Thus far, our trip into DZ East had been fairly uneventful. My squad and I had yet to have the need to extract as we had amassed plenty of non-contaminated gear through running Landmarks, and depending on your point of view, luckily avoided any rogues or had been forced to go rogue ourselves. From here, we were moving onto the next landmark, Prison Bureau on challenging. Everything was still eerily quiet, and as such we proceeded without any real care or caution. On the way there however, we came across another four agent group. We immediately stopped, took cover, and waited. Not knowing the intentions of this potential enemy squad, that's all we could do.
Our options were simple:
- Go rogue and take them down, aggressively ending any potential threat, or losing the firefight and losing our small amount of contaminated gear (only had one piece at this point)
- Wait and see if they were going to go rogue, and then hopefully we'll be well placed and prepared to fight them off and carry on with our landmark farming
- Wait and see once again, and both of our squads go our own ways without any incident.
After about thirty seconds of both squads staring each other down, we went in different directions. In was a tense couple of minutes, but ultimately uneventful. Off to the Prison Bureau landmark we went and began fighting the waves of enemies. This landmark, for those of you that don't know, is in a parking garage, with a couple of down ramps, one on each side. Fairly claustrophobic, but I only noticed this over the following few minutes in what was going to take place. With the boss defeated, we all had some contaminated loot to collect and as we were picking it up, the group we'd passed earlier returned at the top of the down ramp into the garage. An Agent has gone rogue. We immediately ran to cover, but they undoubtedly had the leg up on us, with a higher vantage point, and already being in position to begin laying down fire.
It didn't look good.
We exchanged fire from cover for a moment, then one of my squad mates tried to move, literally only for a second, and was nearly dropped. He came back behind cover and I sent my healing drone to help. I laid my Turret on the cover to assist with laying down suppressive fire up the ramp, and honestly, from this position, I knew we were going to lose. I immediately ran out of the firefight, hoping the rogue agents didn't notice, and sprinted to the other exit ramp. Aiming to flank round the back of them. As I approached, they certainly had not noticed my movement, still sitting behind their cover shooting down into the garage.
I now knew I had them.
Prepared to throw a grenade at two of them who were behind the same cover, and with my trusty LMG equipped to mow them down once bleed had been applied following the explosion. I took two of them down almost instantly, and then called for my remaining team to move up the ramp, apply the pressure and finish the other two off. At this point, the rogues were in complete disarray, and as such, easy fodder.
Basically, due to the extremely short time to kill, and using the simple flanking manoeuvre that the AI has been smashing me with throughout the entire PvE experience of the game, we were able to fight off the attack and it worked to perfection. But perhaps most importantly, it was all in the blink of an eye, no planning, completely spontaneous, and required immediate and proactive decision making. It could've so easily gone wrong.
We proceeded to take the gear the rogues dropped, extracted without further incident, and all in all, it was a bloody enjoyable DZ run. I don't remember my loot, I remember the firefight.
Now I know the DZ in The Division 2 is extremely divisive. There are those long time PvP veterans from the original who argue that the normalisation of stats takes away the hardcore and unforgiving nature of the experience. The occupied Dark Zone exists and rotates between the three areas, but I've only spent a brief amount of time in there, so I'm not exactly comfortable with writing about it quite yet. However with my time spent in the normalised DZ in The Division 2, I've loved it.
The story above is one of many memorable runs I've had. Whether it be going rogue to engage SHD agents and steal their loot, farming landmarks and supply drops, or rogue hunting, I've managed to experience it from many perspectives. Even in times when you lose loot or get killed without any notice, it still feels enjoyable.
There are issues of course. I feel that whilst I prefer the rather aggressively short time to kill compared with the never ending firefights in the original, it doesn't seem to reflect build variety. For the moment, it feels like no matter how much armour you have, it won't make a difference to time to kill. It's weird and I don't think it is necessarily working as intended, and means that at the time of writing, there isn't any build diversity in the DZ because ultimately it doesn't seem to matter. This needs changed, but not to an extreme whereby firefights return to endless slogs and constant healing. Let's remember that bullet sponges weren't just enemy AI in the original Tom Clancy's The Division, it was enemy agents in PvP also.
But a shorter time to kill makes the PvP more like how this game should be played - a tactical shooter with cover as your main defence against being instantly dropped.
Yes, we need build diversity in the DZ. But do we need a full reset to the type of PvP from the original? In my opinion, absolutely not. The current iteration is not perfect, but I think it moves closer to the original concept for the Dark Zone as a place of tension, fear, and betrayal. No longer when you go rogue and things go against you, can you simply run around in circles or run away healing until you reach the other end of the map. It's a considered decision, and the risk from both sides is increased because of it.
It is uncompromising, challenging, and exhilarating, all at the same time.
Just don't go in solo.
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