Over the last week, players have been trying their hand at beating the first raid for The Division 2. Called Operation Dark Hours, the mission demands eight players to queue and work together to take down seemingly insurmountable odds. But for some on console, the difficulty has been higher than expected. Those who have managed the task say that while they would like some tweaks, it's still completely doable, and losing that difficulty might make the experience less impactful.
We spoke to players from two different crews who have beaten the raid on consoles. The first was a mix of two The Division 2 clans, and the world's first on PS4 with a time of 36 hours; the second got through the game on Xbox One and, at the time of their finish, were third on the leaderboard with a time of about 56 hours. The experience for both crews was a test of endurance as much as skill.
"We spent a good three, four hours on the first boss; four on the second boss, nine on the third, and honestly I don’t know how many on the last boss," says James Butler, who played on the Xbox team, "but easily over 15 hours. The rest of the time spent in the raid was either looking for a replacement for a player that dropped from the raid or taking a quick 15-30 minute break."
Zach Caraway, who streamed and posted the world's first finish for PlayStation 4 (alongside his squad of Bloodshy, Inkist, Tico79, Mr Bats, H2K Predator5, Jaqev, and HandsomeLancer) had a similarly long time getting through the raid. Both dealt with not only frustrating bosses, but a number of outside factors like "delta" server errors and needing to fill in gaps from players rotating out. Since there was no matchmaking, players would have to be recruited to join the long slog through tools like the LFG tools on Xbox. As it became clear how tough the raid would be on consoles and the hours stretched on, morale dipped.
"The lowest points were when it was late into the night and everyone was tired, causing us to make mistakes at crucial moments," says Butler. "Those crucial moments were often in the boss encounters; four of them, spread out across the raid, have to be defeated. Two in particular are the biggest stumbling blocks, but while most players struggle with the first encounter against Boomer, the finale against a missile-launching truck called "Razorback" is actually the longest fight. It's not only a tough opponent on its own, but it throws a lot of enemy combatants at you to deal with while you fight the truck.
"The points I would like to see changed on console would have to be on the last boss," says Caraway. "The Razorback has a lot of AI that spawn and it's honestly too hard to control, I think, for the casual player."
Caraway and his team are working on gradually working down the time required, showing that the raid is accomplishable given the right team. Even just a day ago, his squad chalked up a time of 2 hours and 52 minutes, a far cry from 36 hours. But it's also distant from PC, where runs are getting under half an hour already. Despite this difficulty, Caraway isn't keen on opening up matchmaking.
"I don't think it's impossible, and plus, we want this to be hard," says Caraway. "The casual players may want matchmaking, but I don't think it will help, it might just be harder. You need a set group of eight friends, and team coordination is key to the raid."
When looking at what could, or should, change about the raid, it frequently comes back to issues inherent to the platform. Caraway cites tight time frames to do damage to the last boss, as well as a "spongy" time-to-kill as issues that resonate after clearing it several times. Butler went into more detail on specific game issues, having played on both PC and Xbox. He says movement can be "erratic," which is difficult for console players to deal with, and also mentions that the builds some players might have are ultimately ineffective at accomplishing what this raid demands.
"Sadly it’s pretty restrictive. Nemesis, LMGs, and AR’s with the occasional chatterbox mixed in seems to be the go-to," said Butler. "Stack a lot of damage to elites on top of that, and the raid becomes instantly easier. The bullet-sponge enemies begin to go down easier and faster as does the bosses armor and health, thus decreasing the amount of time the encounter takes."
But there is an ultimate element of valor to being one of the people to finish a raid that so many say is impossible, and so while both Caraway and Butler concede that changes should probably be made, they're hesitant to recommend anything major or sweeping. It hearkens to the prestige of raids in games like World of Warcraft, where a world's first is a major accomplishment that takes dozens of hours, if not several days, to achieve. Both celebrate the teamwork demanded from the crews playing the raid, and the overall challenge.
"The raid is definitely hard to some extent on console, but it's doable," says Butler. "People will always complain. If it was easy, people would complain that the raid is a joke; make it too hard, and people will complain it’s impossible and can’t be done. The bottom line is that you can't please everyone."
Ubisoft is set to broadcast a State of the Game tomorrow, where it's not out of the realm of possibility that tweaks to the raid will be announced for console platforms. Ultimately, it might be for the best; there are a lot of players in The Division 2, and they would probably like to see the raid content without having to invest so much time and effort. But the pursuit of the impossible is what drives players like Caraway and Butler to do these things in the first place.
"So few had beat it on Xbox, along with so many more saying it’s impossible," says Butler. "It made me want to beat it more."