The Division features a wide variety of abilities and talent trees to customize characters. Similar to Destiny’s system, The Division’s model relies on three core abilities and a ton of modifiers that shape how each operates in practice. The impressive thing about The Division’s system is how different modifiers actively affect the game’s mechanics and visuals.

The Division separates abilities into three main trees — Medical, Tech and Security — each of which focuses on a different core aspect of gameplay. Medical abilities tackle situational awareness and healing, Tech offers damage-control assets (like, say, manipulating the battlefield), and Security improves your team’s defense and mobility. Each tree also has a signature skill — giving players an out for those “oh, shit” moments.

Further into the game, abilities undergo modifications – which allow you to turn them into something more effective. Take my personal favorite, the Seeker Mine: The base ability lets you place an automated mine that finds enemies and explodes near them. Now, while I love the base ability – I can also customize it, so I can turn it into a cluster grenade that catches enemies on fire, a gas grenade that stuns targets in a specific area or a device that splits into a bunch of smaller mines to take out multiple targets. Not bad, right?

The nice thing about these modifications is that they actually change the ability in question, some more drastically than others, both visually and functionally – which yields a more diverse group. Sure, both you and your friend might be using the Seeker Mine ability while playing together, but by splitting into two separate modifications like gas and cluster? You can do some serious damage.

Playing the The Division, it feels as though a lot of time and energy was funneled into building the abilities system and making it reflect something real —talent and experience. And the way The Division incorporates talent is kind of fascinating. Once again, these are separated into Medical, Tech and Security; each offer a different set of possibilities. There is not the sense that all the characters are just great at everything. But, one can become great at everything. Once you’re at level 30, you can acquire four of these talents.

When playing with a group, these talents incentivize one’s managerial expertise. Many of my medical abilities could heal over a larger area, which really does wonders for a team.

While they aren't as active as abilities, talents can make or break a specific build. 

As a whole, The Division’s custom optimization system is a superior package; and as a plus, is available to gamers. While it may seem a little shallow on the outside — given the limited number of primary abilities — once you have the chance unlock and modify your abilities, it’s actually a fantastic little system. Plus, these abilities don’t rely on specific requirements – meaning that you can swap around your character and build things on the fly as you interract with different players.

That said, it does help to have a focus when you first get started, especially when you attempt some of the more difficult story missions. While we certainly would like to see the talents visually reflected on player characters, they also provide a valuable second layer of customization. It’s going to be interesting to see how these abilities develop as the longer games play though, especially in player-vs-player combat via the Dark Zone.

Photos via Nicholas Bashore, Ubisoft