Wasteland 2 is a very good game, but it's also a very long game that throws its complexity right in your face from the start. It can be hard to understand how to create the "best" characters possible. The game mechanics are also somewhat opaque at the beginning. I've done the research and played the game, and I'm here to tell you all the things you need to know in order to get started right the first time.
# Character Creation: Attributes
Wasteland 2's character creation screen is... intimidating, to say the least. It took me several tries to wrap my head around the process. Knowing what I know now, I'd probably make some slightly different decisions. You can learn from my mistakes, though! Let's start with the attribute points.
Charisma allows you to recruit certain NPCs, and it also effects the radius of the "Leadership" skill. However, many NPCs in the game (9 of 15, not including the "spares" at the Citadel, according to this chart) have no requirement. Therefore, I find Charisma to be pretty worthless and I set all my characters' Charisma stats to 1.
Another Perspective Charisma or no Charisma was the subject of much debate over on Reddit. TheUnum points out that if you want to recruit all the possible optional NPCs, you'll need more than the minimum Charisma. The breakpoints for recruiting the 6 remaining NPCs are at 12, 18, 22, and 25 Charisma across your entire party. This total includes other NPCs currently in your party, as well as any stat bonus wearables/consumables. (Thanks to 3rdAnnual for confirming this.)
Luck is useful but not critical, so it can be safely taken to 1. High Luck helps in combat with higher bonus AP and critical chance. It also helps out of combat when looting containers. However, I found that I preferred the guaranteed stat increases granted by other attributes rather than the random chance afforded to high Luck. It's possible to create a single moderate or high Luck character to do your looting, if you wish.
Intelligence determines skill points, so you want at LEAST 4, but ideally 8 or even 10 if you can. 8 isn't a huge sacrifice, and will make you significantly more powerful than at 4. 10 is kind of a stretch, though. You might want one person with 10, but for most 8 is fine.
Another Perspective sheltim points out that mathematically speaking, going from 4 to 8 INT grants you just one more skill point per level, while taking INT to 10 gives you one additional. Thus, the 4 INT points from 4 to 8 are less valuable per point than the 2 that take you from 8 to 10. My counter-argument was that 4 and 10 INT characters are both a bit less well-rounded than 8 INT characters. If you don't mind a bit more specialization in your roster, consider 4 or 10 INT instead of 8. Also, it should be noted that most of the high INT NPC party members require additional Charisma over the minimum to recruit.
Attributes and skills appear unrelated, so you can have 1 Charisma and max out Leadership with no issues. I've heard that some skills (Surgery in particular) require certain attribute levels, though.
Attributes do effect the "derived" stats, though. One derived stat you might not initially understand is Combat Initiative. Combat Initiative is important. Having 10 or less in this stat means you won't get the first move in most engagements, so bump up your attributes until you get there, if you can.
From here, allocating the remaining points depends on how you want to specialize your team members. Bonus AP and move distance are both worth it, but which you pick depends on what role you want that member to fill. Close quarters attackers need more speed, while long distance snipers would probably benefit from more raw AP to use for long shots.
Pro Tip You get a bonus attribute point every 10 levels. If you do a decent amount of exploring and side quest-ing, you can make level 30 pretty easily by the endgame, so keep that in mind.
# Character Creation: Skills
Now it's time to choose skills. Wasteland 2 features many useful skills, but there are also a lot of duds.
As your skills improve, each new rank costs more and more skill points. Thus, it's not terrible to experiment a bit at the low levels, but you'll want to focus on some key weapons and skills to get ahead. Skills start to require more points as they level up, so the first couple of ranks only cost 2 points, then that increases to 4, 6, and finally 8 points to go from rank 9 to rank 10.
In addition to skill points from levels, you can also sometimes get skill points from shrines. The locations of shrines are often rewards for completing quests.
Many skills also have trinkets associated with them. Equipping the trinket will boost a particular skill, usually at the cost of ranks in another skill.
It's also possible to find skill books that will instantly increase a skill's rank by one point.
Pro Tip Clearly it's best to save these skill books as long as possible to get the most benefit. Ideally you'd use it to save 8 points and get a skill from rank 9 to 10. However, using it a rank or two early only really costs you a couple of skill points.
# Primary Skills
First, I'll talk about what I consider to be the "primary skills." I suggest that you distribute these skills among your team so that you can keep them maxed out whenever possible:
- Field Medic - People are shooting at you, and you need to heal. Give this to someone who is speedy and works well in close quarters, so that you can move him/her around the map fast.
- Demolitions - Lots and lots of traps, guys. They're everywhere.
- Lockpicking - Good stuff is often behind locked doors!
- Safe Cracking - The best stuff is often inside safes.
- Computer Science - Sometimes this skill is required for doors and safes instead of the above skills.
- Smart Ass - Of the three conversation-related skills, this was the one that unlocked the best options, in my opinion. If you get high enough in levels, you might consider eventually putting points into all three.
# Weapon Skills
Next, you'll want to pick a weapon skill for each of your characters. Ammo and good weapons are often in limited supply in Wasteland 2, so make sure you pick a unique skill for each character.
- Sniper Rifles - Holy cow can you do a lot of damage with these! Most snipers take 5-6 AP to fire, so keep that in mind when you're picking your base attributes. Snipers don't need to move much, but they need a lot of AP.
- Assault Rifles - Good power and range, and they generally have burst fire modes for laying on damage thick.
- Shotguns - Decent range, and an area-of-effect "cone" that hits multiple people. Use free aim for the best results.
- Energy Weapons - Powerful against armored foes, but do far less damage when the target is below the weapon's "armor threshold." They're not super common in the early game, but as the game progresses more options open up here.
Probably 80% of my damage came from the above group. Pistols, SMGs, and melee weapons sometimes be useful as secondary weapons, but they're not nearly as powerful as those four. Don't take points at creation for these, but perhaps drop a few points into them as the game progresses. Snipers and Energy Weapon users can both benefit from a secondary from time to time.
Pro Tip It doesn't take more than 4-5 ranks in a weapon skill to become pretty deadly. Finding new weapons is as important (if not more so) than ranking up your skill with a given weapon past the first few ranks.
# Secondary Skills
This list of what I consider "secondary skills" are things that you'll probably want a few points in, but aren't as high a priority:
- Surgeon - This allows you to revive downed allies, which is useful. Definitely put a point or two into this on one of your teammates at creation. It also sometimes allows you to help friendly NPCs who are injured. However, it's not really one that you need to max out, in my opinion.
- Weaponsmithing - As you progress, drop a few points in this skill on one of your characters. Breaking down old weapons creates broken weapon parts which can be sold to a vendor in the Citadel for massive profit. You can also get weapon mods from this process that can make small bumps in the stats of your weapons.
- Alarm Disarming - There's not really a lot of stealth in this game. You're generally going to either negotiate or shoot people, and once you've done those things, the alarms lose their bite.
- Mechanical Repair - There are a few things you can do with this, but it's a lot less than a lot of the other "puzzle solving" skills.
- Toaster Repair - Repairing toasters gives you items you can give to people to get special rewards. Problem is, toasters are hard to repair, the quests are always unmarked, and the rewards are often underwhelming.
- Brute Force - Some walls/fences can be knocked down with this skill, so it has use in opening new routes.
# A Short Note on Recruitable NPCs
Bear in mind that there are NPCs in Wasteland 2 that you can recruit that have their own skills which can compliment your team's. You can recruit up to 3 more NPCs, although there are only 8 total in the game. I had 1 Charisma on all of my characters and still managed to recruit enough to round out my party.
The first one is available right from the start, and she specializes in Hard Ass, Brute Force, and Assault Rifles. Depending on your choices in the early game, you'll encounter one of two NPCs during your first major mission.
NPCs can leave you, although it's rare. That first NPC you meet will travel with you until you head towards a town called Damonta. Just bear that in mind if you choose to take her along.
# General Exploration Tips
There's a lot of ground to cover in Wasteland 2, so I've put together a few tips on how best to explore.
- Use the "Z" key to highlight interactive objects in the environment.
- Bring a shovel with you. There are often circular patches of dirt you can dig up for extra loot.
- Perception will show you if an object is alarmed or trapped, but you can also activate the demolitions or trap disarming skill and hover over the item to confirm. Depending on your level of perception, you may or may not catch every trap.
- Save, save, save. Making a huge mistake is not so bad if you can roll back a few minutes or an hour and try again.
- Break down weapons and sell the broken weapon parts at the Citadel, it's an easy way to make profit while managing your inventory.
- Have one point in Surgery on at least two characters. (Note that one optional NPC is a surgeon.) If one of your surgeons goes down, have the other one play defensively for the rest of the fight in case you need to revive one of your party members.
- Most of the direct routes between settlements in Arizona have oasis checkpoints between them where you can refill your water. It's smart to seek these out so that you can top off easily.
- Completing certain quests gives you the locations of Shrines. Shrines contain monuments you can examine to gain XP or skill points.
# Combat Tips
Combat in Wasteland 2 can get kind of complicated, but it's not so bad once you get the hang of it. These tips ought to help you get going.
- Before you initiate combat, use the Space Bar to toggle between commanding your squad and commanding the highlighted squad member. You can use this to set up your team before you start a fight.
- Don't get too aggressive before combat. If the enemies detect you before you fire the first shot, they'll get a bonus to their combat initiative and will attack first.
- Sometimes you're just better off having your whole squad take a potshot at the nearest enemy to kick things off. Especially against dangerous targets that have lots of HP, this is a viable strategy.
- There's no way to reorder your team's turns. You've got to move them and attack in the order of their combat initiative.
- When evaluating a new weapon, check the ammo type it uses. Periodically you'll find that new weapons will start to use new ammo that you might not have much of.
- If a shot misses, it has a chance to hit any other enemy or ally on the same line. Thus, especially early on you want to spread your team out so they all have clear shots at the enemies.
- You can also strategically position your team so that there are enemies between you and other inaccurate gun-toting baddies. Chances are they'll get hit by bullets intended for you!
- Crouching costs 2 AP, and moving afterwards requires an extra 2 AP to stand back up. However, crouching increases your chance to hit so it is often worth it.
- You can only save 2 AP from one round to the next, so if you have a lot of AP left over, consider moving or crouching before you end your turn.
- Speaking of things you can do with bonus AP, consider going into "Ambush" mode if you can't move and shoot enemies on the same turn. Let the enemies waste their AP getting close to you so you can get a shot off easily.
- Cover is better than crouching - it requires no additional AP to leave or enter. Not all things that look like cover are cover, so make sure you look for the little icon and the popup help text.
- Cover gives accuracy bonuses even when it's not actually "covering" you. For instance, you can have your back to a wall and then fire away from the wall and get the accuracy bonus.
- You can "Free Aim" a weapon by clicking on its picture. This is useful for shooting at things that aren't enemies (ie, exploding barrels) or for more precisely aiming the cone of a shotgun blast.
- Grenades, dynamite, and rockets deal area-of-effect damage. There's no skill required to use them, so spread them out among your team and use them when enemies group together. They're super efficient for dealing damage, especially in the early stages of a fight.
- Between combat engagements, reload. Don't forget to reload your off-hand weapons as well!
If you can get past the learning curve, Wasteland 2 is chock full of turn-based post-apocalyptic fun. Hopefully with the help in this guide you feel ready to forge a path through the Arizona wastes. If not, leave a comment! Maybe we can help.