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There's a problem with The Division's Dark Zone

Alone in the Dark.

It's been just over a week since The Division's launch, and it's been a successful start for Ubisoft's online RPG so far - week one sales for the game saw it topple Destiny as the biggest new IP launch, with it taking in some $330 million in just five days. With around 50 hours on the clock, I'm still having fun rolling around an abandoned New York, too, mopping up side missions while dipping in and out of the dailies in a slow and steady effort to build a load-out of shiny yellow high-end gear in preparation for the incoming Incursions, The Division's take on MMO raids.

I'm having a good time, basically, even if I'm not putting in ten hours a day anymore - in all honesty it's nice to slow down a little and enjoy the game at a more reasonable pace. That said, I'm still bouncing up against some of the issues with the end-game - problems that become more pronounced the more time you put in. The biggest issue is that the Dark Zone - the area at the heart of The Division's map, and its big PvP offering - becomes almost completely redundant once you've reached the end-game.

In The Division, once you hit level 30 the game becomes about acquiring Phoenix Credits - and you'll be needing around 120 of them in order to get some decent gear from in-game vendors. In the very early days - and when I say early I mean within around 48 hours of the game's launch - farming credits could be done easily enough in the Dark Zone, where high level named enemies dropped a handsome handful of them, and where players were able to kit themselves out in the very best kit in no time at all.

Ubisoft worked fast to fix that, but were perhaps a little too aggressive in their nerfing - with those named enemies now only dropping one to two credits each, and with daily missions handing out 15, there's very little point heading into the Dark Zone if it's better gear you're after.

There's very little point heading there if it's out and out PvP you're after, either. In The Dark Zone, the promise is that other players can go rogue at any point, deciding to turn on their allies in order to make away with all the loot. It's a wonderful premise, and in the first few days and in the innocence of life before hitting the level cap players were gleefully betraying each other, or camping by extraction zones in order to take down unsuspecting players and grab their loot.

Towards the end-game, though, players have figured out that the risks of going rogue just aren't worth it - do so and you risk losing everything, while if you succeed you get very little in return. You're simply better off just teaming up with other players. In other words, the Dark Zone, as it stands, is just too darn nice.

It's made for a slight detour from what Ubisoft intended for the Dark Zone, with some players frustrated at the lack of real PvP sabotaging others by walking into their line of fire, turning them rogue and allowing others to kill them with impunity. It's far from ideal, and it's lent a messy, frustrating edge to the Dark Zone.

Ubisoft seems aware, at least, and is working on a solution for more meaningful PvP interaction in the Dark Zone - there's an update due next week, though we're not sure if those changes will be implemented by then. Right now, though? I'll admit I'm still having fun in the Dark Zone, even if it's frustrating players who've piled in far more hours than me. Last night, I chanced across someone farming enemies, and instead of stopping to point out there are more efficient ways to farm I quietly tagged along, spending an hour running the same route in silent camaraderie and occasionally breaking out the emote wheel for spontaneous rounds of applause.

By the end of it all there was little to show for our efforts beyond a paltry handful of Phoenix Credits - no way near enough for even a nice pair of kneepads - but I enjoyed the odd warmth you get from teaming up with a complete stranger and becoming, for a short while, friends. There'll be an update along in the near future, I'm sure, which will make it worthwhile for one of us to shoot the other in the back, so maybe I should make the most of this inadvertent armistice while it lasts.

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About the Author
Martin Robinson avatar

Martin Robinson


Martin worked at Eurogamer from 2011 to 2023. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.

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