The Division takes place in mid-crisis Manhattan, an open world with destructive environments that are free for players to explore. The player’s mission is to restore order by investigating the source of a virus. The player character can carry three weapons, and explosives like sticky bombs and smart mines to fight against enemies. Players may take cover behind objects during firefights to avoid taking damage from enemies, and to give them a tactical advantage when attacking. As the game is set in a third-person perspective, the character model is visible.
As players progress, they earn experience points (commonly known as XP) and currency. They can use this currency to buy weapons and gear, and use the points to learn new talents and skills. The player’s gear is categorized into five levels: worn, standard, specialized, superior, high-end, and gear set items, each with a specific color code. Gear can be either bought, or found as in-game loot, or crafted from gathered materials. The storyline missions involve objectives that are relevant to their respective wing of the Base of Operations, which serves as the player’s home base. At the player’s home base there are three wings which are the Medical, Security and Tech wing. Playing missions for a wing grants the player points for that wing which the player can spend to gain access to new talents, perks and facilities in the Base of Operations. The player will receive intel videos from each head of the wing at certain progression points, which the player can watch. The intel received is specific to its wing, with the Medical wing giving virus reports on the outbreak, the Security wing giving insight into each in-game enemy faction and the tech wing providing camera footage. The game features a dynamic, time-based weather system which may bring benefits or disadvantages to players. For instance, storms can hinder player’s visibility and make aiming difficult. The game features a day-night cycle which will change the behavior of enemies in the game.
The Dark Zone is the player-versus-player competitive multiplayer mode featured in The Division, where a lot of high-end weapons are left behind when the military retreats in the game. It is separated from the main campaign and has its own progression system. Higher quality items can be found within the Dark Zone, but are considered “contaminated”; contaminated loot can be stolen by other players, and must be flown out via helicopter in order for them to be available to the player after they leave the Dark Zone. Players can be accompanied by several co-operative partners and other neutral, player-controlled agents. These people, however, can turn against the player at any moment, going rogue. Players’ level and ranking may drop if they die too often in the zone.