Tom Clancy’s The Division has been out almost a month and as players are reaching the level cap, more and more are exploring the Dark Zone. For those not-in-the-know, the Dark Zone (DZ) is The Division’s player vs. player area where high risk meets high reward in the form of tougher enemies and better loot. It takes as much brain as it does brawn to make a successful run through the DZ and it is players that can combine these two traits, with some added luck, that tend to come out on top.
You enter the Dark Zone by simply walking to one of its checkpoints and passing through, and while an open area, the is far from the free for all shootout that is the open world of games like Grand Theft Auto V. Instead, the DZ is served up in districts, each increasing in difficulty as you travel north. This encourages players to build and test their gear, especially after reaching The Division’s level cap of 30. Essentially, the only way to get to higher areas of the DZ is to use gear collected from the lower areas and purchase gear obtained with DZ funds. Farming the AI is a viable strategy for getting new gear and a decent amount of funds, but it is what happens when you want to get that gear out that makes The Division’s PvP interesting.
All gear picked up the in Dark Zone is contaminated by the Green Poison, the disease that kicks of your agent’s journey, and cannot simply be walked out through a checkpoint or equipped on site. It must first be extracted via one of the many extraction zones. The catch here is that you have to, like with everything else, hoof it to one of these areas since there’s no fast travel inside the DZ, which comes with the risk of getting killed and dropping all of your loot. Once you reach an extraction area, only one chopper, with only four spots for bags, can be summoned at a time. This chopper takes roughly two minutes to show up, all players within the same area as you are alerted to its presence, and you will be constantly assaulted by waves of AI as you scramble to get your loot hooked up.
These are probably the most intense moments that take place in the Dark Zone. Of course you want to get your gear, but so does everyone else. The question “Am I going to have to fight these guys?” is always the first one that pops into my head, especially if I’m roaming solo. Many players will camp extraction zones, hoping no one spots them with a radar pulse, waiting to steal gear. Others will simply kill you out of panic that they might not get that awesome high end item out because there aren’t enough spots for everyone. It’s extremely tense and that’s what makes it fun.
Still, there’s more to be had. If you’re the kind of person who always must test their skill against other players, you could go rogue. Going rogue is probably the best risk vs. reward system I’ve seen in a PvP system. Attacking other players unprovoked will cause you get a marker that runs on a cool down and pings everyone’s radar every few seconds to let them know which direction you are in. As you kill more players, the time and level on this marker increases, all the way up to 5. Get to level 5 and then you and your group become the target of a manhunt. If you survive until the end of your countdown, which stops each time you enter combat, you collect a massive bounty but if someone brings you down, they get the bounty plus whatever loot and DZ keys you’re carrying.
By keeping things simple, and allowing tension to build simply by being in this area, The Division may have the best PvP in a small scale MMO to date.