Last week I offered my impressions on 20 hours of The Division. Since then I’ve reached the level 30 cap. I’ve sunk hours into exploring the Dark Zone. I’ve completed the four challenging missions multiple times. I’ve gathered a full set of High End gear, and upgraded High End gear with other gear that was slightly Higher End. I’ve basically done all there is to do in The Division, save collecting all the collectibles (I’m not that crazy). I’ve tasted the end game and come back to tell the tale.
Last time around, I focused on the leveling experience. So you can refer to that article for all that stuff. I’m going to mostly focus on end game this time around. I will say that those last 10 levels resembled the first 20 pretty closely. The game offered few surprises during the last stretch of the leveling experience. The last mission includes the closest thing to a boss fight in The Division, and the Last Man’s Battalion, the final enemy faction, spices up the last few zones and missions a bit. These guys take cover better. They aim better. They have an annoying foe with a riot shield that can be a hassle to take down unless you can get behind him. The Last Man’s Battalion helps to keep those last few repetitive missions from being too repetitive. That and the fact that your next big gear upgrade can be just a single kill away.
It’s fortunate, too, that The Division plays so well. Guns are varied, and there are plenty of recoil patterns to learn. The cover system is responsive, and you’ll rarely have those instances of getting stuck or the controls not behaving as you’d expect them to. Darting between cover in an attempt to flank the enemy before they can flank you, is loads of fun. That mixed with the game’s stellar yet subtle soundtrack and near-DICE levels of sound design makes combat in The Division feel really good. There’s a high chance that between that and the loot system, you’ll very well forget how repetitive some of it is.
In the end, level 30 doesn’t take all too long to reach, and that’s when the real fun begins. The Division is one of those games, same as Destiny and Diablo 3. It doesn’t really start until you reach end game. It all comes down to having enough things to do once you hit the level cap to keep you engaged and keep you wanting to come back for more. The Division almost succeeds in that. As it stands now, the main activities you’ll be engaged in once end games rolls around is running missions for gear, and running around the Dark Zone for gear. But will that be enough to keep people engaged in the long term? Maybe – once future updates start rolling out.
The general progression is this: you’re a fresh-faced 30. Your gear is abysmal. You have no hope of completing missions on hard let alone challenging. So what do you do? Definitely the Dark Zone. Superior (purple) items drop like candy there. Within a few hours of running around, you’ll easily have a full set of superior gear, and if you get lucky, you might even find a few High End (yellow) pieces of gear, too.
The Dark Zone succeeds as a farming zone, but at the moment, it fails as a PvP zone. Dozens of people are running around, killing the NPC enemies, but generally leaving each other alone. At the moment, the penalties for going rogue are way too strict and deter many players from even bothering. With any luck, Massive Entertainment will tweak the system, and people will actually start behaving like the heathens we all know them to be. I went as far as to come up with some ideas as to how the Dark Zone can be improved. Until something’s done it’ll probably be a mindless farm fest for both loot and rank. If possible, though, bring some friends or make some friends. All the enemies in the level 30 version of the Dark Zone are tough, and can be difficult to kill solo with no gear.
After a while, you’ll probably realize that you’ve been collecting Phoenix Credits. Those are The Division’s end game currency. They can be used to buy blueprints for High End gear, or High End gear itself. They can also be used to recalibrate that very same gear, but that gets really expensive really quickly, and Phoenix Credits are almost always better spent buying gear until you have an excess. Feel free to recalibrate those purples to your heart’s content, though, or until you run out of regular money.
Now that you have some semblance of gear, and maybe recalibrated it some to be even better, it’s a good time to start delving into missions. The Division has a couple hard daily missions and one daily challenging mission. These offer more rewards and are generally worth doing once you have the gear for it. Challenging is no joke, though, but any random group can tackle the hard missions with ease.
It’s unfortunate that only four of the current missions have a challenging difficulty, because these are perhaps The Division’s true end game. Enemies are all level 32. They are all tough. And they all eat more bullets than they have the stomachs to hold, but it’s fun, and it’s challenging, and it can be really satisfying the better you get at them. Every time you complete a challenging mission you gain a random piece of High End gear (armor, not weapons), and a quite a few Phoenix Credits. These have been a blast and easily one of my favorite parts of The Division.
But why are we farming all these gear and becoming all the more powerful if all we’re going to do is farm the same four challenging missions? Well, the ultimate goal here is to gear up for the upcoming incursions. Those are The Division’s next stage of end game. In other circles they might’ve been called raids, but they’re only intended for four players. The first one, Falcon Lost, will be found in a free update come April. Till then the only real thing to do is farm missions on challenging and run around the Dark Zone.
The Division could certainly use a few more challenging missions, and a tweaked Dark Zone where players actually want to go rogue. It’s unclear what the gear requirement for the first Incursion will be, but chances are plenty of players are already at that level. Sure, the hardcore crowd is the minority, but as more time goes by, more players will inch their way up. In time, I fully expect The Division to be one of those games where people play a lot around the time of new contents updates, and then put it down until the next one. The only source of long term replay is the Dark Zone, but it still needs a bit of work. Maybe one day soon it’ll get there.
My hopes for The Division is that not only will the Incursion be awesome, but that Massive Entertainment spent the next month or two refining the current iteration of the Dark Zone and then adding to it later. There’s a lot of potential there, and it’s a bit disappointing that at the moment it’s just a big zone for farming. Rogues should be a vital part of the experience, but at the moment, they aren’t. Challenging difficulty is a success, though. We just need more of them. Four will only go so far.
The Division is a trove of potential. It does enough things right that it’s fairly easy to get past the repetitive side missions and encounters. The biggest disappointment, though, is probably the Dark Zone, but even that’s fixable, and considering how responsive Massive Entertainment has been so far, I’m going to err on the side of optimism, and hope that changes are sooner rather than later.