The Division has changed a great deal since it was first released at the beginning of March 2016. Since then it’s had numerous updates and a few large free content releases. The core of the loot-based shooter remains largely the same, but new content has added some longevity to the game. Underground is The Division’s first paid DLC and launched at the end of June. It adds a bunch of new features, gear and weapons, as well as a new incursion for players to tackle.
The update initially came with some large scale connection errors, although these were soon rectified. The story portion of Underground takes place after the events of the main game. Players have driven out the various factions from New York and they have since regrouped in the endless labyrinth of subway tunnels beneath the city. It is now up to players to go in after them. The content functions like a new way to play the game rather than a new area.
The Underground works more like a PvE orientated version of the Dark Zone rather than set in the open world, complete with its own social area. The tactical operations centre or ‘TOC’ is the base in which you venture out into the maze of subway tunnels beneath New York City, a welcome change to the repetitive grinding of missions that is present in the main game. Underground sets players up in randomly generated levels, with different objectives, layouts and enemies. This adds to the replayability of the content.
The expansion also lets players customise their experience by selecting the level of difficulty and the length of the operation. Modifiers, also called ‘directives’ let players add extra challenge in return for more underground XP and better loot. These include having limited ammo, constantly draining health and no minimap. This plays into the underground’s risk/reward idea as the missions don’t allow for respawning, meaning if you fail, you are taken back to the ‘TOC’ and have to start from scratch. Although these directives are only unlocked every five or so levels, players will have to grind to unlock them in the first place.
From my time in the Underground I have been impressed by the levels and the challenges that were set before me. I must admit the jump in difficulty between normal and hard for a solo player does seem quite vast, with normal seeming way too easy and hard meaning a cheap shotgunner can ruin your day with a single blast. I must also admit that the matchmaking for the Underground content is incredibly fast and relatively pain free.
During my expeditions into the tunnels, I was pleasantly surprised by the variation in scenarios and encounters I faced while playing through. Enemies now employ skill jammers, alarms call for more reinforcements and traps litter the floor meaning you have to watch your step. These new tactics mean that your team must plan its attack before it engages enemies in order for things to run smoothly. There is a good deal of variation in the layout of levels and each operation is incredibly detailed down to atmospheric lighting, hazards and destruction. Coupling this with the way that levels are interwoven creates a sense that you and your squad are isolated deep in the belly of the city.
One of the biggest advantages to the Underground expansion is the level of loot that is obtainable. It offers a slightly less grind-heavy way of gearing up, especially for non-veteran players. That being said, the first few hours for lower geared players will probably be quite a slog, whilst new or less geared players will need to take advantage of playing with a full squad in order to get hold of new gear. The Underground certainly beats trying to farm the Dark Zone without being shot by other players repeatedly. I’ve had this issue. A lot.
The new content also adds a new incursion into the mix. These difficult and time consuming missions are The Division’s take on raids. The new incursion, Dragon’s Nest, is arguable the strongest of the three available. It has some interesting mechanics and introduces more than just mortar and grenade spamming to keep players on their toes. The only downside to this raid is that it features some very cheap potential one shots in the form of shotgunners, flamers and exploding RC cars. These can very quickly leave you in fiery misery if you haven’t got the gear score. Even my team, with an average gear score over 210, struggled at first. The finale of the incursion ends with players fighting four bosses simultaneously, while fending off smaller mobs. Although the incursion can be a bit of a beast to start with, with a good team and solid communication it quickly becomes manageable.
While not technically part of the DLC, the 1.3 Update was released to coincide with the expansion offering numerous bug fixes and changes. These include buffing underused weapon classes like the LMGs and shotguns to allow for a greater variety of choice for player’s armaments, as well as changes to make certain weapons slightly less overpowered, especially for PvP combat. The update also adds a new Dark Zone player bracket for the very high levelled players who want to test their might in the ‘anything goes zone’ and also adds a new difficulty mode called heroic for those mad enough or brave enough to try. New features such a being able to recalibrate the perks on weapons are also very welcome additions.
The free content update also adds one new gear set which brings the total number to 13; nine of these are part of the free content updates and four are part of the Underground expansion. For the uninitiated, gear sets offer special bonuses depending on how many pieces of that set players have equipped. These bonuses may range from more maximum ammo to setting people on fire and the top end do some very cool things. These include using SMGs with a shield equipped, used consumables affecting the entire team for twice the duration, and having a chance for enemies to explode like a flashbang grenade and blind all their nearby allies.
These gear sets help players to create a specific role for themselves, further helping their team. These can range from support and healing, to helping damage-dealers deal with practically no reload time. Each set offers something for players to work towards so that they can eventually create a very solid squad with each player having their own role in the team. This plays into the rather cyclical overall meta-game of earning more loot to get better to be able to earn more loot. The major downside to this is that all the new weapon and gear blueprints cost Phoenix credits to buy, so there’s yet more repeating missions in order to be able to get this gear. So either way, by luck or by buying the blueprint and crafting it yourself, getting hold of the gear you may want will mean a good number of hours grinding for it.
For those who do decide to buy Underground, or those who have the season pass, it’s a new way to play The Division and to gear up. It offers a customisable experience for short bursts, or for more challenging gameplay like the incursion. While it does offer a welcome addition to repeating the same missions over and over again in the hopes of progress, it does eventually begin to grow tiresome, with pieces of levels or encounters becoming recognisable.
Overall it is a fun jaunt through a nice change of scenery with the added bonus of more loot.