The Dark Zone is where The Division really gets interesting. Here's how it works.
The Division: everything you need to know about the Dark Zone
The Division is an instantly co-op PvE (player-versus-environment) shooter-RPG - until you enter the Dark Zone. This dangerous, rewarding area represents a big chunk of The Division's end-game (raids will be added to the base game at an as-yet undisclosed date), and is probably where its most intense action and thrilling stories will play out.
So what is it? Where is it? Why would you want to go in there? Gather round, little agents, and we'll talk you through it.
What is the Dark Zone?
The Dark Zone is the PvP (player-versus-player) area where agents can find the best available loot. Except for when you party up with friends, you'll only ever meet other players in hubs or in the Dark Zone. Any player you encounter in the Dark Zone is potentially hostile, unless you become friends and party up. There are no safeguards against player attack.
Some missions require visits to a Dark Zone, and some even offer encounters with some similarity to classic PvP modes. Your main motivation, though, is the loot. More on that below.
Before you start, though, you need to prepare before entering the Dark Zone. Spend some time in PvE acquiring decent gear before getting involved. The AI you'll face here is much tougher than in other parts of the map.
The easiest way to enter the Dark Zone is through a marked door (they're purple on the map, and the Dark Zone itself is marked in red), but you can also climb over nearby walls and drop in. Be aware that you can not climb back out this way if you change your mind about visiting, and will need to find a ground-floor door to exit. The Dark zone itself is split into multiple sections.
Every marked Dark Zone entrance has a safe room at the entrance with a resupply crate for grenades, ammo and medkits. There's also a vendor who will sell you good, level-dependent gear in exchange for Dark Zone credits - a currency only available inside a Dark Zone. You'll also find these vendors in Dark Zone safe rooms.
The Dark Zone: playing with friends and playing alone
You can, and absolutely should, take a party into the Dark Zone. Remember to sign up with The100.io's Division LFG service if you're in need of people to play with. The host can invite three friends to come with them, plus have one more observer to assist via the game's companion app.
Dark Zone matchmaking is level-based, so you and your friends will need to be in the same tier to play together. If you see a "mismatch" error message, someone in the group isn't the right level.
If you don't have anyone you can buddy-up with, never fear. You'll see plenty of Agents just wondering around in the Dark Zone looking as confused as you. You can speak to people using local voice-chat if you're wearing a headset, so you don't have to be in a party to speak to someone. The default way of indicating you're a friendly is to use the star-jump emote: press down on the D-pad, select it and make like a gym class. Then just follow each other around for a bit and shoot some AI, pick up the drops and extract it. See how to do that below.
Dark Zone loot and how to extract it
Dark Zones are all about high-level drops. The Division uses a pretty common colour-coded system of item rarity, as well as gating kit by player level, and the Zone represent your best chance of finding rare items.
There are three ways to get goodies out of your Dark Zone visit:
- Kill AI and pick up the drops (enemies with purple and yellow health bars yield the best loot)
- Loot from chests (see below)
- Loot from killed players, rogue or otherwise
Loot acquired in the Dark Zone is contaminated, and can't be used until you successfully extract it. Once you pick up a drop in the Dark Zone, you'll see that your Agent will be wearing a roll marked with a contaminated symbol underneath their backpack. You can see what's in it by opening up your inventory and looking in the bottom right section. If you die before extraction, you drop the gear. If you get back to the death point quickly enough after respawning you'll be able to pick it up again, but any other player can grab it in the meantime.
To secure your loot you need to extract it by helicopter. Extracting loot is a matter of making your way to an extraction area (they're marked gold on the map) and, if an extraction isn't already in progress, firing a flare into the air to attract the chopper. You now have to hold the territory against AI attacks for until the timer runs down and the helicopter arrives, which isn't particularly tough. A far greater threat is other players. Be extremely wary if you see other Agents standing on an extraction area in a group not performing an extraction. In all likelihood they're going to wait for you to call in the chopper, help you defend the area against the AI waves and then, just as the helicopter's landing and dropping its rope for you to attach your loot, shoot you in the back and steal your gear. It's far safer to extract loot if you've been working the Zone as part of a team.
Dark Zone chests and keys
You can obtain Dark Zone loot by opening chests. Loot chests will spawn when players clear large groups of enemies in Dark Zone encounters.
There are three kinds of chests available. The first has no requirements, and can be opened as soon as you find them; they rarely contain anything especially tasty.
The second is level-locked, and can be opened by anybody of the right Dark Zone level.
The third kind of chest requires keys. Dark Zone keys can only be collected in a Dark Zone. You'll find them as random loot from high level enemies, or as a reward for taking down other players who happen to be carrying keys.
You can check how many keys you have in the pouches tab of your inventory screen. They're listed above medkits.
Once a chest has been opened you won't be able to interact with it, so if you come across an unresponsive chest you may be too late.
Dark Zone rogue Agents and rogue ranking
The Dark Zone is a PvP area. Part of the game here is hunting down other players and stealing their kit.
You can tell if a player is carrying Dark Zone loot by seeing whether or not there's a yellow bum bag on their character model, but think twice before you open fire: the risks and consequences of going rogue are high.
You'll immediately be marked as a rogue if you attack another player in a sustained fashion (you'll just get a warning if you spray a friendly by accident in a firefight). You're now marked red on the map, and other Agents will get good levels of XP by taking you out. This will almost always result in a small army of players coming for you. Conversely, if you see a large group of rogue Agents, run. These guys are aiming to beef up their rogue rank to 5 (the highest) by killing other players and surviving their manhunt counters to get the Dark Zone credits used to buy gear at the Dark Zone vendors. They want to kill you. Unless you're in a large group, you're dead meat. Go the other way.
If you respond to an alert and help take down a rogue, be wary: other players may take this opportunity to turn rogue themselves, hoping to double up (or better) on loot drops.
You can see a decent explanation of what's going on with rogue ranking in the Arekkz video below.
Dying as a rogue results in harsher penalties than otherwise (see below).
Dark Zone rank and dying
Completing actions in the Dark Zone such as killing enemies, finding loot and successfully extracting will earn points towards increasing your Dark Zone level.
It's important not to die in a Dark Zone - especially if you've gone rogue - because it has consequences beyond the loss of any contaminated loot you might be carrying. You'll also lose Dark Zone credits, some Dark Zone rank and a portion of your Dark Zone key inventory.
If you die while marked a rogue, you'll lose more cash, Dark Zone rank and keys than you would otherwise.