The Dark Zone of Ubisoft's new apocalypse, The Division, is a mish-mash of fresh ideas and unassailable tradition. On the one hand, you have to be slightly wary of other players at all times. On the other, you basically run around killing things and collecting loot as if you were playing Diablo. But it feels like a good direction for any game about the chaotic aftermath of civilisation's downfall. Here's how to make a killing living behind the walls.
Don't be afraid
The Dark Zone, despite its name and the reputation, is not actually that dangerous at the moment. The NPC enemies are a little tougher and, yes, there are other players living here who could theoretically shoot you at any time. But in reality, very few people are choosing to go 'rogue' (more on this later). DayZ this is not. So, even if you are a low level and are thinking of saving your trip to the DZ until you have a better gun, better gear or better skills - forget all that. Just jump in, the loot is warm.
Form a pack. Not only is this good for, you know, friendship, it will also speed up all your loot collecting and XP nabbing activities. Loot is not divided between players in the DZ - what you see dropped on the streets is always for you. Your friends get their own drops. XP works the same way. You will all earn XP together and each kill is awarded to everyone in the group. Even if you didn't kill anybody in that last fight, even if you did not fire a single shot, even if you are halfway across the map - you will still get XP, so long as you are grouped.
This makes everything faster. It's simple maths. Four people shooting at dudes will weave their way around the DZ quicker than one person or two people. And it's more fun besides. If you don't have friends with the game, the matchmaking is fairly well-implemented. Going up to random strangers and following them for a while, then inviting them to join you in group also works surprisingly often.
The enemies become much stronger the further north you go. Killing level 31 or 32 enemies does not necessarily get you more money, XP or loot, considering the amount of time you have to put into bringing them down. The last patch was supposed to increase the amount of Phoenix credits dropped by higher-level named enemies but this has been postponed. The only real incentive to go further north is the challenge and a slightly increased drop rate. It is definitely more fun if your wolf pack is bored of the same route in DZ01 to DZ03. But just be careful.
If you do find yourself shadowing other non-hostile players but haven't formed a group with them, you can always sneak XP from their kills by simply landing a single shot on the body of their targets. The game will count you as one of the contributing murderers! How delightful. XP will be awarded and loot will drop just the same as if you had killed them yourself. But please maintain...
For heaven's sake be careful of other players. It only takes a few badly-aimed shots to mark you as a rogue. If you are in a group and you accidentally pummel a handful of bullets into a non-hostile stranger, your whole team will be marked with that little red skull. Decide beforehand what your group's response ought to be if this happens. Kill everyone around you and go rogue in earnest? Or leg it to the nearest alleyway and run for your lives? The first few seconds of accidentally becoming rogue are the most important. Don't waste them.
When the extraction chopper arrives to pick up your loot, let somebody else attach their stuff first. Some players have discovered that folks are at their most vulnerable when they are tying their goodies to the chopper. They will wait until you go to attach your stuff, then fire a sticky mine or throw a flashbang at you, murder you, steal your things and extract them all for themselves. This only happens occasionally. But for this reason, if you are extracting and there is a stranger nearby watching you, without their own loot, either be very careful or let somebody else extract first. A lot of players are aware of this dastardly tactic and it is currently causing some ridiculous dances of mock-civility, as two or three people who don't know each other will all tentatively circle the helicopter rope from a few metres away, all waiting for someone else to make a move.
I mean, obviously, don't die. But really, just don't. Dying in the DZ is worse than dying outside the walls because there is a penalty. You will lose a chunk of XP, a bunch of funds, and some of the DZ keys you have collected. If you are unlucky enough to die while 'rogue' you will lose a huge portion of XP from your Dark Zone rank. This is the main reason so few people are going rogue. This penalty was lessened in the latest patch but it remains to be seen if that is enough to entice the horrible PvPers to come out of their shells.
Maximise high-end drops
Supposedly, you can do this by having your scavenging trait as boosted as possible. This should mean more loot will drop and of better quality. Plenty of pieces of gear will add big bonuses to this. More importantly, make sure you get all the Security Wing upgrades at your Base of Operations installed. This will grant you a scavenging bonus of 15% on top of any other bonuses your kit gives you. Stack as much scavenger-centric gear as you can, regardless of its downfalls, and just rely on your group to pull you through the 'farming' process. You can always return the favour for each of them in turn.
Don't bother going rogue
Like I said, the penalty for dying while rogue is huge compared to any other punishment in the game. Every sucker in the streets will also be hunting you, meaning you are unlikely to keep any loot from your murders unless you can keep your distance. And to get the best reward for outliving your rogue timer you have to kill multiple people, so hiding is not an option until the end of your murder spree. If you are a skilled PvP player, knock yourself out. Everyone else, keep it legal.
I have mixed feelings about this. On paper, killing rogues gets you good XP and they are likely to be outnumbered by the huge mob that descends on them, giving your group and any other 'non-hostile' players a huge advantage. But what happens when a stranger you have been hanging around accidentally shoots you? Do you hunt them down like a dog? It seems kind of unsporting. I have been in situations where a bunch of strangers agreed that if anyone mistakenly went rogue among them, nobody would fire. Another man promised not to fire at me when he stepped into the blast of a grenade I threw. Not only did he stick to his promise, he also warned me when he saw someone else coming to kill me, and told me to "Run! Run!" as if I was some kind of post-apocalyptic Forest Gump.
Hopefully, that will see you through the Dark Zone. For more help outside the walls, check out our other guides to The Division