Becoming an elite agent means you're going to need to follow our Division 2 Dark Zone guide and learn everything there is to know about the treacherous areas of Washington D.C. Other than Skirmish, The Division 2 Dark Zone is the only place you can engage in player vs player combat, but there's also the threat of AI enemies to deal with at the same time. Staying alive means you can get some of the best guns in the game, but it's not easy. Read on for our Division 2 Dark Zone guide for tips on helping you do just that.
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How to unlock the Dark Zone
You can't even get into the Division 2 Dark Zone until you recruit the Dark Zone Operator, Senait Ezra after completing three settlement project missions for the Theatre. If the Dark Zone's a priority then make sure you work through all the Theatre specific missions until you get a message to talk to Senait, after which she'll move to the White House to set up shop.
To actually access the Division 2 Dark Zones you'll have to complete a series of Dark Zone recon missions each of the three areas. These will introduce each place as well as initially teach you about contaminated loot, extraction and so on.
Each Dark Zone Recon mission has to be done in order and has its own level requirements so you can't just plow through them all straight away.
Dark Zone East
Dark Zone East will be the first DZ you can unlock after recruiting Senait. It's the most involved of the mission as you activate turrets, map the area and extract your first bit of loot. This area most resembles the Dark Zone you know and love (?) from the first game, composed of urban areas with long sight-lines and open areas. In terms of loadout think snipers and range.
Dark Zone South
You'll unlock the Dark Zone South mission after completing the first DZ tutorial. It's a slightly different area that's more densely constructed and closed in, meaning less visibility and plenty of places to hide. For players of the last game it might evoke memories of the expansion area Dark Zone North. Because it's all very claustrophobic and closed in it's a good place for assault rifles, SMGs and shotguns - basically anything with strength at close to medium range.
Dark Zone West
You'll unlock Dark Zone West as the final area once DZ East and South are done. It has a much shorter tutorial mission you don't worry to much about going through all the motions again. In terms of what to expect this is a mid-point between the previous two zones, mixing urban areas and a little more space. Because it's not quite as compact it's good for mid-range weapons so bring the assault rifles and LMGs.
Dark Zone Brackets
While you can enter at least the first Dark Zone as soon as you unlock Senait Ezra it's probably best to pay attention to how Dark Zone levels and bracketing works. Gear normalisation tries to even out campaign level differences between you and other players but matchmaking will still group you together in 10-level-brackets based on your game level (not Dark Zone level) so 1-10, 11-20 and 21-30.
The important thing to understand is that despite that normalisation you are going to struggle a little as a level 3 player in a level 1-10 bracket, while as a level 19 player you'll enjoy the 11-20 bracket. When you're in the endgame stages things get a little tougher because the game groups all four World Tiers together, so a first World Tier player is in for a challenge.
Dark Zone Level and perks
The Division 2 Dark Zone level progression is a completely different and separate system to the rest of the game. The most important part which is that you'll unlock a new tier of perks every five levels. This include things like getting more XP, an increased chance of finding Dark Zone Keys, daily rewards, faster actions as a rogue agent, a reduced rogue timer or even getting to keep a contaminated item if you die.
You level up in the Dark Zone by earning DZ XP in a similar way to the main game - so by killing enemies and other players (especially rogues), as well as discovering locations, collectibles and so on. If you can pull it off, finding landmark can yield a ton of DZ XP when they spawn a high level enemy - defeating them gets you loads of experience and some good gear as well. If that's your plan then search them out quick as other players can clear them out before you get there.
The Division 2 Dark Zone Extraction tips
Dark Zone Extraction is both the pay off and the hardest bit of the Dark Zone in The Division 2. You have to go through the process of waiting for a helicopter to arrive so you can load your DZ gear on it and get it out. The trouble is everyone for miles around knows that, making you a huge target for attack.
Because of the risk a good recommendation is to avoid triggering extraction yourself and wait for someone else to do it. You can then hang back and see how it all goes down before you approach. If it looks safe, or other people are... busy, then maybe there's a chance...
But there are also two extraction points in each Dark Zone, so another approach is to wait until one is activated and draws all the attention before trying to get out at the other option. If you're lucky any rogue agents or danger in general will be drawn to the first area and give you a bit of space for your own escape.
And, if you want to go rogue, Extraction is a perfect time for an ambush with good loot potential. Or you can wait till the fighting kicks off and steal the bags off the chopper while everyone's busy.
Going rogue in The Division 2 is a conscious decision you make by holding the map button for a few seconds. It won't cause any immediate problems but will open up new options and let you kill non-rogue players. Hacking terminals, breaking open chests and stealing other players' gear from ziplines during extraction can also force a rogue state.
Going Rogue means you can get DZ gear more easily (mainly through murder and theft) but risks you being marked on the map as a Rogue Agent for everyone to hunt down. The more rogue you go, the more visible you are and obvious to other players. Just announcing a rogue status, or going rogue through theft and hacking, is a low-ish risk initially. A Disavowed Agent status marks you on the map as a player that's killed another Agent, while the Manhunted Rogue state is basically top tier bad guy status. Good luck surviving that.
How to lose Dark Zone rogue status in The Division 2
Trying to run away and hiding from other players is the first thing to do once you're marked as rogue and need to get away. You can also make use of a Manhunt terminal by hacking it to returning to a non-Rogue state. However, if you really want to make things interesting, and risk things for even more loot, then you can use a terminal to increase your rogue timer. Assuming you can survive that is.
The Division 2 Dark Zone Gear Normalisation
Essentially Dark Zone Gear Normalisation will squash together everyone's gear stats to try and level the playing field and make things slightly fairer. Great news if you're a low level player trying to get started, but likely to make higher level players grumble because they can't stomp all over the newbs easily. You can see both your open world and normalised stats in the equipment menu if you're curious.
However, this stat rubber banding only applies to guns and gear, so higher level players will have an advantage from the extra perks and skills they've unlocked. It's definitely not a good idea to go near the Dark Zone unless you have at least both Skill slots unlocked.
Occupied Dark Zones switch off normalisation in The Division 2
If the idea of a fair fight upsets you then Occupied Dark Zones are what you need. When a Dark Zone becomes occupied (which only happens at level 30/endgame stage) gear normalisation is switched off, so the level of what you've got really counts. On top of that friendly fire is on, entrance turrets stop working and Rogue status is hidden for everyone. Oh, and NPC enemies will be harder just in case things weren't trick enough already.
The Dark Zone Thieves’ Den includes a vendor and good loot
The Thieves' Den is a reward for people that really commit to going rogue. It's a hideout you can only access if you really work hard at going Rogue and complete various challenges to locate it. However, you can make it easier to reach if you just hack terminals and steal chests to avoid the killing people bit. That way you'll dodge the attention you'd receive from being Disavowed or a Manhunted Rogue as you try earn your way in.
The benefit to jumping through all these hoops is access to the den itself and a special vendor. You'll have to unlock them however through a separate additional process but you'll then be able to buy high level loot and wipe your rogue status.