The Incursion update released on Tuesday for The Division is free of charge, but will still cost you time and patience.
Update 1.1 for The Division includes basic changes to the way players use and manage their gear, a new high-level activity called an incursion, and sweeping changes to the player-versus-player Dark Zone.
The Falcon Lost incursion is designed for four players with high-level gear. It rewards victors with guaranteed drops of the rarest and most powerful gear in The Division. Falcon Lost is meant to be a challenge, but so far it feels more like a repetitive grind.
The Dark Zone changes included in Update 1.1 are a net positive for anyone who already enjoys the Dark Zone, but they are designed to make The Division's PvP area even more brutal and unwelcoming than it was before. If you didn't like having to deal with griefing players in the Dark Zone who thought they were playing Dark Souls or DayZ, be aware that Ubisoft has gone out of its way to make the Dark Zone much more attractive to griefers than it was prior to the update.Gear Score and Gear Sets
The Division, like Destiny, has a fairly meaningless level system because two characters of the same level can be extremely different from one another in terms of how much damage they can do and how much damage they can take.
What actually matters in both games is not your level, but your armor and your weapons. You and another player in The Division can both be level 30, but if you step into the Dark Zone the battle comes down to who has better gear.
The Division has finally given players a way to figure out who is actually a higher level character, and what is and isn’t truly good gear, by adding a Gear Score to every weapon and piece of armor. (Destiny uses a similar system, called Light, to score the true power of items.) The sum total of your armor and weapons then give your character a gear score.
For instance, my character began my run through The Division on Tuesday with a gear score of 165. Note that she’s wearing mostly high-end (gold) items as well as some superior (purple) items, which are one step down in quality from high-end.
After upgrading some of my armor from superior to high-end, my character is now gear score 172, reflecting that she has better equipment.
Having gear scores on every piece of equipment also makes it much easier to manage your inventory. Comparisons between two pieces of gear prior to the Incursions update weren’t always obvious. Now, you might have an easier time picking out why one piece of gear is superior to another, before deciding what to keep and what to get rid of.
There’s also an entirely new category of gear in The Division, called Gear Sets. This is an MMO standard—raid gear, by a different name. If you gather all of the pieces of the same set of gear, wearing the complete set of gear will give you bonus skill attributes.
I knew that pieces of these gear sets would drop from high-end kills and missions—you are guaranteed one piece of gear set loot when you finish the new Falcon Lost mission—but what I didn’t expect and am pleasantly surprised by is that the Special Gear Vendor in your headquarters is also selling gear set blueprints.
They’re tremendously expensive. Some of them cost almost 400 Phoenix Credits each. On a good day with a good group you can earn 90 Phoenix Credits, maybe more if you have a lot of free time to burn. But that you’re given an option to complete a gear set other than grinding for loot drops is nice, no matter how much it costs.
The ability to trade items will go a long way toward helping everyone level up their characters in The Division. It might also come in handy for helping people complete their gear sets.
If an item can be traded, you will see a double-sided arrow icon in the upper-right-hand corner of the item's picture.
You don’t actually hand an item to another character. You drop it on the ground, at which point the other character can pick it up, just as if it were a loot drop.
The restrictions for trading are quite reasonable. Players can trade an item with each other if they were in the same group at the time the item dropped. Anyone who joins the group after the item dropped is not eligible for the trade.
You have one hour after the item was collected to make the trade. A countdown will appear within the item description. When you're ready to make the trade, just highlight the item and press the designated button (on the Xbox One it's the right trigger) to drop the weapon or piece of gear.
Ubisoft didn’t allow veteran players very long to worry about running out of structured content. Only five weeks after release, the Incursions update adds daily and weekly Assignments to The Division.
Weekly assignments, judging by this week's entry, will be a mix of different types of tasks. This week you have to kill enemies of the Cleaner faction specifically within the Dark Zone, deconstruct 30 standard items, kill 40 veteran (purple) enemies, and finish 10 missions on hard difficulty.
The reward for completing this weekly assignment is 30 Phoenix Credits. That seems low for the time involved, considering you can also earn 30 Phoenix Credits per day by soloing a pair of Daily missions on Hard difficulty, which is extremely easy.
This weekly assignment also seems designed to be the sort of thing you can complete as a matter of course during regular play without thinking very much about it, unless you never go into the Dark Zone—which may very well be the case after this update, but we'll return to that.
Daily assignments break down into Combat, Crafting, and Dark Zone categories. Daily combat assignments so far have been easy—kill three Elite enemies, or kill 10 members of the Cleaners faction—and they awarded 10 Phoenix Credits, the rarest currency in the game.
Daily crafting assignments have also been simple, like breaking down common weapons into parts, or scavenging parts from the game world, which only means going to the set locations on the map where you can find the kind of parts you need. Completing each daily crafting assignment rewarded one piece of rare Division tech needed to craft high-end items.
Dark Zone daily assignments have included killing 10 members of the Last Man Battalion within the Dark Zone or extracting three contaminated items. These are the sorts of tasks that regular Dark Zone players will complete without thinking about them.
The reward for each Dark Zone daily assignment was only 7,500 Dark Zone experience. For a veteran, that's a pittance. And for players who don't like the Dark Zone, that's not nearly enough of a reward to warrant stepping into part of the game that's just been made even more unfriendly to casual visitors.
Dark Zone changes
The Dark Zone is where you find The Division's toughest enemies just wandering the game world, i.e. outside of high-level missions. Dark Zone enemies drop better loot than other enemies, outside of high-level missions. If you're looking to gather a bunch of loot very quickly, the Dark Zone is where you go.
The Dark Zone is also the only place in The Division where other players can kill you and take all your stuff. Before you use any gear that you've looted in the Dark Zone, you have to call in a helicopter to airlift the gear out so it can first be decontaminated.
When you call for the helicopter, everyone in the Dark Zone knows precisely where the chopper is coming and when it will arrive, which makes it too easy for griefers to track you down and steal your gear before you've extracted it. And this is why the Dark Zone can be extremely unattractive for some people.
Clearly Ubisoft didn't think enough people were venturing into the Dark Zone, for whatever reason, because the Incursions update increases the amount of high-end loot you can score from the Dark Zone and makes it easier than ever to find that loot.
Actually getting your hands on that loot, however, should be difficult, because the Dark Zone changes are meant to funnel players together in order to maximize the opportunities for backstabbing and cheap play.
Elite named enemies (like Goldberg in the above video) in the Dark Zone are now guaranteed to drop at least one piece of high-end loot. You might also grab a piece of a gear set. Whether you can find any of those named enemies is a crap shoot, because experienced Dark Zone players already know where the named enemies spawn and are camping those spawn locations.
Named enemies are also tough to kill and always accompanied by a gang of other high-level enemies. It's very tempting to let some other group of players do the hard work and then hit those players while they're wounded and reloading, kill them, and steal all the gear they just worked for.
Supply drops, an entirely new Dark Zone element added by the Incursions update, present the same issue. Every so often while adventuring in the Dark Zone you’ll receive a notice that a Supply Drop is incoming, and everyone in the Dark Zone can see on the map where the drop is going to take place and a timer for how long the drop will be available to claim.
The drops are guarded by enemies, which means it's tempting to let other players do the heavy lifting and then try to grab the supply drop while those other players are dealing with the guards. If you cooperate with other players and take out all the guards first, then it comes down to which players gun down the others. The winners take the supply drop.
I've actually found that it's better to just run right in, drop a stun grenade, and grab the supply drop without even trying to defend myself. Supply drops reward 15 Phoenix Credits and one piece of rare Division tech, which is totally worth dying for.
Crafting was nerfed hard
Prior to the Incursions update The Division’s crafting system had been a great source for high-end gear. When loot drops were stingy, or when you got terrible pieces of gear even when you did earn the drops, you could save up Phoenix Credits to buy high-end blueprints.
Whether or not the gear you crafted from those blueprints was any good still came down to random number generation, i.e. luck, but when you can build six or seven of the same piece of gear until you get the attributes you want, you eventually wind up with a piece of gear you genuinely need and are happy to use.
Ubisoft decided that too many players were getting their high-end gear from crafting and so Ubisoft hobbled the crafting system, which is also a shame. You now earn half as many pieces of crafting material when you break down a piece of gear.
It also requires twice as many standard (green) crafting materials to upgrade them to specialized (blue) materials, and three times as many specialized materials to upgrade them to high-end (gold) materials. And, of course, you need all high-end materials to craft the truly good gear.
The good news is that it's easier to purchase high-end gear in the Dark Zone than it was prior to the Incursions update. The minimum Dark Zone level requirement for much of the gear sold by vendors within the Dark Zone has been dropped. That means casual Dark Zone players may finally be able to purchase some of that high end gear.
The best items still require very high Dark Zone experience levels like 75 or 90, so dedicated Dark Zone players are still being rewarded with some of the best gear The Division has to offer.
The Dark Zone vendor who sells the all important high-end Mod blueprints is now charging Dark Zone credits instead of Phoenix Credits, which will make a huge difference for everyone playing The Division. Dark Zone credits are much easier to come by, and high-end Mods can tremendously boost your skills.Even with easier access to blueprints in the Dark Zone, the sum total of the changes made The Division's crafting system after the Incursions update feel like a net loss for players who love to craft items.
This wouldn’t be so bad if players who don’t like the Dark Zone had more new ways to earn high-end gear, but even after the Incursions update players who don't like the Dark Zone have few options to get guaranteed high-end loot drops.
A mission on Challenging mode, for example, will drop one guaranteed piece of high-end loot. That mission might take up to an hour, however, and a Dark Zone player might be able to score four or more times as much high-end loot within that same hour.
Falcon Lost pits you up against the Last Man Battalion, the group of private military contractors who attempted to maintain order in part of post-disaster New York. The mission is to destroy an armored personnel carrier, while surviving waves of high-level LMB soldiers that rush your position.
The guaranteed reward is a piece of a gear set. As gear sets are the functional equivalent of raid gear in an MMO, it's not unfair to think of Falcon Lost as something that's meant to represent raid-level, end-game content in The Division. And I hope that's not the case, because Falcon Lost is extremely grindy.
All the dynamism of Hard or Challenge missions—the rapid repositioning, the flanking maneuvers, suppressing enemies to buy your friends time to move—is replaced in Falcon Lost with hunkering down in a defensible position, shooting the hell out of LMB soldiers, and waiting for the occasional opportunity to attack the APC.
The required gear score for Falcon Lost is only 140, and the recommended gear score is 160. My regular squad hovers around 170 as our average gear score and Falcon Lost is plenty challenging for us, if a little boring.
The question is whether or not Falcon Lost will be challenging enough for The Division players who have been rocking the Dark Zone for weeks and might have gear scores over 200 already. I’m sure The Division subreddit will produce an answer within a matter of days.