The Division has had what can only be described as a tough time since its launch a few months ago. Multiple technical issues along with a dwindling player base due to the speed at which new content was being brought to the players meant that anyone remotely still interested in The Division was eagerly waiting for Underground, the first major paid DLC for the title, following on from the two previously free updates which included small changes and tweaks along with two new incursions. It’s all too easy to forget what The Division did right with its launch and within a month or so, most people had, particularly those with no interest in the PvP area known as the dark zone or the extremely team-focused, excessively difficult incursions. Now comes Underground, the first of three planned paid DLC packages with a purely PVE focus, another set of gear sets and some new weaponry to play with. On paper at least such an update would be music to the ears of those who just don't want to wander around the dark zone for hours and hours in the hope of levelling and not being rinsed by a group of high level players, or in the early stages of the games life, exploiters.
The expansion is triggered with a single short mission; naturally as this is The Division it’s a short sharp piece of story revolving around some bad people using chemical warfare within the city. This then progresses to highlight that the cleaners, the rickers and the LMB are slowly but surely taking part of the massive city underground system for themselves, planning and executing attacks from below. Division agents must be sent underground to sort these nasty people out, post haste! This is the point at which the expansion shows its hand, a new area unlocks towards the back of your base of operations. Within this area is most of what you’d need, vendors, HVT vendors, ammo and so on.
The main hub area links to the main underground area which is where you will spend the majority of your time with this expansion. Here you can tap into a new set of areas along with a new set of multi-stage missions, all giving, at first in the beginning, exceptionally good loot for very little effort. Unlike with HVT style missions, matchmaking is simple and can be triggered easily, allowing you to hook up with the standard additional three players to take on the tougher challenges this new area has to offer.
The potentially awesome aspect of this expansion is that the missions and areas themselves are all randomly generated, therefore on the face of it the entire expansions bears a striking resemblance to the rifts found in Diablo. Missions are available in multiple difficulty modes, much like daily challenge missions were previously; you also have the ability, in time due to the need to rank up and unlock them, to choose missions which are multi-phased along with adding what The Division calls directives - these are modifiers, much like Halo’s skulls, which quite often make a mission slightly more difficult and in turn increase the rewards. An example of this is ‘mad skills’, a directive which triggers your second skill as soon as you use the other, therefore, by using one skill you put both of your skills on cooldown for a period of time. This can become an issue on challenging and sometimes even hard difficulty if you badly need that health boost but you just pinged off a pulse for that damage boost. Much like the Hard dailies though, the hard (difficulty) underground missions with a decent four are a cake walk, with the jump up to challenging being jarringly difficult, albeit totally doable.
Gear is the main objective within Underground and at first, whatever your level it will feel like the game is showering you with it. For those that stuck with the game through the updates and didn’t move onto other things, checking in to do the daily missions at a bare minimum, the first few hours will feel like Christmas. New gear set pieces seem to drop with solid regularity and every single phase of a mission gives the player a named enemy to take down, as well as at least one loot chest. This allows players of all gear scores to improve in a very short period of time and create a fairly euphoric feeling, especially considering the grind of DZ (Dark Zone) and daily missions which the stayers had for two months. For those first few hours the Underground absolutely seems like the answer to what PVE players were screaming out for.
The incursion included with this pack is probably the most diverse with regards to mechanics of all of the incursions so far, and arguably the most fun. Be wary though, as with all previous incursions it needs a high level, focused team to get through and even then, it won't be a cakewalk. Weapon kits are the other notable addition and this one is pure fan service. Weapon kits allow you for the first time to re-roll the additional traits on your weapon. Previously you could only do this on your armour, at often great expense but the ability to now do this on weapons reduces the need to farm materials to be able to create multiples of the same weapon in the hope of that perfect RNG roll.
Unfortunately for all the good that can be found within this expansion, it creates its own problems too. The expansion introduces its own leveling system and locks vendor items, directives and multi-phase mission types behind it, thus creating an artificial grind which doesn’t really need to be there. The armour you can buy which needs underground level 40 will have dropped 40 times by the time you get to it (or an equivalent) and for weapons you are better served picking things up in missions rather than buying. Worst still is that this grindy feeling isn’t helped by the initially cool but in time not so cool randomly generated mission structure. For all the dynamism around such a feature, by the time you get to level 15, you will have seen all this new system has to offer and environments wise, likely many times over. Mission variety isn’t amazing and the consistent reuse of environments also reinforces that grind feeling.
The Division: Underground introduces a randomly generated Diablo 3 rift-like system bringing a ton of PVE goodness to a struggling end game and delivers initial excitement and gameplay with ease. Unfortunately the repetitive nature of the missions as well as the consistent reuse of environments means that whilst this package brings something fantastic for players (PVE focused ones especially) after a solid few hours, there is nothing new to see. Embrace the grind!
The Division: Underground is a timed Xbox One download exclusive and will be launching on PS4 in early August