The Division can be fun, but it can also be overwhelming. There are a billion things to do, a thousand “looters” to murder, and only so many hours in the day. I’m here to help.
This piece originally appeared 3/1o/16.
Over the course of my first week with the game I’ve accumulated a handful of tips that I’d like to impart, things that I would’ve liked to have known when I was first starting out. This is the second version of this article; I’ve updated it with a bunch of new tips, refined some old ones, and generally given everything the benefit of another five days’ worth of experience with the game.
Ready? Here goes.
Easy tip: The Division is fine solo, but it’s much more fun with a friend or friends. If you can find people who’ll play with you, do it.
The Division’s loot system is similar to other games like Destiny, Borderlands and Diablo. Loot is color-coded: Green gear is fine at first but you’ll quickly think of it as junk. Blue gear can be really good but by the time you’re past the level cap, you’ll also think of it as junk. Purple gear is great and with the right roll can be as good as the best gear in the game. Gold gear is known as “high-end” gear and is the stuff you’ll spend the endgame tracking down.
As you play, you’ll find yourself regularly picking up new guns, armor, and mods. Most of them won’t be as good as the thing you’re using, and your inclination will be to sell your extra stuff off at the vendor for some quick cash. Don’t do that. Instead, break down your extra gear in your inventory. The parts you get are vital for crafting, which is a good way to get great gear as you delve into the game.
Once you get farther in the game, you’ll start earning lots of purple-level gear. That gear doesn’t actually give you much better parts than blue gear, so it can be a good idea to sell purple gear that you aren’t going to keep.
Save your money. You’ll find so much of that stuff as you play that it’s not worth buying anything. When you reach the endgame and do want to buy things, you’ll be glad you have a little extra cash.
You’ll get a lot of green parts at first, but you can actually craft higher level parts out of your low-level parts. Visit the crafting table in your base of operations—crafting is a fiddly pain in the ass, but it’s worth it. For example, five green weapon parts can be converted into one blue weapon part, and on up the chain. Convert all of your green stuff into blue stuff, and eventually you can convert your blue stuff into high-end gold stuff. That’s your ticket to getting some good gold gear quickly after hitting level 30.
In general I’d say you should save your crafting materials for later, when you’ve hit the level cap. At level 30, you’ll want to start crafting that gold high-end gear I was just talking about. Most of the endgame is about chasing high-end gear, and one of the easiest ways to get it is by buying blueprints and crafting the gear in your base. You’ll need a lot of gold-tier crafting materials to make high-end gear, so save all of your lesser materials to be converted.
It seems like a pretty solid tip to me, anyway.
You can spend a few of your Ubisoft Club points for some in-game rewards in The Division. Two in particular are worth getting: Get the Dark Zone keys, which can get you decent gear in the DZ, and grab the free Phoenix Credits, which are useful for buying gear in the endgame. Once you get em...
Once you unlock your HQ you’ll find a “Rewards Vendor” standing in the back of the building. If you preordered the game or used points to unlock any gear, he’s the guy to talk to to get it.
You might lose track of your supply counters and forget to upgrade your HQ’s various wings. Don’t do that! Each upgrade unlocks a new ability and some bonus perks that are always active. It’s a good idea to fully upgrade your Base of Operations, which requires a bit of grinding but gets you access to three powerful ultimate abilities that can completely turn around a losing firefight. Unlocking base upgrades also gets you access to some really crucial in-base vendors.
Obviously most of the things on this list are “in my opinion.” But I’m qualifying this one because I actually really like to explore in The Division; there’s a ton of cool environmental storytelling and a lot of hidden secrets to discover, and I never really like rushing through a game just to get to the endgame grind.
With that being said, none of The Division’s exploration suffers if you get to a high level first, and once you’re level 30, you’re going to be getting level 30 loot everywhere you go. So, I’d say it’s a good idea to focus on getting to a high level quickly, then take the time to relax and explore. If you follow the tips below, it’s actually really easy to get to level 30.
With THAT said... if you want to slow down and take the game at your own pace, that is of course a totally valid way to play. Don’t let internet jerks like me tell you what to do. You do you.
If you want to level up quickly, focus on main story missions as well as the turquoise “side missions” that turn up as you check in at each new safe house. If you clear enough side missions at a given safe house, you’ll get an XP bonus and be given a new side mission where all you have to do is go to the next safe house. That gives you a bunch of nearly free XP and will definitely move you along through the middle levels. Side missions offer substantially more XP than other optional activities like encounters, collectables and the like, and don’t take much longer to do.
In your rush to get new side missions, it’s easy to forget to also check the situation board at each safehouse. Check in there, as you’ll unlock a bunch of color-coded encounters in the region. Those encounters aren’t great for getting experience points, but they are helpful for earning supplies for upgrading your Base of Operations, so it’s good to know where they are. Eventually, you’ll want to come back and do them in order to max out your base.
While I recommend spending some time getting familiar with the vanilla game in the PvE open world, I definitely also recommend getting into the Dark Zone. Not only is it the most interesting and exciting region in The Division, it’s where you can get lots more loot much faster. The game doesn’t really tell you to go there until you hit the level cap, but it’s plenty of fun to explore at lower levels, and the enemies you’ll find inside are much easier to deal with before you’re level 30.
Also, don’t worry about the whole PvP aspect too much. Some rogue players might kill you from time to time, but so far, most of the people that I’ve met have wanted the same thing I’ve wanted: To grab stuff and get it out safe. That’s doubly true given the current state of the rogue system and how it disincentives killing other players. For a more thorough breakdown of the Dark Zone and the general state of the endgame, read this article.
I know, proximity chat with strangers is a little awkward. And if my experience is anything to go by, most of the people you’ll run into in the DZ are oorah shit-talkers who don’t seem particularly nice. BUT, if you’re down to strike up a conversation with the people you meet, it can lead to interesting conversations, alliances and agreements.
In each safe house, there’s a matchmaking kiosk. You can team up with some strangers to patrol around the open world, or you can specifically matchmake for the Dark Zone. This is generally a good idea—if you’re teamed up in the Dark Zone you can heal each other with squad abilities and generally have one another’s backs. I actually have a good time going solo in the Dark Zone, but it’s much easier to actually get good gear and XP when I go in with a team.
Speaking of matchmaking...
The story missions in The Division are designed to be played by teams of two or more. You can solo them, but they’re a slog. Bosses in particular will require stupid kiting strategies and take ages to bring down. Plus, a single death and you’re back to the checkpoint.
Good news, though—The Division is designed with really easy to use matchmaking, and it’s worked very well for me so far. Just walk up to an event, select “quick matchmaking” and join a squad. You’d be amazed at how much easier missions become with four agents blasting their way through. You’ll finish missions in a quarter of the time it would’ve taken to run them solo, and will gain XP much faster.
Come on, man.
The tech tree’s turret ability has been invaluable for me when I play solo. I don’t really use it to do damage to the enemy, but rather to cover one of my flanks while I personally cover the other one. Closing off 45 degrees of enemy advancement is crucial to beating tough enemy onslaughts.
If you just need to recover a block of health between gunfights, try un-assigning and re-assigning the heal ability. It’ll dramatically speed up the cooldown. If you’re feeling gutsy you can try this in combat, but remember that the game doesn’t pause when you hop into a menu.
In addition to medkits and explosives, you also carry around a bunch of different types of consumables. Water gives you bonus damage against elites, canned food increases healing powers, and you even have explosive and incendiary bullets. I keep forgetting I have access to these and scraping through tough fights without using any consumables at all. Don’t be like me!
All missions in The Division periodically give you boxes that let you replenish your ammo. All safe houses also have that box. Always take advantage of these. In fact, if you clear a room on a hard or challenge-level mission and remember there’s a box right behind you, go back, restock, and then go forward.
In some missions, you’ll get into an elevator with the rest of your team. This is an appropriate time to use the “clap” emote. If your teammates know what they’re doing, they will also begin to clap. Your rhythmic clapping will speed the elevator and help you move through the level faster.
Just kidding, it doesn’t do that. But it’s still fun to clap in elevators.
When I’m playing solo in a tougher area, I run with the self-healing ability and a turret. When I’m playing solo in the streets, I keep radar and a turret. When I’m in a group, I use the healing station and radar. You may use other combos, but the important thing is to be willing to change up your loadout based on your circumstances. Similarly...
I think the best weapon loadout is to use a good mid-range automatic weapon as your primary and a solid marksman rifle as a secondary. There have been times I’ve been glad to switch to a shotgun in my secondary slot, however, so it’s not a bad idea to roll with a few backup secondary guns.
Some of the neatest side missions in the game focus on tracking down missing persons; they don’t feature much combat, but instead have you chasing clues and watching echoes that reenact various moments from a person’s life before they went missing. They’re worth doing, since they’ll bring you into interesting places in the city and greatly help flesh out the game’s setting.
Be sure that you press X a second time on an echo after activating it; I watched a lot of these and then left without collecting them, before realizing that you have to press X twice: once to activate the echo, and a second time to collect it.
Hop directly to your inventory by holding down the start/options button. The game told me this in a loading screen tutorial and it blew my mind.
If you no longer need your turret, cancel it by holding down the shoulder button assigned to the ability. It’ll destroy your current turret and speed up the cooldown on the next one. Some (all?) other abilities can also be cancelled in this way, though I’m not 100% sure about all of them.
As you progress you’ll start facing enemies who get really aggressive, mercilessly flanking you and keeping you constantly on the defensive. If an enemy breaks past one of your flanks and you empty your clip on him, don’t pause to reload. Swap to your secondary weapon or sidearm to finish the job. Most guns in the game take a bit of time to reload, and a quick follow-up volley can be the difference between life and death.
If you’re setting up an ambush or even just picking a position with a team, look around for high ground. Having the angle on your opponents makes it much easier to shoot over their cover and tag them when they’re hiding or reloading. Positioning is super key in The Division, and you want to take advantage of it whenever possible.
Your character in The Division takes fall damage pretty easily, so keep your eyes out anytime you’re preparing to drop off a ledge. If there’s an exclamation mark above the button prompt, that means you’re going to take some damage from the fall.
If you’re getting schooled by some tough enemies, remember that you can always fall back, and back, and back. Don’t let them overrun your position—run and dodge-roll your way back to safer ground and resume picking the enemy off while they’re at range. Be particularly wary of enemy shotgunners; it only takes one or maybe two shots to take you down, and they come fast in later levels.
Jokes notwithstanding, if a civilian comes up to you while you’re exploring and asks for help, give them whatever they ask for. They’ll drop a piece of clothing or other gear, and whatever you get will surely be worth giving up an energy bar or a medkit.
If the first week of The Division has been anything to go by, the developers at Ubisoft Massive are paying close attention to feedback from players and will be tweaking their game accordingly. The Dark Zone endgame has already changed significantly, and it’ll likely change again soon. Don’t get too set on any one strategy or invest too much time in any one approach to the game; next week, a new patch could change everything.
There you have ‘em, some tips based on a week with the game. I’ll probably update this post at least one more time in the future. If you have any tips of your own, I hope you’ll share them below.
The original version of this post, titled “Beginner’s Tips For Playing The Division,” ran on March 10, 2016. The first update was on March 15, 2016.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.