You can alter combat difficulty for a single battle if you're having problems. Of course, most often you also have the option to leave and return with bigger guns and more friends.
When scouting an area before a fight you can use the A key to enter combat mode and see if there are any critters hidden behind walls or scenery. If you want to examine an obscured critter with the Awareness perk, turn on the "combat looks" option.
Every time you access your inventory during a fight to gobble Stimpaks, use as many as you think you're going to need, and also reload any readied ranged weapons by dragging ammo onto your active item slot. You can use Stimpaks or other chems on your party members or yourself from inventory using the backpack icon for a cost of 2 AP each time (so keeping such items in an active item slot is pointless). This is good to remember not least when you desperately need healing but don't have quite enough AP to view inventory.
Psycho is probably the best chem for combat since it actually protects you from damage while also possibly giving you an extra AP or two. I tend never to use any drugs myself, but if you think it'll make a difference, why not. Buffout's marginal, raising stats just isn't that good (and boosting EN doesn't even raise your Hit Points). Jet is mostly annoying because of the addiction rate and low duration, so I wouldn't bother with it.
Reload your weapon after every fight so you have a fresh clip at the start of the next. (This may seem obvious, but is easy to forget.)
The smaller your chance of hitting someone, the greater the chance of a critical failure. This applies no matter the reason your chance to hit is low (bad light, long range, aimed shot, obstructing targets etc.). So don't even try using a ranged weapon if your chance to hit is below 15%. Guns can get destroyed, and energy weapons, Flamers, Rocket Launchers and grenades can even explode in your face.
Sometimes a fleeing enemy may run off the edge of the map, or onto an exit grid. If this happens it might be possible to lure it back after combat. Move away a bit and see if the critter walks back onto the screen on its own. If it doesn't, try walking towards the spot it disappeared, since it may come running towards you when combat starts even if it was running away the moment before. Your NPCs can shoot critters that are offscreen, but then you obviously won't be able to loot their corpses.
About the only time in the game when poison becomes a problem is when you're surrounded by a bunch of floaters and/or centaurs. They'll give you a lot of poison counters even if they never penetrate your armour, and once your Poison Level reaches 100, any excess points are converted to damage at an exchange rate of two to one. In this way those floaters can hurt you quite a lot without ever scratching your skin, which is a little, well, odd, but that's how it works. Wanamingo-like aliens and centaurs in random encounters can radiate you in a similar fashion.
When using burst weapons, each bullet is treated individually when it comes to penetration, damage etc., so it's possible to fire full auto and not do very much damage against an armoured opponent. (Try the 10mm SMG on the aliens in Redding and you'll see what I mean.) This also makes the perk Bonus Ranged Damage more useful, but Living Anatomy does not add damage to each bullet.
An important note on ammo: due to poor item design, AP (armour piercing) ammo does not really do what you'd expect it to, namely pierce armour. This is because a) the modification to Damage Resistance does not nearly compensate for the much lower base damage, and b) it does not modify Damage Threshold at all. Hence in virtually any situation you're better off using JHP ammo for greater damage. Might as well make it a rule of thumb to sell off all kinds of AP ammo if you have the other type available (HN AP Needler Cartridges and AP Rockets being exceptions). Or just store it forever in the trunk.
Basic rule: when comparing two guns, look at the ammo modifiers, especially the damage multiplier, and not just the weapon damage - check out the table in Items. Also consider rate of fire if applicable, and range if you're the sniping kind.
Ammo weight is based upon how many rounds make up one ammo "item". For instance, 1-24 10mm JHP bullets will weigh 1 pound, 25-48 will weigh 2 pounds, and so on. Any amount of ammo in a weapon always counts as one item; it is for this reason the total weight carried may go up as you reload a weapon. Always unload guns that you pick up as loot, since you're usually keeping the ammo and selling the gun anyway.
If it's not completely obvious, you can unload weapons in shops and trade for the ammo.
Before getting into a fight with initially non-hostile people, you can of course use Steal to relieve them of any chems, Stimpaks, extra ammo or even guns. Personally I don't use Steal overmuch so I wouldn't bother with this either.
If you knock someone unconscious, they won't necessarily be hostile when they wake up (depends on their script). You can use this to knock someone down and take their equipment if you hadn't planned to kill them. Also people won't always be hostile if you run to an exit grid and then come back. In many townships, however, just attacking someone turns everyone permanently hostile.
Your chance to hit increases by 40% against an opponent that's lying down. You'll probably want to take the opportunity to make a called attack or two.
Mêlée attacks give a +5% bonus to your Critical Chance.
Tactics and party managementEdit
Holding the A key as the game is loading a new area will let you get a jump on opponents. You can also open a door to a room with monsters and hit A (or click your active weapon slot) while the door opens, thus getting the first shot.
Take advantage of AI "features". For instance, critters will always react upon seeing you, not your party members (simply because they're scripted that way), and will try to attack you first. Normally they won't attack your NPCs unless they receive significantly more damage from them than from you. If you move out of the way of enemies with ranged weapons they will come running to catch up with you, giving your party members free shots at them. Sometimes critters ignore your NPCs completely, and you can then run back and forth while your comrades fire at the luckless monsters.
In a difficult battle against many enemies, make sure your party stays together. If you kill all foes in one room, for instance, an NPC on the "on your own" setting will happily charge into the next by themselves even if that means exposure to massive fire. To prevent this you should put them on "stay close to me" or "stay where you are", so that you can pick off the opposition as they come to you and not the other way around. Bottlenecks are key tactical features on any map.
In preparation for some battles you can separate the enemy forces into smaller groups by locking doors; the fight against Metzger in the Den is a good example, and you can do this when taking on the Mordino family as well. It could make a battle a whole lot easier, but on the other hand it's also kind of silly, like stealing weapons before a fight.
Duck behind walls a lot if you can, using spare Action Points. Enemies who start running will often spend all their AP for that round moving if they can, only attacking when they're right next to you even if they have ranged weapons. You can take advantage of this to snipe your opponents and leading them on for as long as possible. Using a single AP you may be able to force the opposition to waste an entire turn.
If you practice aimed shots you can take advantage of an AI oddity. Many critters will turn and run if you cripple their legs (which aren't too difficult to hit), despite the fact that running is probably the one thing they've suddenly become much worse at. This effectively renders them completely harmless. For robots the tender spot is the sensors. People with rifles or big guns should be shot in the arm.
Your NPCs will never switch targets during a round. If you try to finish off weak opponents you reduce the risk of your NPCs "wasting" a shot.
Be careful about giving burst weapons to certain trigger-happy party members (Sulik and Marcus). While NPCs will try to avoid burst-firing you, they'll sometimes do it to other party members, and they'll also do it more often if you have full HP and good armour (i.e. they think you can take it). A good way to counter this is to equip them with single shot weapons (Sniper Rifle, .233 Pistol, Gauss Rifle, Turbo Plasma Rifle). This way they also won't waste ammo by burst-firing a target across the whole screen.
You may want to avoid putting certain mêlée weapons on your NPCs altogether (e.g. spears or sledgehammers on Sulik, knives on Vic), because sometimes when they don't have enough AP for a ranged attack they'll equip the mêlée weapon and not switch back on their own, which is a) bad, and b) damn annoying. On the other hand, you might want a Super Sledge on Sulik in case he runs out of ammo for his favourite SMG. Or just make sure he doesn't. Note: you can sometimes use combat settings to prevent this, e.g. you can put Vic on ranged only, but not Sulik.
Take your own and everyone else's favourite mode of combat into account when designing tactics for your team. If you and Goris are going to charge into close combat, it's not a very good thing to have Marcus standing behind you with a Bozar or Rocket Launcher. Single shot weapons will work fine, though, i.e. Turbo Plasma Rifle on Marcus, Gauss Rifles or Sniper Rifles for you, Vic and Cassidy.
Always take out enemies armed with Rocket Launchers or Grenades first, especially if you're in a tight formation with party members. This goes for super mutants as well as rocket-packing robots. May depend on your armour, though; with Advanced Power Armor on you might be more concerned with the potential critical hits of Gauss Rifles and Laser Rifles.
If you're playing HtH, you're probably going to end up chasing a lot of runners. One way of catching up is to end combat if possible and then sneak up on them. Another is to let your NPCs do the chasing since critters will only run from you and not them; but this doesn't work if your NPCs are on the "stay close to me" setting. Yet another way is to bring a gun for this purpose.
It seems to me that NPCs equipped with HtH weapons tend to "sleep" more, i.e. stand idle even if there's an enemy right in front of them, and use Stimpaks less, even if they're mortally wounded. To some extent (but not all) this may be caused by a combination of combat settings. You'll have to decide if you want to give them more freedom to move around and pick their targets, or if you want to keep them close. It also seems that one or more NPCs armed with ranged weapons can help them "wake up"; for instance, when I faced Horrigan with Sulik, Cassidy and Goris armed with mêlée weapons none of them would lift a finger to help unless I got Horrigan to shoot them by accident. However, when I switched Cassidy to a gun he would fire on Horrigan, and after a couple of turns of this Goris and Sulik joined in as well.
Suggested weapon progressionsEdit
There are lots of weapons in Fallout 2, many of which you'll probably never use. Whoever stormed their enemies wielding a Club or a Sawed-Off Shotgun? Yet there are still enough choices that the optimal weapon progression can't be summarized in two paragraphs like in the Fallout guide. A few things might be noted in advance. One is that I'm assuming you play the areas in the "proper" order. Not every weapon deserves a mention; some weapons I'll just skip because they suck (Rocks), others because they appear when you already have better alternatives ("Little Jesus").
The beginning is pretty uncomplicated. You start out with a Spear, which can shortly be upgraded to a Sharpened Spear. Unless you tagged Melee Weapons your Unarmed skill will be slightly higher, which will give you increased speed and chance to hit at the cost of some damage while battling ants and geckos.
Decent early Melee Weapons include the Sharpened Spear which has good damage and a 2-hex range, and the Combat Knife (buy or find in Klamath) which has a lower AP cost. Weapon progression for HtH characters is slower and jerkier than for ranged weapons, so you'll probably have to make do with these for quite a while. You may be able to get hold of a Cattle Prod relatively early, but you'll be hard pressed to find enough ammo.
One way of getting a good weapon quickly (that has a low AP cost and doesn't require ammo) is to go to New Reno and finish Mrs Wright's quest for the Louisville Slugger. The Wakizashi Blade found in the vicinity is also a step up from the Combat Knife, and though it doesn't compare to the Slugger it's an option if you want a cool weapon early on but feel strongly about stupid shortcut techniques.
If you arrive in NCR before taking on the New Reno quests, you can get yourself a Ripper. Not worth it if you have or are soon getting the Slugger, though, or if you've upgraded that old Cattle Prod (which is still slightly inferior to the Louisville Slugger, may depend on your AP). The Super Sledge, available in SF or from Eldridge once you become a Made Man, is of course the end of the Melee Weapons progression, but by that time you may find yourself tempted to switch to Unarmed anyway. I'd recommend that you wait until you get the training in San Francisco before building Unarmed, but once done it will probably make your game a little smoother since the Mega Power Fist doesn't have the knockback effect.
For Unarmed weapons, you can steal Spiked Knuckles from the Duntons in Klamath, then nothing, then nothing, then once you get to Broken Hills or NCR you can get the upgradable Power Fist. Hopefully you can also trade for all the Small Energy Cell you need in NCR by then. The Mega Power Fist represents the end of this progression and requires only a quick trip to New Reno (though a stupid character would have to buy it in SF). By this time you also have a few fancy special kicks and punches, but if you look at their AP cost they're just not that attractive compared to the Power Fist.
Now for guns. Guns are more fun. Really! It starts out with the Pipe Rifle (if only because you get it for free in Klamath), which is good for rat hunting in Trapper Town but not much more. Since you have to reload it for each shot its AP cost is basically equivalent to 7, which is not so good. Still, it's your first firearm. The 10mm Pistol which can be bought or found in Klamath is quite wonderful in comparison.
Once you get to the Den there are a few more alternatives, notably the Hunting Rifle, the 10mm SMG (buy from Tubby, or wait until you can get it for free in VC) and the .44 Magnum Revolver (buy from Flick, or from Harry in VC). The latter is a personal favourite of mine in the early mid-game: the AP cost and damage make it superior to all other handguns except the .223 Pistol, and it has a lovely "blam" firing sound. That it can be upgraded (which increases its range as well) is just icing on the cake. With the Sniper perk and a Luck of 9-10, the .44 Magnum becomes a lethal weapon against any foe (but then again, so does everything else). Of the two types of .44 ammo, FMJ is marginally better unless you count on getting lots of no-armour criticals, in which case the JHP delivers more raw damage.
The 10mm SMG, on the other hand, is your first burst-fire weapon, but you may not have too much ammo for it before you kill Metzger's bunch in the Den. Well, not much to fight until after Gecko, anyway. Advanced shotguns or other burst-fire weapons are probably the way to go after that. The first one available is the Combat Shotgun in Vault City. You'll probably only use the H&K CAWS if you find it in a random encounter; it fires more bullets in each burst, but you have to reload it after two bursts. The Pancor Jackhammer from NCR is the best shotgun in the game, but has a few SMG rivals to contend with in the late mid-game.
The "Grease Gun" which can be bought in New Reno is superior to other early burst weapons (such as the largely uninteresting FN FAL) by virtue of its AP cost, but cannot measure up to later SMGs since it fires nondescript .45 Caliber. The H&K G11 from Redding is a favourite of mine. You don't have much ammo for it to begin with, but it's got a large magazine and fires reasonably small bursts. If you stop by NCR every now and then, it's not impossible to use the H&K G11 as your main weapon throughout the mid-game. If you take your time you may run into Snake Morton and get his H&K G11E. The HK P90c is comparable in power, costs 1 AP less to fire but doesn't penetrate armour as well, uses common 10mm ammo and becomes available in NCR.
I mentioned the Hunting Rifle earlier; it could be said to kick off the sniping weapon progression in the Den. You can have it upgraded cheaply in Gecko or NCR, or even get a Scoped Hunting Rifle for free in Broken Hills. The Sniper Rifle is next after that (SAD, Vault 15), having a greater range and doing more damage than the Scoped Hunting Rifle, but it has a smaller magazine and costs 1 AP more to fire. Your call.
I should probably mention the .223 Pistol again, if only because it's cool (good damage, but falls a little short of being a true sniping weapon). The Needler Pistol is comparable in range and power if you use the good ammo, which is pretty scarce however. One more freaky alternative is the Red Ryder LE BB Gun (usually found in the SAD, can also be bought in NCR), which has a good AP cost, needs hardly ever be reloaded and can be quite dangerous if you have the Sniper perk, but has rather a short range for a rifle.
Gauss weapons represent the merging of the burst and sniping paths for Small Guns. Both of them have a very long range and good armour penetration. The Gauss Rifle offers a lot of damage even without the most cruel perks in place, while the Gauss Pistol can be fired for 2 AP with Fast Shot and Bonus Rate of Fire; with the Sniper perk and 10-12 AP this means you can often knock down several tough opponents each turn. This is why you don't really need any other combat skill than Small Guns.
You won't find many big guns early on. You can find M60s in random encounters near Redding, get the Bozar from the Toxic Caves, or buy the Avenger Minigun in NCR. Against unarmoured or lightly armoured targets it doesn't really matter much which one of these you use, if you get to apply it up close anyway. Once you face people in power armour or tough deathclaws you'll want some stopping power, though; the Bozar and the Vindicator Minigun stand out here. The Vindicator Minigun is arguably the most devastating weapon all round, but has the downside of guzzling 4.7mm Caseless ammo which is not nearly as common as 5mm JHP for the Avenger Minigun or .223 FMJ for the Bozar. This means you probably can't use it as your main weapon for any extended period of time. Against a well-armoured opponent the Avenger Minigun won't cut it because of the ammo modifiers, so you might as well go with the Bozar from the start if you like big guns.
Early Energy Weapons aren't all that good: the Plasma Pistol (Toxic Caves, SAD), for instance, is clearly inferior to the .223 Pistol, and you simply don't want to go around dispensing laser damage. The Plasma Rifle (also SAD) is OK, though, and its upgraded version with improved range and damage is quite nifty. You need ST 6 to handle it, however.
The pulse weapons normally become available after you've been to Navarro. Of these the Pulse Rifle is perhaps the most efficient, being light, having a decent range, and doing serious damage to everything except floaters. If you have Fast Shot, Bonus Rate of Fire and Sniper you can take out most enemies. While the Pulse Pistol is by no means bad, it falls short of the Gauss Pistol because of its small magazine and short range. The Alien Blaster is perhaps something of an extravaganza; it works similarly to the Pulse Pistol only its range is even shorter.
Finally the Throwing weapon progression. Ummm. Well, to begin with you have Spears (Throwing Knives cost 1 less AP to throw, but it's not worth it in terms of damage)... and the odd Molotov Cocktail. A Sharpened Spear is better than a regular Spear, of course, but you'll only have one of those. Later on you can get hold of a few Frag Grenades (kill dogs with them), even later you get Plasma Grenades (kill unarmoured people with them) and Pulse Grenades for those special robot encounters. Once you feel you've got the hang of it and have managed to hoard some grenades, critters will rapidly begin to develop armour and care less and less about the deadly explosives you toss their way. Since none of the Sniper or Slayer perks applies for thrown weapons, you may as well use up your grenades early in the game (you can often hope to hit something at short range and low skill level) and prepare to switch to a decent weapon skill.
Random weapons and ammo notesEdit
Some people advise against "wasting" ammo on the Pipe Rifle or 10mm Pistol early in the game, shooting rats and geckos and stuff. I disagree completely: Klamath and the Toxic Caves are perhaps the only places where you'll feel that using what limited resources you have makes a whole lot of a difference. After you clean out New Reno, then what will a few hundred rounds of 10mm JHP mean to you? Probably nothing, but if you spend 50 rounds in Klamath blowing away a few pesky rats, it's more than worth it for the satisfaction.
Some weapons have accuracy modifiers that are independent of weapon range and ammo stats. The weapons that give a flat +20% are: 14mm Pistol, 9mm Mauser, Shotgun, Sawed-Off Shotgun, Combat Shotgun, Pancor Jackhammer, PPK12 Gauss Pistol, M72 Gauss Rifle, Alien Blaster and Solar Scorcher. A second category of weapons give a bonus equal to (PE-2)*8 and these include: Red Ryder LE BB Gun, Hunting Rifle, Sniper Rifle, Assault Rifle, Assault Rifle (Exp. Mag.), Minigun, Rocket Launcher, Laser Rifle, Laser Rifle (Ext. Cap.), Gatling Laser, Plasma Rifle and Turbo Plasma Rifle. Finally, the Scoped Hunting Rifle yields a bonus of (PE-2)*12 to hit. Note that not many weapons that weren't in Fallout have been given an accuracy bonus, but at least you can't lose one by upgrading something (unless you call trading in your old Minigun for the Avenger variety an upgrade).
The Scoped Hunting Rifle is very inaccurate at a range of 7 hexes or less (which is a little odd, I mean, if they're right in front of you, why not just ignore the scope?), but can be a wonderful implement for picking people off from across the whole screen. The Sniper Rifle, on the other hand, works just fine at short range.
2mm EC ammo for the gauss weapons is often regarded as "rare". I have so far never experienced this and quite happily give Gauss Rifles to both Vic and Cassidy in the late game. Although two shops in VC and NCR are the only ones which provide 2mm EC on a regular basis, the fact that you only use them for single shot attacks makes up for this. I usually end up with thousands of 2mm EC rounds in my trunk just like every other ammo type (before going to the Enclave). If you need more, fight an Enclave patrol (which will also net you extremely valuable weaponry).
If you're adept at both Melee Weapons and a ranged weapon skill, a good late-game combination is to keep the Super Sledge in one item slot and a ranged weapon (like the Gauss Pistol) in the other. This way you can knock them back then fire at them mercilessly.
If you're going to use a Rocket Launcher (or any other Big Gun), it's a good idea to keep a handgun in your other active item slot, like a Gauss Pistol or upgraded .44 Magnum. You'll often find that you can't hit multiple enemies with the Rocket Launcher or a burst weapon, in which case it may be more economical to switch to the handgun and shoot a single target with that instead. Sometimes, too, the only opponents you face may be a pack of howling mantis and deploying a rocket would be your last resort. Lastly, it may well help you get the most out of your Action Points if you switch between a slow and a fast weapon in a round.
Although floaters as noted have a high resistance to electrical damage, they and aliens are rather vulnerable to fire damage. It's pretty unlikely you'd choose to lug a Flamethrower around just for this, though. Small tough deathclaws are most vulnerable to plasma damage, while large ones are sensitive to laser damage for some reason. Frank Horrigan carries armour that's even tougher than Adv. Power Armor MKII, but is vulnerable to electrical damage (so the Pulse Rifle works fine on him). (One might think that Horrigan and Enclave soldiers would be partially vulnerable to EMP damage, but this is not the case.) The vorpal rat and bridgekeeper are resistant to everything.
One drawback with guns that deal electrical damage is that after your enemy dies (neat effect), they'll drop all their equipment in a heap for you to pick up one item at a time instead of using the handy "take all" button. Also this makes it easier for items to become lost behind opaque scenery. Very, very annoying, but if you put the violence level down to normal, your victims will char but not disintegrate.
It seems likely that the M60 and Bozar have had their firing sounds inadvertently exchanged. The M60, which has a "blam" sound in the game, is of course a machine gun, while the Bozar, which has a "rotating barrels" sound like a Gatling, is a kind of sniper rifle according to the description and picture and uses accurate .223 FMJ ammo.
The AC modifier for Rocket AP should probably have belonged to Explosive Rocket instead (to simulate its "splash damage", whereas an AP rocket must hit its target directly to be fully effective). As it is, Rocket AP is strictly superior.
What the FN FAL (Night Sight) does is completely remove darkness modifiers. This only has any significant effect if you're sniping from long range, and it's not worth it anyway - the Hunting Rifle is still vastly superior in darkness because of its ammo and accuracy modifiers.
Some weapons have special "item perks" that presumably improve their performance (the innate accuracy modifiers are of this origin). In some cases the effect is obvious, in others it's more subtle. The Improved Flamer has Flameboy, whatever that means - judging by the item description it's possible the Improved Flamer and the Flamethrower Fuel MKII were meant exclusively for each other, in which case the weapon itself may have no special properties. Sledgehammer, Super Sledge, Louisville Slugger and (Plated) Boxing Gloves (when you're not in the ring) have Knockback. The .44 Magnum (Speed Load) has Fast Reload (gasp). Magneto-Laser Pistol, Ripper, (Mega) Power Fist, .223 Pistol, Claws, Needler Pistol, pulse weapons, Holy Hand Grenade, Wakizashi Blade, "Little Jesus" and End Boss Knife all have Penetrate, which may reduce armour modifiers. The (Super) Cattle Prod and Flare have the Accurate perk which means they grant a +20% to hit bonus. The FN FAL (Night Sight) has, unsurprisingly, the Night Sight perk.
The Sawed-Off Shotgun counts as a one-handed weapon, while the Louisville Slugger, H&K G11 and H&K G11E count as two-handed. This is not obvious from the animations used, so it might be good to know if you're using the One Hander trait.
Here is the deal with Flares: 1) When dropped on the ground in multiples their light effect is cumulative, increasing the radius of the bright spot. 2) When thrown, they are automatically lit if it's dark; this is determined by the map's overall light level. 3) When lit, a Flare burns for two hours and then disappears. 4) Making aimed throws with Flares doesn't increase the AP cost, which is 1. 5) Flares tossed at people in power armour may cause blindness, loss of consciousness, crooked limbs or death pretty much like bullets do, and arguably they are more humiliating. Better Criticals and Living Anatomy are highly recommended. Filip Stefanak argues that this goes a long way towards redeeming the Throwing skill, but at the same time it's a bit cheesy. 6) If a stack of Flares is used on a piece of scenery or on a critter, all of them but one will turn into eternally lit Flares, which can be thrown, reused and sold. This is a bug.