The Division 2’s Private Beta is running this weekend, meaning a lot of people will be heading into one of the three Dark Zones found in Washington D.C. Whether it’s your first time in the cutthroat PvPvE space, or you are a veteran coming from the first game, there are some things you’ll need to know before crossing the barrier and entering the fray.
How to enter the Dark Zone
While The Division 2 will feature three distinct Dark Zones, the beta running this weekend features just one. Dark Zone East will unlock once you hit level five, meaning you’ll need to run a few story and side-missions before jumping in.
However, once you’ve hit level five, a new icon will appear in the eastern part of the playable space. It isn’t as simple as climbing a fence or passing through a checkpoint like the previous game, though. Each Dark Zone has to be unlocked through a tutorial mission that acquaints you with the basics before the full zone, and all the other players running about in it, becomes fully available.
Once the intro mission has been completed, you’ll be able to enter the Dark Zone freely through the checkpoint. For added convenience you can fast travel to it through the map screen once it’s been unlocked, so it’s worth heading back to the White House to upgrade your skills and equipment before entering the Dark Zone for the first time.
Dark Zone level
The Dark Zone has an entirely separate progression system to the rest of the game, the Dark Zone Level. While in the first game it was mostly just a meaningless number, in The Division 2 there are now tangible benefits to upping your rank.
For every five levels, you’ll unlock a new tier of perks available through the Dark Zone Officer. Only one perk from each tier can be enabled, however they give you serious benefits for when you’re in the Dark Zone. The first tier only features one perk that allows you to carry more contaminated items, while the higher tiers include things such as increased XP for certain actions (killing Rogues, surviving the Rogue timer yourself, finding monuments.), daily rewards at the Dark Zone safe house, faster Rogue actions, reduced Rogue timer, and maintaining a contaminated item on death.
DZ XP is earned through a variety of actions: killing enemies, killing Rogues, going Rogue yourself and surviving the timer, finding collectibles or discovering locations. Carrying over from the later updates of The Division, you won’t lose DZ XP on death, so it pays to be slightly reckless when levelling just to get you access to the perks as soon as possible.
By far the most effective method, however, is completing landmarks, which require you to head to a specific area and kill a powerful named enemy. Doing so will net you a ton of experience and some decent gear to boot, although higher difficulty ones can be very tough for a solo player to deal with. Other players can clear a landmark them before you arrive so you’ll have to be quick, but there’s always at least a few of them active. You should be able to just run around in a circuit and complete landmarks as they become available, quickly levelling up in the process.
A feature that was a significant point of contention for many in the first game makes a comeback for the sequel, with gear normalisation meaning everybody is on an equal footing once they enter the Dark Zone regardless of what equipment they’ve earned up to that point.
Gear normalisation assigns a different set of stats to every weapon in the game that takes effect once you step foot into the Dark Zone. This means somebody who’s only just hit level five has the same chance of doing well as somebody who’s played a thousand hours and has the very pinnacle of Agent equipment. You can see both your open world and normalised stats in the equipment menu.
It’s worth nothing, though, that this only applies to loot, and so more dedicated players will still have some advantages thanks to which perks and skills they may have unlocked. It’s not recommended you enter the Dark Zone before at the very least having both skill slots unlocked, just to ensure you’ve got a decent level of utility once you’re inside.
he defining mechanic of the Dark Zone is the presence of Rogue Agents. Some players will work with you as allies, or simply run about and do their own things. Others, though, may choose to act against you and play as Rogue Agents. Players can go Rogue at any time, and can and will kill you for your loot, making them the biggest threats found in the Dark Zone.
Going Rogue is a conscious decision a player make through the menu, meaning accidental friendly fire (or other players hoping to make you go Rogue by jumping into your line of fire) won’t mark you. However, hacking terminals, stealing other players’ extractions from the zipline, and breaking open some chests, will be enough to push you into a Rogue state.
The Manhunt system also returns from the first game, where particularly aggressive Rogues will be highlighted on the map for non-Rogue agents to target. A new level has also been added in the form of the Disavowed Agent. These are Rogues who have killed other players, and so are marked for non-Rogues to get their retribution, but not enough to trigger a full Manhunted Rogue state.
Running and hiding from the other players is still a viable strategy should you wish to lose your Rogue status, however there are also other ways to both lose and maintain the status for greater rewards. Finding a Manhunt terminal gives you the choice of returning to a non-Rogue state, or hacking it and increasing your time with the promise of even better loot should you survive it.
The Thieves' Den
Rogues aren’t just about senseless violence anymore as the introduction of the Thieves’ Den gives anybody who chooses to be bad something to work towards. The Thieves’ Den is an exclusive hideout for players who commit enough Rogue actions within a limited time, rewarding bold playing over just camping and waiting for the end of the timer.
To get access to the Den, you’ll need to complete a series of challenges to triangulate its location. The easiest way is through hacking SHD terminals (like the one at the end of the tutorial mission) or stealing Dark Zone chests. Doing these, as opposed to killing other players, will prevent you from becoming a Disavowed Agent or a Manhunted Rogue, giving you a better chance of completing all the objectives without player interference.
Once you’ve chased the trail of objectives, the location of the Den should unlock. Once you’re inside, you’ll be rewarded with an exclusive merchant that sells high-quality loot, as well as instantly losing your Rogue status to allow you to return to civil Agent society.
Extraction is the most vulnerable time for any player in the Dark Zone, as it’s a common place for players to be overcome by greed and try to swipe your loot at the last available second. One player fires a flare, alerting everybody else in the Dark Zone that an extraction has started. Those wanting to get their equipment out safely will need to hold off for a period against enemies, both NPCs and Rogue Agents.
Because of this, it’s always recommended to hang back for as long as you possibly can if other players are around; stay hidden, keep a line of sight with the zipline, and get ready to defend your extraction through any means necessary.
The beta version of Dark Zone East currently has two extraction points, one in the north-east, and the other in the south-east. When picking which point to go to, keep in mind factors like whether one is already active, whether there are numerous landmarks around it (which would mean more players in the vicinity), and the position of any higher-notoriety Rogue Agents. Picking a quiet spot means you’re less likely to be ambushed or betrayed, but sometimes having some well-meaning other players watch your back and deal with the AI enemies at a busier extraction can be good too.
Alternatively, you can be everybody’s worst nightmare and go Rogue. Stick by the point and kill players who attempt to extract their stuff or wait until after they’ve tethered their bags to the zipline before stealing the entire batch. Everybody is on high-alert during an extraction so justice might be swift but pulling it off and stealing the whole stash is a very tasty reward.
The Dark Zone has always been a fascinating concept that makes The Division unique. A challenging area where nobody can be trusted, with high risk and greater reward, yet not as straight a PvP experience as you might first expect. Even if you’re not one for competitive play, braving the Dark Zone can lead to some memorable experiences and some very powerful gear. Good luck, agents.