The solo player's guide to almost surviving The Division 2

Is there a stigma attached to playing a multiplayer game completely solo? That's not rhetorical, I'm genuinely asking. I know there can be a sort of weirdness to doing traditional group activities on your own, like going to a movie theater or eating at a restaurant. Which is ridiculous! It's a movie. It's food. It can be nice to have companionship for those things, but they're definitely not required and it really shouldn't be seen as strange.

And it shouldn't be weird to want to play a multiplayer game all by yourself, either. The good news is that The Division 2 is mostly pretty friendly to solo players. I'm now just over 50 percent complete on story missions and I've played them all by myself. They can definitely be a real struggle at times, and I'm progressing much more slowly than the other PC Gamer folks who play with friends and strangers, but it's do-able. Mostly. Here are some tips for those of you who, for whatever reason, are going it alone in The Division 2.

Reloading is death, so never do it

After around 30 hours of The Division 2 (with 12 of those spent in the beta), my biggest takeaway is that reloading will get you killed. You may be playing alone but your enemies have so many friends. They flank you and rush you, and as you level up you'll start running into more and more enemies who have skills and gadgets just like you do. There's really no good time during a battle to take a break to reload, so don't. At least, don't do it often. In other words, choose a primary weapon with a really big mag.

There aren't many to pick from, but the Classic M60 and the M249 are the way to go. They have 100 round mags that let you shoot roughly forever before you need to reload. It also allows for easy suppression of multiple jerks at once, which gives you time to reload on the rare occasions you need to, or even better, it gives you a window to rush up and finish them at close range.

Get a shotgun, and in your pistol slot, get another shotgun

Whether being rushed or rushing yourself, shotguns—especially those that allow five or seven shots without reloading—are essential. It's even better when you've got a shotgun in your pistol slot, too, because why is there even a pistol slot? Pistols almost never drop, and they all suck and I never use them. So keep your eyes peeled for a double-barrel sawed-off shotgun you can put in your pistol slot to actually get some use out of it.

The sawed-off has changed my agent's life. It's deadly and perfect for when your two main guns are out of ammo, it packs a big punch, and it reloads in a flash. I've only ever found one, and I'm now about four levels higher than it is, but it's still extremely effective and I'll keep it until I find another one.

Skip the self-reviving skill

It feels instinctual to immediately unlock a skill that will let you revive yourself, in this case, the Hive Reviver skill. You're alone with no one to pick you up, so a bundle of circuits you can drop at your feet that will save you when you've been downed? Feels like a must-buy.

I'm gonna suggest you pass on it, though. If you're downed during a fight, it's almost certainly because you've run out of armor kits and probably grenades as well, plus you're being swarmed and one of your skills is on cooldown already. What's the point in using your other skill to be revived only to find yourself in the exact same situation? On a mission, the checkpointing is good and you'll just need to try that last fight again. In the open world, there are enough unlockable fast-travel spots to pick up where you left off within a few minutes. In the Dark Zone, whoever killed you is still nearby and they'll probably just immediately kill you again.

It's not a terrible skill to have by any means, and you'll have extra points to spend on it later, but when you're starting out solo, skip it.

But do take a healing robot with you

Can you spot the Division agent in this picture? Because all I see is a car! And a hovering health drone that is probably just minding its own business. Instead of the Hive, the first skill you should unlock is this friendly drone that drip-feeds you armor repair. It's good to save if for those moments where you can't spare a few seconds to refill your armor, or if you've run out completely. 

As far as offensive skills go, I'm all about sending a seeker mine to start a fight and take out a cluster of enemies who are standing within a few feet of each other before they've spotted me. Turrets are good for protecting one of your flanks, but you don't need that if you followed my 'bring a shotgun and another shotgun' advice: leaving a flank exposed is a great way to lure enemies close and deal with them quickly. I say, let them come to you.

Wear as many headsets as you can

OK, you can probably only wear one owing to a shortage of extra ears, but my point is that audio in The Division 2 is extremely good and extremely useful. You get lots of visual cues: you can see when an enemy is about to throw a grenade or when one of those dorks is preparing to send an exploding RC car your way, but there's so much going on during a fight that it's easy to lose track of things.

That's where audio comes in handy. The whine of an RC car, the beep of a beepy grenade, the bark of an enemy letting their pals (and you) know that they're about to set up a turret, these give you important hints that you should try to dive in the opposite direction. But the biggest example I can give is when an enemy gets behind you and runs up for a melee attack.

Their footsteps get so loud when someone rushes you from behind that the first time I heard it, I honestly laughed. It sounded like the world's least subtle foley artist trying to replicate the sound of someone climbing stairs by using a pair of boots to beat the shit out of a piece of wood. I appreciate the hint—it feels like an extremely deliberate warning that you're about to be clobbered, and I can only assume during playtesting it was an issue so they turned up that sound to 11. You can really let your ears watch your back when you're playing solo.

The time you need the chat pane is when you ragequit

Failing a mission a few times might make you want to shut the damn game off for a while. But The Division 2 isn't an easy game to ragequit. Choosing 'log off' and then waiting for a percentage meter to slowly fill before you can actually quit to desktop isn't really satisfying. I'm angry now, not two minutes from now.

So, instead, open chat with the / key, then type /quit. It still takes a a while for the game to close, but it's fewer steps and a quicker exit so you can get back to muttering 'fuck this game' while doing something else.

Keep yourself entertained

Running around alone, there's not much occasion for the tomfoolery you can get up to with partners. But there's still plenty of fun to be had. Try kicking a soccer ball around the city for as long as you can (it tends to eventually disappear). See how far you can make a tire roll by shooting it. Spend some time escorting NPCs around while they gather supplies. Or just hang around the settlement and try to blend in, as I did in this gallery below.

Remember, you're on your own

Have fun with NPCs, but don't forget, you're on your own. They'll help you from time to time, but when push comes to shove they won't hesitate you leave you behind while they (sort of) ride a helicopter (kind of) to freedom and leave you to clean up their mess.

You can do it, Division agent. Divided, we stand.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.