The Division 2 Private Beta – The Dark Zone

I spent about 4 hours in the Dark Zone today as a duo – and let me tell you. I’m glad I wasn’t out there alone. It might just be a demo thing, but almost everyone was pretty gung-ho about going rogue and ‘testing things out’. Fortunately for us, that meant there were plenty of targets.

I haven’t yet given the structured PvP mode available in the beta a go (Conflict) so I cannot speak to the quality of the map design or how that mode feels to play.

So this will speak to the feel of PvP in The Division 2 more generally, and what it’s like to explore the Dark Zone with the new player density and map size.

If you’re actually after what the PvE experience is like, or the game more generally, then check out my impressions of the early game. The end-game PvE impressions are still to come.

Time to Kill and General PvP Feel

TTK has definitely been reduced in PvP combat relative to what it was in The Division 1. But it is not down to Call of Duty or Battlefield levels of quick as some were concerned about before we gained access to the game.

The TTK is measured in seconds, around the mid single digit figure range under sustained fire.

If you let yourself get caught with your pants down without any nearby cover, then you’re very likely dead. But with so much cover around, you’d have to be actively trying to avoid it. ;)

I was a little dubious going in how I felt about Massive adding Normalisation to the Dark Zones. But after seeing it in action and how they’ve done it, I’m a convert.

Not all weapons are created equal when it comes to PvP, the ACS-12 — a fully automatic shotgun with a 20-round mag (21 if you chamber one as well) — is rediculous.

If you can get someone trying to repair their armor or suppressed behind cover from a buddy, you can pop around for a quick ‘Hi!’ followed by a veritable hailstorm of lead which quickly leads to them on the floor, expression stuck somewhere between surprise and sad-panda.

For your mid-range engagements, Assault Rifles feel very good. At one point I was walking around with two AR’s equipped to avoid having to reload, before ultimately changing to and settling on one AR for distance and to close, then the ACS-12 auto-shotgun for up close and personal.

I was a little dubious going in how I felt about Massive adding Normalisation to the Dark Zones. But after seeing it in action and how they’ve done it, I’m a convert. I like it. Essentially the base stats and the item modifiers will be normalised to a certain level, regardless of the starting item level or rarity.

No more DZXP after hitting Rank 10 in the beta. :(

But those who invest the time to get good gear in the form of exotics (think legendaries), for example, will still reap some reward in that they will have additional talents and mod slots on the gear to be normalised. If you’re a low level rocking in with greens and blues; sure the base damage and whatever mods you’ve rolled will rank up – but you’re still missing the 2-4 mods and talents the people with time invested will have.

To me this feels fair and a great balance, that makes it possible to compete for those coming in yet without making it feel that time invested to gear up has been wasted the moment you set foot into the DZ.

Honestly, overall PvP in The Division 2 feels pretty good. I couldn’t tell you how long it took us to reach Dark Zone rank 10 (the maximum in the beta) because time seemed to be flying by so quickly. I would estimate though that if it was over an hour, it wasn’t by much. More likely it was less.

Heck, you’re rank 2 and a bit by the time you’re done with the entry tutorial; which I’ll cover next.

Entering the Dark Zone

If you’re contemplating The Division 2 without the benefit of experience from The Division 1, you will be pleased to know that there is a tutorial mission included now.

It will guide you through activating your first safehouse, getting and extracting contaminated loot, and activating the gateway turrets. More of those in a bit.

Throughout this mission you’ll be running around an instanced version of the Dark Zone map without other players around, granting an easier and less threatening way to get started.

This is a positive addition, but I hope you are not made to run through this in full for each of the three Dark Zones!

Impact of the Dark Zone Map Size and Alerting Changes

In The Division 2, within the two plus minutes it takes from when you send up the flare to the chopper leaving with your loot safely in tow — it is entirely possible for another player to book it there from anywhere on the map.

We’re talking small. Real small. Yes, The Division 2 ships with 3 such areas to play in, but it’s not the total area that is of concern. It is the density.

If your focus is on the PvP elements in the first place, this is likely going to be a positive news story for you. If you were there more as a PvPvE player with an intent to focus on the PvE element just with some added risk… I’m sorry.

Size is the biggest factor here, but the zone now also alerts other players when a ‘Landmark’ location (PvE stronghold type location) is engaged with, so anyone so inclined can make a beeline to you.

Extractions could be done in The Division 1 with relative safety if you so chose, because you could use an extraction point far, far away from any known Rogue players.

In The Division 2, within the two plus minutes it takes from when you send up the flare to the chopper leaving with your loot safely in tow — it is entirely possible for another player to book it there from anywhere on the map.

For some scale comparison to these images, The Division 1 map screenshot was at maximum zoomed out distance. The grid roads you can see are main streets. The Division 2 map, the bolder lines are streets – the smaller lines between them you can see are walkways, paths, alleys and similar.

Again, this is good news if it is your intent to PvP like it was ours today. But I know a lot of people enjoyed The Division 1’s Dark Zone for the risk and occasional PvP but didn’t want it to be constant.

That particular playstyle is not likely to be an option in The Division 2. You will either need to choose to adapt and take a more active PvP participation level, or to forego the Dark Zone altogether.

It’s not ALL bad news though, even if you’re not so good at PvP to start with, as contaminated loot (the kind you must extract to secure) is not the only kind available.

Completing a Landmark on the map and the occasional drop besides will go straight to your normal inventory, so even if you do lose that stash of contaminated loot in the process of trying to extract, you still come away with something beyond than the taste of bitterness and defeat.

The Turrets

Sigh.

Their impact to the game is fairly minimal actually. We had one rather ‘lol’ moment though when someone turned rogue on us just a liiiitle too close to the turrets coverage zone and were wiped off the map nigh instantly.

They are not out in the playfield at large, so can be fairly safely ignored. The stated reason for their inclusion is to prevent camping of Rogues at the entry/exits of the DZ and therefore make the DZ feel more welcoming to newcomers.

Ok, fair enough, but while you’re in one of the DZ waypoints, you can fast travel to absolutely any other one. So it wasn’t truly needed from that perspective.

And then the other changes made to the alerting of PvE Landmarks being engaged with and the reduced TTK seem to run contrary to welcoming in new players anyway.

In essence, they’re nothing to make a fuss about — but also seemingly a pointless addition.

Conclusion

It’s something I said in the Early PvE impressions too, but essentially if you liked PvP in The Division 1, you’ll more than likely enjoy it here too.

It feels good, with a great balance between pace and time to react. When I end up having time for the full launch of The Division 2, I’ll certainly be there.

Note that I said PvP specifically there rather than ‘The Dark Zone’, because I can’t make the same claim there. If you are mostly a PvE player, but still dipped your toes for the heightened excitement and tension in The Division 1’s Dark Zone, my sense is that you may very well not enjoy The Division 2’s take.

A potential mitigating factor to this is that each week, one of the three Dark Zones will cycle into a heightened danger mode where normalisation is turned off.

If it turns out that the true hardcore PvP fans flock to this particular DZ each week, you may still get the experience you’re after by simply going to one of the other two. But that’s a really big ‘if’.

The PvP of The Division 2 is faster paced, but without losing sight of what The Division is. It’s still an RPG looter-shooter and this is reflected in the TTK not being the sub 2-second times of CoD or BF and having your arsenal of skills to support.

It feels good, with a great balance between pace and time to react. When I end up having time for the full launch of The Division 2, I’ll certainly be there. :)

Restarting in Tamriel

The other day, I rather naively had a bit of a panic about what to do since the Anthem demos were finished. You see, I thought everything was going to go into this… sort of… rumbly quiet of anticipation. Instead we’ve had post-launch updates announced and I managed to get into The Division 2’s Private Beta thanks to Skill-Up.

But! But! I still did get into The Elder Scrolls again. *cough* For that one day. By the time I get back in we’ll be down from 9 days til Anthem early access to… Less. I’m unsure how much more time I’ll give to The Division 2 beta, but I would guess another day at least to cover the Darkzone and PvP.

Anywho, ESO!

Getting Started

If you’re unfamiliar, The Elder Scrolls Online scales to the player level. Everywhere, everything. You can waltz into any zone at all, and it’ll be your level.

When you own the expansions for ESO, freshly created characters will start in the latest content. I guess the thinking being that the latest content is the freshest, the benefit of the most updates to the capabilities of the game etc.

But if you want to follow the story of the new area…? Well, good luck. It’s not impossible by any stretch, but only if you don’t mind wondering, ‘Who’s that and why do they know me?’ every few minutes.

This was one of the factors that lead me to drop the game last time around.

The Plan

I didn’t end up going with a Ranger/Bow type character, no, instead I made a Magicka based Breton Sorcerer. Full on caster. Rar.

I also planned on skipping the tutorial and then immediately getting away from Summerset Isle (the latest expansion) and finding my way back to the starter zone for my faction. … I almost don’t want to say, but I went Dominion, largely because I’ve never done them before. Not last time I played, nor back in the beta.

So that put me into Khenarthis Roost. Apparently if you want to do the main quest, the tutorial is absolutely not optional. Because:

Here we are. The tutorial. After, might I add, quite a brutal scene of being knocked unconscious and then being dragged away to be sacrificed! :o

Not to worry, I’ve played through this tutorial thing a few times now so I blasted through it in no time.

Now, surely, I would adhere to the critical path story only. I wanted to experience the story, sure, but I also wanted to be efficient in getting through it. So when Razum’Dar — the definitely-not-a-spy Khajit — told me I could either investigate a couple of side things or head straight up north to meet him, I knew what I had to do.

The Reality

Not shown: Also going to join the Mage’s guild, the Fighter’s guild and the Undaunted. Er, and also then trying a dungeon. Solo. (It didn’t go well.)

I ended up putting a struggling family in prison for Skooma manufacture. I’m still not sure I did the right thing here. I think I did. But I’m not sure.

What I basically noticed though is that my character is either a much bigger deal than I thought, or I have accidentally been spending all my points each level on Persuasion rather than Magicka like I thought I was.

Because everyone simply does what I say. From vengeful grieving widows to officers of the law who moments ago were eyeing me as the prime suspect. I say, they do. Always. Except for that talking Skeleton guy. He was mean.

The good news is, I did actually get around to finishing off the main questline in this area… I think. I mean, I stopped a diplomatic incident from escalating into out and out war.

And it was around that time that I received my first piece of shoulder armor. That’s when you know you’ve made it to the big time. I don’t really know why I had such sway over the NPCs before — but they’d certainly better listen to me now! I got shoulders!

So I ended my adventures of a few nights ago at level 9 and feeling quite positive about the game. Had I not been distracted by The Division 2 and the Anthem news blow-out, I would be back already — as it is, I will be going back soon and I can’t wait!

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