Tom Clancy’s The Division: Dark Zone Survival Guide

With the launch of The Division, gamers across the globe are getting themselves familiarized with the gameplay mechanics that are offered within Ubisoft's latest blockbuster. After a rather frustrating and premature launch on release night, I was finally able to connect to the game server and start my adventure. 

Upon completing the introductory missions and reaching level 6, I headed straight for the Dark Zone, a sectioned off area of the map that invites you to partake in vicious PvP combat while attempting to gather the best possible loot in the game. 


As a beginner, players may struggle to remain alive inside the Dark Zone and hastily extract all of their newly-found loot, among other issues. There are various survival tips that I will like to share below, which should help you overcome the problems stated above and skillfully dominate the Dark Zone.

Watch Your Fire

Whether you set foot into the Dark Zone solo or with friends, you need to be very careful of your immediate surroundings. If you see another player, do not shoot them on sight or you will be marked as Rogue and receive a bounty timer. Your rogue timer will go down on its own but will reset and restart the countdown if you continue to attack nearby players. Surviving the duration of the bounty will grant your own bounty as a reward via experience points.

As a rogue player, dying in the Dark Zone will cause you to lose a chunk of your XP, as opposed to dying as a non-rogue player, where you only lose a pinch of your experience points. When encountering another rogue player, it is okay to attack them and you will not harm your reputation. Outside of that, you must continue to watch where you aim and fire, as it's quite easy to unintentionally harm a friendly player and become rogue yourself.

Air Filter Levels

Eventually, you will come across contaminated areas within the Dark Zone and receive a warning on your screen about an air filter level requirement. While in this kind of area, your air filter level will appear next to your health bar. If you happen to fall outside of the required level, yet choose to proceed through a contaminated zone, your health points will quickly deplete and your character will die, resulting in a loss of DZ experience.

In order to upgrade your air filter level, you must first head to the Base of Operations located outside of the Dark Zone and boot up the Medical Wing computer. Upon loading up the status of your Medical Wing, you'll need to continue upgrading it with supply points in order to gain additional perks. As a result of gradually upgrading your Medical Wing over time and unlocking new perks, your air filter level will start to increase and you will be able to explore a contaminated zone that you were previously forbidden from entering.

Taking Cover and Dodging Enemies

During an engaging firefight between enemy players or hostile NPCs, you need to take cover behind an object or continously move around at all times, as to avoid getting hit. Inside the Dark Zone, you will encounter a variety of hostile NPC agents who deal a tremendous amount of damage and could easily kill you with two shots from a high-powered precision rifle. 

My suggestion is to rotate between different objects while taking cover and quickly dodge when you are either close to the enemy or directly in their line of sight. Use your time under cover to heal or swap out any weapon gear. If you feel substantial pressure from an enemy closing in on you, do not hesitate to sprint toward another area and never look back.

Extracting Loot

In The Division, loot is visibly stored on your character inside of a bright yellow backpack. Any sort of loot you find inside of the Dark Zone will not be immediately available for your character to equip. Instead, you will have to reach an extraction point and call in a transport helicopter to carry your loot to safety. This may sound easy at first, but chances are that other adversaries will be camping an extraction point and casually preying on their next victim.  Perhaps you will come across a friendly player, call in your extraction chopper and then suddenly get killed by the same person you entrusted with protecting you from harm. They'll take your loot and by the time you make it back, it's already extracted. This happens far too often but can be avoided without much difficulty.

When you reach an extraction point and call in the transport helicopter, a short timer will appear on the upper-left corner of your screen. Loot can only be extracted once the timer reaches zero and the helicopter arrives at your destination. In this case, the most logical thing to do is to take cover behind an object closest to a wall and patiently wait for the helicopter to arrive. This way you will have an overview of the frontal line of sight and not have to worry about an enemy player edging up from behind. 

Once the helicopter arrives, it will take a few seconds for you to attach your loot on to the rope and extract it. During this moment you are vulnerable to enemy fire but must remain vigilant and continue to extract your loot. Most of the time you will be able to fully extract all of the loot before another player tears you to shreds. When playing Rogue, one of my favorite methods of pilfering Dark Zone valuables is to act friendly and wait for a group of players to start attaching their loot to the transport chopper, then chucking a grenade in the middle, followed by a hail of gunfire. They do say trust gets you killed.

Dark Zone Ranks and Experience

Having a high rank in the Dark Zone will make you a stronger opponent. When first starting off, your Dark Zone rank will be at 1 and is kept separate from your definite character rank. The Dark Zone can be entered at any rank you desire, but as a beginner, my advice is to wait until your character reaches rank 12 before departing toward this chaotic sector of the map. Most of the enemies you encounter in the Dark Zone, including NPCs and other players, will be tougher than any foe you've previously fought. If you die inside of the Dark Zone, you will lose DZ money, DZ Keys and ultimately DZ rank points.

Currently there are six different level-based sections (DZ 01 – DZ 06) inside of the Dark Zone and each one is littered with unique enemies, architecture and loot. I found an efficent way to quickly rank up your DZ level without spending too much time worrying about your current character level. Normally it would be very unwise to have a low rank and step into DZ03, where each enemy is between Ranks 16 and 18, but I found that if you have a group of friendlies alongside, simply shooting an enemy twice and letting another player finish them off will grant you the full experience points needed to increase your Dark Zone rank.

For those wondering about the rationale behind the addition of Dark Zone ranks, they're used to unlock Dark Zone containers. These containers, unlocked with Dark Zone Keys, hold the rarest and most exquisite loot you will come across in The Division—ranging from powerful artillary to trendy character garments. The typical Dark Zone container will require a mandatory DZ rank of 30 before allowing you to open it, while other containers you come across will be available to low-level players. You can find Dark Zone keys by taking down high-level enemies which grant a random chance for a drop, or by killing another player that is holding a key in their possession.

Using Safe Rooms

No place is better for a quick break inside of the Dark Zone other than a safe room. These buildings are absent from the usual mayhem and you will find them scattered throughout the map. Inside, you are able to restock on ammunition, grenades and health supplies. Other players will not be able to harm you once you are inside a safe room. 

Each safe room has multiple entry points, designed to be straightforward for those seeking shelter from a fight they cannot face. There's always a vendor lurking inside of a safe room, who will sell you exclusive Dark Zone gear in exchange for credits. A huge variety of gear is sold by these vendors and new gear will get swapped in after some time, so be sure to eventually come back for another look.


And that's it for our Dark Zone Survival Guide. If you have any questions, or would like to provide tips for fellow players, be sure to post a comment below.