Kenshi is an unforgiving game. The wastes are a cruel place filled with dangers, and you need to be ready. That’s where this guide is going to come in. But instead of focusing on a general guide, we’re talking all about combat today. Combat in Kenshi is ruthless. You can easily lose an arm or get your head knocked off. This game pulls no punches.
Like we pointed out in our Kenshi Beginner’s Guide, things can be pretty rough out here. There’s a lot to learn about this game and its world. And the combat in Kenshi is going to be a big hurdle for new players. There are basically no shortcuts here, and you have to put the time in. OK, well, there is one shortcut. The characters that sometimes spawn in in-game bars can be pretty powerful. You will know you find a good mid-level fighter when they cost 10,000 Cats to hire.
So let’s talk through some basics of combat in Kenshi.
Stats are important
One of the first things you learn in this game is the importance of numbers. The higher your numbers are, the more successful you will be. It will take time to hit 100 in any given stat. And most players die before they ever reach anywhere near this level of power. Each stat affects a few different things. Here’s a simple breakdown of what each basic stat affects.
- Strength – Carrying weight, Blunt Damage
- Dexterity – Attack speed, Cut Damage, Dodging
- Toughness – KO chance and damage taken
- Perception – Ability to hit targets, especially at range
- Athletics – Running speed
Stats often start at pretty low values, so you need to train them up. But, there are other ways to increase stats and abilities in Kenshi.
As you adventure across the land you will also find tons of cool gear. Some gear will have a modifier on it that offers bonuses or penalties to certain skill effects or chances. Ninja Gi’s can offer a 10% bonus to stealth rolls, for example. Be sure to mouse over a piece of gear and see if it’s a good fit for your character.
Training is vital
When you’re getting into the grittier parts of the game, you’re going to have to train up. Certain skills take certain actions to level up. Another trip to the wiki could help you figure this stuff out, but here are the basic ideas on how to improve baseline stats.
- Strength – Fill up your inventory to Heavy weight and then run around.
- Dexterity – Dexterity can be trained (albeit very slowly) by shooting turrets. No benefit, however, from practicing turret shooting at the Training Turret. There are mods that add such a turret though. You can also “train” by having boxing matches with your prisoners. Take someone hostage and then take their weapon away. The resulting fight raises Dexterity and Martial Arts skills.
- Perception – Perception can be trained (albeit very slowly) by shooting turrets. No benefit, however, from practicing turret shooting at the Training Turret. There are mods that add such a turret though.
- Toughness – Taking damage increases your Toughness.
- Athletics – Just run around with your inventory weight at light or lower.
- Swimming – Just swim in a body of water.
Trade and Science skills like Smithing, Labouring and Farming are all leveled up simply by doing related tasks. So there’s a certain incentive to buy some of the benches related to these tasks to help level them up. Don’t forget, you can buy ruined houses in The Hub and other cities and put crafting and research facilities inside. You won’t get raided, and you still can train up characters in the early game.
Other training items become important as well. Training dummies can increase your melee attack skill, and that affects how often you hit your targets with these weapons. Look through the Building menu and see what options you have unlocked. Remember, you can buy empty structures in some towns and use those as a safe house. I’ve used The Hub many times to train up small squads in the early game.
There’s one other thing to pay attention to, character commands. in the bottom-right of the UI is the jobs window. Any selected characters can have their AI altered in various ways. Here’s what each button does:
- Block – Toggled on, this gives a character a huge defensive boost, but they won’t attack
- Hold – This character will stay in one spot only attacking enemies directly within range.
- Passive – This character will actively flee from combat.
- Jobs – Any Job assigned with Shift+Right-click will be disabled if this is toggled off.
- Ranged – Characters with this on will pull out any ranged weapons they have and shoot targets.
- Taunt – This will cause any nearby enemies to attack this character.
- Sneak – Enter stealth mode and try to avoid detection. A blue eye means the character is hidden. Yellow means seen but not fully revealed. Red eyes mean that character has had stealth broken and been seen.
- Rescue – This will force the assigned character to look for any allies that have been downed and pick them up, mostly to just get them out of danger.
- Medic – Characters with this role will use First-aid items that they have to heal allies. Keep a stock of medicine on this character. Also, Shift+Right-click will permanently assign the Medic job.
Now, let’s talk about these a bit. Ranged requires a bit of micro as any Ranged characters will not try too hard to flee out of melee range. Taunt should only be used on a bait character. If you need to flank an enemy, have another character taunt them. Block and Taunt make a good combo for this.
Sneak applied to a squad leader will apply to the whole squad. So if you have a group assigned to follow a leader, the rest of the squad will Sneak when it’s assigned to the leader.
Now that you understand the numbers, let’s talk about actually picking a fight.
Choosing your battles
Going after the right opponents is key. You wouldn’t want to take a low-level character into the Swamps or the Ashlands, you’re going to get chewed up and spit out. For starters, it’s always a good idea to have a supply of food and medicine in every squad. When you get into the late game, you’re probably going to be growing your own, but in the early game, you need to stock up. Always check your supplies in town before heading out.
When you’re out in the wasteland, choose your targets very carefully. Don’t rush off into the wilderness and fight the strongest bosses around. Named opponents like Tora and the Dust King are a cut above the rest. And then there are true terrors like the Bugmaster. Learn what a good and bad opponent to engage is. And don’t be afraid of running away if things turn south.
Kiting is encouraged. This means aggroing a target and keeping their attention, while having the rest of the squad stay out of range. You can get pretty inventive with this. You could lure bounty targets to gate guards and wipe them out. Players could also get creative with a crossbow unit combined with the Taunt command to pepper enemies from afar. just imagine the Benny Hill music playing as you kite enemies and fill them full of holes.
Also, the Jobs system is your friend. Think of one of your characters in a squad as the leader. You can use them to move the whole squad as one unit. select the non-leader characters and Shift+Right-Click the leader. A drop-down will appear with various commands. If you choose Follow, all the selected characters will get a Job to follow that one person. If you need to retreat, make use of that option.
Licking your wounds
When a character takes damage, a part of their body is wounded. The lower left portion of the UI is filled with info on various body parts, as well as a character’s blood supply. if the blood supply drops to 0, they die. If their limbs drop to 0, they can be crippled or pass out. You will need to apply first aid if an ally is ever dying or unconscious.
If you’re trying to capture someone for a bounty, knock them out first. After they’re unconscious, you can have someone run over and pick them up by choosing the Pick Up option from the Right-click drop down. The same can be done when trying to rescue downed party members. Anytime you rescue a downed party member, place them in a rented or owned bed to heal.