Beginner Tips for The Division

By Keza MacDonald on at

With any new online-focused game, there is typically a lot to get your head around in the opening days. The Division has a pretty great opening, but it’s confusing enough that you never quite feel like you know what you’re doing for the first few hours. We’re here to help with that. These beginner tips should ease you into your new role as an elite counter-bio-terrorism operative trying to restore order to a New York that’s pretty much gone to hell.

Getting Out of Brooklyn

Aaaah, yes, the first few days of a new online multiplayer game are always such a joy. Check out the sea of dudes milling around The Division’s first safehouse:

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Happily, you don’t have to spend much time in The Division’s opening area, which is a stunning recreation of Brooklyn in the snow. When you start the game, you’ll be given the usual opportunity to customise the look of your character (if you want to stand out from the crowd, I suggest not picking a white guy). From there, you have to make your way to a safe house, where you’re quickly introduced to your commander and sent out on some quick missions to acquaint yourself with the controls. You have to retrieve food and medicine from some looters, rescue some hostages, and finally break the siege on the precinct, which is the most exciting mission.

I recommend getting through these opening missions as fast as possible: you’re not missing anything by rushing through, and The Division’s systems don’t really open up until you get to Manhattan. You can figure out things like loot, gear and skills once you get there, and there’s much better equipment available.

What To Do if You Get Blocked in The Safehouse

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There’s an oh-so-funny thing going on in the first safehouse at the moment where trollish players can block your way out of the building. If this happens to you, here’s how to get around it: you just have to sprint straight into the offending person for a few seconds straight, and you’re phase through them. Don’t try to get around them.

Acquainting Yourself with the HUD

The Division easily has the most overwhelming HUD I’ve seen in years. I mean, just look at this nonsense:

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So much text. Always so much text. We actually recommend turning the HUD off: there is an option in the menu that greatly reduces screen clutter.

Unfortunately you won’t be able to escape The Division’s ridiculous map legend:

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Here is what you need to know:

Icons in red are enemies, icons in orange are your safehouses and base of operations, everything in cyan is a lore collectible, and light purple are loot containers.

How to Get Loot

It actually is worth exploring a bit when you’re on missions, at least after you’ve unlocked your base of operations. You’ll find containers with different crafting and base supplies, as well as armour and ammo and mods and perhaps the occasional weapon. I found looting confusing because there’s an omnipresent “Press X” prompt inviting you to go into cover behind any given surface, which kept making me think I could loot things I couldn’t, so rather than looking at the environment for things to loot, look at the map. The map will show a small purple icon when there is something you can pick up. If enemies drop things, that’s shown more prominently on-screen with coloured beams of light.

Which Skills Should You Pick?

Skills unlock as you level up, and you pick which ones you want. At the start of the game you get to choose between three of them. There’s Pulse, which allows you to see enemies as red outlines through walls and scan the surrounding area for hidden hostiles. Sticky Bomb lets you attach, well, sticky bombs to surfaces. Ballistic Shield lets you stride out onto the battlefield with your sidearm and a big riot shield.

Don’t agonise too much about this decision at the beginning: you’ll unlock all three before long. I reckon Pulse is the most useful first skill to pick.

A Basic Guide to Abilities, Skills, Perks and Talents

The Division has three ability trees: Medical, Tech and Security. You don’t have to choose between them as you can mix and match all your abilities from across all three disciplines, or specialise in one. They also don’t affect what weapons you can use.

Within these three ability trees there are Skills, Perks and Talents. Here’s what they are:

Skills: These are active skills that you choose and unlock as you level up, and can use in-game: things like sticky bombs and shields and healing. You activate them in battle with L1 and R1. You start off with one skill slot, and slowly work up to three.

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Talents: These are passive abilities that unlock when you upgrade your base. You can equip one at first, but you can unlock four slots total.

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Perks: These are also passive abilities that unlock when you upgrade your base. There is no limit to how many you can have active at once.

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Skills are unlocked from the beginning. Once you get to your Base of Operations in Manhattan, you can start unlocking Perks and Talents, in all three ability trees.

Building Up Your Base of Operations

This is why you want to get out of Brooklyn as soon as possible: you don’t get your Base of Operations until you get to Manhattan. This sprawling place is very important, and will define your play style.

How to Unlock Perks and Talents

Although you unlock the ability for perks and talents at level 5, you won’t actually be able to access them until you’ve started to get your Base of Operations back up and running in Manhattan. You need to get the Medical Wing, the Tech Wing and Security Wing online, at which point you can start upgrading them and unlocking Perks and Talents.

You do this by completing the story missions Madison Field Hospital, Subway Morgue and Lincoln Tunnel Checkpoint. Each of these mission reopens a wing of your base corresponding to the Medical, Tech and Security ability trees and lets you begin upgrading the facilities. With each upgrade comes new talents and abilities that you can then choose in your character screen.

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For example: upgrade the medical wing using medical supplies, and you’ll unlock new Perks and Talents in the medical ability tree. You get supplies by completing missions.

Different side-mission types gain you the materials that you need to upgrade different parts of your base. On the map, green side-missions will get you Medical stuff, orange ones will get you Tech stuff, and blue ones will get you Security stuff.

How Crafting Works

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Once you discover you Base of Operations on Manhattan you’ll gain access to a crafting table. You’ll also start discovering crafting parts and blueprints out in the world. The crafting system is a lot simpler than in most games: weapons need weapon parts, armour needs fabric parts, and weapon mods need tools.

For instance, to craft an M9 pistol you will need to find five weapon parts, a bulletproof vest needs five fabric parts, and an extended mag needs five tools.

Later blueprints need high-end parts and you craft those out of common parts.

Equipping a second weapon

At level 4 you unlock the ability to carry a second primary weapon. Equip one as soon as you can. Because the inventory screens in The Division are pretty damned confusing at first, it’s easy to not even realise that your second primary slot has unlocked.

Try to pick something that uses a different ammo type from your main primary. You don’t want to find yourself on the roof of a hospital in a gunfight with no ammo. Plus: shotguns are fun.

Keep an eye on your inventory

It’s worth nipping into the menu to see if you’ve picked up better weapons, armour, weapon mods or whatever else regularly, because The Division doesn’t do the most amazing job of letting you know. You can compare weapons and armour with a press of the Triangle/Y button.

Fiddle with the settings

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I found that none of the buttons in The Division did what I wanted them to do. I expected X to be sprint/vault and O to be the cover button, leading to some hilarious mishaps. Thankfully you can mess with the button layout and, indeed, all other aspects of The Division’s presentation and controls in the menus.

Quick tip: turn off the “Movement can exit cover” setting. This will prevent you from leaving yourself suddenly exposed in the middle of a firefight because you nudged the control stick in the wrong direction while aiming and broke cover by accident.

Always take out the baseball-bat guys first

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Here’s something I didn’t realise for ages: there is a melee button in The Division. It's activated by clicking the right stick. But ideally you should never have to use it. If it’s you versus a baseball bat guy, the baseball bat will usually prevail, at least in my experience. If you see an enemy with a melee weapon rushing towards you, TAKE THAT GUY OUT, quickly.

How to use consumables

The most common things you’ll find while searching through The Division’s world are consumables: cans of food, bottles of water, energy bars. These are all items that give you buffs – not that Ubisoft makes that clear.

If you hold down right on the D-pad it brings up a selection wheel:

Canned food: +40% healing effect
Energy bars: removes status effects
Water: +20% damage to elite enemies
Soda: +30% skill cooldown reduction

Always use the resupply crates

You do not want to run out of ammo at the climax of an important story mission. Always, always keep an eye out for the little map icon that indicated a resupply crate, and use them whenever you see them. Your sidearm has infinite ammo if you find yourself in a tight spot, but that won’t get you through missions.

How to use weapon mods

You’ll want to start playing around with weapon mods as soon as you find your first one. If you go to your inventory and press the square button on any equipped weapon then you’ll be taken to a screen where you can choose which mods you would like to fit to that weapon. These can be everything from accuracy increasing scopes, extended clips, stabilising grips, and new gun skins.

Also, you can greatly extend the use and lifetime of a gun by playing around with mods.

Picked up any of your own handy playing tips so far? Share them in the comments!