Tackled bad game design so that you don't have to.
DA2 Advanced Guide
Hey there. In this guide we'll be quick&dirty going through three key aspects of the game - RPG (progression), economy and combat.
This means I won't be explaining the gameplay basics, talking about the plot and the like. This guide assumes you have some basic knowledge on how the game works, and if you don't there's a couple of great guides in this section as well as the forums to have you covered. There's nothing shameful in resorting to those, since the game's tutorial is here and there, and some information as well as tooltips are outright misleading.
In addition, this guide accounts for the brutal and unforgiving nature of the game - extreme difficulty even on Casual, permanent death, flawed game mechanics that serve only to punish the player and stress them out.
This means I will be talking exclusively about the optimal options and should I say something is bad, it means it's just isn't as viable as the alternatives.
I. Progression - Attributes
There are but a few ways to make your character stronger:
- Increasing stats through levelling up
- Unlocking skills
- Acquiring gear
Right now the stats are increased at random upon every level up. This means you don't get to influence that process and the characters are currently "Jacks of All Trades". However, the devs are considering giving us some limited control over that in the future.
The most important stats in the game are defense, resistance and endurance. Defense is your damage reduction from most melee/ranged attacks. Resistance is reduction of specific and niche forms of damage (fire, poison and the like). Endurance boosts your hp. So these are the stats you'll want to boost at every opportunity.
This is because of how armor and damage reduction works. The reduction is flat, not a percentage value. If the enemy has 50 damage and you have 10 defense - you'll take 40 damage. But if you have 50 defense instead - you'll only take 1 damage. This means that at this point you'll win every battle because of taking close to no damage from any source. The "1 damage" thing is known by the devs and might face changes in the future, but that's how things work right now.
Why you need to have high hp is self-explanatory. In this game the death of any of your party members means you might as well start over.
II. Progression - Skills
Every level you are getting 10 skill points to assign to various trees like Pistols, Biology and the like. What you can do in combat depends on Blunt, Blades, Pistols, Shotgun, Rifles, Engineering and Hunting. Other trees make you better at crafting, gathering resources or tackling various game encounters.
Each level of every skill costs progressively more than the previous one. As there are 10 levels, you need 55 points to max out a branch of your choice. Note that after character level 10 the xp requirements to level up increase drastically so you are pretty much limited in the amount of points you can get - for your reference, at level 12 I had a total of 162 points invested in my skills, including those gained from the start.
This brings the question of where to invest points and where not to.
In general, all "weapon" skills are not worth investing more than 1 point (basic attack) into, the exception being Blunt and Blades where investing 6 points to unlock level 3 Defense skill could aid with your durability in combat.
This is because, unlike the first game, levelling weapons currently only grants new skills, not associated attributes. So there's no incentives beside skills to level weapons. And those skills are mostly not worth it - some situational, some outright trash.
A basic comparison so you get how this works. Basic pistol attack is 1x 100% damage for 1 AP. All you need to unlock it is 1 point investment.
Pistols' ultimate skills is called Adrenaline Rush - 3x 100% damage going to 110% if an enemy is under effect of certain debuff. Almost all "ultimate" skills work that way - Blunt, Shotguns, whatever.
You'll quickly notice that 1x 100% damage 3 times for 1 AP is literally the same thing in damage output as 3x 100% damage once but for 3 AP. Any bonuses from debuffs are not worth it - applying debuffs is not guaranteed, and instead of debuffing your character could be just dealing damage instead, making it so you're not gaining a lot after all.
So most of the time, dumping one point into weapon you're planning to use is enough.
The skills I'd suggest investing into instead are Engineering or, to a lesser extent, Hunting.
Hunting gives you a dog early on and a tiger later. They deal a bit of damage, but mostly they tank for you while your party is squishy. Both tiger and dog can be summoned at the same time. You can only summon them once per battle, so when they're gone - they're gone. Hunting tree is unremarkable otherwise and only somewhat good for strictly ranged compositions.
Now, Engineering tree is a real deal. It gives you Molotovs, your go-to against plated enemies throughout the game (other branches, like Shotguns with its Burst, are also able to strip armor, but investing that far in Shotguns tree is just not worth it).
Later on, Engineering gives you Small and, maxed out, Large turrets. Those are especially good because:
- They provide decent dps, Large turrets being able to damage both the enemy and one behind it
- They are very economical ammo-wise, costing ammo only to summon, instead of actually fire
- They are good to place in the back row to provide your team with additional ranged damage
- They can be summoned multiple times, so even if they get destroyed, it's no big deal
As for other skills, you'll want one guy with Alertness to guard the camp, one with Handy to craft your gear, one with Biology to tend the garden and craft medkits, one with Survival to man the hunting stand.
It's a good idea to emphasize on skills the characters come pre-equipped with. For example: Fernando - alertness, Sarah - biology/handy, Lance and Isa - engineering etc.
III. Progression - Gearing up
As the game rightly tells you, gear is very important. You can get it from factions and from crafting.
To craft gear you need to build a Forge and an Outfitter. Realistically, level 2 for each is enough, spare parts for level 3 are very rare to come by in the first half of the game. Then, you need someone with maxed out Handy skill to be able to craft really good gear. For crafting itself you need Materials, Scrap and Parts.
Every bit of gear has a level - the most important characteristic, influencing how much defense you'll get from it. At level 4 with maxed out crafting every bit of gear gives you 4 defense, which is very nice.
Then, crafting your own gear, you can choose from a list of possible mods for us (assigned randomly):
- Agressive - strength or crit.
- Ranged - perception or power.
- Tactical - resistance or block.
- Defensive - resistance or endurance.
The amound of mods depends on quality of the gear itself. You'll mostly be crafting tier 2 gear because of parts availability. The best pick here is Tactical + Defensive, because resistance and endurance, as we learned, are among the most important stats and even chance to block is pretty good to have.
As for armors, we are only able to craft cloth armor, better ones come from the factions.
The best armors by far are those of US Army's - they provide the highest defense values. Then, Smugglers give you some melee stats and some endurance. Independents have the lowest defense on their armor, but give a bit of crit. chance along some perception.
Right now gear is most noticeable way you can influence your progression as once you get to 20-30ish defense/resistance, enemies will virtually stop damaging you in combat. So try getting yourself some gear with high defense values ASAP.
IV. Progression - Upgrades
The game has this weird design that you're supposed to die a lot before you're strong enough to enjoy. If your character dies you'll get "medals" according to the achievements you unlocked for doing whatever from killing certain enemies to finishing certain quests in a certain way.
My advice is prioritize maxing out ranged upgrades, just concentrate on it and max it out first, including the US Army light armor and standing. It's the best armor after all, and having US Army armor is a hard requirement for one of the game's story quests , so you'll save yourself a lot of hassle by unlocking it.
After you maxed out ranged, I suggest you throw some points into melee to unlock the endurance bonuses, those are always good. And then some to get additional starting medkits, those will help with your early struggles.
V. Economy - Resources
This is a survival game and one of the core ideas of survival is resource management.
The most important resources are food&water, materials&scrap.
Food and water gets consumed daily depending on your camp size, so with 6 people it's gonna be 6 food and water every day. Then, if you want to assign someone to a job, it costs 1 food and 1 water to even do that. Then, when travelling the map the water gets consumed at regular intervals. Without food and water you can't assign people to jobs, can't craft, get debuffs that make your characters eventually die. Therefore, always watch out for your food and water, so you don't fall into a loop where you don't have food and water and can't assign people to jobs to make more.
Materials and scrap are needed to get everything in your camp done - from buildings to weapons to armor to ammo to meds. These resources are needed to advance and you'll want to advance as soon as possible.
You can get food and water from the garden and hunting stand in the camp. You can get by without those buildings early on, but eventually with more people joining you'll need a stable supply.
Otherwise, for scavenging you should prioritize areas with food, water, materials and scrap and always make sure to have a heathy supply of those.
In addition, you are able to simply buy it from the factions. Food and water is something everyone has, and Independents have in larger stock than the others. Meanwhile Smugglers sell materials and Army sells scrap. Make sure to check their shops regularly (every 5 days) and buy all their stock.
VI. Economy - Ammo Trade
Another important resource you should scavenge for is ammo. Reason is, every bullet costs a minimal of 1$, 2$ for armor piercing ones. And 1$ is a lot in the game's economy.
A viable and very strong option is to go full melee (full Blunt, specifically, which I'll explain later on), throwing your firearms in the dumpster at the same time.
This means that you sell all your starting ammo and get yourself a great starting budget to buy food, water, materials and scrap and strongly boost your early economy. This also means paying 40$ for 10 standing with the Smugglers early on is not a big deal for you.
Your initial boost will be even higher if you did as I advised and invested into ranged upgrades - with those maxed out you get 140 ammo of your choice when you start, which means 140$.
From then on, each time you get 50 bullets from a gun shop or the like, you literally got 50$ for yourself.
Another way to abuse that is to start mass producing ammo at the Smith. While pistol and shotgun ammo come in batches of 50, rifle ammo comes in batches of 150, or 100 in case of armor piecing. So you'll be earning 150-200 dollars per craft, always having enough money to buy resources, faction standing, heavy armor and the like.
This makes the game much easier as you don't need to even get garden early on and can focus on getting your gear crafting set up ASAP. The game beginning at day 4, by day 12 I already had level 4 gear and made combat aspect trivial.
VII. Combat - Weapons
You can deal damage through firearms, through melee and some more through engineering&hunting (mostly through summons).
For firearms, pistols are strong, good single target attacks and low ammo consumption. Rifles are the weakest because of how damage reduction works - they deal close to no damage to armored enemies and also consume ammo rapidly in the bursts of 3-6 rounds per shot. Rifles' skills are especially weak because of that, as most of them target random enemies so will certainly often hit targets with high defense, dealing little damage. And shotguns are somewhere in between, with decent damage and some nice control skills like Burst that strips plating, or Penetrating shot. Though pistols are still most all around best option.
All firearms suffer from a fundamental weakness in that they require ammo, while their damage output is not significantly better than melee, that requires none. In a survival game where every bullets means 1$ using firearms is simply suboptimal, therefore I almost don't use it in my games.
Talking about melee, we have only two categories here, Blunt and Blades. There are cool-looking US Army brawler girls in the game, but unfortunately for us hand to hand isn't an option.
Blades works much like rifles - two hits with little damage, useless against armored enemies, therefore not worth to use.
Blunts though will be your go-to - a single hit will provide consistent damage output no matter who you're fighting against.
As I mentioned earlier, turrets from Engineering are really good, boosting your overall damage, being economical about ammo consumption and taking place in your back row at the same time.
Traps and grenades are more of an utility tool than damage, so outside of molotovs you can mostly ignore them.
The only weakness to going full blunt with turrets in the back is having your team in the front row, so all of them are constantly taking damage. That's why boosting their defense values should be your priority.
VIII. Combat - How it Works
Right now there are only two stages of combat/progression - before you have high defense values, and after that.
Before that, you take quite a lot of damage, so you need to pick your fights and have a supply of medkits on hand. Try using defense skill once in a while to limit the damage the enemies will inflict on you.
Combat itself is very simple really. You move from the back row to the front, then you have one additional AP you could use for defense. If someone has plating then one of your characters throws molotov instead of moving.
My composition is Lance and Isa, who both have a headstart at Engineering, and I pick it for my character as well, so any of them can use molotovs.
After that, you simply focus fire on a single enemy, preferably the weakest one, trying to kill one enemy at a time with your basic attacks. Nothing fancy, no combinations, no debuff, just deal that damage and kill them one by one. The sooner fight ends, the more hp you'll have afterwards.
If you optimise your economy you'll arrive to the point where you have good gear quickly and enemies damage won't be much of a problem anymore.
My late game is even more powerful. I start moving to the front row and going focus, saving 1 AP for the next turn. Next turn I summon large turrets to the back row, which together provide a strong damage output. This is especially useful when there're a lot of enemies so row piercing works, and helpful in tougher, longer fights and against bosses. Though sometimes turrets are not needed as three attacks with a bat will simply achieve more damage in the short term.
Good thing though is that turrets scale with your level, damage and hp wise, so they stay viable through the game with no further investment needed towards them.
The obvious question you might have by now is "Can I play differently?". Absolutely, all options are somewhat viable, though some are much weaker than others, which makes a difference in a harsh reality of a survival game. Using guns means you're basically shooting dollars instead of using them to buy resources and upgrade your base.
Eventually, the devs are planning to figure out how difficult Casual should actually be, so that rifles and knives become less frustrating to use and there are more interesting options and strategies.
But as it stands right now, there's really few optimal options.
You may have noticed I said close to nothing about using traps, grenades, firearms skills and skill combinations, debuffs and the like, as well as the adrenaline mechanic.
It's because that's not relevant enough to talk about it. A basic attack is all you need. It's reliable, it's consistent, you'll always deal some damage with it, it will carry you through the game. Setting up some combinations to trigger minimal bonuses like "+33% strength for one round" is simply too much hassle and too meaningless to bother.
This means that combat is kinda broken right now - it is deadly early on but gets trivial once you grasp the basics, and is more like a chore you'll constantly encounter on your travels.
If the devs change the flat damage reduction to a percentage, it will mean you'll be pretty vulnerable even with good gear. Same time, it would make rifles and melee more viable as not all of their damage would be negated, but just a tiny portion of.
So here, an advanced guide about basic attacks with a bat and ammo trade xD