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Character Building FAQ by AGunstone

Version: 1.01 | Updated: 10/27/2001
Highest Rated Guide

                              System Shock 2

                  Character Building and Advancement FAQ

                 or "Getting through Shock 2 on Impossible"

by Aaron Gunstone

0 - Change History
1 - Introduction
2 - Disclaimer
3 - Cheats
4 - Ammo
5 - Cyber Module Use (skill section)
6 - OS Upgrades
7 - Strategy Summary
8 - General Tips
9 - Contacting me

v1.01 - Oct 27th 2001
 - Site permissions added.
 - Typos corrected.
v1.00 - Oct 22nd 2001
 - FAQ released.  First version.

Why a System Shock 2 FAQ?  Well, I know it's been around a few years now, but
it's a *fantastic* game, and I know it better than most.  I'm just finishing it
for the fourth time now, and damned if I could find anything of worth on the
about it.  So I decided to write my own :)

This is not a walkthrough, or in the true sense of the word a FAQ, since I'm
really answering any questions.  Really, it's a comparison of the value of the
different skills, weapons, abilities and upgrades available to you, and how
to make use of them.

For the record, I have completed it on the "Impossible" setting, with both Navy
and Marine characters.  I haven't played through with an OSA char, but have
several others do so.

And, in opposition to one "FAQ" I have read, it *is* possible to complete the
game in under 10 hours, on the "Hard" setting, without cheats, although only
just.  In two sittings ;)

I assume some knowledge of the game - I guess this is aimed more at someone
who's completed the game already, but wants to do it on "Impossible", or just
again because it's great :)

Although I have avoided spoilers wherever possible, some advice only makes
in the context of certain information about the order in which you progress
through the game, where things are located and so on.  I have been careful not
to reveal any of the plot, but you read at your own risk.

This is my own work.  If and where I have used the work of others, it is
If you want to use, reproduce or distribute it, in whole or in part, you MUST
ask my permission (illarion@lineone.net), and credit me fully.
This FAQ remains under my copyright - (c) Aaron Gunstone 2001.

Currently, I have posted this FAQ on:

If you find it elsewhere, either it is being used without permission, or (more
likely), I haven't got around to updating it yet ;)  But still, please let me
know - illarion@lineone.net

Cheats are there for the game designers to test things, and for gamers not
serious about their games.  Play for challenge, not to swank around invincibly.
You will find no cheats here - look elsewhere, you can hardly miss them.

4 - AMMO
It's not hard to keep alive in Shock2 - there are at least 50 med hypos and 20
medical kits in the game, give or take, and you'll probably pick up 30 or more
healing glands too (make sure to *always* search eggs!).
More significantly, effective use of the autodocs makes even *using* these med
supplies largely unnecessary, at least on the early decks.
The problem is ammo.  Everything you do should be geared toward saving ammo,
making the best use of available ammo (don't ever miss - take a hit if you need
to, but don't waste the ammo), and using all available ammo.  This is the
I keep the shotgun right up to the, umm, level after the Rickenbacker (don't
want to give spoilers) - there is lots of shotgun ammo around, which would
otherwise be wasted.  If it's REALLY of no use to you, use the recycler to turn
it into nanites (and I think there is a psi power which does this too?) - but
this is very inefficient, so make it a last resort.
I actually used the stasis cannon for a while, although I don't like it, just
as not to waste the prisms the abound on the Rickenbacker.  (I already had
Weapons to 3 for extra damage on the grenade launcher).

What you spend your modules on (plus your initial choices) defines your
character.  On "Normal", it's possible to get just about everything, but on the
harder levels, you will need to specialise.  To that end, here is a quick
summary of each skill, ability and stat.  Recommendations are based on "Hard",
if not otherwise stated.

Hack - Far and away the most crucial skill.  Allows access to lots of items
otherwise unavailable (in security crates), and hacking the security system
turrets if possible) is usually the best way of dealing with turrets and
inaccessible cameras.  Aim for Hack=4 somewhere on Engineering, and 6 somewhere
on the Rickenbacker.

Maintain - Second most critical skill, improves ability to maintain weapons
(obviously), and also maximum charge in powered items (i.e. Power Armour and

Modify - You *will* want to modify your weapons, but it's not necessary to
modify above one.  Read on...
Modify=1 allows you to perform the first mod on the pistol, shotgun, assault
rifle and grenade launcher (among others) - the four most important weapons.
Perform the 2nd mod with French-Epstein devices (one-shot, auto-modify devices)
- there are at least three or four of these in the game.

Repair - Not needed.  Allows access to the shotgun early, as you can take it
a hybrid, but you already have the pistol, which is better :).  Also a few
replicators, not particularly exciting.
Finally, one broken doorlock keypad on deck 5, which has a recharge station
behind it.  This is useful, but you can get in via a crawlway, open the door
from inside, and wedge it open with a large item (spare armour, weapon etc).
I never buy repair.

Research - Only get level one, and only on Deck 3 when you need it to research
Toxin-A.  One is enough to research all the extra-damage organs, the psi-gland,
healing gland and the psi-booster.  None of the other items (alien implants,
exotic weapons and wormskin  armour) are that good, and the modules would be
better spent elsewhere.  Crystal shard is somewhat of an exception, more detail
in the weapon skill section below.

Unfortunately, the weapon classes are *very* unbalanced in SS2 - one of the few
flaws with the game.
Standard - Most important by a HUGE margin.  The Assault Rifle is very *very*
much the best weapon in the game, and therefore Standard=6 is pretty much a
mandatory choice for all characters.  I made the mistake of not taking Standard
past 3 the first time through, and couldn't BELIEVE what I'd missed second time
around.  With the correct ammo, 3 shots will kill anything (non-boss),
Rumblers, Psi Reavers and Combat Droids.
Pistol is good, but obviously superseded by the assault rifle.
Shotgun is naff compared to the assault rifle, but take it anyway - there are a
lot of shells around, which would otherwise go to waste.
Never use the alternative settings with standard weapons - they are all less
ammo-efficient than the standard ones, and I think also degrade the weapons
Aim for standard=3 somewhere on Engineering (easy if you take +2 standard as a
career choice ;), and standard=6 on Hydroponics (deck 3), as the first two
assault rifles are there.  It's best to switch to an assault rifle from the
pistol ASAP, as it effectively makes your ammo go 25% further.
Summary?  By far the most effective class, all weapons useful.

Energy - Don't use ammo, just charge from recharge stations (or the "Electron
Cascade" psi power - the best psi power ANYWAY IMO, and even better if using
energy weapons!).  Amazingly effective vs robotic enemies, but almost useless
against organic.
I chose energy weapons to specialise in on my first time through, and it was a
mistake.  When the enemies become largely organic, on level 8, the game becomes
very tricky.  Energy weapons thus need backup, however neither of the two
choices are very appealing.  Standard weapons (assault rifle) works great, but
obviates the need for the energy weapons at all, since with AP ammo it's
virtually as good as the EMP Rifle.  Exotic weapons work ok, but see their
section below.
The laser pistol, at skill 1, is nice as a free way of getting rid of cameras,
worms, eggs etc, but probably not worth the inventory space and modules.
Laser rapier is not as good as the crystal shard or psi-amp weapon, but might
ok if you already had energy for the EMP rifle and wanted a better melee weapon
than the wrench.
Summary?  Energy weapons are fun, but not all that practical.

Heavy - Heavy=1 is an extremely good investment, as the grenade launcher is a
fantastic weapon, and you get an awful lot of grenades throughout the game. 
just dump the launcher and any grenades you find near the elevator - deck three
is good, as there is a recharge point there too - and only come back for them
when you leave the Von Braun after finishing Deck 6.  Buy heavy=1 at this point
You may want to upgrade heavy a few levels for additional grenade damage, this
will also give the stasis cannon at heavy=3, so the prisms aren't completely
wasted.  Frankly though, I think the stasis cannon is a waste of inventory
The fusion cannon is ok, but is overshadowed by the other level 6 weapons.  You
might want to keep it to use prisms, if you have a lot of spare modules (around
the end of the Rickenbacker, or a little further on).
Summary?  Grenade launcher is a must, the rest are very much curiosity items.

Exotic - I wouldn't bother.  They're interesting, but you don't get them until
(comparatively) late, you have to buy research as well as exotic skill, AND you
need much higher maintain/repair skill to work on them than on other weapon
classes.  This all combines to make them WAY too expensive for what they do,
especially since the assault rifle is still better.
The Crystal Shard is the best melee weapon (except maybe the psi-amp one, but
that is temporary, and irritating since you can't use psi-powers while it's
so if you're set on playing a melee character it *might* be worth it - but
frankly, even the wrench is *so* deadly with the "Adrenaline Overproduction"
psi-power on, I don't think it's necessary.
Summary?  The worst weapon category, excessively expensive.

Pretty obvious these.  All are useful (except Psi, to a totally non-psionic
character), but some are more useful than others.

Strength - Probably the most important, as inventory space is *always* at a
premium.  I aim for 5 natural, +1 from BrawnBoost implant, so I have maximum

Agility - Also very important, movement speed and recoil are both very
important.  Very low AGL is crippling, especially for a melee character (and
thus in the early game).

Cyber-Affinity - Worth getting to at least 3 or 4 - really helps with tech

Endurance - Not that important.  Only affects hitpoints and Rad/Tox resistance.
There are an abundance of hypos for the latter, and loads of healing items for
the former.  Still, raising it to three or four later on will help when you
nastier enemies.

Psi - CRUCIAL for a principally-psi character, less important otherwise.  Handy
later on, when you're relying on Electron Cascade to keep items charged.

See strategy summary below.  Specific powers for tiers 1-3 are noted here,
anything not noted I consider a waste of modules.
Tier 4 and 5 are a waste, unless you're a principally psionic character (then
the extra max psi points might be worthwhile even without any of the powers).

Tier 1:
Cyber-Affinity - Very useful to any character.  Effective +10% on any tech
skill, and two less red nodes.  Use it whenever doing a tech task.
Cryokinesis - Basic attack.  Can be used to save ammo when killing cameras,
etc - one point of psi is MUCH cheaper than one standard bullet (when bought
from a replicator).
Psi Pull - some items can only be reached with this - not many though.
Reflex Dampening - Fun to use with the assault rifle on AUTO, otherwise

Tier 2:
Adrenalin - Amazing power, makes melee combat *excessively* powerful.  However,
frankly, I'd rather stick with a gun :)
Regeneration - Very cheap (you get an AWFUL lot more hp by buying one psi hypo
and using it for regen than you would by buying med hypos), but since there are
loads more med hypos etc than you'd ever need, not much point.

Tier 3:
Electron Cascade - The best psi power.  Allows you to keep your power armour
implants functional when not near a recharge station.  Even better if you use
energy weapons, then you can turn psi hypos into a LOT of ammo :)
For this power alone, I think it's worth going to Tier 3 psi, unless you're on
Projected Pyrokinesis - The second standby psi attack, this is the one to use
against organic targets.  *Could* work as a backup to an energy weapons
specialist, I suppose.

You get four during the game, but only two early on (end of MedSci, and
beginning of Hydroponics).  Last is very late, so think of having three for
of the game.
I've listed the best 5 (IMO, of course), pretty much in the order I would get
them.  Most of the others are pretty much worthless (again, IMO).

Sharpshooter - 15% extra damage on all ranged combat.  That means 15% less ammo
usage (well, kinda).  Maybe better than Cybernetically Enhanced.

Cybernetically Enhanced - Arguably the best upgrade.  Implants are a very cheap
way of boosting your stats, especially on the harder difficulty levels.  Two at
once is good.  More useful as your maintain skill goes up.

Replicator Expert - All items from Replicators are % cheaper.  Fantastic for
character.  At some point, you'll need to buy either ammo or psi hypos,
both.  (ideally, after getting this upgrade).  With this you get that much more
for your nanites.  If you're planning on getting this, try your utmost to avoid
buying anything until after you have it.  I save my nanites until deck 5 (where
the 3rd OS upgrade point is), then lay in a large stock of Anti-Personnel
bullets and maintenance tools after getting this.

Pharmo Friendly - 20% bonus effect from hypos.  Particularly useful for psi
characters, as everything depends on psi hypos.  Nice on med hypos too.

Lethal Weapon - 35% addition damage in melee attacks.  Not bad, but the
adrenalin psi-power is so much better - frankly, I think the other four OS
upgrades above are more worthwhile.

This is based on my first time through on Impossible.  It works.  There are
certainly other strategies that would - I'm not saying you have to do it my
way... :)

Take either the Navy path, with these options:
Year 1:  +1 STR, +1 Hack
Year 2:  +2 Standard  (there is a case to be made for +2 CYB here too)
Year 3:  +2 AGL

...or the Marine, with these options:
Year 1:  +2 STR
Year 2:  +2 Standard
Year 3:  +1 Maintain

Of the two, I think it's a little easier with the Navy guy - with anyone else,
it's hard to build up the early Hacking skill, which is uber-useful.

Ok, from the start, forget about Repair.  All the weapons you want can be found
in good repair, and there are plenty of one shot auto repair gizmos to fix
replicators and the like, should you need to.

Research only goes to 1, and only on deck three, when Polito tells you that you
it (and gives you the modules needed).  Note that she only gives you 10 -
on normal, but not on harder settings, so have some spare.

Modify goes to 1, somewhere on engineering.  This allows level one mods to the
pistol, shotgun, assault rifle and grenade launcher - the only weapons you'll
using.  Make the level two mods with French-Epstein devices as you find them.
You may not want to use a F-E on the pistol, as you would then only get the
second mod on one of the more important weapons much later.

Forget Psi entirely.  It's too expensive, and while it's nice in support, you
don't need it.  This makes batteries more important, as you won't have Electron
(I imagine you *could* play through impossible with a heavy-psi character, but
I've not seen it done - I would be interested to hear from anyone who has done
Having said that, if you can afford it, it might be worth buying just tier one,
so you can at least use all those psi hypos as ammo (on Cryokinesis) rather
than letting them go to waste.  With only 1 PSI, they'll only be good for
cameras, eggs etc, but every little counts :)

You should use only the wrench throughout MedSci (deck 2, where you start),
except for the monkeys (pistol w/standard bullets), cameras (same) and the
maintenance droid (AP bullets).  Deal with turrets by hacking security then
wrenching them.
Once you get to Engineering, you will need to start using the pistol,
on protocol and maintenance droids, but still use the wrench on hybrids.  This
early scrimping will pay off.

The hard part is the cargo holds in Engineering.  If you can survive the
protocol droids, you can reach deck three with a shotgun and pistol in ok
condition, plenty of med supplies, and a fair bit of ammo.  Your maintain
be 2 by now, Hack should be 4.  Standard should be 3 already, if you took
of the career paths above, on deck three you should work toward standard 6 and
maintain 3.
Once you get the assault rifle, things become much easier.  However, try to use
the shotgun as much as possible, save the (more useful) assault rifle ammo for

Skills are not *quite* so desperately needed from here on, as you already have
least a little in everything you use.  You also have decent weapons, plus the
Power Armour (on Deck 3), so you can take things a bit more gradually, build up
some stocks of ammo and nanites.  Let turrets kill things for you, and retreat
autodocs for healing rather than using up med supplies.

Continue working on the main plot, building up the skills you already have. 
STR (for inventory space), AGL and CYB won't hurt either, if you can afford

When you complete Deck 6, before leaving the Von Braun, be sure to:
o stock up on ammo, maintenance tools and psi hypos (if needed)
o collect anything you have left behind

Targets for the endgame are:
Hack 6
Standard 6
Maintain 3 (or 4)
Modify 1
Research 1
AGL 3+
END 3+
CYB 4+
PSI 1 (non-psi), 3/4 (support psi), 6 (principal psi)

o Get the assault rifle!
o Search *carefully*.  There is an awful lot of nice stuff just lying around,
  but out of sight - including lots of cyber   modules and ammo.
o Scrimp and save.  Hypos, ammo, nanites, everything.
o Take the time to unload every weapon you find, even the jammed shotguns the
  hybrids carry.  Every shot counts (and later on, with sharpshooter and
  standard=6, a single shotgun slug can still pack a punch).
o Around deck 5 or 6, you should have a large pile of nanites: 1000 - 2000. 
  a big pile of ammo (mainly Anti-personnel,    but some AP too), and
  maintenance tools (you should have at least 8).  This should see you through
  to the endgame, as long as you still pick everything up.
o Only use maintenance tools when your weapons drop to 2 (1 if you feel lucky).
  By that time, you might be able to raise your maintain skill another point,
  and get more from the tool.
o To alleviate the shortage of inventory space, make a cache of anything you
  don't expect to need in the immediate future.  Leave stuff right by the
  main elevator shaft, then you can easily return to it from any deck.
  Ammo for any gun you're not currently using is a prime example.
o Never spend your last nanites!  It's VERY frustrating not to be able to hack
  a turret, or buy a desperately needed maintenance tool, because you went a
  little overboard on buying ammo.  Past Deck 3/4, try to keep 200 or so in
  reserve.  (Also, on deck 6, at one point the plot *requires* you to hack a
  replicator and buy a special item.  If, like me, you have exactly *0*
  nanites at that point, rather than the 180 or so required, and have to run
  around the whole deck recycling cigarettes and potted plants - you WILL be
  annoyed, trust me!)  :)

First of all, don't bother writing to:
- Tell me my FAQ is shit
- Ask me a question already answered in the FAQ
- Ask me "how do I get past x?" - this isn't a walkthrough, there ARE plenty of
walkthroughs around.  Try www.gamefaqs.com

Any of the above, I'll just delete, while sighing over the mental shortcomings
of those who apparently can't read :)

Please DO feel free to contact me with corrections, ideas, constructive
criticism, or even praise :)

My email address is illarion@lineone.net

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