The Division: Underground Impressions – Slave To The Grind

New York City is full of surprises, and we’re not just talking about secret speakeasies or the hundreds of rooftop gardens you can’t see from street level. Far underneath the bustling streets of Manhattan runs a vast network of neglected subway tunnels, abandoned train stations, and cavernous sewage canals that zig-zag below the island for hundreds of miles. New Yorkers have gossiped for decades about the purported rat-eating “mole people” who call these underground passageways home, but in The Division a new breed of tunnel dweller has taken root. 

After agents successfully pushed the various factions of ne’er-do-wells out of their strongholds by the end of The Division campaign, these heavily armed threats to society all disappeared into the nether regions of the city. To continue its assault, the Division has established a new foothold beneath its midtown headquarters, sending groups of agents into the tunnels to weed out the remnants. This is the primary directive of anyone who enlists in the Underground DLC, the first paid expansion for Ubisoft’s third-person shooter.

Rather than stick to the narrow and straight passages of the real underground, developer Massive chose to mix and match elements of New York City’s netherworld with procedurally generated environments. These random combinations of subway stations, train tracks, and sewage pipes lack the hand-crafted feel of some of the better battle arenas in the base game, but it’s an understandable direction for Massive to go considering the source material doesn’t allow for a lot of setting diversity. The procedural environments are better suited to combat than long stretches of uninterrupted tracks, but after a few hours of play you’ve seen everything the expansion has to offer. 

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Rather than raise the general level cap for this expansion like most games that skew toward MMOs, Massive instead added a new underground leveling system that stands alongside the base level and the Dark Zone level. As agents tackle a revolving door of basic “kill-this, secure-that” missions, they climb the rankings up to level 40, periodically unlocking new modifiers that allow you to enhance the challenge and earn extra XP. 

Loot grinding is the primary purpose of the Underground. Each time you raise a level, you earn a valuable underground cache, which exclusively contains high-end items and gear sets. Even if you ignored the Dark Zone and all the free add-ons like Incursions, you can aggressively rank up your agent by collecting these caches, along with the handful of high-end drops you get during each mission. I raised my Gear level from the 160s to 220 in only a handful of hours. 

The excellent matchmaking makes it easy to find a pick-up group in a matter of seconds, which I strongly recommend. The underground isn’t as inhospitable to lone wolves as the Dark Zone, but the entire area is a no respawn zone. This makes going it alone a frustrating gamble, because if you die close to the end of a mission you receive nothing for your efforts and have to start from scratch in a different procedurally generated dungeon.

Since you’re fighting the same enemies as the base game, the combat doesn’t evolve in the underground. The only new wrinkles are an enemy-controlled signal jammer that prevents players from deploying their gadgets while active and a security alarm that calls more henchmen to the location when activated. If you weren’t on board with the combat already, this expansion won’t change your mind. 

The final piece to the Underground DLC is the new Incursion, dubbed Dragon’s Nest. This showdown with enemy elite tests the mettle of even the best Division agents, forcing you to dodge explosives on remote controlled cars while taking out elite enemies and eventually coming face to face with a mortar spewing fire truck. It may take new players a while to realize they need to bring some specific skill loadouts to this fight, but the trial and error nature of this end game content is an appreciated addition; we’d love to see more of this type of content in future expansions.

The Underground adds a much-needed new PvE space to the Division spread, but don’t expect much depth behind the grind. With no new major story beats moving the narrative forward, no new enemy types to contend with, and no new curated combat spaces outside of the new Incursion, the expansion rarely rises above the familiar shoot, loot, repeat cycle. You rank up your loadout quickly, but once you reach the high-end of the gear threshold, the allure of attaining slightly better equipment doesn’t offset the monotony of fighting the same enemies in the same environments ad infinitum.

Beta Test The Division: Underground Impressions – Slave To The Grind

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