Going Deeper Underground
Since release the Division has been continuously updated with attempted bug fixes and design changes. Along with those came two free content updates. Patch 1.1 introduced Incursions to the game and patch 1.2 introduced High Value Targets (HVT)s. The first bit of paid DLC is patch 1.3 and it introduces an entirely new style of PvE to the game. It’s also exclusive to the Xbox and the PC until August so Playstation owners are left in the cold. Literally. It’s winter on those streets of New York after all.
It’s been about two months since I last pointed a virtual weapon at a Riker, or a member of the Last Man Battalion. I immensely enjoyed playing through the story of the Division but I couldn’t stomach the gear grind just for sake of better gear. I did manage to slot my character out in all gold but then I stepped away with the promise I’d be back with the first paid DLC.
Patch 1.3 does add a third incursion to the mix but the real draw is the Underground. Once you login you’ll be prompted to go on a new story mission that you can find on your map. Upon completing that brief mission you’ll be directed back to the Library and find a new Tactical Operation Center (TOC) has been bolted to the back of it. It is here in the TOC that you’ll gain access to the new underground area.
The Underground is light on story. Other than the breadcrumb quest that leads you to the TOC you’ll do one more story quest. All told this shouldn’t take more than an hour. If you enjoy the narrative, like I do, you’ll initially be a little disappointed by the lack of it. The end of the story quest is very memorable, so at least there is that. It takes place in an underground psychedelic disco with a halfpipe. It reminded me a lot of the Foot Clan hangout from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie only with more laser machines.
The TOC acts is a shared space much like the safe houses where you can see a limited number of other players in the area. You’ll be able to walk up to a terminal and look for a group or select the type of Underground mission you want to start. Initially you’ll only be able to select single objective missions but this will extend to 3 objectives as you unlock Underground levels. Underground levels are similar to the Darkzone levels but have a cap of 40. Every 5 Underground levels you obtain you’ll open up a perk. These perks allow you to add extra challenges to the mission such as no radar, or all of your abilities sharing a cooldown. The more challenges you add to a mission the better the potential reward. Other perks are the ability to add the additional objectives. A single objective missions is designed to be 15 minutes for a group. This is a great way for the casual crowd to drop in and out at convenient playtimes.
The truly unique part of the Underground, for the Division anyway, is the missions and zone are procedurally generated. While there appear to be a fairly limited number of big set pieces and textures for the areas causing you to quickly see assets reused, there are an unlimited number of ways these can be configured so it helps to keep the missions feeling fresh. There are also two new sets of intelligence consisting of phone calls and photos for you to hunt in the underground missions. There are also different missions types you can be assigned. These range from protecting key infrastructure assets, aka don’t let the LMB destroy 3 generators, to seek and destroy enemy weapon stockpiles. Since these are also random you can easily end up with the same type of mission back to back but it wasn’t until I had played for over four hours that I was tasked to go and kill a High Value Target in under 20 minutes for the first time.
Initially I was worried that my lack of high end gear would be a roadblock. Turns out this wasn’t an issue at all. The Underground is designed to get progressively more difficult and starts off fairly simple. You can choose between, normal and hard modes, and once your gear score is over 200 you can choose challenge mode. Since I started off a gear score of 162 I went with normal and solo’d my first few runs. I took my gear score from 162 to 195 within an evening of play. While normal mode missions were a cakewalk, challenge mode is a face melter. A group of 4 of us experienced a total party wipe at the hands of one shot gun toting Riker in the first 30 seconds.
If you are looking for a continuation of the story in the Division you might find Underground a bit underwhelming. If you are looking for interesting challenges that get progressively more diverse and rewarding then the Underground is a great step forward. The Underground takes the Division closer to the solid ARPG with FPS mechanics it was destined to be.