Six Tips for Surviving and Thriving in The Division

Now that Tom Clancy’s The Division has arrived, we’re beginning to discover what a massive – and challenging – game it is. In fact, it’s so big that it may prove daunting to newcomers, especially those who haven’t spent much time with shooters or role-playing games… because this is both. But never fear; we’ve got your back! Here are six tips to help you get on your feet quickly.

Make smart upgrades to your Base of Operations.

The Division is most certainly a variety of role-playing game, but unlike most RPGs, you don’t actually upgrade your character. Rather, you upgrade your Base of Operations, which gives you new skills, talents, and perks (skills are the active abilities you trigger with the shoulder buttons; talents are passive boosts that you equip – up to four at the highest levels; and perks are passive boosts that are permanently applied). This being the case, upgrading your Base is like devoting skill points to an upgrade tree in a more standard RPG. As soon as you unlock your Base of Operations, you’ll be told to go around and activate each of the three wings: Medical, Tech, and Security. After you’ve done that, take a look at all the possible upgrades, and the skills, talents, and perks each wing confers. This will offer some guidance into which wing you want to upgrade first. Can’t decide? Consider unlocking Security first (its missions and encounters are marked in blue), since its first perk is a 10 percent boost to all earned experience points.

Visit every Safe House as soon as possible.

Safe Houses are wonderful oases of sanity amidst the chaos of New York. Each one offers new side missions, new encounters, a vendor, a stash crate – and a chance to interact with other players peacefully. But perhaps most importantly, they also provide destinations for fast travel. Since The Division’s version of New York is pretty much 1:1 with the actual New York, being able to zip across the city quickly can be a godsend (it’s not like the subways are working, after all). And as an added bonus, each time you “discover” a new neighborhood, you get a hefty chunk of XP; so just traveling around the city early can bump your levels quite a bit. Don’t worry too much if you run into enemies, by the way. Outside of the Dark Zone, you’re not going to lose anything from such an encounter (aside from time).

Know your gear.

If you don’t have a lot of experience with online RPGs, you might not immediately recognize the color scheme that marks all the gear available in the game. Generally speaking, gray-colored gear is the most basic; green is better but nothing special; blue is some real nice-quality stuff; purple is seriously high-end kit; and gold is lovingly crafted in the forge of heaven itself… figuratively speaking. However, color isn’t all that dictates a weapon’s ability; each weapon also has its own level, and a high-level green can be better than a lower-level blue. So you do need to take a look at the stats, too. Damage per second (DPS) is the most significant – but it’s not the be-all, end-all. A slow-firing weapon like a marksman rifle or a shotgun can sometimes do so much more damage per shot than a faster-firing assault rifle that it ends the battle before DPS even really comes into play. Also note that when comparing weapons, the game factors any equipped mods into the stats. So if you have mods that affect damage or firing rate, those might skew the comparison considerably. When in doubt, remove all the mods of your equipped weapon to compare stock models (you can do this easily by going into the mod menu and clicking the right stick). You can then put the mods on the new gear, if it turns out to be better.

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One final note about weapons: You may consider your sidearm to not be worth a whole lot when compared to your primary and secondary weapons. And honestly, in most cases, it isn’t. However, remember that your sidearm has infinite bullets. This can be a huge benefit if you’re in a prolonged shootout, especially if you need to do a lot of blind-firing. If you find yourself facing a well-entrenched enemy, try finding some good cover and blind-firing with your pistol. It may take a very long time to wear down the enemy’s health, but you can keep yourself relatively safe without having to worry about wasting ammo.

Smash, don’t sell.

Now that you know how to differentiate between gear, it’s time to decide what to do with lower-quality stuff. At the beginning of the game, you’re going to be packing mostly gray and green gear. Selling this stuff is usually not worth it; you’ll get a paltry handful of credits in comparison to what you’d get from completing a mission or whatnot. So instead, disassemble your early gear into crafting materials. You can then head to the crafting table in your Base of Operations to reassemble the materials into gear that’s probably considerably better than what you started with – and probably worth a lot more at the vendor if you don’t have use for it. And don’t forget to check into the crafting station periodically; completing side missions gives you blueprints for better gear, so you can sometimes put together some serious upgrades.

Beware the Dark Zone.

This may go without saying, but we’re gonna say it anyway: The Dark Zone is a nasty place. It’s populated with high-level enemies, high-level quarantine areas, and rogue agents. And the stakes are higher; because if you die in the Dark Zone you can lose gear – or even experience (to be clear, that’s Dark Zone XP, which is separate from your main XP… but it dictates your Dark Zone rank, which in turn dictates your access to chests full of sweet Dark Zone loot). Don’t even think about setting foot in there until you’ve hit level 10, and if you’re playing solo you’re probably better off holding out until you’re closer to level 15. Yes, the map suggests level 10 to 12 for the first zone. That’s because it assumes you’re not traveling alone. Because who would be so foolish as to go into the Dark Zone alone?

It’s dangerous to go alone.

Exactly. Although it’s perfectly possible to solo the whole game, The Division is at its best when you play with others – and the game does a great job of making it extremely easy to find a group. At the entrance to any story mission, you’ll get the ability to search for players preparing to do this specific mission. And at any safe house, you can also look for others to join up with and just roam the city. But it’s also possible to find other players no matter where you are; simply bring up your map and switch to the Matchmaking tab by tapping RB. You can then search for players to free-roam with, group with in the Dark Zone, or perform missions with. And don’t forget that you can fast-travel to members of your group, so don’t fret if you get matched with someone on the other side of the map.

One huge caveat to matchmaking, though: Understand that content in the game scales to the highest level of a group, not the average. So if three Level 5 players are matched with one Level 10 player, they’re gonna have a bad time; all the enemies will be at or near Level 10. The game usually does a good job of matching players of the same level, but there aren’t always enough players doing the same thing at the same level.

Understand that there’s a lot more to learn about this game; these hints are just the tip of a very large iceberg. But if you’re ready to jump in, you don’t need to wait: Tom Clancy’s The Division is available now on Xbox One, and Xbox One players will have 30-day exclusive access to the upcoming Underground and Survival expansion packs.