Dead Island Guide
Quick & Dirty Guide: Dead Island
Table of Contents:
- The Basic Gist
- What’s Up with Alcohol?
- When Do I Get Guns?
- Character Selection
- Combat Basics
- Weapon Mechanics
- Weapon Mods
- Skill Trees
- Purna Skill Strategy
- Logan Skill Strategy
- Xian Mei Skill Strategy
- Sam B Skill Strategy
- Advanced Tactics
- Ghetto Teleports
- Quick Cash
- Zombie Strategies
- Developer/Uber Weapons
Welcome to the Quick & Dirty (Q&D) Guide to Dead Island.
As with all my Q&D Guides, the aim of this document is to be the guide I wished I had available when I started this game: a lightweight, spoiler-free resource designed to get you up to speed without burying you under mountains of text and theorycraft. If you can navigate your way across the internet to a game guide in the first place, chances are you do not need a whole lot of hand-holding.
So let’s get started.
==The Basic Gist==
Dead Island is a mostly open-world FPS action RPG combination of Borderlands meets Left 4 Dead, with a huge emphasis on melee combat. Weapon drops, weapon stats, and chest contents are random. Areas do not stay cleared of zombies for very long, and zombies always stay at a similar level to yourself. There are seven types of zombies, but the vast, vast majority of those you face will be Walkers (aka standard zombies) and Infected (the 28 Days Later runners). That being said, you have the same chance of getting overwhelmed and dying at level 1 as you do at level 60 (the level cap), so don’t get cocky.
The basic game flow is picking up various side quests at mission hubs, killing zombies, repairing/upgrading the weapons you find, and unlocking new areas to explore as you complete Story quests. There are quite a few side quests hidden in the world itself to stumble upon, along with certain weapon mods. Since loot is randomized, there is always a reason to check every suitcase or metal chest for exceptional quality items.
Dead Island runs off a quasi-Checkpoint system of saved games. Your progress is saved each time you Quit a game, each time you die, before/after each cutscene, and periodically in various areas. There is no Save button to press.
Generally speaking, you will always start near the location of the last quest you were working on. This can be “abused” somewhat; see the Advanced Tactics section.
–What’s Up with Alcohol?–
The most confusing thing about the early game for me was Alcohol. When you pick up Alcohol, there is a chance it will replace your currently wielded weapon in the quick-slot (in addition to taking up a limited weapon slot in your general inventory). ALCOHOL SERVES NO MEDICINAL PURPOSES… unless you are Logan and take the appropriate Skills. For all other characters, Alcohol is merely a Molotov crafting ingredient, despite its health-looking icon.
–When Do I Get Guns?–
Reliably? Starting in Act 2.
The first decision you need to make is which character to pick. Here is a rough guide:
Purna (Guns): Easier mid/late-game. Be a bard in co-op.
Xian Mei (Sharp): Hardmode. Be a rogue in co-op.
Sam B (Blunt): Bumrush the zombies. Be a tank in co-op.
Logan (Throwing): Be so-so in everything. Be drunk in co-op.
While Sam B can run around with a katana and Xian Mei a baseball bat, the majority of the Skills each character possesses is focused on a weapon type, i.e. Xian Mei with Sharp weapons. ALL CHARACTERS CAN USE GUNS WHEN THEY BECOME AVAILABLE. Without the specific Skills to prop up gun damage though, you will likely want to stick with your focused weapon type.
If you plan on playing solo, I recommend either Purna or Sam B.
The most important combat move in the game is Kick (default key ‘E’).
Kick will interrupt the attacks of Walkers and Infected, the two zombie types you will face 99% of the time. Kick will also interrupt the “charge” attack of these two zombies, giving you space for 1-2 weapon swings. Kick also has a chance of knocking the zombie down entirely, letting you go in for the kill or making your escape. After picking the 4th tier Combat tree Skill, aiming a Kick at a prone zombie’s head will let you instantly kill it with a head stomp; the 7th tier Combat tree Skill allows you to stomp heads faster.
You should make a habit of Kicking every body on the ground, to ensure it is not a Walker playing dead.
A variation on the standard Kick is the Jump Kick (Spacebar + E), which can be done with or without forward movement. If the Jump Kick lands correctly, it will automatically knock down Walkers and Infected. As a bonus, you are usually standing near their head at the conclusion of the move.
Another extremely important combat move is the Dodge (Spacebar + A/S/D). If performed correctly, a Dodge will let you avoid almost every type of attack from the harder zombie types, such as Thugs and Rams (see below). While Dodging is occasionally useful against Walkers and Infected, a standard Kick is usually better.
As for what to do with your weapons… stick them with the pointy end.
Generally speaking, all attacks should be aimed toward a zombie’s head, if possible, as it will instantly kill the zombie if successful (and deals bonus damage even if it does not). Taking off a zombie’s leg will also instantly kill it, but it is a great deal harder to aim at and deals no bonus damage if unsuccessful.
If you see CUT or BREAK, those are in reference to what you just did to a zombie. In both cases, it means the zombie can no longer use that limb (typically an arm) to attack with, although a crippled zombie can still be dangerous.
Somewhat curiously, the right mouse button (RMB) is set to aim the throwing of whatever melee weapon you have equipped. Unless you are Logan, the only real situation in which you would really want to Throw your weapon is to trigger an explosion from a nearby gas/propane tank; in most other situations you would be better off just whacking them with it instead.
As a special note though, Thrown weapons do not lose durability when they damage enemies.
The game does not become easier over time beyond having access to more varied types of weapons and (potentially) Skills. You can (and will) die to three Walkers at any point in the game if you are not careful. Death in Dead Island consists of a countdown timer and a respawning at an earlier checkpoint.
Oh, and you lose 10% of you Cash. Given as how the Death Tax can hit $10,000+ later in the game, it is ALWAYS worth using as many $500 Large Medkits or $450 Molotov Cocktails as necessary to ensure you aren’t seconds away from an embarrassing death.
Each melee weapon will have the following stats:
Damage: How much damage you deal per swing.
Force: How much stamina damage (yellow bar) you deal per swing. A zombie on the ground with no stamina takes additional damage equal to Force, i.e. Damage + Force.
Durability: HP of your weapon. The higher it is, the longer it can be used before repairing.
Handling: Weapon swing speed. The higher it is, the faster you can attack again.
There are many different types of weapons, such as baseball bats and maces and knives, with each type typically having a standard spread of stats. Equal-level Blunt weapons will have more Force than Sharp weapons, for example. Sharp weapons typically have lower Durability than Blunt weapons, but have better Damage and Handling scores. Going further, an Axe will have greater Damage, Force, Durability, and weapon reach than an equal-level/quality Knife despite both being Sharp weapons, but the latter will have a higher Handling score (Axes, in fact, typically have 0 Handling).
Weapons can have different Rarity levels, and these follow MMO conventions:
Common – White
Uncommon – Green
Rare – Blue
Epic – Purple
Legendary/Named – Orange
Keep in mind that Rarity does NOT have any special properties beyond the stat bonuses compared to weapons of a similar level and type. In other words, a level 35 purple Baseball bat can (and probably does) have lower stats than a level 37 white Baseball bat. Or even a level 35 purple Machete. Upgrading a Legendary weapon is the same as upgrading a Common weapon; there is no extra stats unlocked or anything. What you see is what you get.
All melee weapons decay with each hit, including hits against the ground, already dead zombies, and so on. A weapon with 0% durability can still technically be used, but its damage is severely reduced and no bonus damage/effects can be triggered by its mods.
Weapons can be repaired at any Workbench for a cash fee. The cost of the repair is based on the weapon’s value and how damaged it is.
Note: the loading screen tip of “Regular weapon maintenance is cheaper than repairing broken weapons” is technically correct, but misleading. The cost-effectiveness of weapon repair follows a sort of reverse-Bell Curve since there is a minimum cost to repair even a 97% durability weapon. For example, the following values were from a late-game uber-weapon:
97% = $1080
90% = $1146
74% = $1553
62% = $2418
52% = $3748
43% = $5484
38% = $6596
29% = $8765
Looking at the dollar-per-% ratios, the ideal repair target is around ~75% durability. While some of those later figures look scary, repairing at 38% durability ($107 per %) is actually cheaper than repairing at 90% durability ($115 per %) six times.
Weapons can be upgraded up to three times at any Workbench. Upgrading is pretty straight-forward, with a straight increase in stats as shown in the preview window. It does not matter whether you mod a weapon before or after it is upgraded. As stated before, there is no difference between upgrading a rare (etc) weapon over a common one.
Generally speaking, you should only upgrade a weapon you are going to mod and vice versa. An upgraded weapon will typically beat a higher-level weapon in damage and other stats, but keep in mind that that higher-level weapon can probably be upgraded and beat the lower-level one.
Modding a weapon is pretty straight-forward: obtain a blueprint, obtain the base weapon, and have the other materials in your inventory. For as fancy (and extensive) as the mod names/types first appear, all are essentially variations on the following five qualities:
Shock – Stun + damage over time.
Fire – Damage over time (zombies in water immune).
Bleed – Damage over time.
Poison – Stun + damage over time.
Impact – Launches zombies backwards.
While there is some nominal bonus damage, all other mod weapon effects only trigger on critical hits; weapon mods always increase the base chance of a critical hit by X% as well, indicated by the number next to a skull with a hole in it. Blunt weapons have many more mods than Sharp weapons, including mods to very specific weapon types like Kanabos and Sledgehammers, but none of them are particularly better than Sharp weapon mods.
In general, I found Shock to be the best weapon mod due to its stun + damage over time qualities and lack of immunities (zombies in water cannot be aflame, etc). A close second would be Impact mods, although none exist for Sharp weapons. The logic is pretty simple: what good is bleeding/setting a zombie on fire with a melee weapon who is otherwise perfectly capable of still attacking you? The added stun is key; in the case of Impact, the distance gained as the zombie flies through the air.
A special note should be made of the Hot Rod mod though, as it is both easy to obtain early in Act 2 and gives a +10% critical hit chance (in addition to a Fire attack), which is much higher than most other mods for the rest of the game.
Most mods are quest rewards, but a decent amount are hidden away in various locations.
Each time you level, you get one Skill point to assign to one of your character’s three Skill trees. No matter which character you have chosen, the first two Skill points should be spent on Tier 1 Fury and Tier 1 Combat. Until that first Fury point is chosen, you cannot gain Fury from killing zombies, thus robbing you of a really strong attack plus bonus XP. The first tier in Combat is simply the strongest 2nd choice you can make.
There are a few simple rules of thumb:
-Cash is in infinite supply, limited only by time.
-Same for weapons and the quality thereof.
-Any Skill related to damage over time is pointless.
-While you CAN get more Fury Skills, it probably won’t have that big a gameplay effect.
If you keep those rules in mind – ignore any Skill related to cheaper repairs, higher durability, etc – most of the Skills really just choose themselves. I do consider Picklock to be an exception to the Cash rule, simply because a level or two in Picklock will save you a ton of time farming said cash if you find it necessary.
–Purna Skill Strategy–
Purna’s single strongest Skill is Wunderwaffe (Combat tier 6), which increases modified firearm damage by 10/20/30%. Combined with the Boost skills in the Survival tree, a modified and upgraded pistol can quite easily deal more base damage than a similarly upgraded/modded katana.
A recommended Skill path would be the following:
[Fury] Guardian (1)
[Combat] Blade Fighter (1)
[Combat] Hard Knocks (1/2/3)
[Survival] Boost Mood (1)
[Survival] Picklock (1)
[Combat] Gender Wars* (1/2/3)
[Survival] Deeper Pockets (1/2)
[Survival] Conditioning (1/2/3)
[Survival] Boost Ambiance (1)
*Note: there are no special female zombies (Thug, Rams, etc), and fewer and fewer female zombies as you move the story forward. Thus, this bonus damage is applicable to almost every zombie in the game.
If you follow the above path, you will likely be left with quite a few points between the time you finish it and start reliably seeing Firearms in Act 2. In the meantime, you could either push into [Combat] Firearms Training (1) and then down to [Combat] Cold Rage (1/2/3), or go into [Survival] Deeper Pockets (3) and [Survival] Boost Ambiance (1).
Once you start getting guns, grab [Combat] Wunderwaffe (1/2/3), [Combat] Gun Kata (1), [Survival] Recycler (1/2/3) and [Survival] Rain of Bullets (1/2/3) with a nightcap of [Survival] Boost Aura (1). Anything beyond that will be gravy.
–Logan Skill Strategy–
Early on, you are going to want to decide on how much screen-blur you can stand. This is because Logan can get up to a 60% bonus to damage while drunk, and later on each bottle of alcohol can heal him more than a Large Medkit. Given that Alcohol is not exactly something you will have available for every encounter though, you might want to skip those Skills.
Outside of that, the premise behind Logan is throwing things. All the things.
One of the strongest Skills Logan has is Economical Throw (Combat Tier 6). The reason why this 10% (up to 30%) damage sharing is so powerful is because the additional damage is a separate check for a critical hit plus resulting mod effect. In other words, if you throw one Shock Knife at a group of clustered zombies, potentially ALL of them will get stunned and take the damage over time. Even if the main target does not trigger the effect, any of the others could.
[Fury] Bullseye (1)
[Combat] Heavy Hitter (1)
[Survival] Boomerang (1)
[Combat] Mass Driver (1/2/3)
[Combat] Frenzy (1/2/3)
[Combat] Sharp Apprentice (1)*
[Combat] Mighty Throw (1/2/3)
[Combat] Economical Throw (1)
[Combat] Telling Blows (1/2/3)
[Combat] Economical Throw (2/3)**
[Survival] Deeper Pockets (1/2/3)*
[Survival] Conditioning (1/2/3)*
[Survival] Reliable Boomerang (1)*
[Survival] Discipline (1/2/3)
[Survival] Reflection (1/2/3)
[Survival] Righteous Boomerang (1)
*Note: You MAY want to delay getting into the meat of Logan’s throwing damage buffs in order to snag the 30% Boomerang chance + extra inventory slots earlier.
**Note: only the one point in Economical Throw is necessary to possibly chain-stun a group of zombies, so you might find it better to spend these two extra points in Shinobi or going deeper into Survival ahead of schedule.
By the way, if you end up going for the secret developer weapons, the Mindblowing one will one-shot every zombie the Economical Throw damage affects.
–Xian Mei Skill Strategy–
Do you like bunny-hopping around zombies and performing moves that require split-second timing? Well, if so, you have certainly chosen the right character! Xian Mei’s strongest Skill is the one right in Tier 2 Combat: Flying Strike. At Rank 3, it increases damage by 99% when performing a Jump Attack. From there, it is all… well, maybe not downhill, but certainly more straight-forward.
[Fury] Bloodrage (1)
[Combat] Blade Fighter (1)
[Comabt] Flying Strike (1/2/3)
[Combat] Backstab (1/2/3)*
[Combat] Sharp Expert (1)
[Combat] Telling Blows (1/2/3)
[Combat] Stroke of Luck (1/2/3)**
[Combat] Blade Master (1)
[Survival] First Aid (1)
[Survival] Vampire (1/2/3)
[Survival] Endurance (1/2/3)
*Note: Obviously this Skill is much more useful in co-op, as Rams are the only zombie likely to make it easy to get behind. If you do not cherish the thought of having to run behind every zombie to get use out of +60% damage, you can replace that Skill with [Combat] Effortless (1/2/3).
**Note: I consider this a stronger pick than [Survival] Pressure (1/2/3), because a zombie would need to be hit at least twice before the bonus critical hit chance from Pressure kicks in. Ergo, the decision is between +9% crit on the 2nd hit, or two hits with a 4.5% chance of instant death apiece. Any zombie that requires more than two hits to kill makes Stroke of Luck the superior choice.
Keep in mind that Flying Strike should trigger anytime you press Jump + attack with a Sharp weapon. If you find that jumping towards an enemy is too dangerous, you can always jump in place or attack while performing a Dodge (Jump + A/S/D).
Beyond that, good luck. Xian Mei has the lowest base health and the game is not going to get any easier. Especially when they start locking you in enclosed spaces.
–Sam B Skill Strategy–
While I consider Purna the better character in the mid/late game, Sam B is the perfect character to choose if you cannot be bothered with all this “aiming at a moving target” crap. As a Blunt weapons expert, Sam B gains considerable bonuses to weapon Force and other more direct tools for knocking zombies down so as to make the curb-stomping easier. His strongest talent is Hammer Blows (Combat Tier 5), which has up to a 30% chance of straight-up knocking zombies on their asses. A zombie knocked to the ground ain’t likely to get back up with its face caved in.
Of course, arguably, Tackle (Combat Tier 3) may be even stronger since that will knock down zombies just by running near them. Either way, you will end up with both, so it shouldn’t matter.
[Fury] Haymaker (1)
[Combat] Heavy Hitter (1)
[Combat] Devastation (1/2/3)
[Combat] Tackle (1/2/3)
[Combat] Blunt Expert (1)
[Combat] Hammer Blows (1/2/3)
[Combat] Critical Impact (1/2/3)
[Combat] Earthshaker (1)
[Survival] Recuperation (1)*
[Survival] Motivation (1/2/3)
[Survival] Hardened (1/2/3)
*Note: it may or may not be worth it to you to pick up Recuperation right at level 4 rather than waiting. While your damage/KO Skills get delayed by 1 level, you get to enjoy the benefits of not worrying (as much) about Medkits and Energy Drinks earlier.
Once you fill out this relatively short list, it is simply a matter of going back and filling out the other good Skills like [Combat] Telling Blows and [Combat] Powerful Impact. Alternatively, you can skip anything in Survival past the one point in Recuperation, if you find offense to be the best defense.
It is always worth it to carry around a nice supply of Molotovs and/or other explosives. Your everyday Deo-Bomb will always deal around 5000 damage a pop, which one-shots basically everything in the entire game up until past level 40… after which only special zombies might survive.
The key to a healthy explosive supply is to always check each Vendor you come across, perhaps going so far as to Quick Travel to multiple hubs if necessary. Then, merely look at their wares. Occasionally, Vendors will straight-up sell fully-made Molotovs for $450 apiece, or even grenades. Other times, you will get equally lucky with them selling both the miscellaneous item ingredients for Deo-Bombs (Deodorant x2, Duct Tape); stock up, craft a bunch, ???, profit.
Generally speaking, when you Quit the game, upon Reloading you will appear at the quest-giver to whichever quest you had highlighted (aka were tracking) when you Quit. This means if a quest sent you way far away from any waypoint or from whomever you turn the quest in to, you can quickly teleport to the turn-in point by Quiting + Reloading. On long or multi-part quests, however, you might simply respawn at the last Checkpoint (which might still be useful, see below).
Under normal circumstances, cash should not be that much of an issue for any player that loots the zombies they kill. Cash might get tight in Act 4 though, or perhaps you want to upgrade ALL the things. In that case, one of the easiest methods of cash acquisition comes from selling items.
Each time you load a save, all metal chests are reset. If you have a rank or three in Picklock and know where some juicy chests are located, it is thus pretty trivial to Load, loot chests, sell items, and then Quit + Load again. In fact, based on the way the Checkpoint system works, there are actually a few locations which you can spawn right next to a level 3 locked chest and can thus eventually replace every inventory slot with blue/purple items.
Example 1: in the early-game quest Ashes to Ashes, there is a quest Checkpoint sometime between turning the gas station power back on and delivering the gas canister to the Lighthouse. Each time you reload the game, you spawn in the garage and there will be a level 3 chest and two normal chests nearby.
Example 2: in the quest Fortress of God, there is a quest Checkpoint right after you pick up the tools from the pump station. The room with the tools contains a level 2 chest, which you can farm repeatedly by Reloading.
Example 3: in the quest Paperwork, there is a quest Checkpoint once you have downloaded the file from the computer. Although you will be immediately attacked by several zombies each time you reload, there is a level 3 chest two rooms away. Also of note is that many of the lockers in the police station contain assault rifles and shotguns, which sell for several grand apiece.
Aside from the above, there is a fairly well-known three-chest farm run that can be completed in 5-6 minutes floating around Youtube. I am not going to repeat it here since I did not come up with it.
If it is just cash you desire though (as opposed to looking for a purple/orange weapon of your choosing), things get infinitely easier in Act 3 once assault rifles start dropping in chests. In fact, there are two level 1 locked chests in the back room of the River Village waypoint that almost always spawn assault rifles that sell for $2,000-$4,000+ apiece.
All of this is besides the point that once you start encountering Punks (aka the pistol-wielding survivors) in Act 2, you can sell the surplus pistols for $400-$500 a pop. Not only do they helpfully appear as skulls on the minimap, the Punks will likely respawn by the time you finished with your shopping trip anyway. Do that long enough, and you will have all the cash you can stand.
Unlike pistols and assault rifles, shotguns DO actually have a chance to one-shot ANY zombie type in the game. The key, as you might expect, is to shoot them at close range in the face. Rams might present an issue with timing and it is easier to take out the Floater at range, but in most other cases a single shotgun shell is the cheapest method of zombie execution.
Walkers/Infected: A Kick will do the trick. A Jump Kick knocks them down 100% of the time.
Thug: Get in 1-2 hits during their roar, then step back. Run in, hit once, and then Dodge backwards to avoid their swing. A Thug either swings once, or does a three-swing set. Breaking/Cutting off one of their arms reduces their power considerably. Amusingly enough, removing both arms makes the Thug MORE threatening as his headbutt/bites aren’t telegraphed.
Suicider: Shoot them 2-3 times with a pistol and they will go boom. If guns are not yet available, it is definitely worth throwing weapons at them until they pop. If you trust in your skills, you can run up and trigger their self-destruction countdown by proximity before backpedaling to safety. Keep in mind that an exploding Suicider is 100% lethal no matter what health level you are at.
Ram: Classical charging zombie. Keep in mind that a Ram will more TOWARDS you mid-charge, so an active Dodge to the right or left will be necessary (unless you simply outrun it). The Ram’s back is an exposed area that allows normal damage through; everywhere else other than its face will take significantly less damage. Easiest way is Dodge the charge, get in 3-4 hits, back up a bit, then Dodge the next charge. Explosives and Molotovs can work, but the damage source needs to originate from behind to do full damage.
Floater: If you can dodge their projectile attacks and have enough health to endure their AoE slime spit, wailing on Floaters from melee range is pretty effective. If you notice a Floater trying to stand up (typically when they first spawn in water), a quick Kick sometimes kills them instantly. Otherwise, stay near some cover and get in some potshots with a pistol.
Butcher: Much like normal Infected, a swift Kick will usually stop their charge and then it is simply a matter of smashing/shooting/cutting their face in/off.
There are five colored skulls hidden around Dead Island (within the first two Acts) along with specific resting spots for them. Slide Skull A into Slot B and a teddy bear will appear holding the blueprint to a specific Developer weapon, e.g. “Developer’s No. 3 Craft.” I am not going to give you a walk-through for all five weapons, but I will go ahead and give a brief rundown on how those weapons operate:
[Orange Skull] Developer’s No. 1 Craft: Mostly useless. Essentially acts as a Rank 6 Shock weapon with +500% crit damage. Problem is that it does not increase your crit chance very high, which means most hits against zombies are weaker than any other weapon you have.
[Green Skull] Developer’s No. 2 Craft: Fun, but not worth it if you missed the drop-off point the first time around (which means you would have to go through the sewers a 2nd time). A baseball bat with a Rank 5 Impact modification along with a +25% crit chance. When it triggers, zombies go flying.
[Blue Skull] Developer’s No. 3 Craft: Ultimate CC. A knife with Rank 1 Poison and a 100% crit chance. In other words, it will incapacitate any enemy it touches. Best use for this is to poke a zombie once, and then finish them off with a different weapon. Confirmed to work against Rams, to hilarious effects – certainly makes it easy to shoot them in the face with a shotgun afterwards.
[Purple Skull] Developer’s No. 4 Craft: Insanely OP. A knife with the Mindblowing property, which instantly kills any Walker and Infected zombie it hits. Although the knife decays at an absurdly fast rate, keep in mind that Throwing it still triggers its brain-popping powers while inducing zero durability loss. This + Logan + Economical Throw = hilarity ensues. P.S. This instantly kills the final boss in one hit.
[Brown Skull] Developer’s No. 666 Craft: Dubious worth. This is not so much a weapon than a spell you cast. It will knock down all the zombies around you, at the cost of 100% of your Stamina. I never really got around to playing with this one much, though.