I go back and forth on The Division very often. It’s a game with real potential, but the Developers at Ubisoft Massive just remind me of an infant child learning to walk. Sure, they can stand up, but that doesn’t stop them from crashing into the wall, over and over again. Well, this week the first paid DLC for The Division, The Underground Expansion, was released for Xbox One and PC (Playstation 4 to be released at the end of July). It pleases me to say that the game’s infant legs are standing for a little bit longer. Despite the Dark Zone still being in shambles, and the repetitive nature of yet another ranking system, the expansion offers more goals to shoot for, and a clearer pathway of progression.
The story is lacking in the Underground; you’re once again tasked with putting an end to the more decadent factions that have risen up in Manhattan, this time it’s exclusively located in the Subway! Throughout the main ‘Operation’ missions, you will explore the depths of the underground, which look brutalised in a stunning way. Each area of these tortured subway lines has their own distinct design; engulfed in flames, lit up by neon lights, and teaming with broken down trains which criss-cross the tunnels. Each area feels unique and tailored for interesting action.
The player’s purpose while exploring these war-torn underground locations is to collect intel, rescue people, kill enemies, and obtain loot to further the JTF’s goal for peace. Operations are the means of achieving this end. Basically, they are missions that randomise objectives, and chain together alternate underground sections, to make each new ‘dungeons’ feel fresh. I haven’t encountered the same exact scenario yet, which is very welcomed, however I feel my time is running short. In each Operation you can adjust the difficulty level, ranging up to Heroic. Unsurprisingly, the higher the difficulty, the better the loot drops.
Additionally, you can add modifiers which improve your chances for more rewarding loot even further. These changes to difficulty include more gameplay effecting options such as: ‘when you use one skill, it puts your other skills on cooldown’. The modifiers add an extra layer of tension to the game, which requires a lot more coordination and communication between you and your team. For instance, my scan is vital for our groups damage output, but I also needed a heal or I would likely die. So, I had my teammate use his heal on me, so that I could use my scan on cooldown. It’s little choices like these that are far more interesting than just having more bullet spongy and higher damaging enemies. With any luck Ubisoft Massive will patch more modifiers in overtime.
Furthermore, each Operation can have up to 3 phases. Essentially, if you do more than one phase, it links multiple Underground missions together. if you die in a later phase, you must restart from the beginning. Obviously the incentive, other than pure challenge, is that more phases offer greater and more frequent rewards.
“The modifiers add an extra layer of tension to the game, which requires a lot more coordination and communication between you and your team”
However, gaining access to new blueprints, modifiers, and upgrading the difficulty requires a higher ‘Underground Rank’. It’s yet another level cap that goes up with XP you gain from completing Operations and finding collectables in The Underground. The addition of this level system makes sense, however the progression feels too slow. Already my friends and I are relatively breezing through the Operations, but we can’t put on any more modifiers or go up in higher difficulty; therefore, we must now grind through less challenging content just so we can unlock the harder missions.
Also packaged with The Underground expansion is the new Incursion, Dragon’s nest. Now, yes, it does involve a vehicle spiting fire at you, but that isn’t as bad or as boring as it sounds! Much like the Incursions that came before it, Dragon’s Nest comes in two phases. The first phase involves shooting your way through the streets and rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen, to face off against four bosses at once. It isn’t easy, and requires some planning and coordination. Eventually you’ll arrive at a big warehouse with a vehicle at the end of it -Just bare with me, it isn’t all bad. The vehicle lights up segments of the ground in fire, but in a much less consistent way than the first Incursion. Unfortunately, while the room offers a lot of cover, and enemies don’t rush you very often, we quickly discovered that the Incursion could be ‘cheesed’ using the status-effect-removal medpack. We didn’t move out of the fire, and stayed still in two medpacks for the entire fight.
If you still enjoyed doing the story missions but they became too easy, then you’re in luck. Heroic difficulties have been added to many of them for you to dig back into. Although, if you’re already tackling challenging or higher Operations and Incursions, the rewards offered by the story missions are outmatched. High-Value-Target weeklies on the other hand, weren’t made more difficult, but offer up to the highest gear score in the game. While that seems cool, it further confuses the gear reward vs difficulty disconnect that has been present since release. Different activities in the game share the same labels of difficulty (heroic, challenging etc.), but vary their potential rewards. As such, it’s frustrating trying to figure out what missions are the best to pursue.
Lastly, a full suite of balance changes to weapons and sets were implemented. The full patch notes can be found here, but ultimately they’ve added some new weapons, a few new gear sets, and adjusted the overpowered nature of specific equipment. The new sets are very different, and when combined with the previous eight, offer a serious level of playstyle customisation, tuning your character to the specific role/s you wish to take.
“The new sets are very different, and when combined with the previous eight, offer a serious level of playstyle customisation, tuning your character to the specific role/s you wish to take.”
It’s important to note that this expansion is PVE based. It has added a lot of new challenges to work towards with friends, and I’m excited to see how far we can push our ability and gear. Exploring the Manhattan Subway is compelling, made even more so by the level of difficulty you can adjust it to have. For $20, The Division’s Underground Expansion offers a neat package with many enjoyable hours to experience with your mates. However, if you’re expecting it to renew your interest in the Dark Zone, don’t. The area is still completely unbalanced, and is perpetually plagued by the issues I explained in a previous article. Indeed, if you’re a solo player, or not looking to tackle the more challenging aspects of the Underground, it probably isn’t worth it. Exploration is locked into specific group Operations, and the story is almost non-existent.