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The Division 2 launches Public Test Server and delays raid until May

The PvE and PvP division widens

Those hoping to dive into Operation Dark Hours, the first eight-player raid mission in The Division 2 will have to settle for grinding more invaded missions next week. Massive announced earlier today that they're delaying Title Update 3.0 from April 25th to an indeterminate point in May, giving them a little longer to tweak and tune balance on the just-launched Public Test Server. They also outlined some of the ideas they're floating on the PTS, including sweeping changes to Dark Zone and general PvP balance. You can see today's full developer stream (and a summary) below.

Probably the biggest of all the changes announced today (and currently testing on the PTS) is an overall damage reduction in PvP. Lethality is dropping across the board, although skills don't take quite the same hit as guns, to encourage their further use. Firing from the hip also disables critical hits, so you need to use the sights if you want maximum damage. NPCs in Dark Zones will also become less lethal, and a little harder to kill. It all adds up to a picture of a slightly slower, more tactical game, while the run-and-gun style of co-op is maintained.

They want players to clash more in the Dark Zone, so matchmaking now happens in just two brackets - level 1-30 players in one, endgame players working up the World Tiers in the other. Occupied Dark Zones will now have less EXP penalties for death, and fewer NPCs to further encourage clashes. In Conflict (the structured 4v4 PvP mode) they're also syncing team respawns to increase the chances of squads sticking together. Lastly, you can now get items up to Gear Score 515 in the Dark Zones, encouraging players to look there as a source of PvE progression too.

All of these changes are exclusive to PvP, and PvE balance is to remain largely unchanged. Still, there are some general balance tweaks made on the PTS that players on Reddit have been documenting. They've done a lot of tuning on armour and weapon perks, with a lot of reductions and a few boosts. Unbreakable in particular has become vastly more powerful, able to work in conjunction with other armour talents and restoring 70% of your max armour over seven seconds after it breaks, up from 25% over five.

Not all of these changes will make it to the final Update 3.0, of course. Massive have said that their main focus on the public test server is bug-hunting. They also won't be testing Operation Dark Hours on the PTS, as they want to surprise all players simultaneously with it, so fingers crossed that their internal testing team is up to the job.

If you're feeling daring and want to try out these balance tweaks early, see this official FAQ on how to join the Public Test Server, and leave feedback on the official PTS forums. As for the rest of us, I'm just glad I've got more time to grind through world tiers before the new raid - undoubtedly calling for top notch equipment - arrives. Operation Dark Hours launches in May.

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Dominic Tarason