Ubisoft‘s The Division has been getting pretty decent reviews since its release, mostly being boasted as Destiny in New York, something I’ve been telling people since the beta. I don’t pre-order games anymore, publishers can’t be trusted, but The Division was different, the beta actually sold me on it. So I went against my morals and pre-ordered The Division, a decision I’ve yet to regret more than 40+ hours into the game.

The Division can be played two ways, PvE or PvP the latter being the majority of discussion in this post. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the PvE aspects of The Division. I really like the Tom Clancy save the world by saving New York storyline, the leveling aspects with talents and perks works very well with said storyline. The character customization is easy and way more fun than it should be, picking the perfect hat to match your badass jacket with some sick kicks to match your dope gat. I assume that’s how kids talk these days.

Speaking of gats, the weapons of The Division combined with the cover based combat system is one of my favorite pieces of the game. There’s a weapon for every type of player, and combined with your talents you can build whatever type of super soldier that fits your fancy. Ping enemies with your Pulse, hit a few with your marksman rifle and pick off the stragglers with an SMG. Maybe you’re a bit more direct and like to toss out a Seeker Mine, blow away a few punks with a shotgun, and charge in with your combat shield at the ready. Now that’s just you, imagine working as a synchronized team with talents complimenting each other. It makes for some very exciting and fun battles.

Like I said earlier though, this post isn’t about The Division’s PvE gameplay but instead about it’s PvP area, the Dark Zone. I’ve been calling it the danger zone because I like Top Gun, and honestly I like saying it repeatedly like Archer. The Division’s Dark Zone is, how do I put this, a tricky bitch. The Dark Zone is the central most point of The Division’s bastardized New York map, it’s the area hardest hit by the infection so thus has only the hardest survivors, mostly the thugs and gangs you meet in PvE only much more vicious.

I would not suggest going into the Dark Zone solo, but luckily for you, I’ve done it, and I’ve done it often. Going into the Dark Zone lone wolf is how I say it to sound bad ass, but really I only have two friends currently playing The Division and they aren’t on nearly as much as I am, I’m kind of obsessed at the moment, and honestly I don’t care much for PUGs, an MMO term for “Pick Up Group”. So I end up traversing the city by myself and finally around level 15 I started entering the Dark Zone, alone. Here are a few things I’ve learned about being a lone wolf in the Dark Zone.

The Dark Zone is said to have the best gear, this is because when the infection hit New York, the National Guard had to abandon the area and in their haste left tons of military weapons and armor behind. Let me be the first to tell you, this may be true in the more difficult areas to the North, but down South the gear is shit. Lucky for you the Dark Zone XP and funds are nearly the same, and with Dark Zone vendors having amazing gear just as good and often better than what you can find actually in the Dark Zone, it would behoove you to farm for said funds and xp.

Your Dark Zone level is separate from your actual level and some of the gear you can purchase from the Dark Zone vendor can’t even be purchased until your DZ level is 30. So get to farming.

Much like your Dark Zone level, loot you pick up in the DZ is separated from your pack. DZ loot is contaminated and must be held in a separate pack before it’s extracted via helicopter. This brings up a myriad of issues when traveling the DZ lone wolf.

Space in your pack is limited (6 items to start) and when you loot something it puts a bright yellow pack under your current sling pack. Only you know what’s in your pack and everyone around you is curious to just what’s inside it. The Dark Zone Biohazard bag might as well be a giant bullseye on your back. A solo player is easy pickings, so only pick up what you need, and what you plan on extracting. If you want to deconstruct items you can get enough of that PvE.

You’ve picked up all the loot your pack can carry, because we discussed only grabbing what you need it’s now extremely important that you extract the gear, so now what? Well you have to go to a designated extraction area on the map and shoot up a flare to let everyone on the map including AI enemies know that someone with decent loot is trying to leave with it in 90 seconds. One lone wolf does not simply launch a flare in the Dark Zone.

Let everyone else launch that flare and start the extraction process, believe me, an extraction is almost always happening, if you’re smart and patient you shouldn’t ever have to start it. Let them do all the dirty work, watch them and the timer closely. Space on the helicopter is limited to four bags per extraction so if there’s four people attempting to extract, it becomes tricky but doable. I’ve done it.

You’ll see the helicopter drop its rope signalling it’s ready for items to be extracted, at this point you sprint over, hook up your bag and sprint away. Run like you’ve never run before because you essentially just fucked over one person of a group that’s probably been working around the area for a while.

Extraction is also the time most players go Rogue so being patient may also open the door for more funds and xp for killing the Rogue agents. Being late to the party pays off when you’re arriving alone.

I’ve rarely been ganked in the Dark Zone, much less than what you would think considering I’m always in it lone wolf. When I have been ganked, it’s when I’ve been outnumbered 4 to 1. A party of two players can be shady, but four can equal instant death, especially if you have a bright yellow biohazard pack on your hip.

Always be aware of your surroundings and have your ears perked when you’re in or around combat, if a group larger than two shows up around you, it’s time to beat feet, they aren’t there to help, they’re there for your loot.

The Dark Zone is separated by levels such as 10-15, 15-19, 20-24, etc but it’s also divided into zones each becoming increasingly more difficult the further you travel North. Unless you’re in a group of four that plan on charging their way up North, your solo ass wont last more than one battle without completely wiping out your ammo and Med kits. Embrace this fact, sure you won’t get higher level gear but remember, farming is your friend and all of that can be accomplished quickly and easily further South.

For the Dark Zone being touted as dangerous as it is, it’s actually quite tame until you reach areas marked as “landmarks”. This is where the majority of action will take place. I’ve found myself wandering around the DZ looking for easy farm and finding nothing, maybe a chest here or there, but if you want continuous farm you have to reach those landmarks. This is probably by design since it forces players to come into contact with each other more often.

Besides the landmarks it’s also incredibly important when trudging just a few sections North to know where the nearest safe houses are. There’s not enough ammo or med kits around the DZ so restocking at the safe houses is crucial. There’s a point of no return, if you’re down to one med kit, it’s time to start heading to a safe house. Trouble seems to find you in the DZ when you’re low on health and ammo.

I know it almost sounds  counterintuitive when talking about videogames, but being in the Dark Zone and running solo is not time to be a hero. If you wan’t to help someone in combat to snag that last bit of farm fine, but don’t stick around. Division agents go rogue and that extra xp and funds sounds appealing if you take them down, but often times as I’ve found, hunting rogue agents down only leads to becoming outnumbered and then quickly becoming the hunted.

I’ve opportunistically ganked rogue agents, I haven’t been successful however taking on a rogue agent head on. Many players have much more powerful weapons, armor, and quite frankly are probably just a lot better at The Division than I am. They’re like Bane, I’ve simply adopted the Dark Zone, but they were born in it, molded by it.

Did you know New York has a subway system? I know it’s crazy, right? So I’ve discovered that this is my new favorite place to farm. I was hesitant to post this at first, with fear of letting the golden goose out of the bag, but I’m either a really nice guy or an idiot, either way you win.

The subway I enter is in the western part DZ03 right outside the nearest extraction area. Mobs are constant and spawn in predictable areas, items picked up from chests are at your level, and no one comes down there. I’ve farmed this area for hours and have yet to see another soul searching out the subway.

Items from the chests are at your level, unlike lower level items dropped from mobs secondary to the area that you happen to be farming making your time down there actually worth more than just Dark Zone experience. You would think that I would just hop over the extraction area to the east of the subway entrance but you would be wrong, this extraction point is too difficult to defend, instead I cut through the buildings directly south of the safe house to the DZ02 extraction point. This extraction point on top of the parking garage is easy to defend and typically void of higher level players making extraction much less stressful.

Hopefully this has brought in a new perspective into not only the Dark Zone, but into The Division as a whole. The Division is a fantastic game with a strong foundation complimented with new aspects into the console MMO. The journey to The Division’s end game is less of a grind and more like a long running quest to improve your characters combat readiness. The Dark Zone is an essential part of this journey, one I suggest everyone try, even if you don’t have a posse. Each and every time you enter the Dark Zone you’re never quite sure what or who you’re going to encounter, and for this reason, it’s one of the most interesting PvP titles on the market right now.