of the XP. If you respectfully let the other players lift the loot, they are more inclined not to turn and kill you straight away. If they do kill you they are deemed as going ‘rogue’. There is a red symbol put against them and the rest of the players in the zone are free to kill them without consequence. The delightful balance here means the journey into the DZ never gets old, despite the lack of focus. You see in the DZ you are in a coliseum environment where you feel very much alone against randomly generated elite enemy patrols.
As well as the elite AI enemies patrolling the streets, you have other agents, who are more than likely a higher level than you. For the most part, people are so shocked by the difficulty of the enemies that they work together to take them down and share the spoils. However human nature plays a significant role in the Division and the lure of betraying your single-serving ally, to steal their gear and credits is strong. However when it comes to extraction they will have two minutes to hunt you down and do the same. When you call the extraction, every other player in the zone is alerted and they have the chance to come in and rob you. What usually happens is a few people need their items extracted, so all share the same extraction chopper. This code of honour is the norm, but the threat of being screwed over keeps the tension and whole situation on edge. It really is an adrenaline shot, compared to the focussed and carefully planned main game.
My only advice is to trust no-one and play nice. If you go in all guns blazing, you will be put in your place. If this sounds like a challenge to you go ahead. The DZ is the schoolyard and there is always a bigger bully than you.