The Division's Dark Zone is changing, here's how

The first batch of free content for Ubisoft's online shooter Tom Clancy's The Division lands April 12, and some of the biggest changes affect the hotly contested, player-vs-player area known as the Dark Zone. Yesterday the Ubisoft blog posted an interview with game director Petter Mannerfelt that describes what's new and what's changing.

In the fiction of The Division, the Dark Zone is the area where New York's Joint Task Force has ceded control to the mobs of looters and rioters that plague the city. The lawless center of the game map is where players can team up to scavenge for the game's upper-tier loot and crafting materials, and it's about to get a lot more interesting.

At regular intervals, Mannerfelt says, there will be an airdrop of supplies. Taking a page from games like Rust and H1Z1, those supply drops will be filled with good stuff. But they'll also be a magnet for anyone within a four-block radius.

"The new supply drops in the Dark Zone contain highly valuable loot," Mannerfelt said. "These supplies will be dropped via air every hour in random Dark Zone locations. ... The first player to reach them will be the first served."

While you might have to be the first person to the landing zone to get the gear, you'll need to fight your way out in order to keep it. Looting a supply drop paints a target on you and your party's back, because in order to leave the Dark Zone players must defend an extraction point for several minutes before a helicopter lands to ferry it away.

If anything, supply drops will make extraction zones more dangerous than ever before, and incentivize more players to "go rogue" and turn on their fellow Agents.

But if parties can band together to protect their goods, they can then divide the spoils at their leisure. That's because trading is making its way into the game with the April 12 update. Just don't expect an open Diablo-style marketplace.

"The community really wanted to have the ability to share their loot," Mannerfelt said. "We implemented a trading system that lets them do so without adversely affecting the economy of the game. Players can share loot with present members of their group the moment they drop an item from their inventory onto the floor, and the eligible players will be able to pick it up. They can do this up to two hours after the initial drop."

Finally, Mannerfelt revealed the new gear sets that will be available for high-level players with the patience to hunt them down. Tactician’s Authority is designed for players in the support role, while Striker’s Battlegear is the best set for all-around damage dealers. Sentry’s Call is built especially for snipers, and Path of the Nomad is intended for players interested in going it alone.

The update, called Incursions, will also rebalance the game's crafting system. For more details on how material scarcity and the in-game economy will be changed, you can find our story here.

It's not too late to start playing The Division. To find out if it's for you check out the Polygon review here.

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