Useful Tips for Highest Difficulty
I’m pretty far into the game on the highest difficulty setting, with one restart once I figured a lot of things empirically. Things are going very well for me, so I’ll share what works for my playstyle.
My approach is the following: I start with an “exploration/assault” team focusing on stealth, long range and a wide array of skills/perks in order to be able to interact as much as possible with the environment. This team is my main team made of cheap recruits with high WIS which improves a lot over the course of the game, and it does most of the exploration, quests and interactions.
Then later on, once I have established a secure foothold somewhere, ideally a port secured by militia and with a running mine nearby, I stock there the surplus weapons and gear I find with my first team. And once I’ve saved enough money and stockpiled enough gear, I hire a second team made of stronger “out of the box” mercs which I can immediately equip with good weapons (most mercs have crappy starting stuff) and have it ready. This second team role is to intercept enemy assault teams and diamond couriers, usually by hanging around some specific chokepoints, allowing my first team to continue exploring the map.
The exploration team needs to cover pretty much all skills and abilities because there’s various checks required through the game. Having all 3 personality perks (psycho/negociator/scoundrel) helps too in order to get better outcomes when talking to some NPCs.
Considering some mercs aren’t always available, it’s best to be flexible and adapt to what you have, while keeping in mind that you can adjust your IMP to cover some weaknesses. Which is why I prefer think in terms of skills/perks rather than specific mercs which aren’t always available:
- Scoundrel is usually pretty easy to get through Fox and Livewire, two excellent starting mercs.
- Negociator is only available on Buns and Raider at the beginning. Buns is an excellent starting merc overall, but she doesn’t like Fox, while Livewire (the other Scoundrel) doesn’t like Raider.
- Psycho is available on Meltdown, Fidel and Nails, but all psycho mercs are unreliable and can act in unpredictable ways, which is why I tend to make my IMP the psycho (they never leaves no matter what, among other things).
- Barry is by far the best when it comes to explosives, but more because of a lack of good alternatives than anything else. Nonetheless, he’s cheap and has a high WIS, meaning he improves fast.
- Livewire is by far the best early game mechanic for a lot of reasons: cheap, high WIS, excellent unique perk, excellent unique item. Vicky is also very good, but I prefer to hire her later for the defense team.
- There’s much more choice when it comes to medic, since MD, Fox and Dr Q are all 3 affordable starting mercs with good builds overall.
Leadership: This ability is invaluable for an exploration team since it governs the travelling speed on the strategic map. And at the beginning of the game, your choice is limited to either Raider or your IMP. Since you will also need leadership for your second team, it makes it pretty much mandatory to have 85 Leadership on your IMP and hire Raider later on for your secondary team.
In conclusion, my ideal starting team is made of the IMP, Buns, Livewire,Barry and MD. The IMP and Buns are the main DPS early game once they get their hands of a couple of rifles, while the other 3 cover the technical skills. And since all 3 have very good WIS, they progress quite fast. The only weakness of this roster is a lack of STR, which is used for a few checks, so ideally, the 6th member added later on should have a high STR.
Regarding the second team, I like to pair Raider and Raven, they synergize very well and Raider is pretty much the only other high Leadership merc available. Besides that, this team need a mechanic to repair stuff and a medic to heal, but explosives aren’t mandatory since it’s a defense team.