We enter the Dark Zone. I’m accompanied by my best friend Agent Light and we’re in search of better gear. The best loot lies in this blockaded part of the city and rumors promise the risk is worth the reward. I remind him that we need to watch our backs because there are no rules here. This is a place where no one can be trusted and everyone is an opportunity. The Dark Zone is home to strong NPCs and rogue agents; players that have killed other players unprovoked. At this level, we hope to avoid them altogether.
We’re slow to proceed. There is an ominous feeling in the air that’s distinctly different from other contaminated areas throughout the rest of Manhattan. Maybe it’s the size of the Dark Zone? Maybe it’s because we haven’t spotted a civilian in blocks? Maybe it’s because the echo of gunshots keep ringing in the distance. Then silence. Eventually we spot a group of NPCs that are stronger than any we’ve encountered in the story segments of the game. Not sure if we can beat them, our dialogue quickly becomes strategy heavy as we sneak up, flank, and finally down our enemies. As promised, there is loot and it’s better than what we’ve currently got equipped. The problem is we can’t wear it. It’s contaminated and needs extraction. Well, how do we do that?
A marker appears on our HUD displaying a helicopter extraction point and how to get there. As we move in that direction we notice another player in the alley. He’s running up to us so of course we draw our guns. The player doesn’t flinch. Instead, he begins doing jumping jacks in front of us. We’re in desperate need of this type of jovial spirit in the Dark Zone so I invite him to party chat and group. He introduces himself as Agent Acid and he’s quite uninformed of where he is or what the Dark Zone entails. I quickly summarize it. In the Dark Zone, there are no rules.
Our team is halfway to the destination when we see a lower level player hunkered down behind a burning car. He’s being bombarded by three high level NPCs. One of them has a name and what appears to be an overshield. We have to get through here so we might as well take the opportunity to not only help out a lone agent, but perhaps receive more loot. Our newly formed trio quickly dispatches into attacking positions. I heal up Acid because he’s taking shots. He must have skipped some of the intro videos because he’s not taking the appropriate cover. Light continues firing on the enemies. Only the named NPC is left when our team of three and the lone agent converge. The last NPC goes down and we all do an emote to celebrate.
Not knowing what else will stand between us and evacuation, we invite the new player to party chat and group. His name is Rindo and he joins the group but not the party chat. It’s pretty late so this isn’t uncommon when playing on Xbox Live, but it does plant a seed of corruption or what a rogue agent might call an opportunity.
We finally make it to the extraction point. It’s atop a four story apartment building. Light shoots the distress beacon into the air while I brief Acid on what I assume is about to happen. We have to hold out this area for 130 seconds. During this time, there will be alerts sent to everyone around us. They’ll assume we have loot and they may come for it. I tell everyone to take a defensive position and call out if you see or hear anything. Rindo isn’t in party chat to hear the rallying speech but he gets the point just the same and takes cover.
This is where I remind you that there are no rules in the Dark Zone. It’s dangerous out here. Especially when you’re alone. At other times, the Dark Zone creates opportunities and when Rindo decided not to join our party chat, I felt one coming into motion. I start to share this opportunity with Light and Acid. We are going to kill Rindo. We’ll take his loot and gain experience from the kill. It’s an easy opportunity that we can’t pass up. We just met him and we haven’t heard him speak so there’s no emotional attachment. In any other game, he’d be walking the finish line with us, but with 30 seconds left before evac, I remove Rindo from our group. Moments later and he’s no longer protected by friendly fire. All three of us execute the agent we just saved 15 min prior and loot his gear. Our team laughs at what must be going through Rindo’s head as he’s laying there waiting to respawn at a checkpoint kilometers away. This feels good.
Power starts to go to my head with 10 seconds left. Acid is explaining to his stream about what just happened when he notices he’s also been removed from group. He’s not quick to cover as Light reads my mind and begins shooting him as well. We execute him and pick up even more loot. He’s cursing at us. Light and I hold back our laughter until I finish removing Acid from chat.
The helicopter flies in overhead and a rope drops down. As we’re tying our contaminated gear to the rope for evac, Light mentions that he thinks there are some people watching us. I brush it off at first. Then I see him abandon his gear and attempt to take cover. It’s too late as I sweep the camera around and see a coordinated team of four taking shots on a rooftop apartment above us. I crawl behind cover and find Light’s dead body. I join him as the opportunists surround us and take the gear we spent our play session fighting for. How long were these unknown agents watching us? Did they see our betrayal? Will they resist the same temptations I succumbed to? I should have known this was coming. After all, this is the Dark Zone and there are no rules; only opportunities.
As an MMO fan, I’m not always looking for something totally different, but The Division is a game I’ve never quite played before. During my short time with the beta, I was met with decisions I’ve never had to make and choices I didn’t see coming. I can’t wait to see what else this game has to offer when it releases on March 8, 2016.