The Division 2 is filled with things to do, places to explore, guns to collect and enemies to kill. And after a massive sale and a new expansion, there might be a lot of players either returning to the game or playing it for the first time. So here are some updated tips for new and veteran players.
(This post originally ran on March 15, 2019 and has been updated and republished today.)
You can do this by playing the first game or, much more easily, reading the in-game dossiers that are unlocked at the start of the sequel. You can also catch snippets of back-story during The Division 2’s loading screens. Note that you can flip through three different types of tips and then cycle through the tips in that category. Pick “World” and then click through them.
If even that’s too much, then, ok, we’ll just tell you: a scientist named Gordon Amherst created an extremely potent biological weapon, unleashed it on the population via tainted money on Black Friday and chaos followed. The first Division focuses on how this led to New York City being placed on lockdown, while the government activated sleeper agents amid the civilian population to help restore order. Those agents are called The Division and you play as one of them. A Division agent named Aaron Keener goes rogue around the time of the first game and, as that game ends, he’s somewhere out there, armed with Amherst’s bio-weapon. The Division 2 starts off several months later and we soon see that Washington, DC has been ravaged as well. The Division is needed there, too.
The new expansion, Warlords of New York, continues the Keener storyline and explains what he’s been up to since he was last seen in The Division.
The Division 2 has a lot of different options to mess with, even before you start the game. You can change the size of text and have the game audibly read out text menus. Unfortunately, increasing the text size doesn’t change all the text in the game. The size of words found on the map and in on-screen notifications can be really small. You might need to scoot your chair closer to the TV to read it properly.
Look, I get it. New content! New map! New missions! Exciting stuff. But if you are a new player, there is sooo much to do in the DC map. Skipping it all by using the boost that gets your character to level 30 right away seems like a waste.
Sure, you can go back after the expansion and play a lot of that content, but we recommend at least playing through the main campaign of The Division 2. This will help you get a handle on the basics, the flow of combat and the game’s different gadget-based skills.
Over the last year, Ubisoft and Massive have added three new episodes to The Division 2. These let players explore new areas of the world and complete a mission, either alone or in a group. For returning players who beat the main story of the game and never came back, these episodes move the narrative forward and tie up some loose threads from the campaign.
For new players, these three episodes consist of solid and fun missions which, on harder difficulties, can dole out a lot of loot and some nice rewards. We recommend playing them in order of release, so Episode 1, 2 and finally 3. Episode 3, which is set in New York’s Coney Island, is the biggest of the episodes and includes two missions, a safe house and is a direct prequel to Warlords of New York. If you only have time to play one of these, Episode 3: Coney Island is the one to play.
In addition to the Episodes, The Division 2’s developers spent the first year releasing a free mode called Kenly College that is easily skippable and eight missions called Classified Assignments that are among the best missions in the game. These Classified Assignments are set in distinct locations like a bank, an aquarium and an NSA bunker and each includes a short mini-story and at least one unlockable puzzle room. The Classified Assignments are now paid DLC for the game. Once you’ve played all of the many other missions in the main game, and if you are still enjoying the game, we recommend buying them. (If you’re a completionist and really want to play Kenly College, it at least includes some good audio logs and automatically grants an excellent exotic weapon.)
Regardless of if you wait to go to NYC or if you leave right away and use the character boost, just know that once you get there, you are stuck until you finish the main storyline. For most players, this will take about six to eight hours. Even if you have a friend who is in DC, you can’t go back and play with them unless you either beat the NYC storyline or load up a different character who hasn’t left for the Big Apple yet.
Once you finish the main storyline, you will be able to quickly bounce back and forth between DC and NYC via the in-game map.
At their core, Division games are cover-based shooters. Using cover is essential in The Division 2. If you run around the open during firefights you will most likely get killed in a few seconds. Enemies are accurate and deadly. If you need to get out of cover, use the dodge move by tapping X twice on a PS4 controller or A twice on an Xbox One. This will make you harder to hit and can be useful to escape a bad situation or to gain ground on a lone enemy who is reloading or stunned.
The AI enemies you fight in The Division 2 will charge, flank, hide from and ambush you constantly. They are pretty smart, and if you aren’t paying attention they can catch you off guard and drop you. Watch enemy movement closely, be prepared to fall back and, most importantly, listen to them. Enemies who run at you will often telegraph this beforehand with screaming and heavy footsteps. Other times enemies will shout out movements or positions. Use these audio cues to keep yourself alive in big shootouts.
Many of your foes in DC and in the expansion’s NYC will have weak points you can shoot to quickly kill them and even damage enemies near them. The Hyena chargers, for example, have bags they wear on their hip. Shoot these bags and their weird powder will explode on everyone nearby, causing mass confusion and stuns. Bigger enemies often have a weak point on their backs.
Even bosses can have these weak points. One time a powerful boss with a foam-launching weapon was giving me trouble. I hit his foam gun container and suddenly he was locked into place by his own fast-hardening foam, making him an easy target to pick off.
In the new expansion, the flamethrower wielding Cleaners return from the first game. These enemies can be extremely annoying, but a good way to counter them is to aim for the big red tanks on their backs, which will cause an explosion. This blast can even kill nearby cleaners!
It is easy to forget, but you also can melee enemies. Just click in the right stick. This move is quick and can kill weaker enemies who you’ve already shot. There are also some challenges tied to using melee attacks to kill enemies. So punch some fools who get too close to you or your friends.
During long fights, you will most likely take damage and your armor will get damaged or even totally destroyed. In these scenarios, you should fix your armor ASAP or you might die soon. But toward the end of a fight, when only a few enemies are left, you can save your armor and finish the fight instead. After every enemy is dead, the game will replenish your health and armor fully, saving you some armor plates.
In The Division 2, you will find SHD Tech. These small boxes will unlock tokens that you can use to unlock and upgrade passive perks. I recommend first grabbing the perks that let you carry more grenades, crafting materials, supplies and most importantly armor plates. Also grab the perks that help you gain more XP.
One perk that might sound strange or worthless is “Detection.” What this means is that after you give some supplies to a friendly control point, all lootable containers will be marked in the world and you can even see them through walls. This is really useful if you want to farm for crafting materials quickly or if you are trying to find all the water or food at a supply node.
Like perks, some abilities in The Division 2 are better than others, depending on how you play. One of my favorite abilities from the original game, Pulse, returns in the sequel but I would avoid getting it, at least early on. Pulse is supposed to reveal enemy locations around you, but the range is so short it is useless most of the time. Mods gained later in the game don’t improve it enough.
For solo players, I highly recommend the turret, and I prefer its basic auto-turret version. This little thing does a surprising amount of damage and even better, it can help you flank and pin enemies. You can toss your turret if you hold the ability button you assigned it to. If you are behind cover and tap the button, you will set it on the cover itself instead. The turret won’t fire until you fire or it is spotted, letting you set up a deadly ambush.
I also like using the chem launcher, specifically the acid version. This can easily kill enemies hiding behind cover and chews away the armor on bigger targets. The Firefly is useful, but it takes a bit of practice to really make it work. Before throwing it, make sure the path is clear of any obstructions which are marked by a red X indicator. The Shield can also be powerful if paired with a strong sidearm or if you choose the variant that lets you use an SMG or assault rifle with it. The most common skill gadget you’ll see other players carrying is the Revive Hive. Makes sense. It revives you if you die and can be dropped to revive players who are downed near it.
This is a mistake I made a lot in my first few hours. Your agent has some abilities, like a turret or a shield, that can be really useful in a fight. The game calls these abilities skills and will let you equip two at a time. The ones you can choose from vary based on how far you are into the game, but regardless of what abilities you have, they are worthless if you don’t use them. Even if you feel like you have a fight totally under control, pop an ability to build up some muscle memory and to get more comfortable using these gadgets.
Maybe you unlocked an ability or perk and it really isn’t all that helpful? Don’t worry. After spending a few hours in the game you will have earned enough tokens and unlocks to gain access to a lot of the other perks and abilities in the game. If you get a stinker, don’t beat yourself up. Just go grab some SHD tech and unlock a new perk.
When you enter a new area, prioritize unlocking and activating the safehouse in the area. These function similarly to the safehouses in the original game, allowing you to spawn and matchmake with other agents. These safe houses also unlock new nearby objectives that, once completed, will unlock a boss fight and connected bounty. Completing this will reward you with a good chunk of XP and other goodies.
Control points work almost like the outposts found in recent Far Cry games. They are initially filled with enemies, but once you’ve taken control of them you can spawn there or fast-travel to them. These control points are useful for more than just spawning. You get a good amount of loot and XP for liberating them. Plus, these areas will spawn friendly computer-controlled allies who will patrol around the area, making it safer to travel in that part of the map.
Each control point has a commander to whom you can give food, water, and components. Doing so will award you with some XP and, if you have the appropriate perk, you will get the bonus ability to see loot containers in the world for 10 minutes.
One thing to remember is that once you beat the main storyline of The Division 2, a new enemy faction will invade the map and take back all the checkpoints. So if you leave a few checkpoints in enemy control towards the end of the game, don’t feel obligated to drop everything and take them over.
While it might be tempting to just focus on missions, control points, and random activities, you should also take some time to just explore the world. There are secret bosses and hidden missions dotted around the map. Beyond that, the map is filled with loot containers and collectibles. These will give you more XP and items.
This tip is even more important in the new New York map! I found a lot of hidden rooms and areas filled with a bunch of loot boxes and supplies. Some of these will force you to climb up one area to get a new angle on a circuit box that you can shoot to pop a lock that lets you enter a previously locked area to flip a switch that opens another door that… you get the idea. Puzzles can contain many steps. Usually, the more steps involved, the better the rewards.
During missions, you might find locked chests. You will need a faction key to unlock them. They can be found underground in small utility boxes that hang on the walls in different tunnels and sewers below DC and NYC. To find entrance points to the underground section of the world, look on the map for yellow arrows pointing down. These mark manhole covers or other entrances to the dirt sewers below.
Settlements are one of the big new features in The Division 2, and they are a great way to earn XP and loot. These settlements can be improved over time by completing projects, which are usually checklists of things you can do in the game world. These projects will not only visually change the settlement, like adding more storage or solar panels, but they also award large amounts of XP and blueprints which can help you craft new weapons, mods, and items.
Another important tip: You can partially complete projects from the map screen. Sometimes you will need to donate certain items, like a pair of gloves, to complete a project. You can do this anywhere on the map at any time by opening up the map and tabbing over to the left. There you will find all your current projects, their objectives and the option to donate items in your inventory to help complete them. Very useful!
Projects are important. Getting them done quickly will help you level up faster and will unlock new blueprints sooner. A great way to quickly knock these projects out is to hold onto gloves, vests, knee-pads, and holsters. Many projects at the first settlement, will require some of this gear. So don’t sell those crappy gloves you found. Hold on to them and donate them to a project when they are needed. If they are taking up too much room, just pop some into your stash for later.
You will be picking up new items and weapons a lot in The Division 2. Especially early on in the game. Make a habit of checking to see if you need to switch stuff out. Sure that rifle you are using is good, but you might have an even better weapon sitting in your inventory. You might even be able to improve them with mods you didn’t know you had.
While in the inventory screen, you can sort items into a grid instead of the scrolling column. To make this change, click L3 on a PS4 controller or press down on the left stick on Xbox One to open a sub-menu and select the grid option. I find this makes it easier to see at a glance what I have and how good it might be.
It is very easy, especially as you get a bigger inventory, to start carrying around a ton of loot. This can make it harder to see what is good and what is bad at a glance and can make opening your inventory to find a new item overwhelming. So, practice good inventory management. Try to stop every few missions or events and check on your stuff. Mark bad loot as junk. This will let you sell it all quickly or dismantle it all with a single press of a button.
You might be wondering what loot is good to keep, what is good to sell and what is worth donating to projects. Early on, before you hit the max level (in either DC or NYC) most gear you get will be worthless to you a few hours after picking it up. So don’t worry about recalibrating anything or storing away a level eight rifle. You will get much, much more loot as you play and 90% of what you pick up before level 30 will be useless. Don’t stress, don’t horde too much and have fun.
Weapon mods let you improve different stats on your guns. When the game first launched, these had negative and positive effects. Now they are almost all purely improvements. They can help make a gun more accurate or increase its magazine size.
Once you start earning and crafting weapon mods, you can use them as much as you want across as many weapons as you want. Don’t worry about taking them off before selling a gun either, you have an infinite number of scopes and foregrips.
Also, when playing co-op remember that if you mod a weapon, it can no longer be shared with members of your group.
Recalibration might seem too complicated or annoying to bother with, and until you reach the max level in DC or NYC, you’ll be fine skipping it. Eventually, you should start messing around with the recalibration system. For new players, it seems like a giant mess and it sort of is, but it is a useful mess. For returning players, recalibration has changed in some big ways.
The simplest way to think about recalibration is that you are taking good qualities from gear and weapons and saving them for later, to be used on other weapons and gear. You may pick up a crappy sniper rifle, but it might have a nice stat attached to it that gives it a huge damage boost when you pull off headshots. You can take that sniper rifle to the recalibration station and enter the library section. There you can rip that cool ability off that sniper and put it on a sniper rifle that is better and would become even better with that cool headshot ability from that crappy rifle.
A key thing to remember about new the system is that once you rip a stat or ability off a weapon or piece of gear, it is permanently yours. Over time you will build up a large library of skills, abilities and stat boosters for all your loot. And all of these can be used forever and often as you want. Note that you are limited to only replacing once stat or ability on a piece of gear or a weapon.
Keep an eye out for any stat meters that are maxed out and highlighted orange. These indicate that you have a piece of gear or a weapon that has a god roll on it. God rolls are good! Those stats can’t get any better for that gear or gun. So if you get a god roll on something you don’t want, make sure to rip that stat off at the recalibration station. ?
One last thing: When you pick up gear, you can look at the skills and stats and the game will tell you if you already have a better one in the recalibration station library. Look for a white mark on the meter. This is what you have stored in the library. If the current gear has a stat bar that passes this mark, you can take it to the station and rip that stat out and replace the lower level one currently in your library. The station also shows you this same info via some green arrows on the library screen. See some green, dig in and see what you can improve.
This is something I resisted for a long time and I feel stupid. To complete some of the really hard missions and challenges, you will need some help. Sure, skilled players with perfect builds can probably solo nearly everything in the game. But why do that? Instead, use the matchmaking in the game to find groups of players to help you complete tough content.
You can matchmake any mission, episode or bounty from the map screen. You can also start matchmaking and then leave the map and keep playing while you wait to find a team.
These are easy to miss. Hidden in the character menu, players can find challenges and commendations in the progression section. Commendations are a series of challenges that when completed award patches, which can be placed on your outfit. Uplay challenges are in the same menu and rotate each week. These will earn you some extra in-game credits, useful for crafting and buying items.
On the main character menu, you can also open up Uplay. In here you can find some rewards that are free or cost some Uplay credits, that currency you earn by playing other Ubisoft games. These rewards aren’t incredible or game-changing, but they can help a new player starting out. Some of the rewards include crafting materials and credits. You can also get some weapon skins and patches.
While the Dark Zone is a tense and fun part of The Division 2 that allows for PvE and PvP at the same time, for players just starting out it really isn’t worth it. You can find good or even better loot in the main world and through completing missions and projects. I recommend doing the tutorial missions for the Dark Zone and for those curious, maybe exploring it a bit, but wait until you are a higher level to dive in.
After over 140+ hours in The Division 2, I’ve spent less than four hours in the Dark Zone. I know some folks love the PVP gameplay and cutthroat nature of the DZ, but I’ve skipped it entirely and still have a very powerful character who can take on any mission at any difficulty, often alone or with a small group. I’m not saying skip the DZ or that I think the DZ is bad, but if you tried it and didn’t like it, don’t worry. You can skip it.