Let’s cut straight to the point – if you play The Division and intend on staying with the game, you have to head to the Dark Zone sooner or later.
Why? Because it’s the best place to obtain loot based on the amount of time it takes. We’ll get into why that is in a bit but for all intents and purposes, the Dark Zone is the primary endgame in The Division. It’s also the reason the game is suffering. Glitches can be fixed. Loot drops and the quality of said drops can be fixed. However, when a game’s mechanics are tailored to waste any number of hours you’ve invested and leave you with less than what you started with, there are problems. Let’s take a look at five reasons why the Dark Zone is the worst endgame, possibly among all the loot-based games out there.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.
Funds/XP Loss on Death
Take your average competitive shooter, say Overwatch. Blizzard Entertainment is currently making a ton of effort to ensure that Competitive Play for its shooter isn’t unrewarding, to the extent that for season 2, it will be removing the Sudden Death rounds from close games. The logic behind the same according to principal designer Scott Mercer is that, “We definitely want players to feel like if they had a tie, their time wasn’t completely wasted.”
Meanwhile, in The Division, it’s possible to lose XP and funds in the Dark Zone every time you die. Sure you can rush to the location of your death and pick up any funds/keys dropped but it’s a tedious exercise every time you die. Also, if whatever killed you is still around, then you’re not making it out alive a second time around. As for the lost XP, which is necessary to rank up and purchase blueprints for weapons and the like in the Dark Zone? Yeah, that’s gone forever. Having fun yet?
When The Division first released, the Dark Zone was a pretty “meh” place for loot. Subsequent updates made it so that named enemies dropped guaranteed High-Ends which further expanded to Gear Set drops, Sealed Caches containing Gear Set pieces, high Gear Score weapons and whatnot. Here’s the problem though – as a PvPvE zone, the Dark Zone’s NPCs never felt impossible to fight on your own (with the exception of the LMB in DZ05/DZ06 but it was still manageable if you were geared out).
Not anymore. The current +231 Gear Score makes it extremely difficult to play solo in the Dark Zone with just any build. Worse still, even with friends you’ll have a hard time managing in DZ01 to DZ03 if you’re singled out. Enemies are capable of downing you in a few clips, never mind the shotgunners who can down you in a few shots from down the block. But that’s what happens when NPCs are level 33 onwards – don’t even get us started on DZ05/DZ06 which contain level 35 enemies and which are nearly impossible for most teams. It would help if the enemies didn’t have health pools in the millions, lob grenades by the hundreds and require thousands of bullets to kill but alas.
All The Best Loot
Of course, you may be asking – why not just leave the Dark Zone alone? If it’s really a blight on The Division in its current state, then why not ignore it? The main reason is due to the loot. All of the best endgame loot can be obtained in the Dark Zone. More importantly, it’s designed in such a way that you can obtain great loot much faster than from playing Challenging missions, Heroic Incursions, 3 Phase Underground missions, etc.
The other issue is that it’s the source for all endgame loot. If you want a Sentry’s Call or Striker’s Battlegear, arguably two of the best sets in the game, then you just can’t farm the Underground with friends or embark on High Value targets – they simply don’t drop there. Besides, why play a Heroic Underground mission with three punishing Directives on when you can just, oh, loot a Supply Drop in the Dark Zone? Not only will it give you a high GS set piece but it’ll likely be something else besides Firecrest or B.L.I.N.D. The ratio of effort/time to loot gaining means that everyone will be funneled into the god-awful Dark Zone eventually and it simply sucks.
Rogues and Griefing
To make things even more insultingly challenging for players, both solo and groups, is the addition of rogues. Rogues are essentially the PvP elements of the Dark Zone – real players who can gun you down at a moment’s notice. You never know who’s friendly and who’s not, thus leading to a constant sense of tension. The problem is that when rogues kill you, they can steal your stuff. PvP in the Dark Zone isn’t based on who has skill – it depends on the one with the better equipment…or in the current meta, whoever has the highest Toughness and is capable of one-shotting you with a Sticky Bomb since you didn’t think to put two pieces of Final Measure on for Exotic Damage Resilience.
It’s gotten to the point where rogues simply roam the Dark Zone, griefing other players and setting back their progress just for kicks. Does Massive try to make it tougher for rogues to steal your loot (and no, sending some random loot to a “private” stash doesn’t help)? Nope. It actually introduces a mechanic called rope cutting to further ensure you lose. Did we mention it’s possible to get eight friends into a single Dark Zone instance and go around slaughtering everyone? Or camp a single spot and never die? Or simply run away forever and aggro NPCs on to pursuers to kill them? Or how about matching with you, kicking you out, murdering you and stealing your stuff?
Poor Substitute for PvP
All of this highlights one major issue with the Dark Zone – it’s a PvE zone that should be used by players for endless farming but is besotted with awful PvP elements. The Dark Zone itself isn’t even PvP – it’s little more than a gank fest where players simply roll up on you, steal your stuff, mock you and then leave.
Damage between weapons isn’t normalized like Destiny so the one with the better gear or the Tanktician meta is the one who emerges on top during battles. And it’s a shame because The Division actually could have some decent cover-based PvP, pitting squads of four players against each on objective modes in a variety of different settings (the Dark Zone is varied enough and has so much potential for PvP battles). Instead, what we get is this. GG Massive. The developer did recently increased damage players can deal to each other but that’s not a long-term solution for this uneven-style of PvP, which only drags down the potential power you can wield in PvE, by a long shot.
There’s probably something I missed out on but I’d prefer to suppress the bad memories. Do you like the Dark Zone in its current form? Hate it? Let us know in the comments below.