The Division 2 is a huge game. Full of things to do, raiders to shoot, and settlements to save, the amount of stuff it throws at you is almost overwhelming, and that’s even ignoring the endgame. Hitting level 30 introduces an order of magnitude more to the abandoned streets of DC, with strongholds, specializations, invaded missions, named bosses and more all vying for your attention.
Should you want to dive headfirst into everything The Division 2’s endgame has to offer, though, you’ll first have to work your way through the campaign and levelling phase. It can take quite a while to get to level 30 and open up the endgame, although there is a lot you can do to help the leveling go by a bit faster.
Before you start, get the right perks
One of the first things you’ll want to do is visit the Quartermaster at the White House. You’ll do this as part of the opening mission, but there is a whole category of perks that may easily get overshadowed by what initially look like more effective alternatives: Accolades. Accolades are a series of perks that all cost one SHD tech point each, with each giving you a different way to earn extra XP in combat.
The first one gives you an experience bonus each time an enemy is killed by a headshot, and the second awards for taking out multiple enemies simultaneously. The third Accolade perk gives a bonus for getting weak point kills (shots to an enemy’s weak point turn the hit detection reticule yellow, and may cause their carried grenades and ammo packs to explode and cause further damage), while the fourth rewards killing with environmental explosives, meaning you should target any and all red gas canisters you see strewn about. The final one simply rewards you and your team for staying alive for long periods of time, with the bonus given increasing the longer you all last.
Killing individual enemies rewards the smallest amount of XP in the game, but those tiny bonuses add up very quickly. You should have enough SHD tech to unlock every Accolade perk by the time you’ve completed the second story mission, Jefferson Memorial Center, and will even have some spare. Prioritise getting the Accolades before anything else, and you’ll be raking in larger amounts of XP far quicker.
Avoid PvP (for now)
If (and only if) you’re wanting to get to level 30 fast and efficiently, don’t even entertain going up against other players just yet. The Dark Zone is fun, and one of the defining features of The Division. It can bring many player-made stories of betrayal and perseverance, and bonds with friends that will stick with you way after you’ve moved onto other games. What it doesn’t do is give you the right XP as the Dark Zone has its own progression system that is distinct from the rest of the game.
The same applies to Conflict, the more traditional PvP mode. It’s a fun distraction, but it won’t get you to the endgame any quicker.
Missions provide the most XP
The biggest source of XP is, by far, completing story missions. Identified on your map with a hexagonal icon, if your goal is getting to level 30 as quickly as possible, doing story missions at the right time is crucial. Do them too early and at too low a level and you may struggle, while doing them too late will mean the XP you earn won’t go as far. The ideal time to go and clear a story mission is as soon as you hit the recommended level.
It’s unlikely one story mission is going to give you enough XP to make going straight to the next one worthwhile, and so side missions are the next best way to accumulate experience. There’s always a steady supply of level-appropriate ones, and they’re represented as pentagonal icons on the map.
Side missions are shorter than story missions, and they offer less XP as a reward, but they’re still significantly more profitable than anything else in the game. They’re also a great source of superfluous loot and crafting materials, which will be important slightly later on.
Regardless of whether you’re doing a story or side mission, it’s heavily recommended you group up with other players when tackling them. The amount of enemies spawned in a mission scales with how many players there are, and, critically, you earn XP for any kill your team makes. Add this with the Accolades, and we’re talking potentially double or triple the amount of XP you’d have earned from gunfights while playing in solo.
Compared to the first game, The Division 2 has so much more space for activities. Unlike genre buddies Destiny 2 or Anthem, The Division doesn’t have a vehicle to help you zip through the environment from goal to goal, and so you’re going to find yourself dragged into all sorts of conflicts.
Because they give less XP than a side mission, there are going to be times where you’ll want to just ignore things like public executions and propaganda transmitters, and instead head straight to what earns the most XP. However, that may not always be in your best interest as these events are often tied into the Projects found at every settlement that can be a good source of extra XP for very little work.
Control points are a particularly good activity to do as and when you see them. There are a lot of enemies, which, when combined with Accolades, is a decent amount of XP, and access to the loot storage room at the end of the mission can result in some tasty loot. Importantly, helping out the leaders of these control points after you’ve taken them can lead to some XP later down the line too.
In effect, while missions give a hearty dollop of XP as soon as you’ve completed them, activities throughout the open world tend to have a longer tail and may give you more rewards over time than initially expected.
Projects, collectibles, and all the rest
You’ve done every mission you can, captured every control point, and if you have to intervene in yet another civilian execution, you’re going to cry. It seems like every possible avenue for decent XP has dried up, and you’re sat outside the White House shooting the odd Hyena for 60XP. If that’s the case, there are still some things you may have overlooked that could push you just over the finish line and into that sweet, sweet endgame. Lots of things in The Division 2 take literally five seconds to do, and the XP does add up over time.
Projects are a good way of ditching some of your unwanted junk and getting XP at the same time. Accessed at any settlement, Projects require you to collect specific resources, loot, and complete certain activities in exchange for a somewhat underwhelming amount of XP (and other rewards, like upgrading the settlements with new facilities).
Despite not earning you massive amounts of experience, Projects are great for levelling because you can completely forget about them until it’s time to cash them in. They’re easy to check: just swing by the projects person at each settlement you drop by. Chances are high that, even after only a few missions, you should have enough of the required resources to complete at least one without even trying.
If, somehow, you’ve not been to every section of the map yet, you may be missing a significant amount of XP. Entering new sectors and unlocking safe-houses not only award XP on their own, but they also often unlock more side-missions, activities and SHD caches.
On your travels, always keep an ear out for ISAC, your assistant AI. It can highlight collectibles in your immediate vicinity, such as portable devices and echoes. Collecting these don’t give a lot of XP, but they’re quick to track down and collect, and there are enough of them spread out that it should add up to a decent chunk by the time you’re done. It’s always best to grab these as and when you come across them, as trying to find them again later on can be a royal pain.
Every Thursday, a new set of them will be added to the Uplay Club Challenges tab. Each week, make sure you go into the Uplay overlay while playing (Shift+F2 is the default hotkey), click “Club challenges”, and then click “Add all” to enable them in-game. They’re usually things that you’ll be doing anyway, but completing a challenge will not only net you a few hundred XP, it’ll give you some of that much-needed money, too.
If you’re not in a rush, take your time and enjoy the game
None of this is necessary for enjoying The Division 2. In fact, if you want to enjoy the game to its fullest, sometimes it’s worth ignoring what nets you the most XP and just do what you feel like doing. Go and explore, head into the Dark Zone, do a few Conflict matches, do those story missions three levels late and save every citizen you can find!
If you’re racing to the endgame, where things really get interesting, though, you’ve got to be smart about it. Good luck.