by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 7th April, 2019
Going solo into Washington D.C.? If that's the case check out this guide, it has everything a solo player needs to survive and kill some bad guys in the Capital.
The Division 2 arrived and all I can say is that the game is the best looter shooter we had since Borderlands 2. And when compared with its brethren, online-friendly looter shooter games such as Destiny, Anthem, and Warframe, The Division 2 stands out by simply being a complete and finished game right at launch, a feat that other similar titles cannot brag about.
There are no bugs, servers are super stable, and everything works as intended. But that's just the tip of the iceberg when talking about The Division 2's strong sides.
The game showers players with loot, non-stop triggering tiny dopamine hits that keep us play more and more. But even with its superb loot system, The Division 2 would feel like a chore after a while if it had uninspiring combat.
But the reality is that the game's strategic combat encounters play like turn-based strategy games, where positioning and constant enemy awareness play an equally important role as weapon power and skill.
There's a ton of content, with varied missions and many memorable levels that make the game a joy to play even after you hit its level cap, which is the beginning of the endgame part of the game that's also superbly designed.
Another thing where Massive nailed it is the single player experience. Solo agents can enjoy the game in its many forms without needing other squad members to finish main and side missions. Further, every open world activity can be completed on your own and the loot system is designed in a way to reward solo players in the same way as squads, with frequent drops containing lots of high-end gear.
Since I usually play single player games, with the occasional dip into multiplayer titles such as Battlefield, Rocket League, GT Sport, or Forza 7, I didn't want to play The Division 2 with a squad.
And that worked just fine most of the time. The game scales down to cater to solo wanderers and it does try to make every game mode playable without a squad.
I finished the main story, even had a couple of Dark Zone visits and it was playable, if super though. Some late main missions can be quite punishing for people who play on their own but with the right strategy and effective combination of weapons and skills they can be beaten.
I discovered many things that helped me to conquer the Capital (well, at least until Black Tusk forces decided to retake the whole map after I entered endgame) and today I'll share those with all of you who play without a squad. There are plenty of tips here so let's start right away.
This is not the original Division. In The Division 2, a couple of seconds out of cover can mean game over even when you're fully squad up so do not play this one like Gears of War when you're solo, play it like the first three Uncharted games set on max difficulty.
Enemies are aggressive and always push forward, flanking you and gaining ground so shooting behind a cover and moving from cover to cover are the most important things everyone should be aware of.
Do not try to advance between enemy waves, do not shoot while outside cover, and definitely, do not try to play this one as an action shooter.
Instead, be aware of side routes and try taking down most enemies while they're flanking you, advance only when you know that there are no enemies between your current position and the destination, and rush towards enemies only when there are one or two left on the map.
This is not a game for heroes, for gamers who like rushing every objective, and for those who hate cover based shooters.
For a solo player, LMG is the best weapon type, period. The biggest danger when playing solo is those unnerving moments when you have to reload your weapon, especially when you have melee enemies on the map, so a 100 bullet magazine of a military LMG is the best thing that could happen to solo players of The Division 2.
Make sure to always carry one LMG with you because, even if you are used to playing with an AR or a semi-auto rifle there will be times when one long, 100-bullet worth burst is the only thing that can keep you alive after you realize that half a dozen enemies just entered the room right next to your position.
LMGs are also great for suppressing enemies. When playing solo it's great that I can keep a couple of baddies suppressed, knowing they won't shoot at me for a couple of seconds while I shoot the one that's out of cover.
LMGs are super useful for taking down multiple enemies when they start rushing towards you and of course, the new destroyable armor mechanics for Elite enemies is perfect for LMGs. I often simply start shooting at an Elite, take down a piece of their armor (usually the helmet) and then continue filling them with lead until they die, all that with a single clip. For solo players, LMGs are irreplaceable.
While LMGs are the best friend a solo player can have in The Division 2, snipers can be your death sentence. They use a scope thus completely cutting your entire view of the battle when using it, which can be devastating in a game where every enemy is trying to flank you.
Next, they take forever to reload, another massive downside that can greatly hurt solo players. They also have a small margin for error, with each miss lowering your chances to deny rushing enemies.
When you squad up, snipers are great because players using them are covered by teammates, allowing them to use scoped weapons without the fear of being flanked as soon as you zoom in.
And during the reload sequence, you can be covered by teammates. But for solo players snipers are the worst choice because they leave the wearer too defenseless and blind while zoomed-in.
The only advice I can give to sniper fans is that they replace the 12x scope with another attachment, preventing zoom but also preventing them from going blind while aiming.
Grenades aren't the best tool in The Division 2 because it takes a couple of seconds to select it and the throwing mechanic isn't fluid enough for grenades to be used in the middle of a battle. But as openers, they are great.
Simply scan the area to find the biggest cluster of enemies and then slowly get near enough to throw a grenade. Observe a movement pattern and throw the grenade as soon as enemies start converging on one position so that explosion takes down the biggest number of enemies.
Enemies (at least regular ones and those with purple HP bars) won't run once they notice a grenade, they will simply look at it in awe until it explodes. You should follow the explosion with your weapon and take a couple of enemies before they realize they're attacked. This way each encounter will start and with you taking down 2 to 5 enemies in just a couple of seconds.
When playing solo you simply cannot cover both flanks while at the same time watching for potential threats that can rush at you in a straight line. You can cover one side and watch in front of you but that means that during each mission you will get flanked, over and over.
To prevent this and to have an excellent and deadly alarm for flanking notifications just equip the defensive turret.
The turret is quite deadly to enemies and it makes them stagger once hit, giving you precious couple of seconds to fill them with lead before they become a danger.
When you're on the higher ground, the turret can cover your back in case enemies can reach you from behind, and on open maps placing a turret on a high point near the center of the map can simply slaughter all regular enemies in just ten seconds or so.
For solo players, the defensive turret is practically required in case they want to tackle late-game missions, which are filled with enemies who simply love to flank.
The second ability can vary but the best choice is probably the fixer drone. It hovers above you, fixing any armor damage. It lasts long, can take a serious beating, is pretty efficient and, in case you team up, can also fix other team members.
It's worth pointing out that there's a variant of the Hive ability (small drones that come in various forms) capable of reviving downed allies but using it when you're solo isn't very helpful.
The problem comes down to the fact that you have to activate the ability before you die and the inconvenience of the Hive drones being stationary, limiting its usefulness to specific scenarios when you get stuck under a cover and some boss is closing towards you, ready for the kill.
Main missions in the second part of the game (once you unlock areas left of the White House) can be pretty punishing when tackled without a squad. They feature many open spaces filled with various routes that can mean death for solo players. You will die a lot during those missions and that's okay.
Instead of being frustrated use each death as a lesson. Watch enemy placing, scan potential blind spots, learn how to advance the map without exposing your sides, and find a perfect cover that won't allow enemies to go around you.
If you fail to beat a mission over and over again you can either chill out a bit and then enter fresh and with new strategies or team up with strangers.
This isn't the end of the world; most players don't use a microphone and are solid at the game. They won't leave as soon as you die during a mission, and most of the time I played with friendly strangers who shared their healing abilities, tried to keep the same pace as I so that we can both pick every loot drop, and they all tried to heal me once I went down.
You don't have to communicate with them, you don't have to add them as friends, just ask for help and then disband the group once you finish the mission that's giving you trouble.
The best way to team up is by simply calling for help (you can do that from the map menu) and then marking the activity or a mission you want to tackle. The other player will see the mark and will simply follow you.
Or you can just arrive in front of the mission or activity and wait for the game to match you. Calling for help while roaming the open world is better than matchmaking for missions for those who don't want to play with others. Instead of trying to compose a four-player squad the game will close your call as soon as one other player joins your session.
Solo players are more prone to damage than those playing in squads so the first thing you should unlock is the perk that increases the number of armor kits. Maximize that one and then unlock the one that replenishes all your armor kits and grenades each time you enter a safe area.
Once you unlock that one, go for the one that increases the number of grenades and after that, you can unlock perks that suit best to your play style.
I got killed for like dozens of times because I wanted to quickly mow down enemies encountered while exploring Washington, and that can be a real pain.
Just take cover before engaging enemies and make sure to not get caught in the crossfire between two enemy groups.
Next, before you start taking down a control point or some open world activity look for nearby enemy groups. I also got killed more than a couple of times by activating a mission or triggering control point conquest without realizing that enemies were near, leading to me being swarmed from behind and dying in just a couple of seconds.
So, be careful when roaming the world if you're a solo player.
This is more a general tip for everyone. You can finish various projects for different settlements but they aren't required to advance through the game. The good thing is that each project clearly states rewards in case you finish it so you can freely ignore those that give uninteresting rewards.
Another general advice. Regular vendors do offer weaker gear but from time to time they can surprise you in a positive way. So, try checking vendors each time you arrive at the White House and different settlements.
Oh, and remember all those white items you collect by opening boxes that aren't used for crafting? These can be sold to any vendor (press X to sell them). I totally forgot about these and got like more than a thousand credits after I sold them after playing the game for like fifteen hours.
Playing solo doesn't mean playing without a clan. Clans are great because they don't require for clan members to play together. Weekly rewards are earned by completing various challenges and those do not require goals that can be achieved by playing co-op.
There are some competitive PvP goals but you can play PvP solo like the rest of the game so that's fine. And these weekly rewards are great - you can fairly easily unlock the second reward tier that gives everyone three superior (purple) gear pieces each week, and often you'll find at least one gear piece in these weekly drops that can serve as upgrade.
You also get access to the special Clan vendor that holds better gear and has their stock replenished on a weekly basis. And finally, you have a clan with friendly players who will definitely help a fellow clan member in need and even if you play solo roaming the map with other members of your clan can be a fun activity from time to time.
Dark Zones, the Division 2's PvPvE game mode that holds lucrative rewards can be punishing for solo players. Dark Zone enemies are stronger and in large numbers, because Dark Zones are places where you expect squads, not solo players.
You will have a hard time staying alive and each new minute and new contaminated loot will put you closer to your death.
And while Massive stated that, this time, Dark Zones are suited for both squads and lone wanderers the reality is that you can stumble upon a squad of players, and they will kill you before you even discover their location. So, when in the Dark Zone, avoid AI enemies and try using a more stealthy approach.
Next, do not be greedy, do not even think about it. Grab a couple of pieces of gear and get out of there because A: you will get killed by AI enemies or B: you'll stumble upon a squad sooner or later and they will take all of your stuff.
Getting loot is harder for solo players compared to squads. When you play with a full, 4 person squad the game is easier so is getting loot. There's more gear dropping from enemies and it is easier to get it.
Fortunately, each control point held by The Division is resetting its loot boxes each day. This means that conquering control points has one major benefit.
Each loot except the big yellow one (the one that drops both a weapon and armor piece) gives prizes every single day and that means about 3 items per control point.
Halfway through the game, you can hold about 10 or 12 control points which means more than 30 pieces of loot each day! And gear isn't too bad; I regularly find at least one piece that can be equipped and most times even more!
The Division is a strategy game with third-person shooter mechanics and a design of an action RPG and one of its greatest strengths is the game's phenomenal AI. It works most of the time (but it does go completely bonkers from time to time) and it's pretty challenging.
Enemies are trying to flank you all of the time and they are aggressive. Half of them provide cover fire while the other half is trying to flank your position and to storm you out of cover with grenades, rockets, molotovs, and certain enemy types.
They are all over the place and if you listen carefully you can hear most of them announcing intentions before going into action.
Enemies will shout when changing the cover, notify everyone before throwing a grenade or using a rocket launcher. They shout before flanking actions.
And all these audio cues are easy to locate when you wear a pair of quality headphones. The 3D audio effect works marvelously with a game like The Division 2 meaning that you can not only know that someone is trying to flank you but also to know from where they will come.
This is great for solo players because knowing this is a huge help in a game where everyone is trying to outsmart you all the time.
You can know where an enemy is before their location is changed on the radar, you can kill them before they become a real threat, you can deploy abilities to deal with incoming enemies even before they start rushing towards you.
Get some headphones if you're playing solo and you will notice that your death count will become noticeably lower.
No matter how much you have fun playing The Division 2 solo the sad truth is that, at one point you simply have to start matchmaking with other people and that moment comes once you reach the endgame.
Black Tusk invades the map, everything becomes super hard and even with a full squad, some story missions can be infuriatingly hard.
So, if you plan on tackling endgame solo just don't. This can only lead to anger and frustration. Instead, try finding a clan, or a group to play with.
Even random matchmaking will make the game much easier (and enjoyable) than hitting the impenetrable wall that is playing The Division 2 endgame solo. So, as soon as you unlock the first Stronghold either play in a squad or call it a day because the endgame simply isn't designed for solo players.