Like many gamers who bought Ubisoft’s latest title, we’ve been knee deep in a mix of virtual snow, corpses, and random stray dogs over the last few days with The Division. The first part of our review will be hitting the site next week, but we can at least tell you that opinions are positive right now. That said, we expect a number of people out there will be jumping into the game for the first time this weekend, and so we’ve created an article full of helpful tips and friendly advice to help you on your way. From fairly obvious suggestions, all the way to build optimisation, our guide will give newcomers and veterans alike an edge in taking back the streets of New York City.

The Basics

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Don’t go alone

Let’s start with the most obvious suggestion. In our opinion, the lone wolf routine isn’t the right way to go about The Division, especially in the Dark Zone (unless you’re the definition of BAMF. If that’s the case, up and at ‘em.) There are multiple reasons for this, but here’s the most important one – loot and XP is significantly better with a full group of four players. You’ll be able to tackle tougher enemies and difficulty settings for missions, and if you’re an effective unit you’ll be quicker as well.

Not knowing people isn’t an excuse, either, as there are matchmaking services in all safe houses and outside main missions. Of course, completing missions solo can feel incredibly satisfying, and there’s nothing stopping you from never teaming up with anybody, but our point still stands. Trust us – when you’ve got players with different abilities in the mix you’ll be wondering why you ever limited yourself in the first place.

Getting around – Fast Travel

Now we’ve established that group play is the way, let’s talk about getting from point A to B. There’s a lot of running around in The Division, especially when you’re discovering locations for the first time, but you don’t always have to do it in real time. By loading up the map you can select known locations to missions to fast travel to. This also works with other players in your group, allowing you to sort out your gear while your friend heads to a side mission or collectable on the map.

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Getting around – Auto-run

This is one of our favourite features in the game, especially when we’re feeling lazy. By pressing in the Left Stick on gamepads / X on keyboards, you can set your character to auto-run in the direction they are facing. For mouse and keyboard players, you can hit Left Shift to put them into a sprint instead of a jog, allowing you to move faster. You will of course still need to steer your character, but it’s still a useful feature none the less.

Moving from cover to cover

This is something that is covered (pun not intended) in the tutorial, but it’s important to reinforce how crucial it is. Using the cover button to move between locations is the safest way to move your character into position or into a flanking maneuver. It becomes almost a necessity at later levels due to the amount of firepower being used against you, but it’s ideal to put into practice from the get-go.

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Switching Shoulders

If while fighting you find your view is obscured by your own character, you can switch shoulder by hitting the same key as sprint whilst aiming your weapon. It’s a simple trick, but it ensures you’re always able to see the action (and react to it, more importantly.)

Use your Quick Wheels

Here’s one feature that isn’t really explained in game, but it can change your effectiveness in a fight dramatically. By holding down the D-Pad (or V and G on keyboard) you can bring up a quick wheel for consumables and grenades types. This allows you to select the correct buff in a fight, or ensure you’re using the best grenade for the situation at hand.

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Watch out for those mines

As you’ll come to learn when engaging against the Cleansers, proximity mines can be a nuisance (especially the flame ones.) That said, they can be avoided or dealt with before they become a problem. Be sure to listen for a slow, high pitched beep – if you hear one, there’s a mine nearby. So long as the beeps remain slow you’ll be okay to either find a safer route or detonate it by shooting it, but if the beeps speed up and become high pitched, run for safety. The damage might not seem like much, but it could make all the difference if bullets start flying seconds later.

Wait for it…

You might want to get moving as quickly as possible to get back into the action, but be warned – cancelling an action such as reloading before the animation is finished will mean you’ll have to start it all over again. So, be sure your character has finished what they’re doing before moving onto the next task, or you might be left feeling rather embarrassed / annoyed / dead.

Probably in that order, actually.

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Switch between your weapons

It may be advice as old as time (for gamers, anyway) but it’s always a helpful reminder. The best way to unleash big damage quickly is to switch to the next gun when your clip is empty. Sure, you’ll have to reload them once you’re done, but it will ensure you’ve put as much damage out as quickly as possible.

Pistols are your final word

Another useful thing to know in this regard is how pistols are designed as your killing blow. Most have a trait that increases damage on enemies under 30% health, and there’s even a late-game talent that gives you main weapons ammo back for pistol kills. Along with the fact they have infinite ammo, it really does make your pistol the ideal way to end a confrontation.

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Complete everything on the map (at its suggested level)

The drive for more XP is an obvious reason why you would want to do every main mission, side mission and encounter in a given area, but that’s not the only one. When you complete every task given to you at a safe house you will earn a crafting reward, either for a Specialised (blue) or a Superior (purple) item, that is level specific for the specific zone. It’s for this reason that you will want to do each zone at its suggested level, instead of grinding dungeons repeatedly.

Advanced Advice

Mark & execute, Division style

While players won’t have the same effectiveness as the infamous Sam Fisher, marking enemies a key element to success in The Division. For solo players and groups alike, the Pulse ability is a great way of making sure you aren’t unexpectedly flanked. However, that isn’t the only way to mark a target, as you can

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Be smart about your unlocks

There are enough supply points from missions to unlock everything, but to begin with you’ll have to decide which parts of each department you wish to activate. All the information you need to make an informed decision is there by scrolling down the description box, but here’s some helpful advice – focus on skills and passive perks you want to use in a fight, and then go for ones that will help your survivability.

So, for example, someone who is focusing on the Tech path for Seeker Mines will need to unlock  Communications first After that, they may also want to unlock the Field Engineering section for variations such as cluster mines, or Guard Posts from the Security wing for extra damage. Meanwhile, they should be putting their medical points into things like Virus Lab, Pharmacy or Hazmat Unit to increase their contamination filter level and the number of Med Kits they can carry. That’s just one example, but it shows that a bit of forward planning can make a huge difference.

Keep your gear up to date

We all cherish our first blue or purple item, but it’s important to keep your gear up to date. This is especially true for armour during later levels, as the Firearm, Stamina and Tech stats jump in number totals further into the game. Yes, replacing rarer items with greens is depressing, but you really want your FST stats as high as you can to unlock weapon traits.

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Mods make everything better

Weapon and gear mods make a big difference at later levels, but even early on they can turn “okay” piece of gear into a decent one. However, modifying a great piece of gear with a mod suited to your play style can breathe new life into your effectiveness in battle. For example, weapon mods allow you to adjust how each weapon feels and handles. If you want to use an assault shotgun with as fast a fire rate and reload rate as possible firing from the hip, select the appropriate mods and go on a rampage. That being said, if you can’t find an optimised stat for a weapon that you like, put anything you have spare in there. Every little helps, and again, at later levels the improvements really add up.

Weapon bonus stats, and how to use them

Again, this might seem a little obvious, but it’s worth reminding you that you should choose armour with traits that will be useful for your chosen weapons. For example, if a piece of gear has + 50 shogun damage, you probably shouldn’t be using a marksman rifle as your main gun. Either adjust your playstyle to be Shotgun Pete, charging into the fray like nobody’s business, or pick different gear if possible. Admittedly that won’t always be the case, especially early on, but try to keep gear suited to your weapons and abilities.

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Pair talents with abilities

While it sounds obvious, the game does little to remind you it’s a good thing, so here’s a friendly reminder. Selecting talents that compliment your chosen abilities is the best way of being an effective fighter. For example, someone who uses sticky bombs or grenades a lot will want to ensure they have Guard Posts talent from the Security tree selected, as the damage numbers will be off the charts. This becomes more crucial as you unlock more slots (the second being available at level 15) but it’s always handy to keep an eye out on which combinations are best for your playstyle.

Adapt your skills to the situation

While you may feel your equipped skills are useful all the time, there can be moments when a good old sticky bomb is more useful than a scan. Thankfully, you can change your active skills at any moment – even in battle. Just park yourself in some cover and switch between them as needed. It should be noted that you won’t be able to use them straight away as the cooldown will be reset, but at least you will be better equipped for the fight.

Besides, you can keep shooting the bad people in the face in the meantime.

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Don’t always trust the DPS stat

While the DPS stat that you see on weapons is a good guide initially, you shouldn’t always trust it to decide whether to upgrade or not. George best describes it as a “newbie stat”, as it actually presents you with an average of all the stats on a weapon – damage, accuracy, clip size, reload time, etc. What the DPS number is telling you is how good it will be over time if you just unload a clip into an enemy’s body, not its critical spot.

What you really should be paying attention to is the damage per bullet, and then realise that if you hit the mark every time you’ll be getting those numbers consistently. Sure, it might seem harder (especially those headshots) but it also encourages you to, well, play better. The DPS stat also doesn’t take into account weapon switch (something we’ll get into later) which can drastically change your damage output. In other words, a slightly higher DPS number might not translate to higher damage in a firefight, so double check before deciding which weapon to go with.

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Getting the crafting blues

No, I’m not suggesting making things is depressing – I’m saying you shouldn’t be making green items unless you desperately need a better weapon at your current level. Instead, focus on upgrading all of your green resource materials into blue resources (done at the bottom of the crafting station list) because you’ll be able to make rarer weapons and gear with them. Speaking of which…

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Crafting ingredients will respawn across the map every few hours, so be sure to pick them up when you go past them. It’s the same for in the unlockable resource resource crates in the base of operations too, so it’s worth grabbing them when you’re there.

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Your stash is account wide

If you’re juggling more than one character, be it to focus on a specific role or to sacrifice to the Dark Zone gods, you’ll be glad to know that you can transfer gear between them via the Personal Stash at your base of operations. It’s a great way of making sure all your characters have good gear, but another use is so that one character can deconstruct all your loot for crafting resources (seeing as materials are character specific.)

Advanced vendors, & eyeing up those hot deals

One of the more recommendable unlocks are advanced shop that sell better than average gear. Much like the standard vendors at the front of the base or at a safehouse, their stock rotates every three hours and is level relevant, so it’s definitely worth returning every so often to see what treats they have. Yes, they’re usually ridiculously expensive, but it’s a handy way of getting useful gear if the RNG gods aren’t smiling upon you.

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Big loot chests are fire-and-forget

While we wish this wasn’t the case (or at least made difficulty specific) it should be noted that the larger loot chests in both the open world and in dungeons are one-offs. What this means is that you will only be able to loot them once with your character. While this is a shame, it’s not all doom and gloom because the loot does scale to your character’s level (much like it does elsewhere in the game) so at least it will always give you something relevant.

Now while we haven’t tested out the theory of leaving a lower-level chest to be looted much later, it should be possible to do just that and maximize the rewards. Of course, this does leave you with the question of whether you should attempt that or just loot them immediately for a (potential) immediate upgrade, but that dear reader is your dilemma to solve. Enjoy!

That’s all our advice, but do you have any suggestions? Have you thought of something we may have missed? Sound off in the comments!