'The Division 2' Dark Zone Gameplay Details: New Normalization Includes Direct-to-Inventory Loot

The Division 2 Dark Zone gameplay is a crucial element in the post-game formula. Fans of the first game will remember the chaotic PVP loot grabs that came to define Dark Zone action, but Ubisoft Red Storm Creative Director Terry Spier isn't content with copying the same experience into the sequel. A number of balance changes and design tweaks have occurred to the Dark Zone in The Division 2 in order to facilitate a more engaging, and more equal, level of play.

"We've taken a number of steps. The first is to introduce normalization into the Dark Zone, which we didnt do in The Division . The DZ was the unbridled, chaos-reigns mentality," he told Newsweek.

So what does normalization mean? There's a lot of math and programming behind it, Spier said, but basically it means that you won't instantly be outmatched by another player simply because they've logged dozens more hours than you. You can expect damage to be more balanced, but the Dark Zone isn't about the fight. It's about the loot. And for Spier this meant making sure players felt rewarded regardless of skill level or outcome. Now the majority of the loot you find in the Dark Zone will go direct to inventory. Not everything is contaminated, but when you do find a contaminated item you're in luck. The stats on the item don't roll until after it's extracted, which Spier said guarantees it'll be better for the player.

"You're not going to lose time in the dark zone," he said. "You're going to have direct to inventory loot that you'll never drop if you die. You're not going to lose XP, unless you're rogue, when you die. People are still going to fight over contaminated items, but how we handle VOIP, how we handle loot, normalization, sort of even that playing field."

The three Dark Zones will be unlocked as your progress through the campaign (East, South then West) and will have unique story elements and an aesthetic sensibility to create a firm identity for each. There will be intro missions for each Dark Zone that allow the player to explore without the threat of PVP. So you'll a chance to explore the space and learn where extraction points and safe rooms are before you start fighting. It's another step Spier believes will help make the experience more fair, especially because the DArk Zones play differently.

We even have intro missions for the Dark Zone now which allow players to go into the dark zone without the threat of PVP. So you can go in, learn the lay of the land, find the extraction points, find the safe rooms, get a gist of what's going on. Taken a lot of steps to make it more fair.

"Dark Zone East has really long sight lines, for example, so it's good for sniping. Other Dark Zones have more interiors, more swiss cheese areas, where sniping isn't as good. We've built them differently to create their own identity." he said. "While I wouldn't say easy/medium/hard, definitely differences."

The new Dark Zones also offer more density. The overall size has been reduced by a third, and player counts cut from 24 players to 12. Spier hopes this adds more action without overwhelming players. And if you're a hardcore The Division fan and all these Dark Zone changes sound like a bad idea, don't worry. Once you finish the campaign a new faction called Black Tusk arrives on scene. They will occupy Dark Zone territory and essentially turn it into the Dark Zone you remember.

"When that occurs in one of the three dark zones there is no normalization, no rules," said Spier. "It becomes the most hardcore version of the Dark Zone you've known."

The Division 2 is set for release on March 15 on Xbox, PC, and PS4. Players can still sign up for the beta which begins February 7.

'The Division 2' Dark Zone Gameplay Details: New Normalization Includes Direct-to-Inventory Loot | Gaming